Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

19th April 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

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One of the best things I ever saw was T.P. McLean speaking at last year's Qantas Media Awards. Old T.P. is eightysomething, I think, and he had to be helped to the stage but his wit and faculties are still in full effect. What I really liked was his explanation of why he was a sports journalist. Sport, he said, was "a study of the human being under stress."

That, indeed, is what sometimes makes sport such great drama. It examines the very core of the participants. I wonder how it would be if we could see our politicians as we are used to seeing our major sportspeople - put to the test and bare-arsed naked. That is not generally the case, even metaphorically - and if you're inclined to see any of our current MPs literally naked, you may need help. The public personalities we see are confections - and on some the icing is applied thicker than others.

Occasionally, it melts and, on TV, we do see a human being under stress. That happened this week when the Prime Minister, that beautifully-moulded born-again liberal, lost his rag over taunts about the government's asset-testing regime for old folks in hospital. He snapped - and turned on Winston Peters, shouting something about Hitler and the Jews and making the comparison with Winston. Whatever your view of the issue, he went too far. And, even if he was sincere, it was a little too rich coming in this week.

For while the PM was so ready to compare one of his fellow Parliamentarians to a genocidal dictator, his condemnation of a hate campaign gurgling up within his own party ranks was far less vivid. John Banks, the bumptious little oaf, had bragged that he would release under Parliamentary privilege the names of all doctors performing abortions in New Zealand, so in Banks' own words: "You can walk down the street and say, she's a murderer, he's a baby killer ..." These are, I need hardly add, medical professionals working within and by the law. If Banks carries out his shabby little plan they will be subject, at the least, to personal harassment. And at worst? Who knows? Yet Bolger, the good Catholic farmer, could not bring himself to properly condemn Banks.

That being the case, I will do the job for him. John Banks is a dangerous, self-possessed little creep who consistently demonstrates himself unfit to be a cabinet minister. He needs counselling. And worse, his activities have flushed out Graham Capill, the creepy leader of the Christian Heritage Party. Something strange burns cold in that man's eyes. And said ocular organs are too close together. All in all, he looks like John Hart's evil twin.

Perhaps it's all quite explicable. We are, after all, facing a general election - and given that the government doesn't have a majority, the campaign is already on. It causes some odd behaviour. Not least from Winston Peters, who hasn't got all his candidates picked yet. So when Ngai Tahu representatives turned up at Parliament to see the passage of the bill which makes them an autonomous body, rather than a Maori trust, Peters caught them in the foyer. Got anyone you'd like to see as the member for Southern Maori? he asked. Give us their phone number, then ...

He was able to get away with that because the current MP, Whetu Turikatene-Sullivan, isn't flavour of the month with the resat of Ngai Tahu. She has opposed this week's bill - seemingly on the basis that it replaces legislation drawn up by her father. Yet she's vastly more popular than my alleged local MP, Sandra Lee, who has spent far too much of the past three years trying to frustrate the bill on behalf of a few relatives in Greymouth. Her efforts have included threatening to have her fellow members of the Maori Affairs select committee blacklisted from various marae. The words "loose" and "unit" come to mind.

Speaking of loose, Phil Goff is still on it. Last week it was drugs in our prisons, this week it's taxpayer money going to those bad people in gangs and hospital waiting lists. Why is he so energetically courting the floating redneck vote? Is he minded to have a run at the Labour Party leadership? Well, that would be stupid, wouldn't it?

The silly season continues, with former Labourite and new ACT leader Richard Prebble declaring this week that he knew for a fact that a Singaporean company had taken $400 million dollars of proposed investment and gone to Australia - all because of Winston Peters. In an utterly odd National Radio interview, the two men bickered so crazily it made Mike Hosking look dignified. Peters claimed that ACT was in fact buying up thousands of copies of Prebble's best-selling book. And then Prebble uncharacteristically lost the thread as he had to admit that the Singaporeans had just made a business decision, which probably wasn't much to do with what they thought of Winston at all.

Almost as odd was the discussion between Michael Cullen and Max Bradford, which became so caught up in a metaphor involving Greg Norman and whether he should change clubs or alter his playing style that it was easy to forget the issue was the Reserve Bank missing its inflation target - again. Bill Birch hasn't allowed himself to be quoted on this one - instead making it known that he has demanded an explanation from Reserve Bank governor Don Brash.

This is crap. Birch knows, like we all do, that the economy is fundamentally behaving itself - it's just that some months, the median price in the Auckland housing market jumps by $10,000. Quite how much of an interest-rates thrashing can be administered to the whole economy because property in Auckland is going through the roof is open to question. Our balance of payments is suffering, imagination is required and Bill Birch's tax package looks like the last thing we need. Trouble is, in an election year, who would cancel tax cuts?

On lighter matters, my brilliant record of blagging my way into the Music Awards rolled on for another year. I'm getting so good at it that I don't even have to try - I just wait for the phone to ring on the night. Well done Pauly Fuemana, Bic, Nathan Haines and especially Shihad, who richly deserved their awards. I only wish I could have toasted them with better booze. At $165 a pop, you expect to find yourself drinking something a little classier than Hardy's red and white plonk and sickly Freixnet fizz. Apart from anything else, was it necessary to serve bad Aussie and Spanish wine at a celebration of New Zealand cultural achievement?

Perhaps it was an Australian plot. Just like the visit by Australia's new defence minister, who is trying to entice us to buy more frigates. By all appearances, he is no brain surgeon. Ditto for the awful Aussies in the ARL, who now appear to feel that they own the game of rugby league wherever it happens to be played and will pick their own Kiwi national team. Just to make sure it's a crap team, they've asked Bob Bailey, the biggest dullard ever to coach a national team, to take the reins. The arrogance almost defies belief. For this reason, it is vitally important that the Auckland Warriors defeat the ARL-loyal Manly team tonight. Don't ask why, just believe that it is.


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
  [ @ / @  ]                      
     /        ________________________________________
    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
    ____)       are bloody good ones." Fred Dagg, 197?

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