Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

28th June 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

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and altogether now ... HE WAS, HE IS, HE WILL BE ... the Prime Minister. Phew. Make it stop. Whatever the intent of the James Brendan Bolger for President promotional video which provided the highlight of the National Party conference last weekend, it was an episode of great hilarity. Having smoothed the troubled waters of anyone who wanted to talk about the Queen and why the PM was being so beastly to her with this republic business, having sent all the young Nats down to the dairy for an iceream and some marijuna, the party's campaign people unleashed The Video. I don't know what it was supposed to achieve, but it will one day be a classic.

Yet if the Nats had been hoping having their video laughed at would be the worst thing that would happen all week they were wrong, because HE WAS, HE IS AND HE WILL BE ... Don Brash, the Governor of the Reserve Bank. And this week, he had some bad news about inflation. We've got some. As a matter of fact, it will peak this year at 2.6 per cent and we'll end up with two solid years' worth of inflation greater than the 2 per cent maximum enshrined in the Reserve Bank Act. Cue stiff interest rates in an economy which is already stuttering a little.

This raises a whole lot of questions. Should the governor be sacked for failing to meeting his contracted targets? That would be the logical course, but no one seems to be seriously suggesting such - apart from Winston Peters, who would demand the resignation of the bloke down at the dairy if they'd run out of Dunhill Red.

Should the Reserve Bank Act be scrapped? How much do you really want to frighten the horses? Should the governor be required to take into account other factors in setting interest rates? Easier said than done. It's one thing to ask a banker to defend the integrity of the currency, quite another to have him monitor the social barometer. We elect people for that.

So should the government take a more active part in managing the economy? That's what Michael Cullen says. But the only suggestion I've been able to catch the details of involves meeting the Reserve Bank Act target by the clever expedient of making the target bigger. Which might not be as stupid as it sounds. Inflation of 2.6 per cent is not really so bad when most of us can remember inflation well into double digits, accompanied by fantastic schemes like price freezes, and MRP, which sought to battle price rises by the printing of hundreds of thousands of little stickers.

Whatever, the housing boom is over and prices are even expected sag back a bit. This will come as a relief around my neighbourhood, where you can still find yuppies staggering around the streets in 'Stop me before I speculate again' t-shirts. The only cure for the poor things is to make them actually live in one of the run-down villas they've bought. Or worse, make them live in Cypress Gardens. Now Cypress Gardens used to be the kind of nasty fibrolite Grey Lynn block of flats which made you glad you weren't a solo mother. Unless you were a solo Mum, in which case you ended up living there. But not any more. A lick of paint and - nice touch, this - a Cypress tree out front and it's a development of desirable one-bedroom apartments, prices *starting at* $185,000. Oddly enough, these incredibly attractive apartments don't seem to be selling. I wonder why not.

Anyway, HE WAS, HE IS AND HE WILL BE ... Jim Anderton, and boy has he got a deal for you. The Alliance's alternative budget was re-released this week and it is nothing if not honest. There will be more tax under the Alliance - a 10 per cent across-the-board tariff on imports, the Financial Transactions Tax, a carbon tax, a huge hike in company tax and a marginal income tax rate which hits 35 cents in the dollar at just $24,000 a year and keeps on going.

As the government has done at various times, the Alliance has enshrined the $30,000 a year mark - under which, Anderton reminded the nation, 70 per cent of earners fall. So over that - $28,500 actually - you'll pay more, righto? I'd like a little more detail on that statistic. As in, how many families are being fed and housed on less than $30,000 in houshold income, especially in Auckland? There are families on the *dole* earning the equivalent of $30,000 - and others getting supplementary benefits from the government at that income level. No, those people are not affluent, no more than they were when Ruth Richardson announced that health user charges - another kind of tax - would kick in at $30,000.

But anyway ... HE IS, HE WAS AND HE WILL BE ... Mike Moore. Yes, again. And yes, he's defending the nation from the gang menace, again. This week, it was a leaked police report entitled 'The Fat Mexicans Are Coming'. The Fat Mexicans, we are invited to believe, are the Bandidos World Motorcyle Club, an evil drug-dealing cartel whole cruel talons are even now threading their way into our fair land. What a load of crap.

I performed a number of Internet seraches for the relevant words here - and the only mention of this global cartel I could find was in Finland, where, as anybody who follows quirky news stories will know, a bunch of blond Bandidos have been fighting another crowd who call themselves Hell's Angels. Things have gotten a bit rough - and on one occasion an anti-tank weapon was used - but even the Finns have been putting the stories down the bottom of their news round-ups.

There are, apparently, some Bandidos in Sydney. But the local gang cop there was most suprised to hear of their newfound cartel status and knew nothing of any plans to take over New Zealand. The poor old Highway 61 gang here, who I'm sure are no angels, so to speak, have once again been named as the local connection, despite their denials. The real Angels, the Hell's Angels, have been in Auckland for as long as I can remember. There about about a dozen of them, they seem to keep to themselves and. From my younger, wilder days, I do seem to recall that they had the best-quality speed in town but they didn't exactly sell it on street corners. In fact, you couldn't get it.

Trouble is, exactly as I predicted, Moore and Phil Goff's goading of select committee chairman Alec Neill has seen the pimple of moral panic pop and Neill is now calling for greatly widened police powers to stop and search, and for the definition of intimidation to be widened to standing on a footpath.

Further on the drug topic, congratulations to Cambridge High School, which is doing its level best to keep the police and prison staff in jobs for the next few decades by turning young people into criminals. Anybody who has anything to do with dope, even smoking on the way to school, cops an indefinite suspension at Cambridge. This is great.

Can you imagine a court dealing with a 15 year-old and saying, well, you've been a bit silly, you've had a joint - so we're going to do our best to wreck any chance you might have of coming right by denying you an education for three years? That is what Cambridge and its tight-arsed principal and self-righteous Board of Trustees are doing and it is deeply irresponsible.

Of course, Pauline Gardiner MP and others have come out in support of the school. Gardiner wants the errant youths to be sent of to drug rehab school to be filled full of her anti-cannabis factoids. But this, as it turns out, is probably part of the problem. The school has been applying its get-tough policy for some time - but the number of suspensions has been rising, not falling. So the tactic has failed. And so has the school's policy of inviting the crackpot anti-drugs group FADE in to talk to the kids. This is because FADE, and similar groups, lie to kids and kids know it. You'll never improve youth health if the youth don't believe the hype.


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

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