Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

5th July 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

The Web Version of The Hard News is made available
by NZ Now Net

HardNews Home

1996 Hard News


HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 9.30am on Fridays and replayed around 5.15pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to You will need an MP3 player. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

HARD NEWS is also available in MP3 form from and in text form at You can subscribe to the 95bFM Hard News mailing list at


there I was, in the midst of ear-bleeding drum and bass, and all I could think of was the conspiracy theory someone had drilled into me an hour or so earlier. It had everything; the winebox, Winston, Ian Wishart and, most of all, dark deeds done while the nation reeled about in the 1980s, too insensible to notice its vitals being interfered with. It seemed to me that a whole sector of our society was beginning to define itself by a certain narrative about the 1980s; a story rich enough to feed on for decades - and some people will. I thought I saw the national zeigeist out there on the dancefloor, but the record changed. More of that as we approach the election, I guess.

Anyway, Crumpy's dead. I recall an argument with my Enbglish teacher in the sixth form about the works of Barry Crump, quite a number of which I had read. Why, I asked, were we always bombarded with these hosannas to Frank bloody Sargeson's working class fiction when surely Crump spoke with a more authentic voice? He was appalled, I was wrong - but I did have a point.

I was fortunate enough to meet Barry Crump last year; he looked like a man cut and carved from the land itself, with a voice to match. I prevailed on him to sign a copy of his most recent book, an illustrated child's ballad called 'Mrs Windyflax and the Pungapeople'. That book has since become an off-by-heart standard in our house, so I'm glad I did. I'll also never forget him explaining to Kim Hill that his altercation with a traffic officer in Wanaka wasn't so much a dispute with the law, as just "two blokes gettin' off on the wrong foot with each other". If only all the conflict in our country was so simple. Anyway, ta Crumpy, and RIP.

It can only be with a heavy heart that we return to today's news - and Winston Peters. Judge Dalmer in the District Court has found against Mr Peters, big time. In awarding the defamed Selwyn Cushing $50,000, the judge said that Peters had, either recklessly or deliberately, spun out a story over four years. Either way, said the judge, Peters acted "maliciously.

"By deliberately building and titillating widespread public interest in a non-existent incident, I think Mr Peters cynically manipulated both the media and the public," the judge said.

Phew. I do wonder if the judge fired both barrels in the knowledge that his decision might yet be overturned by a higher court on the technical point of privilege, so he'd better make it memorable. Peters, away in the UK, could only fume about the downfall of democracy, but he'd better watch it. The kind of people who vote for him probably don't appreciate that Parliamentary privilege means you have the right to tell lies about people, so long as you're in the house.

Indeed, what kind of people do vote for Winston? We saw the kind of people who become New Zealand First candidates in the Assignment documentary on the party this week, including the franky oily Ron Mark, the man who Mike Moore tried to have installed as Labour candidate in the Selwyn by-election. The rest were conservative brown folks and conservative white folks, basically, each a bit nervous of the other and none of them with much more than a vague idea of what their party's policies are.

A show of hands would see approval for that great expression, of the fear of young people, compulsory military training. And, of course, compulsory work schemes for the unemployed. Neither idea, of course, bears any scrutiny. If I was 17 I'd be rioting in the streets if Winston Peters tried to put me in the army against my will; actually you could probably add riot control costs to the tens of millions you'd have to spend just to provide food, clothing, shelter and barbering facilities for the incarerated youths.

"Workfare" is just as much of a myth. It costs more to make fake jobs for everyone than can possibly be justified. Any cutting of corners trims away at workplace standards and - as happened on Margaret Thatcher's YOPs programme - young people get killed or injured on the job with frightening consistency.

They haven't thought about that. Someone has, however, had a think about NZ First's foreign investment policy, a cap of 24.9 per cent on foreign ownership of all local companies which Peters insisted was unequivocal and subject to no exceptions. Except ... well, now, it only applies to "strategic assets", including telecommunications and forests. Oh, right. Intriguingly, the alleged policy was explained to the press by one Michael Laws. Is this a record? Laws is, we're told, a freelance consultant to New zealand First. Actually, I have my dibs on August 11th in the Unofficial Winston Peters is a Nazi Home Page sweepstake on the date of the official return of the evil one. I'm sure there are still some good dates left.

Oh, speaking of home pages, I visited the drab little affair run by the United Party. There I found Pauline Gardiner's press release, in praise of the Cambridge High School principal who suspended 14 of her students for marijuana-related activities last month. So how familiar was La Gardiner with the case in point? Well, she thought the principal was a MAN ... notch up another for the Mike Moore school of truth and fairness in public discourse.

Speaking of which, remember the public decision we made that Auckland's best option for water supplies was in fact a pipeline to the Waikato River? Neither do I, really, but it's a happening thing, the strong objections of the Tainui and the equally strong chemical brew in the river notwithstanding. I look forward to seeing whether the tenders for the pipeline are framed so that more than one company is capable of filling them. The shambles last time, with Auckland City mayor Mr Blobby to the fore, expressed everything that sucked about Auckland regional politics.

Speaking of politics, somebody stop Mike Lattin before he completely wrecks TVNZ. The Lattinesque ill humour of TVNZ has become too much even for Saatchi and Saatchi, which has abandoned the account of our national broadcaster because, although the money's good, working with the bald Australian is not. The assassin survives this one, but complaints from his own staff may yet do him in, if the rumours are true.

And when it comes to complaints, I hope plenty accrue to the half-wit responsible for the ACT political party's mail-out of 'I've Been Thinking', the book of jokes by party leader Richard Prebble. Having rather crassly targeted people, almost all men, who are listed on the electoral roll as company directors, ACT has sent them the book. Not to keep, but to send back, unless the recipient wants to subsequently be sent a bill for the cost of it. Apart from being, I think, illegal, this is pretty shabby for a party which claims to corner the market on intellectual rigour. So it's not true that ACT is like Amway - it's much, much worse ...


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

[ HardNews Home ] [ 1996 Hard News ] [ Subscribe ]

NZ Now Net Ltd NZ News Net
Search NZ News Net
Write to NZ News Net
Last update: 5 July 1996

Text Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown.
Formatting Copyright © 1996 NZ News Net