Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

26th July 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

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It occurred to me this week, in the course of the sort of slightly disconnected sort of reverie into which it is healthy to descend on one's birthday, that if I'm not careful I'll get a bit square, what with having a day job and everything. And that perhaps I should meditate on many of the things I like about young, modern New Zealand. If those things have anything in common, I think it is that they vibrate at quite a high pitch.

.......I'm thinking of Shihad; who last Friday played their last show in this country for a while - and turned urgency into a form of grace in the process. Or perhaps of the rugby teams I follow, Auckland and the All Blacks, who have at their best re-engineered the game itself into a fluid, jazzy, powerful thing.

.......Or of Skitz, the once-unloved comedy show that somehow has dragged itself to the leading edge. Milburn Place in particular feeds of the tension implicit in the fact the good young PI folks shouldn't even think this sort of stuff about their parents and the church, let alone write it down and put it on the TV. I think Asian immigrant kids are going to provide us with some riotous TV one day too.

.......Kim Hill's entire, glorious radio schtick is to do with maintaining perfect control and balance while the frequency soars. Is she young and modern? She is by National Radio standards, and that's good enough for me. And Barbara Kendall and Danyon Loader were visibly sizzling at the Olympics this week. I only caught seconds of Kendall racing, but she was simply kinetic. And when Loader finished his two gold medal races you could see it. He didn't flop around or act gobsmacked or throw his arms in the air - he just kind of buzzed for a second or two. Cool.

.......And "cool" is surely the word for the latest indigenous drama to define the way we live - CityLife. This too vibrates - and so fast that frail elderly folk have been having heart flutters when exposed to its editing style. Not a bad effort at all this, even if young people in Auckland are really more likely to be like the ones in Topless Women Talk About Their Lives than these salaried hunks and hunkettes. But it is manifestly inappropriately named. I understand there was a competition to name the series before some very dull old men decided it should be called CityLife. I propose it be re-opened. Any suggestions?

.......Of course that wasn't the week's most notable filmed drama. So was it the special hour-long Shortland Street hostage episode? No - although that was fairly tidy. It was the Winston Peters winebox testimony, as recorded by Zee Films, aka Hauraki Films, at the behest of an unknown client, aka Fay Richwhite Limited. When you have a private production company, you don't tend to reject tasty offers from Fay, Richwhite - but I maintain the alarm bells should have rung when they were induced to tell porkies to the commission about who they were working for.

.......Still, I also know some people who inadvertently wound up becoming part of the company which did the design for the Peter Shirtcliffe-led anti-MMP campaign at the last election. When corporate power sleaze is raining down around you, things do get a mite confusing. I'm sure it was only a grim sense of humour which kept my friends going through that particular time of ironclad non-disclosure agreements.

.......Things got even sleazier this week when the Employers' Federation appeared to tell its ad agency to tell another agency it owned to get rid of the Alliance party as a client. Jim Anderton quite correctly made a meal of it for the press. But this kind of thing happens all the time in private sector advertising. Two competing brands cannot be with the same agency. Yet we should not be too shocked or surprised that yet another subsidiary of the same agency was permitted to maintain its business relationship with the National Party. It simply confirms that the Employers Federation and the current government are part of the same brand.

.......And so, arguably is Fay, Richwhite. After all, Michelle Boag, that firm's director of corporate affairs, she who organised the dodgy filming, is also the chairman of the National Party's communications committee and a prime mover in its campaign strategy. No prizes for guessing her political sympathies, huh?

.......But to return to Mr Winston Peters and the subject of vibrating. He isn't. Two or three months ago his response to the filming episode would have been electric. This week, the batteries were flat. I heard him on the radio the morning after the story broke and he was quite obviously under the weather. Myself, I've always thought prospective Prime Ministers should be morning people. Winston, for a number of reasons, is not.

.......Even his party's policy is looking greyer. Finally faced with the spectre of genuine responsibility, he has gone for what might be called a hokey-pokey flavoured financial policy. There are a few sweet, crunchy bits chucked in to add excitemement, but the overwhelming bulk of it is just plain vanilla economics.

.......Which is realistic - it's just ironic that it's an economic orthodoxy that Winston has been railing against for years. The main problem is that because New Zealand First is pretty much making this all up as it goes along, it has nothing of any real merit to add to the orthodoxy.

.......Labour, a veritable haven for policy weenies would maintain it can do sensible, open economics whilst seeing that there is equality of rights and opportunity. The Alliance has created for itself a paradigm which holds that almost all taxes can either be considerably increased or replaced with entirely new kinds of tax. It feels it can in this way fund every drop of medicine and education without the roof falling in.

.......Act - like it matters at all - maintains that what we need is a wholesale transfer of public services to private business, because business will do it better. Except if you happen to be a poor unemployed person, in which case an Act government would keep you on a drip-feed of food, clothing and shelter. But not money. For goodnes sake, we can't go giving poor people money, can we? They'd just fritter it away.

.......And, you, when I finished thinking about the way thing vibrate this week, I started to think about the number of mirror images, of strange bastard twins we see about us. Reluctant as I am to bag a colleeague, I feel bound to compare Gordon Campbell's guide to MMP tactical voting in the Listener this week with John Armstrong's similarly-billed piece in Herald. Spot the difference.

.......Campbell's feature was another of his dour morality tales, in which Jim Anderton is cast as the Mahatma of the New Zealand politics and the Labour Party is damned in its absence. It was useless as a voting guide and - in the way Campbell implicitly equated vote-splitting with "sophistication" - quite misleading. Armstrong's feature, on the other hand, deserved to be clipped and kept. He noted that although there were a number of rational tactical votes for variuous situations, most people currently planning to split their votes were the ones who didn't understand what was going on.

.......More strange twins - the two Parliamentarians, both named Michael Moore, from opposite sides of the Tasman and of the marijuana debate, met up on TV this week. Remember how Superman had a weird, illogical doppelganger called Bizarro Superman, who hailed from a world where nothing made any sense? That, listeners, is the Mike Moore we got. The Australian one, on the other hand, seems pretty sharp.

.......Another trenchant opponent of taking the crime out of dope is broadcaster Derek Fox - but that didn't stop him this week from trying to keep his rellies out of jail on a growing charge. Sure, as he pointed out, they were first offenders and the police did tell a large and palpable lie as to the value of the plants they grew. But, Derek, do you think these are the first Maori this has ever happened to? The other ones just didn't have the most prominent Maori broadcaster in the country to bring their cases to light.

.......Oh well, we can always lose ourselves once more in the festival of ex treme achievement which is the Atlanta Oympic Games. Of course the Games don't start for some of us until the synchronised swimming is underway, but I have long held the opinion that sport makes for better televised drama than drama does. Trouble is, most of us can already read Phil Leishman's face well enough to know what's going to happen next. Whether it's the equestrians on the up or a swimmer sinking, unless it's dead, cold live Phil's face will tell the story. Fancy a game of poker, Phil?


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

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