Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

8th November 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

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and y'know, for all the road we've travelled, sometimes it's the old tune which still rings truer. Thus it is that the Museum of New Zealand is currently seeking candidates for its forthcoming shrine to the Swandri. And so it is too, that the Melbourne Cup can still stop part of the country in its tracks, and raise a sweepstake among office workers who normally don't even buy Lotto tickets.

And yes, by the time Saintly had delivered Bart Cummings his tenth Cup win, a frankly priceless little drama was unfolding in Wellington. Richard Griffin, the Prime Minister's personal press secretary, having demonstrated during National's hapless election campaign that he can't keep a diary, was showing that he can't be trusted to hang onto his briefcase either.

Griffin had been invited to a free Melbourne Cup piss-up by the TAB, and it was a good two and a half hours after Saintly's win that he discovered his cunning plan of sticking his case behind a curtain - possibly so he could get the drinks in with both hands - had been foiled.

The briefcase was gone, along with what were at first said to be sensitive papers relating to coalition negotiations. But, by the time it was found, Griffin was saying there were just a few personal papers - and his parliamentary security clearance and keys to his, the PM's and other Beehive offices. Oh, that's alright then. But I still can't quite come to terms with the briefcase being found abandoned in a hotel room. A skip, a bush, a stream, yes - but a hotel room? Weird.

Labour leader Helen Clark appears to have tired of such shenanigans - having this week reminded everybody that if Winston Peters hasn't decided who his friends will be by the time Parliament is obliged to sit - no later than December 13 - she will put the confidence motion traditionally moved by the opposition on the second day of a new Parliament.

What happens on that day may come down to whipping talent - an area in which Labour's Jonathan Hunt is not only streets but entire motorways ahead of everyone else. By the way, the Alliance, in a notably daft decision, has decided that "whip" is a bit un-PC and will have "Parliamentary co-ordinators" or something like that. God save us all. Anyway, Peters, who really does give the impression he'd like to roll on forever, will, if he hasn't made his choices by then either have to vote in the house, where it counts, or the caretaker government will seek to adjourn the whole show.

Speaking of who's in the house - hey! it's DJ Banksie! Not. Spare me from this insufferable little prick. Like many people I tuned in to John Banks' debut as Radio Pacific's breakfast host. The verdict? He should be shot, along with all the other smug idiots who made set-up calls in, including John Jamieson, the homophobic Christian Coalition nutter who distinguished himself by being one of the worst, most irrelevant Commissioners of Police we've ever had. I can understand Derek Lowe's motivations in employing Banks, but I suspect he will find his new star is himself irrelevant before too long.

However, while Pacific's longtime political commentator Barry Soper has traditionally irritated me only marginally less than Banks himself, the stunt which saw Banks sack him from the show on air was unacceptable. In what kind of country does an elected MP and erstwhile minister of the crown get himself a second job in order to get rid of a political journalist who has criticised him?

Come to that, in what kind of country does a local authority try and slip through without debate a huge and irreversible commitment of public assets to a project which just doesn't seem to stack up? In Auckland! Well, Auckland's its own country, sort of. We certainly seem to have a different exchange rate.

Anyway, the project in question - the Britomart development - is, as Brain Rudman suggested in this week's Herald, nine-tenths property speculation and one tenth public transport planning. If that. The Britomart proposal, whilst full of dodgy deals which see ratepayers sell most of downtown Auckland to property developers, then buy it back, contains virtually nothing regarding a regional tranbsport plan. As bus companies pointed out this week, this multi-million dollar marvel doesn't even call for bus lanes in access roads. And TranzRail isn't sure it wants a bar of it either - so we face a transport centre which handles neither buses or trains.

To be fair, many aspects of the Britomart plan are excellent - putting a transport centre in that area, using the old Post Office, pedestrianising parts of Customs Street, for example. But too much stinks, frankly. We were promised the deal would cost ratepayers nothing - that has become a bill for $124 million, if we're lucky. Les Mills promised a referendum - that never happened.

Instead, we find the council spending public money on double-page newspaper ads to promote the project, at the same time as it was excluding opposition councillors from a briefing on the project. Even those who got an early look will have had only about two weeks to inspect the final $2bn proposal before they vote on it. In what private corporation would that kind of reckless ness take place? Don't blame me. I didn't vote for Les Mills and the bastard CitRats.

Fortunately, action by one of the local iwi may force the council to publicly notify the project, meaning the regional council consent process will become public, rather than one of the cosy little in-house deals Mills seems to like. Britomart is reclaimed land. The plans call for the pumping of hundreds of cubic metres of water a day into the harbour for the next 35 years. An ARC engineering report suggests that this "dewatering might lead to subsidence which might damage buildings. I don't know about you, but I want resource consents with knobs on.

Speaking of sad, sick democracy, Americans re-elected a new president. Well, a few of them did. What kind of democracy can only draw 49 per cent of registered voters to the polls? And who knows how many million Americans aren't even on the roll? What amuses me is the Republican undertaking to keep on pursuing Clinton's "ethical lapses" over Whitewater, a real non-event, and campaign funding. Christ! Bob Dole went on TV this year and - because he has for years been funded by big tobacco companies - declared that he wasn't sure that nicotine was addictive. If that's not an ethical lapse I don't know what is.

On happier matters, a big ta to Mike Chunn for flicking me a ticket to this week's APRA Awards. What a fine do! When I saw the band troop on the play the finalists' songs, I thought "Woah! Showband alert! Hide in the toilets!" But no! It was magic. Lisa Corban should just go and record Greg Johnson's 'If I Swagger', and Mika's rendition of the overall winner, Bic Runga's 'Drive' was sensuality itself.

Few men in this country could carry a falsetto so long and so well - certainly not Sean Fitzpatrick, who was in attendance, large as life and twice as wide across the shoulders. It was certainly nice to be able to meet and thank the big guy for one of the great seasons of rugby - ever. There were underachievements from various bodies and official in rugby this year, but precious few from the players.

It so happened to be the week in which Fitzpatrick was named New Zealand Rugby Player of the Year - and gave a speech in which he described his coach as -how touchy-feely is this? - "a very special person". But if he's sensitive, Sean, who is a year younger than me, sure ain't hip. When MC OJ and Che Fu introduced themselves at the APRA Awards, Che explained he had a sing called 'Chains' in the running. Sean hadn't heard of that, so Che said, well, before teaming up with DLT, he'd been in a band called Supergroove. The big guy's face flickered with what appeared to be recognition. "Oh yeah?" he said. "Superglue?" I bet Jonah would've known


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

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