Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

22nd November 1996

Copyright © 1996 Russell Brown

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and, lo, I was in the presence of an angel . A creature all fiery around - and clad in a surprisingly chic set of robes.

"Nice robes," I said.

"Cheers," she said. "They change colour once you've been in the sun for a while. It's a burntime thing."

"Cool," I said. "So what's yer name?"

"I am the Oracle," said the angel.

"An Oracle? So, tell me who's going to lead the next goverment," I said.

"Sorry. Can't do that. I'm an Oracle strictly on a caretaker basis at the moment, so I can only give you the skinny on what's already gone down."

"Okay," I said. "Who wrote 'The Spin'."

"Who cares?" said the angel. "It's crap anyway."

"Righto then," I sighed. "Why did Michael Laws suddenly decide to leave politics and go and write a novel?"

"Oh, that one," said the angel. "Well, a couple of days after the election, Laws was talking to Richard Prebble - as one does - and told him that Tau Henare would probably be gone by the first caucus meeting, because New Zealand First was a mainstream party now and couldn't afford to have two Maori leaders.

"So Prebble, being the warm, almost human creature that he is, called Tau to sympathise at some length and some detail. Result? Tau's on the blower to Winston saying 'him or me, pal'. Trouble now is that Winston and Tau aren't speaking and Michael Laws is writing newspaper columns saying Tau's an idiot who couldn't be trusted to mind the shop."

"He also said that in a Labour coalition Winston should be finance minister didn't he?" I pointed out.

"Yep - and both National and Labour's negotiating teams found that wildly funny - in a grim sort of way. Actually, the reason New Zealand First had their policies 'indepedently costed' before the election was that they weren't clever enough to do their own adding up. The reason the other parties agreed so readily to funding for independent financial advice for New Zealand First was so they'd have somone to negotiate with.

"Basically, their policies are bogus, they're completely naive and they know bugger-all about economics. Their Reserve Bank policy was non-negotiable until it was pointed out to them that it was procyclic. They went off, paid some geek from Infometrics a lot of money to tell them what procyclic meant and suddenly decided it was negotiable after all."

"What about Winston himself?" I said. "Surely he's carrying the show with a little style?"

"Can I quote you from one of the major party negotiators?" said the angel. "To wit, Winston is such a fake that he'd fake an orgasm while he was masturbating if he thought it looked good'."

"Phew," I said, trying desperately not conjure up a mental picture of that event. "What about Tau then, the good old trade unionist that he is?"

"Out for what he can get, basically. It's the New Zealand First philosophy. At least he's being honest about it."

"This sounds impossibly venal, angel," I said.

"Oh, that's nothing on the National Party," grinned the angel. "Some of them would bring back six o'clock closing if it meant they stayed in government. Especially those enthrallingly ambitious bright-eyed little things like Christine Fletcher, Max Bradford and Roger Sowry.

"Honestly, about a third of that caucus is figuring on being Prime Minister within five years. Prissy Miss Chrissy Fletcher has been hedging her bets by hanging out with Prebble, of course, but basically, if compulsory superannuation is what it takes to get a crack at cabinet, then bring it on down. That's why they might well win - they're just that much more craven and unprincipled than the other guys."

"Hang on," I said. "I thought you weren't picking winners."

"Just an opinion," sniffed the angel. "I'm allowed those."

"Got an 'opinion' on this weekend's Lotto numbers, then?" I chipped back.

"Piss off," said the angel, in a voice like many trumpets.

"Anyway," she carried on. "Labour may be thinking that being in opposition is the better part of valour, because boy, would that National-NZ First government be fun to be in opposition to. Imagine it! The old guard trying to hang on to its privilege, the young turks kneeing each other in the groin trying to gain an advantage, and the drys, who disapprove of it all, feeding a contstant stream of scuttlebutt to Richard Prebble."

"That would be cool," I conceded. "So how about the other parties?

"ACT's going to be in its element, whoever gets into government," said the angel. "Coming from business backgrounds, its MPs are past masters of duplicity, power-broking and the art of influence. The Alliance? Well, it's a bit rich for them to be demanding talks now when they went into the election declaring they'd have no part in talks after polling day. That said, I think there'll be some effort to kiss and make up from parties of the Left. Nuff."

"Righto, you dodgy oracle, you," I said. "Got a final prediction for me?

"Sure," said the angel. "That Britomart thing'll end in tears."

And she vanished in an explosion of golden light, leaving me to ponder that, indeed, Britomart is occasion not only for tears, but for outright rage. Some people have been declaring this week that, well, if we want a public tranpsort centre, then, this is our only choice. Bollocks.

Before the man from Chase Corporation came along, we had a transport centre plan for Britomart. It involved a new bus terminal and four rail platforms around two overground tracks and it had been completely planned and costed. The ARC and, then, NZ Rail had agreed to help fund it - and it would have cost Auckland ratepapers five million dollars. Not $56 million, not $100 million, but but five million. And we wouldn't be sitting around arguing the toss now, because it would have been built already.

Consider the Britomart alternative - years of consent hearings, then Quay Street closed for two years while a big hole is dug in it, Customs Street buses unloading in front of strip clubs in Fort Street for nearly that long. Whole communities uprooted as the council sells its housing stock to fund this grandiose exercise in property speculation. This process began this week, prompting the turd-like Cr Ryan to tell tenants to "stop whining" and describe their wish to continue to live where their friends, neighbours, jobs, schools and churches are as "an indulgence".

The message here is clear - go and live in Onehunga, poor people, where you're somebody else's problem. There's a property boom round here and we've got money to make. Then we're going to take that money and give to the Britomart developers as a $56 million interest-free loan.

Now, a little bird tells me that costs on Britomart have *already* blown out to around $12 million - and that there is heavy pressure to conceal this debt, with the Art Gallery and the Library already being asked behind closed doors to make budget cuts of up to a third of their operating budget! A scandal? You bet.

The most revolting event of the whole sorry charade has surely been the public prayer for the Britomart architects led by Les Mills. Frankly, when Mills and David Hay - those self-professed Christians - kneel down to pray these days, they might as well be sticking their heads down a toilet for all the Christian principle they show the people of Auckland.

Of course, not all, the stories in the news are so serious. Indeed, the political impasse in Wellington seems to have provoked an early silly season. Why else would there have been such blanket coverage for those little prats at Victoria University and their headline-grabbing "study" of "rugby male stereotypes" - which in their book appeared to be something like Loosehead Len?

We funded their honours course for a year so they could ask180 people some highly contrived questions from which they would draw frankly stupid conclusions about New Zealand society.

To support the contention that blokes would rather be out boozing with their mates than with their women, they cited answers to the question "Would you rather go to the theatre with your girlfriend and her parents or go to the pub with some friends from out of town?" What sort of a smarmy git Wellington student question was that?

The fact that 97.6 per cent of men agreed that they might at some time consume more than three standard drinks in one setting was highlighted to suggest that we are all a bunch of boozers. Yes, I know that the Acohol Advisory Council's recommendation is no more than three standard drinks in a sitting. But what kind of world would it be if no one ever, ever had more than three standard drinks of an evening? Even on their birthdays?

On the other hand, their study allegedly showed that 95 per cent of people believe that a New Zealand male would force a drunk friend to drink a yard glass of beer. Pardon? Which males are these? And what was the question which led to the contention that 35 per cent of males would continue unwanted sexual advances - and what the hell does it have to do with playing rugby football?

And as the students proved themselves, the tie-up with alleged rugby culture was irrelevant. There were roughly the same attitudes professed among the 60 rugby players and the 60 non rugby players. And the 60 women were slightly more cynical about men than the men were themselves.

From this, it was brilliantly deduced that a "rugby head" attitude has spread into society. Christ. At a time when rugby is at last emerging as a serious career option for kids who might not otherwise had had much going on, this is silly and irresponsible.

So, what can we deduce about the chief spokesgit who appeared to be ready and waiting to talk to any news organisation that would have him? Well, he's a soccer player - and we all know about them, don't we? Eh? Eh? Sheesh. Can we have some proper news please?


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

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