Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

16th May 1997

Copyright © 1997 Russell Brown

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well, I promised myself there'd be a rest from gouging the government, caning the coalition and pouring scorn on Peters in this Hard News - but what can a poor commentator do when the Treasurer goes as far off the rails as he has this week?

The now-infamous fracas between Winston Peters and John Banks outside the Parliamentary debating chamber had its denouement this week when the Parliamentary privileges committee announced its finding that whilst it had been unable to satisfy itself that a contempt had taken place, it was satisfied that Peters had assaulted Banks and perhaps he'd like to apologise.

Peters has made it quite clear, in the house and in the media, that he will not apologise. He has called the Parliament's most senior committee a "kangaroo court" and threatened to sue one of its members, Labour's Michael Cullen. It appears that Peters should actually be thanking Cullen, who eventually went with the Prime Minister and others on the committee in finding that because the assault could not definitively be associated with an event in the debating chamber, contempt could not be proved. So Peters did not assault Banks because of what Banks had said or done about the deferral of tax cuts, he assaulted Banks because he was drunk. Not pissed off, but pissed - which, oddly enough, is less serious.

I think this is the beginning of the end for this government. There are going to be a bunch of National MPs who'll be thinking, well, we sat on our hands and shut up to save this bastard and his mates - and now he can't manage to put the welfare of the government above his own ego. Peters could have said sorry and gotten his damn foool head down. Instead, he went forth like a madman in Parliament. About the only thing crazier was Police Minister Jack Elder's bizarre speech to the effect that, well, everyone knew Maoris like to push each other around, and anybody who couldn't deal with that was just culturally insensitive.

Anyway, enough of all that. I'm actually getting bored with picking on Peters and his chums. Let's pick on, say, Australians, shall we? It has been, personally speaking, a week in which Australians have not won my admiration. In the course of spending a couple of days in Sydney, I happened to pick up a copy of The Bulletin and read a somewhat patronising story about our own government. The gist of the story was that we'd made a terrible mistake with MMP and look at New Zealand First and what a right old shambles us silly Kiwis had gotten ourselves into. Pardon?

Call me one-eyed, possums, but I found this just a tiny bit rich given the havoc being wreaked in Australia by Pauline Hanson and her scarily popular Pauline Hanson One Nation Party, infested as it is with far out right-wing kooks. Really, I have never seen blind fear of The Other in such naked, complete form as it is displayed by Hanson and the near 30 percent of Australians who claim to think she's on the right track.

But I'm not sure that even that is as sick as the Australian government's latest attempt to patch up that country's Heath Robinson compulsory super scheme. Mr Howard's coalition is now offering old people cash bonuses for hanging on in work just a year or two longer. The bonuses even escalate. Work an extra year and you only get $3500 - but really get your head down and work another five years and the government will hit you with 20,000 big ones. Unless you die. In which case - ka-ching! - house collects!

Still, it's probably a safer bet than anything to do with sport. The New Zealand tri-series rugby league side proved once again that you'll never win a game in Australia. There was a sickening inevitability about the final seconds of this week's game, where, having come roaring back into contention, the New Zealanders scored the try which, contingent on the kick, would take them to the finals. Except they didn't, because the Super League linesman declared Sean Hoppe to be offside. As everybody in the universe now agrees, Hoppe was nothing like offside. We were robbed.

Super League's cold war against New Zealand has now become possibly the country's leading conspiracy theory, especially since Ian Wishart started doing that tacky reality TV show. I know I felt persecuted at the time of the incident, but if I'm to be honest with myself, I think it was probably cock-up over conspiracy. The same partially-sighted official earlier almost handed Hoppe a try by failing to notice the winger's arm lying a good foot across the touchline, right in front of his eyes. Bah, anyway.

Then there was the swimmer, Susie Moronie, who was seeking for the second time to conquer what the bloke from Channel 7 called "the Everest of marathon swimming" - the swim from Cuba to Florida. Well, she was alright actually, and Cuba looked bloody fabulous. I'd quite like a wee trip to Cuba, actually, what with all the cigars and everything.

But perhaps the living end was hearing Channel 7's financial correspondent read through the morning exchange rates - and refer to his country's dollar as ""the little Aussie battler." Yes, possums, he did. And that is shocking. There really is just no excuse for that.

Ah, but maybe that's TV. Bloody strange place, TV. Like, forinstance, TV3 blathers on about how its new show, Off the Planet, is going to break the mould of game shows, how its space-alien co-host, Razzo, is something bold and new for the format, how Nick Eynon is the new Beatles and how it's going to take on Holmes and Shortland Street in that difficult 7pm slot. And then - after two nights - it gets busted down to kiddy hour, 5.30 weekdays. I bet Gary Brown and Bettina Hollings wish their names didn't feature so prominently in the credits.

TVNZ, however, appears to be making plans for a presenter who is only metaphorically off the planet - our very own Mikey Havoc - and I suspect it will meet with rather more success. There's no substitute for personality, and our Mike has surplus stocks of that.

As does, in his own funny way, another Mike - Mike Moore. While most of us just wonder about day-to-day things, like eating, drinking, smoking and trying to get someone else in the house to go down to the dairy, Mike Moore views the bigger picture. So big, in fact, that it's a wonder his eye sockets haven't permamently migrated round to the side of his head. Just picture that, if you will.

Anyway, I have obtained a copy of Moore's "non-paper", the hallucinatory text in which he frets about everything from the apocalypse on down. "From Christ to the prophet Mohammed, Darwin through Marx, the brotherhood of man has been the ultimate goal," Moore declares. He calls for a constitutional convention - to build on, rather than replace the Treaty and "to restore faith and hope, because without faith and hope there can be no confident vision and as the book of Proverbs prophesies, without vision, the people perish."

Gosh. Sort of puts it all in perspective, doesn't it? Good on ya, Mike. Somebody's got to make the big calls, and better that than rushing around shoving people you don't like, even if they are John Banks. As Moore says in his non-intro to the non-paper, "it's hard to explain the future when underpants, taxi chits and scraps in the Parliamentary lobbies are so much more interesting and newsworthy." I think there's something in that for all of us, don't you?


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

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