Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

24th October 1997

Copyright © 1997 Russell Brown

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Can you recall what you were doing the week of the October 1987 stock market crash? I remember it as a week of surpassing strangeness, which began with a hurricane-force storm which skittled 30% of London's trees and ended with me standing in the street next to Prince Edward, off my tits on acid.

In between the two events the financial markets collapsed and Nancy Reagan had her left breast removed for America. But the fact nobody ever records is that various new-age crazies predicted it all.

Remember a thing called the Harmonic Convergence, where all the planets in the solar system lined up and the ancient Mayan calendar predicted a bumpy right through to the year 2000-and-something? Same week. Nobody remembers that.

And as I stood outside the Museum of Mankind, blinking and looking at the prince, who seemed nervous and alone and whose hair even then was thinning, I mused on how strange it all was. I couldn't know it was getting even stranger back in New Zealand. The brief era when even your local butcher fancied his prowess as a stock market player was coming to an abrupt end and I'd been on my OE and missed it.

And now, here we are again, 10 years later to the very week, watching a market crash ripple around the globe, this time from out of Asia. Nancy Reagan's husband has, it is said, forgotten he was ever president, Prince Edward is heterosexual, my local butcher sells organic meat and now the drugs don't work.

So this time the crash comes from the East. In the wake of a weird two-month Asian currency crisis, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finally bites the cookie and drops 10 per cent overnight. London and Wall Street get the wobbles and technology stocks take fright. I don't know what the ancient Mayan calendar has to say, but I feel an attack of millenial dread coming on. Could I try those drugs again, please?

I'm actually a bit glad this has all happened, because it gets me out of having to say too much Aotearoa Television Network, which got the Assignment treatment in advance of Derek Burns' book on the whole, sad episode.

For all his efforts at spin-doctoring, Burns comes out of it looking no better - and maybe worse - than the brown-skinned directors. They all helped themselves to $18,750 a month, each, they all let down a group of young people who deserved better.

Hira Henderson, the ATN production staff member who didn't get on the gravy train, had plainly been waiting some time to unburden himself. Disgust like he expressed, you can't fake.

I'm sick of talking about Tuku Morgan, and I'm sick of talking about New Zealand First too, save to note that Tau Henare has once again behaved like a royal plonker. Mike Moore wants to add a clause to our end of the new Multilateral Agreement on Investment we're being asked to sign, to declare that the agreement cannot override New Zealand's Treaty of Waitangi committments.

Now, Moore can be a bit of a plonker himself at times - he can be the Prince of Plonk. But his suggested clause was a good, co-operative move, which should have made it easier for the government to proceed.

But the Minister of Maori Affairs shouted in Parliament that Moore was "a big white brother who thinks he knows better than the niggers" because Henare wanted a series of hui on the subject. It was an hysterical response and it appears to have gone down very poorly with Maoridom.

And what made it just plan bizarre was Tau Henare coming to the press just two days later saying that what the MAI needed was a clause declaring that the agreement could not override New Zealand's Treaty of Waitangi committments. Yes, that's right, almost word-for-word what Mike Moore had suggested. What a lunatic.

On a more serious note, we saw Jason Mackrell sentenced to preventative detention in Christchurch this week for the awful rape and murder of a pensioner - a crime he committed after being refused admission to Sunnyside psychiatric hospital. It has happened again. My psych nurse friend in Auckland is scared that he'll end up making that kind of call one day too. And if he does, he'll sure hell be scapegoated by Bill English. This, and not Rau Williams, is the issue.

I'm sure it's not something our Prime Minister would have cared to contemplate this week as he met - well, not so much met as oozed over - British Labour PM Tony Blair. Bolger sought to draw all manner of flattering parallels between himself and Blair. But the polls at home, where Labour is now notching 54% support and public dissatisfaction with the government is riding over 80%, make Bolger look a lot more like John Major than Tony Blair.

More vile displays from our own Auckland City Council this week, which awarded the Santa Parade another $15,000 of funding, despite the fact that council staff had advised that the $70,000 already given to Santa and his corporate playmates was quite enough, actually.

If the sum of $15,000 sounds familiar, it's exactly what the council denied the Hero Parade organisers. If we could spread the rumour that Santa is shacked up with one or more male elves, I'm sure all hell would break loose.

Speaking of men who know their apparel, the All Blacks are to change kit. Unless Canterbury can come up with a counter-offer by the end of the year, the national team's boots and clothing sponsorship goes to Adidas, for five years and somewhere between $70m and $100m.

There has been a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth about foreign corporate money buying into the All Blacks, but rather this lot than Nike. And I think it's good that the rugby union was determined not to undersell the greatest rugby team in the world, and to negotiate the kind of deal the Brazilian and Italian football teams have. And if this staves off the frankly lunatic idea of publicly floating the All Blacks on the stock market, all the better.

It's sad that Canterbury's long relationship with the team will come to an end in 1999, but let's bear in mind that Canterbury isn't just some plucky little southern company. It's a brand of LWR, which is two-thirds owned by Brierley Investments, itself a distinctly global, capitalist entity.

Which kind of leaves us where we started. Global capital is taking fright, we seem likely to catch a stiff dose of Asian business flu, and for all I know the planets have lined up again. Only rock 'n' roll, youth television and some of those drugs can save us now. And if they don't save us, well, we just haven't had enough, have we?


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

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