Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

21st November 1997

Copyright © 1997 Russell Brown

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How pleasant it is to be back you with after our enforced separation by way of influenza last week. But the virus was not wasted. As I contemplated the vile sticky green mucus which filled my passages, I was struck by how much it, the phlegm, reminded me of the Auckland City Council.

Not the whole council, I hasten to add. Just the nasty, hypocritical CitRat slime who will eagerly fib and frustrate democracy when they have a pet project to push - but who, by the casting vote of Les Mills, refused to give a piddly $15,000 to the Hero Parade. This was presented as some sort of stand for community values.

Trouble is, as we all know, the kind of stand most of the inner-city community wanted was on the footpath on Ponsonby Road on Hero night, hoping for a good view. In refusing to to contribute a little money to cover its own streetcleaning charges, the council insulted not only the gay community, but all the 200,000 people who will gather in Ponsonby for the parade.

The sad and ironic part was that on the very same night as the council buried its head in bigotry, the city council in Sydney agreed to help fund the Gay Olympics - thereby enriching both the civic and commercial life of that city.

Auckland's decision, of course, was nothing to do with homophobia. Oh, no. As Mills and various weirdo lobby groups explained, it was because Hero encouraged sexual violence. Why, said the woman from Campaign for our Children, there'd been a sex attack in her street just that week. Does anybody else seriously believe there is a link between a couple of gay people on the back of a truck cavorting about with a whip - and the incidence of rape in the community?

At least councillor Phil Raffills was honest enough to dispense with any pretence of political correctness and confirm that he'd voted against Hero because he just didn't like queers. The unfortunate thing here is that Raffills is principal of Avondale College. Pity the poor kids who have to come out there. If Mayor Mills 'minds me of mucus, then Raffills is surely the godhead of gob - the stickiest, greenest, throat-oyster of them all.

Sanity has prevailed in the past week, and Bill Ralston has promised that Metro magazine will contribute the $15,000 - although after, it should be noted, the New Truth had already chipped in $5000. The weird thing is that since the announcement, Ralston has suffered abuse in the streets and even a death threat or two. What kind of sick, violent perverts are these people? And why is the Mayor encouraging them?

Ralston pointed that this unnerving experience was probably what some gay people have to suffer in their daily lives. But of course, most of the time it's more subtle. Like, for instance what happened to Peter Ellis.

The bizarre and deeply compromised prosecution in the Christchurch civic childcare centre abuse case fell apart after the four women creche workers charged alongside Ellis got to court, their lives already ruined. Logically, its should have stopped there. But it was just a little bit easier to make it stick to Ellis because he was a little bit strange, he was gay. I really believe that and it's been my feeling for a while.

Melanie Reid's excellent 20/20 investigation didn't present all that much which was new about the case, just placed all the doubt where we could see it. We now know that the cop who drove the investigation, Detective Colin Eade, was not only psychologically unwell, but that he sexually harassed one of the creche mothers and then went on to have sexual relationships with no fewer than three women involved in the case.

He also appears to have put quite inappropriate pressure on creche parents who had bad feelings about the whole thing and didn't wish to proceed. The guy's a disaster, frankly.

But what I find really incredible is the way, as part of the prosecution, he selected evidence to support the case. A credible statement from a child would be included, the absurd fantasy in the next breath culled out.

There needs to be a serious investigation of the whole thing, not just of the various crazy people involved - and, my, weren't there a few of those - but of the role of Social Welfare. Why did we as taxpayers fund private lectures by an American self-styled specialist in so-called "satanic abuse"? How many Social Welfare staff heard this stuff? Do they still believe it? Where are they now?

I think the cops, Social Welfare and all know something went really wrong here. And the upshot is that it's probably harder now than ever to bring genuine prosecutions. Some friends of mine know that to their cost. Their children have been abused by a neighbour. The guy has form, and the evidence is a lot more straightforward than the civic creche case, but they can't get to court. I just wonder how the prominent lady lawyer who specialises in protecting paedophiles gets to sleep at night.

Anyway, onto sillier, dafter stuff - like the people who run the country. It was actually fortunate that I wasn't here last Friday, because whatever I said would have been trumped by Winston Peter's incredible offer to Helen Clark. She gets home on Friday night and there's a fax from Winston Peters asking if she'd care to sign up to the coalition agreement he'd negotiated with National and, maybe, become government.

Clark, who is showing a very strong aversion to poisoned chalices and nooses around her neck, told him to blow it out his vainglorious arse and released both his letter and her response. By the next morning, at the New Zealand First party conference, it was clear that Peters hadn't even told his own caucus he was making the approach to Labour. How bizarre. Then he didn't tell Jenny Shipley when finally he made the decision he'd arsed about over for two weeks, and fell in line with National again.

Shipley, the Prime Minister in waiting, might have feigned annoyance at Winston taking a fortnight to do the bleeding obvious, but I suspect she was secretly greatful. Her backbench coup has created a paralysis in government.

No one knows which cabinet ministers are in or out, and even if their frankly dubious replacements are named before Parliament rises on December 8, they won't be accountable until well into next year. In the meantime, the entire executive is a line of so many lame ducks. There is even yet a chance that Parliament will go on holiday straight after Shipley becomes Prime Minister. Constitutionally, this all sucks.

There is one cabinet minister sure of his slot, of course, and that's Wyatt Creech. Now, I praised Creech earlier this year for the new Special Education funding structure. I'd like to take that back. The new system has turned out to be a con - a backdoor move to bulk funding which will see all but the poorest parents of kids who need extra help expected to pay for services. This is a scandal and I'll get back to you on it, promise.

Oh, and our MPs are being paid more - up to $78,000 basic salary for a backbencher and $120,000 for a Deborah Morris. Great. Do they deserve it? Some of them do. Some of them work bloody hard. We've got four MPs in these parts thanks to MMP and I'm pretty happy with three of them. Sandra Lee seems gainfully employed, Pam Corkery's in all the right places and Judith Tizard, as the actual constituency MP, does a whole lot of really unglamorous electorate stuff.

The lazy boy in these parts is Act's Rodney Hide. Just what does he do? Who has helped but himself? Where's his office? The same might be said for most of the Act MPs. Prebble seems more interested in his alternative career as a writer and political commentator and can't even be bothered living within 800km of the electorate he pretends to represent.

Hide seems to spend most of his time on a tacky gossip sheet, and on the The Local Rag, a barely readable but obviously profitable paper devoted to accusing Tizard of being invisible but simultaneously refusing to print her letters or respond to her phone calls.

I must say, I think, in the name of literacy as much as anything else, I favour a boycott of the Local Rag. For that matter, I think gay people should take their business away from Les Mills World of Moral Fitness. I know Les isn't officially running it any more, but I'm sure the rest of the family would let him know if a boycottt were even mildly effective.

Anyway, I've run way over length, time marches on, and it only remains for me to say a little prayer that the All Blacks should humiliate the ghastly England rugby union team this weekend. It must happen, and I'll be watching it


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

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