Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

7th August 1998

Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown

The Web Version of The Hard News is made available
by NZ Now Net

HardNews Home

1998 Hard News


HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 9.30am on Fridays and replayed around 5.15pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to You will need an MP3 player. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

HARD NEWS is also available in MP3 form from and in text form at You can subscribe to the 95bFM Hard News mailing list at


weather update: we've done biblical, now we're on to balmy. While parts south finally got a drop of snow, up here in Auckland we've had a week of weather that wouldn't be out of place in, say, December.

It's nice, but it's very bloody odd - and said status has handily been confirmed with a new report from Niwa, which finds that since precisely 1977, our climate has been on the march. It's warmer and wetter in the West and South and warmer and drier in the East. If you thought that there used to be more frosts back when you were a nipper, you're right.

This all has major implications for a number of our primary industries. But is this evidence of Global Warming? Niwa say they can't say. Maybe. But as I understand it, this kind of thing has happened before.

It seems that conditions were somewhat balmy and enticing when the first Maori travellers decided to settle here. Then, over successive decades, it got bloody cold, until the only people down south were Tipene O'Regan's ancestors. Paid off in the end, though, didn't it?

Thick hides were also the order of the day at the National Party's conference last weekend, where the delegates gave the Prime Minister a rapturous reception and set about resolving to privatise anything that's not nailed down.

If that's the plan, they'll have to do a bit better than they have over the sale of Wellington Aiport, which degenerated into farce this week, as the council and cabinet argued over whose idea it was.

A letter from Bill Birch implied that the council had suggested the sale of the jointly-owned airport and was now trying to welsh on the deal.

Major insult.

Winston Peters then made the incredible suggestion that some of the $100 million the government would make from its two-thirds share could be pork-barrelled into the region's hospitals. The councillors, by now outraged, decided they definitely wouldn't sell their share. Now the government has to decide what it wants to do.

Actually, as announced at the National Party conference, what the government would like to do is blame MMP, thanks very much. Shipley promised a referendum. The delegates, with whom National's MMP coalition partner is roughly as popular as leprosy, lapped it up

It's just banal populism, of course. If your team's playing like shite, you don't suggest to the crowd that maybe things would be better if we went back to three-point tries and no lifting in the lineouts. Apart from anything else, a referendum result would run smack-bang into the assessment process already mandated in law.

As Winston Peters was busy taking umbrage at his party being treated as "an affliction" by National, the Alliance did something extraordinary. It invited Labour leader Helen Clark to speak at its conference the weekend.

Verily, government MPs did protest too much. Way too much in the case of agriculture minister Lockwood Smith, who issued a hysterical press release demanding that his Labour counterpart Jim Sutton resign from his party immediately because "the end of the world" would ensue now that Labour and the Alliance were on speaking terms.

Actually, the Alliance is looking, perhaps for the first time, like a party that really wants to be in government. A couple of weeks ago, it released a monetary policy - and nobody laughed. Richard Prebble and Rodney Hide could not snigger like Beavis and Butthead, because the Alliance's policy was, in international terms, fairly mainstream. It contained one or two things which aren't fashionable round here, but it was researched to the hilt and well-argued.

So, can the two parties work together? Duh. They already are. The odd rural by-election aside, the two parties have been working together quite happily in Parliament - and directly co-operating in Auckland, where the Alliance is, if anything, the senior partner in City Vision, which is about to launch its local body campaign. They've chosen candidates, agreed on a platform and they seem quite happy

That said, Labour will at some time have to take polite exception to the Alliance's invitation for voters to give their constituency votes to Labour and their party list votes to the Alliance. The party list, as we hopefully all remember, is the one that counts.

Oh, and anyone who knows how one of the local papers came to run a story saying Christine Fletcher had won the mayoral endorsement of City Vision should share the news, because it doesn't appear to be true at all.

Is this another part of Chrissie's mayoral masterplan, then?

Interesting thing, being mayor. I read something a while back about the changes in the way Americans regarded their president. They didn't need him to be such a figurehead anymore, and were happy enough with a "mayor-in-chief", for which the ethical requirements are apparently somewhat looser. Which is just as well, given that Bill Clinton is their president.

Yet now, an investigation into a dodgy property deal which happened when Monica Lewinsky was about nine years old, sees the FBI testing a little blue dress for the presence of presidential seminal fluid. What sort of woman keeps a cum-stained dress? And how did this happen anyway? Blame Richard Nixon. When Watergate started to get a bit tight, he fired his attorney general.

That didn't save him in the end, but it so concerned Congress that it created an office of independent counsel, who was effectively out of the reach of anyone in government or the judiciary. Nobody can turn off Kenneth Starr, although many, many Americans would like to.

Middle-class Americans are pretty pleased with their current lot, and they don't want the applecart upset. Lewinsky is apparently going to tell all, but Clinton might yet continue to insist he never went there. Even the Republicans are now saying that if all that happened was some sly shagging, and if he lied about it - under oath - to spare his wife and child, then that's alright.

If it's carnal capers in the White House which might exercise Wall Street, then here it's Telecom which drives the share market. And the market followed Telecom south this week after Winston Peters delivered a warning at the launch of Saturn Communications' local calling service on the Kapiti coast.

Telecom's tactics against Saturn in the Hutt Valley may prove something of a watershed. Saturn came in five bucks a month cheaper on local phone service than Telecom. If Telecom was going to drop its prices, it would have to do so nationwide. Instead it came up with a $5 "toll loyalty rebate" - which you didn't actually have to make any toll calls to get. You just had to be in the Hutt Valley. The Commerce Commission thought that was alright.

Well it isn't. Whilst happy to intervene massively in the electricity industry, the government won't risk upsetting Telecom. The rest of the industry now essentially ignores Maurice Williamson, the responsible minister, and Peters no doubt knows he'll find plenty of traction if he gets his act together. Making it clear that Telecom doesn't own the national numbering plan would be a start.

Frankly, Telecom's shareholders have had a bloody good run. Now it's our turn.

There might be light at the end of another long tunnel too, with Assistant Commissioner Ian Holyoake telling a parliamentary select committee that police opposed full legalisation of cannabis, but that they might favour decriminalisation. Now, we might be getting somewhere.

Because the fact is, kids, that the law is barely a factor in whether or not people smoke pot. A landmark survey by the Auckland School of Medicine's public health unit found that people's overwhelming reason for not smoking dope was that they didn't like it. Something like five per cent of all the folks who didn't smoke cited the law as the reason.

So ... what about the rugby, eh? I was, up until about 4.15pm last Saturday, in the "let's give them a chance" camp. But no more. That game was the one the All Blacks had to win - or at least, lose with some style.

They did neither, andit's time for change, which is kind of exciting.

The most evident of those changes is the effective end of the All Black career of Michael Niko Jones, who has been surely a prince of the game. Michael Jones perceives the game differently than you or I; in the manner of the truly gifted he has followed paths that are not open to others. But no more, for the All Blacks, anyway. He can't reinvent himself this time.

Still, nice to see Eroni Clarke back in the All Black squad - and especially to see the Auckland NPC team turned out in a new jersey which doesn't look like somebody vomited on it. You really do have to wonder about sportswear designers ...

And you also have to wonder about some of the people running sports, if the names on a silly "send this on to five people and you'll have good luck" chain-letter I got lately are anything to go by. There are some big names on this one - from stock car legend Al Unser Jnr to league legend Alan Langer. I think they're bollocks, actually, but genuine takers include TV3's sports collossus Clint Brown, who sent his letter off to five folks with the message: "Sorry guys - last year I ended ignoring one of these and now I'm divorced! I'm not sure if that's good luck or bad luck!"

Hur, hur ...

Amazing isn't it? I'm still waiting for the one which says, "Sorry, but I ignored one of these and I ended up in coalition with Winston Peters - Regards, Jenny". Well, it wouldn't be much stranger than what's already happened, would it?


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

[ HardNews Home ] [ 1998 Hard News ] [ Subscribe ]

NZ Now Net Ltd NZ News Net
Search NZ News Net
Write to NZ News Net
Last update: 7 August 1998

Text Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown.
Formatting Copyright © 1998 NZ News Net