Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

18th September 1998

Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown

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yes, I did it. I'll confess. I read the Kenneth Starr report - I got up early last Saturday morning and downloaded it - and ended up feeling, truth be known, a bit grubby about it. I still carried out my community duty by filling in the butcher on what was on the Internet. This stuff was rude, I said to him, and I couldn't see how they'd get it in the newspapers.

They did, of course. The Sunday Star-Times devoted a page and a half to what might be called the blow-by-blow action. Editorial judgement on what might sensibly go in a family newspaper became moot when anybody with an Internet connection could go directly to the news event itself.

If the press couldn't be first, it couldn't possibly report less than the public could find out for itself, could it? And just to be sure, most editorial opinion has also assumed moral ground so high I'm sure they must have trouble breathing up there. Clinton's a faithless creep with chronic trouser trouble - but can anyone say they really didn't know that the last time he was elected?

Having released the most popular work of pornography in the history of the Internet, the House Republicans are now preparing to unleash Slick Willy - The Video. I'm sure they'll come up with a good reason for doing so.

But how ironic that we now know the man who sits in judgement as chair of the House judiciary committee, Rep Henry Hyde, himself broke up the marriage of the much younger woman with whom he carried on a five-year relationship, throughout which he lied to his own wife. Expect more outing of aldulterous Republicans.

This is relevant because quite a bit of Mr Starr's contention that Clinton sought to obstruct justice and subborn perjury seems based on quite another, commonplace, sort of falsehood. He didn't want his wife to find out.

The French, God bless them, can't work it out at all. While most of the world's leader writers have solemnly passed judgement on Clinton, the French newspapers have universally viewed Kenneth Starr as the antichrist.

The Australians, flushed with national pride as they are right now, have come up with a local angle - Monica Lewinsky is holidaying in Queensland. And hanging out sharing political insights with Pauline Hanson, no doubt. I hereby launch the unfounded rumour that Lewinsky has been sighted buying drum 'n' bass records on High Street.

One place we won't be going on this show is any sort of supposition about hanky panky in our own highest offices. I'm sorry, but yuck. Could any of us stand it? Could we cope with Jenny Shipley's government spending any more time or energy bolstering its own position than it is already?

The government's grand plan for the nation's hospitals was released this week, thinly disguising it as a please-elect-us note and completely leaving out the controversial proposals contained in earlier leaked reports. How odd. The plan did, however, stagger the final few yards in the government's abject retreat from the reforms introduced under Ruth Richardson.

It's always surprised me that the National Party has not been called to account for the debacle of the RHAs, which is matched for failure only by the completely failed housing policy introduced with the usual economic incantations by John Luxton and kept warm under Murray McCully's moustache.

We've probably got another disaster launching in two weeks' time when the so-called "community wage" replaces the dole and workfare begins.

The government expects to have 63,000 thousand people compelled into fake jobs by next year.

Look, the mean-minded, woman-hating Wisconsin Works scheme which helped lay the ground for this one "worked" to the extent it did only because that state's labour market was already stretched tight. The idea of spending millions of dollars running a scheme which will undoubtedly displace real jobs just when thousands of people are already losing theirs - 400 to go from TranzRail this week alone - is ridiculous.

One of the more offensive aspects of this scheme is the fact that the government is depending on the resources and expertise of voluntary organisations to run these jobs. But there's no money for the organisations to train or to monitor what they're doing, or to maintain workplace safety - is it any wonder that 70 voluntary groups have officially said they don't want a bar of it.

Along the way, we've seen the creation, at the cost of more millions of dollars, of a whole new department - Work and Income New Zealand. The poor folks at the Children and Young Persons' Service have, meanwhile, been restructured yet again, for all the good that'll do.

The government might well be advised to get on and call an election before the shit hits the fan on this one. In, say, March, when we're all fat and tanned and full of summer and Sauvignon Blanc - and better disposed towards the government. Apparently, according to Jenny Shipley - who seems to love setting herself deadlines - we'll know if there'll be an election by December. Until then, we'll all have to sit on our hands and try not to get run over by the recession.

We get elections on the local body front much sooner than that, of course - the postal vote is due in by October 10. And, Lordy, Christine Fletcher is leading the Auckland mayoral race, with 53% support among decided voters to Les Mills' 33%.

The nearest non-right-wing candidate is Lynda Topp - or should that be Camp Mother? I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to vote for someone standing as a fictional character. And while I'd like Sue Bradford [] as a councillor, I can't see her as mayor. So I figure I'll be giving my vote to Phil Matthais, who doesn't have the hoardings and the bucks but does seem a decent, intelligent guy.

Actually, if I could, I'd vote for the people who so artfully altered Les Mills' Ponsonby Road billboards so that 'Our Mayor Les' read 'Our Mayor Lies'. You people have talent!

We could actually find out whether Our Mayor Lies if the morons at the Audit Office weren't four months late with their audit on the Britomart project. So much of this sorry affair has been conducted and concocted away from public scrutiny that we really needed this report to be out before the municipal elections.

It looks like it won't be, and the Assistant Auditor-General isn't even apologising. Apparently, the office is under no obligation to provide any sort of public service.

The sleazy atmosphere around the whole thing has been made more smelly by the Britomart-related ads which have been appearing throughout the New Zealand Herald recently. They urge us to "just wait till it's finished", to "Think Smart. Think Britomart" and to "choose" for ourselves.

Choose? You mean vote? Vote for C&R, the only ticket which supports Britomart? In which case, aren't these actually election advertising? And, therefore, isn't it a legal requirement for them to carry information on who, exactly, is paying the bills? As it happens, they do carry that information now. The ads are being placed by Britomart Investments Limited. They, to put it mildly, have a vested interest in this election.

Meanwhile, Auckland NOW has withdrawn its support for Christine Fletcher on account of her being "too dithering and equivocal". Well, at least she's being consistent, isn't she? Auckland NOW, of course, isn't at all flakey, even if their ticket does include the barking mad libertarian Deborah Coddington. What'll she do if she gets elected to the ARC? Sell the regional parks? Well, actually, I'd keep an eye on the local libraries if Auckland NOW gets a sniff of a majority - they might not be there too long.

According to their new Website, Auckland NOW are going to freeze rates for three years at the same time as they fix the wastewater system and ramp up council services. They will do this magic trick by extracting further efficiencies from council activities. Yeah, and the cheque's in the mail and and Bill Clinton didn't, well ... you know ...

With all this sordidness, it's kind of a relief to have the honest athletic endeavour of the Commonwealth Games to divert us. The Malaysian government's gone troppo and will probably soon start printing money like the Russians, but that doesn't seem to matter.

I'm man enough to admit I had a wee cry in the small hours this week as our rugby sevens team got all emotional about winning the gold medal. Sure, they were expected to win - but the All Blacks were "expected" to win the Tri-Nations and hold the Bledisloe Cup, weren't they? Actually getting there and winning something - anything - out of a wretched rugby season was special, and Jonah Lomu is a mythic figure.

It'll be enough to carry me through as I take a week hard News holiday next week. I've got some new and exciting shit to see to in my day job, but I'll be back before the local body elections, promise


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

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