Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

9th October 1998

Copyright © 1998 Russell Brown

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We love you. And we hope you love we too. The Rolling Stones had the trusty excuse of being on drugs when they coined that one. But unless there's something we don't know, the government doesn't. Yes, E's all round might induce a whole bunch of defectors to leave the National Party and join the All Night Dance Party, but that hasn't happened yet.

Still they want us to love them. After last week's ill-advised exercise in granny bashing, National has announced rent decreases of between $5 and $20 a week for some Housing New Zealand tenants. This might sound kind, but it's something that a commercial landlord carrying nearly two and a half thousand empty properties might have thought to do before now. And nearly 9000 of those tenants, who are due the $5, will actually get relief of $1.75 a week, after their accomodation supplement - otherwise known as the property investment industry subsidy - is adjusted.

You still have to ask what the hell is going on in the management of Housing New Zealand. The SOE may have been leaving properties empty in some areas to keep supply short and rents higher, ensuring a better return to the government. Either that, or Housing New Zealand is completely out of touch with the market it's supposed to be part of. The fact that private letting agents are to take over some of the properties suggests the latter.

We seems to have lost touch with the idea that public housing provision has a social purpose.

It would be churlish not to acknowledge that the moves - and the changes to rural housing policy - are in the right direction. But the government's housing policy is still a horrible, horrible mess.

Back on drugs, what a relief it is that decathlete Simon Poelman has finally been tried and convicted of importing about 2000 tabs of Ecstasy. His identity has been a pretty poorly kept secret in this town. I understand one of the problems for the police was establishing that it really was the dreaded E he'd stuffed into the soft toy, but once that was out of the way, there were enough of the old disco biscuits to see him away for some time.

Funny thing is, when I heard the report on the radio, I only half caught a report also connecting him with a bag of something called "coconut ice". Bloody hell, I thought, I've never heard of that. Have I become so homebound that I don't know what crazy new designer drugs the kids are doing on a Saturday night? I knew I shouldn't have stopped getting the airmail edition of The Face.

Turns out of course that Poelman had been charged with - and acquitted of - the theft of a bag of yer actual coconut ice from a shop way back in the early 80s. Frankly, if it'd been me who'd gone to court on that I'd have declared myself terminally unlucky with the law and crossed illicit drug trafficking off my list of potential retirement income schemes.

Speaking of people who appear to be on drugs sometimes, Graeme Lowe is now the proud part-owner of the Auckland Warriors rugby league side and chairman of the Warriors board. One of the other part-owners, having paid just over a million bucks for a one third share, is MDC Investments, a company wholly owned by the Tainui Maori Trust Board. Cue the expected kerfuffle - largely from Dr David Gilgen, who gets an amazing amount of media time.

Why shouldn't Tainui invest in this way? If it were Roger Bhatnagar who'd bought the team, we'd probably all be marvelling at what a good deal he'd gotten.

It's preposterous to suggest that MDC shouldn't take on any risk at all - that's what it's there for. It's an investment vehicle. It's not set up to distribute services to Tainui beneficiaries and it never was. It's not using funds gained from Tainui's Treaty settlement. It can't afford to be beholden to a doctor in Huntly for every decision it makes. And a lecture on financial prudence from Tuku Morgan MP lacks, shall we say, a little moral authority.

As for whether the change of ownership will put a stop to the flakiness of the team's on-field performances, well, who knows? Frank Endacott has always seemed like a pretty good coach to me and he never really did get to pick his own squad - not after that clown Ian Robson managed to send the most promising local players packing so he could hire half-hearted Englishmen and well-meaning rugby union players on vast salaries.

I hate it when things like the Robson debacle happen. It makes us look so small-town. Flash Harry Australian comes in and spends such much money he might just as well have staged a bonfire of ten dollar notes as part of the regular pre-game entertainment. Dull-witted Kiwis stand by until it becomes quite obvious that things are completely out of control.

After the Australian general elections, we might justly wonder if the Aussies can teach us anything at all. I mean, really - they made fun of our electoral system? You can get any old result out of their election, depending on how you count it. Labour, the party that lost, got more two-party preferences than the Liberal-National coalition - but the coalition got more primary votes. Neither of those matter, because the coalition won more seats. Does the coalition have a mandate for the tax reform it went to the people on? Who knows? It seems it certainly won't be able to bring it unmolested into law.

At the other end of the table, One Nation, having won a 9% share of the senate vote, gets one senator, and the National Party, having scored only 5% get nine senators. Pauline Hanson was, to the great relief of a great many people, shot down by the directed preferences of all the other parties. Parties in Australia don't simply ask people to vote for them, they issue them with detailed written instructions on exactly how to rank all the other parties.

It seems completely farcical to me - and more so given that this time we actually got to see their live election night coverage, in all its incomprensible glory. It's perhaps a sign that we've internalised MMP to a greater extent than we realise that most New Zealanders thought it was bizarre that the party with - apparently - the greater share of the vote was not in government. It's happened to us in the past of course, but it seems counter-intuitive now. And it's impossible to imagine going back to it.

A quick word for Defence Minister Max Bradford who, in his tireless quest to shore up funding for a third Anzac frigate came back from a brief trip to Asia raving about how scary it all was, and how we'd better jolly well get another warship alfoat before actual war broke out. He could not, unfortunately, say who would actually bother attacking us, or why. Now that the US dollar has suddenly dropped like a stone, perhaps we should be scared of them too.

Indeed, time was when there might've been a special welcoming committee for the US export that is Public Enemy, the greatest group in the history of rap music. They've fallen off the radar in favour of all that shitty Puff Daddy crap and dumbass gangsta rubbish lately, and they had to drop down from the Auckland Town Hall to the Power Station this week, on account of not having pre-sold enough tickets.

But anyone who's been to the new Town Hall kows it is controlled by a small private army of anal-obsessed bovver boys with walkie-talkies, so the shift to a proper rock'n' roll venue was a very good thing. And PE were a great thing.

Their politics have evolved somewhat over the years. If you'll permit me a bit of old bugger reminiscing, the first time I saw them, in London, they had to play a shitty little basement club because not one large venue would take their booking. It wasn't so much as a gig as an exercise in raw nervous tension, but it was also rock'n' roll of a kind which shat all over the miserable head of Bruce Springsteen and his mates.

It was philosophically - and literally - dangerous.

It couldn't have been more different this week. Believe me, you've never been so many people so happy listening to angry music. The Enemy might be old than old school, but I haven't enjoyed a gig that much in a long time. And rock and roll gets no better than the 20 seconds after Chuck calls in Terminator X on 'Rebel With a Pause'. I'm not arguing


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

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