Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

4th December 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


Now, I like a bargain. I'm not a Trade & Exchange fanatic or anything, but there's nary a week goes by when I haven't popped in to The Goldmine in Pt Chevalier, to see what it is that Ray Mills has salvaged and offered for sale.

He's had an impressive swag of high-quality non-stick cookware in lately, has Ray - and for a while there he had a bunch of those talking Christmas trees like Branch Davidian on Havoc. He's alright is Ray, especially when he winks at the kids with the one eye he has left after that nasty business in the downtown car park a couple of years ago.

But I think we'd all agree we wouldn't like to be the bloke who ransacked his house this week. Ray knows people, and you get the feeling that at some point the burglar might have the error of his ways explained to him in a frank and forthright manner.

I couldn't help but think of Ray this week when none other than the US government offered us a steal of a deal on some F-16 fighter planes that were part of a cancelled export order. Cancelled all the way back in 1990 after the US Congress passed a law forbidding direct arms sales to Pakistan.

The Americans gave back about $300 million $1.3 billion the Pakistanis had already paid for the 28 fighters - but they've kept the planes for eight long years, and now, like some desperate kitchenware supplier, unloaded them to us for a mere $12.5 million a year lease-to-buy, with the option to purchase after 10 years for one quick and easy payment of $240 million.

It'll probably cost about $200 million to keep the things running over that period, which brings the total cost up to just over half a billion. Fantastic. Do you know what the Indonesians had to pay the Americans for planes like these?

But beware. The greatest hazard in bargain-hunting is buying something you don't need just because it's a good deal. And even the most gung-ho of defence spenders really are having some trouble saying what actual use these fighter planes will be.

They'll really be strictly for air shows here, actually. Expect to see them spend most of their time in Australia. Yes, Australia. Those people putting the hard word on us to spend $600 million on a third brand-new Anzac frigate. It's like being stuck in some dodgy Gold Coast property deal, isn't it? It's like we're committed to buying another condo but we've gone cold on the idea.

Now of course, the Australians are howling about us letting them down. Oh dear. We've annoyed the Australians. New Zealanders hate that, don't they? Not.

The government, being the government, has not been seeing the funny side of jilting the Aussies, and put a whole lot of pressure on its rag-bag peripheral support to back (a) a new frigate and/or (b) the F-16s. So much pressure was personally put on Deborah Morris by the Prime Minister, that the former Minister of Youth Affairs told her to jam it.

Deborah Morris has resigned. She's out in three weeks, bringing the government's majority down to one. It's somewhat amusing that, having praised her forthrightness and intelligence for two years - and virtually adopted her into the National Party - the old Tories are calling her an "ungrateful wretch" for exercising precisely those qualities in deciding she wasn't going to take it any more.

I think she's done more for the youth in exercising her independence in recent months than she ever managed to as Youth Affairs minister. She spent most of her time in government acting like she was studying to be middle-aged, but she's the only one of the independents to have articulated principles and stood by them since New Zealand First broke up.

At any rate she's a list MP, so there's no by-election required and it's up to New Zealand First to find somebody on its list who still wants to be a New Zealand First MP - Winston says there's no hurry. And I actually think it's a quite a bit more moral to leave than to carry on abusing the voters' mandate the way the rest of those dickhead so-called independents are.

And speaking of dickheads, how charming to see Tau Henare and Rana Waitai rushing to the press with statements in praise of the Whanganui Maori leader Niko Tangaroa, who died this week. Where were they when Winston Peters grossly insulted Tangaroa and his people during the election campaign? And why are they supporting the government that turned its back on him?

I only met Niko Tangaroa for a short time, during the Moutua Gardens occupation, but I can testify that he had a real presence - not to mention a poise and bearing that those two dickheads couldn't even aspire to. He's a loss to his people.

Onto that other Parliamentary refusenik ... well, almost ... if she'd had the nerve ... Christine Fletcher. If you're like me, you gave her your vote most grudgingly, but it can't be denied she's ushering in a whole new era at the Auckland City Council.

The council has voted to pay itself $15,000 to clean up after a major public event - the Hera Parade - and it's barely controversial at all. At last the people of Ponsonby and thereabouts aren't being dictated by a bunch of religious freaks from Mt Roskill.

That said, Hero Trust chairman Paul Sherriff's call for the council to get on board a bit more and fund the Hero Parade to the same level as the Santa Parade - which gets $85,000 - in the year 2000 might be a little more difficult, given that the council couldn't bring itself to follow Bruce Hucker's proposal to up next year's funding to $25,000.

And finally, can someone please do something about Clive Nelson, the thirtysomething new editor of the Sunday News. Having learned his trade in the cesspit of the English tabloid industry, he's now busily trying to shove what was a good little paper down the toilet.

As if stealing a Jonah Lomu "exclusive", quotes and all, from the Manukau Daily News wasn't enough, Nelson has cynically jumped on the petition-for-fewer-MPs bandwagon.

Whatever you think about the issue - and, personally, I think going back to 99 MPs is stupid in the long-term and moronic before MMP gets its year 2000 checkup - you'd have to agree that the crap the Sunday News has been printing - ''We sack 21 MPs" and so on - is demeaning to journalism.

Ah, but enough of that. It's the party season, and I've got a brace of them to get to


    ==  ==      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: 4 December 1998

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