Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

19th February 1999

Copyright © 1999 Russell Brown

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This has truly buggered up the pitch in the Prime Minister's season-opening statement promising, among other things, longer sentences for crimes associated with so-called "home invasion". The government would, she said, "improve our security by taking actions that will deliver safety at home."

What a load of crap. This has nothing at all to do with improving public security and everything to do with improving the government's chances of re-election by cashing in on fear in the community.

National's spin doctors have deduced that people have been unnerved by press coverage of a number of in-home attacks in recent months. Somewhere along the line, the press dubbed what used to be called aggravated robbery "home invasion". The name is new, but the crime most certainly is not.

That hasn't stopped the government turning a media buzzword into a law. But there are some problems there. Like, nobody's quite sure what the hell "home invasion" actually is. In which case, you'd think the government would proceed with some care in legislating on it.

Quite the reverse. Seeeking to repair this week's damage, Justice Minister Tony Ryall announced that he wanted this new legislation passed NEXT WEEK. No public submissions, no select committee consideration, no nothing. This was so amazingly cynical and reckless that Act MPs thought it was a joke when Ryall made the announcement. Fortunately, Act won't support the government in this idiotic stunt.

Speaking of reckless, Jim Anderton produced an anonymous letter claiming that the Prime Minister had dined in March with Saatchi's global head Kevin Roberts, John Luxton and Jane Vesty of Saatchi's local PR firm, Sweeny Vesty. The implication was that Roberts, who is helping devise National's re-election strategy won his local branch a big Tourist Board deal by promising a sweetheart deal for National's election campaign account.

Oh, the outrage! How could that man say those things under privilege? But the Prime Minister's denial seemed more extensively qualified than you'd expect, and it soon proved that she and Burton had in fact dined with Roberts and his wife.

The date was in August, not March, as Anderton claimed. And, with Shipley having already told the house that she had never met Vesty, Vesty was not, apparently, present. Weird thing is, the dinner was actually at Vesty's house. Does this strike you as a bit strange? And mightn't the PM have saved a lot of unnecessary speculation by noting that although she'd never met this woman she'd had dinner at her house?

Now, some of the hordes who attended the Hero Parade last weekend might have heard the Prime Minister making another policy promise. In her speech opening the parade, she seemed to pledge her support for basic legal rights for same-sex couples.

She told the he told Hero crowds that the Government "wants security for all New Zealanders, including the security of knowing your rights are protected in the area of personal relationships."

Now, with a major piece of legislation extending property rights to heterosexual couples who are de facto married in select committee right now, and due back before Parliament next month, the opportunity to extend rights to same-sex couples is right there for the taking. It's actually ridiculous that the legislation has gotten this far without covering same-sex couples, who are, after all, people too.

A government amendment to the bill would undoubtedly received the support of the Opposition. But incredibly, during question time this week, Shipley wouldn't commit to support for anything of the kind.

It's a re-run of her behaviour at Waitangi, where she held hands, wept and empathised - and then, when she was well clear of the marae, delivered a speech rejecting Maori sovereignty.

Sometimes you think that Jenny Shipley is a basically decent woman struggling in the dirty world of politics. And sometimes you think she will do or say absolutely anything she believes is necessary to stay in power.

The Hero Parade itself was slicker and bigger - if not bolder - than ever before. This year was notable for the sudden leap into currency of the greeting "Happy Hero!" and for the way Ponsonby, with its flourishing thickets of terraces and townhouses, turned into a party zone of which the parade was only the centre. I suspect this will be the way forward. Hey, why not run the thing all weekend?

Full marks to Labour Party president-in-waiting Bob Harvey for his dancing on the Labour float, and to Craig Parker for his fine job presenting TV3's hero coverage. But I must confess now that I was not, as advertised, on the 95bFM float. I was, I'm afraid, hosting a small party of my own and having a few wines at the time when the costumes were supposed to be collected. It would have been unwise and probably illegal to drive. So I viewed the parade as a punter and went to another party afterwards.

But, yes, sports fans, I was the guy in the corporate box at Jade Stadium who didn't catch the six on Wednesday night. I swear, I had a premonition about it, and I saw it all the way off Hansie Cronje's bat. I called for it and steadied myself, forming a textbook reverse cup. And then suddenly, I didn't see it. Apparently the ball clipped a small awning above us, came straight down, ricocheted a couple of times off the concrete steps - and eventually hit me, get this, in the back of the head. Injury added to insult. In the words of the philosopher Homer Simpson - d'oh!

But, I should add, nothing was ever going to be as big an insult this week as our tired, cynical, dishonest government. Cheats and chuckers the lot, sir


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

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