Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

7th July 2000 - Just the Fax

Copyright © 2000 Russell Brown

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it's the season when we need to visit our local pharmacist. To top up on Vitamin C, get advice on which cold and flu remedies are right for us - and to send muckraking faxes to the Parliamentary press gallery.

Yes, the public machine in a little chemist's shop in Grey Lynn was the source this week of a scrawled fax full of allegations about - you guessed it - a Labour Maori MP.

John Tamihere, who seems to have spent his time as an MP either going through the wringer or steaming at the ears, went to Parliament to front up to the allegations: confessing to three drunk-driving convictions, one each in the 70s, 80s and 90s - and an allegation of forgery in 1990 on which he was dismissed without conviction by the courts, with an order that proceedings be suppressed; and investigated but not disciplined by the Law Society.

This comes, of course, on the heels of Dovergate - with the very considerable difference that Tamihere - unlike Dover Samuels - declared all his past indiscretions to his party before he was accepted as a candidate. Full and frank disclosure was, no doubt, a condition of his acceptance as a candidate.

Tamihere could basically have stood for any party he wanted, and no party - including Act - would have turned him down on the basis of his colourful past. Even his somewhat embarrassing capacity for tantrums has to be overlooked in favour of his vitality, enterprise and energy.

But I get the impression that if there's any more of this, his first term as an MP will be his last. He'll walk after three years, and you can't blame him. The current atmosphere of muckraking is not only punishing for those involved, it's a waste of the time and money and a useless distraction from the real business of governing.

The PM has blamed Act for the fax, which may or may not be terribly unfair. Richard Prebble, having already played the victim across two pages of the Listener this week, says he and his party are being victimised again.

Prebble's defence - that he's known about the Tamihere stuff all year so why would he pull the chain on it now? - isn't exactly compelling, but the chief evidence against him amounts to no more than the fact that he's a nasty piece of work, he's done it before and you wouldn't put it past him to did it again.

In this sense, Prebble, too, is paying for the misdeeds of his past. The idea that he is doing "the honourable thing" is so frankly improbable that he can't get anyone to believe it. Oh, the irony.

The centre-right side of the house has been trying all week to keep up its own sense of grievance over Alliance whip Grant Gillon's moronic quip in Parliament.

Gillon suggested - in a premeditated, smartarsed fashion that made it all the worse - that Tory males fuck sheep. Sheep-shagger jokes aren't ever funny, anywhere, but in a debating chamber whose reputation has been steadily improving under the best Speaker in a generation, this one was a disaster.

On the other hand, I'm already more than a bit over Roger Sowry wringing his hands and being upset and offended and appalled etcetera. Gillon was ordered back into the house to have his butt kicked and that really ought to be the end of it.

Comparisons with John Carter's "Hone" escapade on the radio are inappropriate. Carter slurred Maori in a manner that fuelled popular prejudices - especially amongst the kind of people who listen to John Banks - but, unless you're going to contend that Gillon might have led people to conclude that National and Act MPs do in fact fuck sheep, it's hard to tally the two.

There is, of course, no MP better equipped for such an atmosphere of ridiculousness than Act's dimwitted Muriel Newman. She popped up this week complaining about the fact that a chunk of radio spectrum earmarked for 3G mobile services has been set aside for purchase by Maori.

The government, like its predecessor, has declined to follow the Waitangi Tribunal's finding that there is a Treaty right to spectrum - in part, no doubt, because that would usher in the usual suspects. Who wants the Maori Bandwidth Commission, for God's sake?

But it has earmarked one block of spectrum for sale to Maori interests, as part of a development strategy. Maori will still have to find the money, build the businesses and create the jobs, probably in partnership with an international player. Given that there are only three or four serious bidders for the remaining four blocks of spectrum, it's pretty hard to find a victim here.

But this "wealth transfer", declared Newman in a blizzard of her usual banalities, "will do more damage to Maori, than good. It creates a view that wealth comes from government, whereas most New Zealanders know that real wealth comes from a commitment to hard work, thrift and personal responsibility as well as protecting and caring for your family.

"The spectrum allocation will simply delay the time before Maori leadership accepts that those old fashioned values are where the real wealth lies."

So, to recap, the latest from Act's communication spokesperson and author of the Pulitzer prize-winning 'Smell of an Oily Rag' series: Maori are lazy, irresponsible, hopeless with money and can't look after their families. How long can Donna Awatere stay in that party?

Newman's chief virtue is that she makes the Herald's part-time business columnist Fran O'Sullivan look relatively rational. This is no mean feat. In this Monday's report from Planet Fran, we got a picture of a vicious, far-reaching clobbering machine being run from the Prime Minister's office. Those with "private school accents", like former TVNZ chair Rosanne Meo, have been gunned down where they stood. Apparently.

Furthermore, said Fran, business had been too "gutless" to rally behind Timberlands' Kit Richards - dismissed for running a campaign against his SOE's own shareholder - and Airways' Corporation's John Maasland - investigated and this week cleared of conflict of interest allegations made by Winston Peters, and I can't actually recall the PM saying anything about him at all - because ... wait for it ... they were afraid of "individual targeting by trade unions if they dare to speak out."

By way of evidence for this completely bizarre claim, Fran cites what happened to cereal king and social responsibility bore Dick Hubbard. Oh, right. What happened to Dick Hubbard was that he wouldn't negotiate with his staff on overtime and leave, so they staged a half-hour picket IN THEIR LUNCH HOUR. That was it. After he'd been on Holmes crying about how terrible it all was, he actually negotiated and it was all over. A right old bit of industrial terrorism, wasn't it?

The self-destructive ousting of Rod Oram and the regular appearance of this sort of gibberish in the Business Herald are presumably not unconnected.

But anyway, a big up to everyone involved with Oonst Oonst Oonst last Friday night. Without an ounce - or even a gram - of disrespect to the top-notch turntable troublers, it was the live acts that really blew me away. Subware, Concorde Dawn and, most especially Pitch Black made me think that something really, really is going on. Add to that the possibility that Mike Hogdson and Paddy Free are the nicest men in New Zealand and you can't moan - at all


    ==  ==      Russell Brown
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    (_)         "The views expressed on this programme
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