Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

26th January 2001 - Gobsmacked All Over Again

Copyright © 2001 Russell Brown

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and a Happy New Year. Since we last communed over the ether I've circumnavigated the South Island - well, the bottom half anyway.

I have been struck by the fact that you can get a decent coffee almost anywhere these days. Even in Rangiora, where there are no Pacific Islanders and the supermarket checkout girls all look like Todd Blackadder's younger sister. And in Greymouth, where the shop girls are a little more dangerous and aspirational - nose piercings, that sort of thing. But not, regrettably, at the Arts Centre in Christchurch, where the pretty young man working the machine didn't know a long black from his arse.

I was struck by how marvellously the Canterbury Museum displays its Nagi Tahu artifacts - to say it was better organised than Te Papa would be damning with faint praise. It was struck by how well we cater for the tourist trade, by how efficiently we take their money of them, and by how much value we deliver.

And I was gobsmacked all over again by the spectacle of the Southern Alps, the grandeur of Central Otago, the magic of the West Coast. We walked up to the face of Franz Joseph and it was amazing.

So I now return to the topic of national affairs with some reluctance. After all, there I've been , sitting back, drinking San Pellegrino like it was water, nothing more to worry about than how little the weather forecast has resembled the actual weather lately.

There has been the odd newsy distraction; the Liz Gunn business, which showed how narrow is the gap between a laudable protest against child abuse and a TVNZ promotional campaign. Everyone's had a chew on this one, save to note my writer friend's comment that "I always wondered why Liz Gunn read the news like her E was coming on - and now I know."

But now it's back to the day job and back, I guess, to reading the news behind the news. To paying attention to politics, even if it involves Roger Sowry. Sowry has taken the job of encouraging moral outrage over government ministers Phillida Bunkle and Marion Hobbs, who received out-of-town allowances, even though one is the MP for Wellington Central and the other sought to be.

A Parliamentary Services inquiry has cleared both of them, but the outrage lingers and now the auditor general is to investigate the whole question of allowances - a move which could conceivably rebound on some National MPs. But I do struggle to see much difference here between the current case and the money we shelled out to Richard Prebble, both in out-of-town allowance and air fares when he couldn't be bothered within 700 kilometres of Wellington Central after getting himself elected as its MP. End carpetbagging and we might end just the problem.

And there's more, of course: Whether we like it or not, we are blasted back into politics every summer, just as the weather's coming right, by Waitangi Day.

Is it Helen Clark's intention to prolong the golden weather by taking the politics out of Waitangi Day? If so, I fear it is going horribly wrong.

As she did brilliantly with the irritable business lobby, she has sought to take control of the situation; to neutralise her enemies by elevating her friends. But creating a new establishment is many times more difficult in the world of mana than the world of money. Told off by senior Ratana, snubbed by Te Arawa, cursed by Ngapuhi Clark presently lacks the skills and the friends to even try.

In truth, it's not so much a lack in her as in the Parliamentary Labour Party. Maori need someone of the status of Anderton or Cullen to represent them in government. Maoridom has not delivered that person. The country needs able Maori leadership, but what it gets is Derek Fox making a fool of himself.

All that was far away last Friday when the clans gathered for the Big Day Out. It's an odd thing to do with yourself, especially if you happened to be one of the unlucky few who got shaken down by security guards or the police. Apparently people were trying to take LSD into a rock festival. Who'd have believed it?

Of the 89 people arrested last week, a few were collared on drug offences and are no doubt considering themselves just a tad unlucky. Rather more were nabbed after playing a few rounds of Attack of the Drunken Munter.

By contrast, The Gathering encountered no crowd trouble, drunkenness or fighting - meaning that all The Press and the Dominion had to write about was the drugs. This is called being a victim of your own success.

But anyway, the Big Day Out: there was nowhere madder in the country that day than the Boiler Room: Big, brown guys with their shirts off, gang tattoos across their backs, waving their hands in the air. Some dude curled right over into a kind of standing fetal position - and having quite a good time of it, apparently. And in the middle of it all, teenage girls texting.

Things were a little less mental at the Hothouse stage. It used to be the local indie bands who stole the show, these days it's the local DJs. P-Money was amazing but Roger Perry did it for me. Just a few hundred people of various ages, sizes, shapes and colours having what your bFM breakfast host likes to call "a good, hard dance" to some funky house music. You can spend an hour and a half having Carl Cox smack you over the head, just don't make me do it. Oh, and a word for Grant Fell's little oasis of niceness down at the Pavement tent.

Oh, and a closing word for the fashion statement of the day - Scott from Friday Night Alan's t-shirt that read: "Channel Z IS The Big Day Out". Ho bloody ho


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

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