Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

8th February 2002 - Lacking Not for Love

Copyright © 2002 Russell Brown

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the incumbent Prime Minister will be remembered for many things. Fluid and reassuring body language is not one of them.

When she became the leader of her party, she was quite cruelly pictured in the Dominion making a mess of kissing her husband - lacking not for love but for animal grace. The cameras were there again at Waitangi, waiting by Titewhai Harawira, who, as absolutely every news story was keen to remind us, had in 1998 aggressively challenged Clark's right to speak at Waitangi, reducing her to tears.

The 1998 visit - the last time Clark went to Waitangi - was supposed to have been carefully jacked up. Party members and Ngapuhi kaumatua had, it appeared, laid the ground - hence the shock and distress when it all went wrong.

This year, the story was the same, but the visitor was now Prime Minister - and her nemesis was now very publicly her friend. Harawira might be a rather unpleasant, self-serving old woman, but she is clearly more effective than any of the Ngapuhi men.

When the kiss came, it was delivered as if a Waikato farmer might do it if required to kiss another bloke for the good of the country: jokey, blokey and accompanied by an incongruous wink. Perhaps she should have Judith Tizard accompany her on such occasions to do all the kissing, at which she excels.

The body language as the PM was paraded around on the arm of Harawira was none-too-pretty either, but the reconciliation with Ngapuhi was genuine enough, and significant. Relaxed, even. By the uncertain standards of our national day, it was a good one.

Well, almost. Having navigated Ngapuhi on Tuesday, the PM faced the nutters on Wednesday. None of it made much sense, least of all someone claiming to be the President of Aotearoa and passing a "death sentence" on her for treason. How rude.

The drama and byplay of the marae is a fine thing - all of life is there - but at Waitangi, the sideshows undermine the gravity of the main event. People should protest there if they wish, but they should also demonstrate some respect.

Among the relatively small group of protestors were MPs from the Green Party, which has a new policy backing the adoption of the Maori version of the Treaty. Well, it's not actually a policy, apparently, but it's bound to be a really good thing.

The Greens may want to be careful here. The public has demonstrated a willingness to indulge them in a number of areas, but this might not be one of them. The sight of a group of people who have direct and daily access to government - who could have made an appointment to discuss tino rangitiratanga any old week - protesting at the Prime Minister was quite silly. It may not have been, but it looked like a convenient pose.

Sue Bradford duly went on the Holmes show - and was pretty effectively ambushed, having to follow an item on some rogues from the United Confederation of the Tribes of Aotearoa, who are preposterously claiming Treaty rights to operate a dirty, unsightly scrapyard in South Auckland. It's a bit hard for a pakeha MP to come on and earnestly argue for a more serious attitude to Maori sovereignty in such circumstances.

So what did the rest of us do? The usual - concerts, barbecues, the garden - although the day falling on a Wednesday did seem mess up the week. Or perhaps the cricket did that. Ah well. The golden age has become a bit tarnished; it is not beyond redemption - particularly if the Black Caps can come home and give England a good seeing-to - but it might be quite some time before we see a New Zealand cricket team thump Australia three times running.

Nationalistic sentiments are also - well, they hope - to be stirred by Kiwi Bank, which laid out its offerings before it had opened any branches this week. And, presto! The major trading banks suddenly felt able to come out with lower fees and better interest rates.

The banking public will not doubt appreciate that - but will they change banks, or just enjoy the fact that someone's given the cartel a rattle? And where was Jim? No, not Bolger, Anderton. Have the marketing folk judged it to be a better look without him?

Anyway, that'll do. Thanks to Norman Jay for shaking everybody's booty on Tuesday night. Enjoy some more summer, then


Russell Brown

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