Russell Brown's HARD NEWS

17th May 2002 - Most Unseemly

Copyright © 2002 Russell Brown

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well, let's hope the police have the right men, and all of them. You didn't need to live in South Auckland to feel a sense of dread this week in the wake of three armed robberies - two of which culminated in cold-blooded executions.

We will, presumably, eventually gain some insight into how and why such brutal crimes could occur. The only one who appears to know at present is Richard Prebble, who - on the basis of his experience as Police minister, apparently - was able to declare that the perpetrator had probably done time and was out on early release. It was all the government's fault for being "soft on crime". Apparently.

Apart from providing Act with an avenue for its usual revolting opportunism, the murders have helped keep an embarrassment for the National Party off the front pages - just as Baby Kahu did during Paintergate.

After a lot of unwise and unseemly grumping from Helen Clark about the admittedly silly police investigation of a fraud complaint against her, now it's the Nats flailing around demanding to know the name of their accuser.

Somebody has made a fraud complaint relating to a large donation made by Fay Richwhite to the National Party in 1996. This, in turn, has provoked a welter of complaints from the party president Michele Boag and some senior MPs.

First it was that the director of the Serious Fraud Office, David Bradshaw, would not reveal the identity of the complainant. Just as the police would not reveal the identity of the person who had made a fraud complaint against the Prime Minister, over her damn silly painting.

Then it was that Bradshaw had called to notify the Attorney General, Margaret Wilson, before he called National Party leader Bill English. But, apparently, he didn't. English simply took longer to return his call. Boag was upset that the party leader was called and not herself.

After making his decision to investigate, Bradshaw also consulted State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham - his boss. This seems quite proper. He also spoke to Mark Prebble, the career civil servant who runs the Prime Minister's office. This could be seen as either reckless or particularly prudent, given the sensitivity of the matter.

Perhaps the National MPs have cause to be annoyed. But that does not excuse the way they rounded on Bradshaw at a scheduled select committee meeting. He emerged looking pale and shaken. That was wrong.

Most of us do not get to corner an officer investigating a serious charge involving our own organisation and proceed to intimidate him. Furthermore, those National MPs are on that select committee to serve our interests - and not their own. That is what they are paid for.

Memo to the Parliamentary National Party: if there is nothing amiss, then let the SFO discover that for itself. Stop trying to influence the investigation, and stop threatening the employment of the man conducting it. Back off. Now.

Because - after all and for goodness sake - there is currently no evidence that anything illegal or unethical was done back in 1996. Fay Richwhite - a generous funder of both the National and Labour parties at times - donated around $250,000 to the National election campaign.

We know thanks to the New Zealand Herald that the cheque went not into a National Party account, but into a trust account run at the law firm of then party president Geoff Thompson. It stayed there until treasurer Michael Cox and members of the party finance committee threatened to "blow the whistle", in Cox's words, on their president.

This is a bit juicy, but none of it is evidence of fraud. Somebody has made a complaint and we ought to let that complaint be investigated. Promptly, one hopes.

This is all rather bad for Boag, however. She appears to have been the last to know about the investigation. The logical assumption is that this to do with the body count she has racked up since taking the job. But, then, I was one of the people who thought the complaint to the police over the PM's painting looked like a Boag black ops job. And who was it? A United Party member! Who'd have thought?

On the other hand, Boag clearly does believe the complaint was laid by one of her enemies in the party. She bailed up her predecessor John Slater - who himself forced out Thompson - at Auckland airport and hissed at him that she'd have him arseholed out of the party this weekend. Or words to that effect. More general, but equally unseemly, threats followed.

It may be irrelevant that Boag worked for Fay Richwhite at the time, but Labour won't be sorry to see the public reminded of it on the evening news. Indeed, the cheer on the face of Labour Party president Mike Williams this week was evident. National's had a good run lately. This one stops it dead and Bill English is standing clear of it.

Amid it all, most people probably missed a disgusting, dishonest and cynical speech to a Grey Power audience by Winston Peters this week. It's election year, which means the leader of the New Zealand First Party is out peddling immigration panic.

Peters claimed, without offering a shred of proof, that the New Zealand government routinely admits refugees who are refused entry to Arab countries because they are a security risk and have committed political killings. This simply isn't true.

Not content with expressing the equations Muslim-equals-terrorist and refugee-equals-terrorist, Peters even appeared to imply that all immigrants are potential terrorists. After all, he intoned, it only took two people to blow up the Oklahoma Federal building. Well, yes. Two born and bred Americans. Your point here, Mr Peters?

Peters did grant that "most" of the Tampa refugees were "probably" not terrorists. Given that we got to go over and hand-pick families and unaccompanied children, this is hardly bloody surprising.

Most bizarrely of all, Peters described John Roughan of the Herald as a "sickly white liberal". Wow. What colour is the sky on WinstonWorld anyway?

And, that's about it. Congratulations to Che Fu for all his music awards last Friday. Sitting watching him and his band play at the Tuis, I realised that he will do this till he dies - which will hopefully be a very long time away.

Apart from that, Goodshirt were loveable, K'Lee can sing but not dance, Anika Moa is genuine and the Feelers are shite. There was the question of whether it would be proper for anyone to kiss Hayley Westenra. Tiki from Salmonella Dub decided it would. I think he had his lips puckered before he hit the stage.

Afterwards, there was the annual trip into the twilight zone that is Terence O'Neill Joyce's speech, and a remarkably enthusiastic reception for Helen Clark. This is one industry that loves the Minister of Arts and Culture.

In a similar vein, is Nandor Tanczos the first Parliamentarian in the world to utter the phrase "phat beats"? Nandor, I won't be voting for you, but I will buy your new CD. Is that alright?


Russell Brown

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