Hard News by Russell Brown

And onwards ...

"Right - now drink piss." As famous parting comments in journalism go, John Campbell's words as he fished out his glass of champagne from the desk where he had just read his last 3 News bulletin weren't likely to be inscribed in any learned text, but they certainly had the common touch.

Carol Hirschfeld had her moment a couple of minutes earlier when, suddenly realising that she had said "absa-lootely Clint!" for the last time ever, her eyes welled up. They now hand over to a pair who, in purely technical terms, are probably better newsreaders, but their accidental seven-year partnership did no less than put TV3 on the map as a serious 6pm contender. One News always had the edge in resources, but people liked John and Carol. As someone - well, me, actually - once said, they were TV personalities who didn't look like they would dissolve into dust if they got caught in direct sunlight.

Now, they will be tasked with doing the same trick on Campbell Live, with John out front and Carol, apparently gratefully, retiring from the glare of the lights (and the lights in the 3 News studio are really bright, much more so than the modern ones at TVNZ) to produce the 7pm flagship.

It seems to me that mere practicality is going to hurt Paul Holmes here: a politician, sports star or momentary celebrity who wants maximum coverage might just pull off appearances on both Close Up and Campbell Live. But all the way to Albany to talk to Holmes? Forget it.

If you were after evidence to support the theory that umpires are unconsciously cowed by the might of the Australian side, and tend thus to give them the better of 50-50 decisions, Saturday's game may have provided it.

The Australians copped one tough decision - an appeal declined after Macmillan (I think) made an extravagant swing and got the faintest of edges through to Gilchrist, who did not himself seem sure of the dismissal. The Black Caps, on the other hand, had to wear at least three plain old shockers.

The first two were the work of Brent "Billy" Bowden, who has spent the summer officiating in Australia and earning the plaudits of the commentators there. First, Bowden missed Matthew Hayden plainly gloving one to McCullum down the leg side (Hayden went on to get another 40 runs to top score with 71). Then he declined an LBW appeal from Vettori (with Hayden again the batsman) that could hardly have been more plumb. (Vettori probably also had a strong case in his final over, when Bowden turned down another very good leg-before shout and the two had terse words.)

Ironically, for all the fuss about Bowden, the worst decision for New Zealand was that made by his colleague Aleem Dar, who gave Stephen Fleming out LBW to Brett Lee. Fleming was struck in line with leg stump by a bowler bowling around the wicket, wide on the crease. If that was going to hit the stumps then I'm an opening batsman. With the captain gone so soon, the New Zealanders went into such a funk that Glenn McGrath was able to finish his opening seven-over spell with one wicket for seven runs.

In the end, it was McGrath's magnificent bowling at the death that snatched the result, but in the interim, the Black Caps were able to fight their way back into the game to such an extent that the Australians actually lost their composure (and don't we all love to see that?). Such is the nature of cricket that you can't say that any one of the rough decisions denied the Black Caps a result, but when you're playing the world's best team you don't really need those things going against you.

In the current issue of Ngai Tahu's swish magazine Te Karaka, there is a useful feature on the Maori Party, in which Pita Sharples makes his familiar comments about being a party for all New Zealanders and Tariana Turia says something, well different: "We are a proud, noble race of people. We can be self-determining, we can look after ourselves, and that is our message to our people. Do they [Maori] want to continue to be underneath tauiwi structures? Is that how they want to live their lives? If they do, I feel incredibly sad."

In today's Herald, she defends the charge of nepotism against Te Wananga o Aotearoa:

"When you are running a Maori organisation you know you are always under scrutiny so you are going to put people into positions who you know that you can trust and who are going to be loyal and who can do the work.

"You certainly wouldn't put a relative of yours into a job you knew they couldn't do.

"But I would be looking not only for the expertise but the loyalty and I would be looking for that trust."

But the issue here isn't about employing someone you trust: if the present allegations are accurate, it's about repeatedly diverting big chunks of someone else's money to friends and family. If iwi wish to reward "loyalty" within their own organisations, that's their business. With public education money, it's different.

There is much to praise about the Maori Party. At the community level it operates better than any other political party. It will win some or all of the Maori seats this year - and then the heat may start to come on. Conflicts of interest become more acute, the comments of leaders are far more closely scrutinised. The party will be in the position of having to justify the direction of taxpayer dollars to more than one MP's relatives. If it doesn't think hard now about this it will be very easy meat next year.

Oh, and the bit where George W. Bush pretty much admits to taking drugs is here.