Hard News by Russell Brown


Arrest the bastards at the border

It's not often I wholeheartedly agree with Winston Peters, but he has my endorsement for his impassioned Parliamentary speech in the wake of Fay and Richwhite buying their way out of an insider trading investigation. The $20 million payment to end the Securities Commission's case against them was less than a third of what they made selling off TranzRail shares in 2002, and a drop in the bucket of the enrichment they have accorded themselves - very often at the expense of their own shareholders - over the years.

I don't have the protection of Parliamentary privilege that Peters had yesterday, but I guess it's safe enough to repeat my usual line with respect to those two: arrest the bastards at the border. I'm not fussy what for. My objections to them are moral, rather than strictly legal.

It's not just a matter of what they did to the New Zealand public when they played both sides of National's privatisations, but what they did to the concept of investment in this country. The fact that there may yet be some people who still consider the pair of them heroes utterly defeats me.

There has been a spirited debate under David's post as to whether the arrest of Millie Elder is news. I'm afraid it is. You might even say it is so as a result of the Faustian pact her father made with the gossip press. John Campbell's extreme sensitivity about going public with his family looks all the more prudent now.

But even if you've never engaged with celebrity culture, if you are even moderately well-known, certain forms of misfortune striking your or your loved ones will be news. It's a matter of demand. The biggest enduring spike in traffic on Public Address took place before the 2005 general election. But the campaign itself did not cause the spike: it was the now done-and-dusted celebrity drug scandal. I led with commentary on it three days running, and y'all came in your hordes.

What doesn't need to happen is the system confusing sizzle with public interest and throwing itself open merely because journalists want story and pictures. Judge Deobhakta's comments in court were apposite.

If that "Faustian pact" reference reads like a criticism of Paul Holmes, I should also add that I think he'd be a very good Dad to have at a time like this. A man who has stumbled himself knows the score. As a parent, my sympathy goes to him and Hine. This stuff's hard enough without being in the middle of a circus.

I don't know Millie; or, rather, I haven't known her since shortly after she was born. I actually moved out of my flat in London to make room for her arrival, and I have this jarring idea in my head of an innocent baby up on drugs and receiving charges. (I also can't get over how much she looks like her mother did then.) As the judge noted, small-time P busts are commonplace -- there are plenty of twentysomethings having a dabble there without significant consequence -- but whether not the receiving charges are sound, being in the same house as 30 grand's worth of stolen property suggests that, as they say, she has fallen in with a bad crowd.

On another sad note, Matt Watson, aka DJ Big Matt, aka the nicest man in reggae, was laid to rest this week, having lost his battle with gastric cancer. My thoughts are with his family. He was a truly good man, and his taste in music was magnificent. It sounds like his funeral was a big one, and he deserved it. He'll be much missed.

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