Hard News by Russell Brown


Birth of the Nasty

When do you think the Herald is going to get over this thing with Labour? Judging by yesterday's editorial, no time too soon. The editorial's core sentiment is laudable enough: a wish for a gentler, more respectful House of Parliament.

The problem is that the editorial makes its argument by imagining a time of golden Parliamentary weather, when "the House of Representatives was a good deal more dignified than it has been in recent years," especially at Question Time:

The change can be dated from the election of the Lange Government. Of a different generation than the one it defeated, it regarded previous practice as pompous and outdated. Concepts such as decorum and dignity were not among its values. At question time ministers took their cue from the combative wit of David Lange, though their rejoinders usually lacked the redeeming good nature of his.

Since then things appear to have deteriorated to the point that question time in the Clark years became merely sneering and nasty. The Prime Minister adopted a practice of pointedly turning and looking away from the Opposition leader while delivering dismissive responses to his questions. The advent of MMP may also be to blame. The House seemed to have a higher tone when members were addressed by their electorates rather than by name.

Also to blame: MMP ("The House seemed to have a higher tone when members were addressed by their electorates rather than by name").

It's a brilliant theory. Indeed, to find comparable brutishness in the House, one needs to go all the way back to … the Prime Minister immediately preceding Lange.

It was, after all, Robert Muldoon who, in 1976, brutally derailed the career (and the life) of Labour MP Colin Moyle by meeting a serious question in the House with a reference to Moyle "being picked up by the police for homosexual activities", the last and most damaging of a series of calculated Parliamentary snipes at Moyle based on information Muldoon had inappropriately obtained from the SIS.

Bearing that in mind, what kind of doo-lally logic does it take to declare that Parliamentary nastiness began in 1984?

On the other hand, it's hard to begrudge Fran O'Sullivan her John Key honeymoon columns: because, girlfriend, this boy is fine. Most recently she has him at the Deloitte/Management Awards, where:

Hard-bitten business types found Key's boyish exuberance rather endearing and laughed with him.

But they were silent and absolutely focused when he spelt out the difficulties his Cabinet faced with the major deterioration in the Government's books. They drank in his words as he pledged to make the economy his "No 1, No 2, and No 3 agendas".

He was clearly in his element, speaking as he does best without prepared notes and obviously on top of his material. He wanted to provide the private sector with the right signals so they would invest and make New Zealand a success. But he also warned that business would not get everything it wanted ("there is this thing called politics").

And then there was the laying on of hands:

Throughout the evening Key worked the floor talking with corporate leaders, entrepreneurs, lawyers and accountants seeking feedback, empathising with their own business realities and quietly building the confidence which he sees as the major issue at this point of the international financial crisis.

Talking with such leaders it was apparent that they believe the public service is ill-equipped to provide Key's Cabinet with the strong intellectual leadership now required to ensure skilful responses as the crisis morphs into different phases.


It seems the public is currently as comforted as the business sector, judging by the latest Roy Morgan consumer confidence survey, which shows an uptick since the election.

I was okay with his lapse into currency-trader mode over the weekend -- it was actually quite interesting -- although it's hard not to feel that Clark or Cullen would have been excoriated by all the usual suspects for airily predicting a further fall in the dollar.

There's still a sense of a phoney war around Key, whether he's being lavishly praised or pointlessly nitpicked. So far he's been organised and decisive while maintaining a pleasant countenance. But it's all homework so far -- the examination hasn't really begun.


The Guardian has a story confirming expectations: 2008 has been a relatively cool year for the planet; the coolest since 2000. It's also likely to finish up as the tenth hottest year on record.

The story also features a graph from climateprediction.net, which you may wish to show to the next person who hails you with the news that "there has been no warming since 1998". It tracks global air temperature from 1850 to the present day, relative to the average temperature from 1961 to 1990 -- and it presents a vivid picture. I do not understand how anyone could look at that graph and declare that because it hasn't been as hot as the hottest year ever, global warming has ceased. The usual horde of climate deniers has, however, piled into to the Guardian's comments section to declare just that.

Another conspiracy some people just won't let go of: on salon, Alex Koppleman explains Why the stories about Obama's birth certificate will never die. We had further discussions here recently about Andrew Sullivan's refusal to let go of the Palin baby-mama story, but there's far more energy going into this sucker.

Ad campaigns, constant coverage on conservative websites, : all dedicated to the idea that, in the face of apparently incontrovertible evidence, the president-elect is ineligible for office by reason of birth. Latest on WorldNet Daily: the Supreme Court has spurned one of the eligibility suits like the piece of poo it is.


Last week's Media7 was a light-hearted affair that examined the cult of celebrity with the assistance of Wendyl Nissen, Fleur Revell-Devlin and artist manager Karen Kay. The ondemand version of it is here, and the other versions of the video are all linked from our TVNZ microsite.

That was the last show from The Classic until next year, and we've embarked on our summer editions, which start tomorrow night with a chat with Trish Carter and Colin Peacock about the year's biggest stories.

The Attitude Awards backgrounder that screened on Sunday night is here and the Attitude programme of awards highlights is here. Neither includes my little speech, but that's okay.

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