Hard News by Russell Brown

Fog of summer

Readers outside Auckland may have taken the icons of weeping grey cloud which have signified Auckland's week on the MetService site as an indication that the weather has, in fact, been crap. Perhaps even that, like that of a certain capital city (I'm sorry, but it is funny), our international airport had been closed half the week by fog, in midsummer.

Au contraire. It's jungle weather here: steamy and, mostly, sunny. One of the boys and I ducked down to Pt Chev beach for a swim yesterday afternoon and found it crystalline (well, as crystalline as that part of the harbour ever gets) and populated with sturdy old folk from Selwyn Village. It was marvellous. Amid all the national agonising about our place in the world, it's sometimes comforting to remember that I live somewhere where (a) it takes five minutes to get into town, and (b) there is a beach around the corner.

Anyway, if it's stinking hot, that means it must be just about time for the rugby season to start. Anyone know exactly when the NZRU is going to announce the lucky winners in its lottery for tickets for this year's British Lions rugby tour? The original word was "early February", and, clearly, this is what it is right now.

There's been some unpleasant craziness in the local blog world of late: which escalated with this thread following a post by Gordon King on NZPundit, which questioned the reporting of a child pornography prosecution. This attracted the attention of a certain Internet user, who accused him of being a pervert and a child abuser, and made posts (rightly deleted) referring to Gordon's family. I got an email yesterday from the same person, referring to Gordon as an "animal" and a "sicko" and a "pervert". Then I discovered that David Farrar, who ticked off the poster for turning disagreements into personal attacks, has now had this person email various people in the National Party (with which David is associated) accusing David of being "pro-child abuse".

I frequently disagree with David, and even more frequently with Gordon, but this is completely out of hand. David wonders "at what stage do I stop taking this on the chin, and actually name" the person doing this. I'm wondering the same thing myself.

Am I the only one thinking that the outrage over the failure of the police to arrest and charge Tame Iti has been just a tiny bit overdone? The protest theatre organised by Iti to greet the Waitangi Tribunal members on their visit to Tuhoe country last month was insulting and stupid, and designed (as usual) to offer maximum prominence to Tame Iti. But I thought it was well dealt with at the time by Tribunal judge Patrick Savage, who made it clear that if there was any repeat, Tuhoe wouldn't get their day in court, and received an apology from tribal elders. As the recipient of the "welcome", one would think he would have been in the ideal position to take matters further had he thought it necessary, but he didn't.

The Act MPs who raised the alarm this week originally had Iti on the One News pictures "brandishing" a shotgun (actually, carrying it, broken open and unloaded) as the Tribunal officials arrived, but got lucky when it turned out TV3 had pictures of Iti later, at the local marae, discharging the gun into a New Zealand flag. There is no evidence he actually threatened anyone with it.

Stephen Franks got up a staggering head of windbaggery in a letter to the Commissioner of Police demanding a prosecution. Among other things, Franks claimed that no third party had filed a complaint about the Iti incident because "members of the public may now be reluctant to ask the police to enforce the law in politically sensitive matters for the Labour Party."

Franks also said:

I contrast the omission to arrest Mr Iti immediately with the immediate arrest and prosecution of the unpleasantly misguided but ineffectual and peaceful Wellington demonstrator who was convicted last October for possession of a tiny knife found in his car, after he had tried to defend himself (not using a knife) from a bottle throwing mob opposed to his views. Protesters must expect equal treatment before the law.

He's talking about the National Front member you saw on the news standing on the bonnet of his car waving a wooden baton around after an anarcho-punk protestor had hit the car with a beer bottle. He was charged with disorderly behaviour and possession of a knife (Franks apparently knows it to have been "tiny") - hardly surprising, given that there was an actual affray. What Franks, naturally, forgets to mention is that one of the radical counter-protestors was charged with exactly the same offences, and another was arrested for trespassing at the police station. It would seem that the police did what they had to.

Never one to shrink from micromanaging the police, Franks wanted Iti charged not only with firearms offences, but with dishonouring the flag (a charge that, on past form, would have been a pointless failure). Iti's lawyers will now presumably point out that the theatrical discharge of a shotgun on the same marae (firing blanks) has been discussed in the past, and was the subject of an agreement.

It's likely that a Minister of Police who was not such easy meat in the House as George Hawkins would have swatted this away - or at least seen it coming a bit sooner. But he issued a press release asking the police to issue a press release, and now Iti has been charged by Bay of Plenty police. I'm quite sure he'll enjoy the attention enormously.

PS: You can be as weighty as you like, but it's always the trivia that gets the punters going. Thanks to the dozens of readers from all over the world who emailed to tell me what a caipirinha is, and how much I would enjoy one. Thanks. Maybe I'll order one over lunch. It seems like the weather for it.