Hard News by Russell Brown

Hell-bent for leather

So, to a crescendo of mixed metaphors and malapropisms from the commentators, the New Zealanders ran in to gold and silver on the Olympic Triathlon. It was prime-time TV, and it was great.

Hamish Carter's victory was, of course, all the sweeter in light of his bad day at the office in Sydney four years ago. By his own testament, this time he put aside thoughts of gold and just went, as Brendan Telfer put it (twice!), "hell-bent for leather", burning off his countryman, Bevan Docherty in the final few hundred metres. It was almost too perfect.

Sarah Ulmer's win was quite different, even if the result was the same. For the past year she has laboured under expectations of victory. She did the only thing you can do in that situation: absolutely maxmised her chances of that coming to pass. She seemed to reach the optimum in every conceivable way: preparation, technology and psychology. I got up in the middle of the night to watch her race, and it was wonderful.

Carter, Ulmer and the twins seem to be peculiarly New Zealand champions: not just excellent, but unaffected, sweet and humble. I don't care if we don't have as many medals as Australia, but I do think there's something great about the way that our handful of champs have pulled innovative New Zealand businesses - Orca, Avanti and Dynamic Composites - through with them.

Now, let's see: Since the original Eastern Transport Corridor was announced, John Banks has backed down on an associated harbour crossing (a sort of freelance blurt in the first place), the Parnell tunnel option, and, now, transport corridor itself. The proposal now looks, well, pointless. Brian Rudman has a laugh about it all.

As usual, Banks cracked on like he always thought it was a dumb idea. His problem - and more particularly, that of Citizens and Ratepayers - is that he's frightened the horses in the reliably Tory Hobson ward, and has the Auckland establishment in his face.

At least the Herald's editorial writer was putting on a brave face:

His eastern corridor scheme has been scaled back to a simple road, a single lane in each direction across Hobson Bay, dovetailing with Tamaki Drive to feed traffic into the city centre. It no longer includes a busway and other accoutrements of the Government's land transport policy and it no longer aims to be a major east-west thoroughfare connecting to State Highway 16. The steering committee now accepts that its proposal is not a national priority and has no prospect of attracting Government funds. Either the councils borrow the money or they invite private investment, which usually means the road will be privately built and operated for as long as it takes to pay back its financiers with a reasonable profit.

By reducing the original multi-laned highway to a single lane in each direction, the champions of the eastern corridor appear to have erred in the opposite direction. The road as now designed looks too small for the traffic it would be likely to attract as a freeway, which points to the fact that it is not to be a freeway, not for a while at least.

A single lane is probably sufficient for the paying traffic it could attract from the free alternative routes - Remuera Rd and Tamaki Drive. But it will need to be constructed in such a way that it can readily be widened if demand increases. And demand might well increase even as it remains tolled.

So the thing doesn't really make sense - but let's build it anyway and stick a toll on it?

This is presumably the same editorial author who in March this year declared that "John Banks is absolutely right about one thing: the vast majority of Aucklanders back the building of an eastern expressway." But presumably not the same one who, three days later, wrote that the plan would be a hard sell to most Auckland ratepayers, but "might be reasonable if the highway was generally recognised as the region's top roading priority. In fact, that is far from the case."

Whatever. Meanwhile, the Labour candidates in the Tamaki Ward have released the results of a local survey which found that 71% of residents opposed the Eastern Corridor plan and 81% wanted local roading improvements instead.

Terrible news for National: crime fell 4.7% in the past year and is at its lowest since 1983 (a similar trend in the unemployment rate is probably not unrelated). But hang on? Wasn't Don Brash telling us we were in the grip of a "crime wave"? And what about that Press editorial last month that informed us that "crime continues inexorably to rise"? Honestly, it's getting so you can't believe anything in the papers these days …

One word in the reduction in marijuana offences: it doesn't mean any less pot is being smoked, just that it's not being prosecuted. Attention has switched to the P plague. This is quite rational. I wonder if this is the start of marijuana's slide off the policing agenda.

Simon Pound has a very funny and engaging rant about ACC (he has, believe it or not, a serious injury sustained in the course of making a cocktail), the cops, pot and the Herald Fuse student supplement.

Meanwhile, Craig Young is doubtful about Destiny New Zealand's potential impact on Maori politics.

It's been a year, and it still isn't registering on Maori-related opinion polls like the Marae TVNZ one.

Added to which, it's noteworthy that no mainstream Maori organisation supported DNZ. Interesting too that initial media releases related to the seabed and foreshore debate got edited out of the final mix. To make it more palatable to Tamaki's right-wing pakeha Pentecostal mates, perhaps?

What sort of 'Maori' political movement regards 'puha and pork' issues as expendable in the interests of fundamentalist solidarity?

I wonder how much iwi divisions, geographic and generational factors will affect support for both the Maori Party and DNZ? Or how much the adverse experience of NZF's Maori contingent and Mauri Pacific is going to inhibit breakaway from Labour, even given the foreshore and seabed

And are we on the verge of a renegotiation of the Maori/Pakeha settlement of the thirties?

Otago University's admirably lively Critic has a report on Destiny in Dunedin.

The Reality magazine forum on Brian Tamaki is back. Perhaps it was never away, but I'm damned if I could reach on Wednesday.

In a comment in the Herald this morning, Peter Dunne pursues the currently chic tolerance=intolerance argument, with particular reference to this week's Destiny march:

Prescribing the publication of opinions by the subjective criterion of acceptability is not only extremely dangerous but betrays an appalling lack of confidence in the critical judgment of the mainstream …

What is more dangerous than a brief visit by David Irving or a Destiny march is the sense being fostered that we are no longer able to be trusted to think for ourselves and, based on the value systems of an open, diverse society, reach our own decisions.

It sounds much like the McCarthy era in the United States, and the attendant concept of un-American activities that destroyed the lives of so many in the 1950s. Yet, the lesson of that time remains apparently unlearned.

What precisely is his point here? I can't think of any way in which Brian Tamaki's right of expression has been curbed. The Speaker of Parliament granted him the use of Parliament's grounds to protest. The police closed of half of central Wellington so he could stage his march. He had any amount of time to state his case in the media - indeed, the state broadcaster sells him time to sell his message, unimpeded on television. Even Irving was able to clearly and extensively state his views in the local media, albeit from a distance. Is Dunne suggesting that no one should be able to criticise them, lest they be "caricatured"?

But the best bit of Dunne's column is this:

Likewise, I think the Destiny Church takes a fundamentalist view on many things, which frightens many mainstream people.

But while I am not making any links between Mr Irving and the Destiny Church, and wish no involvement with either …

What!? Dunne appears to have forgotten that a member of Destiny Church, Kelly Chal, was placed fifth on his party list at the last election. Had it not been for that unfortunate citizenship whoopsie, she'd have been in his caucus now - and, presumably, marching with her brothers and sisters in the church.

Staying with the smurf patrol (no, I'm not quite sure what I mean there, but it sounds funny so I'm going with it), this week's grumping about Stephen Franks has struck a chord with the readers. Liz Gordon said:

Thanks for your comments on Stephen Franks. Over the years he has got away with a lot because of the view, repeated in your blog, that he is very intelligent and thus, no matter how stupid he sounds on a given occasion, he is still worth listening to.

I have no idea what the bloke's IQ is and neither do I care. What I do know is that he is highly political. I have never, ever heard him say a good thing about any Maori person or organisation, about any progressive movement or about anything or person to the left of Mr. G. Khan.

Stephen Franks is just an extreme right wing politician, who constantly uses the sort of tactics you describe to push his political agenda. Does this constitute intelligence? Of a kind perhaps, but one without much humanity. Even the ACT party realised that, and went for Rodney as their leader. Franks is too scary even for them.

And Bryce Wakefield said:

You really shouldn't take anything Franks says to heart. The guy contradicts himself constantly. I was watching him on 'eye-to-eye' a few weeks ago when he was contending that Maori language should not be a compulsory subject at school because:

1) Students react negatively to compulsory subjects and thus learn less; and

2) Why teach Maori when you can use the time for extra (presumably compulsory)lessons on really important subjects, like science.

It doesn't take a member of Act to spot the flaw in the logic there. And yet when Stephen speaks, people presume everything said is solid. I think some people in this country are conditioned to believe that anyone with a law degree and a decent haircut is an authority on everything.

Er, well, I don't know about the haircut there …

But anyway, to conclude, an eyewitness report from Mr A. Reliablesource at this week's Civil Unions Bill select committee hearings in Auckland, which Franks has been ranting about ever since:

At one point Franks went over to consult with Jacqueline Wyles [the star of the Star Times' infamous "sexual reorientation therapy" story], who was submitting against the bill, and claiming, among other things, that the CUB would increase levels of homosexuality and that Gayline was "actively recruiting" homosexuals - so they do outbound calling now?

Anyway, she told Franks that she didn't want to paint homosexuals as second-class citizens. To which Franks said:

"Who cares, if that's what they choose to be?"

Good grief.