Hard News by Russell Brown

Koha return

John Tamihere is reportedly being advised by "senior Labour figures" to pay back part of the $195,000 payment he received from the Waiparera Trust "as a way of salvaging his career". Am I alone in not being particularly fussed about this particular element of his current troubles?

The fact that the Waiparera Trust undertakes government service contracts does not make it a public body, and Tamihere's payment was not a "golden handshake" in the sense that the phrase was being used at the time: as a means of easing out underperforming or embarrassing public executives. Moreover, it would seem to have been well-deserved.

Tamihere declared in 1999, in a characteristic rush of blood to the head, that he would not take the pending payment if he became an MP. His trust board publicly declared that it would try and change his mind, and evidently did. But did anyone's vote really hinge on his original blurt?

The fact that he didn't tell his new boss, the Prime Minister - if that is indeed the case - would, however seem a bit more unusual. And he certainly didn't do himself any favours by declaring over the weekend that the payment was "koha". But the tax issue - which began the whole story - has gone away, with the trust accepting responsibility for the unpaid tax on the sum, and his chief antagonist on the trust, Reg Ratahi, would seem to have lost some moral high ground with the news that he is suing his own board for $200,000 over a questionable personal grievance. (And, of course, Donna Awatere-Huata's fraud case is providing a welcome distraction.)

I think Tamihere's more serious long-term problem might prove to be his proximity to his former chief financial officer and present electorate secretary, Mike Tolich. Last week's edition of NBR led with another story in the Tamihere saga. The embattled minister had, according to the story, failed to declare his joint ownership of several west Auckland properties in the Cabinet asset register. He is the only minister to have "nil return" by his name.

This isn't in itself news (or "fresh evidence" as NBR put it) - it was reported in a story in the Herald in May, which said that Tamihere had made no return because his assets were held in a family trust of which he was not a beneficiary (although other ministers have declared property held in family trusts).

But what gives Jock Anderson's NBR story its zing is that the properties were bought by John Tamihere, Robyn Elaine Tamihere, and Tolich, who will be questioned by the Serious Fraud Office in connection with the payout of $95,000 on bogus invoices in 1999, the last year Tamihere served as Waiparera CEO. A subsequent Herald story revealed that both men had been named as approving the payments - although the Tamihere camp told the Herald that their man could not have known that the cheques he authorised would subsequently be made out to cash. It might come to nought, or it might start to look truly horrible.

Both the Weekend Herald and the Sunday Star Times had interesting backgrounders on how and why the mud started to fly. Meanwhile, the public seems to be giving him the benefit of the doubt.

The new Great New Zealand Argument posting - Bill Pearson's landmark 1952 essay Fretful Sleepers: A Sketch of New Zealand Behaviour and its Implications for the Artist - will be a couple of days delayed. It's taking longer to digitise than we thought, and the site needs some tweaking to better accommodate its length. I'm aiming for Tuesday.

In the meantime, you can read the Lange speech if you haven't already (9000 views since posting!) and perhaps see what you make of Stephen Glaister's interesting critique of the speech, which does not sing its praises. Also, Pheroze Jagose kindly alerted me to a similar concept, American Rhetoric, which has MP3s and transcripts of America's Top 100 Speeches. Cool. We'll have something like that one day.

Eminem's 'Mosh' - the song and the video - is surely one of the most explicitly political pieces of work ever released by a mainstream pop artist. Actually, it's not pop at all. But it did earn Eminem a serious commentary from Juan Cole, which in turn attracted further comment from philosopher Benjamin Hale. If you're looking for something on which to waste the boss's bandwidth this afternoon, the video is really worth watching. (If you have any problem with the GNN site, I pulled out direct links to the broadband version and the dial-up version.)

I can hardly wait to read the rest of David Cohen's admonishment of the local media and "punditocracy" over coverage of the US election campaign (Why the local media have got Bush all wrong) to find out just how shallow I am. Where would we be without him to set us straight?

Meanwhile, Josh Marshall has yet more on the missing munitions (the silliest smokescreen thrown up by/for Fox News, the Washington Times et al has to be the utterly baseless suggestion that, get this, the Russians took the explosives …) and the breaking news of an FBI investigation into no-bid contracts awarded by the Pentagon to Halliburton.

I've been meaning to link to David Young's self-styled earnest polemic on gay marriage because it's worth reading. I don't actually agree with it - how odd (or possibly not) that I should be less hung up on marriage than a gay man - but his point is well made.

Also on DogBitingMen, MediaCow is engagingly rude about crap blogs.

The award-winning Keith Ng turns up as "token Asian" on FightingTalk.

Blogging It Real's Yamis does his slice-and-dice thing with historical TriNations rugby stats on kicks in play, stoppages, etc. I think if I stare at it long enough, I'll see God.

I have my picture (somewhat obscured) in Rodney Hide's blog! Rodders came along to be on the Off The Wire panel and his trusty sidekick took photos. He was funny. I, on the other hand, wasn't really - sometimes you have slow weeks. Anyway, it's on National Taxpayer Theft Radio at 1.30pm tomorrow.

And, finally, the response to my appeal for interesting and amusing questions to put to the Meet the Bloggers panel at our Great Blend event on Sunday has been miserable. Don't you want to win large bags of coffee? Anyway, you still can: click the reply button and put 'Questions' in your subject line. I'll let you know how it goes …