Hard News by Russell Brown

Like any other New Zealander

So if I'm unfortunate enough to be convicted of a crime some time, I'm entitled to half a million taxpayer dollars to restore my "mana"? No? Well why does Nick Smith think he is then? That doesn't sound like "one law for all", does it?

Smith's electorate chairman - who will hopefully be relieved of media duties henceforth - appeared on Morning Report today to declare that Smith deserves an expensive and unnecessary by-election, which will not be contested by any of the other parties, in order to "restore his mana in Parliament". Smith, he said, had a right to go to "the court of public opinion".

Like hell he does. Smith didn't deserve to lose his job over his contempt conviction, and according to the Speaker, he won't. If he's unhappy with the High Court's decision, he can appeal it, like any other New Zealander. If he finds himself in an unhappy position as a result of having broken the law, then he can just deal with it. Like any other New Zealander.

In the further interests of getting on with it, Government members would also be well advised to avoid playing party politics over Smith's conviction, particularly given that Helen Clark had a public crack at a Maori Land Court Judge herself recently.

In more Parliamentary silliness, Katherine Rich is demanding that Ruth Dyson resign as a minister, after Dyson, under her breath, called her an "irresponsible tart" in a select committee meeting. Rich didn't hear the comment. No one did, until it turned up later on a media recording, and even then, when it was played on the radio this morning, I confess I couldn't really hear it. But then, I was eating toasted muesli, and that can make a fairly loud crunch.

Dyson, clearly, ought not have vocalised such a thing, even for her own consumption. She should probably make a more gracious apology than the one she has already made. And Katherine Rich and Muriel Newman should probably get a life.

In the latest episode of TV theatre, the Prime Minister jacked up her own appearance on Holmes last night for what the programme billed as a "major announcement". Which was that the military aircraft taking a New Zealand delegation to the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the battle at Monte Cassino will be reconfigured so that 50 veterans will now be able to travel with the official party. Final offer. There will be a ballot amongst the 360 who want to go. Special funding has already been announced for all veterans who want to travel independently.

I'm in two minds about this. On one hand, this kind of campaign is something that TV does well, and there's nothing wrong with giving the government a nudge. I'm pleased for the old chaps who will be able to make the journey at public expense. On the other, I find it a little odd that the government is being made out to be wicked and mean when it is taking many more veterans than have travelled to previous commemorations (and always intended to) and, so far as I can tell the American and Australian governments don't appear to be doing the same.

Holmes, in the course of a lively interview, sought to contrast the lack of seats for all 360 veterans with the $10 million budgeted to the Community Employment Group (he didn't go so far as to speculate on how much money might have been freed up for the TVNZ dividend if flagship presenters were paid less). Clark, wisely, didn't attempt to defend the CEG, and described some of the grants from the now-frozen scheme as "looney".

Uh-huh. I had intended to wait to comment on the Community Employment Group until I understood what it actually did. I still don't. I don't understand what its criteria were, what it was meant to deliver and what a social entrepreneur is. Some of its grants seem unexceptional, even laudable, but others … well, Katherine Rich and her fellow Nats must have felt like they were unwrapping a present when they sighted its report. I don't actually object to the idea of a travel grant to study the hip-hop industry, but why a Christchurch social worker and her daughter got it is beyond me.

A crackdown on all such funds and agencies has, inevitably, begun. And there will probably be some babies thrown out with the bathwater. Overly prescriptive grants schemes tend to require so much compliance as to be self-defeating.

Back in the early 90s, when we published Planet magazine, we got rollovers of both Taskforce Green and Job Plus (both equivalent to the dole) when we possibly shouldn't have. And it may well have had something to do with someone's auntie.

That was under a National government. The magazine eventually failed financially, but I think we delivered, both through our subsequently enhanced taxable income and through creating a market niche that really wasn't there before but certainly is now. We were never in the frame for any proper cultural funding - we never seemed to qualify for that - but we worked hard. If you let discretion devolve down the public food chain, you're always risking embarrassment, but sometimes it's the right thing to do.

Anyway, best of luck to both the Black Caps and the Maori Television Service, which launches on Sunday. And if those don't suit you, might I recommend Nanosaur 2 and the update to Bugdom 2 from Pangea Software? If you still have those red-cyan glasses from Spy Kids 3D, both games offer a totally wicked take on 3D gaming. If, of course, you've got a Mac …