Hard News by Russell Brown


There are some pretty clear caveats to be associated with yesterday's startling (sorry, "shock") Sunday Star Times political poll - small sample size, questionable methodology - but not so much so that it signifies nothing.

Clearly, what Don Brash said in his Maori affairs speech last week - or, more accurately, what people thought they heard - has struck some sort of chord with a part of the wider electorate.

Whether that feeling will be replicated in any major poll, or whether people will really, in the end, base their vote on National's Treaty policy remains to be seen. But Labour - apparently level with National on 32%, with 19% "don't know" - won't be the only party hoping this poll is bung. Act, with 1% support and no hope of winning an electorate unless it's gifted one by National, is a goneburger according to these numbers.

Part of the trouble lies in working out exactly what National's policy is. It seemed clear enough after the speech and accompanying briefings last week: ignore the Appeal Court decision and take foreshore title (but only from Maori) into crown ownership forthwith; remove references to Treaty from New Zealand legislation (which I think would mean amending Acts dating back to 1986, one by one, to remove references to the Treaty, and ignoring another Appeal Court decision); remove obligations to consult with Maori over relevant local resource use from legislation; eradicate "racial" public health and education programmes targeted at Maori, even if they work; get rid of Maori electorate seats without further reference to Maori voters.

Then - assuming you're not already chest-deep in a constitutional crisis as the new Supreme Court, in which National has expressed no confidence, deals with the inevitable torrent of legal action, which will have the weight of international jurisprudence behind it - look at scrapping support for Maori broadcasting, and getting rid of Te Puni Kokiri (the Ministry of Maori Development) and the post of Minister of Maori Affairs. Be prepared to live in an angry, divided country.

For how many people is the problem of apparent Maori privilege so acute that they would willingly head down that road? What personal problem do they expect to have fixed? How many of them would actually change places with the average Maori whose unequal rights they so resent? What exactly is so bad about New Zealand in 2004 that you'd step off the racial precipice?

Although editorials in both the Herald and the Star Times have condemned National's grab at racial unease in unusually strong terms, the message has clearly found some purchase.

But, hey, hold on: maybe we don't know what National's stance is after all: after effectively telling Georgina Te Heuheu to fit-in-or-fuck-off last week, Brash was on the radio this morning saying she could stay on in her portfolios if she agreed to the very Bill English-sounding basic principle of "one standard of citizenship for all New Zealanders". Well, which is it, Don? Has the party become a bit spooked at what it has unleashed?

I liked the conclusion of Rosemary McLeod's column on the issue in yesterday's SST, even if I didn't agree with some of what she said before it:

The inheritors of the social policy Brash so derides, young Maori, were recently found to be the most optimistic group in New Zealand society. Nothing on the business pages has ever pleased me as much as that news: They are our future, you see, not old white men.

On a cheerier note, Dean Goes Nuts is bloody funny.

And a little Net fame: my Hutton blog got referenced in Danny Schecter's weblog. And another thing: a number of people have congratulated me on writing such a dynamite intro for it. Well, the credit is not entirely due to me. The "higher standard of proof" line was an off-mic clip by the very clever Olivia Kember during my radio conversation with Damian last Thursday, although I did tell her I'd use it. I rounded up some more recent stories on the Mediawatch site.

Olivia was, as the latest addition to the Listener's staff writing stable, there at the drinks on Friday for Finlay Macdonald's departure from the Listener, along with quite a crop of other journalistic good sorts, including Ralston, who told me the Winston Peters scampi scandal was a "slow burner". Like a roll-yer-own, presumably.

So that was good fun, as was the Damo Suzuki Network at the King's Arms. Suzuki, a long-haired little Japanese chap who used to be in legendary Kraut-rockers Can, tours with a sole accompanying guitarist, picking up a backing band (in Auckland's case, Meterman) wherever he happens to be. Everybody extemporises; although Suzuki did sound oddly like a man singing an actual melody. What did I think? Couldn't tell, to be honest: I couldn't decide whether it was a load of arse or pretty good. Whatever it was he was doing, though, I feel comfortable that I got my $15 worth.

Some of our party disappeared off to hire a karaoke room at the Paradise Bar. I don't do karaoke or Showgirls, so I paid a little visit to Freq Nasty at Galatos on my way home. Freq (aka Darin McFadyen) is a dreadlocked part-Fijian New Zealander who is also one of the foremost breakbeat DJs in the world.

What's breakbeat? Sort of drum 'n' bass that doesn't take itself so seriously. It's not at all grown-up music - it's noisy, bumpy and bombastic and full of energy. I was clearly the oldest person in the venue on arrival, and in fact I was having trouble spotting anyone over 25 until I ran into Mike Hodgson from Pitch Black, who'd got the babysitter in.

Mike's just finished the sound design on the new Saatchi worldwide site (you will recognise a certain vibe) and is now off to New York to work on a big Louis Vuitton shindig being produced by Michael Mizrahi - the whole thing's huge and entirely produced out of New Zealand. Interesting, no?

And so to Monday, where my Telecom line is so badly degraded - torrential rain, perhaps? - that it won't support either a JetStream or a dial-up connection. My Woosh gear only works if I climb up outside and hang the (supposedly internal) booster antenna from the TV aerial. This sucks. I have a whole lot of work to do, I'm going to Christchurch with Off the Wire this week and everything's turning to custard. Still, any day where Public Address enjoys a post from Keri Hulme can't be that bad, can it?