Hard News by Russell Brown


This just in: Sky over Tasman Sea not falling

Yes, I would say this, wouldn't I, but wasn't the line crossed in the current trans-Tasman flap when Alexander Downer saw fit to haul our High Commissioner in for a bollocking, summarily ban Air NZ from any future troop flight charters, and let at least one journalist know he'd done so?

Our senior ministers were in a purely domestic tizzy about being kept in the dark over a flight to Kuwait that everyone else seemed to know about. It was Downer who raised the stakes, surely.

So this morning, we get the front-page headlines Tasman war of words worsens and Clark tells Aussie minister to stop meddling in NZ. Don't bother going to look for similarly dramatic stories across the Tasman - you won't find them. It has been briefly reported, but there are bigger fish to fry over there.

Like, of course, the Kevin Rudd and the strip club episode, which has a new instalment in the Murdoch press today: Rudd related to former stripper. Translation: years ago, Rudd's sister in law, who is now completing a masters in psychology, worked for a few months as an "exotic dancer" in Brisbane.

The funny thing is, if an equivalent story to the Rudd one had broken here, it would not have centred on any alleged moral failing, but on the fact that this was a taxpayer-funded trip; and thus one on which politicians should have retired early every night with milk and cookies, lest they provoke envy and resentment amongst a demanding public. That hardly seems to have been an issue in Australia.

It will have formed a part of Clark's political calculations that Downer wouldn't be fronting up to discuss her bite-your-tongue advice yesterday, because if he did, Australian journalists would immediately ask him not about that, but about his alleged part in seeding the Rudd story. She also knows that by the end of the year there is very little chance that she'll be dealing with Downer as Australia's foreign minister.

So yes, it was political: just like the National Party sinking a major trans-Tasman regulatory agency last month was political, and I know which one of those I think will have a more lasting impact.

Anyway: contrary to reports, the sky over the Tasman Sea is not falling.

And now might be a good time to share (with his permission) this email sent to Air New Zealand last week by Public Address reader and frequent flyer Paul Campbell:

Dear Air NZ:

I find myself sitting in the departure lounge in Auckland airport tonight wondering whether I should get on my flight to LAX in a couple of hours - I regularly travel across the Pacific for business, this is my 4th flight this year already, and at this rate probably not the last one, I've already booked my family to travel at xmas - in the past we've chosen Air NZ because we've felt that as NZ's carrier we were safer travelling with you, less of a target for terrorists.

Now I hear on the news that you've been taking American and Australian [troops] to Iraq - how dare you do this and NOT tell us - your prospective customers so that we can make informed choices about our own safety.

As a NZ citizen, a taxpayer and one of your owners I demand more accountability - I hope to hear you announce that it was a mistake and that you will never do it again

Paul Campbell

Meanwhile, The Press has picked up (naturally, without attribution) on Rob O'Neill's scoop about an Air New Zealand employees editing the article on the ill-fated Erebus flight -- and rather missed the point. It's not Wikipedia saying so, and it's almost certainly not the airline's PR department: it was a single employee with a bee in his bonnet making alterations to the article that were actually not without merit, but which contained his own opinion about the likelihood of pilot error. It's interesting, and it was hotly debated at the time, but, as I noted yesterday, it would be wise not to go off the deep end.

And finally, lots of people seem to have found yesterday's Salon guide to the sub-prime mortgage crisis useful. Reader Hamish McKenzie recommended this one from Asia Sentinel, which harnesses the gumdrop metaphor, and Karla Hill liked Liar's Loans by the BBC's business editor, Robert Peston.

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