Hard News by Russell Brown

What would we like you to say about us?

The main news angle on the Brash emails must surely be that they apparently came to light as the result of an internal National Party leak. After all, they really only confirm what was widely assumed at the time Brash took the party leadership: that he was a stalking horse for Act and its friends in the business lobby.

Perhaps those involved, including the Business Roundtable's Roger Kerr, simply had an inflated sense of their own influence on the new leader. They certainly didn't get everything they appear to have thought they might.

Even so, it's hard to read about the two and a half pages of talking points Kerr offered Brash for use any time he was asked to discuss the Business Roundtable ("What would we like you to say about us? Here are some possible lines:") and not muse on whether there is an irony in National depicting its leader as a puppet in TV ads.

The story also explains how National's campaign coffers got so fat. For two or three years, Act's main benefactor Alan Gibbs had been losing patience with the party (well, who wouldn't?) and he appears to have taken Brash's rise as a chance to back another horse. Indeed, Brash was able to tell his caucus that if he didn't get the nod, the money would dry up. It's not improper, but it's hardly helpful that it has emerged. And somebody certainly wanted it to emerge, given that the Herald on Sunday got the selfsame "exclusive".

Act blogger Andrew Falloon is running a poll on who done the leak.

Is there any more? Perhaps. On Morning Report today, Roger Douglas said that Star Times political editor Helen Bain had "a hundred pages" of emails.

Anyway, after his useful contribution on the matter of Donna Awatere Huata on Sunday last night, I guess it's too much to expect that David Young will be cleared to talk about this one.

Speaking of which, this is outrageous: according to the Maori Party's Pita Sharples and Hone Harawira, Donna Awatere Huata isn't in jail because she systematically stole money meant to go into a children's reading programme, but because New Zealand has a "racist" justice system. Harawira said Awatere Huata "should get a light smack on the hand" and Sharples promised that "There will be protests, big time, from Maori and I will lead the charge." Harwira said she was honest and "committed to her values". What friggin' values are they then?

It seems to have escaped both of them that the whistleblower in this case was Maori, and so, largely, were the kids from whom the money was effectively stolen. Awatere Huata abused her position as an MP to obtain funding in unusual circumstances towards the end of National's last term in government, took that money for her own purposes and then lied and falsified accounts. She committed a major betrayal of the faith put in her, as a member of Parliament, a trustee and a Maori leader. Now we seem set for an investigation into whether she and her husband fraudulently applied for legal aid. Is this really the ethical standard the Maori Party wants to bring to Parliament?

Staying with Maori issues, what's so wrong with competence? Labour's proposal that, as part of their training, student teachers be able competently pronounce Maori - one of New Zealand's two official languages - seems like an unexceptional policy footnote. And yet, under the headline Labour - speak Maori properly, it was occasion for a front-page lead story in the Weekend Herald, in which National's Gerry Brownlee was afforded room to blather about it being "politically correct tokenism".

Ironically, the people who'd moan about that will also probably be moaning about Kapa o Pango, the New All Black haka performed for the first time in public before Saturday night's game. I thought it was great, although apparently it won't replace the much-loved but textually-not-that-relevant 'Ka Mate', but be performed on special occasions (it reads like something you would only do on home soil anyway).

In rec.sport.rugby.union, someone groused about the old haka belonging "to the All Blacks, the fans and history - it's not some marketing gimmick to f*ck with as you please. Bring back Ka Mate." Simon Garlick offered a useful response in the same forum:

If anyone, "Ka Mate" belongs to the descendants of Te Rauparaha and his Ngati Toa iwi. There's a lot of (historical) bad blood between Ngati Toa and the tribes of the South Island -- I daresay that a "non-tribal" haka will be something of a relief to those Maori purists for whom seeing All Blacks from Canterbury, Otago, and Southland performing a Ngati Toa haka was a bit uncomfortable.

I for one thought "Kapa o Pango" was bloody brilliant. Gave me goosebumps.

There's streaming video of the new haka on the official All Blacks site (if they were really smart, they'd make available a nice downloadable QuickTime version - I'll link to such a thing if anyone's done it) and the text is as follows:

Kapa o Pango

Let me become one with the land

This is our land that rumbles

And it's my time! It's my moment!

This defines us as the All Blacks

It's my time! It's my moment!

Our dominance

Our supremacy will triumph

And will be placed on high

Silver fern!

All Blacks!

Silver fern!

All Blacks!

In one sense, Marc Ellis's resignation as a director of his own company was inevitable: while his name was still officially suppressed, the celebrity drug scandal scuttlebutt sent Charlie's shares plummeting at just the wrong time. Directors are accountable to shareholders, and someone was going to have to take the rap for that.

But on the other hand, it was grossly disproportionate to the offence. There are plenty of people sitting in governance roles with New Zealand companies who have suffered far greater ethical lapses, and hurt others far more, than Ellis did when he bought a few pills in someone's apartment. And, as David Herkt pointed out to the Sunday Star Times, the moral pose the media are obliged to strike over cases like this has very little to do with what goes on in the real world. Or, for that matter, in the media.

Hat-tip to frogblog: a Guardian editorial gives Don Brash a kicking for his post-debate comments about going easy on Helen Clark.

It's good to have John Roughan back on the Weekend Herald's op-ed page. He has an ability to humanise complex arguments. Case in point: his lament for Don Brash on Saturday, which casts John Key as the hell-for-leather tax-cutter:

The state is not a business. It has none of the risks that check private investors' willingness to borrow. When business people get their hands on a treasury with low debt and healthy cash surpluses, it is time to sound an alarm.

Dr Brash said he was going into Parliament to further reform the economy, particularly in education and social welfare. He did not say he would increase public debt and gamble a Budget surplus on savings he hasn't made. He knows spending cuts are the unpopular side of the equation and probably sees no Richardson or Shipley at his side.

People have a good instinct for political truth. They suspect National's leader has more in mind than he can safely let on. It leaves him looking tentative and rather timid, a mere shadow of the Brash he was at the bank.

This in geek news: the BBC may make BBC1 and BBC2 available on the Internet.

And Anthony Stewart Head, best known as Giles in TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will guest-star in the upcoming second season of Doctor Who. Fans of Joss will be beside themselves.