Hard News by Russell Brown


The Trophy Hunter

As I recall, the theory was that National's old ministerial hands would provide stability and experience in John Key's new government. In reality, Murray McCully's can't-you-see-I'm-trying-to-have-a-holiday performance as foreign minister has been embarrassing. And Tony Ryall's trophy-hunting this week at the Otago District Health Board is simply a disgrace.

The ODHB suffered a $17 million fraud at the hands of its former CIO and his accomplice. Both men have been brought to book and await sentencing. But Ryall on Wednesday night called the ODHB's chair, Richard Thomson and suggested he resign from his position.

This doesn't seem, on the face of it, to make a lot of sense. Thomson became chair well after the fraud began and was subsequently instrumental in bringing it to the attention of police.

But here's the thing: why was the minister making this private call in search of a resignation anyway? If he truly believed there was a public case for Thomson's departure, why not publicly say so? Why not, with all due attention to process, actually sack the guy?

Thomson, rather admirably, hasn't been willing to play this as a private game and yesterday challenged Ryall to sack him. Ryall belatedly confirmed to journalists that he was "considering" dismissing Thomson.

Thomson, who still expects to get the chop, has every right to have it happen transparently, and no obligation to roll over to give his minister a trophy -- especially given that he seems to have the very strong support of his own board.

The irony, of course, is that Ryall has also made great play of reinstating seven dismissed Hawke's Bay District Health Board members; reversing what he claimed was the unacceptable political interference of his predecessor, David Cunliffe in sacking them. But at least the HBDHB had demonstrably lost the plot: reports were commissioned into its dysfunctional performance; the minister issued a public warning to the board. It looks like a model of process compared to this shemozzle. These people need to raise their game, and soon.


I rather suspect the word "tramp" means something different in today's secondary schools to what it did when I was a lad. Perhaps my suburban Christchurch high school simply had an unusually large group of teachers with bushcraft skills, but there seemed to be a cultural assumption that we needed to be able to look after ourselves in the bush.

Tragically, a teacher did die one year, after falling during a river crossing with a student group. But the danger we were warned about most often wasn't river-crossings: it was hypothermia. We were repeatedly told about the symptoms of exposure, and how people might act under its influence.

I can't say I recall seeing Such a Stupid Way to Die, but the vibe is familiar -- if loaded up here with proto-Blair Witch dread and wild, spooky music (check out the 'Day in the Life' crescendo at the beginning of part two). NZ On Screen has uploaded this 1971 public heath classic, and it's really worth a look.

Also very popular on NZ ON Screen at the moment: the full-length upload of Backyard Visionary, the 1993 John Britten documentary.

On Screen's Screentalk section also has video interviews with Rena Owen, and Rob Tapert, who talks about meeting Sam Raimi and making The Evil Dead, among other things.


Also for viewing: the Media7 programme that screened last night -- the first of our new 47-minute format. I'm really happy with how it went. There are two panels, one on Obama and the media (Tim Watkin, Tracey Barnett and John Dybvig) and the other looking at the future of the book (Nicola Legat, Graham Beattie and Stephanie Johnson). It's here on ondemand, and the other versions of the video, including the podcast, as are available via our TVNZ microsite.

Oddly enough, the day after talking about books, I got a six-monthly royalty cheque for Great New Zealand Argument. It translated into a 15 year-old Springbank (which tastes bloody gorgeous) with some change. Who says you can't profit from the book trade?


I've mentioned whisky, so I should mention Dramfest, which is on again in Christchurch from Feb 27 to March 1. I'm still not sure if I can arrange to get down there this time, but I'd certainly like to. They're good people, the Dramfest folk. Here's a video:


If you saw a slightly worn-looking dude in a green Mazda pumping some phat beats out into the city streets yesterday, it may have been me. I do certainly enjoy playing Young Jeezy's 'My President'; the more so since it has scandalised the wingnut media in the US.

Over at Fox News, they were shocked -- shocked, I tell you -- at the am-cam video of the Young Jeezy show in a Washington nightclub the night before the inauguration. So shocked that they had to excerpt a tiny bit of the duet with Jay Z on 'My President' as evidence of the tide of black racism for which Obama must take responsibility. So shocked that they had to bring in Michelle Malkin:

Me, I looked at the full clip and thought …

… wow. It would have been good to be there

You can sample the tune here and buy it from the iTunes Store.

I should do some work …

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