Southerly by David Haywood

51

Phar Lap and Me

In this exclusive interview, Paula Bennett (Minister for Social Development and Employment), explains her plans for welfare reform, and discusses her special friendship with New Zealand's most famous racehorse.

I wouldn't call myself a superhero because I don't think that 'superhero' is a label that one should self-apply. But my friends do often say to me, "Paula, you're a real-life superhero," and I have to admit that I don't disagree with them.

I've known Phar Lap for years, ever since his retirement in 1932. Like me, he's concerned about welfarism, and it was his initial suggestion that we form a welfare-busting duo, with our secret headquarters in an eyrie in the spire of the Skytower.

We did try to buy an invisible jet, but we couldn't get one with controls modified for a horse to use. Then I saw a ride-on mower for sale -- with a tow-bar that I could attach to a horse-float. It was in lovely condition, and Phar Lap joked that we could use it to mow the heads off illegitimate children. He has a great sense of humour. People say that our mower isn't exactly the Batmobile, but Phar Lap is 84 years old, which is quite an age for a horse, and he's not getting any younger. You don't really want a sports car for a horse that age.

What I think most people don't understand is that New Zealand sickness beneficiaries control the world's financial system. As I often say to Phar Lap, it all started perfectly respectably, when Otto von Bismarck asked them to help fund his Old Age and Disability Insurance Bill of 1889. But once you let beneficiaries into an organization then it isn't so easy to get rid of them again, is it? I know because I've been a beneficiary myself.

Assassinations? My goodness, yes! Who told Isadora Duncan that she suited a scarf? Who modified the fuel pump on John Denver's Long-EZ aircraft? If it wasn't down to New Zealand beneficiaries then I really have no idea. And apparently John Denver was singing 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' as he dropped towards the ocean -- such a tragedy!

How it works is this: as soon as we get a phone-call on my hotline, I hitch up the ride-on mower, and we race off to the last-known address. When I spot the sickness beneficiary or the solo mother, I open the horse box, and release Phar Lap. Down they go under his hooves! Crunching like strawberry boxes. Ooh, Phar Lap shows them no mercy -- he's got no time for compassionate conservatism.

And while he's crunching and trampling, I'm shrieking: "The Dream is Over! The Dream is Over!" It's sort of our catch-phrase. I scream it over and over again, while Phar Lap's hooves become soaked with crimson, and I dance round and round leaving bloody footprints in intricate whorls and spirals.

Some people say it's against the Bill of Rights, but I think the majority of voters are in support of our actions -- and frankly, the opinion of the majority is what the Bill of Rights is all about, isn't it?

And, of course, they just get reincarnated, don't they? Hopefully as something more useful than a beneficiary! Phar Lap and I love to talk about reincarnation. Gosh, you should hear us. Of course, I've been particularly interested ever since I discovered that I was the reincarnation of Martha Longhurst.

I remember dying ever so clearly: having that heart attack in the Rover's Return, and my spectacles falling off onto the table. I was really surprised. And then I was reincarnated again as Valerie Barlow (née Tatlock). You never know what's going to happen in life, do you? I was planning to emigrate to Jamaica -- but first I wanted to dry my hair. Well, the hair-dryer wasn't working properly, and the next thing I was electrocuted to death!

Phar Lap says he's the reincarnation of Judith Collins, and I must say that it doesn't surprise me at all. He's always singing Pete Seeger and Joni Mitchell songs while he's doing his trampling.

It's not easy getting people off welfare, and you've got to have a good farrier. Being in a welfare-busting duo isn't easy either. There's a great deal of suffering involved -- a lot like a being in a marriage. For example, just last week Phar Lap told me that he likes to read books. That's the sort of thing that could break up a duo if you didn't have your communications sorted.

It's hard work but I must say that I'm very happy, and I wouldn't swap jobs with anyone.

    
David Haywood is the author of the book 'The New Zealand Reserve Bank Annual 2010'.

(Click here to find out more)

His previous book 'My First Stabbing' is available here.

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