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HARD NEWS 30/6/00 - Uncomfortably Shagged II

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GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ... so it's over for Dover. The post of Minister of Maori Affairs is temporarily vacant - and nobody in this whole sorry business is quite who they pretend to be.

Dover Samuels certainly isn't quite the man he describes in his speeches. In Tuesday night's crunch meeting with the Prime Minister he wasn't able to guarantee there wouldn't be any more nasty surprises in his past.

He could have told her that he was convicted of assaulting his brother in 1984, allegedly threatened to shoot a family member in 1995 and, oh, that he might have knocked his first wife around a bit in the 70s. He didn't, leaving her to read it in the Herald the next day.

And for all the talk of honour, he put his mana ahead of the great task at hand. Regardless of whether the police find that the teenage girl he lived with and impregnated 14 years ago was under or over the age of consent - and it looks like being the latter - his ability to front the Closing the Gaps policy was compromised.

It's not that a man can't acknowledge the mistakes of his past and move forward - it's that he wasn't going to get the chance. The National Party had already begun to comb Hansard, searching for - and inevitably finding - utterances at odds with what we now know about his private life. Teenage Maori pregnancies, anyone?

We tend to forget that in other jurisdictions, ministers do resign. Just as they subsume their personal feelings to collective Cabinet responsibility, they put the good of the government before their own.

National put paid to that over nine years. Lockwood Smith didn't resign over student fees, despite his signed promise to do so; Simon Upton didn't resign over the bad blood scandal, which saw haemophiliacs infected with HepC; Denis Marshall didn't resign over Cave Creek. Murray McCully stepped down, but we were asked to believe it was nothing to do with his outrageous behaviour with the Tourism Board.

This didn't, of course, prevent an orgy of sanctimony from the National Party after Samuels' sacking. Bill English, posing as someone deeply interested in the welfare of the young woman at the centre of the whole mess, accused the Prime Minister of being uncaring about the very kind of person she aimed to rescue through Closing the Gaps.

Oh, really ... Never mind what he actually did in all his years in government, Mr Every-sperm-is-sacred wouldn't have even let the girl have an abortion, given his way. She'd have been just one more teenage Maori mum.

Winston Peters, pretending to be shocked and appalled, declared it "outrageous" that someone should be condemned on the basis of sexual rumour - apparently forgetting that he was not a million miles from an attempt to do much the same thing to John Tamihere last year.

Labour's Parekura Horomia, having given an excellent performance as a supportive comrade of his minister in Parliament last week, appears to have been putting up his hand for the minister's job ever since.

Richard Prebble, having bizarrely declared himself Dover's "mate" even as he pulled the chain on the scandal last week, struck all manner of poses this week.

He was concerned, he said, for "natural justice" for Samuels, he "reached out" to the woman concerned and - amazingly - played the victim as vague threats about his own private life began to get some play in the media. I wonder how afraid he is?

Prebble's problem is that he used to be in the same party as the people who want some utu. They will have a better idea of the location of any skeletons than they might otherwise have had. And Prebble does have a particularly daunting former wife, whose lobbying with the local churches was almost certainly a factor in his being kicked out by the voters of Auckland Central. I'd be a bit nervous if I was him.

Other actors in the drama include Rodney Tregerthan, who seems less like the caring "uncle" he poses as the more I hear about him. This would be the same, bullying Rodney Tregerthan who used to refer to his young Maori employees as "spearchuckers". Details of his business history can be retrieved through scrutiny of the Otago Daily Times.

Then there's Prime Minister, who is not quite the nerveless executive she purports to be. She did, in the course of the weekend, shift from "the minister will have his job back if the police find no offence" to doubting the minister's future effectiveness whatever the result.

The ground, of course, was shifting under her at the time, and the latter view was, no doubt, correct. Add in the complication that her own Maori caucus was split over what she should do, and that she was undoubtedly getting whispers from Maori leaders who didn't want to go public, and you wouldn't envy her.

I still don't buy the line that she ought to have marched her minister off to the police the first time the issue came up in January. The relatives fronting this thing were behaving in such a menacing manner in pursuit of their "trust fund" that the Diplomatic Protection Squad got involved. Hindsight's a fine thing, but I simply don't believe that any other leader of any other party would have acted any differently.

This affair has, however, given us an intriguing glimpse into the Clark character. Almost alone amongst the players she has refrained from moral judgement. Instead, she has been absolutely, starkly pragmatic - she weighed up her government's historic initiative to overcome Maori disadvantage, and the troubled man who had to run it, and the man lost.

And what of the young woman this is all apparently about? It strikes me that almost all we think we know about her is hearsay - and hearsay, in some cases, from highly unreliable sources. Everybody is pontificating on and politicking around someone they don't even know.

That's enough politics for this week; save for my humble plea to Don Brash to doubt his own manifest genius long enough to refrain from whacking up interest rates again. His last attempt to defend the currency was rewarded with a nasty drop in the dollar, indicating that international markets have a lower opinion of his abilities than he does. And the slump in confidence in the domestic economy has gone beyond perceptions of government style or policy - the economy, like a dog that's been hit before, is cringing and waiting for the next whack. Make our day, Don. Back off.

As I've said before, some of this confidence stuff just puzzles me. Economic growth is solid and everything I'm involved with is growing and going. If the life of the city's a barometer of anything, then the pressure's up and there's always something on. Biggest of all this week, of course, is 95bFM's Ooonst Oonst Oonst.

I'm what you'd call a dance codger, having been waving my hands in the air way back in 1988 in London, when acid house got the whole culture rolling. I still believe in the redemptive, restorative power of a crowded dancefloor and I intend to have it as large as my old body can manage. Having seen Andrew Black dance, I'm feeling pretty confident about my moves. See you there - assuming you've got a ticket - G'bye!

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