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HARD NEWS 28/7/00 - Flashes of Lucidity

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GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ... or might I say, let us operationalise the morning in a win-win way. Yes, it turns out that the new Minister of Maori Affairs is a native speaker of bureaucratese.

We will find out soon enough whether this is a good, bad or indifferent thing, but what we heard of Parekura Horomia on Face the Nation last night suggested that he will be the subject of some confusing interviews in the next couple of years.

Should Sandra Lee have had the job and damn the party affiliations? Quite possibly, but the deed is done now and we can all look forward to finding out exactly what Closing the Gaps is. Probably. Horomia showed sufficient lucidity - albeit in flashes - to suggest that, with a little media training, he will grow into the job, probably at the same rate as he shrinks inside his suit. To be blunt, his obesity will be a presentational issue.

Speaking of which, the funniest press release of the week had to be from dear old Jenny Shipley, back from the heart op, telling the government to stop obsessing about its Maori MPs and get on with governing. If only it were that simple. But for the time being, fax attacks continue and Dover Samuels continues to show that he was very probably never ministerial material anyway.

Still, how lovely to see business confidence on the rebound. The National Bank survey, which began the great, neurotic slide, is swinging back. The business people questioned still display a net negativity about forthcoming business conditions but the numbers have swung back by 20 points. Hands up anyone who's actually noticed a blind bit of difference?

What, I wonder will the Herald's Fran O'Sullivan - the Xena, Warrior Princess of the rebellious business right - make of it? I had some communications over points of fact with Fran this week, and she's alright, really - and certainly more sporting about opposing opinions than, say, the nutters at the Water Pressure Group. I'm sure she'll be even better once the black helicopters stop chasing her.

The government bowed to reason - and the Greens - this week in authorising trials of industrial hemp. Thank goodness. Hemp is a fantastic crop, and one clearly suited to local conditions. Let us cover the plains and populate the valleys with it.

Anyone who thinks it will all be just a cover for cannabis growing doesn't really understand the botany. If you want to reduce the potency of New Zealand dope, plant hemp. Yes, you could hide your dope in a field of hemp - but it would be pollinated, seeded and, as old-school smokers will know, basically rooted.

Speaking of which, the News of the World says Robbie Williams had loads of sex with a "rampant Maori" while he was staying at Metropolis. Apparently. Some friends of mine stayed at Metropolis and ran into her and her friend, taking them for - how can I put this delicately? - the kind of ladies who hang around hotels for a job. Personally, looking at those pictures, I thought ... a bloke, surely?

We don't like people who tell tales, true or not, do we? We certainly didn't take kindly to the activities of one Jason Parker, who spotted All Black wing Tana Umaga the wrong side of a few drinks after the test match against the Springboks. You and I might gossip the next day. Parker went and got his video cameraand sold the pictures to 3 News.

It was a bad show, and how rich it was that, as a result of his grandstanding, the police in Auckland and Christchurch came to realise there were a number of matters about which they would like to talk to Mr Jason Parker. As a nyah-nyah, it was trumped only by the long overdue locking up of George Speight and his mates, and the start of the exodus from Act in response to Richard Prebble's sewer-dwelling leadership style.

The sad thing about the Umaga incident was what emerged about the kind of night he'd had. Certain of the citizens of Christchurch had abused him, offered to fight him and - pathetically - tried to pull his hair. Add this to the earlier bombardment of a black African family who just tried to hold up a banner during their anthem, and the laser-pointer directed at the Boks' goalkicker and it is not a very impressive picture. We might be wankers in Auckland, but we're wankers who know how to behave.

As regards rough and tumble, there were two top bouts of fisticuffs this week - one of which has propelled David Tua to a world title appointment in November. The other has propelled Bill Ralston into quite a lot of trouble.

It does appear that his drunken clocking of a couple of TVNZ bods outside a Saatchis charity do won't go to court. Shame, really. I thought the fact that Bill was actually aiming for Geoff Steven might have made a good defence.

"That little prick?" you can imagine the judge inquiring. "Case dismissed! Have one on me!"

But seriously, I do hope the TVNZ internal "investigation" examines the behaviour of everyone involved, and not just Bill.

We journalists are, of course, all a bunch of rogues and wasters - none more so than the Listener's assistant editor, Steve Braunias, who this week has excelled himself; writing not just his own column but everyone's else's. It is heavenly. Steve, we are not worthy - G'bye!

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