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HARD NEWS 11/8/00 - Beyond a Joke

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GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ... sometimes politics moves far beyond the stage where any rational citizen can give a rat's arse about it. Sometimes it happens twice in a week.

First, there was National MP Murray McCully, who popped up trying to pin the forced resignation of the CEO of Local Government New Zealand, Carol Stigley, on Sandra Lee and Helen Clark. After first launching his gambit on Sunday - the slow news day beloved of grandstanders - he claimed that he had been "working on the issue" for weeks and that he was seeking further documents.

No you're not, you irksome little man, said every journalist in the country. Somebody's given you a bundle of papers and you're going to drip feed them to keep your name in the news.

There was also the somewhat obvious irony of the fact that McCully, whose interference and general appalling conduct with regard to the Tourism Board had cost the taxpayer a lot of money and nearly derailed our tourism strategy altogether, was pointing the finger.

But unlike the Tourism Board, Local Government New Zealand is not funded by the taxpayer. It's a lobby group for local government. And while it plainly has some stuff to sort out - its chairwoman lying to the media for a start - the Prime Minister basically stood accused of once having been grumpy with Stigley. Care? Not greatly, thankyou.

More torturous still was the Green Party's bungle in voting against a government closure motion on the Employment Relations Bill - thus prolonging the debate by allowing every MP an additional four speeches - four! - on a bill that will be passed anyway. Preserve us.

While Act continues to insist that employers will be hurled into bankruptcy and ruin if they have to allow their employees the basic right of talking to a union representative - Richard Prebble has suggested dragging in a mattress and insisting the workplace is a dwelling as a loophole to prevent access - it is clear you've got more to fear from Act itself.

Basically, don't visit the Act Website if you value your privacy. Because with Act, you don't have any privacy. The party has been going through its logs examining the IP addresses of those who have visited its site. Not just looking at traffic, but actively trying to identify individuals.

It was by this means that they were able to announce that Alliance MP Matt Robson's press secretary Josie Harbutt had been looking at the Act Website to get information on the ERB. Oh! The irony. Not.

The IP address was actually traced by Parliamentary services to a computer on Level 8 of Bowen House - in the ACT office - which was being used by an ACT staff member, Gavin Middleton. There's no indication yet of how Harbutt's ID came to be associated with that computer, but the Parliamentary Services network is, I understand, a strange and terrifying beast.

Act also named the Labour Party research unit and Graham Kelly's executive secretary as having visited the site. Well, add me to the list. I have been known to visit the Act Website - usually only to have a laugh at whatever lone, spooky thought is passing through the mind of Muriel Newman, but I've been there. What of it?

An Act spokesman told the Herald that this sort of thing was the same as publishing the names of people who had phoned orwritten in. No it bloody isn't. Is this an indication of the kind of conduct we could expect if Act ever managed to claw its way into government?

Of course, the Act slogan, "principles, not politics", has been an exercise in extreme irony for a long time now. Yet another lot of excrement is blowing back in Richard Prebble's face with the news that the police won't be charging Dover Samuels with either rape or sex with a minor 14 years ago.

"Uncle" Rodney Tregerthan, with whom Prebble has so extensively consulted on the matter, is now struggling to explain private comments that make him look like a man bent on blackmail. I told you he was dodgy, didn't I?

Prebble now says he's waiting to see what the police decide on the last potential offence - having sex with a person under 20 in his care - before he makes a statement. If he were a wise man, Samuels might have done the same thing.

But he plainly isn't a wise man and, and however much he'd like to think so, normal service will not be resumed. Samuels was sorely tried and found equally sorely wanting. He will not get back the job of Minister of Maori Affairs. Not, not, not.

The Prime Minister fired him seven weeks ago after he refused to resign. She did so because at the time she didn't know what the hell was coming down the pike next. He couldn't promise her there wouldn't be any more surprises.

And, lo, the very next morning the Herald published details of his assault and weapons convictions and quoted his ex-wife saying their relationship had been abusive. Remember that at this point National MPs were already gleefully combing Hansard looking for statements he'd made at variance with what was now known about his private life. There would not have been much earnest debate on closing the gaps with Dover Samuels as the minister.

It got worse, of course. He named the alleged rape victim under the protection of Parliamentary privilege and he declared that being falsely accused of rape was worse than being raped. I'm sorry but it just isn't.

He charged back into Parliament to declare yet more minor convictions, two of which had attracted brief terms of imprisonment. The offences were petty, but the problem was he hadn't disclosed them to his own party when he became a candidate, still less honestly answered the Prime Minister when she inquired whether there was anything else he might want to tell her about.

He doesn't seem to grasp any of this. With Peter Williams QC cheering him on he was publicly musing this week about suing the Prime Minister for defamation. Pardon? Williams, of course, is good mates with Winston Peters, who has been having a lovely time playing Dover's true friend.

Samuels isn't thinking about switching parties, apparently. Which is a good thing. The public might be forgiven for making unwarranted assumptions about Maori MPs if he did.

Then there was, of course, the rugby. In the final act of one of the greatest test matches ever - better than the first leg in Sydney, to my mind - Wallabies captain John Eales stepped up and knocked over the penalty goal that won the game 24-23.

Oh yes, I've gone through all the issues. Blackadder lost his composure at those last two lineouts, and the team with him. They should have locked up the ball when they were down on the Aussie line with two minutes to go. Or kicked a drop goal. On the other hand, there would've been a match-clinching penalty under the Aussies' posts if the referee hadn't fallen over and missed it. Whatever. Rugby was the winner on the day and we were gobsmacked.

And I'll tell you who else was the winner on the day: TrueBliss. So long treated as poor provincial cousins, they kicked Bardot's sorry arses when it came to singing the respective nations' national anthems. Given that the miserable nature of our song usually precludes us from winning the anthems no matter who we're playing, this is extraordinary. You go girls! - G'bye!


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