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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

Christmas Presents And Stocking Fillers Everyone knows that people who have everything are the hardest ones to buy for come Christmas time. Luckily, however, the past political year has provided many gift ideas for those who might need to improve on their 2007 performance.

Given that she just can't seem to get it right when it comes to the Queen, Prime Minister Helen Clark would benefit from a copy of Judith Martin's "Miss Manners' Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour - the Ultimate Handbook on Modern Etiquette". With an excellent section on royalty - covering both appropriate attire and pre-dinner 'grace' - "Miss Manners'" would be a great stocking-filler for Miss Clark ... I'm certain the latest edition even deals with text messaging etiquette.

A punching bag would be perfect to go under Trevor Mallard's Christmas Tree - although a Valium prescription might perhaps be better. Luckily for Tau Henare the short uppercut wasn't very effective - sparing him the need to make the age-old wish: "all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth".

The Electoral Commission wants a team of QCs to tell them what they, in turn, should tell those seeking advice on the confusion that is now the Electoral Finance Act. Meanwhile, Justice Minister Annette King wants a new law - the Law of Commonsense - to fill the gaps where the Electoral Finance Act is wanting. Perhaps Peter Dunne, the master of commonsense could help her - what he wants for Christmas is a new sharpened pencil and notebook to record who's naughty in Parliament when it resumes.

All was not ship-shape this year at the Greater Wellington Regional Council - which needs a multi-function calculator to assist with calculations when deciding how to spend ratepayers' money. GWRC used shonky fuel usage figures to decide that $210 million was best spent on new train units, rather than buses. Diesel urban buses run 2.8 kilometres on every litre of fuel - but the figure used in the GWRC's carbon emissions calculations of was 2.8 litres of fuel for every km travelled. Transposing the units meant the estimated cost of running buses was inflated by around 700 percent. 'No matter', said GWRC, 'this wasn't significant' - I suspect this was really an early Christmas present for the Greens.

The Government's Christmas present to motorists is to charge them an extra $50 to cover the cost of road accidents. This increase will be split between increased ACC levies, which will hit motorists at the petrol pump, and higher car registration fees. If you missed this, it's because the Government always releases its 'good' (not) news stories while voters are distracted with Christmas.

Most in need of an uplifting Christmas this year, however, just has to be our once proud Skyhawks. Wheeled outside two weeks ago, and now half covered in latex, these 17 Skyhawks need a good home. I have some ideas, and have passed them on to Santa to see if he can weave his magic where the Government has failed.

Lest We Forget While we all spend time at Christmas with our families and friends, we should spare a thought for those in our Defence Force who are serving in overseas theatres.

Christmas is traditionally a time of goodwill to all, a time to settle feuds and extend the hand of friendship. A remarkable example of this was the Christmas truce of 1914, when there was large scale fraternisation between British and German soldiers.

Truces to allow each side to bury their dead were common but, on Christmas Eve 1914, the sound of Christmas Carols and the German tradition of placing candles in trees melted hearts to an unprecedented degree.

In some cases soldiers changed their view of the enemy - in one letter from the Front, a young lieutenant commented: "As I walked slowly back to our own trenches I thought of Mr Asquith's [British Prime Minister HH Asquith who, himself, had a son killed on active service] sentence about not sheathing the sword until the enemy be finally crushed. It is all very well for Englishmen living comfortable at home to talk in flowing periods, but when you are out here you begin to realise that sustained hatred [is] impossible."

I am sympathetic with the young lieutenant's views but, in fact, Christmas fraternisations became less common as the war went on. This was partly due to the interference of the High Command, but attitudes hardened after the introduction of poison gas - a weapon so awful that nobody could forgive the enemy for using it.

Season's Greetings The Diary will take a break over the summer, and resume in early February. I would like to wish all readers a safe and pleasant holiday season, with best wishes for the new year.

ENDS

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