HARD NEWS: Lies, Losses, Lists and Lingerie
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GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES ... so the All Blacks lost. They fell to bits for 20 minutes in the second half of their World Cup semi final, blew a 14 point lead and surrendered the match and their Cup hopes to a French side they thrashed 54-7 at the beginning of the season.
There are a number of reasons for what happened. Firstly, the French breathed life into the cliché that they are a wily bunch who can beat anyone on their day.
Some of John Hart's key strategic wagers didn't pay off - notably playing Taine Randell at No.8, rather than someone bigger, meaner and more able to go forward.
But, mostly, the All Blacks' psychological preparation - which is what really wins games at that level - went awry. The forwards looked spooked and some of the backs looked like they were on drugs. So, no cigar. And an even worse showing in the playoff against the Springboks. Bummer.
I can reveal that the head of Adidas New Zealand flew home in disgust before the playoff. And that he told someone that he was very unhappy with the All Blacks, who he thought were not only self-absorbed, self-interested and arrogant, but - critically - split up into a number of "factions". Oh dear.
But, although I follow rugby closely and I actually pay money to go to games and everything, I'm already sick of hearing about people who claim to be grieving or angry and that it's a tragedy or an outrage.
Look, I knew someone who hung himself in Mt Eden Prison this year. He was schizophrenic, and the consultant who sent him there admitted he only did so because he knew there wasn't a secure hospital bed available. That's a tragedy and that's an outrage - the other one is just a game. Get over it.
So will the loss of a chance to parade around with the World Cup winners dent Jenny Shipley's campaign hopes? Or does it, as Shipley insisted, show that the favourite doesn't always win? We'll see.
Three parties held their election campaign launches in Auckland on Sunday. Labour had the idea first, and National and New Zealand First, unwilling to be trumped, piled in and staged theirs on the same afternoon.
Labour's was a good look in what has so far been a fairly pedestrian campaign, with TV news capturing the party faithful apparently having a high old time and dancing in the aisles. At New Zealand First's, John Rowles - John Rowles! - crooned and Winston trotted out his usual old bullshit, which his fans lapped up, the way they always do.
National's launch was the most eventful, with Shipley's speech rendered interesting by the repeated interjections of native forest campaigners who had gained entry and sprinkled themselves throughout the room.
One of them, a 59 year-old man, has filed a complaint of assault against National MP Gerry Brownlee, who dragged him out. Yeah, another one. But this one actually looks a bit more serious.
The protester claimed Brownlee was threatening to throw him down the marble staircase - and I think Brownlee was probably lucky the TV news camera arrived when it did.
He really seemed to have lost it - he was ignoring the pleas of a security guard to let go of the old man, who appeared genuinely terrified, and it really only seemed to be the prospect of being caught on camera that brought him round.
From there, it was onto the Paul Holmes-hosted leaders' debate, which, typically, produced relatively little enlightenment, but did give Jenny Shipley a chance to think on her feet. And we know what that means.
She claimed that a New Lynn manufacturer, Ted Sweeney, of International Lingerie, had told her he was about to take over Bendon's Te Aroha factory and offer jobs to the displaced Bendon workers. But Sweeney insisted he'd promised nothing of the kind, and that he couldn't consider it without some form of financial assistance from the government. Which, of course, he's not going to get. National scrapped the Business Development Scheme last year.
More wires were crossed on the day of the debate, when Shipley, only three weeks out from the election, announced some new tax policy.
At a press conference she announced that, on top of its promised tax cut, National would be able to cut both the corporate and personal top tax rates to 30 cents - which is a bit weird, given that at the weekend, her Treasurer Bill English had said that wouldn't be fiscally possible. Who's making this up?
Some economists - and not left-wing ones either, unless you count Tony Alexander of the BNZ - have already spoiled the party by claiming that National's new tax policy would cut surpluses, provoke higher interest rates and a procure a downgrading of our international credit rating.
The compromise seems to be that National would cut the corporate rate first - thus committing what National has until recently insisted was the mortal sin of separating the two rates. Actually, everyone does that. The Australians are to go to a 30 cent corporate rate and keep a 47 cent top personal rate. The Irish have a top personal rate of 46p in the pound and are aiming for a 12.5 percent corporate rate by 2003.
As hamfisted and flakey as National's announcement might be, it does put pressure on Labour. We are going to come under pressure to lower our corporate tax rate. So - for the first time so far as I can recall - I went to a local public meeting, where Labour's finance spokesman Michael Cullen was speaking.
It was in a church hall. The moment Cullen stood to speak, there began a stream of ejaculations from a group who were, quite evidently, Act supporters. Five male, one female, they were an ugly bunch. The kind of rude, unpleasant people who, if they were sitting in a bar you walked into, would make you think, whoops, find another bar, this one's full of munters.
When it became clear that the oafs weren't going to shut up and let him speak, Cullen changed gears and took them on. He was, frankly, stunning. They didn't score a point. He'd read their little culty book on tax, he knew all the arguments. It was easily the best performance I've seen this campaign, on TV or off. By the time the chair called for questions it was Cullen 80, Act nil.
At which point, an old Pacific Island man stood up to ask Cullen a question. "Speak English!" snarled the piggiest of the Act supporters, stroking his mobile phone like it was a little detachable penis. And I mean little. I think he thought it was funny. I didn't. I'll spare naming the sad creep, but I can tell you he's a long-term Prebble groupie.
It got weirder. At the end, the well-spoken man in a suit who'd been worried about the unions and tax got up, introduced himself as the Act candidate for Mt Roskill, and congratulated Cullen on his performance. The ugly oafs, he admitted, were his campaign committee. Not only had he arrived separately from them, he hadn't even met their eyes throughout the meeting.
It didn't stop there. As the meeting broke up the Prebble groupie - the one with the small phone and the line in racist witticisms - greeted Judith Tizard. He told her she was looking well and that he really thought Labour would make a good government. Pardon my French, but these Act people are fucking weird.
As are, for all it has managed to hide them from the voters it pursues, Act's policies. Act released its local government policy this week: the party of choice would force all local authorities to sell off all their services, regardless of the wishes of their local communities.
Act's health policy would end free doctor's visits for under-sixes, and would rely on people to fund their own health insurance out of tax cuts. Which is all very well if you're the Prime Minister and you're going to get a $455 a week tax cut under Act's tax policy - not so good if you happen to be earning less than $38,000 a year, in which case Act would offer you no tax cut whatsoever.
Act's policies are a sham. They simply do not add up. Frankly, it seems the only public hospitals Richard Prebble likes are new ones to be built in Wellington Central, the electorate where he claims to live.
He doesn't. He lives with his wide Doreen, who is a Solomon Islander - I presume she speaks English - at 58 Titirangi Road, New Lynn, Auckland, as anyone with a phone book could tell. After three years, he still can't be arsed living in his own electorate - and you and I pay his airfares.
But it works for him. In the new Herald Digipoll, Act is creeping towards 10 percent support. Labour has fallen five points to 35 percent, only two points ahead of National. This really only puts it in line with all the other polls, but it is not cheery reading for Labour, especially with National also able to point out that unemployment is finally back down to what it was two years ago when Shipley became Prime Minister.
The balance of power, according to every poll, continues to rest with New Zealand First. And that party demonstrated what a looney bin it truly is this week, when the party's list was released - after it had been delivered to the Electoral Office.
It consigned Jenny Bloxham and Robyn McDonald, the two female MPs who stayed loyal to Peters when his last lot of idiots fell to bits, to list positions equating to oblivion. Gilbert Myles, who was caught on tape declaring that he'd desert his party as soon as he replaced Deborah Morris, was rewarded with a placing of 10 on the list.
This isn't the first time this has happened, of course. Last time, Rex Widerstrom and others who had helped Peters build his party got dumped on. Once again, the New Zealand First list is full of people no one's ever heard of.
The worst thing was that Peters was too gutless to tell either of his woman MPs in advance of the release, and then disappeared afterwards. Tu Wyllie - by some stretch the best of them - apparently did get the courtesy of a look, and has gone off the list altogether rather than face the humiliation of a poor placing. They don't much like Maoris and women in that party these days, do they?
Anyway, it's been a hell of a week - and probably the best news in it for Aucklanders has been the council pulling the plug on Britomart. After five years and $20 million of ratepayers' money, the bloody developers haven't been able to raise their finance. They wanted a further extension and they didn't get it.
Good. What a relief. The council can now start planning a proper transport centre, all the other private development projects that had been frozen by the fear of Britomart can go ahead, and we can all just keep in mind that it was Citizens & Ratepayers who dropped us into this.
Christine Fletcher has copped a lot of stick over this in the past year, but I always thought that was unfair. What the council has done is play it straight down the line, stick to the NDA and, when the developer came up empty, said, right - it's over. And so is this week's extended bulletin ... G'bye!