Friday, May 22, 2009

Yes we can do

Five top ideas have emerged from the entrepreneurial
summit in Auckland attended by 100 of the country’s
leading entrepreneurs. These are the ideas that will
kickstart the economy, tap this country’s untapped
potential and boost New Zealand into the top half of the
OECD, no worries. Are you ready?

Give it a crack, Jack. A marketing and educational
campaign will be launched with this snappy slogan, which
is aimed at tapping the average bloke’s vast resources of
untapped potential, and stuff. Sponsored by Eezee-Lift
Garage Doors and Sink-Back Garden Hammocks.

Give it a prod, Rod. A marketing campaign targeted at
Kiwis' natural instinct for getting the job done with a bit of
tinkering. International research shows that countries with
a strong tinkering tradition are more likely to get into the
top half of the OECD.

Give it a rev, Trev. This $2b promotional campaign will
be targeted at Kiwis' innate No 8 wire mentality, the can-do
attitude that got Hillary to the top of Everest and Marc Ellis
to the middle of the juice market.

Give it a whirl, Shirl. One for the girls. They too have
their part to play! Whether it’s providing token
representation on boards or being patronised at gender-
appropriate moments, New Zealand's women are right
there when the rubber meets the road, or something.

Give it a heave, Steve. A hot-button campaign aimed at
making gumboot-throwing an international sport with
professional league teams, day-night games and lashings of
entrepreneurial investment. This one will really put New
Zealand on the map! All games to be played in Pakistan.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Old story

Could we have a moratorium, please, on journalists and
commentators announcing that 'The honeymoon is over'
for the current government? Declarations of this sort are
generally made entirely for the convenience of the media
when they've decided, in some mysterious unspoken
collective way, that they've cut an administration enough
slack for the time being and now it's time to get tough.
Any excuse will do. If Melissa Lee and Christine Rankin
hadn't obliged, somebody or something else would have
been found. Yawn. Actually, there is no reason why a
government can't be in trouble from day one or,
alternately, have a three-year 'honeymoon.' But the
narrative needs of the media are deep, dark, compelling
and ultimately irresistible, regardless of reality. Coming
soon to a headline near you: National slips in polls! You
would never have picked it.

Friday, May 15, 2009


When I read, as I just have, in an editorial in the
Economist, that ‘Asian governments must introduce
structural reforms that encourage people to spend
and reduce the need for them to save,’ then I truly
know, deep in my heart, that despite its many
delights, its multifarious positives, and the benefits
it has personally brought to me in my lucky country,
then—I say again—I truly know that, on the basis of
this and vast quantities of other evidence, appearing
daily before us, I truly know, if I haven't said it
already, that by any measure of human potential,
spiritual health, ecological balance and planetary
well-being the capitalist model is irrevocably,

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New verse (feat. Melissa Lee)

O steal me some wheels
So I'll know how it feels
To rob people and then get away.
But Mt Albert, I know,
Is one place I won't go:
You can drive past it any old day
And commit your crimes elsewhere, hooray!
—All thanks to the new motorway!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Song of the motorway madman

O give me a home
Where the SUVs roam
And the trucks keep on roaring all day,
Where seldom is heard
An audible word
On the new Waterview motorway.

O tear up the town
And lay concrete down
Where the kids in the park used to play.
It's worth a disaster
So I can drive faster
On the new Waterview motorway.


Home, home in the lanes:
All six of them, yippee-yi-yay!
What fun it will be
Driving regularly
On the new Waterview motorway!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

One-mind track

Despite all the fine talk of sweeping reform and the end
of capitalism as we have known it, a year on from the
onset of the global economic crisis it’s already clear that
the world’s business and banking elite have no intention
whatsoever of changing their ways; nor is any nation or
international political organization prepared to make
them change, other than cosmetically. The only way
they'll really change is if enough popular pressure is
applied, and there have been some encouraging signs of
that around the world; but without a coherent political
movement behind it, there seems little chance of that
being sustained. On all sides, businesspeople are talking
up the prospects for ‘growth’ again, as if we’re over the
worst and it’s just a matter of resuming normal
transmission. They’re like a train crew that, having
ploughed the train into a concrete wall, want to back the
engine up and have another go at charging down the
same track towards the same wall. We’re supposed to
get out of this crisis by going back to the same methods
that got us into it in the first place? Apparently so.
Whoever thought of this fiendishly clever strategy should
be paid a large bonus immediately.

Monday, May 4, 2009

So we beat on

The other night I watched again the film of The Great
Gatsby made in 1974 by the British director Jack
Clayton. I knew it must have been a good film, because
many images from it had stayed with me since I first
saw it more than 30 years ago; still, having thought it
might have dated, I was pleasantly surprised by how
good it was, and especially by how well Robert Redford
played Gatsby. I seem to remember he came in for some
critical stick at the time, but in fact his performance is
virtually faultless. As is Clayton’s take on Fitzgerald’s
masterpiece: both novel and film capture memorably a
moment in American history—the giddy moment of the
1920s, when war was over and all bets were off. I read
the book again last year: it must surely rank as the finest
short novel in the English language. It works
simultaneously as satire, romance, elegy, tragedy and
travesty. It is infected, like all the great works, with a kind
of madness; a brittle high fever of a book, it yet finds
solid ground to speak from and settle within us. The film
is not quite that good, but for sensitivity to an author's
intentions it's up there with John Huston's The Dead and
the Merchant-Ivory films of E M Forster's novels.
Disappointingly, however, and inexplicably, to me, though
it ends with Fitzgerald's narrator Nick Caraway in
voiceover, it omits the final, unforgettable words of the
book: 'So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back
ceaselessly into the past.'

Friday, May 1, 2009

The way it was

It was 20 years ago today that Jim Anderton left the
Labour Party—although, as I say in my book on Helen
Clark, a valid reading of history suggests that it had left
him some time before. Shortly afterwards, he founded
a party ironically called NewLabour—ironic, because it
represented everything ‘old’ Labour was supposed to
stand for—and set out on a rocky 10-year journey that
culminated in the formation of a Labour/Alliance
coalition government in 1999 and his becoming
deputy prime minister. Writing my book, I found it
hard not to reflect on the twin destinies of Clark and
Anderton, who spent most of their political
apprenticeship virtually joined at the hip, and then
split so spectacularly that for about 10 years they
expressed nothing but loathing and contempt for each
other. Either of them could have been prime minister;
it came down, you might say, to who had the greater
appetite for dead rats. Or was there a flaw in Anderton’s
nature that would always have stopped him from
reaching the very top? Many told me so, often in the
same breath as expressing their admiration for him. In
the end, almost karmically, if you care for that kind of
analysis, fate brought him and Clark together side by
side at the same cabinet table and for the next nine
years it was as if they’d never been parted.

Did ending up No 2 instead of No 1 embitter Anderton?
It seems not. He was remarkably philosophical about it
when I interviewed him earlier this year, but then, he's
been around a while and knows how to talk the talk. ‘In
any one day,' he told me—sententiously or sincerely, it
was impossible to tell— 'if you think about it for more
than five seconds, the chances of any one person
becoming Prime Minister of New Zealand are very remote.
You know, you’re run over by a bus, you lose an election at
the wrong time, or you win at the wrong time—whatever.
There are so many factors, that you’d be crazy if you put
your life on the line. Now I came as close as I could to that,
the way the chips fell. That was the way it was.’