Saturday, August 30, 2008

A father too far

There is a very good letter in today’s New Zealand Herald
from Don McGlashan, responding to the paper’s front-page
report on Brian Lochore’s speech to a Fathers’ Breakfast, in
which the former All Black captain criticized what he sees as
an excess of “political correctness.” McGlashan, who was at
the breakfast, says that he respects Lochore but that unlike
him, "I am not nostalgic for a time when it was okay to have
a few jugs and leave the kids outside in the car, or when
smacking was considered good parenting.” McGlashan also
points out that the breakfast featured some thoughtful,
anti-authoritarian contributions on fathering from men like
John Campbell and Andrew Grant, “all of which were
received every bit as enthusiastically as that of Sir Brian, if
not more so”—but which weren’t mentioned in the Herald.
Speaking as one who was left out in the car while Dad had a
few jugs, and who got thrashed regularly by him in the name
of good parenting, I'm with Don on this one.

Friday, August 29, 2008


I say again that the amount of media attention given to
Winston Peters and his party’s finances is out of all
proportion to the true significance of the matter, and I
can’t help wondering why such journalistic energy could
not be expended on issues of real concern to the people
of this country—like the soaring cost of living, for
starters, and the economic consequences of globalization.
Let it be said, in this month of August 2008, that for some
weeks now the media have given more time and space to
this Peters business than to what is probably the most
important piece of legislation in a generation (the
Emissions Trading Scheme bill). The issue has also
dominated headlines that belong by any sensible standard
of news value to stories like the Waikato river deal, the
shake-up of the meat industry, the competition for water
resources, the rise in mortgagee sales, the fact that 22
percent of our children are living in poverty. But the
prospect of actually bringing a minister down has got the
media pack in a fine old state. It’s a classic case of the chase
becoming the story. The National Party must be delighted
that, with the media so distracted, so little attention is
being paid to close analysis of their election policies, such
as they are. What’s going on in the nation’s classrooms, for
instance, should be the subject of serious scrutiny, but not
only do we not know what National’s policy is, I’ll bet 98
percent of the population don’t even know who National’s
education spokesperson is. Meaninglessly, in terms of
what actually matters, the name of Owen Glenn has had
far more currency this year. Try cashing that currency in
when you lose your job or your kid drops out of school.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Reality cheque

I still cannot believe that the public care greatly one
way or another about whether or not Winston
Peters knew about cheque A or payment B to his party.
While not unimportant, and certainly warranting
investigation and clarification, these matters are at
least two removes from the direct concerns of voters,
and will be perceived by many as something to be
sorted out in-House, as it were. Rather than being
seen as some critical moral issue I think the so-called
“party donations saga” is more likely to figure in most
people's minds as something that the media and
Peters’s political opponents are fixating on—for want
of any other point of leverage—in order to bring him
down. I don’t believe it will severely impact on public
perceptions of Peters, and I see no scenario in which
the Prime Minister will feel obliged to call for his
resignation. He and his party remain very much in the
running for seats in the next Parliament, and John
Key may live to regret his decision to reject NZ First as
a potential coalition partner, when he needs all the
partners he can get.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What's the story?

The media flurry over what Maurice Williamson said on
Sunday is of no great significance in itself, but I would
like to write about it at some length, because I think it
illustrates the way political stories get blown up and
distorted these days. First of all, Williamson—National's
spokesperson on transport and communications—was
interviewed on TV1’s Sunday-morning current-affairs
program Agenda. In the course of what for New Zealand
television these days is a very long interview (about 12
minutes), talking about how to fund new roading projects,
Williamson said he thought that many motorists would be
happy to pay anything from $3 to $5 to drive on a toll
road if it saved them money, ie, by not having to spend
time and petrol by taking a slower non-tolled route. The
interviewer, Rawdon Christie, quickly worked out that at
10 trips a week that could add up to as much as $50 a week
for a commuter, but Williamson thought that, all things
considered, that wasn’t unrealistic. At all times he located
this (theoretical) cost (for some, not all) within the context
of economic choice. It wasn’t as if anyone would be forced
to pay up to $50 a week in tolls, just to get to and from
work; the law already stipulates that where there are toll
roads there must always be a free alternative route, and
National has given no sign of repealing that provision. It
would be insane to do so, in fact.

My impression of the interview was that Williamson
wasn’t laying particular stress on the exact amount of any
potential toll; rather, he was illustrating the case for tolls,
and doing it by citing overseas examples he'd personally
seen in action, notably a French toll road. He struck me as
enthusiastic about the topic and reasonably well-informed.
It was a good strong straightforward interview, reinforced
by another 12 minutes of questioning from Christie and
two senior journalists, Brent Edwards and Brian Fallow.

Next morning, however, the New Zealand Herald turned
Williamson’s comments into a front-page lead story under
with the subheading “Williamson predicts $50-a-week bills
for tolls, but says we’ll like it.” Well, it was clearly not a
plan, nor even a prediction; it was a speculation about
possible costs—and, again, Williamson, interviewed by the
this time, put the “$50-a-week bill”—already taking
on the status of hard fact—into context by saying he thought
people would gladly pay if it amounted to “a lot less money
than you’re currently burning just sitting going nowhere.”

In her Monday-morning spot on Newstalk ZB the Prime
Minister seized on the $50 figure and implied it would eat
away the gains that people might make from National’s
proposed tax cuts; even though this was false arithmetic, it
must have scared the National Party, because two minutes
before Williamson was due to go to air with Kathryn Ryan
on Radio New Zealand National that morning, she was
told he was unavailable; shortly afterwards, party fixer Bill
English went on the program making soothing noises,
rejecting $5-a-trip tolls and saying that Williamson (whom
he didn’t actually call by name) had been "over-exuberant."
For the rest of the day, that was the message from National,
with John Key saying that Williamson had got too excited
and Williamson himself saying he had let his enthusiasm
run away with him. Senior Labour ministers like Michael
Cullen and Annette King had fun at National’s expense, as
if Williamson had made a colossal mistake (Cullen says
"Maurice" as though he were talking about a clumsy child.)
Political journalists ran with comment using words like
gaffe, blunder, blurt; National was said to be in damage
control. Sad. There’s a perfectly valid debate to be had
about how we fund roads, such as Wellington’s notorious
Transmission Gully, but what we’ve wound up with,
instead, is the usual petty point-scoring that so often
elbows intelligent exchange out of the spotlight.

This is not about whether or not you agree with Williamson
and/or National. I for one don’t: I think it madness to be
planning new roads when car use is dropping, and I wish
that line of questioning had been pursued (only Edwards
raised it, and he didn’t press the point). What it is about is
letting political discourse take place in a grown-up way
without jumping on every slip, inconsistency or off-hand
remark. The media should have put Williamson’s remarks
in context and not let Labour get away with exaggerating
them. Ironically, it wasn’t till this morning’s New Zealand
editorial that some of this context was provided by
any media outlet at all since the original interview.

We badly need enlightened debate that goes beyond
soundbite level. Agenda provides it, and did provide it on
Sunday; but what's happened since has been a dismal
combination of Labour politicking, National pusillanimity
and media imprecision. Do we have to go right through to
the election this way?

Monday, August 25, 2008

75 days

So we in New Zealand come down to the last 75 days before
the next general election, which, it is pretty clear now, will
be held on November 8. To me, it is highly significant that
no one has yet been willing to write the Labour Party off,
when all political wisdom suggests that it has no chance of
winning. By rights, you don’t win four elections on the trot
in this country unless your main opposition is in severe
disarray, which this time National—despite some inevitable
hiccups and slips—has taken great care not to be. For the
first time under MMP National has also got itself a leader
whose basic electability is not in question, notwithstanding
cavils about his lack of experience. So the election is very
much there, on a plate, for National. In Helen Clark and
Michael Cullen, however, Labour has two formidably astute
political operators who, it seems to me, have got a second
wind as they sense that win No 4 is not wholly beyond their
grasp. The very unlikelihood of it has acted as a challenge
on them, rousing the best of their fighting ability: for one
thing, they’ve curbed the tendency, evident earlier this year,
to be shrill and extravgantly scornful in their attacks on
John Key and National, a tendency that was plainly
counterproductive. They do best when they radiate the
sense of surefooted competence in their different fields
(Clark in foreign affairs, Cullen in finance and, now, Treaty
negotiations) that tells voters the country is in safe, steady,
unflappable hands. Plus Clark and her team have always
had a much better handle on coalition politics; so at this
stage it’s impossible to rule out a Labour/Green/Maori
coalition pipping a National/Act one after the votes are
counted on November 8. That possibility alone makes this
a fascinating election campaign. Expect no alarms, no
surprises now; just 75 days of intricate, unwearying,
choreographed attrition.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Yet another attempt is under way to try and establish what
happened to the Franklin expedition, which set out from
England in 1845 to find a transcontinental passage
through the myriad waterways of the Canadian Arctic. The
two ships Erebus and Terror never returned, and all 129
men aboard vanished; only the frozen bodies of two sailors
were eventually found. Subsequent investigations—and
there have been many—suggest that the expedition was ill
prepared to weather the winters in those parts, and that
when the ice began to swallow their ships they lacked the
resources to survive. A scrap of paper found in a cairn in
1859 indicates that about 100 of the crew tried to trek to a
Hudson’s Bay Company fur-trading post 800 miles south,
but none made it; evidence of cannibalism has since come
to light. Somewhere out there in the frozen north—possibly
to be disclosed in the plenitude of time by global warming
—lie more clues to the mystery.

From a European point of view it’s a haunting story, as one
can hear in the plaintive Victorian song “Lord Franklin”
(“In Baffin Bay, where the whalefish blow,/the fate of
Franklin no man may know”), and one made even more
evocative by the report that five years after Franklin’s ships
vanished, sailors off the coast of Newfoundland—thousands
of miles east of the expedition’s last known base—saw the
hulks of two sailing ships identical to the Erebus and Terror
wedged frozen inside a huge ice-floe floating out to sea.

We of European descent love to have our imaginations
fired by such historical tales of heroic British navigators
and explorers fighting their way through uncharted seas,
trackless deserts or deepest jungle, often perishing in the
attempt to “discover” something. The truth is that what
they were looking for had often been discovered already,
only by peoples whose achievements were somehow not
considered to be part of the official record. While the
Franklin survivors were blundering south, dying one by
one, tribes of Inuit and American Indians were getting on
with their lives in the same latitudes, to which they had long
adapted. The Englishmen, as Scott Cookman writes in his
book Ice Blink, had no idea how to build igloos, use dogs or
hunt seal efficiently—and in any case would not have
deigned to let “savages” show them how. To the Inuit, these
clumsy, ill-clad aliens must have seemed to be touched by
madness. Inuit eyewitnesses interviewed several years later
said the men they met (and gave seal meat to) were carrying
human skulls and bones.

Similarly—to go to the other end of the temperature scale—
with David Livingstone in what you still sometimes hear
people, inexcusably, call “darkest Africa.” People of my first
postwar generation grew up indoctrinated with imagery of
this doughty Scottish missionary discovering vast tracts of
central Africa, and “civilizing” them, virtually all by himself,
when in fact he was surrounded at all times by villagers,
farmers, hunters, tribespeople living their lives in a
perfectly self-sufficient way. In the European historical
record for a long time afterwards, these people, even though
they nursed and helped Livingstone—indeed, he would have
got seriously lost without them—generally figured as

Again, we mythologize Burke and Wills for their fateful
journey across the Australian interior, so unsuited for the
job that they starved and exhausted themselves to death—
while Aboriginal tribes in the same areas had no problem
feeding and sustaining themselves. It was an Aboriginal
tribe, in fact, that took in and nursed back to health John
King, the sole survivor of the Burke-Wills party, when he
was at death’s door. And of course New Zealand history, as
we have usually had it told to us, tends to be far more full
of Pakeha feats and finds, even when the intrepid pioneers
were traversing country already well known to Maori.

Another example of Eurocentrism, in a completely different
field, is the work (in India in the late 19th century) of the
British physician Sir Ronald Ross in fighting malaria: it was
he who is generally credited with establishing the link
between malaria and mosquitoes; indeed, he won the Nobel
Prize for Medicine for his “discovery” in 1902. Certainly
Ross deserved much of the credit for that, writes Amitav
Ghosh in The Calcutta Chromosome, “but in effect much
that he 'proved' was already well known amongst common
folk in India and Africa. Ross's Memoirs clearly show that
he used folk knowledge in advancing his work.”

Moreover, says Ghosh, it was an Indian assistant who
pointed out the final crucial stages of development in the
malaria parasite. But did Ross ever credit such people?
"Forget it: he didn't even know their surnames.”

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Down there

Surfacing slowly from a week of debilitating flu that, at
its nadir, had me wondering what I’d ever seen in work,
love, life, indeed any human activity at all. The point of
these things entirely eluded me as I lay day after day
trapped inside a body that—justifiably enough—was
solely interested in managing the varieties of pain it
was undergoing. This is what bodies do, I guess: when
the citadel is attacked, they pull in reinforcements from
every possible outpost; hence the neurotransmitters
normally responsible for my interest in books, politics,
culture, other people (oh them) etc were busy back at
base, leaving me either falling in and out of restless
sleep or staring hour after hour at the patterns of
sunlight and streetlight on the ceiling, playing mindless
word-games in my head. Fascinating. I am now, sort of,
on my feet, and mental machinery is slowly clanking
back into action, but you will still know me by my cough,
which sets the light-bulbs tinkling. Here is the best poem
about illness I know, by the Rumanian poet Marin Sorescu:


When you are ill you weigh more.
Your head sinks into the pillow,
Your bed curves in the middle,
Your body drops like a meteorite.
"He's so heavy," say the relatives,
They turn you on the other side
And nod meaningfully. "He weighs like the dead."

The earth feels its prey
And concentrates upon you
Its colossal force of attraction.
The iron in you hungers to go down.
The gold in you hungers to go down.
The gravitation of the whole world has its eyes on you
And pulls you down with unseen ropes...

You look like the bell the peasants
Take down before their exodus, burying it very deep,
Marvelling at the sight of the bell digging its grave,
Eagerly biting the dust.

You are all lead
And unto yourself
You have become exceedingly all-important,
Surrounded by endless mystery.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The winter campaign

They are tearing down the trees in the park today. The
cannonade of chainsaws started up, or so it seemed,
at dawn; a couple of pines on the northern slope never
had a chance, and were cut down where they stood.
Then the truck from the Tree Unit came. The Tree Unit!
Just as a foot-soldier in Napoleon’s army might
sometimes have glimpsed the heave and sway of great
forces that he could barely comprehend, far beyond his
small role in human affairs, so I sense the imperious
power of the Wellington City Council’s parks & gardens
department. It brooks no obstacle in its remorseless
workings. The Tree Unit truck turned out to contain, in
its abdomen, a mulching machine into which men in
bright helmets have been feeding oblations of foliage;
the machine—provided, no doubt, by the unit’s branch
office—has fed hungrily and noisily but now, for the
moment, at midday, seems to have satisfied its appetite.
Where the pines were is a pile of chunky logs as crisp and
fresh as a newly baked batch of biscuits. There is more
light in the park now. The men in helmets have regrouped
for lunch. The winter campaign rolls on.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Night thoughts

Lying awake at three in the morning, ill, I put an earphone
in my ear and pick up Radio New Zealand National as a
short story is being read. For a few minutes it becomes my
world in the darkness. Who can this story be by? It seems
to be about a picnic by a river or lake—Mum, Dad and two
boys, called Les and Sid. It has the unmistakable tone of
writing by a particular kind of male New Zealand writer,
a style you might call blokish, in which there are gaps and
silences between emotions and their meanings. I think
first of A P Gaskell; then O E Middleton. Eventually I come
round to thinking that it must be Owen Marshall. But it
turns out my first guess was right: the story is “The Ghost
of Christmas Past” by Gaskell. The curious thing is that I’ve
never read Gaskell. This is not a boast—if anything it’s an
indictment of my superficial acquaintance with much of
New Zealand literature—but it does suggest that the whole
genre of the New Zealand short story is small enough for its
major writers’ styles to be readily identifiable by someone
with a scattering of knowledge about it. If there's a point to
this anecdote, by the way, I'm not yet sure what it is.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Forty years on

Thinking about the 1960s, and the social revolution that
took place in countries like New Zealand anyway.
Actually, the kinds of changes that swept Britain, France,
Germany and the United States in the late 1960s didn’t
really kick in here till the early 1970s. But they followed
the same arc, which went, roughly speaking, from “She
loves you, yeah yeah yeah” to “Man, you should have seen
them kicking Edgar Allan Poe.” Janet Malcolm puts it
well in The Silent Woman when she writes that the 19th
century "came to an end in America only in the 1960s;
the desperate pretense that the two World Wars had left
the world as unchanged as the Boer War had left it was
finally stripped away by the sexual revolution, the
women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the
environmental movement, the Vietnam War protests.”
Malcolm, born in 1934, says she came of age “in the
period when the need to keep up the pretense was
especially strong: no one was prepared—least of all the
shaken returning GIs—to face the post-Hiroshima and
post-Auschwitz world.” Former radio show producer
Johnny Douglas, interviewed today by Jim Mora on
Radio New Zealand National, reminded us of how the
old NZBC tried to hold the line by banning from airplay
not just songs considered improper for sexual reasons
but songs that appeared to treat God with insufficient
respect (“One Hundred Pounds of Clay” by Gene
McDaniels) and even songs that simply objected to war
(“Universal Soldier” by Donovan and “Eve of
Destruction” by Barry Maguire). The pretence began to
shatter with John F Kennedy’s assassination and the
subsequent rise of youth music culture but it was the
Vietnam war that really broke it into little pieces. It was
one thing to grow up in the 50s and 60s knowing that
the previous two generations had fucked up badly
(world wars, the great depression, the Holocaust, atomic
bombs) but to see them doing it again in our adult
lifetimes was the clincher. The American war on
Vietnam was so manifestly idiotic, and such a monstrous
manifestation of male chauvinism and Western
imperialism, that the dam finally burst. Through it
poured all those revolutions and movements of which
Janet Malcolm speaks.

Social mores certainly changed dramatically in the 70s,
but at a far more fundamental level the economic
equations remained the same—so much so that, as years
go by, it becomes ever more painfully clear that the
money-changers in the temple of capitalism never had
anything to fear from the hippies, dopeheads, music-
lovers and protest marchers whose very self-indulgences
were predicated on social stability and secure incomes.
Did Roger Douglas and the troglodytes of Treasury march
against the Vietnam war or the Springbok tour? I don't
think so. They were busy making other plans, and ensuring
that they had the power to carry them out. Which they did;
while the Left, arms weakened from too much banner-
waving, could only feebly gesture. Moral: always count
your change.

Pronounced shift

Hearing the word “debut” pronounced correctly on the
radio today (as dayboo), I was reminded of how in my
childhood 50 years ago it was often pronounced debo, no
doubt by analogy with the French word beau. That version
seems to have gone ouest, but lonjeray for "lingerie" has
proved more stubborn, probably because the degree of
Gallic nasality required to get the lin part right is too much
for Kiwi tongues. Shifts in pronunciation, even within
English, are generally immune to complete and final
explanation, though the mass media are obviously very
influential. You might think Americans have always said
rowt for "route," as opposed to our root, but Nat King Cole
sings root in his 1940s recording of “Route 66,” so clearly
something has shifted in the past 60 years. Rowt seems
certain to take over in New Zealand eventually; already,
when talking about computer connexions, no one would
dare say rooter and not rowter for "router." Other
Americanisms are steadily encroaching on "English"
English: I heard "status" pronounced with a short a on a
Radio New Zealand news item a few weeks ago, and
"process" with a short o on Outrageous Fortune.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Darkness revisited

I'm pleased to hear that the New Zealand director Martin
Campbell is working on a film called Edge of Darkness,
based on the British television series that had many of us
glued to our couches once a week for six weeks in 1986.
Campbell himself directed that series—it was his first big
break—so this is clearly a pet project for him. The series,
a political thriller about a nuclear waste cover-up, remains
one of the finest I have ever seen on television. I see
Robert de Niro is being touted for the part of the renegade
CIA operative Darius Jedburgh played so memorably in
the series by Joe Don Baker; that seems right enough, but
I'll need to be persuaded that Mel Gibson could be
anywhere near as good as Bob Peck was in playing the
obsessed hero. Speaking of first-rate TV series, Mad Men
on Prime has become required Sunday-night viewing.
Watch it if only to understand where feminism came from
(in case you'd forgotten).

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Two nights ago, a palpitation of poets at the National
Library. There seemed to be some reason, which
escaped me, for bringing together all those who had
held the title of New Zealand’s “poet laureate” since
the position was unofficially created in 1996 thanks
to the sponsorship of the Te Mata winery. Since then,
Bill Manhire, Hone Tuwhare, Elizabeth Smither,
Brian Turner and Jenny Bornholdt have each held
the position for two years at a time. Last year the
Government formalized the job and appointed
Michele Leggott the first official Poet Laureate at a
cool $50,000 a year. So she was there, along with all
the others, except, of course, Hone, though he was
there in a way, because each laureate has a tokotoko
carved by Jacob Scott, and Hone’s was passed
around the audience. I held it briefly in my hand and
thought inevitably of that extraordinary journey of his
through Northland in 2002, which I was lucky enough
to accompany him for the first week of. Unforgettable.
There was a sort of uber-tokotoko too with, Scott said,
a poem of Tuwhare’s embedded inside it: I meant to
ask him which one but nevermind. As for the poets,
there was a smell of history about them, together like
this in one place, and, as you do on historical occasions,
I nodded in my seat. And why hasn’t Sam Hunt yet been
laureatified? Bring it on. But it was a fine thing to hear
Brian Turner, looking like he’d been hewn out of the
landscape of Oturehua, charged with the cold of Central
Otago, reading his poems to an ill-dressed audience of
the Welligentsia. And to see Michele reading her poems
from a large-print laptop, her head held high in the way
of the blind or the weakly sighted. Her mate Mark,
a former Listener colleague of mine, had prepared the
screen for her, and handed her glasses to her. My heart
went out to them. These are great days we are living in,
and nodding off in. Poetry fizzes and jerks like a live wire
flailing loose. It may stun or electrify.

Medal count shock

With Olympic hopes so high, I'm shocked to see the list
on Radio New Zealand's website home page today
headed NZ MEDAL COUNT. It reads as follows:

Gold 0, Silver 0, Bronze 0.

What's wrong with us as a nation? Can't we win anything
any more? Can't we even come second or third?

Monday, August 4, 2008

David Lange

Today would have been David Lange’s 66th birthday. I think
of him often, because in researching Helen Clark’s political
career I inevitably come across a great deal of information
about Lange, who as a Prime Minister was unusual to the
point of being freakish. Simply put, he was not really a
politician in the regular sense of the word. He wasn’t really
a leader either, but circumstance thrust him onto the stage
to play the king when he probably would have been better
off as the prince. But after its third election defeat in a row,
in 1981, Labour needed a more ebullient and inspirational
leader than Bill Rowling, and Roger Douglas and his cohort
needed a big-talking salesman for their economic policies—
and Lange met the job specifications. Poor sap. It probably
hastened his premature end. But as Jim McLay and Mike
Moore well know, when a party desperate for a leader taps
your shoulder and says ‘You next,’ it’s almost impossible to
refuse: you just have to hope that the timing is lucky for
you. In their cases, it wasn’t; in Lange’s, it was—but only in
the sense of winning elections and waltzing into office. For
him personally, just being Foreign Minister was fulfilling
enough. In fact, he would have been a wonderful Foreign
Minister in the present government, had things fallen out
differently. I’m still reading Michael Bassett’s book on the
Lange years so won’t comment yet on his much-publicized
thesis that Margaret Pope bent Lange to her evil will. Let
me just say for now that all leaders are influenced more
than we can ever know by spouses, lovers, friends, close
advisers, and they wouldn’t be human if they weren't.
Who knows—10 years from now, someone might write a
book purporting to show that Jim Bolger was a mere
pawn in the hands of the Svengali-like Richard Griffin.

Tory grunge

How wonderful to hear the new release going the rounds,
Bill English Unplugged. With its rough-as-guts sound
engineering I'd categorize it as Tory grunge, or maybe
alt-country, the country in question being New Zealand,
and the alt National's alternative agenda, the one we
we don't hear about in public. English's private remarks
about selling off KiwiBank "eventually" confirm the
pre-feeding theory I advanced in my last blog. On the
other hand, the surreptitiously recorded tape also shows
that English is basically comfortable with Working for
Families and striving to be fair about it. In most things, in
fact, English in my experience is a fair and decent person,
no slave to right-wing ideology; the National Party—which
he may yet lead again—would be far worse without him.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Having recently come across the term "pre-feeding," which
means putting out harmless bait for possums, to get them
accustomed to the food before larding the next drop with
1080 poison, I realize now that this is exactly what the
National Party is doing with its pre-election policy releases.
First they soften us up with Right-lite policies, larded with
a strong feel-good factor, designed not to frighten the
horses (or should that be the possums), all the time
assuring us that they have no plans for radical change. If
they win the election, however, expect more toxic policy, of
the kind that could fell a trade union in its tracks and leave
underpaid workers gasping for oxygen. Right now, we are
being pre-fed; voters, approach this bait with caution or
avoid it altogether.