Election circus already under way

Last updated 06:46 21/02/2014

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Karl du Fresne

People doing good things just ain't news Is easygoing a good thing for NZ? Tough times for the Lucky Country Election circus already under way Benefit meant for downtrodden, not to fund lifestyle choices Fiji head corrupt on power Resolving to pronounce Maori right Black Marx for uni wowsers As NZ changes, let's keep our democracy Du Fresne: Mysteries of a modern life

OPINION: It's started already, and the election is still months away.

I refer to the tiresome (but all too predictable) Winston Peters blusterfest, which can be expected to gather momentum as the year progresses.

He started 2014 as he no doubt intends to continue, spraying press gallery journalists with what one reporter described as a "suite of insults" in response to perfectly legitimate questions about his dealings with Kim Dotcom.

First he was evasive about whether he had met the grotesque German. None of the media's business, he snarled. (In fact it's very much the public's, and therefore the media's, business.)

Then, when he was cornered, Mr Peters admitted he had met Herr Dotcom, but had given him an assurance that their dealings would be confidential. That was the cue for a sanctimonious rebuke of the media for supposedly expecting him to betray a confidence.

"In many years of politics," Mr Peters harrumphed, "I have never broken a confidentiality agreement and do not intend to start doing so, despite the squawking of beltway reporters in Parliament."

Classic Peters. Deflect attention from the issue. Indignantly claim the moral high ground. Portray yourself as the aggrieved party. Turn the blame onto the media for trying to do its job, which is to tell the public what their elected representatives are getting up to behind their backs.

In a further display of the diversionary tactics at which he excels, Mr Peters affected moral outrage at the fact that the prime minister knew about the secret meetings.

The only possible explanation was that the Government was spying on him.

I thought it deeply ironic that a politician who has made a career out of making sensational allegations without disclosing his sources should be affronted when someone uses a similar tactic against him.

We can expect much more dissembling from Mr Peters as the year progresses. The tragedy is that a small proportion of the electorate will fall for it. The best we can hope for is that being bewildered souls, they won't be able to find their way to a polling booth.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the very few actors I would go to see regardless of what film he was in. His death from a heroin overdose was a shock and a tragedy.

But it brought into the open a strange phenomenon. Suddenly the press was full of junkies and ex-junkies describing how their lives had been affected by their drug habits.

The justification, presumably, was that all this publicity would serve as a warning to others. But in the eyes of the impressionable, the overall effect may have been to romanticise drug addiction and lend it in air of alluring mystique.

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Even former junkies who have been clean for years seem to relish talking, almost to the point of boasting, about their addiction.

There's a note of nostalgic yearning in the way some recall their junkie days, as if they still rather miss the buzz and the danger. And the media seem to get a vicarious thrill from recounting their stories. Perhaps they should all just shut up.

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One of the least surprising pieces of news in the past 100 years or so is the revelation that women in the armed forces are given a hard time.

Allowing women to join the military may have been considered a glorious milestone in the march to sexual equality, but it was bound to end in tears.

The armed services have been male institutions for centuries. They attract men who enjoy the company of other men.

Expecting them to shed their strange tribal traditions and open their arms to women was a worthy but naive ideal. Bullying and sexual harassment, as reported last week, were almost inevitable. Personally, I don't understand why any sensible woman would want to join the military in the first place. It makes as much sense as a rabbi applying to join al Qaeda.

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I recently drove across the Rimutaka Hill behind a McLaren sports car. It was so low you could park it in the garage without having to open the roller door.

I have no idea what it would be worth, but I'd hazard a guess and say several hundred thousand.

What intrigued me was its colour. It was grey. Now why would you spend megabucks on one of the world's most exciting performance cars and have it painted a dull grey? It's a mystery.

Perhaps this says something about us as a country. Internationally, the most popular car colour is white, but my own unscientific surveys suggest that in New Zealand it's grey. Perhaps that should be the colour of the new flag everyone's talking about.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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