Tinkering-1

Mr John Clarke

Things that don’t quite fit anywhere else go here.

New Zealand is the most beautiful country in the world, as is clearly stated in the UN Charter. (I think it’s in Article 17). The land is nourished by warm sunshine each morning and receives the benediction of good rainfall around lunchtime. It is an egalitarian nation made up of well over four million rugged individualists and naturally gifted sportspeople and is run on alternate days by the government and whoever bought the national infrastructure.

Like Australia, New Zealand was established as a colonial economy by the British. This meant they bought our wool and our meat, although not for our benefit. It was purchased from the farmers by British companies, shipped on British ships and processed in British factories before being sold in British shops in British currency. The money then went into British banks. I think we can probably all see the problem here. The British made more out of New Zealand than the New Zealanders did. This changed slightly in the early 1970s when Britain went into the Common Market. Kids had been doing school projects about this throughout the 1960s but it came as an enormous surprise to the New Zealand government and it has taken them some time to adjust. The principal business in New Zealand used to be sheep but the country has now moved into milk in a big way and if you’d like to enjoy the beautifully clean swift-flowing New Zealand river system, you should make every effort to get out there before the dairy industry gets any more successful. New Zealand also produces a large quantity of fruit, wine, fish, coal, wood pulp, flightless birds, cups of tea, middle-distance runners and other people’s film industries.

Before the British, the Maori people arrived from Hawaii in the year 1273, at about quarter past 4 in the afternoon. There were allegedly people here before that, called the Moriori, and there may have been people even before that. Harry Armitage has been a stock agent up around Raetihi for at least that long and he tells me his father had the pub at Te Karaka.

Like most of the world’s major democracies, New Zealand is run by international capital and a few local big-shots who tickle the till and produce a set of annual accounts in a full range of colours. There is a national parliament in Wellington, which looks like the hats in the Devo clip ‘Whip It’, although very little of any importance has ever occurred there. The country works a lot better during the weekends than it does during the week, there are no states and the senate voted itself out of existence after the Second World War. When the Lower House eventually follows their excellent example, constitutional experts agree the next step will be beers all round.

In 1893, women in New Zealand were the first in the world to get the vote and in more recent times women have had a run as Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, Chief Justice and Governor General. Even the Queen is a woman. The country’s most famous pop singer, best known opera star, most famous short story writer, greatest novelist and most consistent world champion athlete are all women. They’re not allowed in the All Blacks as yet, but don’t be fooled. It’s just a matter of time. New Zealand women are stroppy, imaginative and a major strength in both the Maori and Pakeha cultures. In some New Zealand families, women are practically running things.

During the 1970s, New Zealand was confronted by very serious economic and political crises, although according to police records, there’s some suspicion these were both inside jobs. During that period New Zealand rugby administrators were ex-forwards who looked like spuds in their jackets and when they announced that they were sending an All Black team on a tour to South Africa, there were suggestions it might be time to go and get some new spuds, and maybe some who’d played in the backs. At this stage Nelson Mandela had served about ten of his twenty-seven years in prison and the rest of the world took the radical left-wing position that democracy might be worth a try in the region. New Zealand Prime Minister Norman Kirk went to see the Rugby Union.
‘I’m the Prime Minister’ he explained.
‘Is that right?’ said the spuds. ‘Take a number’.
‘We’d rather you didn’t go to South Africa’ said Norman. ‘It will look like an endorsement of the white supremacist policies of the South African government, to which we are opposed’.
‘So what?’ said the spuds. (I’m summarising a bit here, obviously).
‘So it’s not going to happen’, explained Norman.
The spuds were furious. They saw this action by the government as a direct threat to the way the country was run, and after a smaller Prime Minister had been elected in 1975, the tour went ahead. As a result of New Zealand’s endorsement of the white supremacist South African regime, the Montreal Olympics in 1976 were boycotted by twenty-six African nations.
‘So what?’ said the spuds and the smaller Prime Minister.
And so it was that the return Springbok tour of New Zealand in 1981 was a famous disaster, for the spuds and the government did not have the support of the people and the nation was divided and brother spoke not to brother, nor sister to sister, nor yet generation to generation, each of its kind. And there was a gnashing of teeth and the scribes were thrown into a great confusion and there came a heavy sadness upon the people and upon the land, and upon the face of the deep.

The economic crisis of the 1970s occurred over the issue of debt. Was the New Zealand economy borrowing too much overseas? While this question was being considered by economists, a Debt for Equity Swap was organised by a group called ‘I Just Drove the Getaway Vehicle’. At the time government policy had not yet been out-sourced; we still owned the infrastructure, the power, the gas, the water, the phones, the post office and the national airline. The Bank of New Zealand was still a New Zealand bank and one or two of the newspapers were still owned in the country. During the early 1980s however, the New Zealand economy was put in the hands of finance ministers due to a filing error, and authorities are still looking for the black box. A social democracy with only one previous owner was asset-stripped and replaced by a series of franchises. Even rugby sides stopped being called Canterbury, Wellington, Otago and Auckland and were instead given the names of animals, colours and weather conditions. The next thing anyone knew they’d appointed a currency dealer as Prime Minister and the equities market became a place of worship.

New Zealanders don’t have much trouble working out what they think. It’s the next bit that might need some work. In 1969 I was standing in a pub in a country town in Otago. They’d run out of Speights and we were drinking a beverage produced in the north. The man next to me was deeply unimpressed and made a number of uncharitable statements about the quality of what was on offer.
‘You don’t like it? I said.
'I don’t’ confirmed the man. ‘It’s bloody terrible’ he said. He then thought for a moment and resolved the matter in his mind. ‘This the worst beer I’ve ever tasted’ he said. ‘I’ll be glad when I’ve had enough’.
This probably wasn’t the answer. Complaining about what’s wrong but not taking action, has the same effect as not noticing what’s wrong.

Incidentally, New Zealand remains the most beautiful country in the world. There’s no question about this. You can go to any part of it with confidence, at any time of year, with the possible exception of Hawera at Christmas, Otautau in August and Taihape in a stiff westerly.

We had a wonderful response to our bumper post-Budget quiz and we thank everyone who entered. The winner was Jan Juc of Jan Juc. And our congratulations go to you Jan. For the record, the answers were as follows:

  1. True. The picture shows Treasurer Joe Hockey picking up his parliamentary entitlements. This is an example of heavy lifting. Note that he bends at the knees.

  2. False. There is no plan to privatise HECS debt. The reason Christopher Pyne is shifting universities to the ‘interest-free for six months on all white-goods’ model, is simply a concern for quality in tertiary education.

  3. False. The fact that Tony Abbott has promised something does not mean it will definitely not happen. Try to remember whether the promise was written down, whether it was a ‘solemn’ promise, whether it was ‘fair dinkum,’ whether he has ‘moved on’, whether it was ‘fundamentally honest’, whether it was a promise he was ‘determined to keep’, whether it was broken ‘temporarily’ and whether or not there was an election on.

  4. True. Joe Hockey and Mathius Cormann were given the task of leaking the budget and marketing its underlying agenda. The cigars were a masterstroke.

  5. True. The national audit of Australia’s fiscal position did not include a discussion of the government’s income.

  6. True. Joe Hockey’s response to the state of the Australian budget when he came into office was to give $9b to the Reserve Bank and announce an inherited liquidity crisis.

  7. True. Tony Shepherd is a corporate leader with particular expertise in running businesses which used to be government infrastructure. His recommendations included the sale of more government infrastructure. This was completely unexpected.

  8. False. When the National audit was announced, Joe Hockey, Tony Shepherd and Mathius Cormann were not laughing at the content of the report and the effect it would have. They were remembering a very amusing story which they’d been told some days previously.

  9. False. It is not true that when Arthur Sinodinos remembered his name during the ICAC hearing, the NSW Bar Association rose to its feet and sang the Hallelujah Chorus.

  10. False. The photograph shows Clive Palmer. Jupiter is a planet.

  11. True. In the city of Melbourne, the streets are available for use by the public provided this wouldn’t cause any inconvenience for property developers, crane operators or construction companies.

  12. True. The finding of the International Court at The Hague was that the Port Adelaide football team is not using opposition sides for scientific experiment. They are simply killing them.

  13. False. It is not possible to obtain results from next season’s cricket fixtures by calling Cricket Australia.

  14. False. Barry O'Farrell still cannot remember being the Premier of NSW. He stressed that it’s quite an important job and if he’d ever done it, he’s pretty sure he would have remembered it.

  15. False. The photo was not taken during a school outing. The person grinning in the cockpit of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft is the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

  16. False. George Pell has not been put in charge of re-arranging the tables of the money-lenders at the Vatican. He’s gone there to help clean up their finances.

  17. False. There is no connection whatever between the involvement of Denis Napthine in anything and his connection with anything else. He has never met anyone and did not know of his own involvement or that of anyone else in whatever it was.

  18. False. ‘You know nothing Jon Snow’ is a line from ‘Game of Thrones’. It is not the advice of Mr Snow’s barrister at the ICAC hearings. There is no Mr Snow at the ICAC hearings. If there were, he would know nothing, although the blood would drain from his face slightly when the documents were tabled.

  19. You were asked for the next name in the following sequence: Aristotle, Copernicus, Galileo, Issac Newton and Albert Einstein. The answer of course, is Cyril Rioli.

  20. False. The photograph shows a Sesame Street puppet called Beaker. Christopher Pyne is the Education Minister.

Bryan speaks to another migratory waterbird (his fourth).

This Spokesbird appears by arrangement with Birdlife Australia and Ruddy Turnstones Anonymous.

Bryan continues with his excellent project of interviewing migratory waterbirds before they fly to Northern Asia. Here he speaks to a bar-tailed godwit.

This Spokesbird appears by arrangement with Birdlife Australia and the Global Godwits Association.

Bryan continues with his excellent project for Birdlife Australia, interviewing various migratory waterbirds before they fly to Northern Asia. Here he speaks to an Eastern Curlew.

An Eastern Curlew.

This Spokesbird appears by arrangement with Birdlife Australia and The Pan-National Association of Eastern Curlews.

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