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Yesterdaze: Navigating the Great Barrier Beef

James Elliott is bemused, confused and bewildered in the wake of a tour de farce summit and a trans-Tasman deportation tiff

As any working parent will agree, successfully wrangling the winter school holidays is a challenge that should be worthy of a public honour. It’s a two to three week campaign to maintain a semblance of order on the precipice of chaos, especially preventing bored house-bound children from lashing out at their siblings. On the other hand it’s business as usual for politicians to be lashing out at their peers when House-bound. It’s trying to prevent them from lashing out unnecessarily when they’re on Parliamentary recess that’s the real challenge.

Case in point, Andrew Little. He took it on himself this week to lash out at Australia charging that their deportation of New Zealanders had a ‘venal, political strain’ to it and that Australia ‘doesn’t look like our best friend’. Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton was clearly not afeared of the beard and fired straight back in true frenemy fashion saying he was ‘really disappointed’ in Little’s comments and that there was a lot that Australia did for New Zealand in relation to border security, especially as ‘a big land mass between them and boats coming from Indonesia and South-East Asia’.  

The Great Barrier Beef showed no signs of abating when Little doubled-down on his comments and Dutton expressed his frustration at not being able to deport New Zealanders with dual citizenship. I assume he meant New Zealanders with dual citizenship and convicted of deportation offences in Australia but maybe that qualifier should be checked. Dutton’s trying to get the deportation law changed in Australia, and while they’re at it they should probably change the name of his portfolio to Minister of Home and Away Affairs.

To be fair to both Little and Dutton there’s a fair degree of confusion in international affairs right now as to who is friend and who is foe, thanks almost entirely to the harum-scarum globetrotter Donald Trump. The US President has just completed the least successful European venture since the defeat of the Ottoman fleet by the Venetian and Spanish Empires at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. That is quite some achievement given how many failed European campaigns there have been in the intervening 400 plus years.

Guyon Espiner’s interviews of Winston Peters are the radio equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show only they cut straight to the part where estranged family members try to drag each other around the studio by their hair.   

It was Trump’s tour de farce summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin that garnered all the headlines. In response to Trump’s comments about Russian meddling in the 2016 US election Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters told Guyon Espiner on Morning Report ‘I’m bemused, we’re all confused, we’re all bewildered’. After listening to Peters’ comments about Trump’s comments I too was bemused, confused and bewildered. 

Guyon Espiner’s interviews of Winston Peters are the radio equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show only they cut straight to the part where estranged family members try to drag each other around the studio by their hair.     

The airwaves positively crackle with passive aggressive tension as Guyon intones - ‘and Mr Peters joins me now …’ - before pausing to read the welcome he’s been instructed to say non-sarcastically but generally fails to do so – ‘good morning’. Winston responds with a menacing ‘good morning’ of his own as if they’re touching gloves. Good radio is about getting to the point. Guyon and Winston understand this as they dispense with the passive part of passive aggressive in a matter of seconds like a couple of truculent teenagers launching at each other straight after the final school bell. If there was ever a compelling case for national radio being fully funded to become public service television then surely Espiner vs Peters in Morning Retort is it.   

It was also a notable week for Winston with NZ First marking its first 25 years. I know, it seems longer. So much longer. I need to rethink the whole space-time continuum thing longer. And now there’s only another 40 years to go until NZ First can get its own SuperGold Card, not that NZ First has ever had to wait anywhere near that long to get its own government-funded concessions.    

SuperGold Card holders were probably among travellers experiencing delays and frustrations on Wellington’s new Metlink bus service this week. A Council spokesman acknowledged there were ‘bumps in the road’ with the new service, the irony being that the problems were caused by every other logistical issue imaginable, except for actual bumps in the road.       

Another traveller who can be spotted on - but never in the back of - a bus was having his own problems over the holidays. Mike Hosking apparently had a terrible time in Hawaii and won’t be going back, prompting a number of New Zealand regions to implore Hawaii as to how they managed to achieve that. However, Hosking’s travel travails didn’t prevent him penning his regular, and I’m being generous here, think-pieces, including a declaration that Trump’s tour of Europe was a ‘triumph’ and that Spinoff TV is ‘crap and a waste of our money’ even though he acknowledged he hadn’t seen the show – which is as perfect a blend of admission and projection as you can get in seven words.             

Have a peaceful weekend.

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