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Yesterdaze: Attendance Deficit Disorder

From the haphazard keyboard bashings of Waitangi Day, to non-BBQ leadership skewers, James Elliott takes a look at the news of the week

This week saw one of the most important days in our national calendar. A day when we reflect on the essence of our nationhood and honour the achievements that go with that. It is a day that can be marked with angst and discord as to whether the obligation to honour appropriately has been met. But before the debate as to who should have won the Halberg Awards kicked off on Thursday night there was the not altogether insignificant matter of Waitangi Day on Tuesday.

Waitangi Day has often been marked by protest and this year was no different with Mike Hosking and the NBR both in the front line of protestors competing to be this year’s flying dildo. 

Mike Hosking submitted a solid entry with his Monday editorial Why do we bother with Waitangi? - not to be confused with his 2017 piece Waitangi: why do we bother? or his 2016 offering Why Waitangi bothers me.

The NBR’s Waitangi Day contribution may have started with consideration of testing the theory that a room full of chimpanzees and typewriters will eventually produce a brilliant manuscript. 

Perhaps recognising the potential legal and reputational fishhooks of publishing the haphazard keyboard bashings of incarcerated primates the NBR went with what proved to be the riskier option of publishing a Bob Jones column calling for Waitangi Day to be replaced with “Maori Gratification Day” (later changed to “Maori Appreciation Day). 

Protests followed and the NBR removed the online version of the column. The NBR and Jones then parted company, engaging in a “I dumped him first” tit for tat like a couple of pouting teenagers. 

The simple explanation for Bill being in Bluff on Waitangi Day was that there wasn’t a suitable event on Stewart Island.

At Waitangi itself, PM Jacinda Ardern was getting to the end of her five-day visit, curing the previous government’s attendance deficit disorder in one fell swoop. Indeed there was definitely a healing vibe about this year’s formal Waitangi Day celebrations. And nowhere was the healing more apparent than in the miraculous recovery on Tuesday of the many people who were too sick to go to work on the inconveniently placed work day on Monday. 

The PM’s efforts at Waitangi were widely applauded, almost to the point of a Trump-by-proxy adulation: “She Alone Can Fix It …and also BBQ”. Winston was there too, apparently. Not that you’d know it because someone seems to have found the button on his blazer that doubles as a mute button.    

Meanwhile Bill English was 1893 kilometres to the south in Bluff. “Why Bluff?” everyone asked. Literally everyone. “Why Bluff?” even pops up when you type in Bluff as a destination in Google Maps.

The simple explanation for Bill being in Bluff on Waitangi Day was that there wasn’t a suitable event on Stewart Island. There was nothing symbolic about being as far away from Waitangi as you can get, insisted the man who then posted a picture of himself holding a Tuatara, inviting a predictable flurry of jokes about the symbolism of dinosaurs, fossils and endangered species. It seems Bill’s not one to ever miss out on missing out on the right optics.

Leadership discussions were however in full swing over at the Greens. Marama Davidson and Julie Anne Genter each announced their candidacy for the co-leadership, resulting in the most non-Green of outcomes, a run-off.

Bill then retreated to the National caucus retreat in Tauranga, where Simon Bridges was touting his own leadership credentials by doing his best to match the PM’s BBQ skills. Lots of skewers were being marinaded, just none for the BBQ. Bill insisted there would be no leadership discussions during the two-day retreat, so just the traditional gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands and pointing of fingers.  

Leadership discussions were however in full swing over at the Greens. Marama Davidson and Julie Anne Genter each announced their candidacy for the co-leadership, resulting in the most non-Green of outcomes, a run-off.           

Also off and running was Education Minister Chris Hipkins. On Thursday he introduced an Education Amendment Bill to end National Standards and charter schools. That poses an interesting challenge as to what to do with the 11 existing charter schools. It appears there are a range of options ranging from closure to shutdown to cessation. But nothing’s pre-determined so we shall just have to wait and see.

Towards the end of the week the worldwide rocket craze continued with the SpaceX launch in Florida of the world’s most powerful rocket. And not only the most powerful, also the first rocket to launch a car into orbit, making our own Rocket Lab’s Humanity Star disco-ball satellite suddenly look modest and a tad unambitious.

Finally from the right stuff to stuff from the right, it was confirmed on Friday morning that Matthew Hooton has been appointed as Mongolia’s Honorary Consul to New Zealand. I know, it sounds like an announcement that only a chimpanzee and an Olivetti typewriter could come up with, but apparently not.   

Have a peaceful weekend.