Hard News by Russell Brown


Jones: The contender leaves

Like John Tamihere before him, Shane Jones entered Parliament burdened with the promise that he might be first Maori Prime Minister. That promise had probably left him before it emerged yesterday evening that he was walking away from politics, but that's the Jones that Morgan Godfery mourns today in an eloquent, emotional post that identifies, for better and worse, Jones' political whakapapa and his meaning for many Maori.

Maori political history isn't rich with choice. Telling us to wait for a more "progressive" candidate is deeply offensive. Maori have waited too long for too little. Shane was an opportunity and one many - including myself - were willing to back. He wasn’t perfect, but he was as close as we’ve come in more than a decade to the centre of power. Winston was the last Maori politician to come close to real power. It’s been a century since Maori actually touched it (Carroll as acting prime minister). Forgive us for working with what we have.

Morgan was not alone in his perspective after the news broke. As always seems to be the case, his departure was Labour's fault -- in this instance for allowing its white, liberal membership to  squander the talents of a uniquely gifted leader.

But no one owed Jones any glory. He's intelligent and articulate and he was brought into politics by the modern Labour Party's most important broker of influence, Helen Clark. He had every chance, but he lacked the focus and discipline to harness his gifts and opportunities.

Danyl McLauchlan draws the other side of Jones in a short, pointed I-told-you-so post:

The press gallery – with its usual acumen – decided that speaking like an eccentric Victorian-era Oxford don meant that Jonesy was ‘connecting with working class kiwis’. I never saw any evidence of this. Jones performed poorly as an electorate candidate during multiple elections: actual voters were never as impressed with him as the gallery were. During the Labour leadership campaign Jones’ support among Maori voters was only 37% – which strikes me as shockingly low, considering they’re being offered the chance to endorse a contender for first Maori Prime Minister. It reflects – I suspect – Jonsey’s incredibly low support among female voters across the board.

For good measure, he writes off Jones as "an undisciplined, waffling misogynist who probably cost [Labour] more votes than he ever won."

Both sides of Shane Jones have been on display this year. On the one hand, his work in making the Countdown supermarkets' business practices an issue has been textbook Opposition politics. On the other, his pointless, destructive attacks on the Green Party actively hampered Labour in looking like a prospective government.

It is now evident that through all this he was considering his exit. He was clever enough to feed Matthew Hooton the suggestion that he had his eye on New Zealand First, to see how that played, but I don't think this was all calculation. In the end, he wanted out. He had concerns that he might not fare well in this year's party list and, I gather, personal reasons for reconsidering the hurly-burly of politics.

The pundits are as one today in their analysis of how bad this is for Labour (and, if you couldn't guess, it's all Labour's fault, because it always is). But there's one huge, wild piece of luck in in this for the party. The next candidate on the list is Kelvin Davis.

Like Jones, Davis is northern Maori. He's an authentic bloke. But he's not the reserve Shane Jones coming off the bench. He's smart, sensitive, disciplined and understands and wants to be part of the Labour Party story. He hasn't put a foot wrong since he got the news last night, and his interview on Morning Report today was fascinating. And no part of it was more so than the way he concluded it.

When Dover Samuels' claims about Jones' connection with "middle New Zealand" were put to him, he acknowledged similarities: "they talk about red-blooded men, and I'm into sports and standing around in a bar drinking with blokes and things like that ..."

But I have to say one of the big things that I want to achieve in Parliament is to raise the awareness and help to stop violence of any sort -- sexual, physical, emotional violence --- against our women and children. This was brought on by the Roastbusters scandal and the sexual abuse that's been going on in the far north. And I've been sitting here thinking for the last couple of months that if I should get back into Parliament I really want to make a stand and make a difference and say this is how we as males need to behave towards our women.

On a morning when mere punditry is everywhere, it was a thing of real substance to say. Yes, it was also adept in light of Labour politics, but I think he actually meant it. Labour can't do much about the pundits for now, but what it can do is not make the mistake of failing to accord Kelvin Davis a list placing that assures that he will be returned to Parliament. It really is that clear and simple.


Sorting out our thinking on drugs

That we have a trade in synthetic cannabinomimetics is not, as most of the country currently seems to believe, a consequence of the Psychoactive Substances Act passing last July. That business existed before July and, indeed, was substantially larger and looser. The reason the market exists is because marijuana is prohibited.

One of the key arguments for regulation rather than progressive prohibition of psychoactive drugs is that the drug that takes the niche of the one you ban is quite likely to be worse -- or at least considerably more of a mystery. We've seen that with Ecstasy and LSD and we're currently experiencing a texbook case with cannabis. 

Indeed, it may be that we've done the same thing with synthetic cannabis substitutes themselves. Remember, we're been banning these things for years. It's easy to forget -- and the news media doesn't seem terribly keen to remind us -- that back in 2011, Peter Dunne issued a press statement under the triumphant headline All synthetic cannabis products to be banned. No fewer than 43 products were removed from sale in one go. And then there were more. And more.

It's possible that along the way we banned products that, given the chance, might actually be deemed "low risk" under the Act and approved for sale. But my sense is that most or all of the synthetic cannabinomimetics (I'm training myself to use that term, because these chemicals aren't actually cannabinoids) aren't a good bet for regulated sale. While they have an affinity for same receptors in the brain as cannabis, they have a much stronger effect on those receptors and the consequences of that are unpredictable and, as we've seen, even dangerous.

And yet, prohibiting cannabis and then a string of cannabis stubstitutes has done nothing to remove cannabis's social niche. It's entrenched. And what's interesting is that we're starting to see mainstream voices calling for the thing that would have prevented a market for cannabis substitutes ever starting up: a change in the law around cannabis itself.

The Sunday Star Times' latest editorial goes further, pointing out that in trying a "laudable" new approach to these new chemicals:

Dunne and his colleagues have opened Pandora's box. Bercause if we're talking harm, then none cause so much misery as alcohol and tobacco. And under the same logic, the sale of MDMA, or Ecstasy to use its street name, should be legalised, -- since there are but a handful of deaths attributed to its use.

It concludes:

Sooner or later, we need a national debate on drug use and abuse: what we are prepared to tolerate, what is unenforceable, and where we should place our resources. 

There may come a point when it is easier and more beneficial to focus on tackling drug addiction to through education and treatment rather than costly and increasingly futile attempts to ban them.

The alternative is to keep doing what we've been doing, in the knowledge that it won't work. At the very least, we need to sort out our thinking on whether it makes sense to try and protect people by criminalising them.

One little-noticed facet of the passage of the Psychoactive Substances Bill was the attempt by Labour's Iain Lees-Galloway to amend the bill to remove what became Clause 71 of the Act, which makes personal possession of an unapproved substance an offence punishable by a $500 fine, on the grounds that “Making the possession of an un-approved substance an offence does nothing to advance the purpose of the Bill." He failed, but he was right to try.

The New South Wales legislature has gone another way, passing a law that bans all psychoactive substances, including those yet unknown, with exceptions for alcohol, tobacco and some herbal products. This will not, needless to say, stop people taking drugs. It's hard to square with any concept of personal liberty. And, most significantly, it sharply curtails the state's ability to minimise the harm from drugs.

When New Zealand enacted prostitution law reform, we had to get past the barrier of prostitution being a moral issue. The reward was that for the first time, sex workers were not only not criminalised, but enjoyed the same workplace protections as other New Zealanders. That's a proper role of the state. We need to move past the morality question on drugs, too, and ask what the state's duty is towards the far larger group of New Zealanders who continue to consume psychoactive drugs.


I've requested and received some material from the Ministry of Health on the way that adverse reactions are being tracked under the Psychoactive Substances Act and I'm hoping to do some interviews. For now, this graph is interesting. It shows calls to the National Poisons Centre about synthetic cannabis spiking after the Psychoactive Substances Act became law in July last year.

Why the jump? Because the Act immediately required that a contact number for the National Poisons Centre be included on product packaging. The ministry believes increased public awareness as a consequence of the bill being in the news played a role too.

Some calls were from people simply seeking information, others reported acute effects, mostly vomiting but also psychological distress. Significantly, callers were able to cite the exact product and active substance, because that had to be on the packaging as well.

The numbers are relatively low, averaging about two a day in the peak month, August. Data for January and February are being assessed at the moment. The NPC calls are one of several reporting sources reviewed by the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority.


Friday Music: Record Store Day

As readers will know, I have long embraced the internet music revolution. The ability to discover and download new things pretty much as they're being made has reinvented and refreshed my lifelong relationship with popular music. But I still really appreciate and understand the way that the vinyl record revival has become a celebration of that music. It's still special to hold a record in your hands.

In recent years, the focus of that celebration has been the worldwide Record Store Day, which stands for everything that isn't the spiritless space of the iTunes Store. This year, Saturday is Record Store Day and there's plenty to know about it.

Firstly, Record Store Day is again being celebrated at Auckland's Real Groovy Records. For a while, Real Groovy looked like it was going to be another digital casualty. But these days, it does more business in vinyl, new and used, than it does in CDs, and it's over the record bins that the buzz is when you go into the store.

This year's also a bit special because last year, pressings failed on all three of the archive releases Real Groovy planned to launch on Record Store Day. This year, they're good to go with those same releases:

La De Da's,  La De Da's

The Scavengers, The Scavengers

Spelling Mistakes, Feels So Good

But wait, it gets better. There are only 500 copies of each of these pressings and Real Groovy has offered me a copy of each to give away to you, dear readers -- just click the email icon at the bottom of the post and put the name of the album you'd like to win in the subject line of your email.

If you haven't won one by Saturday morning (and if you haven't had an email from me by then, you haven't won), you'll have to buy on the day or take your chances on Tuesday, when remaining stock will be available online.

(Real Groovy's Marty O'Donnell told me he has also made copies available to other stores, so they may be at your local.)

There will also be instore entertainment on Saturday, with a lineup of DJs and performances by by Spelling Mistakes and a performance of their new 7" (see below) by The Phoenix Foundation.

I will personally be spinning some platters in the last slot at 5.30pm -- or as I prefer to think of it, "headlining".


Other archival RSD releases on sale on Saturday include the re-release of the Suburban Reptiles' legendary 'Saturday Night Stay At Home' 7" (including the limited-edition gold vinyl pressing) and the new mixed-by-Dave-Fridmann Phoenix Foundation 7".

TPF premiered the bustling a-side, 'Bob Lennon John Dylan', at the Big Day Out earlier in the year and it's just gone up on YouTube:

Flying Nun, meanwhile, has two Record Store Day specials -- re-releases of two early (and long out-of-print) Nun EPs, the Dunedin Double featuring The Verlaines, the Chills, Sneaky Feelings and the Stones (which I wrote about here on Audioculture) and Shayne Carter's first record, Bored Games' Who Killed Colonel Mustard?

Conch Records in Ponsonby will be hosting a free gig by the Disco Special version of She's So Rad at 1pm on Saturday and -- this is rather notable -- will be putting out around 2000 second-hand records, including the trove sold to them by Nick Dwyer before he flew out for a new life in Japan this week, and records from the eclectic collection of the legendary Clinton Smiley

Wellington's Slowboat Records will host instore performances from Dave Dobbyn, Julia Deans and Louis Baker on Saturday.

And Auckland's Southbound Records has a long list of RSD releases lined up for sale.

Feel free to add news of any other events or releases in the comments below.


The Taite Music Prize was awarded last night -- and if you haven't heard, it went to Lorde's Pure Heroine. There will have been those who felt she didn't need an indie music prize -- including herself (she very graciously donated her prize money and studio time back to the other nominees). But I've been on a Taite judging panel, it's a rigorous process, that's a hugely significant record and I'd quite probably have made the same call.

On the other hand, my heart would have given it to the Phoenix Foundation. Fandango is such a rich, prodigious album and it's been the bridesmaid a few times already. So, y'know, that's my personal prize. 

The highlight of the Taites evening for me was the speech by Kerry Buchanan, the one-time drummer of the Terrorways, to mark the classic indie record prize going to the AK79 compilation. Kerry is an erudite man and I was impressed by the way he put Auckland's nascent punk boom into context with the politics of the time. That dude should write more.

And finally, Jose Barbosa has written a great Audioculture article on the man for whom the Taites are named: journalist and iconoclast Dylan Taite.


It's been a big week for the Herald's Hugh Sundae, who fronted and produced the live streaming coverage of the Taites -- and the night before, oversaw the recording of the latest Sundae Session, at the project's new home at Roundhead Studio. The artist was Grayson Gilmour and the video will go up on the Herald site on May 8. Jackson Perry and I were lucky enough to be invited along to the session and I think I speak for both of us in saying that it will be well worth watching online.

For now, here's a picture:


Coachella weekend has been and gone, and once again it felt exciting to to sit in Auckland New Zealand and watch it unfold live on YouTube. Beck was in relaxed command of the stage, the Pet Shop Boys were totally fab, The Pixies and Daughter were pretty cool and Disclosure brought on Mary J. Blige, who tore the place up.

Arcade Fire bringing on Debbie Harry to sing 'Heart of Glass' and 'Sprawl II' turned out to be a better concept than it was a musical experience, but it was a great concept. I think they must now bring on both Anna and Agnetha for 'Sprawl II' when they play Glastonbury.

And then there were the New Zealanders. Former All Black Adam Thomson was tweeting merrily from the the site (high point: a fist-bump with Anthony Keidis) -- and of course, Lorde and the Naked and Famous played.

Lorde was good, and quite unlike anyone else on the bill, but it seemed she was having to work hard -- she had to play in a desert windstorm (Pharrell pretty much gave up singing on the same stage later on), and most of the time she was was in darkness at the front of the stage. (Peter McLennan explained the bizarre lighting to me -- it was set up for the EDM acts, who stood behind a DJ booth at the back of the stage pretending to play something. They were numerous and almost all shit.)

You're better off watching this full video of her recent set at Lollpalooza Brazil, which is better in every way. Really great, in fact:

It's a testament to Lorde's talent that she's been able to step up to these big stages so quickly -- she was pretty much still an unknown schoolkid a year ago -- but I wonder how long she can carry such a demanding format, where it's all on her. At some point she'll want a bigger show. Or not -- who am I to offer advice? 

The Naked and Famous, by contrast, have been living in LA for two years now, and working away towards a breakthrough. I think their Coachella set may well have been that breakthrough. They were assured and seemed to be revelling in their opportunity. By the time they finished with this flawless performance of 'Young Blood' I think they'd won a lot of friends.

All the non-official video has been taken down from YouTube already, but there's a playlist of mostly second-tier acts (Disclosure, Daughter, the 1975, Empire of the Sun, etc) here on the official Coachella channel.

(Weekend 2 will be shot this time, but will only be available on the US AXS TV, a channel specialising in live events. We could do with one of those.)


Elsewhere, The Audience has an appreciation of the Christchurch folk artist Aldous Harding and an interview with the admirable and amiable Benjii Jackson of MUZAI Records, who explains why he's moving the whole operation to the UK.

Also, a nice new hip hop track from Ride:

NZ Underground Dubs Vol 1, an interesting half-hour mix of spooky New Zealand bass music by people you probably haven't heard of, went up as a free download on Soundcloud this week.

And finally, a rework of a Rare Earth track by the reliable Dutch crew RocknRolla Soundsystem. Raging funk:


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



Feed: Grandpa's Kitchen

A huge dog-leg of a section,  2 Saulbrey Grove, off White's Line West in Woburn, is the largest remaining piece of the old Saulbrey family farm and the site of the magnificent red-brick house built by my grandfaher, Jack Saulbrey. When I used to visit as a child, it had the most extraordinary vegetable garden. 

Grandpa Saulbrey's trade as a brickie was not only manifest in the house. The back garden was dominated by a big raised bed built in brick and a large glasshouse where the vines would be heavy with tomatoes for much of the year. The fencelines were planted and in the far corner of the yard the chooks pecked and squabbled in a pen. 

As I've written before, Grandpa suffered great sadness in his life, losing a wife and a daughter in terrible circumstances. It was when his second wife began to slip away that he occupied himself more and more not just with the garden but with preserving its produce. He pickled all sorts: cucumbers, betroot, the lot. The cupboards were full of jars when he died. My mother disposed of most of them. He was never very fussy about properly sterilising the jars, she says.

He was also infamous for his garlic sauce, which contained a goodly helping of chillis from the garden too. We don't think of his generation (he was born in 1911) as having had much truck with such things, but Jack did. Apparently when he had the garlic sauce on the go you could smell it from the end of the street. (I've transcribed the recipe in his exact words below --- the "Ian" mentioned is my father. I might have a go.)

His dream kitchen wasn't what we'd build today. It was small and quite dark, although the ceiling was high. In place of a table there was a diner-style booth. Proper meals were had in the living room next door.

I remember chickens hanging in the kitchen, and the time he greeted us off the plane and told me he'd made rabbit gumbo for me. I'd never had anything like the gumbo, but it was magic and I loved it. Mum recalls the perpetually unruly pressure cooker and Grandapa's old-fashioned habit of boiling cabbage along with the corned beef and how bad that smelled, but not as bad as the fish-head soup, which no one else ever ate.

But it was the tomatoes more than anything by which I recall him. The powerful, fresh, hoppy smell inside the glasshouse, the ones I'd pick fresh and the ones he'd endlessly bottle and serve. The red of the tomatoes and the bricks and the family's ginger locks all blend now together, into the colour of memory.


Jack Saulbrey's Infamous Garlic Sauce

Half a gallon of vinegar

2lb of treacle

Half an ounce of cloves

Half a teaspoon of ground ginger

Half a pound of sugar

Two and a half ounces of chillis

Half a pound of garlic

Two large onions

2lb of apples

Mince garlic and onions and cover with the other ingredients, stand overnight

Boil one hour or perhaps a little longer

Strain through Ian's underpants and add a small bottle of Worcester sauce (not necessary)

Strain again

Put in empty whisky bottle -- or throw out window. Which is it?

(Good for a hangover -- two gulps and you'll never have another one)


Standing together

For those of us in journalism, the most extraordinary and troubling element of the dispute over spending at and around the Kohanga Reo National Trust has been the treatment of the programme that brought the issues to light, Maori Television's Native Affairs.

When Education minister Hekia Parata held a surprise press conference last month to announce the findings of the EY audit of the trust, Native Affairs was pointedly not notified or provided with the audit. Yesterday, when the hui held at Turangawawae to discuss the kohanga movement's future culminated in a press conference, Native Affairs was denied entry.

I've spoken to Maori who were unhappy with the style of Native Affairs' reports on the trust and its commercial subsidiary Te Pataka Ohanga, but I think it's important to note that this hostility towards the journalists began well before these programmes went to air. 

Last year, Native Affairs had to go to the High Court to defeat an injunction brought by the trust that prevented the investigation screening. TKRNT trust board members directly lobbied members of Maori Television's own board, until Maori Television CEO  Jim Mather made it clear that any complaints would have to go through the proper channels. Native Affairs journalists have been placed under pressure in other, less visible, ways.

But it actually goes back further than that. Last August, tangatawhenua.com published a statement from the Mataatua-Tauranga Moana kohanga collective, which was seeking a "whanau-initiated review" of elements of the national trust's operations, including TPO's related-party loans and the level of non-cash compensation to TPO management and directors. It also backed the trust's then-suspended CEO, Titoki Black.

The response was a heavy letter from Chen Palmer on the trust board's behalf declaring that the claims were "false and defamatory" and demanding that the site remove the statement immediately. As a journalist, I can't see this as anything other than legal bullying. To his credit, Potaua Biaisny-Tule the young man owns and operates the site, didn't cave. The wording of the story was reworked to more clearly frame the collective's claims as opinion and you can still read it and part of the defamation letter here on the site.

I'm pretty clear that the kohanga movement is a sphere where history and feelings run deep and that the current problems are for stakeholders to address, not me. It seems that a good start was made on that at Turangawaewae.

But until such time as journalistic scrutiny is not met with intimidation and exclusion, I can only stand in solidarity with my fellow journalists -- much as Tova O'Brien did on 3 News last night when she put questions about the banning of Native Affairs to Tuku Morgan, the hui spokesman. Her questions were angrily dismissed, but I think it's to Tova's credit that she asked them knowing the likely response.

We journalists can be annoying buggers. Sometimes I despair at the work of my peers. But when we're performing our key role in the public sphere, we should have each other's support.