Monday, 27 February 2006

Life's never dull when you're David Benson-Pope...

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Saturday, 25 February 2006

DBP denies fresh set of allegations

Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope can expect a rough ride in Parliament next week, after a fresh series of allegation against him.

The latest round began with Investigate Magazine's cover story last week, which detailed further incidents involving the MP, while he was a teacher at Dunedin's Bayfield High School.

The allegations, which were part of the Police investigation into the "Tennisgate" case last year, included an incident where Benson-Pope forced 14 year old schoolgirls stand outside in the cold in just their underwear and nighties, while he watched for up to an hour. The incident allegedly happened during a school camp at Tautuku in 1982.

Witnesses told Police the former Associate Minister of Education was a "sleazy" teacher... "the girls... felt he was always staring at our legs beneath the desks... he seemed to thrive on it"...

PM Clark again backed Benson-Pope following Investigate's story last week, saying there was nothing new in the claims. However, over a hundred former Bayfield High School students responded to the magazine's article, backing the allegations and providing fresh ones.

The new information could force Police to reopen the case into Benson-Pope. It was closed last year, with Police declaring they had found a "prime facie" case against the Minster, but had decided not to lay charges because of the historical nature of the allegations.

The allegations, detailed further on Investigate's website include:

* A female student who failed to count to ten in German claims she was slapped across her thigh with a ruler by David Benson-Pope, leaving a red mark... "I seriously would like to have him in a room and tied to a chair so I could knock the living shit out of him! To be quite honest."

* Allegations that Benson-Pope walked in unannounced on up to 25 girls, getting changed after a mud run at camp... "[he] lingered, staring, for 30 seconds... [the girls were ] screaming and yelling and telling him to get out"... "Me and my parents made a formal complaint about it, but nothing was done about it."

* That the former-teacher "watched naked schoolgirls while they showered, after bursting in on them in the shower block at a school camp in 1997".

* Other students backing up the 'outside in their nighties' story... "The punishment was for us guys to strip down to our grots, and stand outside along with some of the other girls... one [of the teachers] was definitely David Benson-Pope..."

Opposition parties are expected to give DBP and the Government a very hard time next week, and the question must be asked as to whether the continuing spotlight on the Minster makes him a liability in Cabinet... especially following on from the quote released from Mark Unsworth's book on MPs... Social Development Minister David Benson-Pope: "Regarded as a pompous prat by some colleagues."

* Full details on Investigate Magazine's website (and I assume their next few editions?!)
* Herald on Sunday: New questions for Benson-Pope

* Rodney Hide: David Benson-Pope Number -- I have lost count

* Sir Humphrey's: New DBP Allegations
* Whale Oil Beef Hooked: Investigate releases new DBP allegations

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Friday, 24 February 2006

The First Years take over Dunedin's main street

A few thousand students marched down Dunedin's main street on Tuesday night, in the annual "First Day Parade and Toga Party".

New sheets from the beds of first year Otago University students were fashioned into a range of Toga styles... the serious ones completing the look with a pair or sandals and a leafy head wreath.

The 2006 Toga Parade began at the Dental School, travelling along George Street to finish at Dunedin's Octagon, where the new scarfies were welcomed by Mayor Peter Chin.

A movie & lesson in Otago chanting followed, before the infamous Toga Party at the University Union...

[ Right now I'm listening to:
^ Pink - U + Ur Hand (new Max Martin track)
^ Marie Serneholt - That's The Way My Heart Goes ]

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Thanks for the new bedsheets Mum!

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Damon shoots in the firing line at the Toga Parade

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Hi Mum! I've made some new friends! ;-)

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This is what you sent your kids to Uni for ;-)

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Some new students aren't quite sure what it's all about

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The lads try to encourage the girls into a 'Wet Toga' competition in the Octagon water fountains

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Arana Hall students protest the "Brokeback" claims by their colleagues from Unicol ;-)

According to the Unicol chant, "Arana takes it up the arse"... Arana seemed content with the more direct "F*** off Selwyn" as their enemy-Hall chant ;-)

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Hamish's media mafia search out the real scoop

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Channel 9's Cow TV crew meet the locals

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Friday, 17 February 2006

Streaking's Just Not Cricket says Waddle

New Zealand Cricket commentator, Brian Waddle, is calling for harsher penalties for people who interrupt cricket matches by streaking.

Four fans ran onto the pitch in Auckland on Thursday, during the Twenty20 match between the Black Caps and the West Indies.

Three lads and one female ran on during the course of the game, and were all tackled and carried away by security guards.

According to Newstalk ZB, the fourth streaker was a woman who ran on at a crucial time of the match. The report notes "She appeared to have been knocked out cold when tackled by a security guard".

Sounds like a rough end to a bit of high spirited hijinx. Streaking's been part of Cricket and many other sports for years. The streaks generally fueled by alcohol... the naked runs often the result of a dare by mates.
They give (most of) the crowd and players a bit of a laugh, and can liven up the dull periods in a longer game. (TV meanwhile tries to pretend they don't happen... Just listen for a sudden increase in crowd volume, while the commentators quickly try to pad time by talking over a few random graphics).

But now longtime radio commentator Brian Waddle is calling for "a crackdown on streakers". He wants to see $5,000 instant fines for those flashing their naked selves across kiwi cricket fields!

Ouch! I say Boo. Another attempt to kill the fun from a day at the cricket. The report states, "Eden Park & NZ Cricket are also trying to stem drunken behaviour which has marred several recent matches".

While I agree the offensive abuse and bottle throwing at players is unacceptable, officials are in danger of driving fans away from their live games. It's far less hassle to simply watch the matches at home on a big widescreen telly with a bunch of mates and some beers.

Here in Dunedin, Carisbrook banned couches from the old terraces a few years back to prevent the hilarious age-old tradition of couch-burning at the cricket (which was a hell of a lot of fun!)

I remember one incident where they had to take an early drinks break in a game against Sri Lanka, after smoke from a burning couch in front of us drifted out over the pitch, as well as shooting straight up in front of the tv commentary box ;-)

(At the same match, a guy dressed in a clown costume managed to dodge 2 security guards to reach the players in the middle... He then handed well-rounded captain Arjuna Ranatunga his pie, saying "You need this more than me!")

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$4.4 Billion won't even buy a pack of Chewing Gum!

Treasury have reported an operating surplus of $4.4 billion run by the Labour-led Government, in the first half of the 2005/06 financial year... well ahead of forecasts.

Despite this, Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen told the Finance and Expenditure Committee yesterday, “People who think there should be tax cuts on the back of big surpluses should be taken out and quietly drowned”. What a charming man(/Annunaki?)

Apparently, the $4.4 billion surplus is so small, that Dr Cullen's now threatening to cancel his highly touted "Chewing Gum Tax Cuts". (Damn, that 67 cents a week extra would have come in handy! ;-)

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Who do you think you are kidding, Hillin Cluck?

It seems the Labour Party are planning to lodge official complaints with Police and election bosses over the pamphlets distributed by members of the Exclusive Brethren church during last year's election campaign.

National says Hillin Cluck should pay back taxpayers, producing a mock-up of a cheque for $446,815 which they asked the PM to sign on behalf of the Labour Party.

But, in a desperate attempt to divert media attention away from their sneaky spending of taxpayers money on a "Pledge card" and glossy brochure, Labour are now hiring lawyers to try and construct a case to have the Brethren's spending including as part of the National Party's election expenses.

Ms Cluck was straining to come up with a case yesterday in Parliament... "I am sure Dr Brash thinks it is not attributable expenditure to have the Exclusive Brethren take lines straight out of National Party policy and put them in leaflets. Where is that in his party’s election return?".

On that basis, Labour's overspending must be well over $1.5 million - given the amount of money spent on their behalf by the country's Unions (at this and every election prior).

The Labour Party is quick to criticise anyone who supports other political parties, but don't see anything wrong in working with unions to coordinate electioneering propaganda on their behalf - paid for in part by the taxpayer. Where is that in your election return Hillin Cluck?

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Friday, 10 February 2006

Labour fails their Maths test

The Electoral Commission is referring the Labour Party to the Police, for possible overspending in last year's General Election, and committing an offence under the Electoral Act.

Labour spent $2,798,603 in its 2005 campaign, $418,603 more than its legal limit.

I'd suggest the Labour Party send their accounting department back to school for some basic maths revision, but given New Zealand schools now run under the atrociously appalling NCEA system, that would probably only make their skills worse ;-)

Some of the alleged overspending relates to Labour's official red pledge card and a lovely glossy letter from PM Helen Clark. The letters arrived in mailboxes around the country in the runup to the election, and featured the stamp of the House of Representatives... indicating they were paid for out of the Parliamentary Services budget, rather than Labour Party funds.

Labour's disputing the Electoral Commissions claim, despite having already been told last year by the Chief Electoral Officer that he considered the pledge cards as election activity (and therefore should have been included in their spending arithmetic).

Things are a little hazy now, but this may or may not be a copy of Labour's Official Pledge Card... ;-)

** Credit to the original creators... David Farrar at Kiwiblog, and the gang at Whale Oil Beef Hooked...

* NZ Herald: Labour's $440,000 election spend probed
* Kiwiblog (David Farrar): When were Labour told?
* Elections NZ: Election Expenses - Labour referred to police & parties slammed for lateness

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Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Mountain Biking in the forest

Working on a story on French-based-Dunedin-born Cross country mountain biker Kashi Leuchs, who's home for the National Champs/Oceanias/Commonwealth Games.

He's aiming to win all three, and has made a good start by taking the National Title in Nelson. We went to Bethunes Gully to get him riding the tracks up there.

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Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Geordie Ups and Downs

It's been a bumpy couple of weeks for my beloved Newcastle United...

First the Magpies sacked manager Graeme Souness, as the premier league club languised at bottom end of the table. Since the Scotsman took over at St James' Park, the Magpies had won just 26 of their 83 games. He also spent almost 50 million pounds (UK) on new players, with unimpressive results.

Former Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson was critical of some of Souness's transfer decisions, and said his sacking was inevitable. He accepts a bad run of injuries didn't help him, but the calibre of his players should have returned better results. Robson also criticised his successor for letting a lot of good young player leave the club.

Robson himself was sacked in August 2004 after a five year stint at the helm, following a fifth place finish for Newcastle United. The team were sitting in 15th spot just a week after Souness was dumped following his 17 month term.
Former England captain Alan Shearer took on the role of assistant to caretaker boss Glenn Roeder. Shearer then broke Newcastle United’s goal-scoring record in a 2-0 win at Tyneside over Portsmouth, overtaking Jackie Milburn's record of 200 goals for the club.

The win was Newcastle’s first in seven league games. However, Shearer says he wishes his former boss got to see him beat the record.

"The goal was a big, big goal for me... I wish Graeme was here to see it because whatever anyone thinks of him, he's an honest, decent, hard-working, genuine man."

Souness' biggest achievement was signing star striker Michael Owen from Real Madrid for a hefty 17 million pounds. However Owen's initial impact of the team halted when he broke a bone in his foot, knocking him out of action until at least April.

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Monday, 6 February 2006

A Scenic Chopper Ride

Managed to get a ride in a 'Squirrel' helicopter while I was doing a news story up Mt Cook way over the weekend.

Have had a few rides in smaller choppers over the last couple of years for work, but this was my first time in a Squirrel (seats 6 people, leather seats, very cool)...

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Hovering over the road just near Glentanner station, about 15 kms from Mt Cook. Just waiting for vehicles in a vintage car rally to pass by below, commemorating a century since the first journey by car into Mt Cook...

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What's this story about again?

Shay preparing to shoot some scenic shots from the back seat of the chopper...

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Liz smiles for the Paparazzi

We even ran into former-Channel-9'er-turned-Radio-Live'er Lizzie Glass at the Mt Cook Hermitage Hotel (where the Vintage Cars were finishing up).

She should have been there working like the Radio NZ girl there, but she was just up on holiday in the Hakataramea Valley, where she's hoping to one day settle down to life on the farm with her man ;-)

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