Chorus of disapproval greets Finn's attack on Helen Clark

By Joanna Hunkin

Music veterans Sir Howard Morrison and Ray Columbus yesterday leaped to the defence of the Prime Minister, blasting Neil Finn for saying Helen Clark took undue credit for the success of the local music industry.

An emotional Sir Howard contacted the Herald yesterday, saying: "I'm so bloody mad."

And Columbus weighed in, saying: "In my book she can take as much credit as she likes."

Sir Howard said Helen Clark had consistently supported the New Zealand music industry, which is more than could be said for Finn.

"What's really got up my nose is, here's a guy that had his last farewell in front of a free audience in Sydney. He's never done one of those in New Zealand.

"He doesn't volunteer when asked to do things. To my knowledge, he's been asked and just flatly refused."

Sir Howard's criticism came after the Herald reported Finn's comments in yesterday's newspaper.

Speaking to music magazine Real Groove, Finn said: "It sort of sickens me to see Helen Clark getting up at the music awards and taking the bows."

The Crowded House singer said he thought people had unrealistic expectations of what New Zealand music could achieve overseas, due in large part to New Zealand on Air "dishing out large sums of money".

Sir Howard said he thought Finn was being precious and completely out of line in his criticism of the Prime Minister.

"I just wonder if he's got a kauri stump on his shoulder, rather than a chip," said the 71-year-old entertainer.

Ray Columbus said: "I disagree with Neil ... sadly. [Helen Clark] was the only Minister for the Arts who had the power to change things ... and she did.

"She's the minister of rock 'n' roll in my book. God help Kiwi music when she retires ... in my book she can take as much credit as she likes."

Meanwhile, Neil Finn's name made an appearance on a new stage yesterday: Parliament.

National's arts and culture spokesman, Christopher Finlayson, delved into his Finn brothers record collection to taunt the Prime Minister over Finn's comments to the magazine.

"Could it be, as Tim Finn would say, that the Prime Minister is causing 'a fraction too much friction' for his brother because she is always taking credit for the success of others?" Mr Finlayson asked during Question Time.

He also asked Helen Clark's deputy, Judith Tizard, who answered on the Prime Minister's behalf, whether Helen Clark regretted making a lengthy speech at last year's New Zealand Music Awards.

"Wouldn't it be appropriate for the minister to admit, in the words of the Split Enz song, 'That was my mistake'," Mr Finlayson said.

Ms Tizard congratulated Mr Finlayson for his knowledge of 70s and 80s song titles.

"I think what people do at music awards is often try to look hip, and I have to say that the Prime Minister looks rather more hip than [former National leader] Don Brash ever did.

"She was very warmly welcomed by the range of New Zealand musicians who see that this Government is seriously interested in both New Zealand music and the support for New Zealand musicians."

Finn, who is touring with the newly reformed Crowded House, was unavailable for comment.

- additional reporting: Mike Houlahan

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