Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Sensitive Aussies? Weird

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A minister was accused of misbehaving at the Australia-Italy match. Photo / Dean Purcell
A minister was accused of misbehaving at the Australia-Italy match. Photo / Dean Purcell

Visitors from overseas here for the Rugby World Cup must think we live in a weird country indeed when the stories that have made our news bulletins during the past week have included the disappearance of a penguin in the Southern Ocean, the hue and cry in Britain over the change in the salt content of HP Sauce, and the argy bargy over a sports writer citing an unnamed source who may or may not have heard an unidentified government minister swear at a rugby game.

Sheesh.

It was a sign of a very slow news week that the media took the story of the Minister for Bad Manners out of the gossip pages and into mainstream news.

The story went that one of our ministers had behaved badly in an invite-only lounge at North Harbour Stadium, accusing the Aussies of cheating against Italy and using profanities before storming off in disgust when the Wallabies gained the ascendancy.

The sports writer concerned claimed his sources were impeccable - but they can't have been that flash.

I was at that game, and although I wasn't sitting on top of the three ministers who attended, for which we're all grateful, I was close enough to see and hear them had one of them erupted into a foul-mouthed sledge.

True, two out of the three ministers who turned up have form. Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman was involved in a fracas in a corporate box at a U2 concert some years back after he lit up a cigar and Housing Minister Maurice Williamson is known for his inappropriate jokes.

Wayne Mapp, the Defence Minister, appears to have an unblemished record.

But if anyone had behaved as badly as the Aussie writer, well-respected rugby scribe Greg Growden, suggested, we'd have all known about it.

I'm not defending the ministers because I'm some dyed-in-the-wool Tory - it's just that the men were unfairly maligned. Even a union official, presumably no huge fan of National ministers, came out in their defence. He was sitting behind Williamson and he said that, although the minister was boisterous, there was no foul language.

As it was, it was a cracker of a game, the hospitality was superb and everyone seemed to have a good time - including the three ministers who showed no signs of storming anywhere.

The fact that so much time was spent on this story - who the minister was, who the source was, what Prime Minister John Key thought of an incident that may or may not have been true - is proof we are a very small country with little to worry about.

And even if there was a bit of lip - it's a footy game, for heaven's sake. In the words of the great Tana Umaga, it's not tiddlywinks. A bit of banter is all good in my books - provided it's profanity free.

The day you can't be boisterous and passionate about rugby in New Zealand is the day you might as well become a thin-lipped Australian.

And let's face it - an Australian complaining about swearing? I could understand if it was a nice straight-laced North American or Canadian official. But Australians?

Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating once bellowed at his opposite number, "just because you swallowed a f**king dictionary when you were about 15, doesn't give you the right to pour a bucket of sh*t over the rest of us".

Anything one of our Cabinet ministers may or may not have said pales in comparison to that.

- Herald on Sunday

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