Garth George
Garth George is a Herald columnist

Garth George: Brash outburst could sound death knell for Act

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Act party leader Don Brash. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Act party leader Don Brash. Photo / Sarah Ivey

While most of the nation indulges in sporting events that, in the overall scheme of things, are meaningless and irrelevant, the election draws closer by the day.

Well, perhaps not irrelevant. Julius Caesar and his successors would nod in approval at the modern-day manifestation of bread and circuses, and at the facility with which our emperor-equivalent, Prime Minister John Key, and some of his senator-equivalents are making the most of this entertaining if mindless game.

They can only hope that our gladiator-equivalents will emerge victorious, for that, no matter what the pundits may say, will create a mood of national euphoria which will surely last the 32 days between the last 15 gladiators standing and election day - strongly favouring the emperor and his party.

For those of us who don't give a stuff about the state-sponsored games - for all that we admit we New Zealanders have done ourselves proud and would prefer the home team to win - the benefit will be that the election campaign and tedious politicking will be confined to just over four weeks.

Meanwhile, there are a few electioneering sideshows to keep us amused, the latest of which comes courtesy of the bloke who once governed the Reserve Bank and briefly led the National Party, one Donald Thomas Brash PhD, who hijacked the Act Party earlier this year.

He announced this week, right out of green left field, that marijuana should be decriminalised. We all know Dr Brash has a piggy bank for a heart and dollar signs on his eyeballs, but now we are astonished to discover that he favours making pot smoking legal.

Why? Because too much valuable (read expensive) police time is spent enforcing a law that is flouted by about 400,000 people a year. Said Dr Brash: "I'm haunted by the thought that all that police time and all those police resources could be better deployed in actually keeping us safe from real criminals intent on harming us."

Gee, I wonder what it must be like to he "haunted" by such a small thing as the $100 million a year the police spend in finding, investigating and prosecuting pot-growers and users. Considering all the other really important problems facing the country, I wonder if Dr Brash gets any sleep at all.

And then, said he: "Your home is your castle - your body is your temple. The law must be unequivocal in allowing you to defend both with reasonable force."

What world is this guy living in? Does he not know that authorities have chipped that right away from him slowly but inexorably over the years and he can't do much of a damn thing around the place without an expensive permit?

And as for the body being the temple - a misuse of the biblical quote - does he not know that millions of dollars and untold millions of man- and woman-hours have gone into trying to eradicate tobacco smoking, which is far less harmful to the body and mind than smoking marijuana?

The full biblical quote, incidentally, from 1 Corinthians 6:19, is: "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" That is a spiritual axiom, which not only has nothing to do with smoking pot but seems strange coming from the son of a Presbyterian parson who has admitted that he has set aside his religious beliefs.

The thing that makes all this an even sicker joke is that the man Dr Brash talked into standing for Epsom, a former National minister and former Auckland Mayor John Banks, on whose election the future of the Act Party hangs, is a practising Christian and a staunch moral conservative. How he must have gagged when confronted with his leader's brashness.

If I were Mr Banks I'd bail out right now and leave the seat for National. For all its lack of any real importance, this impolitic outburst from a flaky Dr Brash could well sound the death knell for the Act Party. Even Epsom voters are unlikely to forgive this sort of ridiculous carry-on and I suspect that already the Act cause is lost.

And that is no bad thing. The best that could happen for Act is it would be represented by Mr Banks as the only member and Dr Brash as leader, the pair of them a waste of taxpayer money, trotting obediently after National for a term.

No wonder the last of the existing Acters, John Boscawen, decided to quit. He obviously saw the writing on the wall. I only hope Winston Peters sees something similar on his wall too.garth.george@hotmail.com

- NZ Herald

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