Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Laws' 'tea cup' radio lunacy over the top

Michael Laws has been spouting deranged threats against journalists. Photo / APN
Michael Laws has been spouting deranged threats against journalists. Photo / APN

Today, Inspector Knacker of the Press Squad turns up to ferret through the files of my neighbours at the Herald on Sunday. Welcome gallant policeman, welcome.

After reading the deranged threats that Michael Laws has been spouting against journalists in recent days, any protection is gratefully received.

Revving up his RadioLive listeners, the former MP and mayor of Wanganui declared of journalists who had written of the affair: "If I had a gun I'd shoot them - put them out of their misery - because they have gone rabid and may affect others."

He then incited any lunatic with a gun to head for the Herald on Sunday newsroom and remove the infection. He said he had "no idea why somebody hasn't taken the shotgun there and just cleaned out the entire newsroom".

Prime Minister John Key says the police have spare time to do his bidding and chase the news media over teagate because offending is down under his glorious reign.

With people like Mr Laws around, here's hoping the officers knocking on the editor's door today also check on issues like outside threats inciting mass murder. Now that is the real job of the constabulary.

That Mr Laws seems to have escaped any censure for his inflammatory statements, yet the whole election campaign has ground to a week-long stop over the trivial Epsom election stunt gone wrong, highlights how political the police involvement has become.

And how Muldoonish is John Key's behaviour, as political commentator John Armstrong reminded us on Friday.

The rights to privacy and to freedom of speech are principles hard fought for in recent years. But Mr Key is trivialising this long struggle by trying to pump up his stage-managed very public love-in with Act co-conspirator John Banks as some sort of cause celebre.

Is it derisory to try to compare it with a couple discussing their suicidal child who kills himself as a result of the evil media then printing the overheard conversation?

Even after a week's debate, the legal community is as divided over exactly where a conversation in a restaurant to which the media have been invited fits on the scale of privacy.

From the leaks that have emerged from the "secret" tape, it seems obvious that no state secrets were involved. More the sweet-nothings of two senior politicians. Apparently, Mr Banks said his leader, Don Brash, was "strange". After his "smoke dope" comments a few weeks ago, that sounds like a compliment from a prohibitionist like Mr Banks.

As for an overseas posting for Dr Brash after the election - well, where's the surprise there? Our overseas embassies have long been the elephants' graveyard of our political "retirees".

As for Mr Laws, he was at his banal best in his newspaper column yesterday, claiming the media "have whipped themselves into a frenzy of foaming frippery" about teagate.

As someone who has developed foaming into a career, Mr Laws seems to feel threatened by the competition.

As for his incitement to massacre my colleagues at the Herald on Sunday, is it too much to hope that the police will take such threats at least as seriously as the Epsom fiasco?

While we're on freedom of speech issues, Auckland Transport could surely lighten up a little and get into the election spirit.

It seems Labour candidate Carol Beaumont was ordered off the Onehunga train platform via the station's public address while handing out campaign leaflets last week. There was even a threat to call security.

After the total breakdown of communications and security on the train network at the start of the Rugby World Cup, perhaps it was just a case of over-excited bureaucrats showing off their new toys.

But it is election time.

The odd candidate touting for votes in a very public, community-owned train station is not going to frighten the trains.

Note: Due to a large number of unpublishable emails, the comment function has been disabled from this article.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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