The rock star is not well. Probably it's nothing to worry about, just that sniffle that's going around. But we can all do our bit to get it back on the road. Depressed dairy prices, the Greek crisis and the Chinese slowdown have obviously tested the rock star's resilience, and opinion polls indicate a drop in confidence. Accordingly, the rock star's management team, led by John Key and Bill English, have urged us not to "needlessly talk [the rock star] into a gloomy mindset".

On one level it's a puzzle why the national mood should need lifting. Every hardworking Kiwi ought to be feeling chipper and rejuvenated after a sunny school holiday break in Hawaii, or wherever your offshore tropical beach house happens to be. Perhaps this bout of rock star-based melancholy has something to do with Dry July.

For whatever reason, it behoves us all to rage, rage against the drying of the milk powder market. Rock star egos, as everyone knows, are massive but they're also fragile. Let them read too many cranky reviews in a row and before you know it they're cancelling shows citing, you know, "fatigue".

And that's not to mention that most hackneyed of problems our rock star faces: a drug problem, in the form of escalating costs for Pharmac under the Trans-Pacific Partnership.


While the rock star lies fevered in bed, moaning something about the bastards who took pseudoephedrine off pharmacy shelves, let's briefly survey some of the reasons to be feeling bullish about New Zealand. Call it rock star rehab. For a start, at least we're not Greece. No crippling economic crisis, no catastrophic youth unemployment, no decent feta cheese.

And even if we were facing expulsion from the eurozone, we wouldn't easily provide a demeaning buzzword like "Grexit". NZexit doesn't really roll off the tongue; they'd have to go for something like Split Enz, which would only confirm our status as a rock star.

Gloom quakes in its boots, too, when it sees the brightness of local television. Things are undeniably brighter since they got rid of that bushy tailed John Campbell and his gloom-worshipping show providing the voiceless with a voice, Come Whine With Me. Nowadays, the sun always shines on TV. All singing, all dancing, all Hosking.

Moreover, there is great excitement at the prospect of a 17th series of the much-loved comedy-drama Colin Craig Goes to Court. The new instalment, Flirty Politics, centres on a legal battle with dead-child-mocking heart-throb Cameron Slater. There is also talk of a reality spinoff, The Litigator, in which a range of ordinary Kiwis compete to receive political pamphlets, defamation suits and sexts from the Adonis of conservatism.

The gloomsters may fret about milk, but the dairy industry, as English Bill noted last week, is pretty much the All Blacks of the economy. At this point the already strained rock star economy metaphor I'm going with really starts falling apart. But just think of it this way. We're lucky, at least, that rock star svengali John Key is also the captain of the All Blacks. Take that, gloom.

There are other reasons to be cheerful. The burgeoning kereru- and moa-farming markets. Growth opportunities in the regions with new incentives for migrants. "How do you enforce it?" foghorned Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt. "Is it ankle bracelets?" And there you have another good opportunity. Serco would almost certainly be keen.

What else? No sign of 1080 in baby formula, the Grey Lynn fruit fly has been very quiet, Donald Trump exists but not here, Murray McCully secured a historic peace deal with Iran, and the days are getting longer. Straight out of rehab and back on stage with a fiscal snarl. Gloom, you lose.

Chat-up lines for TPP talks

When it comes to a handy Kiwi bargaining chip, always bet on the All Blacks. Photo / Dean Purcell
When it comes to a handy Kiwi bargaining chip, always bet on the All Blacks. Photo / Dean Purcell

Those trade negotiation people must make terrible lovers. The foreplay goes on forever, then just as they're about to nod off, they unexpectedly shift positions and thrash about wildly, trying to outmanoeuvre one another. Even then there's a decent chance they'll walk away unsatisfied.


It's at the thrashing-about stage in Hawaii at the moment, as horse-trading over the Trans Pacific Partnership reaches a denouement. While cognisant of Trade Minister Tim Groser's suggestion that pesky members of the public should keep their silly opinions to themselves - "we need adults to do this, not breathless children to run off at the mouth when the deal is not actually finished," he said this week - there is surely some merit in exploring a few fresh negotiating tactics beyond the reductive trade-off between agricultural tariffs and medicine patents, aka farm-access for Pharmac-less.

More than one observer has worried aloud (breathlessly, probably) that New Zealand, having unilaterally deregulated so extensively over the years, is in effect "playing strip poker naked". (Truly, tariff negotiations are limitlessly erotic.) We of course have one overwhelming argument: we were the ones who started the TPP all those years ago, we brought the bat and the ball, cut us some slack, guys ... guys? Yet we might need something more. I brainstormed some lines for bilateral engagement.

To Canada: Hi, you look nice. Might you be a little bit less recalcitrant about dairy exports if you knew how many nice things our senior politicians have been saying about your totally awesome flag?

To Japan: Steve Hansen is really keen on removing trade barriers and was wondering if you'd like more All Black games over there.

To Mexico: How did you like that live shipment of sheep the other week? Any interest in an agribusiness hub?

To Singapore: Did you know our No1 celebrity, popular wedding DJ and minister of tourism Max Key was born there?

The Buzzy Bee.
The Buzzy Bee.

To Peru:

Paddington Bear is awesome. Have you heard of the Buzzy Bee?

To the US: Looks like Barack had a nice time in Africa, but what about that visit to his other spiritual home, Parnell? Fair's fair.

To China: Sorry about all that last-names nonsense, all blown over now!

China: We're not part of the TPP.

To China: Oops, sorry!

China: No problem, these things happen all the time.

To Chile: Do you guys like rugby?