We're Here to Help, South Pacific Film's celluloid treatment of Christchurch property developer Dave Henderson's 'struggle' with the Inland Revenue Department, was premiered this week.
In the process Henderson has had a truckload of uncritical and sympathetic media coverage - including TVNZ, TV3 ( a totally uncritical and gushing John Campbell interview), radio reports and various newspaper stories. In fact, Henderson has had for free the kind of coverage a PR company would normally have to pay for.
If you believe what the media have been dishing up, Dave Henderson is just a good old 'Kiwi battler' (the phrase appears on the film's advertising) who came up against a bureaucratic monster called the Inland Revenue Department and, against overwhelming odds, eventually won.
I don't want to go into the details here, but Henderson's depiction of himself as the innocent but determined individual fighting the 'Evil Empire' (i.e. the Inland Revenue) is fairly enterprising and imaginative. Certainly it isn't one the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen agrees with who, in Parliament, called We're Here To Help ' a work of fiction'.
It's often said that its always the victor who writes the history. In this case Henderson clearly believes himself to be the victor.
It's a pity that there's been no examination of Henderson's politics - because people need to be aware of what Henderson's real political agenda is.
Back in 70's and the early 80's, Henderson was a follower of a bizarre political cult called Zenith Applied Philosophy (ZAP).
ZAP is a Christchurch based organisation founded in 1974. It is a curious mix of Scientology, eastern mysticism and right wing libertarianism.
ZAP was behind another movement called the Tax Reduction Integrity Movement (TRIM) which was all about out cutting taxes and demolishing the welfare state. ZAP publicly stated that the mixed economy was 'against the interests of the individual'.
Generally, 'Zappers' were regarded as a lunatic fringe. Zappers did not help their cause when they did such things as banging on the roofs of Lada cars - because they were made in Stalinist Eastern Europe.
Henderson put his ZAP philosophy into practice via his fast food business The Sandwich Factory. In 1981 claims of $21,152 were brought against him by the Canterbury Hotel, Restaurant and Related Trades (now part of the Service & Food Workers Union and Food Workers Union) on behalf of six employees. The court ruled that the company had committed 15 breaches of the award. Hendeson, like other ZAP followers, believed that unionism was based on coercion and that it constituted a basic violation of individual freedom.
Another member of ZAP at this time was Trevor Loudon. He is now vice president of ACT.
He remains a member of ZAP. In February last year in response to a question from Green co-leader Russell Norman, he commented on his blog that:
'My involvement as a student of Christchurch based self improvement organisation, Zenith Applied Philosophy has always been public knowledge and has been published in an interview I did in 1986, with the old Star Sports. I have studied at ZAP from 1976 to 1982, 1986/7 and 1999 to current. I am enjoying my studies immensely at the moment and plan to continue indefinitely.'
Loudon is pathologically anti-socialist and left-wing in general. Indeed last year he wrote that socialists were either 'mentally ill' or had serious 'character deficiencoies'. He also once made the bizarre claim that 'communists' were suppliers of much of the world's illegal drugs.
Act's leader, Rodney Hyde, has been a prominent champion of Dave Henderson -indeed he appears in We're Here To Help (played by actor Michael Hurst).
It's not clear whether Henderson continues to have any association with the secretive ZAP sect but he remains firmly committed to the libertarian cause.
He even started a radio station, Radio Liberty, to promote the libertarian viewpoint. It eventually closed with debts of $3 million.
Although Henderson says he's for 'individual freedom' and 'individual choice' what he really supports, like others of his ilk, is basically allowing business to do what it likes, when it likes - the 'freedom' to pay low wages, the 'freedom' not to employ union members, the 'freedom' not to help those in need of assistance via the welfare state. Henderson just wants the 'freedom' to further screw the working class.
But Henderson's extreme right wing political views are not being scrutinised by our tame corporate media. They are too enamoured by his property developments and his new movie to actually examine his dangerous politics - and those of the people behind the scenes who are supporting him.
Henderson, once regarded as loony extremist in the 70's and 80's, is now being allowed to paint himself as the good old New Zealand battler - a man of the people, no less. But the truth is his fierce anti-working class politics remain largely the same.