Hard News by Russell Brown


Friday Music: Good ideas that don't work

Stinky Jim has been playing a rather engaging cumbia version of New Order's 'Blue Monday' on his 95bFM radio show. Having tracked down the Soundcloud stream, I thought that I would quite like, in my old-fashioned way to, you know, buy a copy to keep.

So I clicked the 'Buy on Legtimix' button on the Soundcloud player. The idea of Legitimix is that it directs you to paid downloads of the constituent tracks of a remix or mash-up, which you legally acquire and therefore obtain at least a moral right to enjoy the unlicensed derivative work in which they appear. Nice idea.

I tried Legitimix when it first launched and soon decided that it actually didn't work. I tried it again this week and discovered that although the service has become considerably more sophisticated, it still basically doesn't work.

So I clicked the button and landed here, to be told that I needed to obtain the license for the original New Order track: specifically, the original 12" mix. The Pernett version is a straight cover and doesn't include any audio elements of the original, but, sure, if that's what I needed to confirm, fine. By my count, I own five instances of that track -- two copies of the vinyl and three digital copies, from three different compilation albums.

Legitimix required me to download its separate desktop app, which would search my music library, confirm I owned the track and let me go ahead and get the cover version. But it didn't. None of the three versions I owned were, apparently, good enough. It had to be the exact same iTunes Store retail instance of 'Blue Monday'.

Okay, fine, I thought. I'll buy a fourth (sixth) version of 'Blue Monday' in order to get the cover version. But when I atempted to make that purchase, I got this message:

The item you've requested is not currently available in the New Zealand Store, but it is available in the U.S. Store. Click Change Store to view this item.

So I not only needed a stand-alone version of the track, it had to be one that I couldn't even buy in New Zealand. I gave up. The whole area of derivative works is difficult to incorporate in a traditional music rights structure. And all this experience did was confirmed to me that it's generally better left to the market of free stuff.


Another decent idea that doesn't work. Apple's iTunes Match. The idea of iTunes Match is that you pay a modest fee -- $40 a year -- and Apple will match its own gaint library of songs against your own personal iTunes library, and give you access to all those songs from the Cloud. If there are songs it can't match (ie: if, like me you get a lot of odd shit from Souncloud), you can actually upload them to the Cloud. So you have access to your whole music library without filling up your iPhone.

I'd actually forgotten I had iTunes Match. I paid for it two or three years ago in order to do the trick where you can make it replace old, very low bitrate versions of your music (in my case, a legacy of of several years with an eMusic account) with 256k AAC verions.

Turns out, it the annual fee had just rolled over, as I discovered when I updated my new iPad to iOS 8 and my iMac to Yosemite. In the process of both, Apple practically begs you to engage with iCloud. In the case of of the iPad, which I hadn't loaded any music on, the updates turned on Match and suddenly I could see my whole library there. Sweet, I thought, I'm just about to spend a couple of weeks travelling.

Not so sweet. Chunks were inexplicably missing. Jakob's Sines, an album that had been out for weeks, was represented by just two pre-release tracks.

It got worse when I updated my ageing iPhone 4S to 8.1.1 on return. The update not only sucked me into the Cloud, it turned on iTunes Match again. And when I connected my phone to my computer to back it up, the system thought it would be a good idea to delete 600 tracks from my phone, given it was all supposedly in the Cloud anyway.

Fixing it was just a matter of finding the off-switches again and waiting around while 600 songs got reloaded back onto my phone -- but I'm left thinking that iTunes Match is one of the most striking examples of a basically okay idea being subject to utterly abysmal execution that I've ever seen.

This is, of couse, the same basic set-up that Apple was so keen to show off at the iPhone 6 launch by making it appear that everyone in the world had a copy of the new U2 album on every damn iDevice they owned. It's not funny and it's not clever, Apple. Until you can work this stuff out, please keep me and my music well clear of your goddamn Cloud.



There were a number of sectors in which the New Zealand of the early 1970s achieved the double of suffocating regulation and thumping market failure, and one of them was the pub trade. Booze barns operated by one of the two companies that sold beer dominated the landscape -- and literally shaped the culture.

Lion Breweries, the more powerful side of the duopoly, had firm ideas about what musical entertainment in its pubs should sound like, and how it should be organised. Agents in Lion's employ would book cover bands and shuttle them around local, regional and national circuits as essentially interchangeable pub entertainment. Bands who insisted on playing their own songs were generally not welcome.

That's the environment John Dix recalls in his new Audioculture profile of Mike Corless and the company Corless founded, New Music Management. If I didn't have a lot of affinity as a kid with some of the acts NMM set on the road in the early 1980s -- swiping the "Party Boys" concept from Australia was a bit of a low point -- Corless played a key role in breaking the Lion stranglehold. And the national pub circuit that resulted had some pretty substantial economic benefits for the bands who played it. As Dix notes, some national tours were seven weeks long.

Before Playstation and Game of Thrones, people had less to spend their time and money on, and the pubs closed at 10pm on weekdays, so you could see a band and be home in time for the late news on TV. Ironically, this sounds quite like what Ian 'Blink' Jorgensen proposed this year in his book The Problem With Music in New Zealand and How to Fix It. It wasn't really an idyll, but it is worth recalling quite how many people could be convinced to pay a cover charge to see a band play back then.


Tunes ...

Leroy Clampitt, who has offered guitar and production services to various other local artists in recent years, and who currently plays bass in Strange Babes, turns out to have a slinky electropop sideline as Taste Nasa. Check this:

A new remix from Auckland's The Basement Tapes:

At TheAudience, a taster from the about-to-drop new album from Bobby Brazuka's Latinaotearoa. Coolio:

A nice house track from a teenage Auckland production duo:

And food-based rap sass from Heavy:

From elsewhere, a short, sleek Leftside Wobble dub of Toots and the Maytals' 'What's My Number':

And finally, this week's funky Friday kitchen-dancer from Karim:


PS: Check out Golden Dawn. Tonight, She's So Rad launch their thoroughly awesome single 'Cool It' and tomorrow night Lawrence Arabia plays The Hits of the 60s. Something for everyone!


The Hard News Music Post is sponsored by:



The twilight state of the Psychoactive Substances Act

Even as it was making its way to the statutes,
 New Zealand’s Psychoactive Substances Bill was the talk
 of the drug reform world. It was seen as a bold, visionary bid to deal with the proliferation of new drugs that fell outside existing laws 
and address the harms of an unregulated market.

It was all the more remarkable that the reform was being championed by a former drug warrior in Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne. When our Parliament passed the Psychoactive Substances Act last year with but a single vote against, it seemed New Zealand had taken a remarkable initiative.

And then, only months into the new world, the government rushed through an amendment that cut off a protracted interim licensing phase, halted the legal sale of all psychoactive substances and made any future approval much more challenging. It happened so quickly that one journalist landed here with a story commission from a major American magazine, knowing reform had been cut short after she’d booked her flights.

It is reasonable to ask now whether the new law even has a viable future, given the turn in the political mood. The answer to that question depends on how you ask it.

On one hand, things are falling into place. The long-awaited regulations defining the requirements for manufacturing, importing and research and product approvals were signed off by Cabinet in July and recently came into force. Regulations for wholesaling and retailing approved products are on track for the second half of 2015, in plenty of time for any newly approved product.

It appears there will be an industry of some sort prepared to play by the Act’s rules. And the Psychoactive Substances Authority, beleaguered for much of this year, has been moved to a more supportive part of the Ministry of Health.

But there’s an elephant in the room. In rushing through the amendment in May, MPs not only repealed the parts of the original Act providing for interim product licensing, they also added wording that stipulated that “the advisory committee must not have regard to the results of a trial that involves the use of an animal”.

There is an exception: the advisory committee and the authority may act on an overseas animal trial that finds a psychoactive product “may pose more than a low risk of harm to individuals using the product”. But they are forbidden to consider any animal trial evidence in deciding that a product poses only a low risk of harm.

In short, they may only pay heed to evidence from animal trials to ban a product, not to approve it.

“Our overarching assessment, not just in the offices of the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority but also on our expert advisory committee, is that, at this point in time, it is not possible to have a product approved without animal testing,” says Stewart Jessamine, group manager at the clinical leadership and product regulation branch of the Ministry of Health and effectively the personal link between the Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority and its new neighbour, Medsafe.

“Obviously, that’s a major barrier to new products entering the market.”

Other interested parties speculated to Matters of Substance about possible workarounds, but as of now, the situation is this: the process created to approve and license psychoactive products – thus taking manufacture and sale out of the hands of the unregulated black market – cannot possibly approve or license any product.

To understand this strange situation, it’s useful to look back on the Psychoactive Substances Act’s difficult infancy.

The interim licensing period provided for in Schedule 1 of the Act was a relatively late addition to drafts of the Bill. From August 2013, it allowed manufacturers to seek interim approval for their existing products until the necessary regulations were published and for retailers to seek their own licences. The thinking was that the Act’s process needed an industry, and that might not happen if the whole market was abruptly outlawed.

But writing the regulations proved tough going. Uruguay is finding the same thing as it tries to get its pioneering regulated cannabis market in place, and its government is only writing for a market that is yet to start. New Zealand’s officials were introducing regulation to a market that had been raging for years. Further, an under-resourced Psychoactive Substances Regulatory Authority failed to perform. It made few decisions, acted slowly and all but seized up from January 2014 onwards.

That left an interim licensing regime to carry more weight, for longer, than the Act’s designers had ever anticipated in a legal environment that was still a work in progress. While Customs conducted some testing at the border, that was simply to check that the contents of shipments from Chinese labs matched the label and not for purity as the Act required. A Code of Manufacturing Process stipulated for December 2013 was not fully implemented until April, and all parties to the process found obtaining and delivering certificates of analysis a challenge. Towards the end of the regime, it was difficult to say exactly what was in some products – the very opposite of the purpose of the Act.

“The difficulty – and it became more and more of a difficulty as time went on
– was that, conceptually, it’s very difficult to reconcile having an interim approvals regime with the fundamental core of the Act, which is that you’re supposed to be able to provide evidence that your products pose no more than a low risk of harm,” says Chen Palmer’s James Dunne, who has acted for the industry.

“The standard that was being applied for interim licences was basically ‘nothing bad has happened in the three months preceding the enactment of the legislation’, but that was unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. For the manufacturer – because you had to explain away adverse reports that you actually had no idea about because the reporting system wasn’t really in place. From a broader public health perspective – because you were approving products without really understanding what their risk profile was.

“That would have been fine, I think, if the interim regime had lasted for three months, but when it became clear it was going to drag on and on, it was only a matter of time before it was going
to be brought to an end, sooner rather than later.”

That ending was motivated largely by a storm of media coverage about the harm being wreaked by the products given interim approval, which were all cannibomimetics: synthetic cannabis.

Objectively, the Act had sharply curtailed a market that had sprawled on unregulated for years. According to the Ministry, the number of retail outlets for legal highs was slashed about 95 percent after the Act, from as many as 4,000 to fewer than 170 licensed premises nationwide. The number of products was cut from around 200 to fewer than 50. There was also evidence that the number of severe presentations to emergency departments and severe issues reported to the National Poisons Centre had reduced since the Act came into force.

But the purge had the paradoxical effect of magnifying attention on the remaining outlets, which were largely unwelcome in their communities.
They made a newsworthy focus for media and concentrated problems in the neighbourhoods where retailers had been licensed to continue. Some of the licensed retailers looked sketchy when media came to visit.

But perhaps the real damage to public safety was done in the whack-a-mole years before the Act, when the early synthetic cannabis products were progressively banned by order of the Minister. New Zealand Drug Foundation Executive Director Ross Bell says he doesn’t believe cannibomimetics per se were poor candidates for approval.

“I think absolutely the final bunch of synthetic cannabinoids that we’ve seen in the last few years were pretty bad,” says Bell. “But when BZP was around [in the mid 2000s], there was a very benign synthetic cannabis product on the market, and by all accounts, it was very effective, very much like natural cannabis. And we had no [adverse] reports at all for years. Then ESR determined that it was so much like THC that it was automatically prohibited under the analogue provisions in the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“If products like that had been allowed to stay, and even the early JWH-based products that weren’t causing a tonne of problems, it would have been less likely that we’d have seen the harmful ones. We took away all the good ones and left the bad ones.”

Dunne says the harm from the interim products was “an issue at least in the public mind, and probably if what had been sold was dance pills or something like that, people would have been a lot less exercised about it. But the reality was, if you looked at what people actually wanted to buy, there was no doubt that it was synthetic cannabinoids – in enormous quantities.”

At the end of April 2014, the government rushed to trump a competing bill from the Labour Opposition and announced its urgent amendment to the Act, changing everything.

One element of the Act that will help the chances of a viable regime remains. Approvals under the Act are for products to market, not their constituent ingredients – and one applicant cannot free-ride on research submitted for a competitor’s product. That means the first successful applicant would have the market to itself.

“If you had something that you could get across the line in New Zealand, particularly if you were first, I think you would probably recoup the costs of developing, testing and getting it approved pretty quickly,” says Dunne. “There’s no doubt there’s a significant demand out there for psychoactive substances.”

Compliance in New Zealand would also be a valuable precedent if and when other countries adopt similar regimes.

“That’s been the goal all along, to essentially present a working model here in New Zealand that other countries can follow,” says Stargate’s Matt Bowden, who effectively created the legal high industry and has spent much of the time since calling for regulation.

Bowden is keen to distinguish Stargate from most of the other companies in the industry as it was. Most were, he says, “essentially marketers” who relied on “chemical engineers in China”.

“We and possibly others are going down the route of essentially setting up a pharmaceutical company. So we do drug design. We designed hundreds of different molecules, and we tested them. We were designing for the longer-term game. There are a handful of other players globally who are going down the same track, but that’s it.

“I’m really quite motivated to keep working at it, because I know it is going to work here in New Zealand, and other countries will follow suit. And the beauty of it is that, if the regulations are standardised across a number of markets, then intellectual property developed here has an opportunity to be marketed globally and cover costs more easily.”

But that leaves the presently intractable problem of the animal testing ban.

Jessamine says that, in defining a standard for product approval, the authority and its advisory group have looked at existing manufacturing and safety standards, taking over-the-counter medicines as a starting point.

“That takes us into a series of international guidelines that say, ‘If you wish to introduce a new substance into an over-the-counter medicine, here is all the testing you have to do. It starts with simple stuff: how is it absorbed, how is it metabolised, how is it excreted? What is a toxic dose, what is a safe dose? Does it cause reproductive problems? Does it cause genotoxic problems?

“It then sets out a series of tests you can use to demonstrate those things. Those tests are set by boards of international regulators, which have animal welfare input as well. And some of the testing is still animal-based. There are a number of key issues where animal testing is still an essential part of the assurance of the safety of the substance.

“Our assessment here is that, whilst there’s a whole bunch of new technologies coming along that have been assessed and validated as accurate predictors of risk
(as old-fashioned animal tests) and have been accepted into the standards required for medicines, foods and chemicals, there are some areas where there are no non-animal testing validated tests available at this point in time.”

He grants that there could “possibly” be a workaround where the authority could consider evidence from human testing that followed animal testing – all of it overseas – but suspects there would still be ethical roadblocks.

As to what kind of product would be a candidate for eventual approval, it’s safe to assume that no smokeable product would pass muster. Jessamine notes that “vapouriser-type solutions” are already appearing in other markets. Dunne expects that any approved product would be far less strong than those sold under the interim regime.

Bell is keen to emphasise that he believes Peter Dunne acted in good faith in developing the Bill and that it was not set up to fail. But meanwhile, he says, the substances banned by the government amendment, and others, remain available.

“Even the Police say they’re still finding and seizing these products. Synthetic cannabinoids are being sold as incense, and there have been some pills and powders being sold as plant food
– which is exactly what these things are being sold as in other parts of the world.

“What we are also seeing is people just buying whatever they want online and having it shipped over. That kind of stuff will continue. The Auckland City Mission has noted that, since synthetic cannabis products disappeared, a lot of their clients have reverted to huffing glues and solvents. There are lots of substitutes for these things – alcohol, natural cannabis, butane. People are still going to get high.

“I think we need the Psychoactive Substances Act to help mitigate all this weird, unknown stuff being available online. If you give New Zealanders an approved, legal substance, they’ll go for it.”

Dunne ventures that the current impasse may ease when the environment around psychoactives is less heated and when all Local Approved Products Policies are in place.

“But if they’re going to get this to work here, what New Zealand will
 have to convince manufacturers of is that if a product is proven to be low risk,
it’s not going to be banned as the result of some moral panic driven by the
New Zealand Herald.”


This story appears in the November 2014 issue of the New Zealand Drug Foundation magazine Matters of Substance, which will be published next week. You can find out more about Matters of Substance here.

NOTE: Submissions on the Auckland City Local Approved Products Plan close tomorrow. If you have any thoughts or observations on what the draft says, please do share them here.


Incomplete, inaccurate and misleading

The reporter of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security into the release of information by the SIS is now public, and it turns out to be largely about a democratic problem we've discussed plenty this year: the growing contempt in which New Zealand's public agencies hold their obligations under the Official Information Act.

It finds that the SIS and its director Warren Tucker provided "incomplete, inaccurate and misleading information" in response to an OIA request -- in a way that was unfair and damaging to then Opposition leader Phil Goff -- and made no attempt to correct that information. Moreover, it finds that the SIS simply "denied" requests for information on the matter from journalists, and yet responded immediately to such a request from Cameron Slater.

It also finds that -- in direct contradiction to John Key's pre-election assurances -- that the Prime Mininister's Office was indeed involved in expediting the release to Slater, for political purposes.

Astonishingly, Key's deputy chief of staff, Phil de Joux -- a political employee -- turns out to have been the Prime Minister's principal point of contact with with the Security Intelligence Service, an extremely sensitive public agency for which the Prime Minister had direct responsibility. Moreover, Key's senior political advisor Jason Ede is found to have directed Slater to make his request -- and was in fact on the phone to Slater at the time Slater made his request.

But there's more. The inspector, Cheryl Gwyn, has this to say:

Witnesses appearing before this inquiry also produced documents. Documents were provided voluntarily by Mr Hager and Mr Slater. I issued a production order to Mr Ede in respect of his personal email accounts after it became apparent from evidence, including evidence provided directly by Mr Ede, that some of the correspondence pertinent to this inquiry was conducted from non-official email accounts. Upon receipt of the production order, Mr Ede provided a supplementary written statement to the inquiry in which he advised that the emails had been permanently deleted prior to the commencement of the inquiry and could not be recovered.

Thus is deniability engineered. And it's not good enough. Political actions involving the state intelligence agency were conducted on private email accounts, and the records of those actions were covered up when the shit hit the fan. Tucker, De Joux and Ede have all, conveniently, since departed their jobs -- and the Prime Minister is now no longer the minister responsible for the SIS.

As Gwyn writes:

I was concerned to discover the use of personal email and telephone accounts by Mr Ede for some of his PMO work and indications that he did so in order to avoid any public record ... The use of such personal accounts in relation to NZSIS information poses significant risks for information security. While the information dealt with by Mr Ede was not classified security information, there would have been serious consequences had it been.

Phil Goff is receiving due apologies today. In a decent world, he would not be alone. Nicky Hager, who drew our attention to these sorry and troubling matters in Dirty Politics will never receive an apology from those he has exposed, and who have subsequently sought to smear him -- but he really does deserve one.

The other thing to ponder is this: if these people were prepared to do this -- what else have they been prepared to do in their own political interests?



There are always candles at the memorial to Jan Palach and Jan Zajic, who immolated themselves in protest at the forcible ending of the Prague Spring in 1968, but there were more there than usual last Thursday when I walked to see it.

A little further up, at the end of Wenceslas Square, a smaller crop of candles marked another memorial, on the spot where Palach fell burning.

Overlooking that point, hoisted on the Czech National Museum, there was a giant, genial portrait of Vaclav Havel, the Lou Reed-loving poet who became the president after leading Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution in 1989, thus ending 41 years of Communist subjugation and clearing the way for a modern Parliamentary democracy.

On Thursday it was 25 years and three days since the the Velvet Revolution was sparked by a police attack on protesting students. Back over my right shoulder was Melantrich, where the newspaper The Free Word granted Havel and his colleagues first space in its pages and then a place on its balcony, to address the crowds milling in the square. I thought about doing such a thing as a journalist.

Back over my left shoulder was the hotel where Sir Nicholas Winton, a financial flash harry turned saviour, organised his plot to smuggle hundreds of Jewish children away from the Nazis in 1938 and badgered the British Home Office into terms for their resettlement. By chance, I'd seen the BBC Hard Talk interview with Sir Nicholas, now 105 years old, on the Monday.

Our guide, Marketa, didn't say so, but I got the sense that her guided walk towards our lunch venue, of which you will read in a specialist publication, was more political than usual on account of the anniversary (which had been highly political itself). She told a joke about the Cezch Parliament that I can't do justice to.

She'd been amongst the crowds in the square 25 years ago. She must have been quite young then, and I couldn't quite tell where her own memories stopped and the clarity of the iconic tales of of the revolution -- Marta Kubisova singing the national anthem from the balcony, the appearnce of Dubcek -- began. But it didn't really matter.

Twice, I went to thank Marketa for her account, and twice I pretty much choked up. I was quite undone by it all.

Wenceslas Square isn't really a square and its atmosphere is not entirely civic. It's a broad, somewhat cluttered avenue that shows only fitful reverence to its history. The Melantrich building is now home to a Marks & Spencer and some nice hotel apartments. The monument to Saint Wenceslas, whose feast day is celebrated as the day of Czech statehood, is way too close to a McDonald's. On the way back past from lunch, I heard Lorde's 'Team' blaring from a boutique.

But I suppose you can be a little more casual with some of your built history when you have as much of it as Prague does. Parts of it date back to the original 10th century state of Bohemia. Buildings are even going back in time as their more recent 19th century facades are scraped away. While crowds of tourists gather at the town hall in the city's main square to watch its magnificent mechnical scold of a clock crank out an hourly morality play, the back story is in the other side of the building -- the part that isn't there. It was destroyed by the Nazis as they shipped out in 1945.

Marketa indicated to us where buildings that had lost their character under the Communists had been restored and recoloured in recent years: "They belonged to everyone, so no one took responsibility for them." She has an economics degree from Cambridge.

"What strikes me," I said to her, "is that you are confronted by your history every day in the form of these buildings."

She nodded, but perhaps that didn't seem such a remarkable idea to her. Prague has been at the centre of a Czech state for more than a thousand years. It has been home to a university for more than 650 years. We stopped for a beer at a 170 year-old bar whose beer garden is bordered by the Church of Our Lady of the Snows, which was originally a carmelite monastery begun in 1347 but never finished (again, the story in is in what's not there).

Back at the hotel, I thought of it in the context of Maori, who had no momumental architecture, but still associate everyday places with the historic events that unfolded in them. And who, like the Czechs, have had their sovereignty rudely interrupted and been in danger of surrendering their language.

Empires have come and gone through Prague's thousand years, and the twin insults of the Nazis and the Russian Communists in a single half-century seemed especially acute to me, as literal living memories. But they walk amongst it all, every day. That's what you do in an old town.


Team Little: pretty good

New Labour leader Andrew Little has announced his first caucus lineup and, with one or two questions, it would seem to be pointing the party in the right direction. A clearout of a few of the usual suspects is offset by the appointment of Annette King as deputy leader, but if any of the old guard warranted keeping on for the time being, it was King. She was composed and confident as acting leader and, crucially, has no designs on the top job herself.

Grant Robertson's receipt of the Finance portfolio (and third place in the rankings) seems to be a way of both harnessing Robertson's manifest political skill and of providing some continuity with the policy base developed by David Parker. Robertson has a learning curve ahead of him, but Labour doesn't have a lot of other talent in the area and the alternative -- rehabilitating David Cunliffe -- was clearly unacceptable.

Parker himself had clearly already got the memo, but his demotion to fifteenth place in the rankings seems nonetheless fairly brutal. On the other hand, his responsibilities (shadow Attorney General, Treaty negotiations, trade and export growth) are substantial.

Although Phil Twyford's senior placement, with responsibility for housing, transport, and (as an associate to Phil Goff) Auckland issues, the rankings themselves do not seem closely tied to conventional notions about portfolio seniority. They acknowledge two things: political talent (Robertson, Hipkins) and the plain fact of where Labour's support survived in this year's diificult election result.

Cunliffe comes in only a place above Parker, but -- perhaps ironically -- his bouquet of responsibilities  (regional development, tertiary education, R&D, science & innovation, associate economic development) constitutes the kind of shadow Steven Joyce role he might have had much sooner if his colleagues had felt better able to trust him. On the other hand, Su'a William Sio is ranked eleventh with a relatively light policy load, including "interfaith dialogue". 

I was unimpressed with the means of Little's victory last week, and I still think it's something he's going to battle with, but he was the candidate who faced the fewest impediments to enacting the clearout-and-refresh the Parliamentary party needed, and he has largely done that. Trevor Mallard, Clayton Cosgrove, Damine O'Connor and Clare Curran have been left to wander the wilderness of the unranked and there are four women and three Maori or Pasifika MPs in the top 10. I'm particularly pleased to see Carmel Sepuloni accorded such seniority.

I'm interested to see that some of those least happy with Little's election -- the likes of former MP (and strong Robertson supporter) Darien Fenton -- have been quick to express approval. I can see why, too. This is a pretty good first move by the new leader.