Hard News by Russell Brown


Taking the rise

Having noted Fairfax's foray into political blogging, we should turn to the Herald's effort. Audrey Young's political blog doesn't look as bloggy as Colin Espiner's - no links and, as yet, no comments - but it does nicely clear up something that's been bugging me since the weekend.

I presume your house, like ours, got the 'Healthy, wealthy and wise' flier bragging about Labour's new subsidy on doctors' fees, the KiwiSaver launch and the "20 hours a week free early childhood education". Now, I happen to think these are all good things, and I would expect any government to present them to the public as such.

But I presume I wasn't the only one who looked at the leaflet, with Labour's branding all over it -- and a small House of Representatives crest to make it clear that we're paying for it -- and wondered, um, is this legal these days?

Well yes, but as Young explains, only via the window opened by the validating legislation on the 2005 spending by various parties deemed unlawful by the auditor-general:

But surely, you might think, that is what the Auditor General ruled to be unlawful in his report last year and why parties have had to repay the money to Treasury. Yes, but that was then. Parliament has since passed special legislation that not only covered their butts for the previous unlawful spending but changed the rules for future spending.

The ban on using Parliament's money for "electioneering" does not apply only during the three months before an election, as some parties might think, but for the whole term. If the special law had not been passed, there would a case to argue that what is going on now is unlawful.

But the fact is that this binge of spending is lawful, even if it appears to be blatant electioneering. The validating legislation changed the definition of "electioneering" to the end of 2007. The upshot is that anything that does not explicitly seek support for a party or person is lawful.

I can't believe they've done this. A leaflet from the government would have hit the mark; it would hardly have been a mystery who was in charge. But a leaflet slathered in red with Labour's own website address on it? Come on.

Meanwhile, I'm pleased to see that that the trademark suit taken by Trelise Cooper against her namesake Tamsin Cooper has been settled - because it should should never have been launched in the first place. Tamsin Cooper trades under her own name, but that's about where the similarity ends. She's in Arrowtown; Trelise Cooper is in Auckland. She makes accessories; Trelise Cooper makes frilly frocks for middle-aged women. The two businesses are very different in scale, and, as far as I can tell, there was to be no direct similarity in the trademarks. It looked like nothing so much as a big, wealthy businesswoman trying to bully a small one, and I'm glad that it didn't pay off.

And, as polls show again, that Al Gore would sweep the Democratic nomination if he chose to run, the Republican press gets in some advance fire. Fox News declared that Gore "hasn’t stopped believing he can get special favors for being a political figure" (ie: Gore blagged a copy of the Sopranos finale because he was going to be on a long-haul flight when it aired); and the Heritage Foundation's James Taylor scorns his climate science in a Chicago Sun-Times column. Then Deltoid at ScienceBlogs deals to Taylor and others, noting, among other things, that Taylor completely fabricated a quote from The Journal of Climate that he used to damn Gore. These people really are crazy.

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