Hard News by Russell Brown

Ins and outs

Looks like we might have a government, and pretty much on schedule: even if it does turn out to be at the cost of a superannuation windfall that might just be affordable now but certainly won't when the baby-boomers start clocking off.

For all that some of us fume about Winston Peters, he can (unlike last time around) guarantee his own party's discipline. If anyone is to spit the dummy in New Zealand First, it will be the leader himself. Whatever Labour and Green supporters might think about buddying up with Winston, it is likely to be a stable arrangement.

Notice that she was to be surplus to requirements was presumably what moved Tariana Turia to call a meeting with National to propose, apparently, a National-Act-UF-NZF-Maori coalition, which might have been highly amusing, but not exactly the kind of government you'd bet money on.

That didn't stop good old Barry Soper from speculating wildly on its prospects yesterday, first with a story noting the meeting and declaring that the "only problem" with such a coalition was "National's hard-line one-rule-for-all position." Er, yes. Quite.

By day's end, Newstalk was claiming, on the basis of comments from Pita Sharples, that the Maori Party might be prepared to give up on changes to the foreshore and seabed legislation and entrenchment of the Maori seats in order to go into coalition with National. I can only assume Sharples was quoted out of context. If he wasn't, that was not so much a negotiating position as a suicide note.

News finally breaks that some members of the National Party caucus are not best pleased with Murray McCully and would like to see him out of his present strategic role. Film at 11 yawns DPF, pointing out that McCully's demise has been predicted at regular intervals since 1993.

I'm not so sure. Brian Connell and Lockwood Smith (now there's an odd couple) are not the only National MPs keen to see the back of McCully. Certainly, as Idiot/Savant points out in the comments for DPF's post (which make very good reading), he has " the political survival skills of a cockroach," but there's always a first, or rather, last, time.

My understanding is that John Key has now been anointed as the ideal "McCully candidate" (that is, underdone and under direction) - Murray's not the most loyal of soldiers - but I would think that Key is intelligent enough to un-anoint himself if circumstances demand. Pass the popcorn anyway.

And just when you despaired of a windbag conservative opinion-former ever being nailed for parroting Maxim Institute talking points, this email was circulated to editorial staff of The Press yesterday:

From: Paul Thompson (CPL)
Sent: Wednesday, 12 October 2005 11:17 a.m.
To: * CPL - All Editorial

You will see in tomorrow's paper an editor's note advising that Alexis Stuart will no longer be writing her fortnightly column for The Press, because of concern that has been raised about the originality of some of her material in her most recent column.

I wanted you all to be aware of this in advance of reading about it in the paper.

The concern was raised by a correspondent who noticed identical wording in part of Stuart's column to that in an article written by the Maxim Institute's director, Bruce Logan, who is also her father. I immediately made inquiries of Alexis seeking an explanation. She blamed it on a misunderstanding, arising from her seeking her father's advice on the column. While I have always been fully aware of her relationship to Logan and the Maxim Institute, there was a clear expectation that her columns were honestly and independently formed, but that has proved in this instance to not be the case.

My unhappiness about this was heightened by the fact that all contributors to The Press were written to last year to be advised of the newspaper's concern about the risk of plagiarism and writers "borrowing" material from other unattributed sources.

I am extremely disappointed by this episode and expect some reaction, both from other news organisations and from readers. I have considered my response to the original complaint at length and am convinced that the decision to cease the paper's relationship with Stuart is the right course, given the potential for damage to our credibility.


Given the routine nastiness of Stuart's columns, and the irritating non-originality of Maxim's various editorial drones, I'm not inclined to feel a jot of sympathy.

Staying with boneheaded right-wing talking points, Mike Beggs recommended this dispatch from the DDT Wars in Australia. Fascinating.

The telecommunications regulatory framework might seem to grind very slowly - because it does - but today's headline Internet faster, cheaper by Xmas, shows that it does eventually produce results. The story talks about 7.6Mbit/s DSL download speeds, but in a way the most significant thing is that the evil and unjustifiable 128Kbit/s cap on upload speed will finally go. NB: It appears that I'm wrong on the upload issue. If so, I'm flabbergasted that this is the case. It is STUPID AND UNACCEPTABLE.

And yes, it was a video iPod after all. But a USB interface? WTF? Are they trying to make it difficult? On the face of it, yes. It's quite remarkable that iTunes Store customers will be able to download day-after episodes of Lost and Desperate Housewives. But obviously the networks aren't quite ready for an iPod that connects to your your actual television. On the other hand, the new iMac G5 makes it really easy to use your Mac as your TV and play your iTunes downloads that way. I'd sure like one of them Apples …