Hard News by Russell Brown

iTunes, yes

PA reader the Rev. Margaret Mayman emailed to ask me whether I knew anything about the prospects of a New Zealand iTunes Store appearing. Which reminded me that, in fact, I do. The local music industry is seeing signs of movement. The reason for the endless delay of the launch isn't clear, but the person I spoke to had a theory: tax.

The NZ store would be run from Australia (where work was done on it nearly a year ago), but trans-Tasman tax arrangements made it unattractive for Apple. Another theory for the delay involves differences in rights payments. I don't know if either theory is accurate, or what might have been done to ease the problem, but it does seem that there will be, finally, a New Zealand iTunes Store, perhaps by the end of the year.

It's nice to be read in high places. David Lewis from the Prime Minister's office gave me a call yesterday to point out that Labour's view, as outlined in this release from Michael Cullen, is that the minor rule changes with respect to Parliamentary Services funding after 2002 actually strengthen the party's case, rather than weaken it.

Lewis agreed that Labour was warned last September by the chief electoral officer David Henry that the pledge card would be considered electoral spending.

"And we continued to contest that, saying we know this is normal spending that we'd done in 2002, 1990 and 1996. It wasn't seeking votes as such, it was putting out information."

So why would David Henry think the situation had changed?

"I don't know - you'd have to ask David Henry that."

Cullen's statement allowed that the auditor general's final report might well propound a different view of the rules than Labour's. Would the party take that as the final word?

"Labour will wait and see what the final report says before making decisions on what happens after that … It's not for us to accept or reject it, we just have to deal with whatever findings he puts out."

And the status of Labour's complaint to the auditor general about National's 2002 pledge pamphlet, also publicly funded?

"We can see no material difference between what National put out in 2002 and what Labour put out in 2005. In our view the supposed rule changes National talks about didn't in any way affect the eligibility of these things, and even in fact strengthened the eligibility of Labour's pledge card for Parliamentary Services funding."

And, finally, the Herald's story claiming that Labour is preparing a plan to return the money by underspending its Parliamentary Services funding over the next two year. Was it accurate?

"No. As far as I know there are no plans and we're not considering that. It's not an option."

Craig Ranapia was in touch with some comment on my observation that I didn't know anyone who cast their vote on the basis of the pledge card, and that Labour's election advertising was so lousy it would be hard to claim that it turned the vote anyway:

First, I'd probably be told to piss off if I tried to turn my social circle into a focus group - and deservedly so. But while I take you point, I still think it's a bit of a red herring. Electoral law doesn't make any distinction between attributable 'effective' spending, and 'what were they smoking?' non-attributable spending. Who ever came up with Labour's campaign - and I would like to know what they were on, so I could avoid it - thought the pledge card was going to influence at least a couple of votes, otherwise they wouldn't have bothered issuing the damn thing.

And, perhaps counterintuitively, I think National should be rather keen to see what Winston's got. Considering his track record of smear campaigns that stand up to scrutiny the same way vampires like sunlight, this would be a perfect opportunity to remind the Press Gallery - and folks 'outside the Beltway' - of Peters' own dysfunctional relationship with reality, and the good old days when Helen Clark and Labour treated Peters with contempt.

Well, it 'aint nice - but you can't say it's dull. :)

And you can't say it doesn't have its lighter moments either. The Kiwi Herald exclusively revealed Don Brash's plans to form a government in exile.

And, even funnier, Matthew Hooton appears to have moved on from his public appeals for Brash to step down for the good of his party. Indeed, the casual reader of Hooton's consistently amusing Sunday Star Times column would never have known from Sunday's effort that the author had ever done anything but stand in solidarity behind the Dear Leader:

Don Brash has secured his leadership of the National Party through to the next election.

Brash's decision to confront the leadership issue at National's annual conference was derided by his political opponents as weak. It was anything but. Just as Helen Clark went public when Michael Cullen tried to roll her in 1996, Brash's strategy was absolutely right - raise the stakes, confront the issue and demonstrate strength with no hint of backing down.

And definitely no hint of gracefully resigning for the good of his party, presumably. I guess we can take it as read that Comrade Hooton no longer believes that John Key "is able to articulate a fresh, inclusive, ambitious and bold agenda like no one else in contemporary New Zealand politics."

And that was just the opening lines. He concludes by proposing that the governor general (only "technically" obliged to follow the prime minister's advice) could be approached by Brash to dissolve the government and demanding "UN observers" be brought in to oversee the next election. If this rolls on too much longer I expect he'll be calling on US forces to pre-emptively invade.

There's been some interesting debate about the government's proposed Ambush Marketing Bill. No Right Turn objects on the basis that it's not the government's role to legislate to secure a commercial arrangement.

There's quite a bit more informed (and sceptical) comment on the issue from livewire marketing expert Michael Carney, who has finally gone and got himself a blog. It's called G2 and I warmly advise a visit.