Hard News by Russell Brown

Proper Opposition

It has been heartwarming - well, for everyone but the government - to see some quality Opposition politics emerge, most notably in the work of Bill English. English has not blathered meaninglessly about "political correctness" or the "Sisterhood". He hasn't tried to set New Zealanders against each other, or spouted faux moral outrage. He has not got hysterical, or paraded someone else's grief for political advantage. He has simply dug deep into his portfolio, become its intellectual master, and identified genuine problems in the policy of the government of the day.

English, you might also note, is not calling for NCEA to be dumped after 10 years in the making (nearly five of them under a National government), but to be overhauled. He might be over-emphasising its problems - there are many people dealing directly with the system who regard it as a distinct, even exciting, improvement over what went before - but that's the job of the Opposition.

The Herald has a sensible editorial on the matter, which notes that (hallejujah!) a key reason that inconsistency of results has emerged is that we no longer handily erase such inconsistencies as a matter of policy, through scaling. (Without wishing to underplay the problem with the Scholarship exam, there has been something faintly ironic about certain people complaining because an exam wasn't easy enough.)

The Act MPs have also apparently got their ducks fairly well in line with the attack on Te Wananga o Aotearoa, whose success in getting hitherto hard-to-reach people into tertiary study must be said against a way of doing business that is, at times, frankly unusual. It's not hard to see why Trevor Mallard got himself an associate in the Cabinet reshuffle.

I've been less convinced by the charge led by Ron Mark over police emergency resourcing - not while the debate seems to turn so much on a handful of marginal decisions. I'm hoping one of the weekend papers will have put in the spadework and look at the issue over time - in the meantime, Colin James' commentary on the 111 flap ("what does the lather about 111 calls and the trigger-happy recourse to 111 say about us as a people?") is worth reading.

Anyway, speaking of faux moral outrage, someone kindly forwarded me Murray McCully's reply to Jordan Carter's letter regarding McCully's attempt to declare a moral panic over the fact that two men kiss in one of the Hubba Hubba ads:

My article acknowledges that homosexuality is a reality and also approves of the fact that it is legal. Using taxpayers' cash to offend a significant number of viewers is an entirely different matter. If it was private sector money it would be different. Regards, Murray.

So a public health campaign about condom use should on no account refer to physical intimacy? Because it might cause offence to, er, someone? That looks a whole lot like political correctness gone mad to me …

I find the flap over the new Auckland City Council's budget, which necessitates an average rate rise of 11%, falling more heavily on the most wealthy residents, unconvincing. Isn't this pretty much what the people involved said they were going to do? In comparison with what the last council did - campaigning on a pledge not to put the rates up and then putting them up most for the least wealthy ratepayers - it seems to fall a long way short of outrage to me.

That didn't stop the Herald bitching about "fiscal laxity" in an editorial yesterday. I don't recall so much fuming and farting when the council under Banks let unbudgeted expenditure run away in its first two years. And I'd be more sympathetic if Banks or the CitRats had ever explained how they were going to pay for their multi-billion dollar roading plans. The Herald editorial damns the new council's traffic-flow plans as both too expensive and too modest. That seems more than a tad rich to me.

I was wrong this week about TelstraClear not peering with the Wellington Internet Exchange. They haven't pulled the plug on the WIX yet - but it seems they'll do so in the next few days - at which point the local Internet will promptly get worse.

If you're on an ISP on TelstraClear's network, every time you connect with a content provider that connects to the WIX (Stuff, Radio New Zealand) or its counterpart, the Auckland Peering Exchange (TVNZ), the content will reach you via Australia. Can anyone confirm for me whether such traffic to Xtra customers is already taking such a route?

Looks like Radio New Zealand is starting to get hard-nosed about the problem. The new text accompanying its Enzology web programmes reads:

Please note that if you are an XTRA customer then these programmes may not play. This is not due to a fault on your machine or a fault with our audio server.

This is due to XTRA not 'peering' with our NZ content audio server at the Wellington Internet Exchange (WIX). Our international content server is not affected.

You will need to contact the XTRA help desk and lodge a complaint.
We also understand that another ISP may soon remove access to this content by 'de-peering' from WIX. If you previously could access the programmes and now cannot please contact your ISP's help desk and lodge a complaint.

You might think that when you pay your Internet bill, you're paying to connect to the rest of the world. That, unfortunately, is not how the big two see it. They want to bill you and charge content providers for delivering the traffic you have requested. It is, I am afraid, bullshit.

PS: Heard the one about the gay hooker from a fake news media organisation who was mysteriously granted White House press accreditation (despite having been denied admission to the Congressional press corps on grounds of a lack of credibility, and despite his other services still being advertised online) and then, under a false name, immediately started being called for ridiculous patsy questions at conferences, pasting White House press release into his "stories" - and was shown secret documents tied up in the malicious outing of an undercover CIA agent? No? Scoop has all the links.

PPS: The marketing chaps at New Zealand Cricket have sent me a couple of tickets to the inaugural Twenty20 international against the Australians at Eden Park tonight, so I'll head along with Paul and report back on that. And by all means, chaps, keep me on the list …