Hard News by Russell Brown

Very much on

I though this might happen: today's NBR Philips Fox poll has National on 38% support, a point ahead of Labour on 37, on a margin of error of 3.6%. Two polls last week had Labour ahead by seven and four points respectively, but fighting the trend. It would seem fair to say that at this point they're basically neck and neck.

Tax is quite obviously the issue here: last week's Herald poll had it coming out of nowhere to become the major issue for 14.9% of voters, making it second only to health. It's worth noting that in April last year, National was polling as high at 49%, with the Treaty and race relations as the hot-button issue. That was gone by August, which suggests rather strongly to me that this year's election will be delayed as long as possible, while Labour gathers its wits. The problem for Labour is that having played its hand in the Budget, it will be hard to backtrack, but it could start by stopping whining about TV3. It seems likely that public regard for Helen Clark's leadership, which has basically held against the polling trend (especially in comparison with Don Brash's ratings), will be a key asset.

National still obviously figures that there's mileage in racial unease: Aaron Bhatnagar's "Iwis versus Kiwi" billboard wasn't that far off the mark. The Herald has a story. I genuinely despair of this. Apart from being inaccurate and dishonest, National's billboard sets New Zealanders against each other. It is simultaneously cute and very ugly. Someone should ask Georgina Te Heu Heu what she thinks about it.

Unnerving also: at the moment, Winston Peters looks like kingmaker - both major parties would hold their noses and deal with him if it meant being able to form a government. Given the clear direction of his campaign - hey! racial unease again! - that is not pretty.

Hey, this is good: the Big geeks around NZNOG have turned a presentation by Joe Abley this year into an unofficial New Zealand Internet History. I'm pretty stoked that my giant 1998 story for Unlimited on Telecom and the Internet gets a couple of links.

This just in (hat tip to Richard Ram) for intelligence on that very important topic: beer. Realbeer.co.nz has been pursuing the question of whether selling pints is illegal. The answer is it depends, although a publican selling "real pints" would be breaching Section 10 of the Weights and Measures Act 1987.

And before someone runs off with this as some sort of libertarian crusade ("I'm riding a bicycle without a helmet whilst downing a 'real' pint. Come and get me, Helen!"), standardised measurements are part of consumer law almost everywhere. It's how you know what you're getting when you hand over money.

So you can still order a "pint"; the publican can still offer you a "pint" - but might fall foul of regulations if he was to advertise his beer in "real pints". In theory anyway - there have been no prosecutions.

The law stipulates a pint serving can't be less than 568ml. Which, so far as I can see, is exactly the same as one (British) imperial pint anyway. What you really want to avoid is a US pint, which is only 473ml.

Sticking with measurements: I presume the editors of the Herald's business section knew they were making a completely bogus comparison before they headlined Monday's story on the latest National bank business confidence survey Optimism dives to ‘87 crash low-point - and went ahead and did it anyway. The figure does not measure the depth of any economic pessimism, but the consensus - and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to realise that most analysts, commentators and Michael Cullen all expect economic growth to cycle down over the next year. Some people, including the National Bank's chief economist, who is quoted in the Herald story, think that's not entirely a bad thing.

Minor hilarities: how did a Google ad for "Gay Dunedin" find its way alongside Garth George's imperious prediction of the fall of Europe yesterday? Is somebody having a laugh?

Garth's conclusion is that "the European Union will disintegrate just as the Soviet Union did. Why? Because the foundations upon which they both were and are built are Godless."

It joins all manner of ill-informed offshore prognosticating since the French voted "non" to the European Constitution this week - the most hilarious of which was (surprise!) John Hinderaker of Power Line's attempt to declare "Red State/Blue State France": He said the "urban islands of blue, like Paris and Lyon ... would seem to correspond reasonably well to American 'liberalism'," because they're, um, blue, presumably. When a reader with half a clue got in touch, he posted a follow-up allowing that "if that is correct, then my suggestion that blue-state France parallels blue-state America was almost exactly wrong." Stunning.

Meanwhile, Garth's tirade against multiculturalism was kept company by an edited version of Tze Ming Mok's essay 'Race You There', which will appear in full in the Great New Zealand Argument book in about a month's time.

Did you see Tze Ming on Campbell Live last night? Nice of JC to give Public Address a mention. We're bad, we're nationwide! I'll be getting along to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Banana: The Conference during the weekend. And trying not think about Winston Peters.