Hard News by Russell Brown


I don't think this is what the Maori Party wanted before its first group of MPs are even seated. Its third-ranked list candidate Atareta Poananga has blasted its consultative hui process, describing it and co-leader Tariana Turia's glad-eye approach to National as "political suicide". Turia yesterday declared herself and her fellow MPs to have been given carte blanche to make coalition decisions by the hui, but Te Tai Tokerau candidate Hone Harawira said that was not the case at all, and hui in his electorate and Tainui had been trenchantly opposed to an accommodation with National, no matter what policy concessions were offered. They have contrived in short order to look like an unstable party.

When I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago, new Labour MP Shane Jones expressed the view - as, indeed, he has all along - that the foreshore and seabed issue had taken on an emotional charge that overwhelmed its practical significance. Would a promise from National - as claimed by Richard Prebble in the Herald on Sunday - to abolish the seabed and foreshore legislation in favour of some unspecified alternative really make up for the abolition of Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori Land Court and the Maori electorates? And the alteration of the school curriculum to remove emphasis on the Treaty? Or would National drop those policies too? In which case: WTF?

Adam Gifford explores this territory to useful effect in his new Nga Korero o te Wa blog, suggesting a return to the roots of the dispute: the Marlborough District Council's shabby and unfair behaviour in allocating (or, rather, consistently failing to allocate) aquaculture rights to local iwi. In the comments, Tim Selwyn points out that "the F&S Act is the genesis of the party" and proposes that we're seeing a good-cop-bad-cop strategy. I think that's overly charitable.

Meanwhile, Turia managed to have another go at her former party in, of all things, a speech to the National Maori Asthma Conference, crediting leaving Labour with clearing up her asthma.

David Farrar's analysis of the 2005 election results, originally compiled for internal National party use, has been liberated and published on the Act website (PDF). It's excellent.

This is worth a look. Mary Mapes, the CBS producer who conducted the investigation that became Rathergate, has written a book about it: Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power. According to Cursor.org, the book was removed from the catalogue of Amazon.com, but is still listed on Amazon's Canadian site, where it appears with the book's first chapter.

It's useful to read, finally, a little of Mapes' own account of how the story was put together - and what happened after the right-wing attack machine turned on it. Was the memo a fake after all? As things stand, you'd have to say yes, but that doesn't make Mapes' story any less interesting.

Another behind-the-curtains media story (hat-tip No Right Turn) is Irish RTE reporter Carole Coleman's account of an interview she conducted with George W. Bush that subsequently became somewhat controversial. As an interviewer, she did everything right. But the behaviour of the President's media handlers? Yucky.

Question: Would a sensible response to soaring oil prices be to try and radically increase petrol production; delay, undermine or abolish existing air quality and emissions regulations; cap fines for price gouging; freeze development of cleaner fuels; and generally hand a great big slab of pork to the oil industry?

No? Well, that's the gist of the Gasoline for America's Security Act of 2005, which squeaked through the US House in highly questionable circumstances this week, with some Republican legislators voting with their arms forced up their backs. The National Environmental Trust summarises "the worst of the worst" of the bill, while conservative Republican Congressman Tom Cole puts the case in favour ("If we expect gasoline to remain affordable, we must build additional refinery capacity").

The strange thing is that US oil producers have been closing refineries for the last 15 years - citing excess refining capacity - and, according to a report by Democratic Senator Ron Wyden in 2001, doing so specifically to create scarcity:

The record shows – supported by documents I have obtained – that there is more to the story. Specifically, the documents suggest that major oil companies pursued efforts to curtail refinery capacity as a strategy for improving profit margins; that competing oil companies worked together to subvert supply; that refinery closures inhibited supply; and that oil companies are reaping record profits, yet may benefit from a proposed national energy policy that would offer financial incentives to expand refinery capacity.

Worked out quite nicely for them, didn't it?

So, is it a video iPod this week, then? Probably not, but that's not stopping everyone speculating like crazy.