Island Life by David Slack

Against All Odds

Like to turn a hundred bucks into a quick $50,000? Do I have a tip for you. Centrebet is offering $500 for a bet on Winston Peters</b to be the next Prime Minister. These are what are known in punting as false odds. I'm not saying he'll make it. I'm not saying Labour won't make it back. What I am saying is that he has more of a show than you might think.

It goes like this: the Nats are very, very keen to win this. They've had the whiff of LTD leather in their nostrils a couple of times in the past 18 months, and they are most eager to fulfil their ardent desires. Should Winston be the kingmaker, they will bend as far as it takes to get the deal.

And now consider Winston. His retirement and legacy loom. This will be probably the last best chance for him to leave a legacy any more illustrious than Failed Treasurer, Failed Deputy Prime Minister, Failed Minister of Maori Affairs.

So suppose he should have the chance to make the Queen, or King. What's to say he might not insist on taking the crown himself?

Winston Raymond Peters, New Zealand Prime Minister, 2005 - 2006.

Consider the ever-so-slight trace of vanity in his nature. Check out that campaign poster. If you squint, it could be a Julio Iglesias CD cover - the Kiwi grandmothers' favourite crooner all softly-lit on the beach looking natty as ever in his double breasted suit, with big globs of industrial strength hair product keeping those lustrous locks perfectly in place, contorting slightly in matinee-idol style to take a glance behind himself at whatever it is he's just stepped in.

This might all sound too impossibly far-fetched, but before you dismiss it, consider the vanity. It's a big clue, according to a much-esteemed political commentator whose name I'd gladly reveal but for the tricky problem of Chatham House rules. What I can say is this: he was not kidding when he suggested that the Nats might just be eager enough for power to give vain Winston the top job.

Having said that, the numbers were a little different then; NZ First is dealing with a reduced hand now. But the possibility still exists, and I therefore draw your attention back to the numbers. $500 on your dollar. That's what I call a favourable Australian exchange rate.

Tips? I'm full of them. Here's another. I hereby call upon fellow serial online complainers about Telecom (Messrs Saarinen, Brislen, Barton, Simpson and Brown for starters) to embrace with alacrity and vigour the enormous strategic opportunity presented in the High Court yesterday by Justice Young, in words that will surely give pause to Black Letter lawyers and right-thinking conservatives everywhere.

I was vaguely aware the public law had been carving out interesting and even bold new tracts of territory in the civic and commercial landscape but Holy Mary Mother of God, this is stirring stuff.

Justice Young, in explaining the basis on which he could assert the authority of the court over TV3 pointed out the reasoning that has been developing over the last 25 years, which is expressed concisely by the Court of Appeal in Royal Australasian College of Surgeons v Phipps.

Over recent decades Courts have increasingly been willing to review exercises of power which in substance are public or have important public consequences, however their origins and the persons or bodies exercising them might be characterised.

I had an epiphany as I read that. Never mind the debate about the freedom to print all the news that's fit, or that fits, let's think about really big exercises of power which in substance are public or have important public consequences. If that doesn't fit the Telecom broadband policy, I don't know what does.

Everyone seems to agree, this Webb bloke's failed to run out the varmints or bring a little action to this one horse town, to adopt his vernacular, so I say we give up on him. Instead, lets get a bit of action going in the court system. Forget the Telecoms legislation. Let's try a broad public law strategy. Let's give the black letter lawyers a real attack of dyspepsia. Let's use this burgeoning new area of public law to get a judicially active order slapped on Telecom to open up the broadband pipes to competition. And while we're at it, how about a bit of number portability?

Actually, on second thoughts, I know that mentioning legal action and Telecom in the same sentence still gets Russell a bit edgy, so perhaps he may want to sit this one out. But I say to everyone else who has ever typed out an exasperated digital paragraph about the lumbering arrogant quasi monopoly that is Telecom: remember TV3! Remember the Worm! Our day is at hand, and must surely dawn!

Yes, it'll be pricey to take them on in court, but I'm relaxed about that. I expect to be coming into a spare fifty grand shortly.