The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: The real storm in Auckland ports

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Last week's Auckland Council decision to review the port's future only postpones the big fight. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Last week's Auckland Council decision to review the port's future only postpones the big fight. Photo / Brett Phibbs

THE REAL STORM
The Ports of Auckland dispute with the Maritime Union is a sideshow compared with the looming battle over the port's container business and expansion plans. Last week's Auckland Council decision to review the port's future only postpones the big fight, and the powerbrokers are arming themselves with lobbyists, PR companies, law firms and economists. Backing the port is Wellington-based multinational SweeneyVesty and former Act press secretary Trish Sherson. At Waterfront Auckland, which backs the port and its growth plans, is former National Party president Sue Wood and media supremo Bill Ralston. Against the port is Heart of the City's Alex Swney, supported by Auckland marketing gurus Pead PR. So far, Wellington lobbyists Saunders Unsworth have remained on the sidelines, given their long association with the 14-member port company CEO group.

ROLLER ROLLOUT
Last year, BMW dealer Team McMillan and John Key survived a minor media storm over the ministerial BMWs and the timing of donations from the company to the National Party.

Next week McMillan opens its new Rolls Royce yard, and promised guests include the PM, the British High Commissioner and others in business who are in the "Rolls-Royce league". The Insider waits with bated breath to see if an announcement of an even more luxurious ministerial fleet is imminent.

ACC'S BIG WINNERS
While many staff and clients of the Accident Compensation Corporation are feeling the pinch, some at ACC aren't doing too badly. The 13 or so people running ACC's large investment portfolio received $2,352,296 in bonus payments in the 2010-11 financial year for their performance in 2009-10. This is similar to bonuses paid to their counterparts doing similar jobs in the private sector - and if anything is probably less generous. But such payments might not sit so comfortably in the public service, especially in this era of austerity. The ACC investment team have also had a few other perks. One analyst had a $20,000 two-week trip around the capitals of Europe to visit the operations of New Zealand-listed companies, and $22,000 was spent on an investment manager's visit to Bangalore and London. None of which will make it any easier to defend ACC taking a tough line on claims.

HOLIDAYS? NO THANKS
As some Kiwis push for Mondayising public holidays, the Swiss have taken a step in the other direction, voting down a proposal for a minimum of six weeks of paid annual holiday. The referendum, supported by a union, sought to lift the minimum holiday from four weeks to the six of Germany, Italy, Russia and other European nations. But voters heeded warnings from government and business about the costs of such a move, and two-thirds said no thanks.

TAX DODGE
About three years ago the Government began a review of child support legislation, with all sides of the debate agreeing that the law is unfair, inflexible and causing many families serious harm. Last year a bill emerged, but there seems little enthusiasm to make progress and it is in 49th place on the parliamentary Order Paper as it awaits a first reading before being sent to a select committee for consideration. To be fair, the new law is not due to come into force until 2013, so it is not exactly urgent. But there is some suspicion that the bill is being kept on the back burner because IRD won't be able to implement it if it does enter the statute books. John Key has already noted that the IRD's ageing computer system needs a $1 billion upgrade.

TOUGH EXAMINATION
The idea of publishing employment success rates and salary levels of graduates of specific tertiary education courses will not go down well among some academics. In some countries - the US in particular - highly detailed information about graduates' employment prospects is gathered and sold by private publishers, with a huge influence on the fortunes of universities. As New Zealand universities struggle to compete internationally, it is hard to know whether such transparency would help, or make things even tougher.

- NZ Herald

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