The Insider
What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: A masterpiece of understatement

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The sorry state of Christmas on Queen St has brought on a search for someone who can add their touch of magic to the decorations. Photo / Supplied
The sorry state of Christmas on Queen St has brought on a search for someone who can add their touch of magic to the decorations. Photo / Supplied

And now, a little applause for Heart of the City, which has taken a beating in the past over its "Big Little City" ad campaign for central Auckland businesses, and for the sorry state of Xmas decorations in Queen St. Now the organisation is advertising for its own Christmas Fairy - or "Queen Street Christmas Decorator" - to make amends. In a masterpiece of understatement, Heart of the City's advertisement notes that "the current theming is at the end of its lifespan and improvements are needed" and seeks a street decorator with creativity, time and budget management skills.

Ministers will soon have to ponder some eye-watering numbers as they consider how to deal with Inland Revenue's computer woes. There has been some concern that the budgets and timeframes being floated - such as the oft-quoted $1 billion and up to ten years - are rather vague. What is known is that the IRD will have to spend more than $50 million this year keeping its mainframe up and running, and another $50 million to try to get other parts of the system to work with new policy.

Reports to ministers are said to be flying in their direction.

Decisions are due on what to do with the spectrum from 694 to 806 megahertz, freed up as a result of the switchover from analogue to digital television. Ministers have already made up their minds to go ahead with auctioning the 700 megahertz spectrum late this year or very early next year, though there are different levels of expectation about how much money the Government will make from the sale.

Dr Alan Jackson is the latest to take up the baton and try to sort out the struggling racing industry. Jackson is taking over from Michael Stiassny as chairman of the Racing Board. The warring factions in the industry are said now to be able to spend time in the same room, though their ability to work together is somewhat limited by their inability to agree on what the problems are, let alone the solutions. Racing Minister Nathan Guy has been criticised by some for having little influence on the sector, but he would not be the first minister to be criticised for that.

Having failed to cover themselves in glory before the global financial crisis, the international ratings agencies now appear determined to leave no stone unturned. This week Fitch Ratings downgraded its rating on the mighty republic of San Marino - population 30,000 - from "A" to "BBB+", with a warning that worse could lie ahead. San Marino, surrounded by Italy, has been hard-hit by the international crackdown on tax havens, one of its major money-spinners.

The tourism industry is backing the campaign to "Monday-ise" Waitangi Day and Anzac Day - adding an extra day off when the actual day falls on a weekend. Its support comes not because the extra time off the job would make for a happier, more relaxed workforce, but because the extra long weekends would be a huge boost for domestic tourism. Or so Tourism Industry Association chief executive Martin Snedden argued in a press release this week. The association has asked party leaders to support Labour MP David Clark's Holidays Amendment Bill. Why stop there, the Insider wonders - imagine what a four-day working week would do for tourism.

One of the best quips from last weekend's National Party conference came from PM John Key, who told blogger and pollster David Farrar that he looked like a hobbit version of Kim Dotcom.

Reserve Bank insiders were rather bemused at recent comments from the Manufacturers and Exporters Association, welcoming Rod Carr's appointment to the Reserve Bank board. The association said Carr's presence showed why monetary policy shots should be called by the board and not by an individual governor - the argument being that Carr's business experience would lead to a wider view being taken on monetary policy and its effects. But the NZMEA seems to have a short memory; Carr may have lots of business experience, but he is also a fully-ordained member of the Reserve Bank priesthood, having been a deputy governor and even acting governor between Don Brash and Alan Bollard.

As reported, Dun & Bradstreet this week said NZ businesses had improved their bill-paying habits a little, taking an average 42.2 days to pay, according to the firm's latest survey. The Insider couldn't help noting that the public sector was the worst offender, taking an average 47.3 days to cough up.

- NZ Herald

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