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The Insider: Insulting Muldoonisms alive and kicking

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Sir Robert Muldoon. Photo / Listener
Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Sir Robert Muldoon. Photo / Listener

He's been dead for 20 years this weekend, but the spectre of Robert Muldoon still comes in handy. Expressing outrage this week at an Inland Revenue announcement, Chapman Tripp didn't pull any punches, firing out a release headed "IRD channels Muldoon". The lawyers' point was that, as Muldoon once did, the IRD was telling people to ignore the law - as it applies to taxing lease inducement payments - because it was bound to be changed anyway. Interesting that after all these years, an accusation of Muldoonism remains a potent insult.

The upcoming Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga looks likely to attract more than the usual interest from media and politicians. Not only is it being held in a rather more pleasant location than some forum get-togethers, but rumours are flying that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will make an appearance, as the US continues to worry about China's growing influence in the South Pacific. The forum runs from August 27 to 31.

The Department of Internal Affairs is reviewing the pricing of the country's most expensive taxi company, VIP Transport. This arm of the government ferries ministers and others around, then charges for its services. The cars are nice - new ones arrived in March - secure and safe, but the problem is that users pay not only for their trip, but also the cost of bringing a car to their location, then returning it to base. This means the charge for similar length journeys can vary considerably. This arrangement may be replaced with a pay-as-you-use service which charges users only for the distance they travel, just like a real taxi service.

Always looking to cut costs, budget airline Ryanair has hit on another wizard scheme: make the plane doors wider, so two passengers can get on or off simultaneously, enabling faster turnarounds in a business where time is money. The Guardian reports that the airline is talking to a Chinese planemaker about building an aircraft customised for budget carriers, including bigger doors. Whether this is a genuine proposition or a flight of fancy - like Ryanair's infamous idea of charging passengers to use the toilet - remains to be seen.

Former National MP Graeme Reeves has been reappointed to chair the Gambling Commission, as the Government prepares to deal with some curly gambling policy and legislative issues. The commission's roles include handling applications for renewal of casino licences, dealing with appeals against regulatory decisions on pokie machines, and advising governments on the administration of the Gambling Act.

Senior officials in the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise are working out who will get the limited number of second and third tier managerial jobs. One of the things they are meant to be focusing on is how to make the new super-ministry more efficient and greater than the sum of its parts. One idea being kicked around is that some of the old ministries included various mediation and tribunal services, and it could be possible to align some of the related functions involving tenancy, weather-tight homes, employment mediation and some other bits and pieces. Once they work out whose job it is to look at such things, a start might be made.

Legislation for this year's Budget is still making its way through Parliament, but talks about Budget 2013 have begun in the Beehive. Early indications are that the purse strings will be tightened even further. Some senior health officials are already baulking at the task being set them.

Officials swear it is just coincidence, but it is interesting that the Government decided to announce a review of the coronial system and the Coroners Act hard on the heels of several coroners making very public judgments. Apparently, work on the review had been in progress for some time, but no doubt the recent judgments have sharpened the focus on looking at what the coroners' role is meant to be.

Ministers have been surprised at the positive feedback they are getting over legislative proposals to make it easier to amalgamate smaller local authorities. Sure, some people have griped about the idea, but many find it strange that we have 78 local authorities in New Zealand, one of which covers a third of the population while the other 77 cover the rest.

The Prime Minister's deputy chief of staff, Phil de Joux, is taking up a position as the head of government relations for Air New Zealand. The airline will no doubt be hoping he can open doors for it, as negotiations continue over the direction of the Government's aviation strategy.

- NZ Herald

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