The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: National friend or foe?

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Dr Jan Wright. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Dr Jan Wright. Photo / Mark Mitchell

FRIEND AND FOE
It's not long ago that Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright was being praised by all parties for her competence and independence, as Parliament voted her reappointment. Some MPs have short memories, and there was much muttering from National MPs this week as she told a select committee that in her opinion planned changes to water down the Emissions Trading Scheme would be a costly and environmentally damaging mistake. A little longer ago, some of the same MPs were praising Wright's work on the poison 1080 (she supported its use), while others with greener inclinations were questioning her judgment. Will the same National MPs suddenly become fans again if Wright concludes that hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" - which she is now investigating - is not the most evil mining practice in the world, and the cause of earthquakes as some critics claim?

SORT THIS ONE, MURRAY
One of the great below-the-surface political battles of recent years has been between the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Board and some of those it regulates. There have been petitions, legal threats, furious lobbying and much more.

Now, Murray Burns has been appointed to sort out the mess. While Burns has a long history of dealing with the dark politics of the health sector, he'll have his work cut out.

POWER STRUGGLE
One hell of a political battle is building up in the corridors of power over Resource Management Act reforms. While Environment Minister Amy Adams is meant to be in charge of the law changes, few doubt that Steven Joyce is the driving force for the most radical reform of the law proposed by the Government's technical advisory group since it came into being. Most National ministers would be quick to dismiss groups such as Greenpeace as scaremongering luddites, but when they are joined in alliance with Blue-Green lobbyist Guy Salmon and others, some ministers will start to take note. With the law changes not agreed on yet, let alone drafted, there is still some way to go. One interesting dynamic is whether former Conservation and Environment Minister Nick Smith will get his feet back under the Cabinet table when John Key reshuffles his ministry this year as Lockwood Smith takes up his new post in London.

BLINK, DON'T MISS IT
Haier's bid for Fisher & Paykel could be a bonus for gadget lovers if the Chinese firm shares some of its technical know-how. Among the innovations Haier showed off at a Berlin trade fair this month was a fridge with a touchscreen door that can display a list of its contents, use-by dates, and even suggest cocktail recipes using its contents. Also on show was a TV which allows viewers to change channels and set the volume just by blinking.

MAYBE-MAN DROPS IN
You might have missed it, but last night a man who could be the president of the United States was speaking in Auckland. The fact that he was campaigning in New Zealand so close to polling day might say something about his chances, but James Harris, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, was indeed here. Sure, the guest of the Militant Labour Forum is a very long shot to upset Obama or Romney, but he is on the voting forms.

CHANGING SIDES
Is two a trend? The move by former Labour and Alliance Machiavelli John Pagani, to join NZ Oil and Gas, follows that of former Labour staffer and wannabe MP Deborah Mahuta-Coyle, who is now with the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association. Is the oil and gas industry hedging its bets or just trying to understand its natural political enemies?

MILITARY MIGHT
The word around the traps is that the Government is to end the pay freeze on the defence forces that has been in place since 2008. With all branches of the armed forces facing losses of their most skilled and experienced staff to better paying roles in the private sector and overseas, better pay may help stem the losses.

RIGHT LUBRICATION
It takes a certain something to make your email stand out from the herd, and the organisers of the Global Superyacht Forum obviously know what that something is. The invitation that landed in the Insider's inbox this week immediately attracted attention with its frank promise: "unique and well oiled social networking events". PR people, take note.

- NZ Herald

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