The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Lucrative title, fraudbusters gather

Intense and emotional lobbying has begun around the Beehive for the first application round for the title of Queen's Counsel. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Intense and emotional lobbying has begun around the Beehive for the first application round for the title of Queen's Counsel. Photo / Paul Estcourt

LUCRATIVE TITLE

Intense and emotional lobbying has begun around the Beehive - and not over some controversial government policy. No, it's because the first application round for the title of Queen's Counsel is under way. It costs just $500 to apply, a sum that successful applicants should be able to recoup in a billable hour or two. Lobbying will be furious but the rewards make any necessary grovelling well worthwhile. The QC title was dropped by the previous Labour Government, but restored by National late last year.

RED TAPE REVIEW

Officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise are putting the final touches on the results of a joint survey carried out with Business NZ to establish measures of the cost of doing business and the effectiveness of the government compared with the private sector. It is hoped that the work might dispel some of the myths about compliance costs and where they fall - though whether it will lead to any reduction is another matter.

Some officials fear the data may be skewed to bash the public service, though that could just be paranoia.

HOMES FROM AWAY

With everyone talking up the need for cheap housing, maybe NZ should invite a few Australian developers to move across the Tasman. The Bloomberg news agency reports that Australia's residential developers say they're facing the weakest housing market in 20 years. To attract homebuyers, developers are offering discounts, gift cards and help with mortgage payments. And they're talking big money: in some states, the inducements can amount to as much as A$50,000 ($62,000) a house.

FRAUDBUSTERS GATHER

Scam artists beware - Auckland will be awash with fraudbusters next week, when the Serious Fraud Office hosts an Economic Crime Seminar, followed by a conference of the international Economic Crime Agencies Network. Among those sharing their expertise will be Harry Markopolos, the man who uncovered Bernie Madoff's giant Ponzi scheme, and FBI agents James Barnacle and Francine Gross, who investigated insider traders Raj Rajaratnam and Rajat Gupta, and fraudster R. Allen Stanford.

MUCH ADO ON DIPLOMATS

It is hardly unusual for Winston Peters to cause a fuss, but he has upset a few people by complaining about the appointment of Lockwood Smith as High Commissioner in London. Peters argues that it is wrong to appoint politicians to diplomatic posts, especially when the mandarins in Lambton Quay are having such a hard time. Peters may well be right, but observers may recall that as Foreign Minister he had no problems appointing one of his MPs - the late and sadly missed Brian Donnelly - High Commissioner to the Cook Islands. On a related note, some diplomats have been wondering why the job of High Commissioner to Canada remains vacant, with Winton Holmes only in an acting position. The Ottawa post has a bit of a history as a home for displaced politicians, and some observers suspect it is being kept open. Meanwhile, Mike Moore, Ambassador to the US, and Jim McLay, our man at the UN, have both been reappointed, Moore for three years and McLay for an unannounced period.

SILENCE REIGNS

Signs of the times (and changing technology) this week: 1) Harrods is closing its piano department after 118 years, thanks to declining sales. 2) Further along the technological scale, Sony has given up making MiniDisc players. Launched 20 years ago, the MiniDisc was meant to be the format of the future, but never lived up to its promise.

SWEDES OK

It's funny how little political noise there has been about an unnamed Swedish institution getting Overseas Investment Office clearance to buy eight Waikato dairy farms covering 3205ha from billionaire Graeme Hart's Carter Holt Harvey. The deal has some similarities with one involving Chinese investors. Perhaps the fact that the company which will run the Swedes' farms - Southern Pastures Management - is headed by former All Black captain Graham Mourie blunted any criticism, because when it comes to matters of foreign investment, racism couldn't possibly be an isssue.

FROM THE DARK SIDE

So, which press secretary applied for a job in the Press Gallery without their minister hearing about it? They will be none too happy when they find out, especially if the person in question gets the job. It has happened before, but usually there is a delay before coming back from the dark side, as former press secretaries are privy to much inside information.

- NZ Herald

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