The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Snags in the food bill

Everyone from groups running sausage sizzles through to the grocery chains was convinced the Food Bill would be the end of their world. Photo / Doug Sherring
Everyone from groups running sausage sizzles through to the grocery chains was convinced the Food Bill would be the end of their world. Photo / Doug Sherring

SNAGS IN FOOD BILL

The Food Bill has been on the back burner for so long that many have forgotten it exists. Under the guidance of former minister Kate Wilkinson, the bill became so tied up in knots that furious lobbying from all quarters brought it to a standstill in 2010. Everyone from groups running sausage sizzles through to the grocery chains was convinced it would be the end of their world. Now, the word is that officials have been working on a review on the bill, with instructions to beat it into a workable state. The Government would like to get it passed this year, but with deep suspicion still lingering, that will be an uphill battle. Major amendments would have to be introduced at the committee stage of the bill without any select committee scrutiny, which will create squeals. This legislative saga could roll on for a long time yet.

CHILLY WELCOME

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was yet another minister who managed to get some travel time this week.

He visited Vienna to address the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, delivering a dissertation on the legislative response to new psychoactive substances. It wasn't all fun and games, though - his travel plans were disrupted by the snow storms plaguing Europe.

ROAD SLIP

The Kapiti Coast Expressway is one of the Government's roads of national significance, and like other such projects it has divided the communities affected. So some are wondering whether it was a Freudian slip, rather than a mere typo, that resulted in one local council report on the road referring to it as the "daft expressway" rather than the "draft expressway".

WRONG DIRECTION

Labour deputy leader Grant Robertson caused a storm of debate this week. Not on any heavy-hitting political issue or maneuverings in the Labour caucus, but by expressing his disdain for boy band One Direction. They're "shite", he told Wellington student publication Salient. It is difficult to tell whether this gained or lost votes, but it sure provoked a social-media reaction among youth.

THINKING TOO BIG

While the commerce select committee and others continue their pursuit of Solid Energy, it is perhaps easy to be wise in hindsight. The committee's last review of Solid Energy, published in May last year, did not raise concerns. Instead, it noted: "Solid Energy projected $1 trillion in potential earnings from a predicted 10 billion tonnes of coal. Solid Energy said this estimate represented the potential revenue from all coal-based products ... and that it might prove to be conservative. We asked what coal price it used in this calculation. We noted that predicted returns assumed that the current price of fossil fuels would be maintained or increase. Solid Energy said returns were calculated on prices from the last several years; it believed they were very unlikely to fall, and were very likely to rise substantially". Solid Energy got it badly wrong, but no one on the committee seems to have set off the alarm bells back then.

IT'LL NEVER FLY ...

Some heavy lobbying is going on in Wellington political and business circles to build up support for an extension to the Wellington Airport runway, making it a true international airport. But the figures being thrown around are daunting, and raise the question of who will pay for what could be one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in New Zealand - the estimated cost is $1 million a metre for up to 300m of new runway. Local government politicians are keen for businesses to pick up the tab which seems a heroic hope as many capital city businesses are struggling.

DISAPPEARING FIZZ

Things must be tough in Britain. Champagne has been dropped from the basket of goods that statisticians use to calculate the country's inflation rate. Instead, the Office of National Statistics is using a tipple more in keeping with these austere times, white rum.

POPE-WATCH

There's a business opportunity in everything - including the process of choosing a pope. This week's conclave in Rome prompted the development of several social media tools for the faithful who wanted to stay on top of the action. Conclave Alert, an application for iPad users, provided conclave-related tweets and information on the cardinals doing the choosing, while the Pope App delivered alerts whenever there was some action, and images from webcams throughout the Vatican.

- NZ Herald

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