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

The Insider: Pig power

Richard Fisher has been descibed as a 'feral hog' in a interview. Photo / AP
Richard Fisher has been descibed as a 'feral hog' in a interview. Photo / AP


Former PM David Lange once described money-market traders as "reef fish". Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve, has upped the ante, animal-wise; in an interview with the Financial Times he described the big players in the financial markets as "feral hogs", for the way they aggressively sniff out any weakness in central-bank policy. "If they detect a weakness or a bad scent, they'll go after it."


National MP Paul Goldsmith campaigned hard to get the chairmanship of the finance and expenditure select committee, traditionally seen as a stepping stone to a ministerial position. And the Insider was intrigued to note that a member of the same committee, Maggie Barry, was the highest-ranked politician on the recently-released Reader's Digest "most trusted person" list at 51st place, well above John Key at 80th. Her less kind colleagues believe readers of the venerable publication might be under the impression she is just a kindly presenter of garden shows, not a sharp-tongued backbench MP.


Public sector banking could be in for a shake-up after the release of a discussion document asking for suggestions on a new "all of government" banking service. The Insider was interested to note that any new scheme could cover schools - "perhaps a customised off the shelf solution". After the Novopay debacle, schools will be itching to revamp their banking as well. It's also interesting to note that the 92.5 million transactions in the 2010-11 year included 42,000 dishonour charges; will the Government join the Fair Play on Fees campaign to get some of that money back?


As Gerry Brownlee splashes money around on Christchurch and Auckland infrastructure projects, he has gained a new nickname among his colleagues - the $6 billion man.


Like their private sector counterparts, many public sector agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to get insurance - and if they can, the cost and higher excesses are making cover less attractive. The move from replacement cost to indemnity value has also resulted in an increase in the level of uninsured assets in central and local government. There has been an increasing reliance on self-insurance, accompanied by prayers that the Government will come to the rescue if things go wrong. The issue is a pressing one for ministers, as the cupboards are bare after the Canterbury quakes. The problem isn't unique to New Zealand; the international insurance industry trade body, the Geneva Association, has warned that the speed of ocean warming is making many areas of the world uninsurable, including parts of Britain and Florida.


In Opposition, National MPs used to accuse the previous Labour Government of running a nanny state, but in some ways, rules and regulations have become even tighter since. Now, an edict has gone out to ministerial offices that no candles or sparklers may be lit on birthday cakes etc, because of the fire risk and the fear of setting off alarms. Funnily enough, Beehive birthday cakes have been decked with candles for decades.


There has been heavy lobbying in Parliament to impose some tax - GST or otherwise - on more of the goods imported by individuals making online purchases. As people grow increasingly comfortable with internet shopping, especially with the dollar still high, there is growing angst among retailers. Ministers and officials have been reluctant to do much more than encourage Customs to be more active in intercepting commercial parcels and seeking tax from purchasers. But retailers say Australia and the US are taking more vigorous steps to tax online buyers, and New Zealand should follow suit.


There are signs of peace in Parliament's microphone wars. Mikes adorned with ever-growing signs - even flashing lights in one case - advertising media outlets have become the norm at press conferences, and there have been a few tantrums between rivals squabbling for space. Now the Prime Minister's office has declared a "clean lectern" policy for the weekly post-Cabinet press conference, upsetting many in the Press Gallery who don't trust the Beehive audio feed. But the PM's office is tired of the mess, and some of the Cabinet's more vertically challenged members can't be seen over the clutter if they accompany John Key.


NZ hospo people are up in San Francisco and going for it with pop-up bars. Moa Beer has a bar opening in one of the best positions on the bay, and Auckland restaurateur Tony Stewart is opening up a pop-up restaurant - the Waiheke Island Yacht Club - on July 4. Silver Fern Farms are among other Kiwi brands offering produce through the restaurant.

- NZ Herald

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