The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Battle of the brains

Photo / Paul Estcourt
Photo / Paul Estcourt

An interesting battle is developing among blocs of research institutes, universities and private companies as they seek to set up research hubs, or centres of excellence. The idea is that, because New Zealand is so small, it makes sense for organisations to band together. The problem is that those organisations have to pick a place, and who to work with. AgResearch is putting its considerable funding alongside Massey University in Palmerston North and Lincoln University. Niwa, meanwhile, is working with others to set up an agriculture research hub in Hamilton. Both will be competing for funding, but can government afford, or want, two such centres?

Simple made difficult

The overhaul of securities law known as the Financial Markets Conduct Bill passed through Parliament this week under urgency. One securities law expert has described it as a "big kahuna" of a bill - and that was when it was a mere 500 pages long, before the latest additions took it to almost 700 pages. Most MPs debating the bill said it would simplify the law, while admitting they did not understand much of it. They, like others, will have to rely on very expensive legal advice to get their heads around it all.

Meanwhile, the Financial Markets Authority is trying to "get down" with a new website to enable people "to share their thoughts and tell us what they think is important for the future of New Zealand's financial markets". It even has a cool new twitter account (@FMAmedia) which, at the time of writing, had one tweet announcing it had a twitter account and 74 people following in the hope of snippets of wit and wisdom from the market regulator.

A new alliance

Once Labour gets its leadership election out of the way, it will have to focus on the Christchurch East by-election campaign, as Lianne Dalziel heads off to contest the local mayoralty. The word is that former Labour MP and Alliance Leader Jim Anderton is going to run Labour's campaign. This might worry some in Labour, but Anderton had an awesome electorate organisation machine. The interest now is in what sort of candidate National puts up, and how much cash, energy and political capital it expends. The odds are against it, and the issues in Christchurch are complex and polarising, but it might want to wear down Labour's coffers before next year's election.

Good deeds done cheap

A study of management pay rates by the firm Strategic Pay shows the phrase "not-for-profit" is very apt when applied to chief executives in the sector. The study found they are likely to be paid up to 30 per cent less than their private sector counterparts.

State-owned losers

The continuing decline in the value of several state-owned enterprises and other Crown entities is starting to cause concern among some senior ministers. While there has been wide publicity about Solid Energy, and some attention paid to New Zealand Post, they are part of a pattern which includes Television NZ and the power companies. Others, such as LandCorp, are also failing to thrive and many of these are hungry for capital. The issue probably isn't keeping Finance Minister Bill English awake at nights, but it is starting to exercise his mind.

Punishment

The Ministry for Primary Industries continues to be under the gun, but someone writing their press releases hasn't lost their punning sense of humour. A recent release was entitled "Four people charged after MPI scorpion smuggling sting".NO DUNNE DEALPeople getting excited about the "flexible" superannuation proposal put forward as part of National's support agreement with Peter Dunne should relax a bit. It is a discussion document, there is little enthusiasm for the idea among senior National ministers and no chance of it making its way into Parliament before the next election. National did it only to keep Dunne happy, to promote debate about super, and remind people Labour wants to lift the age of eligibility.

And while the idea sounds simple - take your NZ Super before age 65, and receive a lower payment, or wait until after 65, and get more - the devil could be in the details. This week's discussion document shows that such a choice would introduce a host of complexities. As an example, it notes that under the proposal, a couple both eligible for Super could have 66 different payment rates, depending on the ages at which they start taking Super.

- NZ Herald

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