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

The Insider: Gangster style

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's Casino.
Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese's Casino.

Last Saturday, a fine time was had at the opening of SkyCity's new restaurant, Masu. John Key, Judith Collins and Nikki Kaye were all there. In his speech, SkyCity boss Nigel Morrison noted the international success of Japanese restaurants such as Masu and Nobu, mentioning the connection with actor Robert De Niro (Japanese food fanatic and Nobu's co-owner) and why this was all so apt, given De Niro's role in the movie Casino (right). An interesting choice - if the Insider remembers correctly, De Niro's character plays fast and loose with the law while working for the Mafia, and the whole thing ends in murder, car-bombing, drug-taking and general mayhem. Makes arguments over a convention centre seem tame.

Iwi on the inside

The process of putting together an organisation to lead the development and management of Christchurch's convention centre is picking up pace. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is tendering for a company to run the operation as design work starts. It is expected the expanding powerbase that is the Ngai Tahu iwi will have a significant say in who gets the job, and may also be keen to have an interest in it.

The blue view

Reactions to Monday's televised scrap between Energy Minister Simon Bridges and TV3's John Campbell provide an interesting insight into how people's politics colour their judgment. While many people declared Bridges the loser of the overheated exchange about oil and gas drilling, in National Party circles he is seen as a hero for tackling the "hand-wringing liberal" Campbell head on.

One last e-bargain

More proof that the internet is changing everything: in Britain, Steven Mitchell has started an online funeral business - - to help users save on burial costs. Customers can buy a coffin direct from his online Coffin Shop or put out a tender for a funeral which is then sent to hundreds of funeral directors through an e-bidding engine. The site is attracting 2500 visitors a month, reports the Telegraph news site, which quotes Mitchell as saying: "Everything else in life is available to compare on the internet - so why not funerals?"

Pressing vacancy

There has been much speculation around Parliament about who will become Labour leader David Cunliffe's press secretary now that Julian Robins, who did the job for David Shearer, has moved on. It is hard not to feel some sympathy for Robins, who gave up a long career in journalism only to become political collateral damage. The gossip about his replacement is focusing on a "well-known journalist" who has a contract to complete. In the meantime, Neale Jones from the EPMU is running the show.

Leaving high office

One of New Zealand's longest- serving political party leaders has stood down and barely anyone noticed. Wellington lawyer Michael Appleby has left the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party's top job after 17 years. The seemingly perpetual candidate tried hard, but never got his party over the 5 per cent threshold. The rise of the Green Party and its former MP Nandor Tanczos resulted in much of the stoner vote leaving the ALCP, and it never came back. The party's new leader is Dunedin journalist Julian Crawford. The title of longest-serving (and surviving) political party leader is now held by the slightly more successful Winston Peters. In the Insider's view, Peter Dunne doesn't count because his party kept changing, although Dunne would doubtless disagree. However, Dunne does hold the title of Father of the House, having served continuously as an MP since 1984. Peters misses out because his tenure has not been continuous.

Private enterprise

Housing New Zealand is seeking a private real estate agent to help sell its unwanted properties in the provinces to buyers who qualify for a subsidy under the Government's FirstHome scheme. Some might think the country's largest landlord should be able to handle the work itself, but the state agency wants a real estate company to act as a "master agent" to deal with local agents selling the surplus homes.

- NZ Herald

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