The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Flights of fancy

The idea for a new Wellington airport has been shot down by Gerry Brownlee.
The idea for a new Wellington airport has been shot down by Gerry Brownlee.

The latest wizard scheme to revive Wellington's economy is to move its airport to the hills north of the suburb of Newlands, creating a 2400m runway that could handle long-haul flights. The promoter says it would cost "only" $750 million to build, and that expense would be offset by selling land at the existing airport. But as well as the fact that the hills are often shrouded in cloud, and various other issues, the idea was shot down almost immediately by Gerry Brownlee, who described it as so exciting that the private sector would be sure to fully fund it. Yeah right.

Slow starters

Lobby group Business NZ has invited various people to drinks next Tuesday, February 18, to "kick off the working year". There's nothing like getting things off to a flying start.

Does not compute

The brand police are hard at work at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The AP news agency reports that Olympic workers are swooping on reporters sitting in competition venues with Apple laptops, and covering their logos with duct tape. It seems any laptop that isn't made by official sponsor Samsung is likely to face an Olympic cover-up.

Just keep talking...

Ministers are pondering how to respond to the Constitutional Review which reported back at the end of last year. It is hard to take issue with the review's rather wishy-washy overall recommendation that people should keep discussing NZ's constitutional arrangements. Ministers are likely to wholeheartedly endorse the idea of continuing "conversation" on these issues. But they seem less likely to venture into other areas covered in the review, such as the role and status of the Treaty of Waitangi in legislation, or giving the judiciary power to assess legislation for consistency with the Bill of Rights Act. Ministers want the chattering classes to keep chattering, without exciting the masses too much.

Judicious silence

Crown Law has quietly dropped its goal of publicly defending judicial independence, and explaining some of the factors behind controversial judgments. Last year, Crown Law told MPs it was concerned about the nature of personal attacks on judges and said it might take a greater role in defending them. Since then, it has been notably absent from any public debate and has now told MPs that after thinking the issue over, it has decided it might be a bit difficult for the Solicitor-General and Crown Law to do more publicly, because they are the primary litigants before the courts. Crown Law considers it appropriate that the Bar Association and the Law Society take a more active public role in coming to the defence of judges, who usually feel bound not to respond to criticism.

True facts

In Parliament this week, NZ First MPs were bemoaning the passage of a law covering airport fees and regulations, when it was pointed out to them that Winston Peters had been deeply involved in the privatisation of Auckland Airport. "Nonsense" and "get your facts right" huffed NZ First's Denis O'Rourke - in defiance of the fact that Peters was Treasurer at the time, and stoutly defended selling the Government's airport stake.

Same place, same face

Labour seems to have little difficulty in introducing new blood into its staff - the party is on to its fifth chief of staff in recent years. But it seems to be making less progress with its caucus. Annette King has reportedly confirmed that she will seek to stand again in the safe Labour seat of Rongotai. Meanwhile, leader David Cunliffe and deputy David Parker are talking to MPs about their futures, in the hope of moving some people on.

Action man

Labour list MP Rajen Prasad has started the year with a flurry. His website already lists three press releases, compared with just one in all of last year - and that a joint effort.

Naming rights

A David-and-Goliath battle has been raging between cosmetics company Lush and giant retailer Amazon, over Amazon's use of the word "lush" to sell products that look like the ones made by the British firm. Lush has now struck back by trademarking the name of Amazon's UK boss, Christopher North, as a brand name for a new toiletry range. Lush's "Christopher North" shower gel comes with the tagline "rich, thick and full of it". And just in case Amazon strikes back, reports the Guardian, Lush co-founder Mark Constantine has trademarked his own name.

- NZ Herald

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