The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Happy 197th

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Westpac turned 197 on Tuesday, and to celebrate, the bank paid A$334,000 ($359,200) to buy Australia's oldest paper money - a 10 shilling note, issued the day the Bank of New South Wales opened its doors in 1817. As it looks forward to its 200th birthday, the bank has also created a A$100 million educational scholarship fund.

CAP DOESN'T FIT

The Government has gone quiet on its target of capping the number of "core" civil servants, after predictions last November that it would exceed the cap by about now. This was because of the need to hire people to sort out the Novopay problems and heavy workloads at places such as the Ministry of Social Development, Statistics NZ and IRD. It is interesting to see where the costs lie in the state sector. The "managers" occupation group is the largest cost in absolute dollars, at $605 million. This increased 2.2 per cent between 2012 and 2013. The average annual salary of a civil service manager is $118,000, which increased by 3.3 per cent. The average salary of someone working in a civil service call centre is $45,500, and they got a 0.9 per cent pay rise over the same period.

CLOUDY FORECASTS

Treasury's over-optimistic prediction of the Government's tax revenue is a change from the usual pattern. Forecasts of this nature are notoriously difficult, but usually Treasury is overly pessimistic when the economy is on the upswing, and too optimistic when the downturn begins. The Insider hopes the Government's desire for a paper-thin surplus didn't cloud anyone's judgment.

IT'S EASIER ONLINE

Peter Dunne must be grinding his teeth at the ease with which the internet Party seems to be getting registered as a political party. Last year, after United Future's registration lapsed, Dunne grumbled about having to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get the Electoral Commission to recognise the party's membership list. Since then the commission has decided to accept electronic signatures as proof of party membership, and things seem to be going much more smoothly for Kim Dotcom's political party.

SURPRISE! OOPS ...

Simon Bridges has often been picked as a future Prime Minister, but first, some lessons in political management might not go amiss. Bridges' confession that he did not know of a DoC forest park in an area he had approved for oil and gas exploration shows he is either not paying attention or has become captured by officials. Ministers should recall Bill Birch's first rule to officials: he expected mistakes, but whatever happened, he never wanted to be surprised by events. Ever since, "no surprises" has been the golden rule of political management.

STAYING HOME

Finance Minister Bill English must be tiring of international travel and rubbing shoulders with the powerful. He has stood aside and sent Associate Minister of Finance Jonathan Coleman to Washington for this week's meeting of G20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors. As host of the G20 this year, Australia invited New Zealand to attend as a guest alongside the G20 members. Perhaps the Budget still needs lots of last minute work to fill the gaps left by overly optimistic forecasts.

COLLINS' CAKES

The Insider erred last week, in saying the Accident Compensation Corporation sent 40 cupcakes to the Press Gallery to celebrate ACC's 40th birthday. ACC Minister Judith Collins took to Twitter to put the record straight, posting a picture of the cupcakes and declaring "No! I paid for them".

ONE MEOW FOR PIMCO

Pimco, the giant US investment outfit that runs the world's biggest bond fund, has been under fire lately for its poor performance and management problems. The latest newsletter from its chief executive, Bill Gross, might give a clue to where the problem lies. Reminiscing about his recently deceased cat, Gross said: "I often asked her about her recommendations for pet-food stocks, and she frequently responded - one meow for 'no', two meows for a 'you bet'. She was less certain about interest rates, but then it never hurt to ask."

NEW FACE ON THE BUS

The face of Ashley Church, chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association, has been displayed on the back of buses, urging business to set up in the Republic of Broadway. This week, a letter from the board to association members advises that Church has resigned and will be leaving the job on June 1. Presumably, Newmarket will now have to find someone else to front - or back - its campaign.

- NZ Herald

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