When ministerial credit card spending details were first made public, it sent a frisson of excitement through many journalists and yielded some great yarns. Now, though, ministers have learned to pay for any extravagances out of their own pockets. About the most interesting thing in the latest release was the discovery that Inland Revenue Minister Todd McClay (above) likes to have a Kit-Kat for breakfast. He also uses hotel gyms to work it off - although he pays for that out of his own pocket. Ah, the glamour of ministerial travel.
Saving on saving
Fans of compulsory saving often cite Australia as an example for New Zealand to copy, but in one area, it seems we're well ahead of the Aussies. A report by the Grattan Institute think tank says KiwiSaver scheme fees are much lower than those Australians pay to their superannuation managers. The report calculates that in Australia, super fees and expenses total A$20 billion ($21.5 billion) a year, which might explain some of the enthusiasm for forced saving.
Friend and foe
Lobbyist and political Machiavelli Matthew Hooton has surprised some in the Beehive with his campaign against "corporate welfare" by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
National, like any party, doesn't appreciate being attacked by one of its own, and Steven Joyce and his staff are reeling at being portrayed as control freaks doling out money to mates, rather than being given the nicer description of "Minister of Everything".
Out of the cold
Is New Zealand the next Canada? And no, we don't mean huge, cold and hockey-obsessed. The question was posed by Bloomberg News columnist William Pesek, who reckons the latest migration figures show that "after making Canadian cities like Vancouver their own, deep-pocketed Chinese are increasingly flocking to New Zealand". Just as Canada is restricting "the flow of mainlanders with real estate investments on their mind", says Pesek, "New Zealand is putting out the welcome mat."
Move over, Helen
News that former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd wants to become United Nations Secretary-General in 2017 will come as no surprise to those acquainted with his ego. It makes Helen Clark's chances of winning the job even more distant. The UN was always unlikely to break away from its "regional turns" approach to the job, and it is now eastern Europe's turn. Clark has hoped to see chinks open in the UN's "my turn, your turn" approach, but Rudd's interest will only muddy the waters. Then again, Rudd was never noted as a great mate of New Zealand.
An Australian "bikini brouhaha" should be a lesson for local businesses who use social media to criticise rivals. Designer Leah Madden started the swimwear scrap in 2010 with posts on her personal Facebook page, among other places, accusing competitor Seafolly of copying her designs. After a long court case, the court found Madden had engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and ordered her to pay Seafolly $25,000, since reduced to $20,000, with costs still to be set. What's interesting is that in Australia, the prohibition on such conduct usually applies only to companies. This case shows the rules can also apply to individuals. Madden's posting on her own Facebook page was considered to be "in trade or commerce" because it sought to influence customers and crossed over from the private to the commercial world. The blurred line between business and private use shows posting on Facebook and tweeting can have legal implications. "The same result is likely if a similar matter ever comes before the New Zealand courts," warns Lexology, an Australian legal website.
The Government's announcement that it will boost defence spending after years of demanding savings has some people wondering about the rights and wrongs of maintaining a force capable of trying to defend New Zealand, as opposed to a touchy-feely one focused on peacekeeping and disaster relief. To put this in perspective, Australia's desire to remain a military force means spending A$12.4 billion for 58 new fighters. Whatever NZ does, if Australia ever invades, we'll have no show.
Wellington had an unusual visitor this week - the ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Ri Jong Ryul, presenting his credentials to the Governor-General. Any visitor from North Korea, even of the ambassadorial variety, is rare - Ri Jong Ryul, formerly director for protocol affairs of the Central Committee of the Worker's Party of Korea, is based in Jakarta.