The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Royal veg goes under

Prince Charles had to close shop on his Veg Shed. Photo / AP
Prince Charles had to close shop on his Veg Shed. Photo / AP

ROYAL VEG GOES UNDER

Economic reality has claimed Britain's poshest greengrocer, Prince Charles' organic vegetable store. The Reuters news agency reports that the heir to the throne has put up the shutters at the Veg Shed, the shop he opened about eight years ago to sell organic produce grown at his Highgrove country home. The store became known for selling oddly-shaped organic produce that would be rejected by supermarkets. A spokeswoman for the prince said the store had closed after it failed to make a profit.

ALL ABOVE BOARD

Fraudbusters of all sorts will be gathering in Auckland next week for a conference on forensic accounting (sample topic: "Corruption - a fact of life or a way of life: your choice"). The Insider was pleased to see the programme carefully notes that "This conference runs for four or more hours (excluding meal times) and is therefore excluded from the entertainment tax regime". Meaning the cost ($995-plus, dinner included) is fully tax deductible, without bending the rules.

DEATHLY HUSH

Ministers usually like to shout from the rooftops about the latest drop in the number of civil servants, but this week the figures were released by the State Services Commission as quietly as possible. Maybe it was just coincidence, but perhaps John Key's comments about Wellington "dying" might have made someone think it wasn't a great idea to highlight the fact that the lid is still sinking on the capital's largest pool of employees. Just for the record: At the beginning of this year there were 36,081 core government full-time equivalent workers, down from 39,000 in 2008. This is slightly above the 35,839 predicted six months ago, but the SSC reckons cuts in staff will achieve that by next month.

MISSING OUT

The NZ Industrial Fuel Duty Agency reports that 90 per cent of businesses it contacted did not know they could claim back fuel excise duty. The tax is built into fuel costs to help with the upkeep of roads, and businesses that use fuel for offroad machines or in exempted vehicles are entitled to a refund. The agency contacted 5000 businesses and found only 10 per cent of those eligible were claiming the payback. The average refund identified was about $2000 - not enough to make much difference to Bill English's Budget, but still a handy boost for many businesses.

LOW WAY TO SUCCESS

Want to get ahead? Then talk lower. That seems to be the message from United States research which found a link between deep voices and business success.

According to the study of almost 800 senior American executives, published inthe journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, deeper-voiced execs tended to manage bigger companies, and thus earn more than their reedier-voiced counterparts. Whether this link is cause or effect remains to be seen.

TALKING IT UP

Bill English's predecessor Michael Cullen became so tired of media speculation about his budgets that he stopped doing preview interviews. English is still giving previews - hardly surprising, as compared to the past few years he will have a good story to tell, with the Government looking as though it will hit its target of returning to surplus in 2014-15, albeit with some creative book-keeping. Officials have also been working hard on housing-related policies and funding. These, plus the Reserve Bank's new tools to deal with booming property prices, mean the Government is at least giving the appearance of trying to do something about housing, though advice is mixed on whether it will have much effect. One of the main debates going on now is how much room the Government will leave itself for next year's Budget. English's instincts lean towards prudently paying off debt; more political instincts will want to leave some room for a juicy spend-up in election year.

WARM WORDS

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully is escaping the onset of winter with a visit to the Caribbean. He will address the region's annual foreign ministers meeting, and make calls talking up New Zealand's bid for a place on the United Nations Security Council. After that he goes to Washington for his first formal talks with new Secretary of State John Kerry. McCully is hoping to hear positive noises about the US position on whether it will allow new entrants to the Trans-Pacific Partnership to slow down the talks.

- NZ Herald

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