Much of John Key's political charm arises from his 'state house kid made good' back story. While the self-made wheeler-dealer image plays well during campaigns it may not be what voters expect of a Prime Minister. It seems, however, that making trade-offs is in his blood, with confirmation today that it was Key who approached SkyCity casino about the pokies for convention centre deal see: SkyCity deal was PM's own offer. In line with this approach, Satirist Scott Yorke puts forward some further innovative ideas that John Key might like to take to the private sector for deal making see: Smoking Studies For Schools?. Also in terms of such 'deal making', see Fran O'Sullivan's Key turns on the charm in Jakarta talks, which paints a picture of John Key 'in schmooze mode' in Indonesia, 'with all the panache of his investment banking days'.
The big advantage Key has now is the ability to change laws and regulations to suit companies the government is negotiating with, as has previously been the case with Warner Brothers and MediaWorks. It seems the SkyCity deal is an even clearer example, as David Fisher reports that the casino's tactics have dramatically changed since National came to power. Before 2009 the casino repeatedly and unsuccessfully challenged the Gambling Commission in court over restrictions. The Commission went so far as to warn the then Internal Affairs Minister Amy Adams that she could face direct lobbying from the casino. Since 2009 there have been no further legal challenges why bother when you can just get the troublesome law changed? see: SkyCity wooed new Govt after failures in court.
SkyCity just has to make sure the numbers stack up, but John Key has to weigh up the political risk as well, and that seems to be increasing daily. The Herald editorial (SkyCity pokie defence fails to ring true) thinks that SkyCity CEO Nigel Morrison's recent attempts to justify the proposal are 'unconvincing' and show the casino is 'becoming worried'. David Shearer has, uncharacteristically, gone on the attack a sure sign that he feels National is vulnerable on the issue, accusing them of 'effectively selling the law which controls pokies' see: More Pokies in Sky City key's idea.
Christchurch now has a new bureaucratic title to add to CERA the latest acronym is CCDU, which stands for the Christchurch Central Development Unit within CERA, and is headed by CERA's current general manger of operations Warwick Issacs see: 100-day action plan for Christchurch rebuild.
It seems that the final plan for Christchurch's CBD build is still 100 days away, with the CCDU's 'Blueprint for Action' being the vehicle to identify key projects and push them through using CERA's wide-ranging powers. Mayor Bob Parker is welcoming the unit and says the government has 'essentially accepted' the Council's original plan, although traffic and light rail proposals have not been included. The question will be: will the Council end up merely acting as a rubberstamp for decisions made by the CCDU?
John Hartevelt and Andrea Vance think that Parker is very much in danger of living up to his 'Sideshow Bob' nickname: 'A less charitable interpretation would have Parker now officially cast as town jester an amiable knave useful for relating with the plebs but without much of a clue or any real power' see: The whiff of 'takeover' grows. Sam Sachdeva also reports that the Council chief executive Tony Marryatt is still using his pay increase as leverage over the councilors see: Payback awaits observer's exit.
Meanwhile, Christchurch residents, fuming at reduced payouts for their damaged red-zone houses, have received backing from a government department and an insurance company. The Department of Building and Housing has said that its new guidelines on repairs were only intended for use in the green-zone and that homeowners should go to the Insurance Ombudsman if they feel NZI and State insurance are reneging on settlements. Southern Response, which has taken over AMI's quake claims, has agreed with the department's view of the changes see: Insurance firm stands by claim downgrades. Also of interest in this regard is Rod Oram's Shaken to the bone, in which Oram predicts a major fight between the insurance industry and the Government, concluding that 'As they slug it out, the losers will be the people who can't get on with rebuilding Christchurch'.
Other important or interesting political items today include:
* According to social scientist Professor Darrin Hodgetts, in New Zealand, Poverty is our biggest growth industry. This is discussed today in a 5-minute interview with Dr Claire Dale from Auckland University's School of Business on TV3's Firstline, with the argument that 'these alarming numbers aren't going to turn around anytime soon unless this country drastically transforms the way we deal with this growing problem' watch: OECD: One in five Kiwi kids lives in poverty.
* Last night in Glen Innes veteran protestor and Mana Party vice-president John Minto was arrested with others trying to stop the removal of the first state house from the suburb. Minto says police attempted to break up the protest 'with unwarranted violence against the mainly local women on the line' see: Glen Innes housing protest arrests.
* Brian Rudman scolds the Wellington City Council for slashing funding to Te Papa despite the many benefits it brings to the region see: Slug could become the new Te Papa.
* Paul Brislen, CEO of the Telecommunications Users Association, asks How's that three strikes thing working out, anyway?. He notes that not a single notice has been sent relating to New Zealand content despite the law being justified in terms of protecting local copyright holders, and blasts attempts to cut fees paid to ISPs for enforcing the law. It seems that the law has reached one milestone however: Copyright 'three strikes' first infringer?.
* David Farrar salutes the benefits that have come from the last Labour Government's China NZ FTA, and challenges those parties that still oppose such deals.