Despite the brave talk about "the final push" to finalise the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, it is becoming increasingly clear that there is little chance of any agreement which includes the United States. There remain huge differences between the US and almost all the other countries involved on points of major significance. Deputy PM Bill English urging the Americans to show leadership will not change the fact that the US does not have the political will to give ground anywhere to make gains elsewhere. The next meeting in Singapore is being described as the "final hurdle" at which the TPPA could fall, but to stretch the sporting analogy, it's more like those racing are still stuck in the mud at the first bend. Those who once argued that a better strategy was to get a comprehensive deal between a few like-minded countries, which other nations could then choose to join, are now saying "told you so".
If you ever wondered who gives the Inland Revenue Department tax advice, we are about to find out. The IRD is seeking tenders for an independent expert with international tax policy experience.
It is probably always a good idea to run a fresh pair of eyes over a department's work, though one might assume Inland Revenue already has in-house expertise in this area. As IRD and other departments' staff numbers grow more quickly than expected, many are seeking consultants for a wider range of work, to keep their headcount down. It may not always be cost-effective, but it does avoid headlines about the expanding public service.
MPs' big read
Every now and then a piece of legislation comes along which is enough to make even the most studious MP's eyes water. Last decade it was the mammoth rewrite of the Income Tax Act. Now we have a new contender for the heftiest bill ever - the Judicature Modernisation Bill. It weighs in at 1182 pages and is the Government's response to the Law Commission's review of the Judicature Act 1908. It will never be a best-seller, but there are bound to be some lawyers already working out how to make money out of it.
Last week Parliament sat under urgency as the Government sought to get a bunch of mostly non-controversial legislation off the books. Among the measures was a fix-up bill, required after it emerged that changes made last year to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act would have had the unintended consequence of banning hotel and motel mini-bars from mid-December. It would have been bad news for tourism - and for more than a few MPs, whose expense returns show they enjoy a good mini-bar.
Nice work ...
American website CareerCast.com has ranked 200 jobs from best to worst, based on five criteria - physical demands, work environment, income, stress and hiring outlook. The top three were actuary, biomedical engineer and software engineer. The much reviled human resources manager came in at 31, and the scary-sounding nuclear decontamination technician was 65th, ahead of public relations executive at 74. At 104, stockbroker just beat security guard (105) and economist (119). Garbage collector (160) beat being a publication editor (168). Others in the media fared even worse. Broadcaster was ranked at 184, photojournalist at 188 and - lowest of the low - newspaper reporter at 200. There was no classification for politicians.
Trials of political life
Sometimes court appearances yield some uncanny coincidences. This week in the High Court at Auckland, Act leader John Banks was trying to fight off electoral fraud charges over donations. At the same time in another courtroom, the seemingly endless legal argument in the Kim Dotcom case was continuing. To add a further political twist, down another corridor the Crown was making its case against Labour Party members accused of forging documents to cast illegal votes. It's a very small country sometimes.
Spot the difference
It is notable that this week's meeting of CER ministers in Sydney was dominated by balding men in their late fifties, while the majority of journalists covering it were women in their thirties.
Warning: recession can dim your brainpower. That's the conclusion of research published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, which looked at the records of 12,000 people in 11 European countries and found men and women who lived through one or more recessions had lower cognitive scores in later life than those who hadn't suffered from past unemployment or underemployment.