The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Right flight path

As Auckland Airport announces grand plans for expansion, NZ politicians will be grateful they are not in the same position as their counterparts across the Tasman. Auckland's 30-year, $2.5 billion plan for new facilities and a second runway will be a commercial decision - right or wrong - and funded by debt and increased charges (regulated by the Commerce Commission). The airport did a masterful PR job in co-ordinating support for the plan, with hardly a politician in sight. In Australia, the debate about a second Sydney airport is politicised at every level from local councils to the Federal Cabinet table, with eye-watering amounts of taxpayers' money being talked about. What AIA is doing could be seen as a good argument for privatising infrastructure provision - with regulatory oversight - and taking the politics out of the equation as much as possible.

True-blue birthday

The Accident Compensation Corporation celebrated its 40th birthday in an unusual way this week, by sending 40 cupcakes to the Press Gallery. The cakes were garnished in a rather lurid blue icing - a tip of the hat, perhaps, to the National Party?

Invisible issue

The main political parties are quietly ignoring a Green candidate's comments about the need to review abortion laws. Both sides of the argument agree the law is a mess and want it changed - but in different directions. However, MPs don't seem keen on reopening what would be a painful and contentious debate. Another example was the recent report of Parliament's justice and electoral committee on its financial review of the abortion supervisory committee. Despite various issues being raised, the select committee had "no matters to bring to the attention of the House". There seems to be an unwritten agreement between the major parties that abortion should remain a no-go zone.

Clark-power

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark proved she can still pull in the crowds in Auckland this week. Hundreds turned out to hear Clark give a lecture at the Law School on the importance of establishing the rule of law and access to justice when helping with development in poor countries. It was the sort of audience few of her predecessors could hope for.

Try it

Nosh co-founder Clinton Beuvink and business partner Dianne McAteer have launched a new venture, SampleCo Black Box. A twist on "try before you buy", the business enables users to sign up, provide some personal details, then receive sample products that match their profile, in exchange for giving feedback.

Inbox revenge

A look at public service privacy breaches has prompted an interesting observation on changes in society. A parliamentary report describes Privacy Commissioner John Edwards pondering how people's response to mistakenly receiving personal information has changed in the past few years. The commissioner said he was disturbed that people who found something in their inbox not intended for them, believed they were entitled to publicise the material or use it to their advantage, whereas no right-thinking person would think they could keep a wallet they found. Edwards thought this was perhaps because some people were stressed and frustrated by their dealings with public agencies, and felt it was right to fight back that way. He suggested agencies examine the way they dealt with people who felt unfairly treated.

Useful enemy

It's an old story - everyone wants better mobile coverage, no one wants a cellphone tower next door - and perfectly illustrated last week, when a Christchurch woman mounted a protest against a planned tower and roadside instrument box. Some reports of the protest were illustrated with a photograph of the woman's car parked on the site - as she sat inside, using her cellphone. Sometimes, life beats satire.

No room on the bus

Prime Minister John Key opened a new $18 million bus depot and workshop for Ritchies Transport in West Auckland on Wednesday. Visibly absent was Mayor Len Brown, who was at a committee meeting discussing special housing areas, according to his diary. Was this a case of Brown spending more time with councillors, as he promised to do after being censured before Christmas, or the invitation not arriving on his desk?

- NZ Herald

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