MONEY WELL SPENT
Aucklanders have occasionally been heard to mutter that too much money gets spent in Wellington, while the big city is starved. The latest Mercer Quality of Living survey - the one that rated Auckland the world's third-nicest place to be - gives the lie to that claim. While Auckland rated a none-too-stellar 43rd placing for infrastructure, Wellington was even worse - 48th.
THE NEW BLACK
If you want to get ahead, choose your parents carefully. That seemed to be the message from lawyer Mai Chen (below), speaking this week at a New Zealand Forum event on this country's future, at Massey University. Commenting on the rise of what have traditionally been considered minority groups, she opined: "Being coloured is going to be the new black."
It may not be everyone's idea of must-watch viewing, but political junkies just can't wait for the broadcasting of Parliamentary select committee hearings.
The Office of the Clerk is quite keen to go down the path blazed by the United States, Britain, Australia, and Canada towards fuller coverage of Parliament. However it is going to take little steps at first, by trialling a webcast from one committee at a time, on the Parliament TV web platform. The trial will be pretty basic at first, with a single fixed camera filming the committee in wide angle from behind the witnesses. Sadly, during the trial the committee hearings won't be chosen on their potential news value. Parliamentary officials are wondering how MPs and others will react; they are a bit worried they might like it too much, because the Clerk does not have the money to roll out a full scale service televising select committees.
HORAN HOLDS CARD
Parliament can be a lonely place for a new independent MP such as Brendan Horan. Most NZ First watchers believe he has sufficient swagger and thickness of skin to ensure he continues collecting a very nice salary, before going on to become a footnote in New Zealand's political history in two years' time. Of course, much depends on how the accusations against him stack up - and the fact that Winston Peters got rid of him like a very hot potato does not bode well for Horan's future. If he can survive the accusations of wrongdoing then he will have a valuable commodity to hawk for the rest of this Parliament - one vote in the House. Much coverage of Parliament fails to recognise that most votes are knife edge stuff, with National relying on John Banks and Peter Dunne to progress its programme. A lot can happen in two years and another vote in Labour or National's pocket could be valuable. Political observers expect most parties to withhold judgment on Horan, while quietly courting him behind the scenes, until the picture becomes clear. Political geeks looking for similar case history may like to refer to Alamein Kopu's brief but influential career as one who suddenly found their vote mattered.
NOISE FROM MFAT
If the Government had hoped things would quieten down among the mandarins at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, they are sadly mistaken. Emails are still flying around the ministry and into the outside world, with dark mutterings about the $40,000 pay rise for chief executive John Allen (below). The response by the minister responsible, Murray McCully - that taking the money was a matter for Allen's conscience - was hardly a ringing endorsement. To inflame matters further, the Paula Rebstock report into the leaks at the time of Mfat's restructuring is long overdue. The reported steady flight of the best and brightest does not bode well for Mfat's near-term future. Few would disagree that the ministry needed a bit of a shake-up, but it appears to be a case of "destroying the village in order to save it".
GFC WEIGHS HEAVY
The Global Financial Crisis continues to weigh heavily on NZ boards of directors, according to the latest Deloitte 360 survey of board members around the world. Asked to list the biggest issues of the past 12 months, 59 per cent of Kiwi directors said the GFC. And for the next 12-14 months? Fifty-two per cent said the GFC. Both figures were notably higher than the international average, which, as Deloitte observes, is interesting for a nation that thinks of itself as having dodged the worst of the crisis.