Diplomats and ministers are grappling with thorny issues as they work to secure New Zealand a seat on the UN Security Council for 2015-16. A vote on the seat is planned for October next year. The job is particularly difficult in areas where New Zealand has few overseas posts, such as Africa. One of the issues there is whether NZ backs the Kampala amendment on the crime of aggression. Support for this could help secure votes in the region. African countries back the Kampala amendment as they believe the International Criminal Court focuses unduly on Africa, which has nationals before the court on charges of crimes against humanity, committed by soldiers in conflict. The change would ratify aggression as a crime committed by political or military leaders, which could affect Western States. This would be welcomed in Africa, but might not go down so well in some other countries. It's a diplomatic tightrope.
In Britain, Kiwi Ross McEwan is being widely tipped as the next chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland. Bookmaker Ladbrokes yesterday had McEwan as the hot favourite, at odds of 3:1. Further back, at 20:1, was ex-BNZ boss Cameron Clyne. Now the head of RBS' British retail operations, McEwan was previously with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, and before that was head of retail banking at the ASB. If he gets the job there'll be plenty of challenges - RBS was bailed out with 45 billion of taxpayer money in 2008 and is now 82 per cent government-owned, and facing an uncertain future.
Speak up, speak out
For workers or bosses who want to say what they really think about the workplace, here's the chance. The Great New Zealand Employment Survey, conducted by Clarian HR in partnership with Massey University, is now on.
Has the beautiful game finally made its way into the corridors of power? For years there has been a parliamentary netball team and a parliamentary cricket team, and for even longer there has been a more formal parliamentary rugby team - which is always particularly organised around Rugby World Cup time, so some MPs can have a pleasant jaunt. Now there has been talk of getting a regular parliamentary soccer team going, though the blue strip is off-putting to some political parties. Perhaps the idea of a trip to Brazil for next year's World Cup is on some contenders' minds. They could haul Michael Cullen back for a guest appearance, as he was a keen Tottenham fan, while sports-mad Tau Henare follows Liverpool.
With Parliament in the second week of a fortnight-long recess, few MPs were in Wellington to experience the earthquake and its aftermath. No select committees sat, despite a backlog of business, and many ministers made use of their time with overseas visits, including Judith Collins and Maurice Williamson , who tweeted about the joys of top-level airport lounges.
Many public and private sector organisations have problems upgrading information technology systems, though they don't all make the headlines like Novopay. Veterans' Affairs NZ, for instance, is looking for a new contractor after a contract was terminated because of performance issues, though it says no extra costs have been incurred as a result.
Debate has started among officials over funding for the Serious Fraud Office, even before it gets a permanent chief executive and battles begin over next year's Budget. Concerns have been raised with ministers about the effect of the sinking lid on funding. This year's budget was set at $10.28 million, down from the $10.425 million in the previous financial year, and funding is forecast to decline further. The minister responsible, Anne Tolley, has told those with concerns that she is aware of the potential effects and is working towards addressing them in the coming Budget round. However the incoming chief executive - who is widely expected to be acting head Simon McArley - is going to have to complete a performance improvement framework and an expenditure review to show more money is needed. Tougher times could be ahead for the SFO.
Why am I here?
There is still some confusion in the civil service about why the State Services Commission was given even more power in the latest rejig of public sector legislation. Sure, it has competent people, but even the commission itself isn't always sure about its purpose. An internal review is said to be fairly critical, saying many staff are unaware of the purpose of their job.