The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: High living

And you thought Grey Lynn was getting pricey. In New York, builders are working on 432 Park Avenue, a 96-storey, 426m tower where the cheapest flat, a studio, goes for US$1.59 million ($1.97 million). The penthouse has reportedly been sold - at a price as sky-high as its location, US$95 million.

The same, but different

The Insider noted some fine Orwellian double-speak during the spat between telco heavyweights Vodafone and Telecom. Vodafone announced that its offending campaign about who has the fastest network would "continue unchanged" - then acknowledged that it had made some changes. But it still says its network is the "best, fastest and most reliable". The High Court case between the pair has been shelved, but the Commerce Commission will now have the fun of sorting out the opposing arguments.

Knowledge gap

For a moment, the Insider was baffled by the apparent ethnic reference in the heading on a press release from Green Party co-leader Russel Norman: "National's housing policy just poly filler in face of crisis." Closer inspection revealed that the release writer doesn't know how to spell "Polyfilla" - the stuff used to mend cracks.

Different link

Federated Farmers Dairy chairman Willy Leferink's column in the Ashburton Guardian goes by the name "Willy Leaks". The Insider hopes humourless spies don't think he's connected with Julian Assange.

Oh, goody!

The goody bags at the National Party conference last weekend left many people puzzling over the contents' symbolism. As well as the party propaganda, there was a copy of Wild Tomato - a Nelson lifestyle magazine - a scented candle and an apple. Perhaps the only message was that the party was being cheap this year.

Go figure

Aucklanders may believe theirs is the only council that wastes money on harebrained schemes, but Wellington can offer some competition. The capital's council has been trying to stop people giving money to beggars, asking them to instead donate to the "Alternative Giving" campaign, which would then give the money over to charities to help the beggars. The scheme has cost $34,000 and raised less than $500.

One catchy phrase...

Love her or hate her, there's no denying that Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has a colourful turn of phrase. At a recent transport conference, Bennett urged employers to hire more women truck drivers, declaring "the country needs more women in the trucking industry; we need mother truckers".

...And another

John Key celebrated his 52nd birthday last week, still atop the political pyramid. Among his gifts were some white rabbit cufflinks - a reference to his habit of uttering "white rabbit" three times to give him luck. Superstition maybe, but perhaps that's what explains his incredible run of luck in business and politics.

Power play

Now the Government believes there is an urgent need to give ministerial-level inquiries similar powers to those of a judge - the power to require evidence be given, under threat of fines or contempt proceedings - some observers are wondering how these powers may be used. Judges deal with cases brought to them, whereas ministers could order an inquiry into anything they felt like. For instance, an inquiry could try to find the source of a leak by ordering a journalist to reveal where they got their information. The question is, would a ministerial appointment respect a journalist's right to protect sources, or see this as an impediment to "justice".

Cloudy future

Peter Dunne has shown no sign of tiring of Parliament and politics despite his rough ride lately. Now his United Future party is re-registered, he can look forward to some funding and staff to take some of the weight. Much will now depend on what happens to his Ohariu electorate when boundaries are redrawn, as the seat seems to be sliced and diced every time that process happens.

Cooks tour

The luxury car brands are fighting it out in the snow. Audi led the way this week with its annual Queenstown excursion for top customers and assorted celebrities, including chef Simon Gault. Rival restaurateur Josh Emett will be front and centre as brand ambassador for BMW in the snow this weekend.

Unpunished

No sign yet of diplomatic snubs from China to punish New Zealand for the Fonterra scare; the Defence Force this week welcomed a contingent from the People's Liberation Army, in the country for Exercise Phoenix Spirit, with representatives from Australia and the United States, learning how to plan for military involvement in disaster relief.

- NZ Herald

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