The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Block in the line

Contractors large and small are becoming increasingly frustrated waiting for the release of the major projects timeline for the rebuild of Christchurch. In June, the Christchurch Central Development Unit promised the timelines would be out by the end of August, but there has been nothing except an announcement about the final transport plan for the central city being delayed again. The official reason for delays is that officials were waiting on the finalisation of the cost-sharing process - but cost-sharing agreements were announced in June.

Deeds, not words

Foreign Minister Murray McCully has started the Government's campaign to reassure other countries that all is well with our exports and quality controls. His trip to Beijing, Mongolia and Hong Kong is the first of many to come. But because New Zealand's quality controls have been shown to be wanting, the Chinese and others may want more than just reassurances that all is well.

Initial action

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Tim Groser is in Brunei for a host of talks, featuring more acronyms than you can shake a stick at. These include the RCEP, FTA and the AANZFTA, but probably most important are discussions on the TPP - the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The talks have been grinding along, with scepticism increasing about them being finalised in the foreseeable future.

This will become increasingly apparent in Brunei, as the participants are getting to the point where they have to put up hard offers on removing barriers and cutting tariffs.

Old school ties

Winston Peters is unhappy that Speaker David Carter reinstated Peter Dunne's United Future as a party in the eyes of Parliament, allowing Dunne to be recognised as a party leader and get more funding. Wait for the conspiracy claims when he finds out Carter and Dunne went to the same primary school.

Hot shops

Retailers worried about online competition could try praying for global warming. This comes after British online retail sales fell in July - the first time in 13 years that monthly internet sales have dropped. This has been attributed to an unusually long spell of hot weather, which encouraged shoppers to get out of the house and visit the real-world shops.

Star-power

Tamaki MP Simon O'Connor's newsletter this week trumpets the success of the Manaiakalani Programme - which uses digital technology to help children in lower-decline schools - and notes that MP Nikki Kaye and PM John Key have visited the programme's star, the Point England School. O'Connor also notes that Google sent a film crew to the school, to make a video about the project. The Insider suspects Google's interest may have had something to do with the $100,000 donation US singer Will.i.am (pictured) made to the programme while visiting Point England School.

Up for it

Veteran politician Brian Neeson certainly believes in public service. Having completed four terms in Parliament, he is now heavily into local government. Neeson has nominated for four positions - in the Auckland Council's Waitakere Ward, for a local board, the Waitemata DHB and the Waitakere Licensing Trust.

Slow progress

The creakiness of Inland Revenue's IT systems is no secret, and turning things round won't happen overnight. The department this week released a "Transformation Market Brief"outlining the scale of its planned transformation. The changes involve not just IRD's tax-collecting role, but the many other programmes it administers, such as Working for Families and Student Loans. The document makes it clear that the planned transformation will take years. The next stage is due in early October, when potential suppliers will be invited to respond to an Expression of Interest.

Open doors

Aspiring home-buyers who have been shut out of the market by the Reserve Bank's new lending limits could always think about moving to Britain. There, the property market's revival has prompted some lenders to loosen the purse-strings. The Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks - part of National Australia Bank, as is the BNZ - are wooing home-buyers with three-year, interest-only loans for up to 80 per cent of a property's value. Rates start at - wait for it - 2.69 per cent. Interest-only loans were common during the UK property boom, but many banks stopped offering such deals when the market slumped.

Phone-guard

For the technophile who has everything - and doesn't want anyone else taking it - the Yellow Jacket smartphone case sounds like just the thing. For US$140, buyers get not only a phone cover, incorporating a backup battery, but also a built-in stun gun to deter assailants. A version for the latest iPhone is on its way, promises the US company.

- NZ Herald

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