The Insider

What they're whispering about in Parliament...

The Insider: Party at GCSB's place

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Party like James Bond?
Party like James Bond?

The Government Communications Security Bureau and the Security Intelligence Service like to keep their activities under wraps, but a recent job advert makes the Insider wonder what is going on there. The GCSB needs a "bright, enthusiastic and highly motivated" events co-ordinator to make arrangements for visits and events hosted by GCSB, NZSIS and tenants at Pipitea House, including arranging catering and confirming visitor security clearances. What sort of parties and events, and how many of them do spooks enjoy that require a fulltime co-ordinator - party like James Bond?

Protecting the assets

An audit of how well the state sector manages its assets is setting off alarm bells. The audit of 340 public entities with assets worth more than $214 billion showed most were doing a pretty good job, with management plans in place for 75 per cent of assets. But only about 40 per cent of assets are being managed according to plan. And it seems there are high levels of deferred maintenance and many organisations don't even know how much has been deferred.

SSC holds the key

State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie has begun to exercise his new powers by designating 80 "key positions" (mostly second-tier management and chief information officers) in departments. Appointments to these positions must be approved by the SSC, or by the Government Chief Information Officer for appointments to CIO roles. The SSC's growing power is causing resentment among some departmental bosses who believe the commission is not particularly well run itself.TRAINING RUN KiwiRail is tonight hosting "Keeping NZ on the Move" - a VIP event celebrating 150 years of rail in this country - fittingly, at the former Auckland Railway Station in Parnell. Expected guests include a gaggle of chief executives, sportspeople and national and local politicians.

Our lesson for China

Thwarted homeseekers might disagree, but the Reserve Bank's restrictions on low-deposit mortgages inspired an admiring article this week from William Pesek, a columnist for the US Bloomberg news agency. "As the world's biggest economies search for ways to let the air out of giant asset bubbles, they might find some answers in New Zealand," wrote Pesek, who suggested that even China could learn from tiny New Zealand.

Disaster in the sky

Some people will try anything to predict the markets. One company this week sent out a press release touting its ability to foretell financial crashes by watching for the appearance of comets. It says "spectacular comets events coincided with both the 2000 tech-wreck crash and the 2008 financial crisis". Apparently, comets can affect the markets "because in both cases we are dealing with electrical systems". If you're wondering, the financial world is now at "risk level orange", with potential for crisis as Comet Ison comes closest to the sun on November 28.

Closing time

It is a sign of changing times that the Parliamentary Service is considering closing Pickwicks Bar - "3.2" as it is known, because it is in room two on the Beehive's third floor. Many a plot has been hatched at 3.2, the last of the parliamentary bars, but its popularity began to wane decades ago when booze subsidies were removed. The smoking ban was another nail in the coffin. Now it stays relatively empty compared to 20 years ago, when it was jam-packed with ministers, MPs, journos and staff. It's another sign that the drinking culture which once dominated Parliament is now much healthier - even just a little puritanical, some might say.

Team player

Sure, $36 million in taxpayer funding for the America's Cup bid has gone down the gurgler, but at least Oracle's victory was good news for one (mostly) taxpayer-owned organisation. Who's that? The national carrier, Air New Zealand, which threw its hat into the ring for the "other" side, as an official supplier to the US team.

Saddle up!

Parliament receives some unusual petitions, but one presented this week stands out: with 15,000 signatures, it calls on the House to recognise horses as an alternative mode of travel. Some wondered if it would mean stables would be needed in Parliament. It wouldn't be the first time horse facilities were needed in the corridors of power; Annette King (above) once rode a horse at Parliament in her role as Minister for Racing.

Beer included

Event organiser Duco is promoting its "Prime Minister's Olympic Gala Dinner" in Auckland on October 17 as "an extraordinary opportunity to interact with the nation's powerbrokers", including cabinet ministers, chief executives and athletes. Tickets are just $6995 for a table of eight. Sponsors include the battling brewer, Moa beer.

- NZ Herald

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