CLOUDY CRYSTAL BALL
Poor old Treasury is required by law to do 40-year forecasts of the Crown's fiscal position at least once every four years. The one written in 2006 is worth rereading as a reminder that such work is pointless in predicting the future. Treasury boss Gabriel Makhlouf must know he's on a hiding to nothing with this. This time, he is hauling in an external panel chaired by Victoria University's Professor Bob Buckle to work on the report, which will be published next year. It's a smart move, as it will help share the blame around when the 40-year projections look hopelessly out of date within a year.
THE CLAY STAYS
New Zealand changed the rules to keep The Hobbit in this country; now Britain's chancellor has followed suit with a vow to "keep Wallace and Gromit exactly where they are". In his Budget this week, George Osborne promised tax breaks for the TV, video games and animation industries, after businesses including Wallace and Gromit creator Aardman Animations said they would have to move production overseas. The promise was also a way of taking a dig at the Opposition: Labour leader Ed Miliband has been nicknamed Wallace because of his resemblance to to the hapless claymation character.
NEW WORD, SAME THREAT
When an existing word gets tainted, corporations and the public sector have a ready answer: make up a new one. The latest term floating around the highest levels of the public service in Wellington is "bestsourcing" - the up-to-the-minute replacement for "outsourcing". It is defined as requiring "agencies to market-test all of their roles, functions and services by looking to see where it would be more cost-effective to out-source to non-government organisations, private sector or other third-party providers". Or, to put it more bluntly: "look out - redundancies on the way".
THE PARTIES ARE OVER
MMP was meant to create a proliferation of small parties in Parliament, and more outside vying to get in. The reality has been the opposite: with the deregistration of the Progressives - Jim Anderton's last political vehicle - there are now only five registered parties outside Parliament. They have been dropping like flies lately - as well as the Progressives, other recently-extinct political animals include the Worker's Party, the Kiwi Party and the New Citizen Party. One new party, the Conservatives, had a decent run at the last election with the help of big money, but given doubts about the long term future of Act and United Future, there could be more reductions to come.
Nick Smith was always the National minister many businesspeople loved to hate, especially because of his staunch support for environmental issues in the face of much cynicism from many of his colleagues. His resignation from Cabinet may swing the balance towards those who are not so keen on climate change issues, and the person John Key picks to replace him will get to reshape the policy that Smith has been driving.
The Insider couldn't help chuckling this week, on receiving a warning from Yellow Pages Group about a scam doing the rounds among businesses. It wasn't the scam that was amusing, but the mode of distribution: the good old-fashioned fax machine. Is this a tribute to the effectiveness of anti-spam software in catchy dodgy emails, or just someone who hasn't caught up with the march of technology?
The country's newest think tank - the result of the marriage of the Business Roundtable and the New Zealand Institute - takes another step the week after next, with functions in Auckland and Wellington to celebrate the nuptials, and to launch its new brand.