Calls for mandatory standards for boarding houses and long-term caravan parks have been rejected by Government MPs. In 2011, before the last election, a select committee began looking into the issue after being told of appalling conditions in many boarding houses used by the poorest and most vulnerable. Now, after Parliament has risen, the select committee has reported back -- and its Government MPs say it would be better to enforce the current rules, rather than bring in new ones. Labour, Green and NZ First MPs all disagreed, saying the boarding house sector was overdue for reform -- mandatory standards, with enforcement, were needed.

BAD CAREER MOVE
Q: Which government department this week presented a paper to its minister, suggesting a major change in one of its core service areas ... only for the minister to have to tell the department's chief executive about the longstanding 90-day pre-election rule precluding any major decisions in that time? Apparently, the chief exec didn't know anything about one of the public service's, and politics' most important conventions.

A: A department that will be looking for a new CEO if National is re-elected.

ADVANCE CHINA FAIR

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While some Kiwis fret about Chinese investors buying our farms and houses, the numbers are much bigger in Australia. The Australian Financial Review reports that China's richest man, Wang Jianlin, has plans to invest A$1.7 billion ($1.87 billion) in Aussie real estate, including building a A$900 million Gold Coast resort. Chinese real estate companies have poured millions into residential property in Australia, the AFR reports, and Chinese investors are backing plans for a Gold Coast cruise ship terminal and resort, and a casino and entertainment complex in Brisbane.

BAD NEWS, GOOD NEWS

Senior National ministers may be tut-tutting in public about the defacing of their billboards, videos of youths chanting "F*** John Key" and burning politicians in effigy, but in private they are rubbing their hands in glee.

One of National's greatest fears is that the soft conservative vote will not turn out on election day, and there is nothing like this sort of publicity for helping National get apathetic voters off their couches.

COUNTING THE COST

Whether or not you agree with the Financial Services Council's efforts to boost KiwiSaver - and the savings industry - it gets full marks for trying. Its latest effort is a political debate, billed as maybe "the only place during the election campaign where you will be able to hear all the parties' views on KiwiSaver and the future of retirement income policy." Party representatives have been invited to state their case to an audience of media, FSC members and people from related organisations. The date is August 26, which - as retirement-policy obsessives will recall - is the 40th anniversary of the NZ Superannuation Act, which created the then-Labour Government's compulsory super scheme.

The FSC cites an Infometrics estimate that the resulting investment fund would be worth $278 billion by now - had the scheme not been abolished within a year by the incoming Muldoon government.

CROCODILE FEARS

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Once again MPs are expressing outrage about the Electoral Commission enforcing the law, this time over the ruling that a music video that makes fun of John Key cannot be broadcast on radio or television because it breaks electoral rules. And once again their squeals have to be taken with a grain of salt; after every election they have been urged to amend the law, and after every election they ignore it for another three years.

RICH GET POORER ...

The debate about inequality is bedevilled by a confusing mix of statistics and emotions. Some officials have been pondering the issues, but haven't found any easy answers. The ability of the wealthy or self-employed to split or declare low incomes could mean statistics are artificially inflating the number of low-income people. Overseas, European Central Bank officials have pondered the same issue, and concluded there are probably more wealthy people than the statistics pick up. On the flip side, at least that means there are fewer poor people than we feared.