COMMENT:

Surprising perhaps? But out in the business community, away from the verbal jousting that takes place with Winston Peters in Parliament, there is a sneaky respect for the Acting Prime Minister.

Despite fanciful media predictions, the sky hasn't fallen in during the month Peters has been in the top job (even if temporarily).

He has been a safe pair of hands.

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But this is not the only issue that tantalises many of those I have spoken with on the business circuit in the past week.

What is increasingly commented on is the welcome pause the country has had from full-on celebrity politics.

Peters packs as much political punch as the Prime Minister.

But unlike Jacinda Ardern, he is not the kind of celebrity who is courted incessantly by media and positioned in stylishly staged cover stories. Nor does he generate relentless positivity.

He is what he is, warts and all.

In the past month, it is almost as if politics has receded into background noise.

It's been four weeks now since Ardern and Clarke Gayford announced the arrival of their daughter Neve.

Naturally there was plenty of human interest in the newborn, which is a historic first for a serving female Prime Minister in New Zealand.

But it has been four weeks of relative silence from our captivating Prime Minister. This has been punctured only by a bedraggled video, where a clearly tuckered out Ardern celebrated the July 1 implementation of the coalition's family package, on her Facebook page.

In retrospect, the media management around Neve's arrival has bordered on obsessive.

It would have been more seemly for Ardern to have handed the reins over to Peters in the week ahead of the expected birth, not upon entering Auckland Hospital.

The media silence is due to be broken in the next fortnight when the couple give their set-piece interviews before Ardern resumes the prime ministership. Those interviews will focus on life en famille.

When she resumes her role, Ardern should quickly step up to the task of nurturing business confidence.

I'm not among the camp that takes the tales of angst and woe that spring from business confidence surveys at face value.

The survey results, which uniformly record a drop in confidence, mask the can-do positivity that is out there when you talk one-on-one with business people.

But the steady run of negative headlines has the capacity to unnerve.

It's interesting to reflect that just like politics, which has become so poll driven that politicians and journalists alike move quickly to put a giant short under political leaders' prospects if their poll results drop, business surveys can have a similar compounding effect.

This wasn't the case two or three decades ago when surveys were a much more intensive affair.

The SurveyMonkey tool has changed that.

These days, players ranging from economic institutes through to trading banks and even Xero and MYOB each spit out their own branded surveys.

Few of those surveys explore what is working. And they have a negative compounding effect.

Since the May Budget, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been engaging with the big end of town.

Robertson has had 26 post-Budget engagements — each of them substantial.

Away from the headlines there has also been strong engagement between business and Climate Change Minister James Shaw to build consensus on how to achieve the coalition's Carbon Zero objectives.

Getting consensus on the labour relations platform is proving problematic. This cries out for top-level focus.

As for Peters, he has kept a relatively tight rein on Cabinet colleagues.

In truth, there are issues about the performance of several Ministers.

Those shaky performers include Labour's David Clark, who memorably had to come back from a family holiday in Sydney when the nurses' strike action got under way.

It would not have been good political optics for the Health Minister to be missing in action. Another Labour Minister, Kelvin Davis, who holds the Corrections portfolio, has badly screwed up over the politics around the new Waikeria prison.

Regrettably, this is pretty much business as usual for a Government which was clearly not ready to take power in October 2017.

We should expect it to become smoother as the coalition gets more runs on the board.
But New Zealand is not in dire straits.

We have a lot going for us. Ardern's natural sunniness will assist the Government's image. But getting runs on the board will assist New Zealand most.