"Auckland-facing" is the new buzzword in the public service, as many senior civil servants get the message from ministers that they need to lift their game in New Zealand's biggest city. There is a push for more cross-agency work, because of fears advice is fragmented and at times a bit out of touch. Perhaps it's time for a Minister for Auckland Issues.
Winning with the All Blacks
Rugby fans getting up early to watch the All Blacks on their Northern tour might have noticed the end-of-season games are being sponsored by MyRepublic -- a new fibre-only internet service provider based in Singapore. By backing the men in black, and with a slick marketing campaign, the feisty entrant is making a few waves in the already crowded ultra-fast broadband market. Linking itself to the national game is a smart move for a foreign company. MyRepublic is majority owned by Indonesian conglomerate Sinar Mas, which has been heavily criticised by environmental groups because of its involvement in palm oil production and deforestation. Another backer is Frenchman Xavier Niel, a colourful internet entrepreneur and multi-billionaire who got his start running sex chat sites.
Questions continue to be asked about the government-backed identity verification scheme, RealMe. The Department of Internal Affairs project, run in partnership with New Zealand Post, is meant to provide a common login for government services, and an online identity verification service to help people do business with the private sector. The incoming briefing to Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne is redacted and does not mention any problems -- just the desire to brief him further on the "vision" for RealMe. Gossip in the public service is that more than half the people who start the sign-up process fail to complete it, because it is so tedious. Now the service has private sector competition too, in the form of Australian company Edentiti and Wellington's Personal Information Management, which have started the greenID service in New Zealand. The plan is to merge Personal Information Management's identity product into greenID, with a much simpler method of verifying people's identity. Interestingly, one early customer is NZ Post. Will government want to compete with the private sector?
Honestly, it's a tough job
What is it with bankers? asks the Bloomberg news service, reporting on a study that found bank employees were more likely to cheat in a simple test, if they had first been primed to think about their finance-industry jobs. When the experiment was repeated with workers in other industries, thinking about their work did not boost dishonest behaviour in the test. The study's authors reckon it shows bank employees "are basically honest, but it's the cultural norms at the workplace that are making them dishonest", said researcher Michel Marechal, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Zurich. It's possible that the finance industry puts "a greater emphasis on materialistic values and status-seeking," said Marechal.
If you ever wondered why studies on inequality come to such different conclusions, Treasury may have the answer -- it all depends on the researcher's values and beliefs, no matter how independent they try to be. After much number crunching, two Treasury boffins say that from 2007 to 2010, all measures agree that inequality fell, although the extent of that reduction varies, depending on how you look at it. For 2007-11 (after the 2010 tax changes), deciding whether inequality rose or fell depends even more on the combination of welfare measure, income unit, adult equivalent scale and inequality measure used. The Treasury academics say the only way for studies to remove observer bias is to provide a range of clearly described alternative results, and let readers make their own judgments. The lesson: beware claims based on series of statistics, or, as the boffins say: "A complex phenomenon such as inequality within a heterogeneous population does not allow simple unambiguous comparisons." Quite so.
Many people felt former cabinet minister Chris Tremain left Parliament too early in his career. However, the affable and clever bloke has continued to build his business credentials, becoming chairman of the Bank of China's New Zealand subsidiary, which is setting up business after being granted registration by the Reserve Bank.
Think again, Cobber ...
In a continuation of the little brother/big brother relationship between Australia and New Zealand, we have had the unseemly sight of the Aussies claiming to have a better trade deal with China than us. That may be because Australia took so long to make a deal, they feel they have to say they have come to a better arrangement than little old New Zealand. The cold hard fact is that if anyone gets a better trade deal with China than New Zealand, then our deal has to move to match it. They can't win at rugby either.