Bryce Edwards rounds up the must-read political items from the media and blogosphere over the last week.
1) If you measure a country's prosperity based on more than simply economics, then New Zealand is the fifth best place in the world to live according to the London-based Legatum Institute. You can see its profile of New Zealand (with all the data and summaries) here: New Zealand - 5th. For media coverage of the ranking, see Teuila Fuatai's NZ No 5 on world prosperity list.
2) MP pay and perks go under the microscope in Claire Trevett's excellent feature High-flying MPs reluctant to hand over controls on perks. She suggests that MPs are retaining control of their travel arrangements in order to protect their ability to use them in election campaigning. Also for the latest politician expense details, see Audrey Young and Claire Trevett's Air travel expenses soar for MPs and No Right Turn's Ministerial expenses.
3) Richard Prebble is 'petrified' of a Labour/Greens government. He argues that the Greens are not interested in understanding business, which is reflected in the refusal of the party leaders to be involved in the New Zealand Business and Parliamentary Trust (unlike all other party leaders). Prebble also worries that MMP means that 'We are always only an election result away from socialism or fascism or some loony populist nonsense' - see: A Labour/Green Government. Should we worry?.
4) Political spin doctors don't normally put themselves into the media - but the leading 'communications framing expert' behind Len Brown (and previously Helen Clark) is interviewed by Michele Hewitson - see: Interview: David Lewis.
5) The Treasury sometimes plays the role of spin doctor for the Government. An official document has been released to show that the government department gave politicians advice on how 'harder-edged changes' in the education sector could be pushed through with less public attention to them - see Nicholas Jones' Hide changes, Parata told.
6) Speaking of influential political communicators, Sarah Stuart has profiled New Zealand's most important blogger - see: Twelve Questions: David Farrar. The profile reveals why Farrar's 'not a Tory', how much weight he has recently lost, how his social/moral views have changed massively, which British newspaper he compares his blog to (and which one he likens Whaleoil to), and how he thinks 'the world would be a better place with no nation states, and a one world government'.
7) Rumours suggesting one of John Key's top spin doctors - Jason Ede - was involved in the Len Brown scandal are discussed by Matthew Hooton in his NBR column Latest Len Brown allegations: Slater needs to front up (paywalled). For more on National's alleged links with rightwing blogs, see Greg Presland's National's civil war continues.
8) The most stinging critique of National's asset sales has come - not from Labour or the Greens - but from the Dominion Post - see its editorial, Key ignores bad asset sales. And for a look at what else could be sold in the future, see Michael Fox and Dave Burgess' Meridian listed, more sales to come.
9) Matthew Hooton not only labels this National Government 'centre-left', but he also argues that John Key has presided over 'active continuation of [Helen Clark's] "communism by stealth" policies'. He compares this to how things could have been different under National: 'In the government's early days, when there were still hopes it would use its licence to be creative, ministers floated privately with party members the idea of a 20/20/20 system: the first $20,000 of income would be tax free, a flat 20% rate would apply thereafter, and a 20% GST' - see: National now backs 'communism by stealth' (paywalled).
10) TV3's The Vote has been cancelled, and Nightline may be replaced by the new Paul Henry show (which is rumoured to be modelled on Jon Stewart's Daily Show) - see Rachel Glucina's Show's surprise axing shocks Vote team.
11) There's a new rightwing/low-tax interest group in town - see David Farrar's The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union. For more on this, see Andrea Vance's Tip-line to expose 'waste and extravagance' opens). But for an interesting critique of the new group, see Lance Wiggs' Taxpayers Union: Teaparty wingnuts or rational economists?.
12) The 'sporting path to Parliament' is hardly 'littered with success' argues Michael Laws, but he believes heavyweight boxer David Tua might just play a crucial part in next year's election - see: Tua's political plans may pack a punch. For a backgrounder on Tua's plans, see Amy Maas' David Tua outlines his political ambition.
13) What is the size of this country's ruling class? Chris Trotters runs a rough rule of thumb over income figures and suggests that it's about 13,000 - see: Ye Are Many - They Are Few: Thoughts on Labour Day, 2013. Trotter says 'Included in that 13,000 figure are all the bosses of the big corporations, the big SOEs and the big Government departments, ministries and agencies. It encompasses the justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the High Court; the heads of the armed forces and the police; the vice-chancellors of the universities, the chief executives and editors-in-chief of the largest print and electronic media organisations as well as their highest-earning "stars"'
14) Few people appear to be bothered either way about the formal resumption of NZ-US military relations. But the Herald has declared its wariness about New Zealand getting too close to the US at the expense of New Zealand's important economic relationship with China - see its editorial, Better links with US forces come with a caution. For satirical views on the Government's desire for a closer relationship with the US, see Scott Yorke's I just called to say I love you and Ben Uffindell's John Key appointed U.S. ambassador to New Zealand.
15) The Government doesn't appear to be taking the global concerns about US spying seriously, epitomised by Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman's jokes yesterday at a press conference in Washington. This has earned him a rebuke from the Southland Times - see: Dr Coleman's snoring spies. The Herald's Brian Rudman is equally unimpressed - see: Coleman's silly antics have chilling implications.
16) The independent Fonterra milk scare report is out, and it contains few surprises - something parodied by Ben Uffindell in his Civilian blogpost, Fonterra inquiry finds that Anchor Milk tastes great, Fonterra is best company. For the best serious critiques of Fonterra's role in the scandal, see the Herald editorial Fonterra scare report leaves key questions unanswered and Fran O'Sullivan's Damning indictment in food scare report.
17) Do Kiwis care about wage inequality? - that's the question being discussed by Philip Matthews in his in-depth update on the politics of inequality.
18) Child poverty and inequality are now being measured by the Children's Commissioner's Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty - their first report is available to download here: Child Poverty in New Zealand: Building on the progress to date. See also, Stacey Kirk's Urgent action on child poverty needed, and No Right Turn's National doesn't care about child poverty.
19) Free speech vs religious tolerance is a debate being played out after the conviction and fining of a women for aggressively telling another woman to remove her burqa - see Andrew Geddes' view in I am in earnest - I will not equivocate - I will not excuse - I will not retreat a single inch - AND I WILL BE HEARD. For another view, see David Farrar's blogpost Geddis on free speech.
20) The re-election of a National-led government next year is likely to depend on the existence of a minor coalition partner in Parliament. The possibilities - with a particular focus on the Conservatives - are very well examined by Audrey Young in her feature, Electoral boundaries: Power plays cranking up. See also, Fran O'Sullivan's Coalition pickle gets Key thinking out loud.
21) Andrea Vance reports that the future ministerial careers of Murray McCully, Maurice Williamson and Craig Foss are currently under discussion - see: All join hands for the merry Ministerial re-jig dance. For more news and speculation about National MP resignations, see Vance's National MPs to retire.
22) For the best discussion of the ins and outs of the John Banks legal prosecution, see Andrew Geddes' "Nothing to hide, nothing to fear". Also interesting, is Mike Smith's post on The Standard: What's in a glance?. For the other side of the story, see Jared Savage's Judge was wrong - lawyer for Banks.
23) New Zealand is ranked seventh in the world for gender equality - see Alanah Eriksen's NZ: A top place to be a woman. For a less celebratory take on this, see No Right Turn's Women go backwards again.
24) Recently, Maori Television's Native Affairs programme broadcast an important investigation into alleged misspending by the Kohanga Reo national trust board - you can watch: Feathering the Nest Part 1 and Part 2. For commentary and analysis on the scandal, see Chris Trotter's Old ways in Maoridom more open to challenge, Morgan Godfery's How not to manage a crisis: why the Kohanga Board must resign, and Metiria Turei's blogpost on The Ruminator, Our own will rightly hold us to account.
25) Everyone loves Greenpeace, right? And everyone is backing the New Zealand Greenpeace activists jailed by the Russians, right? Maybe not. Rodney Hide puts the opposing case in his column Invasion is violence not peace.
26) The most recent revelations in the Len Brown scandal were uncovered in the weekend by Kirsty Johnston and Tony Wall in The mayor, the love rat and nudity.
27) What was John Palino's involvement in the Len Brown scandal? Satirist Steve Braunias has The secret diary of John Palino. See also, Rebecca Wright's Campbell Live 5-minute item, John Palino: what did he know about Chuang affair?.
28) One of the most intriguing characters to emerge from the Len Brown scandal has been Luigi Wewege. For the most in-depth item on him, see John Weekes' feature, Luigi Wewege: 'I was very politically naive'. See also, Jared Savage's The colourful life and times of Luigi Wewege and the Herald's editorial, This is not the NZ way, Luigi.
29) Len Brown is not the only mayor in trouble at the moment. Dana Wensley looks around the globe, and says Naughty mayors? They're everywhere.
30) Politics has become dirtier - in New Zealand and elsewhere. And it's largely due to the digital media revolution, including the blogosphere. That's the argument of Karl du Fresne in Scandal, smear and spin - the new normal.
31) Cameron Slater provides some elaboration on where the Len Brown scandal might go, and some interesting thoughts about the future of his Whaleoil blog and the media in general - see: How the media manipulate, the Drinnan case study.
32) For a refreshing alternative view of the Len Brown scandal, including information that the National Party caucus knew about the affair well before it was publicised, see Simon Wilson's Metro magazine editorial Pants-Down Brown.
33) There's an 'historic and bitter schism that runs right through the heart of the Auckland National Party' according to veteran political observer Richard Harman, and the Len Brown scandal needs to be understood in that context - see his fascinating column Muldoon's ghost haunts Whaleoil.
34) Was John Key trying to warn off Labour MPs from any thoughts of retaliation over the Len Brown scandalmongering? Last week the Prime Minister made the rather unusual statement that he was carefully recording potential ammunition against his opponents - see TVNZ's John Key admits keeping dirt file on Labour MPs.
35) Palino activist and RadioLive producer, Hamish Coleman-Ross has published an open letter to the mayor candidate: Palino, Auckland must hear you. He says 'you're facing accusations of blackmail, corruption and being the face and name of the dirtiest political scandal this country has ever seen', and it 'really doesn't make sense to me is that you won't front to the media about the accusations'.
36) Finally, turning the scandal upside down, satirical blogger Ben Uffindell reports, Len Brown tells Auckland he just wants to get on with having sex.