The big political issues of the week have been the Fonterra contamination scandal (which I covered here) and the ongoing state surveillance of the media (covered here), but there have been plenty of other important political stories to round up. So below are some of the most important, interesting and insightful political items of the week.
The Government's bailout deal for Rio Tinto has been well received by those affected, but by no one else it seems. The must-read analysis of the issue is Tim Watkin's Tiwai Pt - just more expedience and poor dealing. He says that the Government was 'Damned if they did, damned if they didn't', and he intelligently surveys the political issues involved. But the Government's difficult situation doesn't get it off the hook even with those on the political right, such as David Farrar, who has condemned Rio Tinto's achievement of the deal, saying he's 'bloody annoyed they screwed $30 million from the taxpayers as a subsidy. I think the Government shouldn't have given them a cent. If the smelter closes, so be it. It is not the job of taxpayers to subsidise unprofitable industries' - see: Rio Tinto screws taxpayers for $30 million. Today's Herald editorial has also expressed disappointment - see: Smelter deal $30m worth of shortsighted thinking. Business analysts David Hargreaves also says There was a certain inevitability the long-suffering taxpayer would be 'invited' to cough up. Other excellent business articles on the story include James Weir's Rio tipped to fast-track smelter sale and Jason Krupp's Analysts: Tiwai a quick fix.
University economist Eric Crampton has also criticised the subsidy provided by the Government, expressing agreement with Labour's criticisms of it, but he has also asked for further clarification from Labour: 'It would be good to hear a clear statement from Labour that they are opposed to corporate welfare of any kind, and, if it were them, they would have just let Rio Tinto close down the smelter. As it stands, they might be saying that National paid a subsidy for the wrong reasons, but they would have done the same in order to protect jobs in Southland. I haven't seen the news coverage. Has anyone seen if a journalist has put this question to Labour?' - see: The Tiwai Point Subsidy.
Of course, for the Government, the deal with Rio Tinto is all about the upcoming partial privatisation of Meridian. But TVNZ has the latest public survey, which suggests problems for the share float: Kiwis not keen on Meridian Energy shares - poll.
The National Party goes into its annual conference tomorrow. The party will be reflecting on a lot of difficult issues the Government has been facing, and will be considering next year's potential post-election coalition options - see Radio New Zealand's National goes into conference buoyed by polling. For considered discussion of National's high polling, and where public support is going, see Tim Watkin's Poll of Polls update - stopping the rot & what Winston wants and Chris Trotter's Who Are The Fifty Percent?. But don't expect too much of interest to come out of the National Party conference. As Cameron Slater explains, 'there will be nothing interesting, just hectoring from ministers with some canned questions available. The ninth floor have spiked anything controversial' - see: Why is National's conference so boring?. Sadly, Slater says, 'Conferences used to be fun, interesting and interactive. Now delegates are herded like sheep and told to listen, not speak. It is no longer an opportunity to exchange ideas with MPs, it is an opportunity for delegates to be spoken down to by MPs who no longer think they need to listen'.
But it's Labour's annual conference - later in the year - that will be much more interesting. Chris Trotter has written a very interesting and lengthy analysis of what is going on within the party and what will happen at the conference - see: Bitterness, Anger and Deep, Deep Division: Labour prepares for its 97th Annual Conference. In preparation for the likely policy discussions, Labour has put together a draft of their policy platform - which you can read here. David Farrar has provided an interesting critique of it, saying it indicates Labour has moved to the far left - see: Labour's binding policy is to have "equality of outcomes". Meanwhile, in the latest Listener magazine Ruth Laugesen has an in-depth feature on where Labour is at - see: Regaining the love Labour's lost [paywalled].
Labour's foreigner housing ban is still being discussed, but it didn't appear to give the party any lift in the latest poll - see: Foreigner ban fails to lift Labour. But there's no doubt the policy is popular - see TVNZ's Kiwis support property restrictions on foreigners - poll.
The most interesting discussion of the housing ban can be read in Danielle Street's Housing policy 'potentially racist', Narelle Henson's Shearer's 'chan ban' another policy disaster, Rodney Hide's Cluster-bomb will blow up prices, the Nelson Mail's Chan-ban policy a threat to China relationship, and Hussein Rawlings' Keep NZ land in NZ hands.
A visiting former CIA spy has spoken out on both New Zealand's GCSB reforms and about John Key's claims of al-Qaida operatives in New Zealand - and it's a very mixed critique that the Government would probably rather not hear - see Dan Satherley's Key's Yemen claim 'plausible'. Nonetheless, such opposition and debate will hardly make a difference, according to Chris Trotter, who says that the public doesn't really care that much about spying issues - see: Democracy versus The Majority. But RadioLive political editor Jessica Williams isn't so sure, and thinks the tide is turning. She gives her own interesting account of being spied on by state authorities - see: Privacy, Security, and Blurred Lines.
Eric Crampton asks this week why those on the political right aren't more upset about the GCSB reforms - see: Cashing in the chips. But the NBR reports that there is actually some dissent on the issue within one rightwing party - see: ACT on Campus opposes spy bills. And for yet more information on why some are opposing the reforms, see Isaac Davison's Spying leak hints at wider NZ role and Ben Gracewood's The morality of metadata.
Issues of economic inequality continue to be discussed in some interesting articles, blogs and columns - the most interesting from this week are Sharon Lundy's If you've got it, flaunt it, the Herald's Rich lister: Give away some of the 'obscene' money, Giovanni Tiso's The Susan Wood trilogy, and Brian Fallow's The view from the Treasury.
The Government has announced the establishment of a new environmental reporting regime. Not everyone is happy about it - see Newswire's Environment reports 'a broken promise' and Isaac Davison's Role of eco watchdog reduced. See also, Jamie Morton's NZ fails environment tests. And for an interesting profile on National's chief environmentalist and his attempts to make his party more green, see Isaac Davison's In the wild with Nature's big fan.
A couple of issues in Maori politics are surveyed this week by blogger Morgan Godfery - see: Dirty words: (re)distribution and $elling out workers' rights. But TV3's Third Degree also had an interesting profile on New Zealand's top Maori radical - see Michael Morrah's Iron Maori: Tame Iti.
The local body elections coming up might be seen as a bland exercise for many, but there's some occasional interesting developments in candidates standing - see for example, Bernard Orsman's 22 on Craig's local poll list and Karina Abadia's Homeless candidate pushes for poor. And there are some big issues at play in the way that councils operate - see Keith Marshall's Transparency versus confidentiality.
Pressure is mounting on the Government over the conviction of Teina Pora. But Judith Collins isn't giving into it - and she explains why here: Government must not intrude on courts.
David Farrar continues to keep a close eye on the potential misuse of 'Parliamentary urgency' by National, and he reports things are getting better, 'with almost no use of urgency at all' last year, but 'a significant increase in use in the first half of 2013' - see: Use of urgency and extending sittings. Farrar also sheds some important light on research on the impact of New Zealand's liquor reforms - see: Youth Drinking. And on a similar issue of proposed increased state regulation of tobacco, see Joe Bennett's very good parody column, Fighting smokers our taxing duty.
Finally, the Fonterra scandal has along way to run yet. Especially if Chris Trotter is right about rumours in the Waikato - see: Fonterra Contamination Scandal: "An open secret", "from the start". And for a satirical take on the general issues, see Scott Yorke's Relationship with China in meltdown after PM's calculator breaks.