While most eyes are on our local election, diplomats are still focused on October 16, the day for voting on New Zealand's bid for a UN Security Council seat. The Government has put in a huge campaign to win this against-the-odds race, but the competition from Spain and Turkey, with their much greater diplomatic weight, is starting to tell. In particular, Turkey's proximity to the troubles in the Middle East is giving it an edge. But New Zealand has had one advantage: foreign ministers from small countries were in Samoa for the UN's International Conference on Small Island Developing States, where we were able to bend their ears. Foreign Minister Murray McCully will fly to New York on September 22, two days after our election, possibly with Labour's David Shearer if the election is close, to deliver New Zealand's address to the UN assembly. Despite these efforts, it is looking like a very long shot.
Those with razor-sharp memories may recall that New Zealand signed an agreement with Nato a few years ago for closer co-operation and engagement. In practice, this doesn't seem to amount to a great deal. Nato met the other day to decide how to respond to what some believe is the greatest crisis facing the alliance in 30 years - the tension between Ukraine and Russia. We sent an official from the High Commission in London; Australia sent ministerial representatives to pledge greater military co-operation. New Zealand still has access to Russian markets while many in Europe and Australia do not, though of course this has nothing to do with our diplomatic stance.TREASURING THE JUNKBelieve it or not: according to a press release this week, Kiwi consumers don't really hate junk mail at all. More than 88 per cent of circulars delivered are actually read by someone in each household, declares the release, and 43 per cent of recipients are so riveted by the day's flyers that they read them standing up, or while walking back from the letterbox. And an especially bargain-hungry 4 per cent of people admit to reading junk mail in bed. The source of these revelations is a survey by Reachmedia, which - no surprises - is in the business of "letterbox marketing".
BIG TALK, BIG EATING
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As voters get ready to elect the 51st Parliament, some statistics about the 50th have been revealed. It spent 1409 sitting hours in the House, less than the previous Parliament's 1664 hours. This created 19,839 pages of Hansard transcripts. All this work resulted in 346 bills becoming acts. Eleven of these were private members' bills, compared with only two in the previous term. Over the same time, Parliament's cafe, Copperfield's, sold 146,314 espressos 11,532 omelettes, 14,518 poached eggs, 41,742 buffet lunches and 23,217 sandwiches. The relative lack of sandwich sales gives some weight to the argument that it may be time to end the Beehive food monopoly. Some people say an open food court might improve the standard of fare, and reduce the cost to taxpayers for subsidised food.
Departing New Zealand First MP Andrew Williams will get his day in court after being dumped from his party's list. But it won't be until late November, long after the election, so what Williams and his lawyers at Chen Palmer are hoping for is unclear. By that time, there will be no reasonable redress the courts can offer him. Perhaps Williams is willing to spend the money just to get a High Court judge to say Winston Peters and Tracey Martin were mean to him.
Another tale from the frontiers of real estate madness: the New York Times reports that a new condominium development in Manhattan's trendy SoHo district is offering carparks priced at US$1 million each. The paper notes that each parking spot costs more than four times the median US house price and, per square foot, they are more expensive than the apartments upstairs. The broker handling the project explains the lofty price: "In real estate, location defines value, and parking is no exception to that rule."