While the rest of us are returning to work after the Christmas break, most MPs continue to enjoy a long summer holiday. Parliament does not resume until February 10, and with no select committees starting work before then, parliamentarians are still shy about returning to Wellington. Despite this, officials are enforcing January and early February deadlines for submissions on some bills introduced last year, including the Organised Crime and Anti-corruption Legislation Bill and the Policing (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill. Ministers will be returning to the Beehive a bit earlier than their backbench colleagues for the first full Cabinet meeting of the year this month.
Anyone who uses the auto-correct function when writing on a computer knows it can be annoying as well as amusing. Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne expressed both sentiments when his email persisted in spelling "ministers" as "monsters".
FACEBOOK LIKES ITSELF
If you thought Facebook was just a trivial time-waster, the social network wants you to think again. According to a report from Deloitte, Facebook last year had a positive global impact of US$227 billion (nearly $300 billion) - much more than New Zealand's GDP - and created 4.5 million new jobs. It's amazing stuff - until you read the bit where Deloitte says its report was prepared using information provided by Facebook, and it has not tried to "corroborate this information" or "review its overall reasonableness." Which sounds about as reliable as a lot of the stuff you see on Facebook.
EMPTY SPACES IN HIGH PLACES
Ian Fletcher's decision to quit the GCSB led to a flood of rumours about his reason for going, a merger of the SIS and the GCSB, and what the upcoming review of the two agencies would find. Senior ministers say Fletcher's decision was his alone and the "family reasons" cited were the beginning and end of the matter. They also say there are no plans to merge the agencies. What the review might bring, however, is another matter.
As well as Fletcher's empty seat, a couple of other high profile vacancies in the public sector will test the State Services Commission's already questionable ability to speedily replace outgoing chief executives. The departure of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade boss John Allen for the Racing Board is one of them, and many Wellington folk are pushing for a diplomat to get the job again.
Another outfit with some situations vacant is the Labour Party, which is looking for people to take over the somewhat forlorn task of running the party's parliamentary media operation, and to take charge of Labour's research unit. For the past six years the jobs have been like herding cats - and rather erratic cats at the best of times. Whether a new leader will change that is the big unknown.
Prime Minister John Key and Cabinet minister Tim Groser aren't the only Kiwis mingling with the rich and richer at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Serial entrepreneur Derek Handley is there too, taking in everything from an Andrea Bocelli concert to a meeting with Sir Richard Branson.
A few eyebrows were raised when the New Year's Honours list came out. There was the usual smattering of politicians - the retired Eric Roy and Ross Robertson getting gongs for their service in the Speaker's office and Tony Ryall ("The Honourable Anthony Boyd Williams Ryall, of Ohope" in official-speak) for years of service as a senior minister. Former PMs, Deputy PMs and Speakers usually get a knighthood or damehood on retirement, if they want one, but what caused a wee flutter among those who pay attention to royal honours was Murray McCully becoming a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit. McCully has not yet retired as Foreign Affairs Minister, and while he may have done well in helping to win New Zealand a seat on the UN Security Council, a gong seems a bit premature for doing one's job. The last politician anyone can remember getting a royal honour while still in office was Sir Robert Muldoon.