A Maori businessman and former Ernst & Young partner in Toronto, Kingi Smiler, is the latest to try cutting through the tangled web that is reform of the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993 - aka the Maori Land Act. He is chairing yet another ministerial advisory group for yet another minister determined to reform the law. More than 1.4 million hectares of land is Maori-owned.
About 80 per cent of that is considered under-utilised and the present law is regarded as a major barrier to its optimum use. Almost every decision about every aspect of ownership and land use has to go through a judicial process. Reform has defeated many, but it is widely regarded as key to developing Northland and the East Cape.
Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to work we go
Once again, it's almost time for one of the more uncomfortable political road trips - the annual pilgrimage to the meeting of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva. Business and union leaders rub shoulders with politicians from both sides of the fence. They all tell very different stories about life in New Zealand, but what will most confuse the ILO is the fact that this country no longer has a Minister of Labour.
All-clear on red alert
The Red Alert blog site was once touted by Labour as the place where its MPs would re-engage with the public and members, to debate policy and excite voters. Now it resembles a ghost town, with digital tumbleweed blowing through its pages. The most recent post is from Darien Fenton, talking about her valedictory speech - last July.
Up the creek, smelling bad
People with a jaundiced view of Parliament and its inhabitants have been known to describe it as a sewer. It has certainly smelt that way lately, after an over-generous application of fertiliser on the parliamentary lawn created a pungent odour around the place. This was rather fitting for events this week, when many parliamentary staff and MPs found themselves up the proverbial creek, as a faulty switching mechanism brought down the IT system for much of the complex. MPs are wondering how they became so reliant on a system which seems to have no fallback plan. Many were reduced to writing notes and having them hand delivered. Suddenly, getting rid of most of the parliamentary messengers didn't seem like such a bright idea.
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Terror by any other name...
Shakespeare put the question "What's in a name?" in the mouth of the love-struck Romeo, but it seems our politicians, diplomats and military are asking the same question about the enemy they are preparing to face in the Middle East. Most commonly called "Isis" or "Isil", the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant gets different versions at different times from the Government, with "IS" and "Islamic State" also thrown in. But the New Zealand military seems to be following the style of other governments and the United Nations, which dislike that name and instead call them "Daesh", which comes from the Arabic acronym for the terrorist group. One can only hope that the confusion of titles doesn't point to different views of the enemy, or the nature of New Zealand's mission. WORDS
From down the back
It is not clear whether it was coincidence or a pointed message from National that former ministers Judith Collins and Maurice Williamson were given only shared speaking rights in the formal parliamentary debate on the Prime Minister's statement. Rubbing it in further, the split call came late on a Thursday afternoon, a time when many Auckland MPs are racing for the airport. Williamson gave a "great big thank you" to his party whips for the time slot. Collins said the arrangements were appropriate for the circumstances. Both dutifully mocked Labour, and Williamson showed he had been using his free time to improve his word power, describing Labour as "quaquaversal" (sloping downward from the centre in all directions).
Voice of experience
The latest rumour doing the rounds in political circles is that Trade Negotiations Minister Tim Groser is going to replace Mike Moore as Our Man in Washington when his term is up at the end of the year. Groser has the credentials for the job, and making him ambassador would have the added bonus of ending his speeches to fellow caucus members.