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The Week in Politics

Geoff Hayward



Last week, Parliament went into recess, and the media took a look in the ‘slow news week’ barrel, fishing out standard stories of government excess:
$217,211 to appoint Police Commissioner Howard Broad and Deputy Commissioner (operations) Rob Pope. Of course, no one except the Dominion Post is actually upset at the need for adhering to rigorous procedures in selecting New Zealand’s top cops.
$119,681 for the first four months of the inquiry into Taito Phillip Field (Labour, Mangere), with National MPs estimating that the true cost of investigating Fieldís dodgy dealings could be as high as $250,000. I hope they have calculated G.S.T. on that…
Just under $250,000 since 2004 being spent on official functions hosted by the Prime Minister or other Cabinet ministers. This included $23,779 for a dinner held for British PM Tony Blair (and 400 guests) held in March this year and nearly $25,000 for Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and 256 others in 2004. Two questions: how much are our dignitaries costing other nations when we are so graciously offered a banquet by them as hosts? Is someone checking that or would that be too… diplomatic? Also, is the Herald on Sunday expecting them to go and dine at the local McDonalds? Well, maybe the United States could. It would have been cheaper than the Duxton for their Fourth of July celebrations.
For the record, letís do the breakdown: $250,000 was spent on serving a total of 3379 guests. That works out to be around $75 a plate, pretty reasonable for a full meal and booze. Maybe they could save by refusing diplomats a second helping?
Also speaking of specious reasoning, local blogger Dave Crampton calculated that the Kahui twinsí families could be earning anywhere between $600 and $4500 of government money each week in benefits and top-ups. Sounds like this man knows a little too much (or too little) about abusing the system. At least the Herald on Sunday was prepared to aim a little lower with their estimate of around $1350 a week.
For those keeping track, that means that they could afford between about 8 and 60 of those state dinners a week.
Regarding the political fallout over the Kahui twins, perhaps the only one who seems to be a winner out of the whole thing is Pita Sharples (Maori, Tamaki Makaurau), whose blunt remarks in confronting the families face to face is a sharp contrast to the more standoffish, if no less rapid response from Parekura Horomira (Labour, Ikaroa-Rawhiti) with his call for cross-party dialogue. Strangely, in one of those egg or chicken situations, is it Sharplesí mana and high profile that makes it possible to work so close to the coalface, to meet with the family and to talk candidly about the situation without losing credibility? Or is it gestures like his that earned him such mana in the first place? While you work on that paradox… more and more people will probably be asking, Tariana who?
Still even with Sharples’ star rising, it looks likely that suggestions of 3, 4 or 8 new Maori seats come the next election seem to be premature. The latest report from the Electoral Commission show that while there is already a net increase of 10,000 on the Maori roll, it is unlikely to be enough to even get one more Maori seat. Bad news for the Maori party, who had been putting a lot of effort into the recruitment drive. Labour’s ‘neutral’ stance on the matter probably saved them some money by not following the Maori party’s example, which is useful because it’s their 90th birthday this week and it costs a fair bit for that many candles.
Speaking of which, what would you be wishing for on your 90th birthday?
LABOUR: a fourth term
GREENS: less talk, more action on Kyoto
MAORI PARTY: ‘less’ welfare dependency
NATIONAL: tax cuts (obviously!)
ACT: Another public stunt to ‘drop’ it’s MPs into the public spotlight
NEW ZEALAND FIRST: one of those fancy dinners at $75 a head