Today in politics: Tuesday, February 18

Last updated 05:00 18/02/2014

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Politics

$98m for more surgery in Budget Spark launches new attack on internet pricing Minister dismisses 'middle-aged, white, Pakeha men' in Whanau Ora debate Key says he raised human rights in Saudi Arabia - and Barack Obama didn't Payout for abuse victims 'deeply flawed' Transport levy high on Auckland Council budget list Unemployment stays up at 5.8 per cent Kiwi soldiers have died under the NZ flag - RSA More Stockton Mine job cuts expected Alcohol and drug monitoring of offenders 'major infringement of liberty'

Another senior staffer leaves Labour camp

Labour has lost another senior staffer, with the deputy director of its research unit, Alastair Johnstone, leaving at the end of the week. Leader David Cunliffe's chief press secretary Simon Cunliffe said it was "routine staff turnover".

He said Johnstone was not sacked and he was not blamed in any way for Cunliffe's state of the nation speech, which had included an embarrassing error. Last week, ill health forced Cunliffe's chief of staff Wendy Brandon to quit. 

Flag referendum still blowing in the wind

The Cabinet will decide whether to hold  a referendum on the national flag ''within a month or so'', Prime Minister John Key says. Last month, he pledged to discuss a new flag with senior ministers and possibly put it to a poll  as part of this year's election.

He favours dumping the 150-year-old blue ensign design for  a black flag with silver fern. A Fairfax Media-Ipsos poll shows  fewer than two in five Kiwis want to keep  the current flag.

Raising the level of school-leavers

The Government is trumpeting a rise ithe number of students leaving school with NCEA level 2. Provisional results released by Education Minister Hekia Parata show Maori achievement was up 4 percentage points to 58.6 per cent on 2012, Pasifika results up 7 points, and overall achievement up 2.5 points to 76.8  per cent

Some home truths from the leafy suburbs

Key and Labour leader David Cunliffe took potshots at each other over the location of their homes. During Question Time, Cunliffe took a swipe at Mr Key over housing availability, saying: "When the prime minister gets out more in the leafy suburbs of Parnell and St Stephens Avenue . . ."

Key said Cunliffe doesn't broadcast that he lives in upmarket Herne Bay, which "sounds like a leafy place". "He should be proud of where he lives . . . I've never made a secret of where I live."

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- The Dominion Post

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