First Reading

Vernon Small began reporting politics in the year NZ First was launched and voters tossed out First Past the Post in favour of MMP. Almost two decades on, he writes the weekly First Reading column for Fairfax Media and blogs - with the occasional guest post from his colleagues - on the latest news and views from around Parliament.

Backtracks on climate change cause little heat

11:25am 15 Nov 2012

Just a few years ago you could spark a political row by asking whether humans were partly to blame for climate change.

While there is still a strand of scepticism running through some sections of the National Party - and a mile-wide streak in the ACT party - there is by and large broad consensus across the divide.

Now the political debate is not about whether we should act, but how and what cost we should bear.

But the technicalities of emissions trading schemes, carbon units and Kyoto protocol commitments are eye-glazing for most voters. That may explain why the Government's serial backtracking on climate change over the past few weeks has sparked so little political heat so far outside the greenhouse.

First the Government slipped the leftovers of the emissions trading scheme into the fridge, via a law change sporting the sleep-inducing title Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Act. It remains to be seen whether it will be whipped out later for a quick stir-fry or consigned to the recycling.

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Royal tour: why the delay in cost data?

03:56pm 12 Nov 2012

The spin doctors at Prince Charles' private office have been on the phone this morning to ''correct'' any suggestion that we, the New Zealand taxpayers, pay for Camilla's hair-do or the salary of the hairdresser. 

Apparently we only pay for the hairdresser to fly here, be ferried around the country and for any accommodation - along with the same ''in country'' costs of the rest his extensive entourage.

John Key this morning confirmed this, and said the costs of the trip would be released only after the six-day tour was over.

Now why is that? Because costs are not known? Unlikely at least in a ball-park sense.

Or is it because to release the cost in advance of the trip would be rude to the guests? Maybe, though we would not be as sensitive if it was an elected minister, for instance.

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What did you do wrong? Well, since you asked

05:00am 09 Nov 2012


Cornered by reporters asking why she had only resigned from her Labour portfolio, Kate Wilkinson plaintively asked: ''What else have I . . . what have I done wrong?"

Well since you asked ...

The Royal Commission investigation into the Pike River mine tragedy produced a set of clear recommendations and one of the best-written reports of its type I can recall.

But if it had one gaping hole it was its failure to call evidence from Cabinet ministers from the last two decades.

Surely they could have shed useful light on their intent and the decision-making that went in to laws, regulations and departmental oversight during that time.

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Wheeler speech close to politically fraught

05:00am 01 Nov 2012


If the Government changes in 2014, the new Reserve Bank governor may have written one of the longest resignation letters in history.

Graeme Wheeler's first speech as governor last week won wide approval from the mainstream bank economists and from commentators for its orthodoxy and consistency.

It could have been written by Don Brash, just as his first statement on monetary policy could have been penned as a farewell note from Alan Bollard. As one reporter noted, the typeface was different but there was little else to distinguish it from his predecessor's view.

But the prevailing orthodoxy, which was in place towards the end of Dr Brash's reign and when Dr Bollard took the tiller, is no longer the dominant political view.

Where once in the House that orthodoxy had an overwhelming majority, with the support of National and Labour, the current policy-targets agreement and Reserve Bank Act have a bare majority of perhaps one seat: National, ACT plus United Future.

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Police errors: who carries the can?

02:10pm 25 Oct 2012

Have been listening very hard this morning, but am still to hear anyone utter the word ''accountability'' in relation to the cases where the courts have thrown out charges because of police errors.

Now it is not immediately clear who should carry the can, but at the moment it is still sitting lost and lonely in the garden shed.

The need for some accountability is pretty clear.

A bunch of gang members, charged with drug and firearms offences, have had their cases put on ice - with a strong chance they will be thrown out for good - because the police screwed up by arranging a fake arrest and prosecution of an undercover policeman in what the judge called a fundamental and serious abuse of the court's processes.

Has there been any disciplinary action taken within the police?

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