Hard News by Russell Brown


Phoning a Friend

The irony of the last-minute move to fence off Auckland airport is the when Labour was in its pomp, it would have been seen as awful political management. From Labour on the ropes, it is being greeted, in some quarters at least, as clever politics.

There has already been a good deal of screeching about the move as policy, but as NZSX chief Mark Weldon pointed out, it's not the policy that should raise eyebrows so much as the manner of its introduction:

New Zealand Exchange chief executive Mark Weldon said the Government's move should be viewed in a global context in which governments, such as the United States and Australia, were putting in protections to block foreign control of strategic assets.

"More than half of the ASX top 20, including Qantas, Telstra, the major banks and some of the larger mining companies, are protected as strategic by the Australian Government," he said.

"This is quite a shock to New Zealand simply because we have this open, anyone can buy anything, history. In the global context it [the Government's move] doesn't make us an outlier; it actually brings us into line."

Mr Weldon said there should be more certainty about measures to protect strategic New Zealand assets from being foreign-controlled.
"Global investors don't mind investing into a market that's protected. What they don't like is not knowing it's protected when they make their initial investment."

A surprisingly large group of people who ought to know better seem to think the Canadians plan to bring new capital to the airport business: in fact, the deal, if anything, seems to be structured around extracting -- and expatriating -- greater returns.

But there's already a thriving discussion under Keith's post for you to survey, so enough of that. You might also be amused by reading various arguments in the Herald's Your Views about how the law to protect "our national a**ets" came to be "pa**ed". Does the swearing filter need a kick in the a**?

The sudden decision's political effectiveness was greatly enhanced by the fact that it actually put John Key on the spot, whereupon he looked some way short of decisive in reply. He then contrived to put himself on the spot by insisting to Paul Henry that his party had never put a deadline on Treaty settlements. It was only after he'd had time to ask Bill English what to say that he admitted he had blundered.

This shouldn't be a surprise: it's been coming a while. Key sometimes thinks poorly with a microphone in his gob, and he has trouble giving straightforward answers. Even when he had the answer (see the video here) he struggled ("It's not a … it's not a date as in this particular day, it's a time-frame roughly when we'd like to get there"). Sort of, presumably.

And his performance on Morning Report today, in the face of persistent but hardly hostile questioning was frankly weird. Just come up with an answer and say it, for goodness sake.

These are relatively small fits of indecision, but will have confirmed in Labour's mind that Key is prone to blurting when he can't phone a friend. I've said before that I think the campaign debates this year will see that weakness tested.

Less forgivable, in my view, is National's freakish about-face on support for Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 6) -- whose extension of youth sentences Key declared in his January State of the nation speech to be "long overdue," adding "National supports this extension and in Government we will, as a matter of priority, pass the legislation to make it happen."

Or not. The excuse is that the bill will also redefine "young person" to include 17 year-olds (other measures include better protection of people who report abuse and various enhancements to victims' rights). But this was indisputably known when Key gave his speech describing the bill's speedy passage as a "matter of priority". WTF?

With the depositions hearings not scheduled until September, it's clear that the trials subsequent to last October's "terror raids" won't dominate the political landscape this year: just pop in to throw a bilingual bomb into the election campaign. I think we can expect the police to bring veritable truckloads of evidence to the court. And that the bilingual format and requests for additional legal aid funding will enrage the talkback hordes.

And finally, congratulations are due to Hillary Clinton's people for getting so much momentum for talk of her "comeback" when the fact is she can't win. Not in the conventional sense of picking up more delegates than her opponent anyway. For all the headlines, her net gain on delegates from yesterday's votes (and that weird Texas primary + caucus thing) looks to be about 10. It's not enough.

If she plans to seek the nomination without winning the delegate count, then the floors of the Democratic convention will surely be quick with blood …

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