Hard News by Russell Brown


The Cullen investment

It had become apparent that Michael Cullen was looking for a change of job, and today we will discover which SOE he will chair. Update: Trans-Tasman says Cullen To Chair NZ Post And Kiwibank (one being a subsidiary of the other). Update 2: Looks like Cullen will only be deputy chair of Post, until, presumably, Bolger departs. Update 3: The actual announcement that Cullen is to replace Ken Douglas and become deputy chair in the "medium term".

History will, I think, regard Cullen as a conservative finance minister who left the country's books in better shape than he found them, and one whose driving goal -- rarely expressed but evident everywhere -- was to improve New Zealand's lamentable savings record. He obliged us to save via the Superannuation Fund, and induced us to save via Kiwisaver. We didn't always love him for it.

In the counterfactual, a different Cullen held the reins looser, and unleashed economic growth that transformed the country and made us, and our children, richer. But calls for a bolder fiscal philosophy don't ring like they did three years ago.

The Herald, of course, has flung Cullen's legacy into the pit of Your Views, where they wail and gnash and spit.

As was the case with Helen Clark, John Key's government clearly takes a more realistic view of Cullen's talents than many of its grassroots supporters. He would plainly make a very strong SOE chair.

The news gives us another direction to take in this week's Media7, where we have lined up Denis Welch (who has just completed his Clark biography), Colin Espiner and Tom Scott to discuss the long and complicated story of Helen Clark and the media.

Clark's valedictory speech takes place tomorrow at 5pm, and we're hoping to have a feed of it at the venue, as a warm-up for the show. If you'd like to join us for the recording at The Classic, hit Reply and let me know.


This year's inorganic waste collection felt different. In a sign of the times, there seemed to be twice as many scavengers crawling the streets of Pt Chevalier -- pulling in and out without indicating, stopping altogether in the middle of the road. As we hauled out the stuff from under the house, sometimes we just handed it to the first scrimper we saw.

"Got any whiteware?" asked a middle-aged woman hopefully. We didn't, but she did depart with a foam mattress I wouldn't have made a dog sleep on.

The thing that got me was Tracey Island. "We're throwing away Tracey Island?" I asked my darling.

"Yes," she said. "Do we really still need it?"

No," I said, "I suppose not."

Thunderbirds 1, 2 and 3 were still in their hidey-holes in the island. They were munted: paint gone, patched up with Sellotape. It was reassuring to see how hard and how long they had been played with, and oddly affecting to know that our boys had lived with them long enough to outgrow them. I still felt a little sad.

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