Island Life by David Slack


What I saw at the product launch

Eights and Aces

The arms went up like Rocky. He had pulled off his sweetest deal yet. Into the casino he rolled.

We do things differently here. We launch a new government in a gaming palace. While the rest of the world recoils in horror at the bleeding balance sheets, we tackle our financial Armageddon by giving the job to a merchant banker.

Down here at the end of the world we can't get enough of the dark humour.

I voted Labour Plus and all I got was this lousy tax cut

In their tens of thousands, brave New Zealanders yesterday put a tick next to National for the very first time in their life.

The only thing we have to fear is curly light bulbs said John.

"Fair enough," said the Labour Plus punters, "time for a change."

Buyers remorse? Not overnight. But it may happen. Check that fine print: what did he commit to, specifically? What will he do for you, specifically?

Stephen Joyce was making the right sounds on Agenda this morning. He knows the score. If you want to hold your market share, you have to fulfil the product promise. But can he persuade his fellow Tories? The casino rang with applause for Rodney and Roger.

He is risen!

He was red and croaking, all certitude and expectation.

Roger, like rust, like the P kids, like the undead, never sleeps.

Do you think he will be content to sit on a green leather seat for three years and do nothing? Gotta crash through or crash.

The Prime Minister could make him a minister. He could give give him a big job. Or he could do nothing, which would create a minister in exile. Ask Bassett to explain how it would work. Roger knows what to do. He knows how to keep the gallery enthralled with a new chapter in the soap opera that is Bradford's Parliament. There'd be press conferences, interviews, public meetings. He could have advice to offer; helpful suggestions: How to deal with the bad debts and the layoffs, the winding-ups and the bankruptcies. They're coming, don't you worry about that.

Ideology abhors a vacuum

But John said he'd be buggered if he'd have him in his cabinet. Can't they just ignore him? That rather depends on whether you want to pass any legislation. 59 seats will get you not one bill passed without the co-operation of at least three other members of Parliament.

Get the support of ACT, and you've made a start. If the legislation's not to their taste, you try Tariana. Make friends with the Greens and you may not be cooking with gas, but you have more options.

Last night John looked as happy as a dog with three tails. On Monday he's going to find out how it feels to have them all wagging him.

Roger, would you be interested in heading up a razor gang?

Some of my best friends are bureaucrats

The ironies don't take long to develop. Never mind tired old McCully and Ryall and Williamson and all. You can expect big things from Tim Groser and Hekia Parata. They are impressive, accomplished people. The only mystery is: how did they get past the selection process without anyone twigging that they have spent a large part of their lives working in the public service as other than doctors and teachers?

I have a dream job

The highlight of an election night is usually the winning leader's speech. I remember Lange, I remember Muldoon. I remember Bolger giving the pollsters some buggery. I remember Clark and I remember Mike Moore delivering what might have been a victory speech or a concession - no-one was quite sure - complaining about the temperature in the hall.

They all had their own manner, but I don't believe I have ever heard a New Zealand leader tread with quite such heavy-footed lumpishness through the glorious first minutes of their incumbency. The tone was odd. I wasn't sure if he was accepting the role of Prime Minister or celebrating beating the Thirsty Surfies in the Presidents' grade.

Still, let it not be said there was not colour. We've got great food, great scenery and Kiwi ingenuity. When you put it as poetically as that, who can doubt that we will soon be punching above our weight going forward?

Send in the clones

On the last day of the election campaign I drove past Nikki Kaye and her fellow campaigners outside Victoria Park market waving placards at the commuters as they drove to work.

It was emblematic. Where once an election involved campaign meetings and the exchange of ideas, wit and banter, we now have branding experiences and mall encounters.

I wonder: what would John A Lee have made of it all?

I have heard Nikki Kaye speak at meetings and on the radio. I have yet to hear her commit herself even once to a clear and unequivocal opinion.

Her words are the stuff of modern management. The sentences are embroidered with 'In terms of' and 'the reality is'.

She seems to proceed with the caution of the ambitious young executive who will not speak without clearance from head office, or in this case, campaign HQ. Modern companies are bottom heavy with biddable young twenty and thirty somethings. So too, it seems, is Parliament becoming the smart choice of the young man or woman with an MBA textbook on their bedside table.

The new MP for Auckland Central will no doubt be working on her maiden speech. I'd recommend she mention food, scenery and kiwi ingenuity.

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