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Yesterdaze: The mill that spun right out of control

James Elliott wonders why we're not investing in tradies to fix the national rumour mill after it came loose from its moorings this week

There’s an acute tradie shortage in New Zealand. MBIE forecast this week that we’ll need up to 60,000 additional builders and tradies by 2022. The problem is we need them now, and urgently.  

The top tradie priority is fixing the national rumour mill that spun out of control this week, came loose from its moorings and was last seen careening down the Terrace with Barry Soper in hot and very bothered pursuit screaming “Tell me what you know!”. 

The cause of all this civic mayhem was, ironically, Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who issued the following attempted rumour-quashing statement: “Mr Gayford has not been the subject of a police inquiry and has never been charged in relation to any matter.”

Gotham City’s Commissioner Gordon had his bat signal, and this was Commissioner Bush’s version - the batshit crazy signal - as phone lines, text messages and bulletin boards up and down the country went into overload. It was like a national emergency - “Please check that your neighbours and elderly relatives are OK. And don’t forget to ask them if they know what the Clarke Gayford rumours are about.”       

One rumour has already been well and truly confirmed. In just a matter of seconds, and wearing a bomber jacket to symbolise what was to follow, the Act Party proved that he could not successfully partner with anyone to do anything in a remotely coordinated fashion.  

Now that this precedent has been set I look forward to further statements from the police in the coming weeks debunking those social rite of passage rumours about the All Black, the Black Cap, and the All Black with the Black Cap. Besides we need a clean rumour slate for all the whispers that will inevitably waltz out of the new series of Dancing With The Stars. One dance in and one rumour has already been well and truly confirmed. In just a matter of seconds, and wearing a bomber jacket to symbolise what was to follow, the Act Party proved that he could not successfully partner with anyone to do anything in a remotely coordinated fashion.                      

Indeed, sorting fact from fiction was quite the challenge this week. Multi-national petrol purveyor BP claimed it was into sustainability, sort of. Having been summoned by Energy Minister Megan Woods to explain an internal email showing that petrol prices were raised in the lower North Island to stem losses in Otaki, BP claimed it was only seeking a “sustainable return”. You can find BP’s full statement online. It comes up in a Google search alongside headlines like “BP Triples Profit” and “BP Profits Surge 71 percent”. Having met with BP representatives, Minister Woods declared the petrol market to be “broken”. I suspect that BP disagrees with that conclusion and has the financial statements to prove it.

Meanwhile retailers hoping just to be sustainable were heartened by the announcement of the Amazon tax. Small Business Minister Stuart Nash and Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri announced that from October 1 next year GST will be charged on online purchases under $400. I’m given to understand that it’s a move designed to prevent Aucklanders from avoiding the fuel tax hike and those in the lower North Island from avoiding BP, by buying their petrol online. That might just be a rumour but it will be a hard one for Commissioner Bush to dispel because in this case consumers have most definitely been charged.

Minister Robertson must have been worried about a pre-Budget leak when he saw mid-week headlines about a giant sinkhole opening up but that was just a rainfall-related event on a farm in Rotorua.

The Amazon tax kicks in two months before the SkyCity International Convention Centre is now due to be completed in December 2019. The project deadline has been pushed back twice from the scheduled completion of February 2019. SkyCity is apparently comfortable because its construction contract with Fletcher Building provides for liquidated damages to compensate for the effect of any delay in completion. Liquidated damages are a complex legal concept but here’s a simple explanation of what they mean – they mean that if you’re a Fletcher Building shareholder you should pour yourself a very stiff drink. Yes, another one.      

Entitled to a tipple or two of his own this week was Finance Minister and occasional DJ Grant Robertson as he crunches the numbers for his first Budget on May 17. He’s been doing the usual round of pre-Budget appearances to deliver key messages on the Government’s spending priorities to build up health, education and housing. It’s quite the challenge as he also has to plan for contingencies that come out of the blue as well as make up for what he says is the deficit in social infrastructure spending that didn’t come out of the blue under the previous National government.   

Minister Robertson must have been worried about a pre-Budget leak when he saw mid-week headlines about a giant sinkhole opening up but that was just a rainfall-related event on a farm in Rotorua. The bigger clues as to how he’s struggling with his number juggling were dropped in his most recent DJ set which included Money’s Too Tight to Mention, I Need a Dollar and Help. Or maybe that’s just another rumour.                     

Have a peaceful weekend.              

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