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Yesterdaze: Grifts that keep on giving

The Budget, supermarket spying and Hopeful Christian - James Elliott pulls no punches in his news of the week 

This week was dominated by the Budget. Some family budgets will be better off to the tune of $10.50 being the cost of a three-pack of Girl Guide biscuits which the Girl Guides announced they would no longer be selling. And for all the economic punditry that has been on display this week not one Budget boffin took time out to explain why Girl Guide Original biscuits sell for exactly the same price as the Girl Guide Choc biscuits.

All is not lost however as Countdown supermarkets have expressed interest in selling the iconic cookies. And if they do, your relieved and ravenous face won’t be tagged by facial recognition software, at least not in a Countdown supermarket. Not so in New World or Pak’n’Save (or Brave New World and Peek’n’Save) which have installed facial recognition software to, they say, help identify criminals. Numerous concerns have been flagged about this from the unreliability of the technology to invasion of privacy. My concern is about mission creep. I’m worried about a storewide announcement that says “Clean up on aisle 3. And Mr Elliott in aisle 6, your wife has asked us to remind you to step away from the liquorice.”

Mission creep would be the PR spin explanation for those employers who were exposed this week for under-paying employees by requiring them to carry out non-paid pre- and post-work duties.  Briscoes was one of the many companies caught up in this controversy, in the same week that Tammy Wells was celebrating her 30th anniversary as ‘the Briscoes lady’. However given this week’s disclosures a count-back is probably warranted just in case it’s been 35 years.

Simon Bridges is someone who is probably pragmatic enough to celebrate every week that he holds down his job as leader of the National Party. Early in the week ahead of the Budget he discussed his faith in trickle-down economics which coincidentally will be Donald Trump’s explanation if the rumoured Moscow pee tapes turn out to be real. Never mind that trickle-down economics is an outdated, widely derided and largely debunked economic theory - Bridges is a believer. On that basis we can expect upcoming National policy initiatives to include the reintroduction of leeches throughout the public health sector to reduce treatment costs and the establishment of a Ministry of Alchemy. 

As it happens the Spice Girls released their debut US single Wannabe 22 years ago and that’s as fitting a theme song as any for Winston’s political career. Hopefully Ardern’s letter ensures that Silver Spice doesn’t get to do what he really, really wants when he gets his finger on the nuclear-free button.

In related, widely-derided and living-in-the-Dark Ages news - sex offender, cult leader and committer of crimes against giving people sensible names Neville Cooper aka Hopeful Christian died on Tuesday. Good.

Also no doubt pondering a name for an imminently new person, PM Jacinda Ardern released a letter setting out a list of expectations that Deputy PM Winston Peters must fulfil when he steps in as Acting PM while she is on maternity leave. Winston denied that it was a ‘behave yourself contract’ and told us all to relax because "I was doing this job 22 years ago, so I’m ready for it". That’s comforting in the same way as a surgeon or pilot telling you "Relax, I did this once before, 22 years ago". As it happens the Spice Girls released their debut US single Wannabe 22 years ago and that’s as fitting a theme song as any for Winston’s political career. Hopefully Ardern’s letter ensures that Silver Spice doesn’t get to do what he really, really wants when he gets his finger on the nuclear-free button.

There was another baa from the past this week when it was reported that Laurium Asset Management had commenced legal proceedings against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to the never-ending Saudi sheep saga. It’s a complex claim, the gist of which is that Laurium says that the sheep weren’t the only ones who were fleeced. And whereas the sheep themselves may have died miserably in a far-off desert this saga lives on and on. For those still interested in uncovering what really happened it really is a case of the grift that keeps on giving.

And when it comes to giving there are always going to be high expectations for your first Budget when your first name is Grant. And so it was at 2pm on Thursday that Minister of Finance Grant Robertson took to his feet in the House to move that the Appropriation (2018/19) Estimates Bill be read a second time. Media had been in lock-up since 10.30am although an actual lock-up was probably unnecessary given that Parliament’s Banquet Hall was generously provisioned with sausage rolls and lamingtons. Those media that did make it out of the lock-up promptly at 2pm were seen leaving with generously provisioned pockets.    

These days there’s no shortage of punditry, interactive graphics and even social media memes to explain the ins and outs of the Budget’s gives and takes but it’s still a more complex and difficult task than in the good old days when it was always all about the feared hikes in the cost of booze, smokes and petrol.

What hasn’t changed is the traditional post-Budget verbal-jousting and finger-jabbing from all sides of the House. Our Parliamentarians are always happy to do some over-time carping and crowing provided that we’re the ones who pay for it.                

Have a peaceful weekend.

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