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Yesterdaze: Always DJ, never a rocker

What the Budget has in common with the Blues, Winston lashes out and a world without cheques - all in James Elliott's news of the week

It was a relatively quiet week in New Zealand politics, as measured by the number of National MPs thrown out of the Parliamentary Debating Chamber. None. Simon Bridges was thrown out the previous week in a desperate attempt to get at least a media mention between the Prime Minister’s engagement and the arrival of a royal baby. Nick Smith went one better (not a phrase you see all that often) by being “named” by the Speaker. For those not familiar with Parliamentary procedures, being named is the process by which the Speaker reminds us all that someone who we had hoped and assumed had left politics is, unfortunately, still an MP.    

Notwithstanding the apparent feud with Nick Smith or perhaps because of it, Speaker Trevor Mallard is apparently on a mission to humanise Parliament and create a kinder and gentler kind of buzz in the Beehive. Perhaps this was why on Wednesday he (@SpeakerTrevor) retweeted a cute video of a mother duck and her ducklings waddling into the White House grounds. Either that or it’s just a social media convention about mallard recognition.    

Speaker Trevor might have jumped the gun on his plans to create a kinder and gentler Parliament. Maybe it would have been better to wait for the outcome of the cannabis referendum to be held with next year’s general election. It will be a binding referendum posing a simple yes/no question, a process that some supporters of marijuana decriminalisation think may be too complex. Across the aisle Simon Bridges said that he had never smoked marijuana in his life. I believe him.     

It was the perfect issue to appeal to the NZ First base, iconic assets being sold to foreigners, something negative to do with China and food you can eat with a spoon.       

The busiest Parliamentarian this week was Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who has been doing the rounds handing out spoiler alerts for this year’s Budget. Long gone are the days of the big Budget surprise teased with “hot off the press” photos and a media lockdown. Nowadays with all the preliminary announcements, watching the Budget speech itself is like being a Blues supporter, we know what the result’s going to be but we’ll watch it anyway.

But there is something different about the Budget this year. It’s being labelled the Wellbeing Budget, one that promises to balance not only the books but the chakras as well. The Wellbeing aspect is being touted as something completely new but the traditional budgets of yesteryear might have something to say about that with their perennial tax hikes on booze and ciggies as they were officially known. This may come as a surprise to some but I expect Simon Bridges to support at least a part of the Wellbeing Budget – specifically the part where he gets a government-subsidised spinal realignment to fix the crick in his neck from constantly looking over his shoulder. 

Robertson has also said that while economists still think New Zealand has a “rockstar economy” he thinks that’s a label best avoided. I suspect that stance is probably less about economic and social policy than it is about Grant being a DJ and not a rocker. However I don’t expect the moniker of the “oonst oonst oonst economy” to become all that popular.   

Apparently only 0.5 percent of Kiwibank’s customers use cheques, which makes them the Act Party of the finance world.   

To be fair to DJ Grant, he is leading by example in his promotion of the Wellbeing Budget. He’s no longer playing just house music at gigs, now it’s warm, dry and well-ventilated house music.

Harking back to those good old days of booze and ciggies Winston Peters lashed out at the sale of Tip Top by Fonterra to a Nestle subsidiary blaming serious mismanagement of Fonterra in the past.  He singled out one of Fonterra’s investments in China as the best example of poor commercial decision-making because of course he did. It was the perfect issue to appeal to the NZ First base, iconic assets being sold to foreigners, something negative to do with China and food you can eat with a spoon.

Incidentally “Winston Peters lashed out” have been the starting four words of more news stories about NZ politics than all of the other stories put together. 

And definitely not in a nostalgic mood for the good old days, Kiwibank announced it’s phasing out the use of cheques because so few of its customers use them and it’s an expensive service to provide.  Apparently only 0.5 percent of Kiwibank’s customers use cheques, which makes them the Act Party of the finance world. Or to look at it another way, with Act having similar support levels, maybe he should be phased out in 2020 as well.   

So Kiwibank will be cheque-free by February 2020 and gluten-free by August 2021, but has assured customers that should you visit a branch, they will maintain the proud banking tradition of having pens on chains that don’t work. It’s says something about our collective Kiwi optimism that we all know those bank pens definitely won’t work but we try them anyway – they’re like the Kiwibuild of the stationery world.       

Have a peaceful weekend.

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