Comment

Yesterdaze: Insult, injury and humble pie

From the Hisco house to humiliation at Parliament, James Elliott covers the reasonable and the unreasonable in his news of the week

The week started with the shock news that the housing market in Auckland has been cooling off without us even knowing. A home in St Heliers that had been bought for $7.55m in 2011 was sold in 2017 for $6.9m. The home was bought in 2011 by the ANZ bank and was sold to the wife of recently-departed ANZ CEO David Hisco six years later. When news broke of this alarming drop in the housing market in one of Auckland’s premium eastern suburbs eyebrows were raised, questions were asked and “WTF?!” was typed into a lot of tweets.

We probably haven’t heard the last about this deal given that most homes in St Heliers were doubling in value between 2011 and 2017. This sale did something that sounds quite similar to bucking the trend. And if that progression of losing about 8.5 percent in value every six years continues, by the year 2049 for under $50k you could be looking to buy a luxurious 700 square metre ocean-view home, reached by a private driveway that runs off the main St Heliers Bay road, and includes a heated swimming pool, tennis court and six bedrooms. Of course, by 2049 you probably won’t be enjoying ocean views from your living room, because by then the ocean will probably be in your living room. 

Still, I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for this deal. The ANZ is after all a bank, and as a bank it lends a lot of money, and a lot of the money it lends is secured by mortgages over people’s homes. So if there’s one thing you can expect the ANZ to be good at, it’s accurately assessing the value of homes.

With the sudden departure of its CEO, unanswered questions about that CEO and criticisms from the Reserve Bank, the ANZ has a lot on its plate at the moment. So naturally Deputy PM Winston Peters climbed in by calling on ANZ chair John Key to resign. At least it’s assumed that was what Winston was doing. The alternative explanation is that while sleep walking to a caucus meeting on Monday morning he was dreaming about a debating chamber fracas with John Key circa 2014 and cried out in his sleep.      

Being criticised on your last day at work for using a poor analogy is really adding insult to injury. It’s like having an ATM swallow your credit card at 6pm on the Friday of a long weekend and then tell you that you’ve got a really lame PIN number. 

From reasonable explanations to unreasonable ones, Thursday was Gabriel Makhlouf’s last day in the job as Treasury Secretary following on from the Budget “hack” debacle. Instead of a rousing three cheers and a cake to mark the occasion, he had to face the music from State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes and eat a generous portion of humble pie.

And it’s fair to say that the SSC did not find Makhlouf’s handling and explanation of the Budget “hack" to be reasonable. In fact the SSC found that Makhlouf’s handling of the Budget “hack” saga fell “well short of expectations” and that he did not act reasonably in the use of the phrase “deliberately and systematically hacked” to describe what had happened.

He was also criticised for his analogy of the Budget information being in a locked room with a bolt to the lock being repeatedly attacked. Being criticised on your last day at work for using a poor analogy is really adding insult to injury. It’s like having an ATM swallow your credit card at 6pm on the Friday of a long weekend and then tell you that you’ve got a really lame PIN number.         

Twyford would have had quite the spring - if not skip - in his step knowing that he’s been spared his weekly mauling by Judith Collins over targets that aren’t targets, goals that aren’t goals and houses that just aren’t. 

Thursday was also the last day for Phil Twyford in the role as Housing Minister, as a result of the Cabinet reshuffle. It’s called a reshuffle because more often than not when ministers lose a portfolio they shuffle off, disconsolate at the publicising of their inability to manage that particular ministerial role. Not in this case. I’m sure Twyford would have had quite the spring - if not skip - in his step knowing that he’s been spared his weekly mauling by Judith Collins over targets that aren’t targets, goals that aren’t goals and houses that just aren’t. 

Collins will now be able to set her sights on newly installed Housing Minister, Megan Woods. Earlier in the week there had been the prospect of Collins losing her own opposition Housing and Urban Development roles in National’s own reshuffle. Their reshuffle was brought about by the sudden departure of National’s number 3, Amy Adams. Collins didn’t move up from number 4 with Paul Goldsmith being elevated to that position from 7. Clearly Simon Bridges was following the old adage of “keep your friends close but keep your enemies at number 4”.

There was more to the National reshuffle than just that but to summarise the key points – Goldsmith up from 7 to 3, Bishop up from 34 to 16, Collins remaining at 4 and Bridges still on 5 percent as preferred PM. And Amy Adams wasn’t the only departure from National this week. Alastair Scott, the MP for Wairarapa since 2014, also announced that he was stepping down and won’t be contesting the 2020 election. In related news apparently Alastair Scott has been the MP for Wairarapa since 2014.   

Have a peaceful weekend.

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