Look through the gloom: we have huge advantages

Here are two ways to spend New Year: clamp your ears shut to the dire predictions, the better to keep summer alive a week or two; or look through the predictions to our abundant riches.

It is now fashionable to talk of the “great crash of 2008” as some replica of the “great crash of 1929”, after which came the “great depression”. A scary prospect. read more

The 'yes' of Christmas amidst a welter of 'no's

Airports are not pretty. But one October afternoon Hamilton airport was for me for a moment a place of beauty.

A young man with the moonish face of intellectual disability waited impassively alongside an elderly woman for a traveller to arrive. He was a reminder of human sadness, the unfairness of chance. read more

The H word, a big exit and a star-quality new boy

It has been the year of the H word. It was the year of a big exit. It is the year a new boy topped the class.

Hypocrisy is so tempting to politicians that the word is banned in Parliament. There an MP’s word must be accepted until demonstrably proved false. But outside is a different story. Slowly, painfully, grindingly, Winston Peters conceded he had had big bucks from big business — the opposite of the underdog, victim image with which he had wooed and wowed the blue rinses. read more

Tails trying to wag dogs end up getting smaller

There has so far been a rule under MMP: support parties’ vote shares fall at the next election.

* New Zealand First in coalition with National, 13.3 per cent of the party vote in 1996, 4.3 per cent in 1999; supporting Labour, 5.7 per cent in 2005, 4.1 per cent in 2008;

* Alliance in coalition with Labour, 7.7 per cent in 1999, 1.3 per cent in 2002; read more

Simon Power's big job: getting regulation right

What makes an economy rich? Resources, luck, the population’s mindset and energy, infrastructure (including human capital) and institutional settings. Governments can do little or nothing about the first three. So if John Key is to make good his vaunted “ambition” and enrich us, he must improve infrastructure and hone institutional settings. read more

Environment: Key's harder foreign relations task

Free trade is the easy bit for John Key, new ambassador. There has been a strong political majority at home for free trade for two decades. The hard bit in international relations is the environment.

All foreign policy starts at home. Diplomacy in essence is promotion of the national interest, getting your way with other countries to enhance wellbeing at home. read more

Key's biggest task: give all kids a good start

The election campaign guns having fallen silent, it is fitting to remember this is Armistice Day: 90 years ago, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the tribes of Europe stopped killing each other in the “war to end all wars”.

An idealistic American president tried to make that true but 20 years later the killing resumed, on a wider scale. Only with the making of the European Union did peace break out. Now another American president, elected to global acclaim amidst division at home and dismay abroad at his predecessor, has a resounding mandate to bring peace and unity. read more

An election phenomenon

John Key is a phenomenon — six years an MP and now Prime Minister. Helen Clark is phenomenon — 15 years Labour party leader, deputy Prime Minister at 39, nine years Prime Minister. It was quite a contest.

In the event it was a clear contest: National and friends as an alternative government to Labour and friends. And it was a clear result: a majority for that alternative government. read more

A campaign of doom and hope

You knew Helen Clark would fight all year all the way to tonight’s election eve sweep down Ponsonby Road when she turned up to her first press conference of the year in open-toed shoes — with her toenails painted. This was a gal who once didn’t wear lipstick.

All year Clark has battled adverse polls reflecting a sagging public mood and a sagging economy, her lapses of political management last year and third-term-it-is. To come from behind, she pushed “trust”: on the one hand a “secret agenda” behind John Key’s bland change-with-no-change; on the other insisting her decades of experience were needed to navigate the wild waters whipped up by the international credit turmoil. read more