National News Brief, Thursday November 6

Obama's win may affect FTA talks; final leaders debate overshadowed by Obama; Blue Chip investors told to pay up or lose their homes; plum government roles on offer; NZ wine industry ever stronger; car prices to rise

The election of Barack Obama to the US presidency could be a slight negative for New Zealand hopes for a free trade agreement, according to Dominion Post political writer Vernon Small. But yesterday's historic electoral sweep will mean the US and New Zealand will be more closely aligned on Iraq and Afghanistan. The executive director of the New Zealand-United States Business Council, Stephen Jacobi, said the first round of free trade talks were scheduled to begin in March and he was confident of progress.

Press political editor Colin Espiner says Obama's victory overshadowed the final New Zealand leaders debate last night and led to "an outbreak of goodwill" between Helen Clark and John Key. The leaders were markedly more polite and friendly towards each other in the final debate, screened by TV One, and both said Obama's victory boded well for their own chances on Saturday.

A handful of investors in failed finance company Blue Chip have been told to pay up or lose their homes, according to the Herald. Representatives of lender GE Money have called investors who owe between $100,000 and $500,000 and told them if they don't start repaying their loans their homes will be sold. GE Money spokesman Geoff Lynch said their loans had been assessed and it was believed they were able to afford it.

United Future leader Peter Dunne could be appointed Speaker if National leads the next government, reports the Herald's political editor Audrey Young. Act leader Rodney Hide would likely take charge of prisons and Inland Revenue while new National MP Hekia Parata could be Maori Affairs Minister. If Labour retains control of the government, the Herald picks Annette King for Speaker. The Dominion Post reports that under a Labour government Maori Party MPs would get ministerial posts if they wanted them.

The New Zealand wine industry is avoiding the effects of the global financial crisis, reports the Herald. Wine exports in September totalled more than $100 million, compared to $98 million in wine exports for the whole of 1998. New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan says wine exports should reach $1 billion per year by 2010.

Former police officer Brad Shipton is being freed on parole after serving a third of his jail term for his part in the rape of a Mt Maunganui woman. He was found guilty in 2005 and sentenced to eight years and six months in prison.

If you want a new car, now is the time to buy--before prices rise. After months of absorbing higher commodity prices (for steel, for example) car industry representatives tell the Herald that prices will rise over summer, by as much as 7 percent on some models.