Positioning the new economy - for dinner

The most crucial bit of positioning on the first day of the e-commerce summit yesterday might well have been the seating arrangements for dinner.

The most crucial bit of positioning on the first day of the e-commerce summit yesterday might well have been the seating arrangements for dinner.

The registration queue ran past the table where individual delegates could sign themselves up to any table for last night's summit dinner. Or almost any table – seating arrangements for the top few tables had already been filled in. But it was still possible for delegates to slot themselves in alongside MPs and captains of industry.

At the top table, IT minister Paul Swain and summit chair Sir Gil Simpson broke bread with US guest John Sifonis, Sir Hugh Fletcher and familiar IT industry figure Prashanta Mukherjee. Next door, Consumers Insitute chief David Russell was a late replacement for Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton, chatting with TVNZ and NZ Post chairman Ross Armstrong, Microsoft's local boss Geoff Lawrie and Oracle NZ managing director Leigh Warren.

Adavantage Group's Greg Cross and visiting Gartner researcher Mike Zastrocki shared a table with ministers Trevor Mallard and Parekura Horomia and Te Puni Kokiri CEO Ngatata Love. Tertiary Education minister Steve Maharey was sat with Treasury's Alan Bollard, SolNet's Murray McNae, high-energy children's publisher Wendy Pye and colmunist Fran O'Sullivan, who wasn't sitting with her colleagues from Wilson & Horton. Kate Frykberg of The Web Limited had the pleasure of Science minister Pete Hodgson's company.

Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove joked about "the old firm" when he discovered he had already been signed up to sit with Grant Forsyth, of Cosgrove's former employer, Clear Communications. Fellow Labour MP John Tamihere and Companies Office Webmaster Andrew Wagg were at the same table.

We couldn't spy former IT minister Maurice Williamson on the dinner lists, but we don't doubt that the newfound warmth between him and Swain was in evidence again last night.

While Williamson was praising the strategy to reporters yesterday – and implying that only the zealots at Treasury had held him back from something similar – Swain launched his keynote speech with a "particular welcome to Maurice Williamson – where is he?"

Not in the audience, unfortunately. Having listened to Don Tapscott's visionary address, he'd left before Swain started. Oh dear. But it turned out to be only a brief departure and Williamson was soon back in his seat. An urgent cellphone call, perhaps. Given the lamentable state of the air conditioning at the Aotea Centre, we'd be inclined to accept any excuse for getting a bit of fresh air.

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