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Aug 4 2023

Sue Grey didn’t breach standards, lawyer tribunal finds

Outdoors Party Co-Leader Sue Grey addresses a rally at Parliament on 3 June 2020, attended by people protesting Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown measures, 1080 pesticide use, the rollout of 5G and other conspiracy theories. Photo by Lynn Grievson/Newsroom/Getty

Prominent anti-vax campaigner and aspiring politician Sue Grey has escaped a slap on the wrist from the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal​.

As Stuff reported, Grey had faced a number of complaints in her capacity as a lawyer and had been investigated by the Nelson Standards Committee. While the committee referred Grey for a broader investigation, the tribunal ultimately concluded that Grey’s freedom of expression must be protected and she had not breached standards.

“We do not consider, when balanced against the right to free speech, that the remaining charge could be made out to the standard of unsatisfactory conduct,” the ruling said.

However, it was noted that Grey’s actions reflected “poorly on her judgement and appreciation of the position she holds”. Many of the complaints were against Grey’s comments on the Covid-19 vaccine in 2021, though the tribunal noted these were not related to her position as a lawyer. Grey argued she made the remarks in her capacity as a politician and individual citizen.

Grey, who is currently campaigning for this yer’s election as co-leader of the Freedoms NZ umbrella party, was pleased with the tribunal’s finding. “Freedom of political speech is really important – and although you’re a lawyer, you can still wear different hats in other areas of your life,” she said.

Rec Room: All the new stuff you can watch this weekend…

Paul Henry hosts The Traitors NZ (Image: Tina Tiller)

This is an extract from our weekly Rec Room newsletter, edited by Chris Schulz.

Local star Frankie Adams has notched up another major role in The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, an Australian drama series based on a novel of the same name. Alongside Sigourney flippin’ Weaver, Adams helps tell the story of a young girl whose parents die in a mysterious house fire. Yes, there are secrets that need unravelling. This Prime Video mini-series will take seven parts to do that, and advance buzz is promising. “It’s an atmospheric and beautifully shot journey through trauma towards redemption,” says The Guardian.

Elsewhere, Neon has the bonkers new show from Lost’s Damon Lindelof, Mrs. Davis, as well as the well-reviewed HBO serial killer documentary Last Call (“True crime done right,” says Mashable). If you need some laughs in your life, the new Sarah Silverman stand-up comedy special Someone You Love is on Neon too. Netflix drops second seasons for The Lincoln Lawyer and Heartstopper, and Apple TV+ has the third and final season of Rose Byrne’s Physical. AMC+ has the second season of Dark Winds, a compelling cop drama that should be high on your must-see list. And don’t forget about the new local version of reality TV phenomenon The Traitors, debuting on Three on Monday night (and on ThreeNow right at this very moment).

Paul Henry in a fedora with some traitors behind him
Paul Henry hosts The Traitors NZ (Image: Tina Tiller)

If you’re heading out to the movies, Barbieheimer mania remains at a critical level, but there are several new films attempting to attract some of the limelight. Jason Statham returns to battle another Megalodon in Meg 2: The Trench, it looks even more farcical than the first. Elsewhere, Samara Weaving plays Marie-Joseph Antoinette in Chevalier. On streaming, you can rent Bank of Dave and When You Finish Saving the World on Neon now.

For more try our weekly New to Streaming guide.

Indigenous biodiversity highlighted in new national policy document

The National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity was launched this week, aiming to draw a line in the sand when it comes to biodiversity, and support protection of indigenous species across the whole country.

It directs councils to identify natural areas in urgent need of protection and recognises different ecological areas across the country, meaning that any development or activity in these areas has to not cause habitat degradation or put indigenous species further at risk.

The regulations will not apply to private landowners, but will impact how councils make decisions about their own land and the projects they consent. Māori-owned land is regulated by locally determined, flexible approaches; the policy recognises the role of tangata whenua as caretakers of indigenous species.

National policy statements (NPS) are documents prepared under the Resource Management Act which provide consistent guidance for councils for making resource decisions about issues across the whole country. There are also NPS documents, for example, for coastal policy and electricity generation.

Experts largely agreed that the document is a step in the right direction, with Ann Brower, a professor of geography and environmental science at the University of Canterbury, saying it was “staunch but sensible”, in comments to the Science Media Centre. Erina Watene, from New Zealand’s biological heritage national science challenge, said “the adoption of a precautionary approach, along with efforts to manage biodiversity for resilience to climate change, demonstrates a responsible and forward-thinking approach.”

NZ-born broadcaster Dan Wootton has column suspended over cash-for-pics claims

Dan Wootton on GB News today (Screenshot)

Dan Wootton’s twice-weekly online Daily Mail column has been put on pause while the company investigates allegations made against the high profile broadcaster.

Born in Lower Hutt, Wootton has carved out a prominent career in the British press over the past decade, including for the The Sun, The Daily Mail and as a current host on right wing network GB News.

A series of investigative pieces by the Byline Times launched first published last month have alleged Wootton used fake online identities to “trick and bribe” men into providing sexual material of themselves. One identity he allegedly used was called “Martin Branning”, a made-up show business agent. Under this name, Wootton has been accused of offering as much as £30,000 to colleagues of his at the Sun newspaper, along with others, for sexual images or videos.

Wootton has continued to deny the claims, telling viewers of his GB News show that it was a “smear campaign by nefarious players with an axe to grind”.

The Guardian reported today that Wootton’s column would be suspended while an investigation into the claims against Wootton was carried out.

“We are continuing to consider a series of allegations which Dan Wootton – who has written columns for MailOnline since 2021 as one of several outside freelance contributors – has strenuously denied,” a spokesperson for DMG media said.

“The allegations are obviously serious but also complex and historic and there is an independent investigation under way at the media group which employed him during the relevant period. In the meantime, his freelance column with MailOnline has been paused.”

Dan Wootton on GB News today (Screenshot)

Listen: The renewable energy source beneath our feet

In this week’s episode of When the Facts Change, Bernard Hickey drills down into the future of geothermal electricity production in this week’s interview with Isabelle Chambefort from GNS Science. She’s excited about the potential for deep drilling to uncover ‘supercritical’ heat that supercharges geothermal power output, helping solve the dry-year problem bedevilling our hydro dominated power system.

Listen below or wherever you get your podcasts

Trump pleads not guilty during third court appearance in four months

Donald Trump appears in court at the Manhattan Criminal Court (Photo by Seth WENIG / POOL / AFP) (Photo by SETH WENIG/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Former US president Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty today at a district court in Washington DC following his charges related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

This is, as CNN reports in its live blog of proceedings, the third time Trump has been placed under arrest and arraigned in court in just four months. Trump pleaded guilty on those other occasions as well.

Today’s court appearance will be partly so bail conditions can be agreed upon for Trump’s release ahead of a trial.

The four charges faced by the former president – including conspiracy to defraud the United States and to obstruct an official proceeding – pertain to Trump’s attempts to derail the election of Joe Biden three years ago. They also stem from Trump’s involvement in the January 6 riots that saw supporters of Trump storm the US Capitol.

In court, Trump was reminded by the judge that he could face up to 20 years behind bars for two of the charges. He was then released, facing minor conditions preventing him from communicating with anyone known to be a witness in the case (unless through an attorney).

Demonstrators await the arrival of former U.S. president Donald Trump outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House
Demonstrators await the arrival of former U.S. president Donald Trump outside of the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Court House (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Need for ‘combat-ready’ Defence Force emphasised in new policy documents

Former justice minister Andrew Little (Photo / Getty Images)

The tragic events of March 15, 2019 and September 3, 2021 triggered a “more mature” and “long overdue” national conversation about security, according to defence minister Andrew Little.

The first in a series of policy documents pertaining to our country’s defence force have been unveiled this morning, alongside a new national security strategy.

It advocates for a New Zealand’s defence interests to be pursued through a more “deliberate and purposeful approach” with a particular focus on security “in and for” the Pacific region.

“We take the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. It is essential to respond appropriately to the full range of national security threats to New Zealand and our interests,” Little said in a statement.

“We are investing to modernise our capabilities across land, sea and air, and are strengthening our relationships with friends and partners in the Pacific and beyond.

“As we work to safeguard our national security we will be proportionate, predictable and avoid unnecessary securitisation.”

The documents together outline the government’s national security priorities, including investing in a “combat-capable defence force” and “tackling emerging issues like disinformation”.

The defence document noted a need to prioritise combat readiness and an ability to deter threats, and “where possible, defence will seek to act to constrain hostile actions, will be prepared to employ military force, and engage in combat if required”.

Andrew Little (Photo / Getty Images)

In a speech delivered at parliament this morning, Little added: “We must be prepared to equip ourselves with trained personnel, assets and materiel, and appropriate international relationships in order to protect our own defence and national security. And we are.”

The new security statement fulfilled “the intent of many of the findings of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on the Christchurch Mosques”, said Little, and met New Zealand’s commitment under the Boe Declaration for all Pacific Island Forum members to develop their own national security strategies and help foster a more transparent and secure region.

“At its heart the national security strategy is a whole-of-society vision for a secure and resilient New Zealand,” Little said.

The Bulletin: The mystery of the $20 billion ‘hole’

Nicola Willis’s unfortunate turn of phrase grabbed the headlines, but what exactly was the “hole” she was referring to? At the NZ Herald (paywalled), Thomas Coughlan performs a deep dive on Winston Peters’ claim that there is a $20b hole in the government’s books and public service bosses are being told to cut 10% from budgets to fund it. “The ‘hole’ format,” writes Coughlan, “… is one beloved by politicians, journalists and the commentariat, and usually refers to an error of arithmetic.”

The government’s opponents haven’t been able to provide evidence of any error, which suggests the “hole” they’re referring to is actually a deficit. Coughlan explains why our deficits are getting larger, what that means for New Zealand (spoiler: it’s bad, but not disastrous at this stage), and whether Grant Robertson’s big-spending budgets are to blame. Nicola Willis certainly thinks so.

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