Protesters on the march in Palmerston North (Twitter – @OrgAotearoa)

The Bulletin: Peace protests erupt in Palmy

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Serious clashes between police and protesters in Palmerston North, ANZ banks ludicrously big profit, and gay conversion therapy could be banned.

The most heavily protested annual conference of the year is back, this time in the unlikely surroundings of Palmerston North. The Defence Industry Expo – otherwise known as the Weapons Expo – is on again, and there have been quite serious clashes between police and protesters. Radio NZ reports 10 people were arrested yesterday, and there are still days of protesting to come.

There’s always a massive police presence at these expos, and it’s almost a unique event in that sense. The reason for the heavy presence is because the protesters quite openly intend to (non-violently) cause disruption, and try and get the event shut down. Last year around the same event I went and had a chat to some of them, who were training themselves in blockading techniques. Many of the people who have travelled to Palmerston North are veterans (if you’ll excuse the terminology) of previous protests that have turned into scuffles with police. Some aren’t there for direct action of course, they’re just there to protest.

The protesters have some significant political backing too. Writing on The Spinoff, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman says the country should close its doors on the annual event. She says having the expo makes us complicit in the atrocities that get carried out in wars overseas – many of those atrocities are after all carried out with weapons purchased from companies who are represented at the expo.

There’s a fair bit of local opposition to the protests though – Palmerston North is a bit of a military town. Stuff’s Manawatū news director Grant Miller says the protests have alienated locals, most of whom aren’t too bothered about the conference in their midst and just want to get on with their days. And NZ First’s Palmy based MP Darroch Ball says the protesters are giving the NZ Defence Force an unfairly bad rap, given that peacekeeping, disaster relief and fisheries patrolling are the bread and butter of what they actually do. He also adds that the conference is more about supplies and logistics than weapons anyway.

Even if that is the case – and it’s hard to believe the claim would be made if it wasn’t true – here’s a potentially uncomfortable truth about the global defence industry. It’s currently booming. This Financial Times story mostly focuses on the US and UK, but notes that global defence spending is up, and projected to continue to rise  sharply over the next five years, to about $2 trillion by 2022. Some would look at that and see opportunities, others would look and see a world with deeply warped priorities.

Profits for ANZ are absolutely booming, coming in at a record $1.99 billion for the year to the end of September, reports the NZ Herald. They’re putting it down to a strong economy and high demand for houses. (and with that mortgages) But it won’t be welcome news for places like WairoaPahiatua and Motueka, who have all lost ANZ branches in the last 12 months, amid a wider trend in banks pulling out of smaller centres.

Writing on the NZ Herald, new business hire Duncan Bridgeman says the whopping profits show that it’s time to force Aussie-owned banks to list on the New Zealand stock exchange. He says it would help ensure domestic ownership and oversight of them – making the point that four of NZ’s five most profitable companies are effectively regulated in Australia.

Gay conversion therapy could be banned if a new member’s bill gets through Parliament, reports One News. The practice, which is known by various terms like ‘pray the gay away’ and ‘torture‘ is highly controversial. Labour MP Marja Lubeck, who is sponsoring the bill, says the practice tells LGBT people that there is something wrong with them, and that needs to stop.

Here’s a useful update from Radio NZ on the rail electrification story in yesterday’s edition. An energy expert praised the decision to keep and refurbish the electric trains between Hamilton and Palmerston North, but said for it to have a serious effect on carbon emissions, much more was needed. Transport minister Phil Twyford says the government is currently reviewing rail, and that was one consideration on the horizon.

Immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway says he’s going to urgently review a decision to grant a Czech drug dealer residency, reports Newshub. He says new evidence has emerged that contradicts the information he based his decision on – it’s quite possible that new information included revelations on Newstalk ZB that potentially contradicted Karel Sroubek’s claim to fear for his life if he’s deported back to the Czech Republic. The review was announced live during Question Time.

Iain Lees-Galloway is now under serious political pressure. Stuff reports that National leader Simon Bridges is calling for him to go over the matter, or even for the PM to give him the sack. He’s charging the minister with negligence. As yet the information available in the public arena as to why the original decision was made has still not been fully revealed, so it’s tricky to assess whether the charge has merit. Also, I know people have short memories – even for big plays like calling for a resignation – but Mr Bridges, buddy, remember where we all were two weeks ago?

The Green Party have done their bit to keep talkback radio humming over the next few days by raising the question of banning private fireworks.  There are of course plenty of great reasons to do so, including high injury rates, animal welfare, increased fire risk, noise, annoyance, and the fact that some people hoard them for months and then fire them off at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday night. But on the other hand, expect a lot of people to look at this as just fun-policing. Nobody tell Damian Grant.

The Global Drug Survey has started today, with the goal of gathering information to make drug use safer, reports Stuff. You can find a link to the survey through that article. They’re going to ask questions that get right into the actual experience of being a drug user – like whether or not users trust their dealers. The results will be fascinating to say the least.

The future of journalism is one of those issues that nag away at media organisations. Everyone wants to do good journalism, it’s just that actually finding a way to pay for it is tricky. But as reported by Stuff, media bosses and the government are now all thinking about getting together for a summit to start talking solutions.

One mooted that I reckon has real merit is having reporters based in the regions providing copy and content for multiple organisations. A similar project has worked well in Britain, and one of the serious problems facing the NZ media currently is that it is overwhelmingly dominated by Auckland and Wellington. Of course, such a project would require active cooperation from rival companies, which hasn’t always been the strong suit of a highly competitive industry.

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Sam Hunt and Barry Crump with some sheep and some grass

Right now on The Spinoff: Kirsty Gunn has a thoughtful and provocative critique of cultural nationalism within New Zealand literature. Alex Casey has spent an afternoon with some activists on a sticker campaign against transphobia. And Leonie Hayden meets a groundbreaking physiotherapist who is rethinking approaches to Māori obesity.

Here’s one of the grim effects of climate change that will need to be confronted – food security and shortages. This feature from Auckland University project The Big Q looks at how agriculture is already being affected by changing climate patterns, and is one of the reasons why world hunger is on the rise again after consistently falling for about a decade. Here’s an excerpt:

Climate change is also increasing the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as powerful storms and droughts. As a result, some regions of the world are getting wetter, including the northern United States and Canada, while others are becoming drier, such as the southwestern United States. In the U.S. Midwest, heavy rainfalls events increased by over a third from 1958 to 2012.

Agriculture is one of the industries that is most exposed and vulnerable to climate change. Crops and livestock are extremely sensitive to temperature and precipitation. A late spring frost can be devastating, and a heat wave during the flowering stage can result in sharply reduced yields. In short, agriculture is the “Goldilocks industry.” The weather should not be too hot or too cold, and rainfall must be “just right.”

Finally, I’ll admit, it has been a tricky one to keep concentrating on getting through work this morning, because the Black Caps are back. At the time of writing, it was the innings break and Pakistan had been held to 148-6 off their 20. No bowler stood out head and shoulders above the rest for the Black Caps, but Ish Sodhi proved himself to be very handy, keeping his run rate to 6 an over off his 4.  

From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.

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