The Bulletin: Teachers escalate strike threats

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Teachers to vote on week of rolling strikes, Customs gets power to fine people who don’t give up device passwords, and NZ values call gets bemused response.

Primary teacher union members will vote on whether to go on a week of rolling strikes, reports the NZ Herald. Negotiations are going to continue in the meantime, but the NZEI union’s executive has recommended the move, and it is expected to be ratified by the end of the month unless a much improved offer is made. The way it would work is that different regions would strike on one day of the week. The rolling strikes method was chosen in part because teachers themselves were concerned about the financial cost of two day strikes, and the union has no striking welfare fund.

At the annual conference for the NZEI that took place this week, teachers heard an international perspective on how to win, reports the NZ Herald. Parallels are being drawn between the situation in New Zealand, and the recent teacher union actions in the US state of West Virginia, which culminated in a nine day strike that forced the state government to back down. The union’s decision to invite Dale Lee, a leading West Virginia unionist, was reported as a sign that unions are digging in for a battle.

More detail has also come out about the teacher shortage within primary schools. Radio NZ reports there are around 80 unfilled vacancies around Auckland, and schools are scrambling together stop-gap measures to just make it work. Among these are principals supervising several classes at once in the school hall, because reliever teachers can’t be found. It’s pretty grim, and one of the main demands being made by striking teachers is that pay rates need to be set at a level that will actually attract new people to the profession.


Customs now has the power to demand the phone or laptop passwords of travellers, on pain of a whopping $5000 fine if it’s refused. Radio NZ reports the Customs and Excise Act 2018 is now in effect, which allows officers to force access to devices. Customs say that the law only gives them access to the device, not the cloud of files that may be attached. But civil liberties activists are appalled, saying it’s an unjustified invasion of privacy.


A New Zealand First conference remit which would require migrants and refugees to sign up to “New Zealand values,” has drawn a bemused response. As Newshub reports, nobody seems to have any idea why the remit includes “not campaign against alcohol consumption” as a New Zealand value. Some argue that could be taken as a coded anti-Islam message. If you too are confused about what exactly New Zealand values are, don’t worry, we’ve put a quiz up on The Spinoff. I took it and only got 6/9, so will probably now be deported.

Incidentally, we’ve also published a piece by Danyl McLaughlan on this. He argues (in far more eloquent terms) that on immigration rhetoric, Winston Peters is all hat, no cattle. While the dire warnings about ‘the wrong sort of people’ get periodically ratcheted up, NZ First’s spells in government have been marked by much the same level of high net migration than at any other time.


Renting vs owning houses in New Zealand is often framed as a generational battle, but researchers say a renting crisis is coming for the elderly. Newshub reports that more than half of those turning 65 will be renting by 2040, so people in their early 40s now and younger. That’s a sharp contrast to twenty years ago. Current superannuation payments aren’t really designed for renters – they’re set around $400 a week after tax, and rents are steadily rising.


This is a good story from Newsroom about the priorities of IRD. The taxmen have been chasing down New Zealanders in Australia, but managed to rake in 170 times more from student loan repayments than it did from tax dodging Kiwis. That came as a surprise to a tax consultant Newsroom quoted, who pointed out that there is an information sharing agreement between the revenue departments of the two countries that has been in place for a while. On the other hand, while some do flee to Australia to escape tax debt, lots of New Zealand graduates end up there.


The launch of new bus routes on Auckland’s North Shore has gone pretty badly, reports Radio NZ. The were long queues of buses backed up around Constellation Drive, a key hub for the area. Auckland Transport say they’ll be looking at whether they were just teething issues, or whether the timetables need to be reworked.


Throughout New Zealand’s print journalism history, newspaper cartoons generally haven’t been a particularly progressive place for depictions of Māori. And as this fascinating feature about a new book on Stuff shows, those depictions were reflections of dominant Pākehā attitudes. And in some ways the more things change, the more they stay the same – some of the attitudes that influenced the cartoons persist, even when the outcry against racist depictions of Māori is louder than it has ever been.


From our partners, Vector’s sustainability manager Karl Check explains why the company is pushing for more urban forests, despite recent storms in Auckland bringing trees down on powerlines, and cutting electricity to parts of the city.


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One day you’re in. And the next day you’re using a new catchphrase for no reason

Right now on The Spinoff: It’s the school holidays, and Tara Ward has some tips about the best stuff on a useful if archaic entertainment medium called free linear television. Editor Toby Manhire has analysed what the impact of PM Jacinda Ardern at the UN really was, and whether the coverage matched up. And Henry Oliver has picked up the baton for doing a series of Project Runway rankings, with the first piece up now.


I asked you about online voting yesterday, and more specifically I asked you to tell me why I was wrong to be skeptical about it. Overwhelmingly – that wasn’t what the people came back with, so while it’s nice to be agreed with, it didn’t make for much of a debate. It is also worth pointing out that online voting is only being trialled in 9 local elections, and alongside postal votes at that. But still, out of the feedback, here’s three perspectives worth including.

Kat made the point that these sort of projects aren’t often particularly well run by governments, saying she was “no expert on technology or electronic voting, but if they can’t get the census right, why do they think they can get something as important as voting right?” A lot of the other feedback was along these lines, or focused on concerns around the security of online voting (and to maintain secrecy of the ballot – a really valid point too) If the system already works, why take the chance on changing it?

Dr Julienne Molineaux from AUT, who has actually done some work in this area, says online voting isn’t the answer to the problem of low turnout, and pointed to this Spinoff piece published a few years ago that attacked a lot of points around the perceived benefits of online voting.  She’s not entirely convinced by postal voting either, “but the scale of the security issues with online voting will be much higher than for postal voting, and may be impossible to detect. This matters.”

Was the feedback all negative? Not at all, and a very important perspective came from Aine, who said it was a promising development for people with vision impairments. “Currently in local elections, we have no means of casting an independent vote, and the voting papers are long and, in the case of the DHBs, somewhat convoluted. Of course the risks have to be managed but as a blind person myself I applaud the councils trialling the system.”


This is an interesting piece about the standard being set in the Women’s NRL, which has just been won by the Brisbane Broncos. It comes from the official NRL website, so maybe take it with a grain of salt. But it argues that the ruthlessness that defines elite sport has been an ever-present feature of the Women’s Premiership, providing a whole range of examples that show exactly why it couldn’t be called a charity competition. And speaking of which, Radio NZ reports this morning that all 19 Kiwi Ferns named in their next international squad have been part of the WNRL. 

How bad is Australian rugby right now? Pretty bad, and Stuff has a stat to prove it. The Aussie attack is bringing in the least amount of points per game this year than at any time over the last 40 years. This, despite it being the era of fast running, free flowing rugby, and with rule changes designed to incentivise try-scoring.


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