The BulletinJune 4, 2024

Five news stories you might have missed over the long weekend


If you’re anything like Stewart Sowman-Lund, you spent King’s Birthday off your phone and away from the news – we absolutely all deserved it. In this extract from The Bulletin, let’s get back up to speed with what’s been going on since Friday. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Budget backlash over failure to fund medicines

It’s not often you’ll read a column from a former government minister and find them criticising their own party in the current government, at least not when it’s someone like Steven Joyce questioning decisions made in this year’s budget. Writing for the Herald over the weekend, the former finance minister was – unsurprisingly – largely in support of Budget 2024, but was critical of the broken promise to fund 13 cancer drugs, calling it an “inexplicable failure” and a “significant blemish that may dog the government”. He wasn’t alone, as this 1News report illustrates. This morning, an open letter to Christopher Luxon, Nicola Willis and David Seymour co-signed by a number of health organisations and charities has called for a swift u-turn on the decision not to fund the drugs. “Unlike other promises, lives will be lost if these medicines are not funded,” reads the letter. As noted by Tracy Watkins in the Sunday Star-Times, budgets are often remembered not for what they hand out, but for what they take away – and the cancer drug fallout threatens to haunt the government. Earlier this morning on RNZ’s First Up, Willis said the government was going to honour the commitment, and the government was giving it the “urgency” it deserved. Watch this space.

King’s honours list released, but has the public holiday outstayed its welcome?

Yesterday saw the release of the King’s Birthday honours list, which can be found here in its entirety. Among the most prominent names recognised this year, Rocket Lab’s Peter Beck and business leader Theresa Gattung. RNZ has a wrap of some of the responses from those honoured, while I particularly enjoyed the interview with service medal recipient Katereina Kaiwai, who told Patrick Gower she thought the award was a prank. Here at The Spinoff we drew up our own honour’s list: 50 kings you need to know. Did your favourite make the list? Meanwhile, The Spinoff’s Liam Rātana has written a scathing, must-read opinion piece questioning the purpose of King’s Birthday more broadly. “Why are we – a purportedly progressive, liberal nation – continuing to celebrate the birth of the figurehead of such a vile establishment? Because we get a holiday?”

Census data investigation

An exclusive report from Andrea Vance in the Sunday Star-Times looked at suggestions a Te Pāti Māori MP and her marae may have used private census data for political campaigning. It’s a bombshell claim, and one that will certainly see further questions asked in the coming weeks. According to Vance, a number of former marae workers have alleged that the Manurewa marae photocopied census forms, with data then provided to the Waipareira Trust run by Te Pāti Māori president John Tamihere. It’s alleged this information was then used to target voters in the Tāmaki Makaurau electorate. Tamihere and Te Pāti Māori have denied the allegations. A whistleblower from the Ministry of Social Development has also laid a police complaint, reported Vance. The marae’s former chief executive, MP Takutai Tarsh Kemp, narrowly beat Labour’s Peeni Henare in the electorate last year. The Electoral Commission has previously investigated concerns raised over the fact the marae acted as a polling place during last election, while Kemp was still chief executive, though determined this was acceptable.

Luxon and Peters head overseas – so who’s in charge?

The prime minister is in the Pacific this week, leaving today to visit Niue before travelling to Fiji. It’s Christopher Luxon’s first tour of the region since becoming prime minister. In a statement, Luxon said the visit was an opportunity to “reaffirm New Zealand’s position as a trusted partner”. Foreign minister Winston Peters, meanwhile, will travel to Asia later today. He’s heading to Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste. Writing for Stuff, Glenn McConnell reported that this will leave David Seymour in charge as acting prime minister for the first time since last year’s election (and, well, ever).

More could be done to curb alcohol harm, says police commissioner

RNZ’s Guyon Espiner has reported this morning that alcohol creates 20 times the harm of methamphetamine, but less than 1% of police staff are dedicated to reducing its harm. While police commissioner Andrew Coster defended the police resources devoted to tackling alcohol harm, he questioned whether more could be done to curb it. “The biggest difficulty we have is that you can go to an off-licence premise, which in some areas are more prevalent than corner dairies, and buy a large quantity of very cheap alcohol. There’s no offence in that,” Coster said. According to Espiner’s report, the estimated harm from alcohol is about $7.8bn a year, compared with $1.8bn for illegal drugs.

Keep going!