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Select committee chairs before the MPs come and fill them up (image via Parliament)
Select committee chairs before the MPs come and fill them up (image via Parliament)

The BulletinDecember 4, 2020

The Bulletin: Select committee seats and what each party wants

Select committee chairs before the MPs come and fill them up (image via Parliament)
Select committee chairs before the MPs come and fill them up (image via Parliament)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Early focus put on health select committee, international day for persons with disabilities marked, and appliance delays holding up new builds.

The select committees are in the process of being selected. One of the processes of making a law is that it goes through a small group of MPs for debate and tweaking, and places on these committees are allocated according to parliamentary seats. This is also the part of the process that invites submissions from the public, which means select committees have a fair bit of direct contact with activists and advocates. Because Labour has a majority, they in turn have a majority on eight of those 15 committees, and at least half on 13 overall.

Of the committees generally, it seems pretty clear health will be one of the most important of the term. Early moves were made by National’s three members on health to get an inquiry into medicines that aren’t funded by Pharmac, but as Newshub reports, Labour’s members blocked it. Health minister Andrew Little said the government is still planning to have such an inquiry, it just doesn’t want it to be led by the select committee. That as an ongoing issue, plus the inevitable Covid-19 issues, will keep health incredibly busy. It will be chaired by Labour MP and former public health doctor Liz Craig.

In terms of the other committees, the back end of this story from the NZ Herald’s Jason Walls has some details about who has what. One aspect of select committees that makes them quite interesting is that they offer a chance for backbenchers to shine, albeit in a way that doesn’t always reach the public. For example, the powerful finance and expenditure committee will be chaired by Duncan Webb, the Christchurch Central MP who was overlooked for ministerial positions in the reshuffle. National also has MPs in leadership positions on several committees, namely Barbara Kuriger, Jacqui Dean and Chris Penk.

As for the party composition more generally, blogger David Farrar has published the breakdown of how many people each party has on each committee. For the Greens, Act, and Māori Party, the resources have been used a bit more sparingly – for example the Māori Party has only been able to put a person on each of the Māori affairs committee and environment committee. As Farrar notes, for the Greens and Act it’s more about looking at where they haven’t put an MP, and what that says about their priorities.

Yesterday was the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, and New Zealand’s disability commissioner issued a call to leave no person behind. Writing on The Spinoff, Paula Tesoriero argued that the recovery from Covid-19 required an inclusive focus, and that such an approach would strengthen the response as a whole. She also said that to do this, different needs had to be taken into account. Meanwhile, a word of congratulations for Sir Robert Martin, who was recently reelected to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Signoffs of new builds are being delayed by a shortage of household appliances like ovens and range hoods, reports the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Anne Gibson. It’s believed to be a problem being faced by all manufacturers, with extremely high demand around the world – that displaced spending has to go somewhere. Global supply chain issues are also causing issues, along with some manufacturers having problems in their factories. All in all, it’s a fascinating example of how the pandemic is having a range of unpredictable effects in unlikely places.

Struggling to work out how to spread the Christmas cheer this holiday season? Have you checked out The Spinoff’s merch store? It’s the perfect Christmas destination.

The name of a town in the Whanganui region could revert back to the original Māori, reports Robin Martin for Radio NZ. The township of Maxwell is named for a member of the colonial cavalry, who were involved in the murder of two local Māori boys in 1868. Now, the council and local iwi are looking at changing the town’s name back to Pākaraka. The NZ Geographic Board is expected to decide next year.

Hundreds of farmers have complained about how their land has been categorised by the environment ministry, reports Farmers Weekly. They say the slope maps that have been prepared (for the purposes of deciding which land can and can’t be used for intensive winter grazing) are wrong, and there has been widespread criticism as a result. The issue is one of many currently festering in the farming world, based around a perception that people are being forced to farm to regulation rather than to the conditions in front of them – for a more colourful example of some of those complaints, this Rural News piece from September is worth a read.

One for the huge election nerds among us: The Electoral Commission has released all of the stats around split voting – where someone votes for a party, and then a candidate for a different party. There’s a wealth of information to play around with, and I could (sorry, have already) spend hours on the site. But if you want a more high level analysis, have a read of Henry Cooke at Stuff, who has looked at how Labour party voters doomed the Labour candidate in two crucial seats – Waiariki and Auckland Central.

A call for feedback: We want to hear from you! Take our short survey to let us know how you feel about this strangest of years. There’s only a few questions to answer, and it’ll help us out a lot.

Best Journalism of 2020: It’s fair to say not everyone has admired the work of journalists in New Zealand in 2020, and in particular the manner in which they went about their jobs. I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of this criticism, but fully accept that the profession needs to be open to negative feedback. So in the spirit of robust debate (and because it was an important live issue for much of the year) I’ll share these excerpts from a reader email, relating to the performance of the press gallery in particular. Anthony had two main criticisms:

One is the preamble to their questions, which seems excessive, hostile, positively designed to irritate and undermine the respondent, and to invite (even motivate) digression from the question that eventually follows. Stuff like “given that you have botched up …, why are you now misleading the public by saying ….?” If you want a clean answer, maybe a clean question will help. My second criticism is failing to even take an interest in the public’s thinking, trying instead to steer our reaction. 

said my piece yesterday about the value of those in power knowing they’ll be held to account, so will close it off there. But because so many people have sent it through this year, I will also include this op-ed by documentary maker Robyn Paterson, who argued that media negativity around the Covid response was out of proportion to the facts on the ground.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Sarah Paterson-Hamlin has a bumper guide to ethical Christmas gift ideas. Donna Kerridge writes about the protection of Kauri and Tohorā, which face the threat of extinction. Anjum Rahman writes about the inbuilt flaws in the Royal Commission on the Christchurch terrorist attacks. Justin Latif writes about the drive to get more Māori and Pasifika architects involved in the construction boom around Auckland. Jihee Junn writes about the ways you can do Christmas without the unwanted clutter and spending of presents. Nicholas Agar argues the government should put more funding towards new technology for type-1 diabetes sufferers. And Jai Breitnauer writes about wanting to return to New Zealand, but knowing it can’t happen until improvements are made in the special education system.

For a feature today, a lovely piece about the survival of one of the great marine species, and how humans could continue to affect them. NZ Geographic has looked at southern right whales, and how they were almost hunted to extinction in the waters around New Zealand. Now they’re starting to return to our coasts, which today look very different to what earlier generations of the species enjoyed. Here’s an excerpt:

For the next three weeks, I was plunged into a different world. I saw mother-and-calf pairs resting in still coves fringed by ancient rātā forest, the calves playfully climbing on their mums’ tails and heads. Further out, groups of young animals, up to ten at a time, socialised and mated, the females lying on their backs while amorous males caressed them with their huge pectoral fins. Whales breached, slapping their fins against the water, or spy-hopped to observe us as we passed. Sometimes, whales came right up to our dinghies, often following us around like curious dogs. I’d been lucky enough to encounter several species of whale before then, but I’d never met any with such a playful nature.

There was something else, too. Although some whales played with us when we dived, the mothers and calves would often move away to avoid us. Our presence in Port Ross, I realised, subtly changed the whales’ behaviour. I became painfully aware of how much noise our outboard engines made in the water. So long as we were here, we couldn’t avoid affecting them.

In sport, how good is it to see test cricket back? The Black Caps were sent into bat on a pitch greener than an Auckland Central election night party, but the top order handled it beautifully to end the day in a strong position. The big point of interest overnight is Kane Williamson’s score – he’s 97 not out, and will have a great chance to both extend his lead at the top of New Zealand’s list of test centurions, and plenty of time to push on for a bigger score.

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