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The Bulletin: 50 murder charges, no terrorism charges

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Christchurch mosque attack accused to appear in court, threats made against Muslim prayer for ANZAC service, and tense hearings on gun law reforms.

The police have confirmed they will be charging the man accused of carrying out the Christchurch mosque attack over every single person killed. The NZ Herald reports he will appear in the Christchurch High Court today, charged with 50 counts of murder, and 39 charges of attempted murder. Today’s hearing will be basically procedural – the man will not enter a plea, and much of it will be about determining his legal representation – he has reportedly hired two Auckland lawyers for the case. Some of the families of the victims will be there, but others have chosen to stay away.

Why not terrorism charges? There have been some suggestions that the accused might somehow be ‘escaping’ if he doesn’t get charged with terrorism offences. That absolutely is not the case. Legal expert Graeme Edgeler outlined in this excellent backgrounder on the legal issues of the case last week that the most serious charge available to prosecutors remains murder. More charges specifically relating to terrorism are still possible.

But there’s also the not insignificant matter that for murder, it only has to be proven that the killing was carried out by the accused. However for terrorism charges, motive would also have to be proven. That could theoretically mean opening up the trial to exactly the sort of ideological soapboxing that many are hoping to avoid. And Stuff quoted Waikato University’s Professor Al Gillespie as saying terrorism charges could become a “legal quagmire,” because the legal system has never had to deal with anything of this nature. He notes as well that it’s a largely academic debate – not charging for terrorism doesn’t reduce the seriousness of sentencing that he will face if convicted.

As for the reporting on this case, his name is not suppressed. Other media organisations have made the decision, for valid reasons of reporting accuracy and convention, to use the name of the accused. The Spinoff has decided to not use his name, and will continue to follow that policy for the foreseeable future. Regarding today’s appearance, the man will appear via video link, and media applications film, take photos or record audio have been declined. However, they will be allowed to be present, and take notes. So there will be reporting later today on the hearing.

The decision from the judge on that was based on preserving the integrity of the trial process, and ensuring a fair trial takes place. Nobody wants to see a circus. And like with choosing to charge for murder rather than terrorism, any measures that ensure the simplicity of the process will help prevent any injustices.


Threats have forced an ANZAC service to drop a plan to include a Muslim prayer later this month, reports Radio NZ. The organisers of the Porirua event were subject to violence threats from veterans and members of the public, and the decision was made after a meeting with police and Muslim leaders. Major Strombom had this to say: “I now am getting quite angry about some of the people and some of the ignorance. I mean, I don’t think New Zealand lost its innocence, it’s exposed some ignorance of our society.”

Incidentally, many of the soldiers fighting on the same side as New Zealand in both world wars were actually Muslim. India sent vast contingents of soldiers to both, a contribution that has largely been forgotten from history. It’s something for those making threats over this to marinate on, at least.


It was a lengthy and tense day of submissions at the Select Committee hearings into gun law changes. Radio NZ’s Matthew Theunissen was there, and filed a comprehensive report. Many of the submissions related to exemptions sought by various aspects of the gun-owning world, such as target shooters, farmers and pest controllers. Others dealt with the process by which the law was being changed, with the Law Society raising concerns about speed and haste, and Fish and Game querying whether the amnesty period would be long enough for all the returned guns to be processed. Others, particularly those speaking on behalf of the Muslim community, said the ban of military-style semi automatics and related equipment was an urgent and necessary step.


For years now, a battle has been going on over a 400 year old kauri tree in Titirangi. Now, Stuff reports, a judge has ruled it can be felled. It was originally meant to come down in 2015, but people started sitting in it to save it. It was also ringbarked at the height of the protests, which caused severe damage. Now that a judge has ruled it can come down, those who spent years defending it say it’s a devastating day.


If unemployment is so low, why aren’t wages going up fast? That’s the question asked by Frances Cook in the recent episode of the Cooking the Books podcast, and it’s well worth a listen. But employees have very low confidence rates that they’ll be getting a pay rise any time soon, so despite an understanding that there are plenty of jobs going, employers often aren’t offering. It’s also attributed to the continued, long and drawn out recovery from the GFC, which while it happened a decade ago, was quite a psychologically formative event for many.


The Fijian government has issued a statement about the detention of three Newsroom journalists. PM Frank Bainimarama said upon learning about what had happened, he immediately demanded the journalists be released – that has now happened. He says it was an isolated incident carried out by rogue officers, and there will be a thorough investigation.  


Here’s a strange crime story out of Dunedin, reported on by the ODTA bunch of youths have been allegedly buying orange gear on a stolen PayWave card, with the intent of making it the colours for a new gang. The police dubbed the putative gang the ‘Vit-C’s’ because of the intended colours (get it, oranges?) And they say they’ve foiled the gang’s attempt to get off the ground, because as we all know, no organisation can begin operations until they’ve covered uniform requirements.


A correction: Imagine my utter embarrassment when a correspondent got in touch to say that there was absolutely nothing wrong with the TradeMe sale wrap yesterday, except for the name of the buyer. It isn’t Apex at all – it’s Apax Partners. And the thing is – I was absolutely sure I was writing Apax, so I’m going to blame my spellchecker which sometimes autocorrects typos.


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NZ First MP Shane Jones. Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Right now on The Spinoff: Auckland Councillor Richard Hills throws his backing behind a fares freeze for public transport. Auckland Grammar principal Tim O’Connor has come out strongly against the ‘hubs’ plan proposed by the government. I’ve tried to count up every time minister Shane Jones has created a mini-scandal, and to be honest probably failed to get them all.

And remember, tomorrow is Shihad Day, so put your clocks back for the winter. But while you’re doing it, you should deeply resent what you’re being forced to do, writes gentle soul Hayden Donnell.


For a feature today, we’re going to have a history lesson from the Greater Auckland blog. The piece I want to highlight is an unpacking of the decisions that led to Auckland being how it is now, with choking traffic on many major roads and motorways, and huge bill to rebuild a modern public transport system. It’s also a full throated piece of advocacy for the kind of city that would be much closer to being liveable for all. Here’s an excerpt:

Essentially they set out to dismantle this city and replace it with a car only one, accepting that it would wither, extraordinarily, in the name of dispersal. And wither it did. Public Transport ridership reached a nadir in 1994, with only 20% of people arriving in the am peak using the sorry PT services that survived the privatisation of the bus system, the decline of rail services and of course the removal of the trams. They also knew the costs:

The costs were on pedestrians, of course, which is to say the quality of the city streets for people, and precisely at the places where there is the ‘greatest numbers’ of them. But this was an anti-urban age, so the impulse here was to move the university out of town, and otherwise disperse economic activity, and get people off the streets. It’s all kind of mad; for of course without people there is no city. This period seemed to suffer from a collective amnesia about the purpose and form of cities throughout time. A kind if ‘this time it’s different’ all because of the private car.

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Hamish Bond and Mahe Drysdale have made the NZ Rowing Eights squad, and will likely compete in that boat if the team makes the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Newshub reports that it’s a signal of intent, with both champions having been part of other events in the last year. Bond was going to try and be a cyclist, but didn’t make it, while it looks strongly like Drysdale has succumbed to a challenge for the single sculls spot to fast-rising Robbie Manson.


From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.


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