Australian Federal Police have launched two raids against journalists in the space of two days (Getty Images)
Australian Federal Police have launched two raids against journalists in the space of two days (Getty Images)

The BulletinJune 6, 2019

The Bulletin: Alarming Aussie crackdown against press freedom

Australian Federal Police have launched two raids against journalists in the space of two days (Getty Images)
Australian Federal Police have launched two raids against journalists in the space of two days (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Alarming raids against journalists in Australia, new stats show how many Aucklanders left town during boom, and yawning deficit in DHB funding.

We’re going to start with an international story today, because it’s taking place in our backyard and is deeply concerning. The Australian Federal Police have launched two raids against journalists, in what for all the world looks like a chilling attempt to intimidate the press and their sources, in the name of national security. Curiously though, both national security stories paint the Australian security establishment in an deservingly sinister light, so one shouldn’t have to wonder why they were picked out like this.

First Newscorp journalist Annika Smethurst had her house raided, reports Sky News, over a story about government discussions of plans to secretly spy on Australians. The AFP said “the matter relates to an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information.” However, the journalist union MEAA said the story was clearly in the public interest, and the raid “an outrageous attack on press freedom that seeks to punish a journalist for reporting a legitimate news story.”

Then the ABC got raided because of this story by Dan Oakes and Sam Clark about the conduct of special forces in Afghanistan. It documented potentially unlawful killings, including of children and unarmed men, and outlined a drift in values that allowed such alleged atrocities to take place. Of course, a war was taking place – all the more reason some would argue to expose actions to scrutiny – but the incidents alleged in the story are far more serious than simply deaths being causes in combat. The Executive Editor of ABC News Peter Lyons actually tweeted out what was happening while it was taking place, with officers combing through documents in his workplace.

Recently re-elected PM Scott Morrison, who has been in Britain, told Sky News that he wasn’t troubled by the raids at all, and that it was a decision for the AFP, not the government. Frankly, and forgive me for speaking freely from across the ditch, but that’s not remotely good enough. Writing in The Monthly, journalist Paddy Manning said it was yet another example of the government appearing to be increasingly unaccountable to press watchdogs, and their own citizens. The fact that it follows a big election win if anything makes it more concerning, because it means there is plenty more time for freedoms to be further eroded, and the balance between government and citizens to swing alarmingly. The ABC has reported that other parliamentarians are demanding answers as to why the raids took place.

Sure, it’s not as bad as the Tiananmen Square massacre, or the ongoing detention of millions of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province, or the killings of Sudanese protesters earlier in the week, or the ICE camps on the US-Mexico border that kids are dying in, or even the concentration camps being used by Australia for asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. But it’s a deeply concerning sign that our closest neighbour and ally has just got a lot less free – and their government isn’t going to do anything to stop it. International attention could make a big difference to what happens next.

The last Auckland housing boom resulted in a net loss of Aucklanders to other parts of the country, reports Interest. The data confirms what might have appeared to be anecdotally true who lived in the city during the middle of the decade –and could probably have been gleaned from the rapidly rising house prices in other parts of the country. Of course, the overall city population grew regardless, because of the large numbers of migrants.

The gap between DHB financial deficits and the amount the government is spending on DHB financial deficits is about $200 million, reports the NZ Herald (paywalled.) There are also warnings from Treasury that the projected deficit (of a cheeky $346 million) is likely to actually be more like $390 million. Almost $14 billion was allocated to DHBs in the recent budget, a rise from $13.2 billion at the last budget, and health minister David Clark says there’s a plan to get the deficit under control. It’s a problem he inherited, with the deficit really beginning to balloon in 2017.

This is a really strong piece of work from Checkpoint, who have profiled a working poor Māngere family of living, living in a one bedroom unit. The story highlights how long people can be on the state housing waiting list for, with this case lasting four years. One of their children recently got badly ill with meningitis, and their poor quality housing is believed to be part of the reason. Since Checkpoint contacted MSD, the case has been reassessed, and moved up the priority list.

The head of NZ’s space agency has defended their oversight of Rocket Lab, which has strong ties to the US Defence industry. Writing on The Spinoff, Peter Crabtree says all launches have to pass a series of legislative tests, “and ensure activity is consistent with New Zealand’s international obligations, national security, and wider national interest.” He says there is no chance those tests would allow any sort of weapon to be launched from New Zealand.

A rather pernicious piece of what appears to be fake news has been going around, regarding a teenage girl who had reportedly been “legally euthanised”. The Guardian has looked into it and found there is no evidence that actually happened to Dutch girl Noa Pothoven, and it is in fact unclear how she died. It’s a deeply sad story – Ms Pothoven suffered from severe depression after being abused as a child. But the story that has gone around the world just doesn’t appear to be true, and regardless, the case would have no relevance at all to the debate around assisted suicide in New Zealand. I say that because yesterday ACT leader David Seymour felt he needed to go on Newstalk ZB to defend the End of Life Choice bill, which includes provisions that would prevent a similar situation taking place.

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Right now in The Spinoff: Jihee Junn writes about why it’s so troubling that raunchy reality show Love Island is now on the telly at 5pm. Sam Brooks talks to internationally-acclaimed opera singer Sandy Piques Eddy about how she keeps her voice maintained. Johnny Crawford has a fascinating essay about the co-opting of left wing music, with a masterful play on words in the headline. Ti Lamusse and Vanessa Cole hammer the government for their big spend on prison cells in the budget, which they call the year’s biggest investment in housing. And Qiane Matata-Sipu explains what Matariki is, and how to celebrate it.

Finally, and this one is very exciting – we’ve got a brand new episode of Scratched – NZ’s Lost Sporting Legends. This one focuses on Anne Audain, a road runner who won more races than she lost, and made a lucrative living out of it in the USA, but is largely unknown now in New Zealand. She’s now in her 60s, and has had a hell of an interesting life story along the way.

You might have noticed some stories in the last few days about Sir John Key, and being on the board of ANZ Bank. It’s broken down really clearly and simply by Stuff’s business editor Rebecca Stevenson here, who outlines why Sir John is unlikely to face any consequences despite the bank’s transgressions of governance. To put it simply, he’s very wealthy, and they tend not to face the music in quite the same way as the rest of us. Here’s a typically ruthless excerpt looking at the wider picture:

You only have to look at the white-collar crooks who get home detention in Auckland mansions for ripping off Kiwis with sophisticated scams masquerading as investments, versus the person on a benefit who had a partner that kept coming and going, and so it was found they’ve cheated the taxpayer.

Lock them up.

Or the exorbitant costs and compliance levelled on people by councils who just want to build a home to live in, while at the same time they sign off on poorly-built, unsafe shoebox high-rises and leaky builds and allow, and even approve, a mass destruction of ordinary people’s wealth.

Still waiting for accountability there, too.

Long serving sports administrator Steve Tew is stepping down as the boss of NZ Rugby, after 12 years in charge. On the NZ Herald (paywalled) Patrick McKendry and Gregor Paul have broken down the complex legacy he leaves behind. Despite the on-field All Blacks and Black Ferns success, rugby now faces severe challenges at the grassroots level, and the financial outlook is very tough. Mr Tew says he still intends to contribute to rugby in some way after he goes.

In the cricket, India have cruised home against a very poor South Africa, who are now three losses from three and looking likely to get dumped out of the tournament soon. And in NZ vs Bangladesh, the game is ongoing, so I won’t spoil it. But if I can just say one thing, can someone get Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson some vouchers for couples counselling or something? Their running together remains absolutely abysmal, and it was very nearly extremely costly.

From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.

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