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Winston Peters in the High Court (Radio NZ, Patrice Allen)
Winston Peters in the High Court (Radio NZ, Patrice Allen)

The BulletinNovember 6, 2019

The Bulletin: Winston gets his weeks in court

Winston Peters in the High Court (Radio NZ, Patrice Allen)
Winston Peters in the High Court (Radio NZ, Patrice Allen)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Winston Peters takes lawsuit to the High Court, Zero Carbon bill passes second reading, and suspected idiotic fireworks users make case for ban.

Winston Peters often holds court in parliament, but it isn’t quite so common for him to be in court rather than parliament. So it has been this week, with the deputy PM seeking damages from five defendants over the leaking of his superannuation overpayment details. He is suing three senior public servants, and former ministers Anne Tolley and Paula Bennett, over the leak which took place in the months before the last election. Peters has always maintained that he immediately tidied up the overpayment when it was brought to his attention. For those wondering, Newsroom reports that the original MSD form filled out by Peters contained many errors, which led to the overpayment.

One of the main points Peters has argued is that the information over his overpayment never should have reached the ministers. That’s covered in this Stuff report of his time on the stand, in which he noted that 23 other similar cases in the month before his one were not reported to ministers by public servants. Peters says that shows it was a “malicious leak” and a slur on his reputation. Analysing the case last year, NZ Herald contributor Matthew Hooton argued that the leak showed the ‘no surprises’ policy (by which public servants report any information that might be politically relevant to ministers) has been corrupted.

One of the most interesting aspects of the case so far has been what it reveals about how the media works. On this, Newsroom’s Tim Murphy has reported a piece about evidence given in court by Newstalk ZB political editor Barry Soper, and Newsroom’s investigations editor Melanie Reid. The journalistic convention against revealing sources clearly remains strong, with both journalists declining to identify who they got their information from. However in Soper’s case, he has been clear that he believes it came from the National Party.

The case might seem in some ways like a ridiculous indulgence from Peters. After all, he made it through the election intact, people probably would have forgotten it by now had he just let it go, and he’s skipping work right now to be in court. However the counter-argument to that view is put very strongly by blogger No Right Turn, who says the crux of the issue is that “WINZ had a legal duty to protect his privacy. And instead of doing that, they handed private data about a past issue which had been resolved to their satisfaction and which they had decided was not worthy of prosecution or further action to Ministers to be used for a shoddy political smear.” For those following the case, which continues today, the most interesting outcomes might well have wider implications for the public service, not just for those involved in these proceedings.

The Zero Carbon bill has passed a second reading in parliament, bringing it a step closer to becoming law. Stuff reports National decided to support the second reading, but have indicated they may still push for further softening – particularly around methane reduction targets. The government aims to have the Zero Carbon bill passed by Christmas.

Suspected idiotic fireworks users have made a strong case this year for a ban. Stuff reports fires broke out on two Auckland maunga overnight, with smoke blanketing nearby suburbs. Fires also broke out in Wellington and Christchurch, and in Palmerston North a blaze was caused by a public display. If you see a tired looking firefighter today, go and shake their hand.

National and North Shore MP Maggie Barry has announced her retirement from politics in 2020, reports Radio NZ. Her parliamentary career has lasted since 2011, and in that time she held two ministerial roles. Since moving to opposition her main profile has been as the leading voice against David Seymour’s End of Life Choice bill. But Barry also faced scandal over the term for allegedly bullying staffers and misusing parliamentary services employees for political purposes – an investigation later cleared her of wrongdoing on this. Barry’s departure pushes the number of National MPs to retire since the last election to 10.

NZ First MP Shane Jones has once again used racially stereotypical language in describing protests from the Indian community over immigration changes. Newshub reports some are going even further than that, calling the comments straight out racist. Jones made several comments which stoked the furore over a tougher policy on the partnership visa category, which affects arranged marriages. He then described what came back as a “Bollywood overreaction”. Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway neither endorsed nor condemned the comments from Jones, and said the change was an operational decision.

Further to yesterday’s lead story about the upgraded China free trade agreement, this analysis by Business Desk is really useful. It contrasts the treatment being meted out to Australia right now, and their correspondingly much stronger statements on human rights (or at least, human rights questions relevant to China.) The upgrade also allows China to present itself as a champion of the “rules-based international trade order”, in contrast to another superpower which is most definitely not behaving like that right now.

Here’s an interesting climate proposal that has been shaken out of the UK election. The Guardian reports UK Labour is considering a ban on private jets using UK airports from 2025 onwards, if they win the election. It is being seen as both a hit against the super-rich, and a move that would seriously reduce aviation emissions. My personal view on this: in a world where some are considering whether to stop flying to reduce their own emissions, how can there be any justification for a private jet? Perhaps other countries should discuss this too.

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Right now on The Spinoff – there’s a lot today: Data scientist Aaron Schiff pays tribute to the gorgeous new atlas We Are Here. Katie Pickles writes about the little-recognised wife of Captain Cook. Alex Casey goes through 50 years of iconic TV news looks, and ranks them. Vanessa Young meets scientists working out ways to make solar energy cheaper. Madeleine Chapman writes about some of her weirdest adventures while working at The Spinoff – in fact this is a brand new essay for our just-released book.

In politicsToby Manhire was there to see Christopher Luxon be anointed as the new Botany candidate for National. Carl Shukar writes about the health sector, hitting targets and missing the point.

Plus, we’re launching a brand new section on the website. Jihee Junn will be the editor of our new money section – here’s her first piece outlining the absolute basics of Kiwisaver which if you’re anything like me, you probably don’t know. And Duncan Greive has a piece explaining the ethos of the section – basically, it’s going to be aimed at people who don’t necessarily already have a lot of money.

For a feature today, a piece about digital marketing and how brands are going about trying to sell you things. Published on the Financial Times, it looks at how in large part digital advertising hasn’t really delivered on what it promised, because it still doesn’t create the necessary sort of connections with consumers. Here’s an excerpt that outlines the underlying ideas of this a bit more.

Marketers consistently undervalue consistency. Diageo recently carried out an audit of all the endlines that it had attached to one of its biggest brands, Guinness, and were embarrassed to discover it had used more than 20 different slogans in 15 years. What’s more, when it asked people to recall an endline, the only one they remembered was “Good things come to those who wait”, which hadn’t run since 1999. Vast sums of money had been spent on campaigns which probably had short-term effects but barely left a trace in consumer memories.

The fame of a brand takes years of investment to build but, properly maintained, it becomes a gusher of cash, cascading down the generations — Warren Buffett, one of Coca-Cola’s biggest shareholders, has earned billions from this principle. But in the short term, the effects of advertising on consumer memories are very hard to measure. No wonder marketing directors get addicted to what Martin Weigel, of Nike’s agency Wieden + Kennedy, calls the “crack” of instant data: likes, shares, impressions.

The Black Caps have put in some handy bowling performances to take a lead in their first domestic series of the summer. They currently lead the five match T20 series against England 2-1, with Lockie Ferguson and Blair Tickner starring in the victory yesterday afternoon. The team they’re currently playing with has something of an experimental feel – Colin de Grandhomme plays 4 and there are plenty of allrounders – and the series is probably being used as a bit of a laboratory for next year’s T20 World Cup.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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