Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)
Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)

The BulletinOctober 8, 2018

The Bulletin: Anger rises with petrol prices

Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)
Angry driver shouting out car window, presumably at high petrol prices (File photo)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Anger rises along with petrol prices, abortion rights group claims law discriminates against women, and fury at govt’s encouragement of water bottling company. 

There’s a significant amount of anger out there at high petrol prices, as shown by the planned buying boycott for October 26. facebook event around the boycott has now gathered well over 15,000 people indicating they’ll participate, with another 17,000 indicating interest. The protest is aimed at “big companies and all of government.”

As economist Sam Warburton pointed out on twitter, the government’s recent tax increases are only having a marginal impact on those price rises. And the government themselves have released data, reported on by Stuff, that shows the profit margins for petrol companies has risen sharply in the last decade. Regardless, a big chunk of petrol prices is tax, including GST.

And prices could be about to get a lot higher too. Economist Shamubeel Eaqub told Newshub that New Zealanders need to start planning for general prices to hit $2.70 a litre by next year. That assessment is based on factors outside of this country’s control, such as a weakening NZ dollar, and the possibility (probability, really) of instability and conflict in oil exporting areas like the Middle East.

In a column well worth reading, NZ Herald business editor at large Liam Dann writes that rising prices could start to have real political and economic consequences. Higher petrol prices affect businesses in all sorts of ways, but in particular by eating into margins – the petrol still needs to be used to run the operations of the business, but each dollar budgeted towards it starts to have less and less value. For individual households and consumers, particularly on low incomes, it can start to mean seriously difficult choices. And National leader Simon Bridges is in the NZ Herald this morning, making political hay while the sun shines on the issue.

Having said all that, a pretty important point was made by one of the petrol boycott organisers. They noted in a post to the page that “as individuals we should be looking at ways to reduce our fuel consumption, as little as it may be, it will count.” Public transport, cycling and walking are all going to become more and more economically attractive with rising petrol prices. But for those that can afford new vehicles, and still need to drive, Newshub reports the government will soon announce what incentive schemes will be available to encourage people to buy electric cars.

Abortion rights group ALRANZ has taken a Human Rights Commission complaint over abortion laws, saying they discriminate against women, reports One News. They say NZ’s current laws result in “cruel, degrading, and disproportionately severe treatment” and breach the Bill of Rights Act. They’re calling for law reform in the area, something that the Law Commission is currently preparing a report on.

There’s fury in Whakatāne about a revelation that the previous government actively encouraged a Chinese water bottling company to set up shop, reports One News. It’s an astonishing development on an issue that has caused outrage in flashpoints around the country. Current land information minister Eugenie Sage also copped flak this year, when she approved the company’s plans for buying land to expand their plant.

Ex-MP Mojo Mathers has spoken out against the cancellation of sign language interpretation on Parliament TV, reports Newshub. It’s being blamed on a lack of trained interpreters to meet growing demand. Ms Mathers, who is herself deaf, said it was a service that the community “really appreciated,” and says more capacity to train interpreters needs to be built.

Contrary to what was previously understood, there might be tolls on Auckland’s Skypath after all, reports Stuff. The clip on walking and cycling track on Auckland’s harbour bridge is still expected to be free for Aucklanders with HOP cards, but visitors may have to pay. As well as that, the cost of building it is expected to be millions more than initially thought.

Chinese investors have offered funding to build a road that would connect the Whangaparoa Peninsula with State Highway One north of Auckland, reports Radio NZ. The company would then make their money back by levying tolls, before transferring ownership back to the government. The bid was unsolicited, and NZTA say they’ll treat it like any other.

Rod Oram has always been great at analytical columns, but he’s outdone himself with this one about the billion trees programme. Published on Newsroom, it argues that with a genuine strategy for forestry, we could avoid making environmental and economic mistakes. But to do that, the country needs to be thinking in terms of generations, rather than electoral cycles or even decades.

The increasing numbers of people looking to move into retirement villages are being warned of financial fishhooks, reports Stuff. A government agency is warning people to take sound legal advice before they sign anything, as some contracts will leave their next of kin worse off after they’re gone. Around 40,000 people currently live in retirements villages, but that’s expected to double in the next two decades.

NZ First MP Clayton Mitchell’s criminal record has been revealed, including that he was judged unfit to run a pub, reports Stuff. He received a suspended prison sentence for assault, and won his certificate back after a character reference from former police officer Brad Shipton – himself later convicted of rape. Just for context here, Clayton Mitchell was the guy behind the idea that migrants and refugees should have to sign up to ‘Kiwi Values’.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Simon Bridges outlines why his party decided to support the government’s Child Poverty Reduction bill. Max Rashbrooke tries to analyse what exactly the government’s ideological direction is. Duncan Greive goes to Xerocon and asks if it’s weird that an accounting software company has so many fanatical devotees. And Adelia Hallett writes about a new IPCC report on climate change being released today, and why it will be one of the most important scientific papers ever released.

A lot of column inches and airtime has been devoted to Simon Bridges’ leadership of the National party over the last week. Here’s some from Radio NZ, the NZ Herald, and Newshub. It’s not a place any politician wants to be in, but in my view it all should probably be taken with a big grain of salt too.

Why? It’s easy and fun to opine that a party leader’s hold on the job is in trouble, because they’re claims that can be made without an awful lot to back them up. If the claims are right the pundit looks like an oracle, but if they’re wrong nobody remembers or cares.

When articles like that come up, it pays to ask this: is there any actual evidence that a challenge is being prepared? Are there credible rumours of a rival MP doing the numbers? David Shearer had David Cunliffe. Malcolm Turnbull had Peter Dutton. And the MP that some talk up as a challenger, Judith Collins, is showing absolutely no signs of doing so at the moment.

As Andrea Vance correctly points out in her Stuff column, “there is no suggestion he is finished just yet. His caucus remain loyal and there is no hint of a leadership challenge,” even though in her column she says she doesn’t believe he’ll ever be PM. But it’s the one question that nobody seems to have any answer to, and is really the only one that matters when it comes to spills – who is the contender? Until anything like an answer to that happens, it’s safe to say Mr Bridges’ job is secure.

But won’t the recent blunders over how he handled Jami-Lee Ross’s personal leave have hurt his support with the public? It’s really hard to say, because while a lot of voters will have followed coverage of that story over the last week, there’s also a significant number who will have only seen Simon Bridges in his cameo on Jono and Ben. And nobody doing punditry (myself included, right now) really has any idea how those people will respond to that, unless there’s been extensive internal polling or focus groups.

The reason for this is that for people who follow politics really closely, the minds of voters who don’t follow politics at all can be almost unfathomable. Mr Bridges may have come across as likeable, or he may have come across as a plonker – on both the Jami-Lee Ross situation and the Jono and Ben one. But judging how non-political people will react to either or both is really difficult for political obsessives.

What we do know though is that in two years, there’s going to be an election. And given I’ve had a pop at various bits of commentary in this section, it’s only fair I put a chunk of my own credibility on the line too, so here it is: I feel completely confident in saying Simon Bridges will lead National into that election. If I turn out to be wrong, please feel free to tell me so.

The All Blacks have pulled off one of the great rugby comebacks, stealing a win in South Africa at the absolute last moment. The NZ Herald reports they were down 30-13 in the last quarter of the game, but held their composure and stayed calm enough to come back. The 32-30 margin of victory means that between the South Africa and New Zealand over 2018, not a single point separated them, after two classic games of rugby. One piece of bad news to come out of the game though – flanker Sam Cane has a nasty neck injury and will be out of action for months.

Meanwhile, the White Ferns have been shown to be a long way off the pace by Australia, as they prepare for the Women’s T20 World Cup. They lost their away series 3-0, including a final match demolition, that could be serious cause for concern. The Ferns have a very tough start to November’s World Cup, having to face India and Australia in their first two matches, and will probably have to win at least one of those to advance to the semi-finals.

From our partners, Vector’s sustainability manager Karl Check explains why the company is pushing for more urban forests, despite recent storms in Auckland bringing trees down on powerlines, and cutting electricity to parts of the city.

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