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The Bulletin: Migrant workers, unemployment and kiwifruit

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Kiwifruit workers debate and divide deepens, an admission that Kiwibuild might not involve actually building so many houses, and Trump pulls out of Iran deal.  

The shortage of fruit pickers and packhouse staff has morphed into a debate on migrant workers and unemployment in Parliament. One News has video of an exchange between employment minister Willie Jackson, and National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett, in which she questioned why workers weren’t being brought in from the Pacific Islands to harvest crops.

Willie Jackson responded by saying the government’s priorities were to employ New Zealanders first. A labour shortage has been declared in the Bay of Plenty which will make it easier to employ those on visitor permits. He also argued that people weren’t taking up fruit picking jobs for complex reasons, such as familial obligations, and accomodation near the orchards.

There was a rather controversial claim from picker and packhouse manager Stuart Weston on the topic, telling Radio NZ some people are choosing to go hungry than work in a packhouse. That was part of his justification for not offering higher wages, as in his view it wouldn’t make any difference to being able to attract staff.

There was also a press release from FIRST Union worth reading, published on Scoop. Regarding the declaration of a labour shortage, they noted that “just last year a government investigation found more than half of Bay of Plenty’s kiwifruit audited employers failed to meet the bare minimum of basic employment standards.” FIRST are concerned the labour shortage declaration will make worker exploitation more likely.


The government will provide rather than build some of the houses in the Kiwibuild planStuff reports. Some existing houses will be bought rather than built, and on–sold as Kiwibuild houses. As well as that, the government will buy up land from developers and build on that. Infometrics chief forecaster Gareth Kiernan said of the move that it might get a bit of cheaper housing on the market sooner, but would do little to increase the overall housing stock, or which there is arguably a shortage.


A major world story breaking right now – Donald Trump has pulled the US out of the nuclear accord with IranStuff has video of his speech announcing the move, which was being made at the time of writing. The Washington Post reports that other countries, such as France, were trying to convince Trump not to pull out right up until the decision.


Māori issues may be becoming uncomfortable wedges for the governing coalition, with New Zealand First setting their face against two major policies. The first was confirmation reported by Stuff that the party will not back calls for compulsory te reo in schools, with Winston Peters issuing a brutal rebuke to two leaders in Labour’s Māori caucus, Nanaia Mahuta and Willie Jackson.

The second, also on Stuff, was that NZ First will not back a bill from Labour’s Rino Tirikatene that would have entrenched the Māori electorates. Currently, Māori seats could be abolished with a simple majority in Parliament. National are also refusing to back the bill, which means it has no chance of passing.


A big boost in Pacific aid is coming as part of the Pacific reset diplomatic strategy, reports Radio NZ. Winston Peters said New Zealand had recently under–invested in the Pacific, at a time the region was becoming more crowded and contested.

On that point, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned New Zealand about the rise of China in the Pacific, covered in this opinion piece by Stuff’s Tracy Watkins. As Secretary of State, Clinton signed the Wellington Declaration in 2010, which allowed for military ties to resume and relations to thaw after the nuclear free freeze.


The IRD is putting the screws on the hospitality industry in its battle against undeclared income, reports the NZ Herald. The taxmen say they’re seeing practices like “unrecorded sales, staff wages off the books and discrepancies between supplies bought and goods sold,” and want to put a stop to it. It follows previous crackdowns on trades workers doing under the table jobs. Incidentally, here’s a story from the NZ Herald last year, about major multinational corporations shifting profits out of New Zealand.


Broadcasting minister Clare Curran has released dozens of documents and emails relating to the Radio NZ meeting saga that was raging a few weeks ago. If you’re so inclined, you can read them here. Many have been redacted heavily.

Because journalists are the type to read these sorts of things so you don’t have to, here are some pieces of journalistic spadework. Henry Cooke at Stuff has covered a voicemail left by outgoing RNZ chair Richard Griffin on Curran’s phone. The outgoing line on that voicemail is remarkably tense – “call me back if you’ve got a problem. Cheers.” Politik’s Richard Harman has drilled down into the relationship breakdown between the two.


The profits of New Zealand’s big four banks have risen at a rate of more than 3 times the rise in GDP over the last ten years, reports Stuff. At the same time, banks have also made some staff redundant, and closed branches in smaller towns, as they move towards more digitised service delivery.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Charlotte Graham–McLay has written a brilliant and incisive review of Hillary Clinton’s event in Auckland. Gareth Shute has listened to an hour of NZ’s popular music stations to figure out if any of them are playing any NZ music (it’s that month btw) and found that a lot of them aren’t. Jolisa Gracewood and Sam Finnemore take a look at Auckland’s current approach to bike sharing. And if all of that sounds too serious, don’t worry, there’s a new episode of The Real Pod out about ‘bum bum dancing on the telly.’


The angles around ‘made in New Zealand’ labelling on clothes have started to take on a life of their own, since The Spinoff broke the story about World on Monday.

Zambesi have also been found to have been not completely truthful with their claims of all clothing being made in New Zealand. That came out of an interview on Radio NZ. And on that point, Cactus Outdoor owner Ben Kepes told the NZ Herald World’s saga was “just the tip of the iceberg” for so-called NZ made clothing makers.

Newshub have also found New Zealand-based T-shirt manufacturers (using google) who say they have all sorts of fashion brands as customers. That could be seen to contradict what Dame Denise L’Estrange Corbet told Radio Live on Monday, that her company had been “unable to find a factory that had the machinery we needed for the T-shirts” in New Zealand.

The Commerce Commission has (at the time of publication) received five complaints about the World labelling, according to the NZ Herald. They say they are looking into the complaints and considering an investigation.

And finally, Stuff have honed in on the issue of where exactly clothing by New Zealand brands gets made anyway, with a quiz. Can you match the brand to where their clothing is made? I got 4 out of 8.


In sport: pay parity for the Football Ferns! It’s a big moment in New Zealand sport, and arguably in global sport, and shows that NZ Football are waking up to the fact that they’ve got one truly international quality representative team, and it isn’t the men. I’ve written a cheat sheet on it here.

And this is a great column from Jamie Wall on Radio NZabout the officially dismissed reports that South African teams could leave Super Rugby and go and play in Europe. There’s no smoke without fire, says Wall, and economically, going North could make a lot of sense for South African teams. But he says Super Rugby isn’t the only consideration for SA Rugby to make, given being part of SANZAAR also gives them access to regular games against the All Blacks.


And from our partners, Vector’s Karl Check analyses Australia’s progress when it comes to shifting away from coal and gas fired power plants and onto renewable energy sources.


That’s it for the The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, please forward it on and encourage them to sign up here. Thanks for joining us this morning.


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