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The BulletinSeptember 9, 2020

The Bulletin: Culture change and the new sexuality education guidelines

File photo (Getty Images)
File photo (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: New sexuality and relationship education guidelines announced, things happen and announcements made on campaign trail, and reason for massive health funding shortfall in South Auckland revealed.

New guidelines for sexuality and relationships education in schools have been released, with the aim of making them more inclusive places. It’s an area of culture that has changed a lot over recent decades, and the strong impression given by these changes is that the education system is now catching up with that. An in-depth report on internal affairs minister Tracey Martin’s announcement of the changes was put together by Stuff’s Laura Wiltshire. I feel comfortable making that point above about culture change, because the announcement took place at Onslow College. That’s a Wellington school in which the students quoted in the piece speak completely differently and seemingly have very different attitudes to how I remember the school I left a bit over a decade ago – even if it was widely considered a liberal school then too.

The main theme of the changes is that they’re aimed around teaching kids how to have healthy relationships, says Martin. The Onslow principal quoted in the story also said it would give schools “a mandate to have conversations about diversity and inclusiveness at school, and within school communities.”Family Planning put out a release saying the new education guidelines are welcome, but nationally consistent implementation was now needed – something that hasn’t necessarily happened with sexuality education in the past. “My worry is that it’s close to 20 years since we first developed guidelines and we’ve had no meaningful change since then. The guidelines alone won’t deliver the fundamental change we need – we’re going to need more from the Ministry to support schools to deliver this work,” said chief executive Jackie Edmond.

Some changes will be controversial. I don’t mean that in the sense they’re the wrong thing to do – rather in the literal sense that there will be noise generated around them. Without wanting to do the job of talkback producers around the country, the headline on this NZ Herald article – “Schools have been told to let students choose their own gender identities and names” – would probably get the phones ringing. Some on the more socially conservative edge of politics see this sort of thing as a form of social engineering – I have been in plenty of public meetings where it is described in the terms of being a top down ideological project, aimed at shaping the next generation away from values held by their parents. But again, I’d come back to the point up the top of this Bulletin – the changes appear to reflect a shift in culture that has already taken place on the ground, rather than the other way around.

We got a whole lot of the usual campaign announcement sort of stuff yesterday (I’m going to write this a lot over the coming weeks) and you can read all about it on our live updates. Among the top-line announcements: Labour intend to extend the small business cashflow scheme and took aim at paywave costs for their small business policy, National has promised funding to upgrade Hawke’s Bay hospital, along with the repeal of some of the more pro-renter recent changes to tenancy law, and NZ First has promised more support for prisoner rehabilitation. Keep your eyes peeled today for a biggie – Labour will be making an ‘economic announcement’ at 11am today, which is probably going to be their long-awaited tax policy.

Successive censuses worth of population undercounting have resulted in South Auckland DHB having a massive funding shortfall, reports Justin Latif. The story is a deep analysis of how funding decisions work, and how that then impacts on facilities that are on the wrong end of such calls. In total it is estimated that the shortfall is about $300 million over 10 years, in an area where there is already high need for health services.

Data from the ministry of social development shows that Māori and Pasifika people are getting less in disability allowances on average than Pākehā. Radio NZ’s Sarah Robson reports that the process for accessing it is described as “onerous”, and requires a lot of hoops for applicants to jump through, even if they qualify for the entitlements. Pacific disability advocate Kramer Hoeflich said it’s not surprising, with many in the community unsure how to go about getting the support they need.

Further accusations have been made about a culture of sexism, bullying and harassment at Weta Digital, reports Kristin Hall for One News. Eight current or former workers have now spoken out, and several have now spoken out about the existence of pornographic mailing lists that were sent around the office. A quote that sums it up: “They work people until they burn out or quit. The culture is a mixture of boys club mentality, bullying gone wild and casual sexism … I wouldn’t recommend anyone work there.”

Good news for the diminishing share of the population who already own houses: Bank economists are predicting big price rises over 2021, reports Greg Ninness for Interest. The current low interest rates are seen as good for both owner occupiers, and for property investors. There is however a warning for those who are heavily indebted – the currently very low interest rates might not last for longer than a few years, meaning there could be a crunch down the line. Meanwhile, in the shorter term there is the prospect of negative interest rates – Business Desk’s (paywalled) Rebecca Howard has explained what that would mean, and why it might put even more fuel on the fire.

I’m once again asking for your event recommendations for the election campaign: Now that it’s back on again, I’m heading out in the Jucy van to chat to people and see the politicians do their thing in the regions. If you’ve got event suggestions or public meetings going on, I’d love to hear about them – email

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Right now on The Spinoff:Duncan Greive reports on the awkwardly large profits being announced by many companies right now, after they took the wage subsidy. Jihee Junn reports on criticism from Consumer NZ for milk brand Lewis Road Creamery after jumping on the collagen craze. Nina Hall writes about the need for New Zealand to reinvigorate its approach to foreign affairs in the post-Covid world. Geoff Simmons criticises a change in the TVNZ minor party debate rules that still exclude The Opportunities Party. Gareth Shute maps the important Auckland music venues of the 80s. Madeleine Chapman returns with another week of important news told through memes.

The news of the coup in Mali was only briefly marked in The Bulletin, so for a feature today it’s worth sharing this piece about the aftermath. Despite some half hearted noises of opposition, it has largely been allowed to stand – maybe for good reason, maybe not, I’m not an expert on the politics of the country. What this piece on the IPI Global Observatory does is set out well how international observers respond to coups, and why some are basically allowed to proceed unhindered. Here’s a typically pointy excerpt:

There have been hints that a hard rejection of the CNSP would have been conceivable, but at the cost of substantial harm to ordinary Malians. ECOWAS has imposed serious restrictions on the Malian economy, but the Central Bank of West African States could have gone even further in cutting off the money supply and triggering economic pain that might have forced the CNSP out of power. Additionally, the US could have immediately declared the takeover a coup in the legal sense and begun cutting off aid. And France and ECOWAS could have declared that no negotiations were possible with an illegal authority. All these paths would have had pitfalls and consequences, but the point is that Western and regional powers’ soft acceptance of the CNSP was not the only possible choice.

The question remains whether soft acceptance is ultimately good. What seems most problematic is the lack of imagination, introspection, and self-criticism on the part of Western powers as well as Malian elites. If the only truly negotiable element of Malian politics now is who rules and for how long, rather than the utility of the foreign presence or the Algiers Accord or the Constitution of 1992, then what many observers are predicting—namely, that Mali will remain stuck in a cycle—appears justified.

In sport, some bold optimism from the International Olympic Committee: The Japan Times reports they are vowing to go ahead with the 2021 games in Tokyo regardless of the situation with Covid – in fact going so far as to say they will be “the light at the end of the tunnel” and the “games that conquered COVID”. Just one in four Japanese people currently back the games going ahead next year, which seems like a fairly significant problem.

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