National leader Simon Bridges being interviewed by Chinese state-TV (Screenshot – CGTN)

The Bulletin: Bridges builds towards China with state-TV interview

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Bridges sparks controversy with China state-TV interview, timeline of events around Labour staffer allegation, and Weta staff concerned about campaign launch.

National leader Simon Bridges has been on something of a grand tour around China. In the process, he gave an interview to a state-owned television network, in which he offered rather fulsome praise for the Chinese Communist Party. It has sparked something of a storm among China-watchers in New Zealand, with Newshub picking up on it first. One of the meetings Bridges had was with Politburo member Guo Shengkun, who runs China’s secret police, and is responsible for what is going on regarding the Uyghur population in Xinjiang.

It’s also one of those times when it’s useful to read about it from an overseas perspective – so here’s a report on the controversy from the South China Morning Post. As for the interview itself, you can watch the full version here, though note that at times it appears to have been edited – in particular when questions are asked about his position on the Hong Kong protests. His answer was in favour of a peaceful resolution, but very much backed Beijing’s position.

Underlying the concern is the idea that Bridges has effectively diverged from the government on foreign policy. That’s really well outlined in this piece by Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva, who notes that “whether out of naivety or deliberate strategy, National under Bridges appears to be taking a markedly different approach” to the government on the question of one of New Zealand’s most important international relationships.


The events surrounding allegations of sexual assault by a Labour staffer, and who knew what and when, have been the subject of significant controversy. The Spinoff’s editor Toby Manhire has put together a comprehensive timeline of those events, including multiple explicit references to sexual assault by the complainant, in emails to the party’s investigation panel sent between March and June of this year. It is heavily disputed by the Labour party and party president Nigel Haworth that an allegation of sexual assault was presented. The Spinoff has obtained the emails.


Leaked emails have revealed consternation about a bid to build support for Wellington mayoral candidate Andy Foster’s campaign launch, reports Laura Dooney from Radio NZ. The campaign is being backed by Sir Peter Jackson, and some of the staff at Weta Digital weren’t happy about being ‘asked’ if they wanted to attend. Among the more colourful responses: “Forgive me but there could be a perception that it seems highly unethical for the head of HR to be pushing a political agenda in the workplace on behalf of the company owner.”


A new Suicide Prevention Office has been announced by the government, reports Newshub. Initially it will be part of the ministry of health, with a plan to become a standalone entity in the future. Advisory groups will also be established to support the office, as part of the government’s wider plan to bring the suicide rate down. However Newsroom reports this morning there has been criticism of the plan, in that a separate Māori suicide prevention plan was not also delivered.


A report has been published showing huge passenger growth would be needed to justify a $400 million upgrade of Wanaka’s airport. Crux has the numbers, and went to local notables for their responses, including mayor Jim Boult whose first reaction was to dispute the premise of the report. The proposed expansion has been unpopular with many locals, for both environmental and ambient reasons.


Measles vaccines are being moved around the country to where they’re most needed, with some Auckland clinics running out, reports the NZ Herald. There has been a huge increase in the number of vaccinations being administered since the outbreak started, which continues to be largely concentrated in the Auckland region. A shipment of more than 50,000 doses is on the way to New Zealand, and they’re expected to arrive later in the week.


A boost for public transport patronage in Auckland: Radio NZ reports that those under 16 will now be able to travel for free on weekends and public holidays. Mayor Phil Goff said it would encourage the next generation to become public transport users. It’s part of a $1.1 million Auckland Council contribution for public transport announced earlier this year.


A correction to make: Yesterday’s reference to coastal erosion put Port Waikato on the East Coast – it is of course on the West. I got mixed up because it’s happening on both coasts, basically. Thanks to the reader who pointed it out.


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Te Karere Whitiao Scarborough of Ngāpuhi. Scarborough is a student at Te Wānanga Takiura o Ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori o Aotearoa. Photo: © Cornell Tukiri

Right now on The Spinoff: Duncan Greive sits down for an in-depth interview with TVNZ boss Kevin Kenrick, about the future of the state owned broadcaster. The Real Pod crashed a Married at First Sight wedding to see how it all played out. On the Rag discuss the topic of abortion with legendary reproductive rights campaigner Dame Dr Margaret Sparrow. Cornell Tukiri sat down with his Māori language classmate Te Karere Whitiao Scarborough to talk about his relationship with te reo, and its revival. And Don Rowe writes about (this is actually a serious piece, don’t laugh) the positive vision of modern masculinity exemplified by Kel from TV show Kath and Kim.


Instead of a feature today, a word of celebration. As with other diversions of this sort which sometimes appear in The Bulletin, these are my personal views, and the editors will be reading them for the first time at the same time as everyone else.

The Spinoff turned 5 years old yesterday, which in the current media environment is a pretty incredible achievement for a new publisher. It started off as a scrappy blog saying things that needed to be said about TV. Now in 2019 it’s still doing the same thing, and still talking about what matters, but for all sorts of other topics as well. We’ve gone into politics, business, Te Ao Māori, sport, parenting, culture, social issues, and a whole lot more besides. Over time, I think it’s fair to say the writing has grown deeper as well as broader.

From a personal perspective, I came in about a year and a half ago, so not a long time in the grand scheme. A lot has changed in that time, but one thing I’ve noticed is that the people here don’t really leave. Rapid and high writer turnover is pretty normal in media. But close to every single person who was working at The Spinoff when I started is still around, and from the inside it’s really easy to see why. People here always challenge each other to do better work, but they also take care of each other. It’s a team in the truest sense of the word, and while The Bulletin might be my thing, it stands on the shoulders of giants. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be part of it.

Of course, we’re nothing without our readers. And we never take it for granted that people will keep coming back. There are way too many demands on everyone’s attention these days, so we know we can never let our standards slip. That’s really hard, and if you’d consider supporting us to do that through The Spinoff Members, it would be greatly appreciated.

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I’m down in Wellington right now, so I unfortunately missed the celebrations up in Auckland yesterday. But I’d say they’re well deserved. I’d say all involved have earned the right to feel proud of what they’ve achieved. And if I could say one last thing to my colleagues, it would be very simple – I can’t wait to read what you’ll write next.


The World Surfing League is heading to Piha in 2020, reports One News. It’s part of a new programme being put together, and will be the biggest surfing event in the country for many years. Local stars Paige Hareb and Ricardo Christie are both likely to be competitors.

The Tall Blacks have finished their World Cup with a stirring win over Turkey. Stuff’s Marc Hinton has put together a good outline of the significance of that, and how it caps off a creditable but ultimately unsuccessful campaign. The team will now have to face a ruthless qualifying tournament to make the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them. And if you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.


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