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The Bulletin: Winston flexes ahead of taking top job

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Winston Peters makes moves ahead of top job tenure, Afghanistan deployment extended, and Christchurch mulls AirBnb rates. 

It could be days, it could be weeks, but regardless, NZ First leader Winston Peters is about to take on the role of acting Prime Minister. And he appears to be making everyone aware of that fact, after a day of holding firm lines, for both his party and himself personally.

On the personal front, he’s launched further legal action against the Ministry for Social Development, reports the NZ Herald. It relates to the alleged leaking of his superannuation details – you might remember the information being hyperbolically described as the ‘mother of all scandals‘. Peters is alleging that MSD staffers and National party figures were involved in that, in an attempt to discredit him ahead of the election. Audrey Young writes in the NZ Herald that it is ludicrous that the man about to step in as PM is suing his own government, but here were are.

And on the political front, NZ First have blocked the repeal of the three strikes sentencing law. Stuff reports that Labour had tried to spin the blocking as something to be worked out as part of a wider package of justice reforms, but NZ First is indicating that won’t be happening. The evidence doesn’t really support the usefulness of the three strikes law, but it’s quite popular, and it has become a major symbolic point in wider philosophical arguments about reforming the justice system. NZ First’s move has been applauded by groups like the Sensible Sentencing Trust, and Family First.

The still-PM Ardern is brushing off the setback as just part of coalition life, reports One News. But veteran columnist John Armstrong writes on One News that the timing for Labour of the three strikes block is significant. He says justice minister Andrew Little bungled by going public on the repeal before getting it through coalition partners. But what happens over the next six weeks if another Labour minister makes a mistake? Will it be Winston Peters who tells them off? That might go down very badly.

Regardless, that Winston Peters could force this backdown shows he is already immensely powerful within the government. The votes he holds remain right in the middle of the wider Parliament – if he says no to something, it’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Finally, what kind of PM will Winston Peters be? Toby Manhire cast his eye over the various eras of Peters for clues – that’s published on The Spinoff.


The government has extended New Zealand’s military commitment in Afghanistan by another three months, reports Stuff. New Zealand currently has 11 soldiers in Afghanistan, acting as trainers to local government forces. The government opted against a one year rollover of the deployment, and a decision on future commitments will likely be made alongside the deployment of soldiers at Camp Taji in Iraq.

The Afghanistan mission generally is in the news in Australia, after reports from The Age that a rookie special forces soldier was directed to kill an unarmed prisoner, as a “blooding” exercise. It was one of several deeply concerning incidents reported by The Age, regarding the conduct of a special forces team that seemingly went rogue.


The popularity of AirBnb in Christchurch is forcing the Council to consider a targeted rate on owners offering short-term accomodation, reports The Press on their front page this morning. The consideration is because of the rates disparity between accomodation businesses like motels, and AirBnb houses. And increasingly, AirBnb rentals are being treated as a business, and having flow on effects accordingly – this Stuff story from earlier in the year looked at whether AirBnb was putting undue pressure on the rental market.


MSD have again wrongly suspended the benefit of a woman at the centre of a media storm earlier this year, reports Radio NZ. The woman’s benefit had been cut because she had been on a couple of Tinder dates, which was taken as evidence of a dependent relationship. Now MSD has admitted it failed to follow the right process in suspending her benefit for the second time, over her daughter staying with her grandmother for part of the week.


Never let it be said that people don’t want to read hard news – this is currently the most read story on StuffHamilton dentists are warning that without subsidies for those who can’t afford it, people will continue to use “third world” home dentistry instead. The links between poverty and dental disease are incredibly strong.


You’ve probably noticed by looking out the window, but the weather is bloody awful around most of the countryMetservice has severe weather warnings and watches across much of the country, and gale warnings around the coast. Plan and travel accordingly, and if you’re in an area susceptible to flooding, keep an eye out for alerts.


The NZ Herald is leading this morning with a survey snapping drivers using their phones while on the motorway. And there’s a lot of them doing it too – 3.5% of drivers on a stretch of 100km/h Southern motorway in Auckland were caught using their phones. Look, if you’re reading this right now while driving, I appreciate the commitment but probably better to keep your eyes on the road?


Fans of TV show Suits, get excited. Radio NZ reports star of the show Meghan Markle will be visiting these shores in October. Her husband will also be attending.


Some music news to finish this section today – teenage metal band Alien Weaponry have gone to number one on the album charts with their debut, reports One News. The album name, Tū, is a reference to Tūmatauenga, the Māori god of war, and the lead single Kai Tangata tells a story from the musket wars.


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How do I explain this to my kids?

Right now on The Spinoff: Property management consultant David Faulkner writes about the meth testing debacle, and how it unfolded. I’ve been asked to not put in Dancing with the Stars spoilers, but suffice to say Sam Brooks’ review is spot on as always. And Alex Casey speed-dated six Heartbreak Island contestants, and they seem very… well, just read her report.


Genuine anger has erupted in the NZ Football community over the coaching and management of the Football Ferns. To catch you up, the Austrian coach of the team, Andreas Heraf, sent the side out for a friendly in Wellington against Japan playing an ultra-defensive style. They duly lost 3-1, and when questioned on why he had sent the team out to play an almost unwatchable brand of football, Heraf said he’d rather lose 3-1 than 8-0, and that the Football Ferns didn’t have the talent to match Japan.

That has gone down extremely badly. To paraphrase that old slogan about binge drinking, it’s not the losing, it’s how we’re losing. On Stuff, Phillip Rollo laid the blame for the performance squarely at Heraf’s feet, rather than taking aim at the players for not being able to hang in there.

Over on Newsroom, Suzanne McFadden lamented the lost opportunity for Women’s Football to take centre stage. More than 7000 people turned up to watch, and the roar from the crowd when the Ferns scored was huge. But the fans left disheartened, and McFadden quoted a juniors coach saying he’d be teaching his girls “how not to play like the Football Ferns.”

Unfortunately, Heraf is also the wider technical director for NZ Football, and has oversight over how age group teams will play. There are rumours that his dreadful style is filtering through lower levels, says commentator Jason Pine in this furious denunciation published by the NZ Herald. He says the performance has dragged football in NZ back decades, and it’s hard to disagree.

Most damaging of all – star defender Abby Erceg came out kicking against the coaching, reports Stuff. Erceg re-retired from football after disagreements over philosophy with Heraf came to a head. She said she couldn’t stand to “wear the fern any more when his vision was to cower in a corner and not get beat by too much.” Erceg is the most capped Football Fern of all time.

Here’s the thing – it was a friendly match, not a World Cup final. An incredibly rare showcase for one of our elite women’s sports teams. Losing 15-3 playing attacking football would’ve been an objectively better outcome than losing 3-1 playing negatively, because the crowd would have left having seen something worth watching. They might also come back next time. That’s especially true in New Zealand, where elite football has to work hard for interest and excitement against more action packed codes.

Football is a sport built on dreams. Minnows taking down giants. A substitute leaping from obscurity to score the winner. A sublime turn to beat a defender. Nobody dreams about coming away with a narrow loss against a better team. If that’s all you’re aiming for, what’s the point in playing at all?


Brendon Hartley’s Formula 1 momentum has stalled this season, reports Stuff, with the NZer driving for Toro Rosso crashing out of the Canadian Grand Prix early. Hartley has picked up just one point in seven events this season, and is under pressure to keep his job. He was found to be not at fault for the crash, and was flown to hospital for precautionary checks, but came through fine.


From our partners, Vector’s Bridget McDonald has looked at the government’s deep dig into the energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power?


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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