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The BulletinMay 14, 2018

The Bulletin: Trump attacks Pharmac

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Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: US President attacks national drug buying agencies, Iain Lees–Galloway embraces his critics, and Greenpeace under fire for sweary voicemail. 

New Zealand could end up paying more for medicine after a proposal from US President Donald Trump. This story on Stuff (joint winner website of the year) has the sharp headline “Trump wants to build a drug cartel – and wants NZ to pay for it,” which sums up the America–first plan. Because countries like NZ have national drug buying agencies (Pharmac here) they can negotiate lower prices from manufacturers. Rather than adopting that as a solution to high US prices, Trump says that amounts to other countries “cheating” and “bullying.”

In response, PM Jacinda Ardern said Pharmac would be protected in any future trade deal with the US. The NZ Herald (news website of the year) reports that New Zealand had always guarded Pharmac in trade negotiations, and Ardern said she wasn’t aware of any discussions with the US about it. Earlier in the year the government claimed a win for Pharmac in the TPP negotiations –archived report from Radio NZ – but with the US now making noises about getting back into the TPP, those battles may need to be fought again.

Could the US actually do it? That’s the question asked in this explainer on Stuff – the key point is whether the US can get the patent period for drugs extended in any trade deal. That’s a period in which a drug company can have an effective monopoly on the medicine, which is currently 20 years.

Workplace relations minister Iain Lees-Galloway has embraced criticism from business about industrial law changes. He told TVNZ’s Q+A that some businesses won’t be able to survive, but that enough lead in time would be given for them to make a choice about how and whether to continue. The minister says that’s sort of the point – the laws are aimed at reshaping New Zealand’s workforce to be higher skilled and higher paid, and with higher union density. National’s Scott Simpson put out a press release describing the minister’s attitude as “chilling” and “arrogant.”

Greenpeace is under fire for pushy and demanding tactics with would–be donors, reports Stuff. One complainant was on the receiving end of a sweary tirade left on her voicemail, confirmed by Greenpeace to have been left by a staff member. There was also a complaint that more money was taken from a donor’s account than had been stipulated, which Greenpeace said was followed up immediately.

Documents uncovered by Matt Nippert (business journalist of the year) at the NZ Herald show that a Fonterra joint venture tried to get then–PM Bill English to open a factory for them in Russia, whilst also trying to keep the it relatively quiet in New Zealand. The quietness was reportedly to avoid upsetting allies and trading partners in the wake of sanctions being put on Russia, for their invasion of Crimea.

As New Zealand’s biggest exporter, Fonterra is very close with NZ’s trade and diplomatic bureaucracy. Bill English did not take up the offer to attend the launch, and a Fonterra spokesperson said the invitation wasn’t formally extended by their staff.

First home buyers are taking advantage of better opportunities to buy in Christchurch, reports The Press (daily newspaper of the year) The proportion of first home buyers is up to 26% of homeowners, the largest chunk it has been in more than a decade. However, the unique stresses of home–buying in Christchurch are outlined in this opinion piece from Stuff reporter Michael Hayward, where buying the wrong house can leave you with a re–repair bill into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

National has pulled support for a Green party bill that would allow leave from work for victims of domestic violence, reports Radio NZ. National reportedly got cold feet because of amendments that reduced the say an employer could have in the matter, and it could have an impact on small and medium sized businesses. Green MP Jan Logie is still confident the bill can pass with NZ First support, and says the bill would make it easier for a victim of domestic violence to escape abuse, as they could focus on relocating without fear of losing their job.

Radio NZ’s morning news bulletins are reporting that retail workers from multiple companies have contacted them about having to work unpaid at each end of their scheduled day. The story doesn’t yet appear to be online, but follows up on earlier stories about Smiths City being forced to pay staff six years worth of back pay over for making staff turn up early for unpaid meetings.

This is a really interesting piece of collaborative work from Stuff and NewshubIt’s called A Tale of Two Cities and looks at the extreme economic inequality of Auckland. They’ll be rolling out stories over the next couple of days online, and it’s an important conversation for the city to be having.

Hamilton bus drivers are on strike this morning from 7.30am over pay, so services are likely to be disrupted. The strike will last for two hours, and will not affect school buses.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Public health expert Caroline Shaw has eight reasons why you should never drive to work ever again. I went through the various good and bad budget nicknames over the years, ahead of this week’s delivery of the budget. And the Voyager Media Awards, and the Voyager Media Awards Afterparty, were both held on Friday. Here’s a full list of the winners.

For features this Monday morning, here’s a roundup of stories with big implications for the rural sector. Questions are being raised as to whether eradicating cow disease mycoplasma bovis is still possible. TVNZ reported last week that the numbers had jumped of infected farms had risen and was likely to get higher, and the number of farms under regulatory control was also up significantly.

Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor spoke to Newshub in this extended interview, in which he walked back talk of swift eradication, though said long term that was still the goal. O’Connor drew parallels with bovine TB, which has long been kept in check but hasn’t yet been eradicated.

Talk of a black market in cattle was another major aspect of the O’Connor interview, as off the books cattle sales mean they won’t be entered into MPI tracking systems. Newsroom (joint website of the year) reported that black market cattle sales are hampering efforts to stop the spread.

What does mycoplasma bovis do? This useful explainer was put out by the Science Media Centre, who noted that it can have a significant effect on cow welfare. It’s also having an effect on farmer welfare, with Federated Farmers dairy chair Chris Lewis telling Radio NZ it has “turned neighbour against neighbour.”

Crusaders prop Joe Moody has been banned for two weeks, for a textbook definition of what Australian sports commentators would call a “dog act.” Moody smashed Kurtley Beale of the Waratahs in the neck off the ball, to set up a try that Moody himself then scored. The try set in motion a comeback that saw the Crusaders come back from 29–0 down to win. The short suspension (yes, he got off very lightly) means Moody will be free to play for the All Blacks against France next month.

And on Radio NZ, Jamie Wall has written a great piece about going to watch two Warriors games on Saturday, and not seeing either score a single point. I’m starting to get really glad I didn’t shamelessly jump on the bandwagon earlier this year.

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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