Karel Sroubek's mother Mila in the Checkpoint studio (Image: Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Astonishing intervention from Czech criminal’s mother

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Karel Sroubek’s mother speaks out, Fonterra abandons quantity target in favour of quality, and striking court workers warned they’re risking injustices happening.

The mother of convicted drug smuggler Karel Sroubek has spoken out about her sons case, in a remarkable and dramatic interview. Mila (first name only used) confirmed to Checkpoint that Mr Sroubek had returned to the Czech Republic, despite being ostensibly in fear of his life, but that it was for a night only, and was because he was homesick. She also backed up Mr Sroubek’s claim that he had witnessed a murder, and been threatened by corrupt police. Mila is in New Zealand on a visitor visa.

Just how dangerous is the Czech Republic? It’s impossible to say whether Mr Sroubek’s life is in danger, over and above the statements made in support of that. However, there are a few metrics that can give a guide. Transparency International ranked the Czech Republic 42nd in the world in the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, and the country was about the middle of the pack in the much less widely cited (and possibly unreliable) Index Mundi Police Corruption Perception Index. One of the attacks made against Mr Sroubek’s story is that it’s implausible that police corruption in an EU state would meet the threshold by which he should fear for his life.

Mila also made the claim that Mr Sroubek’s ex-wife (who is in the process of taking a restraining order against him) was now in a relationship with a prominent National party member. It should be noted that no direct connection to any MPs in the party was made by Mila, and both Michael Woodhouse and Mark Mitchell (who have been leading the charge against immigration minister Iain Lees-Galloway) both say they’ve never met the party member. But she did note the alleged convergence of political and personal interests.

Speaking of which, the minister is still under attack. Stuff reports that Mark Mitchell is up in arms about still not being briefed by the minister on the case, accusing him of stalling. Mr Mitchell also said that enough information was already out there to justify deportation. But doubts have been raised on that on Newstalk ZB, with an immigration lawyer saying once a deportation order has been cancelled, the crimes that were considered as part of that can’t be used again.

Finally, what exactly did Mila want by going on the radio for her son? What she was asking for was basically exactly what the original decision made by the minister to stand. A refresher here – it wasn’t a blank cheque type offer made by the minister to Mr Sroubek – he was told clearly that he had one last chance to stay in the country, and any more crime would result in that being instantly revoked. Mila just asked for that one last chance to be honoured, so that her son could prove he wasn’t the gangster he was being made out to be.


UPDATED 7.20am: The re-entry into Pike River mine will go ahead, reports One News. Pike River Recovery minister Andrew Little is about to make the announcement formally at Parliament. Re-entry is likely to begin properly in February next year.


Fonterra has abandoned a target to produce 30 billion litres of milk annually, saying it puts too much emphasis on volume, reports Dairy News. The target was part of former CEO Theo Spierrings’ vision, and new CEO Miles Hurrell says the co-op is “not about being big for the sake of it.” Mr Hurrell also said the focus would be on getting more milk from NZ, and then exporting that, rather than ramping up production overseas.


Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue says miscarriages of justice are being risked by ongoing strike action by court staff, reports Radio NZ. She says there have been serious delays caused by sudden strikes, and that meant people might have to stay in prison longer than they should as a result. On the other hand, an Employment Court judge has ruled that the ‘lightning’ strikes are legal, reports Politik, saying the causing of disruption is a valid tactic in industrial action. Ministry of Justice employees have been undertaking industrial action for weeks now, with negotiation progress on their pay offer stalled.


Speaking of strikes, ambulance staff are refusing to do non-emergency work today, over a dispute with St John, reports Newshub. First Union, who is representing the paramedics, says staff are wildly underpaid, and that the emergency nature of their job has been used against them in negotiations. An important detail here – the ambulance service isn’t actually fully funded by the government – it relies on a combination of commercial work (like being on hand at events) and donations.


We’re top of the list to trade with a Brexified Britain, but MFAT has moved to shore up the relationship with Europe too. An embassy has been opened in the Republic of Ireland, which will stay part of Europe, and a potentially handy outpost for trade. Here’s a report on the visit of foreign minister Winston Peters from Newstalk, an Irish station with the same name as the other one.


Newshub have been running a campaign against bullying this week, and this story jumped out. Half of all kids are bullied in schools, and it is leading to deeply concerning cases of self harm. It also tells the story of a teenage girl who didn’t make it, after dying in a suspected suicide.


NZ First MP Shane Jones has been in The Bulletin two days in a row, and it’s about to become three. He’s spoken out in support of deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha, saying his character has been “grossly misrepresented” throughout the last few months. He made the comments in an interview with Radio Live, adding that innuendo had been used to attack him. Mr Haumaha has in the past had connections with NZ First.

The other story to highlight: Iwi Ngāti Hine has taken responsibility for a forestry botch-up that meant 400,000 (number correction from yesterday) seedlings couldn’t be planted in a massive forestry project, reports Radio NZ. So, apologies to Mr Jones for yesterday describing it as his bungle.

And finally, just this morning we’ve had a piece go up on The Spinoff by Branko Marcetic, about how Shane Jones has gone from being one of Labour’s most pro-business MPs, to being an anti-corporate crusader with NZ First. Is the conversion for real, or just political expediency?


Lime e-scooters could be about to arrive in a couple of new cities. The ODT reports that two jobs have been advertised for operations managers in Dunedin and Queenstown, indicating expansion could be on the way. They’re also likely to arrive in Wellington over summer, reports Stuff. Now, in the interests of journalistic disclosure here, yes, I do ride them, and yes, I do look like a dork doing so.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Steve Braunias does his best to remember what happened over the weekend at LitCrawl. Dr Jin Russell writes about why doctors have to become advocates for a healthy society, not just healers of the sick. And Jose Barbosa is really really into Auckland’s giant Santa.


This is a really unsettling story from Bloomberg about the possible use of Immigration Control in the USA to settle business disputes. It concerns raids made by ICE officers on 7-Eleven stores, a chain of franchises that are largely owned and operated by immigrants and their descendants. Many of those franchises believe the raids are retribution for organising against Head Office. Here’s an excerpt:

Paranoia has swept across the universe of 7-Eleven franchisees. At franchisee conventions, inside stores, and on private email chains, they swap stories about perceived offenses from headquarters in Dallas. In particular they’re alarmed by the ICE raids on stores owned by critics of the company. They all but assume 7-Eleven has something to do with it.

That was the first thing Sandhu thought when he heard about the raid on his store. Within hours, friends began stoking his suspicions, asking, “What did you do to upset 7-Eleven’s executives this time?” Sandhu knew why they were asking. In 2014 he and four other Los Angeles franchisees sued the company, accusing it of deploying threats, intimidation, and trumped-up allegations of wrongdoing. Last year he was a material witness in another lawsuit, which claimed the company was treating franchisees as low-wage employees, not as independent store operators, and as such was violating state and federal labor laws by failing to pay overtime. 7-Eleven denied the allegations in both suits, and they were dismissed. The franchisees are appealing the overtime wage case.


The Auckland Tuatara have named nine NZers in their first competition squad, reports Newshub. Auckland’s new pro baseball team will head over to Western Australia to make their debut in the ABL on Friday night. It will be crucial for the team to find their feet quickly. The preseason results have been not good so far, though those losses were against the current champions, the Brisbane Bandits.


From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.


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