PM Jacinda Ardern and Aussie PM Scott Morrison, presumably discussing sausage sizzles (Radio NZ/Gyles Beckford)

The Bulletin: Fine lines for Ardern to walk on Summit Circuit

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: PM Ardern at a series of international summits this week, Pike River plan revealed, and NZ to host the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup. 

PM Jacinda Ardern will be walking a series of fine lines at international summits over the rest of the week. She’s currently in Singapore, meeting with other leaders at the East Asia summit, before heading to APEC in Papua New Guinea. And it’s happening at a time of serious international tension between other countries, all of whom New Zealand diplomats are trying to stay mates with.

Here’s an example: US Vice President Mike Pence specifically asked to sit next to Jacinda Ardern at dinner last night. The PM said she’d want to talk about steel tariffs, which were placed on NZ imports by the Americans and have been lobbied on extensively by diplomats. As Gyles Beckford said on Checkpoint last night, the tariffs aren’t really at all important for NZ’s economy, “but it’s the principle of the matter, that we’re such a good trading partner and such a good friend.” Don Rowe speculated on The Spinoff that the two politicians might want to avoid small talk altogether if they want to keep things civil.

But one wonders if Mike Pence requested the seating arrangement so that he could raise the issue of China with Ardern in a less formal setting. He after all delivered the Trump administration’s first major speech on China in October (hard to believe, but true) described as “a dramatic shift in America’s approach to Beijing” by the Washington Examiner. There’s rhetoric around about a ‘new Cold War‘ and fears in China that they’ll end up diplomatically isolated. New Zealand is deeply connected at a cultural and geopolitical level with the USA, and in particular through membership of the Five Eyes intelligence group. But on the other hand, trade with China has kept the economy afloat over the last decade.

PM Ardern also met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, reports One News, and the issue of human rights was raised. Whether there is any substance behind such a topic of conversation is debatable – it’s a well worn diplomatic dance to do so, and generally intended for domestic rather than international audiences. Of much more substance today will be discussions around freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. It is seen by China as its backyard – but that’s hugely controversial with other countries in the area.

Speaking of China, some progress has been made on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade deal seen by China as an counterweight to the CPTPP. However, despite an upbeat press release from minister of state for trade Damien O’Connor, any sort of finalisation has now been pushed deep into next year, writes NZ Herald political editor Audrey Young. She says that will be disappointing, because RCEP provided a backdoor for New Zealand to get free trade with India.

Finally, there’s Australia, who are currently involved in a dispute with Indonesia, another important regional country for NZ to keep in mind. The Sydney Morning Herald reports trade talks between the two countries have stalled, after Australia indicated it might move their Israel embassy to Jerusalem, which is seen as an attack on Islam in the heavily-Muslim Indonesia.

But at least one thing went smoothly. The PM had her first meeting with new Australian PM Scott Morrison yesterday, and as Newshub reports, they were in full agreement. On what, you might ask? That onions needed to remain part of Bunnings sausage sizzles.


A formal plan to re-enter Pike River mine has been announced, eight years after the tragic loss of 29 lives. It won’t be a quick or easy process, and this piece from Radio NZ provides a useful timeline of when each step is intended to happen. The police will be involved with the re-entry, reports the NZ Herald, and it’s possible criminal charges could arise based on a forensic examination of the scene.

Writing on The Spinoff, journalist and author of a book about Pike River Rebecca Macfie says it is significant that the mine will be treated as a crime scene. “Today’s decision goes some way to restoring the mana of those who live by their labour and who are entitled to the protection of vigilant bosses and a competent regulator,” she writes. It’s a really powerful piece from someone who knows the story intimately.


The 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup has been confirmed for New Zealand, reports Radio NZ. It will be a six week tournament, hosted between 3 Auckland venues and Whangarei. It will be the first WRWC held outside the northern hemisphere, and Australia was also bidding for it. The Black Ferns have won the tournament five times, and you’d expect now NZ Rugby would really be looking to get on with getting some merchandise available.


Residents in the Nelson suburb of Stoke are up in arms at Kiwibank’s plan to close a branch there, reports One News. Local MP Nick Smith says there’s a high proportion of elderly residents in the area, and Greypower says those residents will be disadvantaged. Both of them are calling on the government to intervene to prevent the closure.


With the recent ban on letting fees for rentals, property management companies have turned to ‘tenancy fees’ aimed at landlords instead, reports Stuff. They say that will cover costs associated with finding new tenants. In turn, landlords are warning that might result in rents going up.


A controversial begging ban around Tauranga is closer to coming into effect after narrowly passing a Council committee vote, reports the Bay of Plenty Times. It was locked at 5-5 until chairman Terry Molloy used a casting vote to get it through to the next full Council meeting. The debate over the measure has been extremely heated, with different sets of rights being set against each other.


There have been calls for further crackdowns on loansharks over and above proposals from Consumer Affairs minister Kris Faafoi, reports the NBR (paywalled) The Financial Services Federation says measures like interest caps won’t necessarily do enough to protect people on low incomes. Their executive director Lynn McMorran says what the Commerce Commission really needs to be doing is putting the dodgiest lenders out of business completely.


As the saying goes, vote early, vote often. Unfortunately, that’s also illegal, as a Christchurch man has discovered, reports the NZ Herald. He has just been discharged with a conviction after voting 11 times for the same party and candidate, which remained unnamed. It’s a remarkable commitment to democratic participation, but probably not the best way to channel it in hindsight.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Alex Casey went along to the “most instagrammed business event of the year” and lived to tell the tale. Steve Braunius unpacks two new books that consider the legacy of John Lennon. Jolisa Gracewood takes to task some nonsense being thrown around about Auckland cycleways. And a few weeks ago, we published a piece about whether men captured at Parihaka were forced to live in caves in Dunedin. Here is a response to that piece from Ngāi Tahu kaumatua Edward Ellison.


Here’s an interesting example of a huge debate playing out in media at the moment – whether to trust algorithms or intuition. It’s from the Wall St Journal, and it covers the shift within Netflix away from leaning extremely heavily on analytics, towards a more Hollywood-style gut-feel approach, particularly when it comes to making original shows. Here’s an excerpt about the tilting balance of power.

Some shows at risk of being canceled due to poor performance have gotten a reprieve because Netflix doesn’t want to damage relationships with key producers or actors, people familiar with Netflix’s deliberations say. Stars have inserted language in their contracts giving them approval over everything from the short video that plays when users hover over a photo to the trailers promoting Netflix shows and movies.

At times, the efforts to appease stars don’t sit well with the company’s technology and product teams, triggering heated discussions between the Hollywood and Silicon Valley arms of the company, the people say.

There’s a “natural tension” between the two sides, said Bob Heldt, an executive in Netflix’s engineering team who left last year. “People in L.A. don’t believe numbers as much as people in Silicon Valley.”


The White Ferns are all but out of the T20 World Cup, reports Stuff, after a disappointing chase against Australia. The NZ bowlers were good enough to restrict Australia to 153, with a particularly strong performance in the middle overs. But the top order threw it away, with 2 runs total between Devine, Peterson and Satterthwaite. The loss puts the White Ferns so far out of semifinal contention that it will take an absurd run of other results going their way to make it.

This next point isn’t intended to be patronising, and please forgive me if it comes across like that, but it was really heartening to turn on Sportstalk on Newstalk ZB last night and hear a few callers absolutely bagging the performance. In the fairly recent past the gnarled old blokes in Talkbackland wouldn’t have cared about Women’s Cricket, but these callers were both knowledgeable about the team, and furious about the poor recent performances. Host D’Arcy Waldergrave was right to introduce it as a topic, because it’s now taken seriously by the cricketing public. And on that theme, Sportsfreak notes that something just seems wrong with the White Ferns at the moment – their on-field performances have been sloppy, and off-field decisions have seemed odd. Such scrutiny is important.

While this is a pretty serious setback for the White Ferns, Women’s Cricket has a bright future if this story from LockerRoom is anything to go by. It’s about Papatoetoe coach Regina Lili’i, who is shaping a generation of girls who might not often have their own gear to play in, but they’ve got talent to burn. Lili’i also plays for the Auckland Hearts and captains Samoa, so she’s pretty busy to say the least.


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.


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.


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