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The BulletinSeptember 16, 2020

The Bulletin: Competing education policies presented to voters

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Competing education plans in focus, Māori Party push for greater prominence for te reo, and hundreds of prominent New Zealanders in Chinese intel database.

We’ve now had both major parties come out with the education policies they’ll take into the election. As always, it’s likely to be an area of debate between them, given the share of government spending that goes towards it, and the importance voters place on it.

We’ll start with Labour’s plan: Much of it has been rolled out over the course of the term already, reports Stuff. But there’s a bit of targeted give and take in it. On the one hand, the school lunch system would be expanded, and pay parity for ECE teachers would continue to be a focus, with $600 million allocated. There would also be continued efforts to reform vocational tertiary education. However, we got confirmation that the fees free programme would be paused in its current state – it was already an expensive one, and the spending is probably harder to justify amid the Covid crunch. Nor will the postgrad student allowance be brought back – a 2017 election promise that never came to fruition.

For National, a $1.9 bn over four years package was put together, with Radio NZ reporting it will focus on “learning support, teacher aides, and new special character schools”. Those character schools would include kura kaupapa and charter schools, which would be brought back – likely to the delight of the Act party. In keeping with National’s philosophical position around support being targeted rather than universal, there have also been policies announced around reducing barriers to support for those kids with “learning, disability, behavioural, health and other challenges.”

Because they represent a lot of teachers on the front lines, it’s worth checking out what the NZEI union had to say about the plans. Bear in mind that while the organisation is officially non-aligned, their preferred policy outcomes tend to line up with Labour a lot more than National, and read accordingly. On Labour, they celebrated the commitment to ECE pay parity, saying it was a “huge win” for the sector. And on National, they welcomed aspects of the plan, but tempered that praise with criticism of the party’s previous stint in government.

Meanwhile, NZ First put out a press release also attacking National’s record on education in government, and talking about what they’d achieved over the term.  And if you want to see what every party is putting forward in the field of education, I once again invite you to check out Policy, where you can compare them all.

The Māori Party has unveiled a te reo policy that includes changing the country’s name to Aotearoa by 2026, reports One News. They would also push for places to return to the original te reo names, make te reo and Māori history a core part of the education curriculum, and require state funded broadcasters to have basic fluency – I can think of a few who’d have no problems here, and a few who really would. Candidate Rawiri Waititi said the plans were about elevating te reo to its “rightful place” in New Zealand’s culture.

Hundreds of prominent New Zealanders have appeared on a massive Chinese intelligence database, reports Stuff. They include people from a range of fields, but in the case of politicians listed also include family members. The section of the database on NZ is actually comparatively light – the whole list is understood to include more than 2 million profiles. At this stage, there doesn’t appear to be confirmation that anyone who appeared on the list has actually been targeted by any Chinese intelligence operation – or perhaps more importantly, no suggestion that they’ve been corrupted.

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross has pulled out of the race to win back his electorate. The NZ Herald reports the Advance NZ co-leader will instead run on the list only, and Ross says he believes the party will make it into parliament through his co-leader Billy Te Kahika Jr winning Te Tai Tokerau off Labour’s Kelvin Davis. Despite being the incumbent, Botany was not looking good for Ross – National’s new candidate in the basically safe seat is former Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon, and the party’s pollster David Farrar ridiculed Ross’s announcement by saying he was polling at under 2% in the seat. Meanwhile, the Public Party component of Advance NZ appears to have benefitted from a donations loophole in electoral law, by building up a massive warchest while not being a registered party – and therefore having no obligation to report the money, reports Stuff’s Matt Shand.

We’re likely to see some pretty gnarly economic numbers come out on Thursday this week, but as always, the detail will be crucial. Interest’s David Hargreaves has looked at a range of forecasts around the June quarter GDP figures, which could end up showing the biggest drop on record. However, it’s not all bad news, because the worst of that drop may already be behind the economy, and the September quarter figures are expected to show a big bounce-back. That perhaps sums up one of the limitations of using GDP as a measurement – useful as it is as a topline number, it doesn’t really get onto the ground of how people are feeling about their economic positions.

This is a story that’s really rarking up primary industry people on twitter right now: Stuff reports David Parker has told a chamber of commerce meeting in Southland that industries that rely on overseas workers simply won’t be able to import people, and will have to compete for labour instead. The point out of it that is really interesting – he got into a debate with his hosts about whether there is a ‘’short-term market gap” for labour right now, or whether there was a “medium-term market aberration” caused by high levels of immigration.

Bus drivers are stoked at a move by the government to subsidise pay packets to bump them up to a living wage, reports Stuff. It follows years of disputes and strikes of various intensities for the essential workers. Previously most driver jobs paid little more than the minimum wage, despite high levels of responsibility involved in the work. Organisers at FIRST union say the move will help keep experienced drivers behind the wheel.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Ben Thomas analyses the approach taken so far by the Judith Collins campaign. Áine Kelly-Costello writes about reckoning with disability after becoming a Covid long-hauler. Duncan Steel explains just what might be going on (that we know about) in the clouds around Venus. Josie Adams writes about a twitter bot aiming to take a stand against online abuse of women politicians. Madeleine Chapman’s back with another week of political commentary through memes.

And something to watch, and something to listen to: On the Rag returns with an episode about why some believe it isn’t socially acceptable for women to be angry. And Gone by Lunchtime is looking at the absolute middling centrism being offered by our two major parties.

For a feature today, a look at the (draconian) ways land management disputes are solved in a different country. The Asia Sentinel has reported on an incident in Vietnam, in which farmers who were having their land confiscated by the state decided to fight back, only to find themselves facing extremely severe sentences. There’s no particular relevance to New Zealand from this story, I just think it’s a well-told bit of world news. Here’s an excerpt:

The guilty verdict was no surprise. This was a show trial ordained and orchestrated by the institutions of the Vietnamese state. Prisoner after prisoner uttered virtually identical confessions: “I apologize to the families of the police officers who were lost; I thank our teachers in the prison who taught us how we erred; I thank my lawyers but now no longer need his services; and finally, I ask for a lighter sentence.”

The regime in Hanoi takes a dim view of the agrarian protests. In party doctrine and Vietnamese law, the land belongs to the people and the state manages it on their behalf. If farmers persist in asserting their right to till plots of land when the party/state has decreed some other use for it, even if they only insist on being paid what it is worth, they risk being labeled “rioters and terrorists,” forcibly removed, and in exemplary cases, prosecuted.

In sport, there will be a Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand after all. I personally think Scotty Stevenson’s call last week about the games going to Australia was right on the money at the time, but it turns out the PMs of both countries got together and thrashed out a solution, reports the NZ Herald. Not only that, New Zealand’s quarantine rules have been tweaked to allow the Wallabies to tune up. I mean, you’d think both political leaders would have more important things to be worrying about, but apparently not. The games will be played on Sundays, so won’t clash with the election.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

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