National leader Simon Bridges on Q+A (Image credit: TVNZ)
National leader Simon Bridges on Q+A (Image credit: TVNZ)

The BulletinFebruary 17, 2020

The Bulletin: Tax cuts for 2020?

National leader Simon Bridges on Q+A (Image credit: TVNZ)
National leader Simon Bridges on Q+A (Image credit: TVNZ)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Bridges gives signal of tax cuts, police under pressure over family violence problem, and condemnation rains down over Peters scandal.

Expect plenty of news today about National’s economic manifesto to take into the next election. From Simon Bridges’ appearance on Q+A yesterday (welcome back to that show) it is clear that part of it is going to involve some sort of tax cut. What wasn’t clear was the shape or size of it, who it will be targeted at, and how much it is expected to cost. Bridges says because of the rising cost of living, “there is a very clear case today for tax relief.”

It’s part of a wider theme being pushed by the party over this term. Last year’s economic discussion document promised a range of measures around indexing tax brackets to inflation, repeal of the regional fuel tax, and others heading in this direction. At the time, tax cuts were only hinted at, though in the sort of way that made it pretty clear something would actually be firmed up closer to the time. In fact, economist Shamubeel Eaqab predicted exactly this, and found a range of things he both did and didn’t like about the prospect.

Assuming that Labour doesn’t decide to also promise a tax cut (though commentator Matthew Hooton (paywalled) has suggested it as something for them to consider) it sets up a clear election year debate around the government’s role in the economy. Because of complicating factors like the coronavirus, forecasts for what the economy will look like when the election rolls around are a bit murky. And there’s a reasonable case to be made that the government needs every spare dollar it can find to spend on areas like infrastructure investment and social welfare. Last time around, Labour attacked National’s election year tax cut pledge as “fiscally irresponsible and reckless”. This time, they get to make a response in the form of their election year Budget.

Also pulled out of the Bridges Q+A interview – a range of pledges targeting the current government’s changes for tenants and landlords. Some of them will certainly be controversial. It included aspects of the Healthy Homes standards that are coming in being scrapped, though not the insulation rules. The foreign buyers ban would also be amended, which economic development minister David Parker described on Twitter as “reprehensible”. Law changes around the ring-fencing of property losses would also be reversed. It was topped off with “bold, significant RMA and land reform.”

A long investigation has revealed some troubling facts about domestic violence perpetrated by police officers. Stuff’s George Block reports a pilot programme aimed at tackling increasing levels of family harm within the police was quietly started – and just as quietly abandoned. And the perceived lack of consequences for officers who commit family harm is also causing consequences – to put that in context, internal investigations upheld 32 allegations of family harm by sworn officers over four years, but just eight of those cases then went to trial. Women’s Refuge chief executive Ang Jury says such rates of charges being filed as “ridiculous,” and said the police have long had a domestic violence problem. Police say they take that problem extremely seriously, and are taking a range of measures to address it.

There haven’t really been new developments on the saga engulfing NZ First and their leader Winston Peters, but there have been some very worth reading pieces. On The Spinoff, Danyl Mclauchlan speculates on whether it could reshape the political landscape by removing Peters’ traditional branding as the one that keeps the rest of the politicians honest. Stuff’s Andrea Vance has some very strong views on the use of intimidation and stalking tactics against journalists. And John Armstrong on One News writes that PM Jacinda Ardern desperately needs to show Peters who is actually in charge of the government – one wonders if she’s already doing just that through inaction.

The question of water use is causing huge ructions in drought-stricken Northland. This video story from Q+A is an exploration of whether avocado orchards have exacerbated the drought by tapping into the aquifer, and draining a supply of water that otherwise would have been more available for other users. Without making a judgement on the rights or wrongs of this particular situation, there are clearly much wider conversations about water consents that need to happen in drought prone areas – we’re only going to see more big dry spells in the future.

And also on the topic of water, Wellington’s water infrastructure is utterly screwed. This excellent piece from Stuff’s Joel Macmanus, which looks deeper than the recent leaks and at the wider poor condition of the system. Here’s a crazy stat about it all – a third of Wellington City Council’s budget is currently spent on water systems, and even that isn’t enough to maintain the existing system, let alone upgrade it. An estimated 20% of Wellington’s drinking water also gets lost to leaks before it gets to a tap. Meanwhile, the author of the Inside Wellington blog has argued that the city is at a point of crisis, and reading through his list of reasons, it’s hard to argue otherwise.

Chinese restaurants are suffering over stigma around the coronavirus, reports Alice Neville for The Spinoff. Some are even planning to close for a spell, with a massive decline in tour groups as well as locals choosing to stay away. Meanwhile, the lockdown continues for those in the Whangaparāoa quarantine camp – here’s a story from Newshub that describes the conditions.

From our partners at Z Energy: Madeleine Chapman meets the founders of EVolocity, who are using innovation, creativity and the incoming electric vehicle revolution to encourage kids into STEM education. The plan is to make that kind of learning accessible, hands-on, and fun, and to get the next generation thinking about how they can help shape the future.

A bit of housekeeping: I’ll be writing tomorrow’s Bulletin, but from Wednesday onwards I’m going to be on leave for about a week. The Bulletin World Weekly for members will take a break this week as a result. But here’s something to get excited about – The Bulletin will still be coming out, and in fact will be written by an all-star pairing of editor Toby Manhire and managing editor Duncan Greive. I for one am very much looking forward to reading their takes on the news.

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Right now on The Spinoff: group of experts from the University of Otago’s Department of Public Health write about what societal attitudes are needed as the coronavirus gets closer. Scotty Stevenson writes about the brilliant speech given by Israel Adesanya at the Halberg Awards. Sam Brooks looks ahead to the collaborative performances that are set to be a highlight of the NZ Festival of the Arts. The Spinoff Board of Review takes on the new chip butty put out by Burger King. Emily Writes reviews the, ahem, unsatisfying episode about orgasms from Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Lab tv show. Henry Burrell writes about Samsung bringing back flip-phones, and how it shows how few ways there are to improve phones in 2020.

And two strong pieces to share about the dismal end to Sir Bob Jones’ attempt to sue filmmaker Renae Maihi for defamation. Leonie Hayden reports that Sir Bob has dropped his case, bringing to an end a long legal saga for Maihi. And here is Leonie Hayden’s honestly held opinion about the matter, to which I need to add absolutely nothing except to say that it is a must-read.

For a feature today, a remarkable story about Nigerian government policy leading to a poultry farming craze. Writing in Mel Magazine, Hussein Kesvani has explored the bizarrely lucrative industry, which has caused huge changes in the economy. There’s an anecdote about everyone in Iceland who had been a fisherman getting into speculative finance before the GFC – as this excerpt shows, it’s almost like the opposite is happening here.

“I found out about poultry farming on a Facebook group I was in,” he tells me. “The group was about fast sports cars, but I saw that many members were posting about starting a chicken farm for less than [$100] and making thousands more in a few weeks. It felt like a blessing from God.”

At the time, Paul was earning good money working at a bank, but because he was looking after his sick parents, as well as multiple aunts, uncles and cousins, he was struggling to save money. Moreover, he tells me, “The finance sector is very unstable; you don’t know when you’ll lose your job.”

There are positive signs that New Zealand could get a team into the W-League, Australia’s premier women’s football competition. The NZ Herald’s Michael Burgess reports some real financial barriers remain, but the W-League is likely to add a team, and with a joint trans-Tasman bid in for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, now would be an excellent time to get some momentum going. One big sticking point for the concept though which could leave fans a bit cold – even a team primarily composed of NZ players would have to be based in Australia, as the rest of the W-League wouldn’t be able to afford to play regularly over this side of the ditch.

And it’s all over for the Breakers. As Newshub reports, it came in slightly absurd circumstances, with the Brisbane Bullets racking up a 36 point win over the Cairns Taipans to leap ahead on points difference for the final playoffs spot. Owner Matt Walsh ‘raised questions’ about such a remarkable result occuring, but it’s hard to ignore the idea that it was a season of turmoil with long stretches of mediocrity.

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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