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Immigration minister Kris Faafoi is expected to make a major speech today (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Immigration minister Kris Faafoi is expected to make a major speech today (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The BulletinMay 17, 2021

The Bulletin: Expectations of a major immigration speech

Immigration minister Kris Faafoi is expected to make a major speech today (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Immigration minister Kris Faafoi is expected to make a major speech today (Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Expectations of a major immigration speech, National continues to linger in poll doldrums, and trace Covid in Wellington wastewater probably doesn’t signal an outbreak.

As mentioned at the end of last week, we’re expecting some sort of announcement on immigration policy from the government this week. Newsroom’s Anuka Nadkarni reports the announcement will involve much tighter targeting of highly-skilled people in migration targets. As the PM said at an event last week, “we are actually using Covid to actually stop and take a look at our immigration settings.”

There are plenty of live issues in the sector right now. One of them that the government seems likely to focus on most is the skills shortage. Almost every day there’s a story about some sector or other in need of trained workers (for example, over the weekend there was a story about a desperately needed Southland roofer who soon has to leave the country on Stuff) and previous government announcements around MIQ spaces have shown that is a topic on their radar.

But on some issues in the area, there will likely be nothing new. Immigration minister Kris Faafoi disappointed migrants protesting at parliament who have been split from their families, saying he couldn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. For more depth on that issue, read this by guest writer Branko Marcetic. Political pressure is being applied on family separations by National MP Erica Stanford – here’s a piece from a month ago in which she makes the arguments that she’s been pushing on ever since. But the moral force of the argument around reuniting families appears to be making little impression on the government.

For an exploration of the wider long-term population issues that could underpin all this, it’s hard to go past this piece by Stuff’s Dileepa Fonseka. It explores some of the reasons why population policy planning can be necessary – but also why just bringing the topic up can spark controversy and ugly rhetoric towards some groups.

Senior National MPs have continued their campaign against co-governance with Māori organisations. Last week, leader Judith Collins spoke to The Hui, particularly focusing on the He Puapua report, which she says is dictating the government’s policy agenda. And on Q+A, deputy Dr Shane Reti was asked why the party opposes a Māori Health Authority, and where the line is drawn between that, and other programmes like Whānau Ora.

The latest round of it all involves Collins “claiming the Government plans to transfer all South Island water infrastructure into a new entity half-owned by iwi Ngāi Tahu”, reports Stuff. That in turn has been strongly denied by the iwi, who say they don’t want co-ownership, and had in fact been discussing co-governorship as a hedge against the possibility of water infrastructure later being privatised. “If Judith Collins had bothered to ask Ngāi Tahu about this proposal, instead of seeking headlines, she would have the correct facts sooner,” said Dr Te Maire Tau​, chairman of Ngāi Tahu freshwater group Te Kura Taka Pini​.

Meanwhile, the latest poll shows basically nothing is happening in terms of National’s support levels. The Newshub survey has them at 27% – up slightly on the last one, but still poor relative to where the party would normally be. Collins’ personal preferred PM numbers are abysmal, crashing to 5.6% – incredibly, her current rating is behind that of former PM Sir John Key, inviting speculation from Newshub political editor Tova O’Brien that her leadership may be in a bit of trouble. Along similar lines, Toby Manhire writes about the rapid failure of Collins’ desperate gambit, and how the National party doesn’t yet have someone ready and waiting to take over.

A tiny bit of Covid has been discovered in Wellington’s wastewater, but there’s probably no cause for alarm yet. This explainer from Stuff’s Denise Piper looks at why wastewater testing is done, and why traces aren’t necessarily a sign of a hidden outbreak – rather it becomes a really useful tool for showing that when there are consistent samples showing high levels. Meanwhile, on information and misinformation around Covid generally, Dr Siouxsie Wiles has set out her thoughts on why she doesn’t do debunking of deliberate falsehoods.

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The government is making changes to default Kiwisaver schemes. Radio NZ reports part of that involves alterations to the list of approved providers (full disclosure – Kiwiwealth sponsors The Spinoff’s Money section.) Consumer affairs minister David Clark said the changes were about ensuring people in default schemes go “bang for their buck”.

Advocates for former soldiers want the government to hold an inquiry into the issue of military suicides, reports Newshub’s Mitch McCann. It follows a decision to have a similar investigation by the Australian government. Very little data appears to be kept by the NZDF, so it’s hard to know the full extent of the problem, but those who work in this area say rates of PTSD and other mental health issues are very high.

As of this weekend, it has been exactly 30 years since the passing of the Employment Contracts Act, legislation that dramatically changed New Zealand’s workplace relations system in ways that have endured ever since. From the perspective of someone who was born around then, it’s really difficult to overstate how different things were. So to unpack it all, I wrote a feature. The piece features interviews with former PM Jim Bolger, unionist Maxine Gay, academic Brian Roper, and also tells the story of Faith Harrison, a 44-year veteran of working at the supermarket, who has both seen and lived the changes.

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The many neon faces of the queer icon that is Michelle Visage. (Image: Tina Tiller)

Right now on The Spinoff: Activist Nina Hall writes about the latest on vaccine patent waivers, and why it’s so important for the whole world to have access. Charlotte Muru-Lanning meets a South Auckland baker bringing an island flavour to vegan sweet treats. John Summers has a great essay about the surprise of winter returning every year. Michelle Langstone meets midwife veteran Anna Saunders, who talks about her many years of service and the increasing challenges of the profession. Josie Adams writes about the spate of snakes washing up on the beaches. And Sam Brooks got an in-depth interview with Michelle Visage from Drag Race, discussing the place the show has in the history of queer culture.

For a feature today, an exploration of the history behind the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine. The Bulletin World Weekly is a Spinoff Members publication, written by experienced journalist Peter Bale, and we’ve decided to make this one open to the wider public. It’s comprehensive and thoughtful, and an example of the sort of analysis that can really help explain world events. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s that understanding of the impossibility of sole ownership that has made Jerusalem a flashpoint since the foundation of Israel. It’s why most countries declined to move embassies to Jerusalem or recognise it as Israel’s capital even if that’s the reality on the ground.

Netanyahu got Donald Trump to agree to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv, a big win for Bibi and for extreme Israeli nationalists, as borne out by this quote from Netanyahu ally Itamar Ben-Gvir of the far-right Jewish Power Party that “it is time to liberate the Temple Mount and Jerusalem, and show them who owns the house once and for all”.

Before the rockets from Hamas and retaliation from the Israeli Defence Force this week, the focus was a tiny neighbourhood – a collection of a few houses and families – in east Jerusalem. Israeli courts have determined that the families who have lived there for decades are in fact occupying historically Jewish homes and must leave.

The NZ Rugby Players Association has sent a banana kick into negotiations over the Silver Lake deal, by presenting an alternative option. Radio NZ reports that involves a proposal by Forsyth Barr to sell a 5% public stake in NZ Rugby’s commercial assets, sort of like an IPO. The amount of money that could be raised by that is expected to be less than what the Silver Lake deal will provide, but may be more politically palatable – particularly if the deal is sold to the public as a chance for them to “own the All Blacks”. NZ Rugby has reacted with fury to the proposal coming out, accusing the Players Association of releasing it publicly to destroy the Silver Lake deal.

Meanwhile, Super Rugby trans-Tasman has opened in predictable fashion: New Zealand teams beat their Australian counterparts in all five games. As Radio NZ reports, some of them were at least close and/or exciting, but it doesn’t really bode well for the appeal of the competition.

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