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A cabinet meeting of the Ardern-led government (Getty Images)
A cabinet meeting of the Ardern-led government (Getty Images)

The BulletinSeptember 17, 2018

The Bulletin: Plans, priorities and power

A cabinet meeting of the Ardern-led government (Getty Images)
A cabinet meeting of the Ardern-led government (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: 12 priority points outlined by the government, new airport proposed for Central Otago, and a brilliant feature on the myth of meritocracy through education.

The coalition government has moved to address a raft of negative stories about their cohesion with an event in Auckland. Leaders and MPs from all three parties in government were there as PM Jacinda Ardern set out 12 priorities that the coalition would follow until the next election. At the event, the PM was asked pre-vetted questions from audience members, drawing some unfavourable comparisons to her decision to not do the weekend political TV shows. You can read the list of priorities here – they’re effectively a set of agreed upon values.

One thing the set of priorities are not though is an outline of what actual concrete measures the government is going to pursue, and when. That was the analysis of The Spinoff’s editor Toby Manhire, who said “if it was a road map, it was a pretty vague and well-thumbed map.” Criticism also came from National leader Simon Bridges, who rather brutally referred to it as a “Ted Talk”.

Take, for example – “Create an international reputation we can be proud of” – one of the priorities listed. Would the country have a more proud international reputation if the refugee quota rise was fully implemented? To date, that has been a sticking point between the coalition partners, but this 12 point plan doesn’t offer a particularly meaningful guide as to where it will go. Most of the points – “govern responsibly,” “value who we are as a country” are a bit like that. They’re good values to have, but it would be pretty much treason for a government to not intend to govern responsibly, so it’s a bit hard to see why it needed to be spelled out.

There was however some detail on how these priorities would be implemented, reported by Politik. That would be through the use of Cabinet committees, overseen by a PM Ardern-chaired Cabinet Priorities Committee, which will effectively decide the order of business in which issues are taken to Cabinet at large. That will likely strengthen the hand of the PM over the day to day governing of the country.

Meanwhile the Greens actually went ahead and released their own set of priorities ahead of Jacinda Ardern’s speech, reports Radio NZ. Some of them, like a rental WOF for housing, go beyond the remit of the party’s confidence and supply agreement. But given “ensure everyone has a warm, dry home” is one of the 12 points, it stands to reason that the Greens might be able to get something like that through. How the priorities are interpreted in hard policy terms will be fascinating to watch.

Air NZ have proposed a new airport in Central Otago to circumvent restrictions on Queenstown airport, reports Crux. There are currently battles going on over noise boundaries in the tourist town, and the option that is being suggested is that a new airport be built near Cromwell. But a major sticking point would be the road through the Kawarau Gorge, which would all of a sudden have to accomodate a lot more traffic.

If you haven’t yet read this by the NZ Herald’s Kirsty Johnston about New Zealand’s myth of a meritocratic society built on education, read it. It follows the path of kids leaving high school, and what they end up doing, whether that is university, polytech, a job, or nothing at all. And through a combination of personal stories and data, the piece conclusively shows that the education system ends up reinforcing existing class hierarchies from generation to generation. It’s a fantastic piece of journalism.

Stuff Circuit are back, with a new piece that draws together threads on the use of private investigators and spies against political activists. In particular, it looks into whether the police have connections with the spy firm Thompson and Clark, that has been embroiled in controversy this year over the use of paid informants and infiltrators, in the service of government agencies.

The investigation of a burglary of a University of Canterbury professor’s house has involved the NZSIS and Interpol, reports the NZ Herald. Why? Because the professor in question is Anne-Marie Brady, who has written extensively about the efforts of the Chinese government to build influence in New Zealand. Now it should be noted – there are no proven links between the burglaries and China at this stage. But let’s be honest, not a lot of burglaries get high intensity investigation by police, let alone international police and a spy agency.

This is an interesting story from Stuff about ageism in the workforce, and how it continues to affect older people. It follows the career of a Corporate Cabs driver called Denis Hunt, who had a wealth of experience in trade and marketing, but the work all dried up as he got older. There are a few, very select, set of circumstances in which it is legal to make decisions based on age, but regardless, it’s a tricky thing to prove if it has happened illegally.

Quarterly economic growth figures are expected to be steady if unspectacular when they’re released later this week, reports Stuff. In fact, bank economists say the economy may have picked up speed over the last quarter, if only marginally. The comments are in contrast to the headline business confidence figures, which have been in the toilet pretty much all year.

Anti-1080 activists have threatened and photographed DOC workers at a court hearing in Auckland, reports Newsroom. The hearing was in relation to an interim injunction on a drop of the pest control poison in the Hunua Ranges. Meanwhile on The Spinoff, Hayden Donnell has investigated the intensification of militancy around 1080, and why it has gone like that as an issue.

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Road and street signs throughout Ireland are written first in Irish (Gaeilge) and immediately below in English.

Right now on The Spinoff: Kristin Hall gives a view of compulsory language learning from Ireland, where it’s all going quite well. Liam Hehir questions why those protesting visiting speakers aren’t also turning their ire on Winston Peters. And a reminder – all of the party leader excerpts from the book Stardust and Substance about the 2017 election can be read here.

This is a great essay on the nature of modern politics, and how the lifestyle itself may be having a dramatic effect on the quality of political leadership. It comes from the Meanjin Quarterly’s Winter 2017 edition, and is about Australia, so it doesn’t include their most recent disastrous bout of scheming and knifing. But it does make some very good points about whether a career in politics is sustainable for the people who have to live it, with all the stress, pressure, and sleep deprivation that goes with it. Here’s an excerpt:

“The sitting days in Canberra are long and the commitments arduous. MPs and their staff are up in the dark, and they are lucky to be home before Lateline. Washer campaigned so vigorously against the sitting hours that he won agreement from John Howard in 2002 to wind them back. With the working life of the parliament intensifying in 2010, he went public again with his concerns about the health impact on his colleagues.

‘Politics is an emotionally taxing job if you are dinkum about it. It’s an emotionally trying business. There’s a lot of depression in Canberra—that is very, very common,’ he says. ‘So what we are looking at is a tough gig, compounded by alcohol and long hours. You could exercise, but you had to be a bit bloody driven to get up in the early hours, or you might try and go to the gym later in the day, but there’d be divisions, and the phone. It was hard to take that time during working hours.”

Does the nation still mourn All Blacks losses? There has certainly been a wealth of material published about the utter inability to kick a drop goal in the dying seconds of the match against the Springboks, but by and large the response seems to have been one of acceptance. This is a good piece of analysis from the NZ Herald’s Patrick McKendry, who notes that the high risk, high reward style of the All Blacks was found wanting, but that they’ll probably improve from it.

The Silver Ferns also lost over the weekend, but that wasn’t really a surprise given how good England have been in the last year. The English won 52-39 – a record margin for them against New Zealand. But dare I say it, it didn’t feel that bad while watching it. The Ferns looked excellent in the second quarter especially, pulling themselves back to within a point at half time. But they faded badly late in the game to leave the score a blowout, and will now need to win big against South Africa on Tuesday to have any hope of salvaging the Quad Series campaign.

From our partners, Vector’s Beth Johnson writes that if you get a cheque in the mail, no, it isn’t a scam. It’s just the Loss Rental Rebate system in action.

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