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The ID tags of the lost Pike River miners. Photo:
The ID tags of the lost Pike River miners. Photo:

The BulletinJune 18, 2018

The Bulletin: Police to reopen Pike River case?

The ID tags of the lost Pike River miners. Photo:
The ID tags of the lost Pike River miners. Photo:

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Pike River case could be reopened, public service workers to vote on strike action, and police accused of behaving like a private security force.

Police could reopening the Pike River mine case, and criminal charges may follow, reports Newshub. The government’s top investigator has been in Greymouth, and police commissioner Mike Bush has met with the families for the first time since 2013. For the investigation to proceed, the police will need to gain access to the mine’s access tunnel or drift. The drift itself is 2.4km long, and recently people have only been a short way in. But the government has established an agency tasked with recovering the bodies of the men killed in the disaster, and if that was successful, police would complete their scene examination.

Previous charges against former Pike River Coal CEO Peter Whitall were dropped – here’s a story from the NZ Herald’s Kurt Bayer from when that happened. There was no suggestion that new charges would be directed against Mr Whitall, but there has been significant anger directed against him in the years since the disaster. And NZ Herald editorial from last year described the dropping of the charges as a “disgrace,” because of the offer of a payment described by families of the victims as “blood money.”

IRD and MBIE workers will vote today on whether to strike, after a pay offer they say doesn’t go far enough, reports Stuff. It’s also front page news on the capital’s Dominion Post. The workers, who are members of the Public Service Association, number in the thousands, and are in lower paid positions such as working in call centres. If taking strike action wins the vote, it would be two two-hour strikes in July. Meanwhile Radio NZ reports that nurses will reveal their decision today on continuing with strike action.

The police have been accused of acting like “private security forces” by peace activists, reports Stuff. The police officers on duty at the so-called Weapons Expo in Wellington last year were directed to investigate every single complaint made by a conference delegate against a protestor, which they say is part of normal police practice. But a human rights lawyer says it shows the police were biased against protestors.

15 people were arrested at the demonstration, four of whom are still facing charges. The protesters maintain that their actions were peaceful – I went along to one of their training sessions where they workshopped non-violent resistance techniques and wrote about it here.

Labour’s deputy leader Kelvin Davis is under pressure from the commentariat over his recent performance as Corrections minister. Newshub’s Patrick Gower said Davis has lost the righteous anger that drove him in opposition, and that he’s been captured by his officials. Gower also accused Davis of “trying to sell a lie” about the plans for Waikeria Prison, as there is little in the plans that offers anything transformational to the wider system. The point was then picked up by Heather du-Plessis Allen in the Herald on Sunday, who said that since Davis took office he’s been weak in the house, in the media, and in his portfolios. She reckons that National will be aiming to take Davis down if they can.

Do such comments matter? Yes and no. They’re unlikely to directly change many minds, but can have a big impact on shaping overall perceptions. That means that if a scandal does erupt, or even a gaffe, it can be a lot harder to overcome. At the moment it’s pretty difficult to find commentators with good stuff to say about Mr Davis, which isn’t a great sign for him either.

National have changed their mind and will support the setting up of an independent Climate Change commission, reports Radio NZ. Leader Simon Bridges says he’s made an offer of a bi-partisan approach to PM Jacinda Ardern, and climate change minister James Shaw. Bridges says he wants to de-politicise climate change as an issue, and find common ground on it. Despite the support for the commission, it is not yet clear what actions that will directly address climate change National supports.

Wellington’s City Council is going to review rules for heritage character areas as the population swells, reports Stuff. There are quite restrictive rules for what can be done with pre-1930s houses in Mt Cook, Newtown, Berhampore, Thorndon, Holloway Rd, Aro Valley and The Terrace. Residents organisations questioned by Stuff are cautious, but not overly opposed to the review. House prices in those areas have skyrocketed in the last decade, which indicates the inner city needs to be able to house far more people than it currently does.

I suspect there will be much more to come on this breaking story soon, but in the meantime, Nicky Hager writes for Radio NZ that a lawyer who was investigated for alleged money laundering was allowed to set up shop in NZ, despite being banned from operating in tax haven Guernsey. The news comes as part of the ongoing Daphne Project, set up to investigate international money laundering.

A significant shakeup could be coming for Fletcher Building’s Australian operations, reports the NZ Herald. The troubled construction company’s five year plan will be released later this week.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Economist Mijail Erojin savages the suggestion that Auckland should bid on the Commonwealth Games as a means to getting infrastructure fixed. Lucy Revill gets deep into one of the most annoying corners of the internet – instagram bots. And Jihee Junn went to a bad party for rich people, but fortunately returned with a very funny report.

For a feature today, we’re going to look across the Tasman, where a political battle is brewing over the fate of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Guardian reports that a non-binding motion was passed by delegates of the Liberal Party that the ABC should be privatised. Senior Liberal MPs tried to shut down the conversation by saying it wasn’t going to become party policy, but the damage was done. The Labor party pounced, with leader Bill Shorten saying if the Liberals retained government, it would happen.

A bit of context here – the ABC is routinely accused of being biased by the right of Australian politics. For example, current communications minister Mitch Fifield has made six official complaints about coverage in the last six months. But the Media Bias Fact Check site, which has a fairly credible methodology, rates them straight down the middle.

Public broadcasting tends to be taken for granted when it’s there, and then vociferously defended whenever there’s a threat to it. Remember the protest campaign that erupted when there was a perceived threat to Radio NZ, for example. And the politicians came around eventually. While likely nobody in Parliament enjoys the experience of being savaged by the cold-hearted killers on Morning Report, they do recognise that it remains an excellent platform for reaching voters who might be convinced to change their minds.

Football World Cup spoilers are going to be an ever-present feature of The Bulletin over the next month. Just warning you now.

The result that has been most intriguing after the opening weekend of games has been Iceland bagging a draw against Argentina. The tiny island nation went to the quarters of Euro 2016, and despite being in a horrible World Cup group with Croatia and Nigeria, have shown they can foot it with the best. Argentina, on the other hand, topped most pundit lists for ‘team most likely to disappoint’ – could they be bundled out early?

And just this morning, Mexico got a win against defending champion Germany. Their group also includes South Korea and Sweden, neither of whom are complete easy-beats, so we might know very quickly if the trophy is going to change hands this time around.

Speaking of South Korea, this is an incredible story. The Koreans have been swapping shirts and numbers in friendly games, to confuse the European teams they’re about to face, reports the BBC. When the manager Shin Tae-yong was asked why, he said “it is very difficult for Westerners to distinguish between Asians.” It’s really quite a brilliant way to turn unconscious racism to your advantage.

Meanwhile not a lot of top Kiwis players want to suit up for the game against England in Denver USA, and new coach Michael Maguire has had to name 7 potential debutants as a result, reports Stuff. Ken Maumalo has been named for the first time, and the key player will likely be Issac Luke, who wasn’t part of the recent World Cup shocker.

From our partners, Vector’s Bridget McDonald has looked at the government’s deep dig into the energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power?

Finally, thanks so much to Simon Day for stepping in to the breach on Friday, I thought he did a fantastic job too. And despite how cool White Island was (and Ōpōtiki generally, what an awesome town) it is really nice to be back with you. Have a great week.

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