Sir John Key suggested vouchers as a vaccine solution earlier this week (Dan Cook – Radio NZ)
Sir John Key suggested vouchers as a vaccine solution earlier this week (Dan Cook – Radio NZ)

The BulletinJune 18, 2019

The Bulletin: Key rolls back the years with presser performance

Sir John Key suggested vouchers as a vaccine solution earlier this week (Dan Cook – Radio NZ)
Sir John Key suggested vouchers as a vaccine solution earlier this week (Dan Cook – Radio NZ)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Sir John Key fronts up over bank boss departure, social workers defend Oranga Tamariki actions, and major proposed Wellington festival falls over.

Anyone who watched politics over the last decade will have got used to press conferences fronted by Sir John Key. The blithe reassurances, repeated use of the word “actually”, and a general air of easy calm and charm, regardless of whatever chaos was unfolding around him. He’s no longer the PM of course, but got the chance yesterday to reprise the performance, as the chairman of ANZ Bank. He also repeated the traditional second act of the show – getting a grilling on Checkpoint.

The reason for yesterday’s press conference was the extraordinarily unusual departure of CEO David Hisco. The Spinoff’s business editor Maria Slade has unpacked why he had to go – basically an internal review raised concerns about long term inappropriate expense claims, including, for example, getting chauffeured cars for personal use. I’ll admit, I wasn’t aware that was a sackable offence for highly paid CEOs, as opposed to just being standard practice.

But Sir John said Mr Hisco had failed to adhere to the standards expected of all bank employees, and the consequences followed accordingly. However as Stuff reports, Mr Hisco is adamant he had the correct authority for the spending, won’t have to pay it back, and will still get paid out 12 months salary. FIRST Union told Morning Report today that it’s actually not the same as what would happen to a bank teller, who most certainly wouldn’t get any sort of payout on the way out the door. And HR expert Max Whitehead told the NZ Herald (paywalled) that legal action from Mr Hisco is entirely possible, over perceived damage to his reputation. In short, it’s very messy.

The press conference was not called in relation to what one might think is a far bigger deal – the Reserve Bank revoking ANZ’s right to model their own operational risk capital requirements, after persistently failing to do it properly. That’s unpacked in this news story from last month on Interest, and while it sounds dry as burnt toast, it’s really quite important. In fact, it even led to calls for Sir John Key himself to resign, and the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) business editor at large Liam Dann notes this latest controversy is only going to add more pressure on Sir John.

That’s not all either – last year they were one of the banks caught up in the FMA and Reserve Bank report into bank errors. And there have also been heavy recent questions around some of the practices of ANZ (again, including other banks) in Australia. Stuff has details of that at the end of a list cataloguing a decade of ANZ ending up in the headlines for the wrong reasons – in fairness, most of them go back well before Sir John Key’s tenure as chairman began. As Simplicity founder Sam Stubbs writes on Stuff, it’s all the more grist to the mill on why this country needs a Royal Commission into banking, just like has happened overseas.

Then again though, perhaps we’re once again missing the crucial number in all of this. When Sir John Key was PM, it was the polls – seemingly no matter what happened, they’d remain high for his party. And now for ANZ Bank, there’s a different number that matters – the share price. As the NZX shows, it actually went up yesterday, despite the dramatic revelations.

Social workers at Oranga Tamariki say they’re getting an unfair and dangerous bad rap, in the wake of a disturbing video of an attempt to take a child into state care, reports Stuff. The social workers union head Lucy Sandford-Reed says staff are in a “no-win situation”, as they also get blamed in circumstances like that of the Kahui twins, where kids who weren’t taken into care were later killed. Social workers who didn’t follow instructions to take children would also be at risk of losing their jobs.

The company behind a massive proposed Wellington festival has gone into liquidation, despite major investments from the City Council, reports Alex Casey for The Spinoff. According to experts in the field, WLG-X basically behaved like Icarus, promising far more than could ever possibly have been delivered, and people to pay for exorbitantly priced tickets. At least $186,000 is owed to creditors, including Callaghan Innovation and Te Papa.

A resource consent application has been filed for wastewater overflow to be dumped in some of the South Island’s most iconic lakes, reports Stuff. Under the Queenstown Lakes District Council application, Lake Wakatipu, Lake Wanaka and numerous other streams could be on the receiving end of everything from raw sewage to industrial waste. It’s an ironic one, because the increased need for overflow capacity comes partly in response to rapid tourism growth – but how long would that last if tourists knew what was hitting the water?

You might recall a comment last week around Hong Kong protest coverage differences between the NZ Herald and Chinese NZ Herald. Newsroom’s Thomas Coughlan and Laura Walters have followed it up further – the misleading CNZH article has subsequently been retracted. The editors of the publication assert they value neutrality in news reporting, and say the google translation of the article painted a “dangerously misleading” picture of the contents of it.

There’s hope Tolaga Bay residents might get some compensation, now that court action over storm damage has ended. Radio NZ reports Hikurangi Forest Farms has pleaded guilty to breaching their resource consent, relating to a storm in which forestry slash poured down into the town, smashing roads and farms in the process. Other companies are also in the process of being prosecuted. Those affected say the aftermath of the storm has been a difficult time, both financially and emotionally.

A new bill aimed at helping financially distressed farmers has been welcomed by lobby groups, reports Newstalk ZB. Minister of agriculture Damien O’Connor says the bill will require creditors of indebted farmers to provide mediation before taking further action – in particular that will apply to banks. The minister says it’s not about letting farmers off the hook, so much as providing a fair process. Total farm debt in New Zealand sits at around $63 billion.

There was some conjecture from teachers yesterday about what was reported, with regards to the new offer from the government. So to clear it up, here are the full details for primary teachers and principals, and here are the details for secondary teachers. Voting begins this week, with the results expected to be known by the end of the month.

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Lime versus Wave versus Flamingo versus Jump versus Beam

Right now on The Spinoff: Carrie Buckmaster writes about the lack of Māori staff at the Independent Police Conduct Authority, despite Māori being on the receiving end of a lot of the policing that comes to the organisation’s attention. Hilary Pearson writes about African swine fever, which is having a dramatic effect on pigs overseas. Tara Ward profiles the new season of The Block, which is actually being filmed just down the road from our office. And Toby Manhire writes about the E-Scooter brands being launched in Wellington today, and profiles the state of the market.

Today’s feature is about a scandal currently embroiling Malaysian politics, which could involve the use of ‘deepfake’ videos – which are essentially very well produced and convincing hoaxes. From the Malay Mail, the story asks not only whether a viral video purporting to show a senior politician having sex with another man is fake, but whether a subsequent confession from the other man in question is also fake. It’s a troubling example of the sorts of videos which could start to have a real impact on politics – not only through the face value of the content itself, but in further undermining public trust about whether what they are watching is real. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s important to remember that the only thing that actually lends a degree of credibility to the original sex clip is the confession video uploaded on FB. The first thing to consider then, of course, is its authenticity.
Deepfake is a method of human image synthesis that is based on artificial intelligence. This works via superimposing existing images or videos onto source images/videos using machine learning techniques.

In other words, deepfakes are AI-generated videos that can look pretty real — in the past, video content was considered to be a viable source of proof (as opposed to photos that could be easily photoshopped), but with the emergence of deepfakes like this, things have clearly changed quite a bit.

NBA star Steven Adams will not be turning out for New Zealand at the World Cup after all, reports the NZ Herald. The organisation says they’re frustrated by the repeated lack of involvement of Adams with the national team, who he has never played for. It puts a severe dent in the Tall Blacks’ chances to go deep into the World Cup, and also their chances of using the tournament as a springboard for Olympics qualification. Of course, it’s not necessarily fair to paint Adams as a villain here – pretty much every year he runs basketball camps for local kids, so it’s not like he never gives back to the sport.

In para-swimming, Sophie Pascoe has remained utterly dominant, and the way she’s achieved it has been really interesting. Basically, as this Newsroom feature shows, she’s made gains by… not actually swimming. Instead her regime has included large chunks of boxing, rock climbing, yoga and other land based activities, and it has been paying off too – she’s just getting faster and faster, breaking two new records last night.

From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.

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