Judith Collins speaking to media the day after the election defeat (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Celebrations and recriminations coming at caucus meetings

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Wildly different caucus meetings loom for National and Labour, new case of community transmission announced, and anger mounts over wage subsidy piss-taking.

The mood in the room will be very different when the Labour and National caucuses meet this week. For Labour, it’ll be a crowded affair, with a huge crop of new MPs. Radio NZ reports moves to form a new government are already underway, with senior MPs meeting to sort out a timetable. PM Jacinda Ardern said the mandate existed for Labour to form a government alone – on the preliminary results, the party has 64 seats, and there’s a decent chance they’ll add one more on the special votes – lawyer Graeme Edgeler has put together an analysis on Public Address explaining why that is likely. That would make it the second-largest party caucus in New Zealand’s history, behind National in 1990.

When National meets, the mood won’t be quite so bright. Leader Judith Collins told media yesterday that she intends to stay on, but as Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan reports, there will be a confidence motion once all the new MPs are sworn in. No formal leadership challenger has yet broken ranks, but you’d have to assume a few of the more ambitious survivors will be considering their options. That story also hinted at veiled digs flying back and forth between Collins and former leader Simon Bridges about campaign messaging, and anger from Collins at a lack of discipline that saw leaks coming out in recent weeks. There’s a good chance of a bit more ill-discipline in the coming days, as the blame game for the defeat begins – Stuff’s Luke Malpass has a column today with a fair bit of off the record chat on that.

On the subject of discipline, deputy leader Gerry Brownlee has admitted he made a “huge mistake” by suggesting the government may have withheld information on the re-emergence of Covid-19. You might recall that as the infamous “interesting set of facts” press conference. Brownlee told Radio NZ that he “made a flippant comment that then quite reasonably was construed as suggesting something that I didn’t intend to convey.”

Meanwhile the Greens are coming off an improved showing and hoping to get some government wins as a result. The NZ Herald reported yesterday on their hopes for talks over the coming fortnight – Ardern has confirmed she will be at least communicating with them, but has offered little else to date. For the Greens it’s a strange position – the vast majority of their voter base will be delighted that Ardern beat Collins, and will be happy to see the caucus expand to 10 MPs, including a bona fide electorate winner in Chlöe Swarbrick. But for the next three years the party will have little hard leverage – and there’s probably a fair chance Labour will keep their distance, in an attempt to hold onto the previous National voters who swung to them last night.

To round out this section, we’ve got a huge amount of election coverage worth reading on The Spinoff. So I’m basically just going to put it all here up the top. I don’t want to come across like a politician here or anything, but I’m hugely proud to have been part of a strong team that had an amazing campaign over this election.

First of all, from the night itself: Justin Giovannetti wrote about the mood at Labour’s election night function, when even a stonking win couldn’t erase the cautiousness at the heart of the party. Stewart Sowman-Lund was there at the National party function to see it all fall apart. Josie Adams and Sherry Zhang went to the Greens, where a new generation of activists are on the march. Toby Morris was drawing through election night, and tells the story with ten short, pithy comics. For a bunch of results, you can go back and reread yesterday’s Bulletin Election Special.

And in analysis: Max Rashbrooke writes about the seven pressing challenges he wants to see Ardern take on, now that she has real power to do so. Abbas Nazari contrasts the tone of the New Zealand election to what he’s seeing in the US. Gone By Lunchtime recorded an election special episode, and were joined in the studio by none other than Chlöe Swarbrick. Stephan Beban has visualised the election results for population rather than geography, which gives an excellent sense of the scale of Labour’s win. And Tara Ward recaps the best, worst and weirdest TV moments of the election night coverage, with a sharp attention to the most surreal of details.


A new community transmission case of Covid-19 has been announced, but at this stage it doesn’t look like the alert levels will change. As our live updates reports, it involves a man working on a ship, whose condition was picked up through routine testing. Dr Ashley Bloomfield says it shows the systems are working, and there is confidence that his contacts have been identified and “ring-fenced” quickly. Interestingly, the health minister Chris Hipkins learned of the case on Saturday evening, just before the polls closed, reports One News.


One of the biggest stories rumbling away recently is a growing resentment over major companies taking the wage subsidy, and then cashing big profits. In other words, they’re taking the piss, even if you couldn’t fairly say they’re outright abusing the system. Stuff had a remarkable story about a semi-retired kindergarten teacher who decided to spray paint a message to the retailer on one of their stores – “Wage subsidy not shareholder dividend. Give it back”. As the NZ Herald reports, Briscoes will in fact now be paying it back.

In tangentially related news, top executives at The Warehouse will be getting some extremely healthy remuneration packages this year, reports Stuff. The company took $67 million in wage subsidies, which of course they had the right to do under the rules. But as Newshub reported earlier in the week, hundreds of jobs are currently at risk of being cut, which rather makes one wonder about the appropriateness of giving those at the top a bigger slice.


Farmers have been pretty annoyed recently about the concept of having to ‘farm to a calendar’, around new rules for resowing winter grazing paddocks. As Farmers Weekly reports, they’re unlikely to get any relief on that from the environment ministry, which has stuck by the dates of October 1, and November 1 for Otago and Southland to account for longer winters. The MFE says those dates provide “regulatory certainty”, and will help councils enforce rules.


Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross has been raked over the coals in a brutal interview with Tova O’Brien. The piece on Newshub Nation almost has to be seen to be believed, with Ross put under immense pressure over why he got Billy Te Kahika and the NZ Public Party into Advance NZ, and (to put it diplomatically) whether he felt that was an appropriate use of his political capital. Watch the video to see it put much less diplomatically.


One more election piece, because I think there’s something in it which shows how good this country can be. It comes from Deena Coster at the Taranaki Daily News, who reported on the New Plymouth seat flipping from National’s Jonathan Young to Labour’s Glen Bennett – the story also looks at all the other seats around the region. But I’ll draw your attention to these lines, which highlight the respect and generosity that can be possible in politics.

First-time candidate Bennett was emotional as he embraced partner Jon O’Neill after taking the concession phone call from Young, who later arrived at the club in the company of wife Maura and a group of supporters.

This has been a long-standing tradition between the winning and losing candidates involved in the New Plymouth contest.

Arriving to a standing ovation from Labour supporters, Young praised Bennett for his campaign and congratulated him on the win.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Photo: Supplied

Right now on The Spinoff: Don’t worry, we haven’t just published election pieces over the weekend. Sherry Zhang looks at the decades-long journey for Burger Fuel to establish itself here, and export itself overseas. Justin Giovannetti joins The Fold podcast to talk about starting reporting on New Zealand politics in an election year, and how they style of work is different here compared to his native Canada. Rebecca Wadey writes about the positive effect Jigsaw puzzles have had for her this year. Josie Adams talks to band Cut Off Your Hands about their upcoming final ever shows. Alie Benge concludes her series on online dating with a meditation on having different levels of love in a relationship. And Sam Brooks reviews new show The Trial of the Chicago 7, which he says shows creator Aaron Sorkin at his best.


For a feature today, a bleak and exhaustive account on the ducking of responsibility for the abuse of children in state care. Writing for Newsroom, Aaron Smale has gone inside the “deep state campaign of denial” around crimes that were committed, of the nature that followed the survivors around for the rest of their lives. A warning – some sections are very difficult to read. Here’s an excerpt:

A former employee of MSD’s claims unit says the denial and minimisation that Cooper speaks of regarding allegations against Drake and other perpetrators is largely to do with reducing the cost.

“I think it was because they didn’t want to leave themselves open to more financial risk.”

She says there is also a culture of using claimants’ adult histories against them.

“There is still a culture of trying to discredit claimants who have had criminal lives or drug abuse. It’s like the children were never believed because they were seen as naughty.

“MSD has a huge culture of punitiveness and blame. I don’t think it’s ever managed to extricate itself from that.”


Normal service has resumed for the All Blacks, who have seen off an Australian side that continues to be surprisingly impressive. It was an entertaining and open game, headlined by exceptional work at the breakdown by All Blacks loose forwards, and a return to potency from an unleashed backline, particularly new winger Caleb Clarke. As the NZ Herald reports, Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has blamed a poor tackle percentage from his side for the loss, and he’s not wrong – but at the same time, Clarke was basically unstoppable for long stretches of the game.


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