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The Bulletin: Does banking need to change?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Banking in spotlight as Australian saga rumbles on, refugee quota rise confirmed, and more tricky questions over Thompson and Clark.

Across two major issues right now, banks are under pressure to prove that they’re capable and committed to decency and ethical business practices. Part of the reason for that is that there’s currently a Royal Commission into banking underway in Australia, which has uncovered all sorts of appalling and predatory practices being used on the public. Many are saying it stands to reason that some of the same things are going on in New Zealand, especially as our big four banks are themselves owned by Australian banks, and NZ is a more profitable market per capita for banking than Australia is.

Consumer NZ is among the organisations calling for greater monitoring of banks and insurance companies, reports Stuff. Their boss Sue Chetwin told a Parliamentary select committee that Australian banks also protested their innocence before the Royal Commission, before being rumbled. The banks themselves say the governance of their NZ operations are completely different to that of their Australian operations, but the union representing bank workers says sales targets in place for staff show that the conditions that would encourage abuses are there.

But it’s not just the possibility of dodgy practices that has people worried. The service itself of banking is disappearing from the streets of rural New Zealand. Every year more closures happen – the latest one on the cards is an ANZ in Martinborough. As the Wairarapa Times-Age reports, many elderly people in rural areas are left in the lurch when banks close. There’s also a sense of betrayal being expressed – the community supported the bank, so why will the bank not continue to support the community?

Is it asking too much of commercial entities like banks that they behave differently? And are there solutions to these problems? One white Knight being put forward by many is Kiwibank – though they too are required to act like a commercial entity, despite their major shareholders being NZ Post, ACC and the Super Fund. Grey Power has recently called on Kiwibank to open in places where others are closing, reports Newshub, but that’s unlikely to be financially possible for Kiwibank to do, even if the operations were folded in with NZ Post. And it’s not like that organisation’s physical presence is in the best shape at the moment either.


The refugee quota will be going up after all, rising to 1500 by 2020, reports Stuff. This is the figure that was generally understood to be coming into force, but as the government has been explaining for the last few weeks, it hadn’t actually gone through Cabinet. If it’s carried out in the form that has now been confirmed, then it will tick off one of the promises that Labour campaigned on. National say they oppose the rise, but wouldn’t commit to bringing it back down to 1000 if they win the next election.


More tricky questions around how close security firm Thompson and Clark got to the government are swirling, after it emerged that they were able to host an oil industry meeting in the secure bunker beneath the Beehive, reports Stuff. Greenpeace director Russel Norman (an organisation that was spied on by the firm) says it would have sent a message to Thompson and Clark’s clients that they were a firm that had tight links with the government and police. An inquiry into the government’s use of Thompson and Clark’s services does not include looking into the police.


Dairy prices have dropped again, and are now at their lowest level in two years, reports Radio NZ. One of the concerning metrics is whole milk powder, which fell another 1.8% in yesterday’s global dairy auction. But the mitigating news on that for farmers is that Fonterra have recently reaffirmed the forecast payout for the season at $6.75 a kilo (a number that some don’t believe will be met, reports Interest) and the dollar sitting a bit lower than usual is good for exporters.


Ministry of Justice staff went on a two hour strike yesterday, reports the NZ Herald, and the next month is going to be very interesting to watch.. That’s because they’re going to be ‘working to rule’ – which is when staff follow the absolute letter of the law and don’t give anything more to the job than they’re legally required to. What kind of effect that has on things like the operations of courts could be influential on how other groups proceed with their ongoing industrial action.


The front page of the Dominion Post today carries a warning that the problem of litter and pollution is getting worse. Many are engaged in frontline efforts to clean it up, but plastic doesn’t go away, so can accumulate very quickly. Food wrappers and packaging were one of the more common items found by activists, who put the blame on a throwaway consumer culture that encourages the heavy use of single use plastic.


Remember when Don Brash had a speech at Massey University cancelled? There were questions at the time as to why – whether Vice-Chancellor Jan Thomas’ decision was because of safety concerns, or whether it was political. Communications obtained under the official information act by David Farrar at Kiwiblog have revealed it was political after all, with the VC actively looking for ways to prevent the event taking place. Massey’s academic board have brought two motions of censure against Jan Thomas over the incident, reports Radio NZ, and that will be decided on at their meeting next month.

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Right now on The Spinoff: We hear all the time that New Zealand was the first country where women won the right to vote, but why did it happen here? Katie Pickles has the answers. Don Rowe writes about how Hiniwehi Mohi made a fateful decision that led to E Ihowā Atua becoming a mainstream part of the NZ national anthem. And remember Ben Lummis? He’s back, and talking to Henessey Griffiths.


You may have heard the news that twitter is going to bring back the ability to have your feed in a reverse chronological order. Or you may not care because you long ago gave up on that hell-site, each to their own. But this piece from The Atlantic is an interesting one, because it argues that the point of a reverse chronological feed on twitter has been lost anyway. In the view of the author, the way that twitter used to be a fascinating glimpse into an ever changing set of windows and worlds is gone. Here’s an excerpt:

“It was different in the old days, though. Most everyone seems to agree on this. And maybe it was the mishmash of tweets that randomly passed through the tubes at the same moment that made it so.

Twitter always had a high-modernist novel’s scope—you peer into the boxes, and see someone having tea, a war you should have known was going on, a parent’s take on a 4-year-old, the latest ProPublica investigation, a screenshot of some idiot, a video of a black person being killed by police, an ad for Quiznos, and then Donald Trump tweeting about the television program he’s watching. The stack of information was contextless, traumatizing, and bizarre, but also energizing, the way a city makes you walk faster. It did that, but for your mind.”


The White Ferns have picked two spin-heavy squads for their next two major assignments, reports ESPN Cricinfo. Those are a T20 tour to Australia, and the T20 World Cup in the West Indies respectively. The World Cup in particular will be an interesting tournament on what are expected to be low and slow pitches, as good spin from the likes of Amelia Kerr and Leigh Kasperek (ranked 8th best T20 bowler in the world) could put the Ferns in with a chance of exceeding expectations.


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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