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The BulletinDecember 20, 2018

The Bulletin: Biggest ever boost to minimum wage

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Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Biggest ever boost to minimum wage announced, Gerry Brownlee was well aware spy firm had been hired in CHCH, and Andrew Little talks about Google meeting.

The minimum wage will jump by the largest single increase in history, from April 1 next year. The NZ Herald reports it will go up by $1.20 an hour, to $17.70, and that around 200,000 workers will benefit. Starting out and training wages will also go up by just under a dollar.

That’s going to mean a lot more money in the pockets of those on minimum wage jobs. Newshub reports it will mean an extra $48 a week for those on standard full time hours (before tax) and over the course of the year just under two and a half grand. It also comes on top of another rise in the minimum wage earlier this year, and is a step along the government’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021.

It comes at a time of stagnant wage growth, and extremely low unemployment. As recently as May, it was being described as “anaemic.” Now Business Desk reports Treasury is forecasting annual wage growth above 3% a year over the next five years – which is much more in line with what you’d expect from the laws of supply and demand for labour. One of the reasons for that forecasted growth is minimum wage increases.

It also comes at a time when costs of housing, food, and other costs of living are rising. That’s partly because of fuel costs, which flow through the rest of the economy. But high living costs tend to affect those on the lowest incomes the most, because they’ve got less ability to absorb shocks. And around a quarter of the 200,000 or so people on minimum wage are parents, so the increase could have a big effect on alleviating life some of the working poor. For insights into what those lives are like, go back to RNZ’s fantastic series from earlier this year.

Politically, there has been some contention over what the effects of this will be. National have said that while they support slow and steady rises in the minimum wage (and their governing record reflected that) they think this one has jumped too far, too fast. The Employers and Manufacturers Association says the jump will cost consumers through labour costs being passed on, and some businesses might cut staff. On the other hand, it also still doesn’t really get close to the level that Living Wage campaigners say people need to be at – $20.55 an hour. And as Branko Marcetic wrote on The Spinoff last year, the claims about economic troubles as a result of minimum wage rises don’t often end up panning out.

Former earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee was well aware a security firm had been hired to spy on claimaints, reports Stuff. Mr Brownlee also backed the outgoing Southern Response boss Ross Butler, saying he had been poorly treated in the report into the use of Thompson and Clark. He says threats were made to staff, and the investigators were contracted to respond to that.

Just to reiterate from yesterday – a government agency hired a firm to spy on private citizens, which included infiltrating and covertly recording their meetings without consent. Many civil society organisations have condemned the use of Thompson and Clark in this way, using terms like “affront to democracy” to describe it. So did the State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes. Head of Greenpeace Russel Norman, who says he was spied on, has laid out some thoughts on why this matters so much on The Spinoff.

Justice minister Andrew Little says he’s had a “constructive meeting” with Google, over automated breaches of name suppression, reports The Spinoff. He says he pushed back on suggestions from google that the onus should be on courts to inform them when a suppression order is in place – rather they should build the avoidance of suppression breaches into their systems – like using a delay on emails concerning court cases. Google says they respect New Zealand law, and understand the concerns of this case.

The Sensible Sentencing Trust have been slammed for wrongly labelling a man a convicted paedophile, reports Radio NZ. The man’s photo was on their website for almost two years, alongside the description of an actual paedophile with a similar name. It caused the man to be abused on social media, and wrongly tarnished his reputation. Privacy commissioner John Edwards accused the SST of having a “continuously negligent, cavalier, and dangerous approach to privacy”.

The government has signed up to the UN Global Compact on Migration. Foreign minister Winston Peters went on Newstalk ZB to defend the move after it became something of a cause for the National Party – Mr Peters says there’s been a lot of misinformation put out about the Compact, and the country’s sovereignty won’t be compromised.

Speaking of which, a new study has come out which shows how much New Zealand’s population would grow, if migration were completely free. To clarify – the Compact does not do this. But the report covered by Stuff still offers an interesting insight into how attractive a destination New Zealand remains for potential migrants.

A severe new pathogen that can cause kidney failure has been found in three Canterbury rivers, reports Radio NZ. The cause of the pathogen was found to be primarily intensive dairy farming in the area. Fish and Game, who commissioned the tests, said they decided to investigate after anglers had raised concerns.

I’m on record as saying Newshub do some of the best clickbait in the business, and here’s another great example. They’ve covered the theory put out by youtuber ‘Internet Historian’ that former PM John Key killed the planking craze, circa 2011. And as clickbait, this piece just has it all – controversy, well known figures, memes, and even some newsworthy detail at the back end of the story. A very satisfying entry in this most noble of journalistic art forms.

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Right now on The Spinoff: There’s a deeply disturbing update from David Farrier, in his series on dodgy youtube videos involving kids. Tina Ngata says Aquaman actor Jason Momoa has got the meaning of haka really, badly wrong. Edward Miller writes about the possibility that New Zealanders might be using rubber gloves made by slave labour. And Madeleine Chapman comes in with a scorching hot take on high performance sport funding, and why the priorities are currently completely out of line.

Best journalism of 2018: Long-time Bulletin reader Duncan Greive (who also happens to be our managing editor) wanted to get in on this series with some picks of stories he’s valued this year. If you’re wondering why none of them are from his own site – don’t worry, editor Toby Manhire has that covered tomorrow.

There were quite a few pieces that Duncan wanted to note, and he was still sending more suggestions last time I checked Slack: Eloise Gibson’s stories on Newsroom about whether Sir Ray Avery’s fantastical claims were quite true. Kirsty Johnston’s NZ Herald investigation about rape cases mysteriously disappearing from police statistics over a period of years. Donna-Lee Biddle’s affecting and humane series on Stuff about the challenges of life in Huntly.

There was also the cancer diaries of NZ Herald senior writer Simon Wilson – Simon of course being the former editor of our Auckland section, and an all round wonderful chap. Duncan described these pieces as “beautiful, soulful, searching writing.”

The journalist who sparked Duncan’s wish to contribute to this series was Florence Kerr, and it’s based on two pieces in particular. Yesterday she published this brilliant feature on the possibility of peace breaking out between two of New Zealand’s most notorious gangs, as they look over their shoulders at new arrivals on the scene. And he described this story as “incredibly brave” – the interrogation of claims made about a paedophile ring which had been heavily reported, but about which no actionable evidence could be found.

And finally, just to keep it on brand, he also requested that this story by Sinead Corcoran from Stuff, who wrote about how life turns out for reality TV stars after the cameras stop rolling. “The best TV feature of the year,” he called it.

Here’s two cool pieces of writing about a sport I really haven’t covered enough this year – basketball. This one from ESPN is about the so-called ‘gamification’ of training in basketball, and how it’s helping teams evolve their tactics on the court. Specifically, it talks about how the ‘four point line’ has come in as a concept to be worked on, as teams look to use three-point oriented offence in a more sophisticated way.

And this one on Deadspin is an extract of a book about both Oklahoma City and the NBA franchise that Steven Adams plays at – the Thunder. But it’s set at a time before Adams was a starter, when the team was just coming up. And it’s a fascinating explorations of how teams in a sport like basketball, which at its best is among the purest embodiments of teamwork, have to try and balance the egos of absolute superstars.

From our partners at Vector: The pros and cons of putting solar panels on the roof of your home are well debated. But what about the empty rooftop spaces on commercial buildings throughout our country? PowerSmart’s Sam Vivian explains why more New Zealand businesses are adding commercial solar systems to their buildings.

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