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What do these three people have in common? Read on and find out (Images: Radio NZ/Getty Images)
What do these three people have in common? Read on and find out (Images: Radio NZ/Getty Images)

The BulletinSeptember 21, 2018

The Bulletin: A rollercoaster day for the government

What do these three people have in common? Read on and find out (Images: Radio NZ/Getty Images)
What do these three people have in common? Read on and find out (Images: Radio NZ/Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Government gets timely economic figures boost, Whaitiri’s ministerial career is over, and tax working group hedges bets on capital gains.

Sometimes the news just comes at you fast, and yesterday was one of those days. For the government, some of it was the best of times, and some of it the worst. Don’t worry, we’ll make it through everything.

We’ll start with the quarterly GDP figures, which sounds like a boring spot but they’re actually interesting because they came in a lot better than expected. The economy, simply put, is having a good one, and GDP was up 1% for the quarter – the highest rise in two years. Rises in 15 out of 16 industry categories more than offset a sharp drop in mining and extraction, which has been hit in the wake of the government’s incoming ban on oil and gas exploration, reports Newshub. In technical terms, the results aren’t quite stonking, but they’re certainly healthy.

National’s response to the news has been to shift the goalposts on what constitutes success, saying the next quarter will likely be weak. And the government themselves have been shifting the goalposts of how important GDP is, introducing a range of new measurements that will be taken to address the social health of the country. Wellbeing is the word in Wellington at the moment.

It couldn’t have been timed better for the fortunes of the government, who have been facing low business confidence, and plagued by unwanted stories. But the other widely cited business confidence figure – how employers feel about their own prospects – has stayed pretty positive throughout the year. The GDP numbers are likely more of an illustration of that confidence.

On the other hand, the PM also had to end another ministerial career. A report into former customs minister Meka Whaitiri’s alleged conduct towards a staff member was given to Jacinda Ardern, and the decision was made to immediately remove her. Meka Whaitiri has been suspended during the investigation, and as the NZ Herald reports, contests some of the facts of the allegations. The door isn’t necessarily closed on her returning as a minister one day, and she will retain both the co-chair of the Labour Māori caucus, and the seat of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti.

And there are potentially more political headaches on the horizon after the Tax Working Group’s interim report came in, without yet taking a firm side on a capital gains tax, reports Interest. Sir Michael Cullen’s group has hedged here, saying work isn’t complete and there are two potential options to be considered.

Nothing has been ruled in or out, which means that if Labour does intend to campaign at the next election with a capital gains tax as part of their package, they’ll have to summon the political will from within, rather than hoping for a recommendation with which they could deflect any flack. Danyl McLaughlan has written a great piece on the bizarre political whirlpool that CGTs have become in NZ on The Spinoff.

There were two other interesting areas in which the TWG took more firm positions. Environmental taxes are most definitely in, with a view to using the taxes to drive better behaviour from business and consumers. And wealth and land taxes have been ruled out, which will infuriate those like Gareth Morgan who argue that the tax system is fundamentally skewed in favour of those who already have lots of both.

Housing NZ will be compensating hundreds of tenants unfairly kicked out of their homes during the great meth testing panic, reports Stuff. The offer of compensation comes alongside an inquiry report into the former policy, which resulted in a $100 million bill for tests and often unnecessary cleanup of houses. The 800 tenants who were wrongly evicted will receive between $2500 and $3000 each. Rima Herbert, who was evicted along with his family, told Radio NZ the compensation is a joke.

The Auckland homeless census took place this week, and our editor Toby Manhire took part along with 700 volunteers and wrote about it. It’s a really interesting piece, looking at the ethical implications of effectively disturbing people in their bedrooms, particularly if they don’t want to be counted.

The boss of Alzheimers NZ is hitting out at the government’s “woefully inadequate” level of action on dementia care in the Dominion Post this morning. With an ageing population, there are fears that there won’t be enough support services for everyone who needs them. A Framework for Dementia Care was developed in 2013, but it still yet to be fully implemented.

If you’ve been following Brexit closely, there was a big development overnight. European leaders have told UK PM Theresa May that her Chequers plan for a more moderate withdrawal is a lemon, reports the Guardian, and given her a deadline of next month for a solution on the Irish border – a problem to which there isn’t really any solution, and everyone knows it. It basically means that May’s efforts over the last couple of months have been entirely wasted.

Eden Park’s future is in the spotlight in this feature from Stuff, with many openly questioning whether the stadium is destined to be bowled. And I’d love to get your feedback on it – – about what you reckon should happen. Should it stay? Do the rules around its use need to be relaxed? Should it be expanded? Should it be knocked down? Does Auckland even need as many stadiums as it currently has? Give us your thoughts.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Tara Ward has been loving watching Gogglebox NZ, a show about ordinary people watching TV. The latest Business is Boring podcast is out, with Simon Pound speaking to Fresh producer Lisa Taouma. And Charlotte Graham-McLay has reviewed the new J.K Rowling book (written under another name) and reckons it’s among her best work.

Rather than something to read this weekend, treat yourself to something to watch. TVNZ have put out five pilot episodes for potential new web series. They’re each around ten minutes long, and are impressively self-contained as short stories in their own right, over and above how the rest of the series will go if it gets made.

The reason there’s a question around that is because they’re all in the New Blood competition. The aim of that is to help hone new TV talent, both in front of and everywhere else around a camera, and there’s clearly a lot to be working with. They want the public to vote on which one will get fully funded. It’s a small-scale version of a concept that is similar to one suggested by Ethan Sills on The Spinoff back in 2016. Voting closes on the 12th of October so have a watch now.

Now I’m not picking favourites here, they’re all worth watching. But just as a personal observation, Kura was excellent and showed real depth that could be developed. And I’m desperate to know what will happen next after a chilling opening for The Hive, in which really rich world-building detail was cleverly chosen and directly delivered.

Here’s an interesting one about cross-cultural relations in sport. The All Blacks will cover up their tattoos for the Rugby World Cup in Japan, reports Stuff. Tatts are associated with organised crime in Japan, so it’s basically just about being good tourists.

And speaking of cover ups, Russia has been reinstated as a member of WADA – the World Anti Doping Association, reports the BBC. The decision came despite Russia not fully meeting the criteria set out for re-entry, and it is not being well-received by anti-doping advocates and some athletes.

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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