Outgoing MP for Rangitata Andrew Falloon (File photo)
Outgoing MP for Rangitata Andrew Falloon (File photo)

The BulletinJuly 22, 2020

The Bulletin: Fallout of the Falloon scandal

Outgoing MP for Rangitata Andrew Falloon (File photo)
Outgoing MP for Rangitata Andrew Falloon (File photo)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Fallout continues from Falloon scandal, significant damage to Tairāwhiti from storm, and Labour MP Raymond Huo announces retirement.

Much more emerged on the scandal around outgoing National MP Andrew Falloon yesterday. The police will now be reopening their inquiries into the matter, after previously finding that there was insufficient grounds for a prosecution to proceed. Falloon has also given his resignation from parliament – effective immediately – after pressure from party leader Judith Collins to do so.

The catalyst for all of this happening was further women coming forward with allegations they had also received deeply inappropriate messages from the MP. Stuff’s Henry Cooke reported on screenshots showing Falloon had been sending such messages to a second different woman, and over the course of the day Newshub’s Tova O’Brien brought the number up to four. National’s leadership teams – both current and former – have both confirmed that they were unaware of any such conduct from Falloon until this story broke, though Collins has said that she now believes that she was lied to by the former MP, and that such messaging was a “pattern of behaviour”. According to the NZ Herald, Collins says she was told by Falloon that there was nothing further she needed to know about, when she confronted him about the initial allegation.

For National, it raises more serious questions about who is being selected as candidates. Falloon is now the third MP to recently display a significant failure of character, while holding onto a safe National seat. Previous examples include Todd Barclay and then Hamish Walker in Clutha-Southland, and you could probably make a similar case for Jami-Lee Ross in Botany, with the caveat that he had been in parliament since 2011. This piece on Politik goes into the issue in depth – National has now established a pattern by which men who have grown up embedded in politics end up showing themselves to be unsuitable as representatives of the people.

Meanwhile, there have been further questions about the party’s initial casting of the issue as one of mental health. Newshub has reported on a warning from the Mental Health Foundation, who say that the issue is too serious to be used “as a political shield or a political excuse”, which the MHF chief executive Shaun Robinson says is not acceptable. Our political editor Justin Giovannetti has also criticised how the story was initially presented by the party, saying that by making it an issue of mental health, Collins had “in effect asked the media not to report on the situation.” And as Phil Quin writes on Stuff, parliament is a terrible place to be for anyone who has issues with the drink, because of the wider culture of politics.

Finally, I’d highly encourage you to listen to the latest episode of Gone By Lunchtime, recorded yesterday and incredibly not yet out of date. It covers this story of course, but also looks at a few wider questions swirling right now, like the fortunes of NZ First, and the shift in rhetoric towards charging returning NZers for their stays in managed isolation. A reminder – Gone By Lunchtime will be coming out weekly over the course of the election campaign, so keep an ear out for it.

An exciting development for The Spinoff: We’ve now got merch for sale! You can check out everything we’ve got on offer here, but among other things we’ve got tea towels, pens, coffee cups, tote bags and T-shirts for sale. You can also buy copies of The Spinoff Book, which we released at the end of last year, featuring dozens of the best pieces of writing to appear on the site over our first five years. And of course, Spinoff Members get a discount on all of it, which you can sign up for here.

Significant damage has been done to infrastructure around Tairāwhiti from heavy rain, along with the flooding that hit Northland. Around the East Coast, the scale of the damage was put by the lead story in the Gisborne Herald on Monday – on Tuesday a particular focus was put on Waiomatatini Valley, which has suffered a significant slip. Tolaga Bay has also been hit hard by logging debris once again, as One News reports, it’s an issue that has plagued the beachside community for years.

Labour MP Raymond Huo will be retiring from parliament at the election, after first being elected in 2008. Stuff reports his career has been marked by questions over whether he had links to ‘United Front’ groups – these are organisations that provide political support for the Chinese government in other countries – but Huo has always denied this is the case. He chaired the Justice select committee over this term, and says he leaves parliament proud to have helped establish New Zealand Chinese Language Week, which began in 2014.

There are government fears that people are becoming complacent about community testing, reports the NZ Herald’s Derek Cheng. Not a single day this month has seen Covid-19 testing rates hit the target of 4000 a day – some of that can be explained by lower rates of symptomatic people, but it is also coming because people are becoming complacent, or refusing tests. The spectre was raised of Melbourne’s situation, where a few cases a day suddenly surged into the hundreds, forcing new and damaging lockdowns. Meanwhile, the government has put another $302 million into health spending out of the Covid Recovery Fund, particularly aimed at Pharmac.

A significant day for local government in Taranaki, with the New Plymouth District Council voting to establish a Māori ward. Taranaki Daily News reporter Christina Persico was there to see the momentous vote pass, bringing to a close a particularly ugly chapter of the region’s history. It is possible now that the ward will be in place for the 2022 local elections – though it could still be overturned by a Citizen Initiated Referendum.

Fewer farms have been sold in the last quarter compared to a year ago, and they’re fetching lower prices, reports Interest. Dairy farm sales in particular are well down, and just one took place across June. It is raising two points of concern in the industry. The first is that it could suggest a new generation of farmers aren’t able to get into the industry. And the second concern is quite different – that there could be an “avalanche” of sales building up, and when that arrives farm values will tank.

It’s election season, so the time-honoured tradition of vandalising party hoardings has started up again. As One News reports, National’s Gerry Brownlee says it “is not new or exclusive to one party”, and is sad to see. A Labour spokesperson agreed that they see it most election campaigns, and is “disappointing for our volunteers who work very hard to put them up, but it is a bit of a fact of life.” I can sympathise, and it must be disheartening to see bigoted graffiti, or even just having them smashed over. But occasionally, it is also an opportunity for a well-placed bit of commentary or satire, and I find it harder to be mad about that.

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

Protesters at a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020, on the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover from Britain to China. – Hong Kong police arrested more than 300 people on July 1. (Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP) (Photo by ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Right now on The Spinoff: Dr Siouxsie Wiles writes about the tentatively good news being seen out of Covid-19 vaccine trials. Josie Adams reports on the experience of New Zealanders in Hong Kong, and how they’re affected by harsh new security laws. Michael Andrew explains what Air NZ’s new flight credit tool is all about. Duncan Greive weighs in on TVNZ deciding to lose Wendie Petrie but keep Simon Dallow in their newsreader ranks. Dan Brunskill assesses how one might pick winning stocks in a turbulent market. And in the latest episode of Under Cover, we pair up Troy Kingi and Warren Maxwell.

For a feature today, a close look at a significant recent policy announcement, which has rather been buried by other events. If you missed National’s massive transport plan on Friday, here’s a report on it, in which spokesperson Chris Bishop described the 20-year plan as “pricey, but we think it’s worth it.” The expert bloggers at Greater Auckland are less convinced by the many roading projects included – here’s an excerpt about an aspect that they are keen on.

There were some positives from the announcement though and the most significant of these is not any specific project but the general theme that they’re now more supportive of public transport and rail projects at scale. This is quite a shift from National in the past which were far more sceptical of the role of public transport in our cities and had to be dragged kicking and screaming into agreeing to projects such as rail electrification, the City Rail Link and the Northern Busway extension. Though I did note that during the subsequent media interviews it looked like Gerry Brownlee was heavily biting his tongue as Transport Spokesperson Chris Bishop talked positively about their newfound support of these projects.

World Rugby is considering a law change that would prevent transgender players from participating in women’s rugby, reports Radio NZ. It is obviously a hugely complicated and fraught issue, and the story makes it clear that not everyone is in agreement with the idea. A final decision is expected to be made at a World Rugby Council meeting in November.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

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