Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Focus shifts to lawyer in NZ First Foundation scandal, Canterbury hail smashes crops, and tobacco companies cynically raise prices under tax cover.
Around this time last year, a party leader had just brazened out a week of scandal, much of it focused on allegations of dodgy donations. Back then it was National leader Simon Bridges – that situation remains under investigation by the Serious Fraud Organisation. And this week it has been NZ First leader Winston Peters, and the NZ First Foundation. He continues to unequivocally deny any wrongdoing, and says he isn’t going anywhere. As Jane Patterson of Radio NZ writes, it’s also a little bit reminiscent of the Owen Glenn saga around Peters back in 2008.
Now at the end of the week, the focus is turning more prominently on his lawyer Brian Henry, rather than Peters himself. Brian Henry has threatened legal action against National MP Nick Smith,reports Jason Walls for the NZ Herald. In fact, Henry has threatened he could end up seeking damages of up to $30 million. It relates to comments made about the NZ First Foundation under parliamentary privilege by Smith, though Peters himself said he had nothing to do with the legal action. Smith said he stood by his statements in the house, but without the legal protection of parliamentary privilege he would not be repeating them. In an interesting piece of timing, Stuff journalist Matt Shand has just released a profile of Henry, which includes this quote from an unnamed source – “Winston Peters calls Henry to back people down,” one former MP said. “He’s an attack dog. People are afraid of being tied up in litigation.”
Meanwhile, Peters has continued to have the backing of PM Jacinda Ardern. She was questioned heavily about it while on a police college visit with Peters yesterday, and One News had a story about her responses – basically she said that it’s not for her to comment on as it is a matter for the NZ First party, and the Electoral Commission conducting an investigation.
The saga has raised bigger questions about donations, beyond any one individual party. Former PM Jim Bolger went on Morning Report yesterday, to call for an end of the current donation system, and introduce state funding of political parties instead. He says that would help protect the integrity of the political system, and that various European countries had introduced such measures. The suggestion is controversial, and could end up having perverse effects in other ways. But when two different parties have donation scandals erupt in the space of a year, it really has to be asked whether the current laws are fit for purpose.
Heavy hail in Canterbury has caused severe crop loss for farmers, reports Newshub. Some might now be looking at 80% losses, and hundreds of insurance claims have been made. It’s partly because the massive hailstones simply broke some plants, and in other cases they damaged them enough to make them more susceptible to disease.
The price of cigarettes has risen faster than government tax increases, reports Pete McKenzie for Newsroom. Analysis of prices over the last decade shows that tax increases have basically been used as a cover for tobacco companies to lift their profit margins on the product. The higher prices end up having a disproportionate effect on poorer people, who smoke at higher rates. A personal view on this all – even for an industry that sells an addictive product that kills users, this is breathtaking cynicism.
The social development minister has defended the heavily criticised approach of the government in the area. Activists argue that the reforms intended to make the welfare system more compassionate and effective have been inadequate, particularly after just a few of the recent Welfare Working Group’s recommendations were implemented. But Carmel Sepuloni told Radio NZ that more money had been put in the pockets of those on low incomes, the state house building programme was on track, and that change was happening as fast as it practically could.
Warnings are being sounded that African Swine Fever could make it to New Zealand, after cases were found in Timor-Leste. The NZ Herald (paywalled) reports pork producers are now on high alert, particularly because the spread is now a lot closer to Australia as well. More than 130 million pigs have had to be culled in China to try and stop the spread of the disease, and an outbreak in New Zealand would cripple the industry.
Tauranga’s new council has started making moves towards revoking a controversial begging ban, which is only a few months old. At least, they’ve opened a consultation process on revoking them, which is the first step, but will likely be bitterly opposed by CBD retailers. The piece I want to share about it is opinion, but it’s also very good – BOP Times (paywalled, NZME) journalist Samantha Motion has outlined why the ban was overly punitive, and missed the point of the problem it was ostensibly trying to address.
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Right now on The Spinoff: GP registrar and former Otago medical student Toby Hills explains why he deeply sympathises deeply with students caught rorting the travel placement system. Mark Fisher of HIV+ support organisation Body Positive writes about the outdated information and fear that still drives stigma against those with HIV or AIDS. Maria Slade writes about the prospect of a bad meme election coming up next year. For nearly six years, Laura Giddey has been a permanent house sitter in Auckland – she explains why she does it and how it’s changed her life for the better.
And Prince Charles, currently in NZ, has received a lot of mockery in the past for greeting and shaking hands with trees. Matt Hall writes a defence of that, and suggests that actually the world would be a lot better off if a lot more people were in touch with nature like that.
For a feature today, a cool bit of musical analysis of something you’ve probably heard before, but never quite noticed how ubiquitous it is. On Overland, Aimee Knight has looked at the double clap in pop music – if you think about it, you’ll probably be able to conjure up a song featuring this motif pretty quickly. Here’s an excerpt that looks at a few examples, and picks up what the message of a double clap can be.
From the speculative history of Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’ to the barometric fantasy of ‘It’s Raining Men’ by The Weather Girls, double claps – when performed and recorded by real, live musicians – infused disco’s synthesiser hits with the primal slap of humanity. The snappy flourishes of Kool & the Gang’s ‘Ladies’ Night’ are a dry yet fanciful siren’s call. Meanwhile, the hand claps in George Benson’s ‘Give Me the Night’ reverberate with such fervour that they were surely recorded in a cavernous, abandoned roller-rink. Either way, it’s party time, and everyone’s invited.
Keep an eye on the speedgun over summer for Lea Tahuhu of the White Ferns. Newsroom reports she intends to hold onto her place as the fastest bowler in the women’s cricket world, clocking in regularly around the mid 120km/h range. That may not sound like a lot compared to speeds in international men’s cricket, but in fairness I’d probably wet myself if I had to face her, and you probably would too. Tahuhu is currently having a real impact on the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, along with fellow NZer Sophie Devine who is in destructive all-round form.
Meanwhile in the men’s test, a grinding day one finished with England 241-4, and everyone’s favourite New Zealand born cricketer Ben Stokes not out on 67. Skipper Joe Root was dismissed for just two runs, falling to Neil Wagner, and if you’re a fan of test cricket you’ve just got to read this piece about the Wagner method by James Borrowdale.
Finally, the Auckland Tuatara started their season in tragic circumstances last night. Ryan Costello, a 23 year old American, was found dead on Monday, understood to have been from natural causes. The Tuatara and Perth Heat observed a moment of silence, and manager Steve Mintz wrote this piece for Stuff about how the team will honour Costello over the coming season. The Tuatara lost the game, their first ever at QBE Stadium on the North Shore, by a score of 6-1.
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