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The BulletinApril 23, 2018

The Bulletin: Aussie banking scandal wake up call for NZ

(Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Australian banking scandal described as a wake up call for NZ, Commonwealth wide free trade deal being talked up, and nurses union voting on strike opens.  

Scandalous banking misconduct in Australia is being described as a wake up call for New Zealand, reports Radio NZ. A royal commission over the ditch is currently shaking Australian banking to its core, revealing unethical and in some cases illegal practices with customers, bribery and fraud – here’s a good explainer from the Sydney Morning Herald. A major theme of the last week was customers being charged for financial advice they never received – in some ludicrous cases, clients who were dead were charged for financial advice. Massey University’s Dr Claire Matthews says now would be a good opportunity to look further into banking practices here.

Why does this matter at all to New Zealand? Well, most of our big banks – Westpac, ANZ, BNZ, ASB etc – are Australian owned, and their parent companies are currently getting dragged by the Royal Commission. The New Zealand boss of financial services firm AMP, whose Australian arm has been under particular scrutiny, insisted to the NZ Herald that none of the practices being scrutinised in Australia are taking place here.

New Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr told Q+A there’s no need for a similar type of Royal Commission in New Zealand. There’s a different regulatory framework in New Zealand, and Orr believes the culture of banking in New Zealand is far better than that in Australia. And consumer affairs minister Kris Faafoi says he hasn’t received any advice that would suggest an inquiry is needed, reports the NZ Herald.

A possible Commonwealth-wide free trade deal is being talked up in the wake of meetings in London, reports Radio NZ this morning. In particular, trade expert Stephen Jacobi is intrigued by the prospect of getting better access to African nations and India. But such a deal would be nightmarishly hard to negotiate, because of the wildly differing economies and types of nations within the Commonwealth.

Voting is open in the nurses union as to whether they should strike, reports Newshub. If the vote passes and no deal is agreed with DHBs, there will be two 24 hour strikes a week apart in July. Nurses spokesperson Cee Payne says despite the strikes, all life preserving services will still be provided.

The government claims no plans have been made to ban coal exploration in New Zealand. Energy Minister Megan Woods told Q+A that may happen down the track, but has not been planned as a follow up to the heavily caveated announcement of a ban on oil exploration. National’s Todd Muller says the comments are “incredulous,” as last year climate change minister James Shaw signed New Zealand up to a commitment to phase coal out of electricity generation. Muller says it shows different sectors of the government don’t know what each other are doing.

Why describe the oil and gas exploration ban as heavily caveated? In that same interview, Megan Woods says exploration for oil and gas could still be going on in NZ in 50 years time under existing permits, reports Radio NZ. And the announcement won’t have any immediate, or even medium term impact on the actual extraction and use of oil and gas for a long time either. Though, as Richard Harman on Politik picked up from the interview, natural gas reserves may run out within seven years anyway.

There’s a really interesting case playing out in the small South Otago town of Milton relating to assets owned by those convicted of a crime. A man sentenced for selling cannabis to an undercover officer had a restraining order placed on the sale of his house, and police got that extended on an interim basis in February, reports Stuff. The police may seize the house, or a portion of what it sells for, under asset forfeiture laws. But the money to buy the house was loaned to the man by his mother, and his lawyer argues there is no evidence any of the loan repayments came from drug money.

Rotorua ratepayers are heavily subsidising city markets to the tune of more than $100,000 a year, reports the Rotorua Daily Post. The Sunday morning farmers markets, and Thursday night markets, aren’t even remotely close to being independently profitable, but the Council says that’s not the point of them. The idea is to bring people into the centre city, and give the city more vibrancy generally.

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Founder Glen Herud with his cow 47 (Photo by Nancy Zhou)

Right now on The Spinoff: Guest writer Tex Edwards has a three step plan to make housing more affordable. Don Rowe reviews the latest God of War game, saying it cements the medium as a legitimate art form for storytelling. And if you haven’t yet read Glen Herud‘s first person account of founding Happy Cow Milk, and the huge obstacles against changing the dairy industry, read it today.

So six months in to the new government’s run, how are they doing?

That’s the question posed by the NZ Herald‘s Simon Wilson over the weekend, who assessed whether the government is living up to it’s stated aim of being “transformational.” Wilson says the government appears to understand that they can’t rush everything through straight away, because to be truly transformational changes need to be bedded in over time. He’s particularly impressed by the vision shown on transport, but says it will all hinge on how the plans are executed.

Another good six month wrap comes from Jason Walls on Interest, who says that National’s strategy of trying to drive wedges through the coalition hasn’t worked – yet. There were plenty of predictions that the contradictions, particularly between NZ First and the Greens, would be insurmountable, but so far that hasn’t been the case. Soon enough though, Winston Peters will be a temporary Prime Minister, and Walls says that could be the moment that the opposition’s attacks on coalition unity could start to hurt.

In sport, New Zealand Super Rugby teams have now beaten Australian teams 35 times in a row, reports Stuff. Even with one fewer team to spread players around this season, Australia’s teams are still absolutely woeful. It’s starting to look a lot like the old ANZ Netball championship in reverse, where the only reason teams from the weaker country ever made the playoffs was through regular local derbies to pump up the points tally.

And, if you only tangentially follow English football, you may not have heard: Wenger is out. Arsenal’s extraordinarily long serving, and often over-delivering manager has finally decided to jump, rather than be pushed, after a few seasons of poor results. Former Arsenal player Lee Dixon has penned this tribute for the Guardian, describing how Wenger changed English football forever, and not just at one club. English football fans being what they are, expect to see “Wenger come back” banners all over the Emirates Stadium next season if Arsenal drop a few early games.

And from our partners, Vector’s Karl Check analyses Australia’s progress when it comes to shifting away from coal and gas fired power plants and onto renewal energy sources.

That’s it for the The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, please forward it on and encourage them to sign up here. Thanks for joining us this morning.

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