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NZ First leader Winston Peters and Green Party co-leader James Shaw (Getty Images)
NZ First leader Winston Peters and Green Party co-leader James Shaw (Getty Images)

The BulletinJuly 23, 2018

The Bulletin: Support parties in the spotlight

NZ First leader Winston Peters and Green Party co-leader James Shaw (Getty Images)
NZ First leader Winston Peters and Green Party co-leader James Shaw (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: With the PM away, the government’s support partners have been making waves, former Jehovah’s Witnesses speak out about chronic sexual abuse within the church, and some surprising data on Auckland rentals.

To start the week, we’re going to take a look at the recent fortunes of the two parties propping up the Labour-led government. Both the Greens and NZ First have had significant media attention in the past few days, and now is a good time to assess where they’re at. On the most recent polling, both have flirted heavily with the 5% threshold, but will ministerial responsibility later pay off in increased support?

The Greens had two of their ministers on the big political talk shows over the weekend, which given the party’s history would have been an unthinkable sentence at any other time over the last two decades. It’s one of those moments that underlines how the party is transitioning to being part of the government, as opposed the permanent opposition they had previously been consigned to.

Climate change minister James Shaw discussed consultation on the Zero Carbon bill on Newshub Nation, in a grilling over exactly who would end up paying what to cut which emissions. Mr Shaw countered by arguing that acting now on climate change will lead to economic benefits down the road. Then on Sunday, environment minister Eugenie Sage was on TVNZ’s Q+A, talking about ways the government was intending to cut down the country’s waste. In particular, a ban on single use plastic bags appears imminent, along with a likely rise in the levies charged for waste disposal.

And meanwhile, NZ First has turned 25 – a remarkable run for any political party, and particularly one that has bounced in and out of Parliament, with rising and falling fortunes depending on circumstances. Acting PM Winston Peters reflected on the party’s history in this fascinating interview with the NZ Herald, insisting that the party was and had always been more than just him.

Here’s a couple of interesting takes on it. Writing for Stuff, Henry Cooke argues that NZ First are still arguably fighting the ideological battle that led to their formation back in the 90s over the ‘Rogernomics’ free market reforms, and is still set on turning back the clock. And in the NZ Herald, Heather du Plessis-Allen, one of the country’s pre-eminent Winston-watchers, argues that the party needs to start acting its age. But those two are both young bucks – how about a writer who’s seen the whole career? John Armstrong has written a sharp column for One News arguing Mr Peters simply must start transitioning the party to new leaders if the party is to survive.

One thing that has kept both parties going is that they actually have real party infrastructures to work with. They’re both genuinely nationwide operations, which means they can get by without single electoral strongholds. And as part of the government, they’re at least getting policy wins, and money to spend where their supporters want it. And both have MPs happy to make the sort of trouble that the base loves – Shane Jones in NZ First, and Golriz Ghahraman for the Greens.

But PM Jacinda Ardern will soon be back in action, and it’s likely Labour will start to hoover up attention again as a result. There’s been a relative vacuum for Peters and Shaw to step into, but it could be quickly forgotten. And while Labour might need support partners now, they’ll also calculate that crowding out their allies is a potential future winner, provided they can pick up their supporters.

There are heavy content warnings on this next piece, which is a heartbreaking read. The Jehovah’s Witnesses in New Zealand have shielded perpetrators of child sexual abuse from justice, creating what has been called a ‘paedophile’s paradise,’ reports Amy Parsons-King for The Spinoff. Four former Jehovah’s Witnesses have spoken out about the sexual abuse that they experienced, and about how the church covered up what had happened, and even led survivors to believe it was their fault.

Some statistical data which will upend what previously felt anecdotally right – rents in Central Auckland have actually dropped over the year, reports the NZ Herald. However, that may be more to do with the type of rentals coming onto the market being smaller, cheaper places. And in other parts of the city, particularly the outer edges, rents have gone up. There’s also a data interactive attached to the story, which is fun to play around with and looks plausibly like work if your boss catches you.

The NZ Herald has launched a Winter Appeal campaign, raising concerns about the hardship some New Zealanders are enduring. In their lead story for the campaign, they profile a mother who is left with just $1.68 a fortnight in disposable income after covering essentials like rent and food. That money has to somehow cover things like medical bills and school uniform costs, and the mother says she goes without so that her kids can eat fresh fruit and vegetables.

In related news, some New Zealanders are using the oven to heat their homes this winter, reports Radio NZ. The information comes from a Salvation Army survey, which found that many simply have no other choice because of the cost.

Here’s a short but interesting angle on the nurses strike from Radio NZ – some nurses are predicting many will move offshore, as other countries are also facing shortages. Pay is better overseas, and one of the key demands nurses have gone into negotiations with is around safer staffing levels – that’s going to be even more difficult for DHBs to deliver on if there’s an exodus of trained nurses.

And speaking of strikes, there’s a bus strike in Wellington’s Hutt Valley this morning, reports Newstalk ZB. It’s not a stop-work strike, more of a work to rule – around 50 drivers will protest what they say are unlawful and dangerous shifts, and work a standard 8 hour day rather than the 14 they sometimes have to do. It’ll heap yet more pressure on the Wellington bus network, which was changed last week and been unpopular ever since. There’s a warning of “mayhem” to come on the front page of the Dominion Post, which should give an indication of how it’s been so far.

Red flags over the appointment of Wally Haumaha to the police deputy commissioner role were raised with the country’s top cop, reports the NZ Herald on their front page today. Haumaha was close with a set of officers who have since been convicted of rape, and made comments in support of them against accuser Louise Nicholas.

$100,000 worth of inedible avocados have been stolen from an orchard in Northland, reports the Northern Advocate. The thefts have basically destroyed the livelihood of a Kaikohe grower, and the avocados themselves were months away from being ready to harvest.

There’s a land access stoush going on in Central Otago over the property of disgraced former US TV star Matt Lauer. Stuff reports that compensation will almost certainly have to be paid to Lauer, and that officials have even floated the possibility of a crowdfunding campaign – like the one that resulted in we the people buying a beach. Which got me thinking – has anyone actually been to that beach since the campaign? Email me – if you have.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Caroline Moratti writes about the nightmare lives of residential assistants at university hostels. Duncan Greive eats a crow over the astonishing success of Six60, a band he and almost every other critic once wrote off. And does your internet suck? Here’s some advice on how to make it go better.

The NakedBus and ManaBus services have finally stopped rolling along the State Highways of New Zealand, and this is a beautiful feature about the last ride. It’s by Jess McAllen for Stuff, and it’s fundamentally about the people who used it. For many, driving or flying is prohibitively expensive, and Naked Bus bridged the gap in price that made travel possible. Here’s an excerpt:

“On the last ever service to Wellington, Potter drifts in and out of sleep.

She talks about biting the bullet and paying the $100 airplane fares to get to Taupo. It depends what happens with petrol. You can’t drive to Taupo for $33, you could for $64 though (the average price of other bus tickets). Maybe, when she’s recovered from surgery, it will get to that point.

Her parents used to come down on NakedBus and driver Paul was a highlight.

“In a previous life he’d been a policeman and he ended up going back to it…he was really, really neat. He used to look after my mum and dad really well.

“I’ve met some interesting people and passengers, it makes the time go quicker. These days most people put their headphones on or put their head into their cellphones and get into social media,” she says as she whips out her old brick phone.”

The Black Ferns Sevens, aka the Sevens Sisters, have defended their World Cup crown in San Francisco, reports Stuff. The Sisters smashed France in their final, in a game that included a Michaela Blyde hat-trick of tries. The men play Fiji in their semifinal at8.02am today – that game is live free to air on Duke.

In cricket, I wanted to share this piece from the Independent because I think it’s an amazing indictment of sports administrators losing the plot. Cricket authorities in Britain are currently trying to get a new format of the game off the ground, and literally everyone who isn’t paid to say nice things hates it. It’s an example of what happens when sports authorities forget what their custodial responsibility is, and start believing in their own hype and genius.

And in Super Rugby, this is an interesting angle from StuffThe Crusaders lost money on their quarterfinal victory over the Sharks, because only a small crowd turned up. Watching the game, it did seem to be a very muted atmosphere – the biggest cheers were for kicks for touch that got caught by someone in the crowd. They’re expecting better when they host the Hurricanes this weekend in the semi.  

From our partners, Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha writes that while making and selling electricity from the comfort of home might sound like some dodgy online scam, it’s not as far-fetched as you might think.

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