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The BulletinMay 24, 2018

The Bulletin: A referendum day of reckoning

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Possible super–referendum mooted for next year, damning fishing report leaked, and Fonterra raises milk price forecasts to near record highs.

The social conscience of the nation could be sternly tested next year, if two burning political issues are put to a referendum. Both legalising marijuana for personal use, and legalising assisted dying, could go to the public at the same time next year, reports Newshub. Justice minister Andrew Little says if they both go ahead, it would make sense to combine them together. Either issue alone would be the most highly contested and important referendum since the vote on electoral systems in 2011. Taken together, it could get pretty ugly.

The End of Life Choice bill has had an enormous effect on the public, who have responded in what is believed to be record numbers. A few days ago Stuff reported the deadline for submissions  had been extended for a second time. The bill’s sponsor, ACT leader David Seymour, says polls show the country is broadly supportive of the intent of the bill. But it is also clear that it received very negatively by some disability advocates, and religious groups. New Zealand First, who could be swing votes on the issue, say they will support the bill if a binding referendum is held on the final wording.

If both referendums were held at the same time, what would that mean for the outcome? A two in one would be a godsend for conservative groups like Family First, who could devote an entire year to campaigning against both – ‘two ticks no’ if you like – while political parties are keeping their powder dry for an upcoming election.

It’s possible that liberal campaigns would be fragmented by comparison. Despite the ‘broad popular support’ for both causes, that doesn’t necessarily translate to referendum success, when people might forget or not bother to vote for all sorts of reasons.

And why not just hold both referendums alongside the election? That’s the Green Party’s preference, who say it would save money and time to bundle them all together, reports the NZ Herald. But Andrew Little says that could end up dominating the election campaign, which could detract from it.

One other thing about the cannabis referendum – it would be non binding, and the PM hasn’t yet committed to legalising even if that’s what the public votes for, reports Radio NZ. The deal with the Greens only stipulates that the referendum be held, not that the government change the law.

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A leaked report covered by Radio NZ this morning says some fishing companies are under–reporting their hoki catch by hundreds of tonnes. The companies include industry giants Sanford and Talleys, who supply McDonalds for the Filet–o–Fish burger, and one year under–reported their catch by almost 800 tonnes. Greenpeace’s Russel Norman says it shows hoki are at risk of being over–fished, and that is shows a complete disregard for the health of the fishery.

Good news for dairy farmers, with Fonterra raising their forecast for the season to $6.75 per kg of milk solids, reports the NZ Herald. It’s one of the highest forecasts ever, and Fonterra is even predicting that it could go to $7.00 next year. But while that’s great for farmers, it’s bad for shareholders, as the company is also forecasting lower earnings and a lower dividend.

There’s a really interesting piece on the announcement from David Hargreaves at Interest, who has never been a fan of Fonterra controlling such a huge slice of the economy. The reason? He says they’re still struggling to balance the boom and bust of commodity cycles – remember for example the dark days of 2015 when the milk price crashed.

Ride sharing app Zoomy says it now has more than 2000 drivers on the books, and is adding more every week, reports the NBR (paywalled) The homegrown competitor to Uber still trails their driver count by a long way, but appears to be having success at luring Uber drivers onto their platform too. However, the customer base remains significantly smaller for Zoomy, and like Uber they’re nowhere near profitability yet.

School deciles are to stay for now, after a plan to replace the system with targeted per–child funding was scrapped, reports Stuff. But minister Chris Hipkins says the decile system could still be scrapped in the future. New deciles and any changes based on data collected at the census will be in place by 2020.

The New Zealand Defence Force has a new chief, after Lt. General Tim Keating stood down earlier this year. Air Vice–Marshal Kevin Short will take over, reports Stuff. He led the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan between 2006–07, and has had numerous other senior roles.

An update to the saga over Otago student magazine Critic: Yesterday morning, editor Joel MacManus outlined the reasons for publishing the controversial edition, in a piece for The Spinoff. Law professor Andrew Geddis said the trashing of the magazines raised questions about the University’s commitment to freedom of speech. The University proctor has since apologised for destroying the magazines, reports Stuff.

Right now on The Spinoff: Our man in London Neil Young went along to see superstar poet Hera Lindsay Bird perform – is perform the right word for a poet? Talk? Read? Jason Renes has filed a report from the Red Tide International Indigenous Climate Action Summit. And Joseph Nunweek writes from Melbourne, about how Kiwi teenagers living rough in Australia are being failed by both governments.

Parliament watch: If you think of politics as an exercise in petty point–scoring, the first question of yesterday’s Question Time will be right up your alley. National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett was attempting to grill the Prime Minister on funding delays and priorities, and whether the free fees policy for tertiary students was the best use of that money. Only, that’s not really how it ended up going down.

Like a scrum on a muddy rugby field being repeatedly reset, the Speaker as referee Trevor Mallard was forced to constantly intervene. National’s Gerry Brownlee played the role of a chatty halfback, chipping away at the ref to try and force a change in decision. And to round it all out, Paula Bennett decided to pick up her ball and go home, storming out of the room.

National have been rumbling away for a few months now about Trevor Mallard’s performance, saying it is biased. It has got the point where Mr Brownlee wrote Mallard a letter accusing him of pushing an unverifiable story, that an unnamed National MP had called the PM a “stupid little girl,” reports Stuff. National says that is unacceptable behaviour as the Speaker is meant to be neutral. Mallard is refusing to comment, but may break his silence today. Tune in at 2.00 and we’ll see.

Of course, the goings on of Parliament do matter, but let’s be honest, they don’t have an awful lot of relevance in the average person’s day to day life. So now that we’re allowed to satirise footage from Parliament again, we can at least make the day’s events useful. Please enjoy Madeleine Chapman and Ra Pomare’s analysis of which MPs have the best power–sit.

Suzanne McFadden at Newsroom has been digging into tensions within the Football Ferns camps, as players struggle to adjust to the style of new coach Andreas Heraf. The re–retirement of Abby Erceg has been shrouded in mystery and rumour, and captain Ali Riley says she will be acting as the go–between for players and management to ensure that differences don’t get out of hand. Still, times are tense as the rare home friendly match against Japan approaches.

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 renewable 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. And please do feel free to send feedback – email thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz.

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