End of Life Choice bill sponsor David Seymour speaking to reporters at parliament (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Will the euthanasia referendum win?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Euthanasia bill set to go to a referendum, police whistleblower says he was threatened with legal action, and the finer details of Zero Carbon report.

The country is likely to see another referendum next year, on the question of whether the End of Life Choice bill should pass. The NZ Herald reports it came about after a pair of extremely tight conscience votes in parliament, where by a margin  of 63-57 MPs voted to send the question back to the country provided the bill passes a third reading. That is now a lot more likely as with the referendum amendment in place, NZ First will vote in favour en masse – their support or otherwise was contingent on a referendum taking place, and given the tightness of the margin, they would probably have ended up sinking it. The story linked above has details of how each individual MP voted.

It could be seen as a blow for the End of Life Choice bill. Earlier in the year, it looked like a good prospect to simply be voted in. But as support has eroded over time, the leverage of NZ First to make this demand has increased. It left many MPs who supported the bill in a position where they had to vote in favour of a referendum they didn’t like, in order to save a bill they do want to see passed.

Will a referendum win or lose? I personally don’t think anyone can be confident of making a call either way at this stage. A Newshub poll taken at the start of last year showed huge support for the bill. But Stuff reported on a poll earlier this year which showed the country was basically split – bill sponsor David Seymour argued in that case the questions asked were misleading. It’s worth noting that the vast majority of select committee submissions were against the bill, suggesting the support for that position – while potentially smaller – is harder and more committed. As well as that, it will sit alongside a referendum on cannabis legalisation, potentially presenting a historic moment for conservative voters to mobilise and defeat two liberal causes once and for all.

There was an interesting incident in the debate last night, reported on by Stuff, where opposed MP Tim Macindoe tried to get the bill renamed the “Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide Act 2019”. That spoke to concerns from conservative MPs that the bill isn’t about choice at all – they see that description as a euphemistic softening of what in their view is actually happening. And it underlines how much the debate to take place could still swing the public either way. It could well be that much of the public debate follows the tone of MP Harete Hipango’s speech last night, who said that it is in fact a ‘kill bill’. Either way, lobbying of the public from both sides is now likely to ramp up dramatically.


A police whistleblower claims he was told by top brass to retract statements made to media and threatened with legal action, reports Ben Strang for Radio NZ. It relates to a wider investigation Strang has been undertaking into a culture of bullying in police culture, which has resulted in independent review being announced. Former constable John Woodward claims to have been the victim of sustained bullying during the tail end of his career, and accepts that by speaking out he has breached the terms of his settlement with the police, but that it is in a worthwhile cause.


The Zero Carbon bill is a hugely important piece of legislation for fighting climate change, and it is extremely heavy on the details. So for anyone interested in following those details, this from The Spinoff’s Josie Adams is must read. It goes through the whole select committee report and picks out the implications of each recommendation – an important stage in shaping how strong the overall legislation will be. Also in climate change policy, this from Stuff’s Henry Cooke and Luke Malpass is a really useful explanation of what has been decided around the long term plan to bring agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme.


An update on the SkyCity Convention Centre fire: Work to put it out is ongoing, but this explainer from Toby Manhire yesterday still holds. What it will mean for Fletcher Building is explained here by business editor Maria Slade. Those working in the CBD are again being encouraged to avoid coming in if they can avoid it – the air is still pretty smoky and several roads remain closed.


Dairy farms are selling extremely slowly this year compared to last year, reports Farmers Weekly. It’s a mixed market for farmers looking to sell up, with good farms selling well, but lower grade farms struggling to find buyers. Of those that are turning over, a few in the Bay of Plenty will be partially converted to kiwifruit. Meanwhile, in dairy related news, the NZ Herald reports exports to China are significantly up for the year, particularly on the back of dairy products.


Something of a quiet exodus is underway from the secluded Christian community of Gloriavale, reports the Timaru Herald’s Rachael Comer. Two families have left in the space of two weeks, one of which was a family of twelve, to join the growing group of exiles in Timaru. Because of the way life in the church works, it costs families a significant amount of energy and money to relocate and get back on their feet away from Gloriavale if they choose to leave, which underlines the unusualness of seeing two families go in quick succession.


It’s all happening at the Otago Regional Council, perhaps the most star-studded local government organisation in the country. The ODT reports former Labour MP and minister Marian Hobbs has been voted in as chair. Meanwhile Michael Laws, himself a former MP and a range of other jobs to boot, has fended off accusations of being “smug” and “sneering” on his way to being elected deputy chair.


Those who travel by bus around South Auckland might find it a bit cheaper than usual today. A press release from FIRST Union on Scoop says drivers will be protesting against their employer by refusing to collect fares. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the drivers say when they’ve done similar protests in the past, passengers have been quite supportive of not having to pay for their commute.


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

Right now on The Spinoff: Kahu Kutia discusses how the spirit of Tapu te Ranga marae is rising from the ashes. Madeleine Chapman looks into a new Stats NZ report that shows we’re overwhelmingly still a car driving nation. Tze Ming Mok writes about what data can and can’t show, in a piece about the beautiful new book We Are Here. Emily Writes satirises the burgeoning industry of columnists having weird takes about Meghan Markle.

And Alex Casey got a big scoop on the TV beat: The Late Night Big Breakfast is set to return. The idiotic and often delightful Leigh Hart show is expected to be back on TVNZ some time next year.


For a feature today, a look into one of the most interesting media phenomenons taking place right now. I’m one of those people who was only ever aware of Joe Rogan because of Fear Factor, and never really took any notice of his wildly popular and successful podcast. Over at The Atlantic, Devin Gordon decided to dig into why, through a Mad Chapman-esque long stretch of consuming nothing but the culture around Rogan, and the outcome was complex and nuanced. Here’s an excerpt:

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By the time I got around to Joe’s podcast with the Harvard Medical School professor David Sinclair, an expert on the biology of aging and emerging research on treating it like a disease, I started to feel foolish. In part because I’d never heard of nootropics, or Sinclair, or the idea of treating aging like a disease, but mostly because I never would’ve if it hadn’t been for Joe Rogan. After all, how many mainstream entertainers routinely expose their audiences to Harvard biologists? Or climate-change experts? (The Uninhabitable Earth author David Wallace-Wells, episode No. 1259.) Or biosocial scientists? (The Yale professor Nicholas Christakis, episode No. 1274.) Or ethical-leadership lecturers? (The NYU Stern business-school professor Jonathan Haidt, episode No. 1221.)

“Learn, learn, learn, ladies and gentlemen,” Joe said at the start of one podcast episode this winter, wrapping up an ad read for the online education platform Skillshare. “That’s what I’m getting out of this. I think it’s very important to continue to challenge your mind.”


League fans will this weekend get to see another chapter in a remarkable story of redemption. The NZ Herald reports Benji Marshall has been named as Kiwis captain for their game against the Kangaroos this weekend. For context, it was only this year that Marshall was able to get back into the Kiwis, after years out of the side. But his comeback – built on work ethic and maturity – has been thrilling to watch, as a sign of how in a high pressure environment like professional sport athletes can grow as people.


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