Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, right, laughs during a meeting with New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, and military personnel in Downing Street in London, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool)

The Bulletin: Wellbeing on the world stage

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Jacinda Ardern wows the world at Davos, range of reactions to Kiwibuild news, and tobacco funding for Taxpayers Union revealed.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has continued her uncanny ability to wow the world, regardless of what’s going on at home. She’s been in Britain and Switzerland this week, for the annual Davos forum. And the world has been very keen to hear what she has had to say too, judging by the media attention that she has generated.

Part of that interest is probably because there’s a bit of a vacuum of high-clout political leaders at the summit. Emmanuel Macron of France, Theresa May of Britain, and Donald Trump of the USA all have their own crisis situations to be dealing with. But part of the interest will also be down to the fact that PM Ardern is without a doubt a communications genius, with a hell of a good story to tell. And that story can be summed up in one word – wellbeing.

Take for example this interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, where she succinctly tied the need to protect and nurture people with wellbeing measures, with staving off the sorts of populist revolts currently rocking Britain and France. Fundamentally, the wellbeing budget being discussed is about measuring outcomes beyond the economic – social measures will also be taken into account. Stuff quoted her as saying that she “hoped other leaders will come to see more compassionate domestic policy settings as a compelling alternative to the false promise of protectionism and isolation.” As left-wing writer Gordon Campbell writes at Werewolf, “an obsessive focus on GDP growth (without much regard for income distribution or sustainability) is a recipe for disaster.”

But one common factor between the things Jacinda Ardern has been talking about is that they’re strongly future focused – or to turn it around, they’re things that haven’t happened yet. The wellbeing budget will be delivered for the first time later this year. She discussed mental health with Prince William, when the government’s response to the mental health inquiry report delivered last year is still months away. She discussed the need for climate change action with Sir David Attenborough and Al Gore. But the country has waited and waited to see what the shape of the Carbon Zero legislation will be, and New Zealand’s climate action is currently rated ‘insufficient’ by the global Climate Action Tracker. You certainly couldn’t suggest the the PM doesn’t care about these issues, but nor could the government credibly claim significant and concrete progress has been made on them.

But perhaps it is completely understandable why Jacinda Ardern is so popular on the world stage. After all, the world is in a bit of a mess right now, and she’s one of the few leaders who can articulate themes of cooperation and progressive values. It makes her a voice for the parts of the world that are horrified by the boorish foreign policy of Donald Trump. That’s a conclusion drawn by a New Zealander who is a particularly astute observer of global affairs writing for Foreign Policy – former PM Helen Clark.


There’s been a range of reactions to the recent news about the progress of Kiwibuild. Speaking to The Spinoff, AUT professor John Tookey says it shows too much of the early time has been spent getting bogged down in how the programme will be delivered, rather than actually getting on and building houses. Auckland Action Against Poverty said in a statement that it was a sign the government should abandon Kiwibuild, and prioritise state house building instead. And National’s Judith Collins suggested minister Phil Twyford get the sack from PM Jacinda Ardern, or else she’ll “have fun” with him. As for the PM herself, she says she still has confidence in both the programme and the minister.


The Taxpayers Union is partially funded by British American Tobacco, Guardian investigation has revealed. They’re part of a network of free market groups who take money from tobacco companies, while also pushing for policies that would be more friendly for the tobacco industry. In response, the Taxpayers Union told Newsroom that it only accounts for a small part of their funding, and they don’t declare their funders to protect their privacy.


Property management company Quinovic has admitted that a bunch of positive online reviews were in fact fake, reports Stuff. It isn’t clear how the reviews got online, with Quinovic staff denying having anything to do with them. It’s not the first time the company has got in trouble for what they’ve got online – you might remember last year a succession of dreadful memes, about how much tenants would hate having Quinovic on their case.


New Zealand is being warned that biosecurity rules need to be strengthened to prevent brown marmorated stinkbugs getting in, reports Radio NZ. The pests could arrive on cargo ships, and could have a devastating effect on horticulture and agriculture if they gained a foothold here. The rules to keep them out are being described as “ineffective and inconsistent.” Biosecurity minister Damien O’Connor says he’s directed his officials to look into new ways to manage the threat, after a lone stinkbug was found around Tauranga late last year.


A petition has been launched by Generation Zero calling on Auckland Transport to freeze their planned public transport fare rises, reports Stuff. Prices are going up across the city, which the group says will punish people who travel sustainably. However, mayor Phil Goff put a dampener on the campaign, saying fares would have to go up to pay for better quality services.


The NZ Herald have named the MP who had an affair with former colleague Jami-Lee Ross. It was Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie. Previously, attempts to name her by Mr Ross had been redacted by the news organisation interviewing him. The reason it is in the news is that a text allegedly sent by Ms Dowie is being probed by police, as a possible breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act.


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A snapshot of the mixed reality world of Magic Leap. (supplied)

Right now on The Spinoff: Elle Hunt writes a dispatch from London, where Brexit is bearing down on the country. Mike Metcalfe outlines the changes that come when you give up on a lifetime of drinking. Laneway’s festival boss Mark Kneebone sat down with the Business is Boring podcast, and talked about new measures for safety at music festivals. And Baz Macdonald reviews a ‘mixed-reality’ game from Weta Workshop, a groundbreaking new field in gaming.


We had some news the other day about a hack on a Christchurch-based cryptocurrency exchange, and here’s a feature that gives a wider picture. It’s by Peter Griffin for Noted, and details the process by which bitcoins can be hacked, and what the hack means for New Zealand’s cryptocurrency community. Importantly for technological illiterates like myself, it’s explained for lay-readers in a way that’s actually understandable. Here’s an excerpt:

While Cryptopia claimed to have strong “level 3” security, there were warning signs last year that it was struggling to maintain its systems as it grew. Its Twitter feed features numerous apologies for outages and maintenance delays taking currencies and trading offline.

Crypto forums are littered with customer service complaints about Cryptopia.

“I would not count on ever getting any money back,” writes Sigmagood, in that same Reddit post Jollyjoker747 started.

“I lost almost everything a year ago on Cryptopia when they wouldn’t release a transaction to the blockchain due to ‘unscheduled maintenance’. I got a sick feeling in my stomach when I saw there was no way to contact them and read all the scam accusations,” Sigmagood continues.

“They never responded to my ticket and I reported them to the Financial Markets Authority in NZ. Surprise surprise a year later they are still ripping people off. Just google Cryptopia and scam and you will see 99% of the results are prior to this latest ‘hack’.”

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Both men’s and women’s NZ cricket teams have been humbled by India this week in Napier. Both losses came about after below-par first innings scores were easily hauled in by the tourists. For the women it was particularly brutal – India didn’t even need to use Mithali Raj or Harmanpreet Kaur in their 9-wicket win, such was the team’s dominance. Both series move to Mt Maunganui this weekend.


From our partners: The government is digging deep into the price of electricity in New Zealand, with a review of the entire energy sector. What will the review look at, why should there even be one, and does it mean you might pay less for power? Vector’s Bridget McDonald has the answers.


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