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Tributes to Grace Millane at the  roundabout in Titirangi, Auckland (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
Tributes to Grace Millane at the roundabout in Titirangi, Auckland (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The BulletinNovember 25, 2019

The Bulletin: After the Grace Millane murder verdict

Tributes to Grace Millane at the  roundabout in Titirangi, Auckland (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images
Tributes to Grace Millane at the roundabout in Titirangi, Auckland (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Grappling with the aftermath of the Grace Millane murder trial, prisoner voting restoration proves controversial, and red meat prices way up.

News broke on Friday afternoon that the man charged with murdering Grace Millane had been found guilty. He is now awaiting sentencing, and continues to have name suppression. Today’s Bulletin will not be about revisiting the trial in detail, rather it will be about looking at the themes that now have to be grappled with in the aftermath.

The jury did not take long to return with a guilty verdict. With that verdict, it also opened the way for media to release more information about the murderer – for example this piece by NZ Herald senior crime reporter Anna Leask, who built up a picture of the man as a narcissistic and dangerous liar.

For this trial, which has both held the attention and horrified the country, media reporting of court has been in the spotlight. Many have questioned whether at times the coverage has been too sensationalist and insensitive towards Millane and her family. This piece on Radio NZ by Anna Connell is a really thorough exploration of the idea, questioning the necessity of reporting each and every detail, and concluding that justice being seen to be done doesn’t need to publicly shatter the privacy of a victim in the way that this case did.

The way that the court system deals with sexual violence has also been widely discussed. Legislative changes are currently underway to address this, reported on here by the NZ Herald, in an attempt to make courtrooms less hostile places for women to testify. The re-victimisation of Millane that occurred throughout this trial has happened to many other women who survived, and it is hoped that more complainants being able to come forward will keep other women safe.

The case has also shone an ugly light at times on societal conditions that enable violence and sexual violence against women. This isn’t the only ongoing trial of a man accused of murdering a woman, and there have been too many recent examples to count. But more than that, elements of this case are an everyday reality for women everywhere. The must-read piece on this comes from the NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Kirsty Johnston, who addresses this head on, and defines this case as an ultimate example of rape culture. I will quote this at length, because the point is important:

“We tell ourselves that it’s only the fault of individual men, and the way to change things is to lock them up.

But the accused is not a monster. He is just an extreme version of the type of man who doesn’t understand consent and doesn’t care. He’s not an anomaly, he’s on a continuum, albeit at the most toxic end.”

Finally, there are many people who want to do something positive in the wake of this murder. At The Spinoff we have collated a series of real things that you can do to make the world a better and safer place.

Prisoners serving sentences of less than three years will have the right to vote restored. The change was announced on Saturday by justice minister Andrew Little, and was first reported by One News. The change will apply to the 2020 election. National are against the change, with MP Mark Mitchell telling Newshub that crimes serious enough to result in imprisonment deserved the loss of some rights.

On The Spinoff, law professor Andrew Geddis argues that it is a brave move from the government, and a vindication for the human rights of prisoners. And former National MP Chester Borrows agrees, saying tough on crime rhetoric is a cheap way to win votes, and that he’s concerned to see his party go down this path.

Red meat prices are way up on the back of high demand for protein, reports Farmers Weekly. In fact, some farmers are seeing their stock go for record prices. The reason for the surge is partly because the Chinese pork industry has been shattered by swine fever, and there are indications in the market that prices will continue to hold up for a few months to come.

The state of public hospital workforces is dire, and not getting any better, warns a new report covered by Radio NZ. The report says burnout and overwork is rife among medical professionals, and the union says it’s a crisis. Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell says it’s the worst he’s seen in decades, and blames mismanagement by successive governments.

A new contender has entered the world of political polling. Stuff have teamed up with YouGov, who do a lot of work overseas but have never really polled here – normally publicly released polls are conducted by Reid Research or Colmar-Brunton. In their first outing, they’ve found the parties of government with a hefty lead – not just in the two party head to head between National and Labour, but with both government support parties easily clearing the 5% threshold. Both points make it something of an outlier among recent polls.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick has called for ACC to divest from almost a billion dollars worth of fossil fuel assets, reports Stuff. Currently ACC has ethical investment policies which block money going towards tobacco, landmines and certain types of guns. Swarbrick used a question in parliament to press the finance minister on the matter late last week, and Grant Robertson said the fund was managed at arms length from politicians. The global investment picture right now shows plenty of market willingness to bet on oil, with new investment growing, compared to stagnant new investment in renewables.

A new OECD report has put New Zealand’s economic growth prospects ahead of a range of comparable nations, reports Newshub. The average for the OECD generally is growth rates of under 2%, while New Zealand is looking at more like 2.5%. The government is chuffed with the report, though one aspect the story didn’t touch on was the fact that net migration (which can drive up GDP) has remained relatively high in the last few years.

Finally, someone not yet old enough to vote has been selected as National’s candidate for Palmerston North. PNBHS prefect William Wood – who will turn 18 next year – will run for the party against incumbent Iain Lees-Galloway of Labour. The moment he won the nomination was delightfully described by local Stuff journalist Paul Mitchell – “just how unexpected the teenager’s decisive win was became clear when party officials awkwardly presented him with a bottle of wine to celebrate his victory.” Wood is a top debater, has been twice to something called the Evatt Diplomacy Competition on behalf of the country, and has been involved with the Young Nats.

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Right now on The Spinoff: In politics: Morgan Godfery looks at the race for the Labour Party Presidency – a key organisational position that can shape the wider party. I report on a National MP alleging “state sponsored brainwashing” over an NCEA exam question. Nadine Anne Hura has a really deep and fascinating analysis of the concept of Citizens Assemblies – one of the political tools being discussed as a way of fighting climate change. Toby Manhire jumps in far too deep on the details of a Winston Peters attack video.

And in life: Journalist and millenial money expert Frances Cook speaks to Jihee Junn about getting her finances in order. Hannah McGowan reports on a disgraceful bit of re-victimisation from WINZ against a solo mother with an abusive ex-partner. And Shilo Kino has written a remarkable, must-read essay titled ‘A day in the life of a Māori journalist’.

For a feature today, a thorough look at some historically dubious claims about European arrivals in pre-colonial New Zealand. Over at E-Tangata, they’ve republished an excerpt from a book by archeologist Ian Smith, which goes through each claim in turn, and then demolishes them. Here’s an excerpt to give you an idea:

He claims that Spanish settlement in New Zealand is demonstrated by the presence of Caucasian physical features among Māori; Spanish influence in their language, religion and social organisation; and that the Spanish voyage is recorded in the Te Arawa and Tainui canoe traditions.

None of these propositions stands up to serious scrutiny. Genetic research has clearly demonstrated the Polynesian ancestry of pre-1769 Māori, and the small size of the supposed Spanish immigrant group casts doubt on the contribution they could have made to the Māori gene pool.

Similarly, the few Spanish loan words in the Māori language are most likely to have resulted from contacts with European shipping in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century, and Langdon’s interpretations of Māori traditions are fanciful.

A pair of New Zealand teams in Australian leagues have picked up their first wins of the season. For the Wellington Phoenix, it was a long time coming, beating Brisbane 2-1 to sneak off the bottom of the A-League ladder. Stuff reports skipper Steven Taylor was the difference between the two teams, in the end proving it at both ends of the park. Meanwhile the Auckland Tuatara have also got off the mark. Newshub reports their batters turned around a tough first two games to beat the Brisbane Heat in their first series of the Australian Baseball League season.

And in the cricket, some magnificent batting over three different days from BJ Watling. He scored a double century, Mitchell Santner got a century and a few late-day wickets, and now the Black Caps are within sight of victory today. Might be a good idea to keep Radio Sport on in one ear at the office today.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme.

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