Paul Goldsmith. Photo: Getty Images
Paul Goldsmith. Photo: Getty Images

The BulletinJune 26, 2019

The Bulletin: Swings and roundabouts in National reshuffle

Paul Goldsmith. Photo: Getty Images
Paul Goldsmith. Photo: Getty Images

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Some win, some lose from National reshuffle, End of Life choice bill facing crucial vote tonight, and Luxon-ad supporter lobbies against predatory lending controls.

In any reshuffle, for someone to move up, someone else has got to go down. So it has been with the National Party yesterday, who have made some quite significant changes in the wake of two of their MPs announcing they’ll be leaving at the 2020 election. One of those MPs is the highly regarded former justice minister Amy Adams.

It’s worth taking a moment to reflect on her career, as she steps away from her frontbench roles. After coming into parliament via the Selwyn electorate in 2008, she steadily became one of the top performers in the fifth National government, holding a wide range of portfolios. When Bill English left, she came very close to winning the leadership, and accepted the finance spokesperson role from Simon Bridges instead. The NZ Herald reports her comments on leaving, which are that she is desperate to spend more time with her family – watching the press conference, it actually sounded true as well, rather than just the words politicians say on the way out the door.

Her loss will almost certainly be felt significantly by National. But you might recall that I said two MPs were leaving. The other is Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott. Stuff’s Stacey Kirk covers his departure rather brutally in this column – her view is basically that he was almost certainly pushed out by an extremely unsatisfied party. He inherited a seat that had been made safe for National, and would probably have lost it to Labour’s Kieran McAnulty had NZ First’s Ron Mark not split the vote. Mr Scott has accomplished almost nothing of note in parliament, but he too will be sticking around until 2020, so there’s still time to draw a salary and eat his lunch.

The reshuffle has opened up new opportunities in the finance role for list MP Paul Goldsmith. He has primarily been known for three things: writing biographies of other politicians and business leaders, telling Epsom voters not to vote for him, and repeatedly hammering how provincial growth fund money is being spent. That last one is crucial, because one thing Amy Adams hasn’t really been able to do is paint the government’s spending as wasteful or weird, which will be a key point of attack for the National party going into the election. It could also signal a shift back to a more hardline, flinty economic policy within National, reports Politik, as Goldsmith’s economic views aren’t a long way away from the likes of Ruth Richardson or Don Brash.

There were other winners and losers too – but one who stands out is Judith Collins. She lost the infrastructure portfolio, reports Stuff, after a few months of rising in the preferred PM stakes to equal, and sometimes even beat Bridges. As Stuff put it, “it’s understood relations between Bridges and Collins remain frosty after perceived signs of disloyalty from Collins earlier this year.” Writing yesterday, I felt the work of Collins in opposition deserved further elevation – clearly it wasn’t to be.

Hutt South MP Chris Bishop, a former Bridges opponent, has by contrast received a big promotion, moving into the shadow cabinet and picking up the transport and regional development portfolios. Other moves of note include Gerry Brownlee picking up foreign affairs, Todd Muller getting forestry to go with his climate change responsibilities, and Jo Hayes becoming Māori affairs and treaty negotiations spokesperson. There have been various bits of commentary suggesting the reshuffle puts more questions around Bridges’ leadership, but

Remember, Labour too has a reshuffle coming, looking likely for tomorrow. Regardless of what happens, it seems impossible to imagine the moves will be as significant as National’s have been. Party supporters will say that’s because big moves aren’t needed – Simon Bridges though says that’s because Labour don’t have the depth of talent to promote.

Finally, I don’t want to overhype our Cricket World Cup podcast The Offspin too much, but ponder this: Our most recent episode included Labour list MP in Wairarapa Kieran McAnulty and National’s Chris Bishop. And now look at them – Bishop has shot up the rankings and McAnulty has an open seat to run in, just a few days later. All I’m saying – let’s not rule out the possibility that coming on the podcast has changed the course of their careers.

The End of Life Choice bill is expected to pass a second reading tonight, but the numbers could be close. At last count, Checkpoint had a tally of 54 MPs in favour of the bill, which would allow voluntary euthanasia. That still leaves it in the hands of undecided MPs, and there would still be a final reading to get through after that. The story I’ve linked to here by the way is an extremely comprehensive guide to not only the votes, but the arguments that are being made for and against by medical professionals, international advocates and legal experts.

The guy behind the strange ad supporting Christopher Luxon for National leader has been revealed as payday lender Steve Brooks. As The Spinoff’s Maria Slade reports, in the same week he placed the ad, he was also lobbying against controls on predatory lending. Mr Brooks owns fringe lenders Moola and NeedCashToday, the former of which charges ridiculously high annualised interest rates. Unsurprisingly, and this bears repeating from Monday, National say they have absolutely nothing to do with the ad being placed.

Newsroom political journalist Laura Walters is really on the charge at the moment, with two hard and detailed pieces about inequality in two days. The first looks at the gaps in the education system, and the racism that plays a part in allowing those gaps to open up. And the second looks into research around collective bargaining, and how they can help prevent a “race to the bottom” on wages – which in real terms have effectively gone down in many industries since the decline of collective agreements.

A grand total of four ministers announced the details of new Kiwirail funding yesterday morning. The details have been broken down by Newshub, with hundreds of new locomotives and freight carriages to be purchased. It’s part of an over investment aimed at bringing rail back on track as a serious way of getting freight around the country. A full 10 year strategy is due to be released in the upcoming ‘Future of Rail’ report.

The Kiwibuild reset could be used to address a lot of problems at once, says architectural expert Bill McKay. He spoke to Radio NZ, and it’s a fascinating interview about what he sees as the real problem with housing in New Zealand is – a huge share of housing stock is old, cold and damp. He also sees a real place for rent to own schemes to address declining rates of home ownership – a policy that the Greens are pushing to get off the ground again.

Just on that whole Spinoff membership thing, there was another perk to it I completely forgot to mention yesterday. And that is that we’re also putting out a book! As in, this website is actually releasing a book, on paper. It’s pretty exciting, and part of the membership package is that you get a copy of it. Anyway, as per yesterday, the full details are here.

The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed, free daily curated digest of all the most important stories from around New Zealand delivered directly to your inbox each morning.

Sign up now

Illustration: Toby Morris

Right now on The Spinoff: Don Rowe meets the photographer behind one of the most infamous pics in NZ political history – Colin Craig in the grass – to hear all about how he got the shot. Cindy Farquhar writes about the areas into infertility where a real difference could be made. Alice Webb-Liddall meets Kiwisaver providers who are offering ways to invest more ethically. And there’s a brand new episode of Kaupapa on the Couch out, covering the incredible history of the Māori showband era. It’s a really good watch, I recommend it very highly.

For a feature today, we’ll get a history lesson from the 80s about the mismanagement of a methadone programme in Dunedin. Writing on Public Address, a pseudonymous author has detailed how sloppiness caused a growth in the number of drug addicts in the city, and subsequent punitiveness then caused an explosion of drug related crime. It’s a really telling case of how sudden swings in policy towards addicts can have serious negative consequences. Here’s an excerpt:

Over the next few months practically all of the people on the programme had their doses rapidly reduced to zero and by late 1986 there was no longer a methadone programme in Dunedin.

Some of those affected left the city and moved to other areas whose hospital boards still had a functioning programme. But many others had no choice but to remain in the city. They were still addicts. What could they do? According to Bruce Spittle they could simply stop taking drugs. He didn’t take them and they didn’t need to either. Most of the affected people resorted to two main solutions. They began stealing drugs from pharmacies/doctors/vets etc, as well as poppies in summer and/or found a sympathetic general practitioner who would prescribe some kind of daily opiate regime for them.

By the mid-eighties all pharmacies had modern electronic alarm systems and it was much more difficult to break into them than it had been the previous decade. Despite this, people started trying. The main method was to use a quick smash-and-grab approach to get bottles of opium tincture or packets of codeine to convert into heroin.

A serious blow for the Silver Ferns, who have lost Katrina Rore to a calf strain ahead of their World Cup warmup series, reports Newshub. The revitalised Pulse captain was going to be making her international return. She’ll remain with the team, but Michaela Sokolich-Beatson has also been called up as an interim replacement. The Silver Ferns will open their World Cup campaign against Malawi on July 12.

Mate Ma’a Tonga are desperately short of cash, despite packing out Mt Smart over the weekend, reports Radio NZ. The team, who are a massive drawcard for rugby league fans, are in dire need of a long term sponsor, or else their continued participation is in doubt. Melino Maka from the Tongan Advisory Council says a major reason for the disparity is that Tonga is seeing very little of the money from the games – a huge share of their player wages are in fact being paid by the Tongan government.

From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.

This content is brought to you by Vector. If you live in Auckland, they also delivered the power you’re using to read it. And they’re creating a new energy future for all of us, as showcased by the incredible Vector Lights in partnership with Auckland Council.

Keep going!