Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: International recognition for PM Fiame Mata’afa, travel bubble with Australia closed amid escalating outbreak, and Auckland councillor Efeso Collins reveals bomb threat.
In the eyes of the international community, Sāmoa has a new government. It’s a strange way of stating the importance of events in recent days, but reflects a significant milestone in the legitimacy of governments when elections are contested. Stuff reports PM Ardern has congratulated PM Fiame Naomi Mata’afa’s FAST party on having their election victory approved by the courts, and said she looked forward to “working with Samoa’s new government in the spirit of partnership”. The Samoa Observer (paywalled) reports it has been recognised by the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Sydney Morning Herald reports congratulations have come from Australian PM Scott Morrison.
The recognition comes after a court decision that the controversial outdoors swearing in ceremony in May was legitimate. At the time, FAST were barred from entering parliament. Samoa Global News reports the new government has started their work, holding meetings with department heads. Parliament will convene next week, and the government will attempt to pass a budget to keep services functioning, after a long delay. That story included a section on the economic priorities FAST campaigned on, including export growth and lower service costs.
Long serving but defeated PM Tuila’epa Sailele Malielegaoi may not go quietly.RNZ Pacific reports he refused to concede defeat over the weekend, saying the court’s decision was unconstitutional. However, the Samoa Observer’s Soli Wilson reported that PM Tuila’epa had started to pack his things up in his government office, perhaps suggesting he is getting ready to go after 23 years in charge.
The travel bubble with Australia closed on Friday, and will be so for at least eight weeks. The Air NZ “managed return” flights out of Sydney are already sold out, reports Radio NZ, and many families will once again have to face the prospect of being split. The bubble as a whole was closed over concerns that the worst outbreaks wouldn’t be limited to just the state of New South Wales – hard luck for those in Tasmania who haven’t had a skerrick of Covid in months. But across the rest of Australia, the delta variant is now doing real damage, with the 7-day average of new cases nationwide up to 141 as of yesterday.
Deputy PM Grant Robertson said yesterday that the calculation for New Zealand had changed significantly, when he appeared on Q+A. What hasn’t changed though is the government’s risk-averse overall approach. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder analysed the call through the lens of previous policy, and whether a hypothetical delta outbreak could be contained using the same tools that have worked with previous outbreaks, particularly with vaccination rates in both countries still low.
It’s very hard to know if Australia will be able to get a handle on this outbreak – and equally whether the general public is willing to do what it takes. I haven’t seen recent polling to rely on – in May at least, the public was broadly supportive of the government’s strategy. But there were attention grabbing anti-lockdown protests in Sydney over the weekend, and 1News reports thousands attended without masks. Some guy punched a police horse, to give you a sense of how tense the situation is.
Meanwhile, testing in Taranaki hasn’t hit particularly good levels after a positive Covid result from wastewater, reports Radio NZ. They were just wastewater traces, and it’s possibly just someone “shedding” the virus after recovering. But even so, if you’ve got the symptoms, please do get a test. Because as some exclusive new Stickybeak/The Spinoff polling shows, only about half the country has confidence in the contact tracing system.
Auckland councillor Efeso Collins has reflecting on his future in politics after being the target of a bomb threat, reports Justin Latif. Collins said the threat resulted in the police bomb squad sweeping his home and office, fortunately finding nothing. He told the story to a church conference on Saturday, saying he fears for his family, but will not let those making threats win.
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New Zealand will likely import record high levels of coal this year to burn as electricity, reports Radio NZ’s Jordan Bond in an excellent feature. It effectively represents a massive policy failure, given the emissions intensity of coal compared to other electricity sources. The imports have been necessary in the short term because hydropower lake levels are low (meaning it’s more difficult to generate the cleanest form of electricity) and natural gas levels are unexpectedly low, which some blame the government’s exploration ban for.
A probe of Talley’s food factories has revealed 174 injuries over the course of just one year, reports Thomas Mead for 1News. Reports from auditors show improvements were made between 2019 and 2020, but internal whistleblowers say there is also a culture of ignoring health and safety concerns, and allegedly not following up complaints. Workers at the facilities fear they’ll be next to suffer an accident, and Meatworkers Union official Darryl Carran said he wouldn’t want his kids to work at a Talley’s site.
Privacy commissioner John Edwards is in line for a similar job in the UK, reports The Times. That article is paywalled so I can’t get too deep into it, but up top it discusses Edwards’ views on digital platforms like Facebook, and hints at a UK government crackdown on big tech. Edwards went into his negative thoughts towards Facebook in particular in this op-ed on The Spinoff in 2018.
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Right now on The Spinoff: Ayelet Zoran-Rosen writes about the suspicion and mistrust that have always accompanied lifesaving public vaccination campaigns. Justin Giovannetti meets maverick MP Louisa Wall, to ask why senior members of the government don’t seem to want her in their team. Josie Adams writes about post-viral coughs, and why so many people sound sick for weeks after the flu. Jai Breitnauer calls out untruths from education minister Chris Hipkins on whether special needs kids are being supported in state schools. Justin Latif reports from the Māngere hearing of the state care abuse Royal Commission, which focused on the experience of Pasifika people. Baz Macdonald writes about the sweeping landscape changes since Southland pivoted to dairy farming. Madeleine Chapman has the definitive guide to watching the Olympics so you experience peak spectator success. And Tara Ward reviews the pomp and pageantry of the opening ceremony.
For a feature today, a worrying look at skilled migrants deciding they can’t actually stay in New Zealand.Stuff’s Dileepa Fonseka has been following this story closely, and his latest story is a qualitative look at the issue. There could be pretty serious consequences for the economy if it becomes a trend. Here’s an excerpt:
Not only are they leaving because of frustration with New Zealand’s immigration system, but they are being actively courted by other countries looking for skilled labour.
Dairy farm manager Michael Salilig got so many calls from Canada’s immigration service begging him to move he thought he was getting scammed.
“Because the number that called me is a Canadian number … I did a research and its like really the [immigration] agency.
“At first, because he kept on calling me [I thought], is it a scam or something like that?”
A few Olympic stories to highlight: The Women’s Black Sticks have started their campaign with a clinical win over Argentina, a game they went into as underdogs. Luuka Jones is looking good with the paddle, after easily getting through the canoe slalom qualifying. The Oly Whites went down in agonising fashion against Honduras, after goalkeeper Michael Woud suffered a living nightmare of a match.
My pick for the moment of the day would have to be the 18 year old Tunisian swimmer Ahmed Hafnaoui, who pulled off a remarkable surprise win from the 8th lane in the 400m freestyle. His reaction was just lovely, and it felt like we’d witnessed something stunning and unbelievable. I maintain these Olympics probably shouldn’t be going ahead, but it’s hard not to get swept up in the actual sporting drama.
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