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woman in a ligh pink blazer speaking on the black and white parliament tiles
Jan Tinetti speaks to reporters (Getty Images)

The BulletinApril 27, 2021

The Bulletin: Abuse in state care commission told to cut back

woman in a ligh pink blazer speaking on the black and white parliament tiles
Jan Tinetti speaks to reporters (Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Abuse in state care commission told to cut back, ECE centres closing at unusually high rates, and decision on Western Australia travel today.

The purview of  the Royal Commission into abuse in state care has been significantly cut back. The changes will remove the ability to look into recent cases and modern care providers – in other words, it will be historic abuse only. Radio NZ’s Katie Scotcher reports the justification for this decision from the government is that modern organisations – Oranga Tamariki – are currently being scrutinised through other inquiries. That is causing some alarm from the Commission, who put out a statement expressing concern at the narrowing of their scope:

“This independent commission still has a lot of work to do in revealing the full extent of the abuse, neglect and injustices suffered by survivors in the past and this important work will continue throughout the Inquiry’s duration. We are hearing from survivors that this abuse is still happening.”

Cost overruns appear to be a major part of the decision. Radio NZ’s Katie Scotcher (today’s Bulletin will draw on her work a lot) reported that the initial budget has been used up. It was already forecast to be the largest inquiry in New Zealand’s history, and Internal Affairs minister Jan Tinetti said the problem wasn’t mismanagement – rather it just got even bigger on everyone. It turned out there ware far more survivors of abuse coming forward than anyone thought.

One wonders if that has implications for the decision to no longer investigate modern cases, and if there are more people in that position too.Scotcher again reports that survivors are warning that the changes will damage the credibility of the final report produced by the commission. As one put it, “it will come as a great shock to many survivors because the two biggest things that survivors want from this process is acknowledgement and recognition as to what’s happened historically to them and others and to know that what happened to them isn’t going to happen to those who are in care now and who will go into care in the future.”

Just on this topic generally, a lot of the commission’s work has taken place quietly, even if it has been largely in public. Sam Brooks went to see a day that included testimony about religious organisations, particularly the Catholic church. A really telling aspect of that piece is that it explores why organisations went to such lengths to cover up abuse, rather than bring perpetrators to justice.

Early Childhood centres are closing at a rate of one a week around the country, with funding pressures starting to take a toll. The Early Childhood Council (which represents centres, rather than teachers) told Newstalk ZB that the closure rate is increasing, and that pay parity for ECE teachers can’t be reached without further government support. They’re also concerned about a teacher shortage, which has persisted for years.

Western Australia has just come out of a lockdown, though the travel bubble hasn’t yet resumed with that state. The NZ Herald reports the government will decide today on whether the pause will be lifted. The risk to New Zealand from those original WA cases is thought to be low. On travel generally, late last week the government announced a new risk system, based on how frequently people are turning up in MIQ with Covid from certain countries.

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A survey of health workers has revealed few are comfortable with the idea of carrying out assisted dying procedures. Guyon Espiner reports for Radio NZ that only one in ten are “definitely willing” to do so, with a larger share possibly open to it. That is raising questions about whether it will be possible to meet the forecast demand for euthanasia, when the new law comes into force. Health practitioners have the right to conscientiously object to participate in assisted dying.

Is there a resolution in sight for the Wellington bus driver dispute? Radio NZ reported that the Employment Court ruled in favour of drivers after a lockout by the company NZ Bus was attempted. That means drivers can return to work – though they also might take further strike action in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, in an interesting subplot to it all, Stuff’s Joel MacManus reports NZ Bus has hired the PM’s former chief of staff, and PR heavy hitter GJ Thompson to act on their behalf.

A bit of world news with implications for New Zealand: US president Joe Biden has formally recognised the Armenian genocide, carried out by the Ottoman Empire during the first world war. CNN reports that has created some tension between the USA and Turkey, the modern successor state (in a complicated way) to the Ottoman Empire. Questions get asked every year about whether New Zealand should do the same, particularly as ANZAC soldiers actually documented some of the atrocities that took place – a point covered recently in this Stuff article that draws on the work of journalist James Robins on the topic. Newshub Nation put the question to foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta, who said there were a lot of complex issues to work through before that was considered – arguably that’s code for the issue being put in the too hard basket.

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Lorde performs at an intimate show at the Powerstation in Auckland on November 14, 2017 (Photo: Dave Simpson/WireImage)

Right now on The Spinoff: Ockham’s Mark Todd writes about how the government can make its new housing policies work, and his annoyance at other landlords for their negative approach. Oliver Lewis explores the ruins of the Catholic Cathedral in Christchurch for relics. Oncologist Dr George Laking looks at how the latest round of health reforms could come to be seen within a few years. Josie Adams reports on a battle between Auckland Council and the local Parrot Society over a pest management plan. Chris Schulz looks back at some of the biggest bands who played some of New Zealand’s smallest venues. Olivia Sisson has a guide to foraging for mushrooms, what to eat and what to avoid. Michelle Langstone writes about a great Australian gambling game only legal on Anzac Day. And Amanda Thompson writes about the meaning of Anzac biscuits passed down from grandparents.

For a feature today, another great piece about internet culture – this time focused on one of the worst jobs in the digital economy. The Substack Where’s Your Ed At has looked at the plight of professional social media managers, who are required to both send out (sometimes) idiotic and tone deaf posts, and then deal with whatever comes back. Frankly, it sounds soul-destroying. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s a no-win situation – one where the average social media manager has very little power over any of the decisions but all of the consequences. They are the ones that must sit there and silently read and at times respond to an endless flow of anger and ridicule – in the manager’s case, a week of evisceration over removing the hashtag #blacklivesmatter because management believed that it would “not appeal to equality for all minority groups.” 

It’s bad enough when you [redacted] up online and everyone makes fun of you – imagine that happening when you have hundreds of thousands or millions of followers and you are actually employed specifically to read what they say. You cannot look away – you must stare into this void of madness and report to higher ups that will, most likely, yell at you for the consequences of their actions.

The magnificent Wellington Phoenix simply can’t stop winning. Well, that’s not quite accurate, but their record of late has been very strong, and they’re now in with a shout at making the A-League playoffs, after a late 2-1 win over Adelaide. The big story of the season to date has been the performance of local teenager Ben Waine, who has now scored four goals in four games – Stuff’s Phillip Rollo has a great piece about how he came to be so deadly. Meanwhile in trans-Tasman sport, a depleted Warriors side was demolished by the Melbourne Storm. Newshub reports New Zealander Jahrome Hughes played a leading role for the Storm.

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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