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Simon Bridges addresses the 83rd Annual National Party Conference at Christchurch Town Hall as leader in 2019. (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
Simon Bridges addresses the 83rd Annual National Party Conference at Christchurch Town Hall as leader in 2019. (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The BulletinNovember 27, 2019

The Bulletin: Officer Bridges swings truncheon at gangs

Simon Bridges addresses the 83rd Annual National Party Conference at Christchurch Town Hall as leader in 2019. (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
Simon Bridges addresses the 83rd Annual National Party Conference at Christchurch Town Hall as leader in 2019. (Photo: Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: National promises heavy crackdown on gangs, combined announcement puts ECE pressure on govt, and Samoa measles outbreak gets worse.

National have set clear daylight between themselves and the government in their latest policy discussion document. The law and order policies are aimed at creating an overall safer society, and protecting the victims of crime, says party leader Simon Bridges. He set out some of the more rehabilitative ideas in the package in this op-ed on The Spinoff, written in response to criticism from former National MP Chester Borrows that Bridges was hammering away at populist themes of getting tough on crime. It’s fair to say those populist ideas got a much wider airing yesterday.

The most prominent phrase in the aftermath of the announcement has been ‘Strike Force Raptor’. It might sound like the name of some ill-fated cop show pilot, but it’s actually borrowed from Australian policing – NSW has an anti-gang unit of the same name. Newshub reports the purpose of such a unit is quite literally to harass gang members, and create a hostile environment for those who choose to stay in gangs. A wide set of laws are proposed, aiming to drive gangs and their symbols from public life, and Bridges says gang members should be prosecuted and sentenced more harshly.

Homegrown gangs, particularly the Mongrel Mob, have been on a PR blitz recently, in an attempt to portray themselves as the better devils we already knowThere has been widespread reporting of new gangs cropping up, particularly with members from Australia, moving into previously held turf, as Jared Savage of the NZ Herald (paywalled) writes. Highly visible gangs like the mob and Black Power arguably have the most to lose from more aggressive policing, and public comments indicate they hate National’s proposals.

What’s less clear is whether or not these proposals would simply drive organised crime underground. An account on Vice of what followed law changes in Australia indicates that was the case there, with the culture change potentially even fuelling more dangerous levels of criminality and violence. That’s also a theme picked up in this Newsroom piece, which notes that generally these sorts of Raptor-type units cost a lot and deliver little of worth.

There were also policies focused on prisons, which earned a harsh rebuke from Corrections minister Kelvin Davis. The ideas included full ‘working prisons’, reports Stuff, with the current opt-in system becoming compulsory. Newshub reports Davis criticised the package as outdated thinking, defending the reforms made by the government as having better long term outcomes. He also tweeted that “96% of all eligible prisoners are engaged in employment, education/training, treatment programmes or constructive activities.”

It all fits with something of a recent pattern with Bridges, in that he has effectively argued that the state should both be more targeted, and much tougher against certain groupsFor example, earlier this week he weighed in on the city’s controversial begging ban, which is in the process of being revoked, reports SunLive. Bridges says that rather than the ban being unenforceable, Council should be charging beggars who break the bylaw and trying to get a prosecution through the courts. He said revoking the ban was because “well intentioned people” had come up with the wrong solution.

Bridges however was much less generous of the intentions of his critics on the law and order package. A range of people spoke out against the proposals in this Stuff story, and in response Bridges unleashed a wild swing on twitter – “So who are the “experts” plural who know so much about criminology in this piece? Some sweary bear Ron Kramer, gang apologist Denis O’Rielly, [sic] Chester Borrows & Mob Pres Sonny Fatupaito. Really?” For the record the ‘sweary bear’ is University of Auckland criminologist Dr Ron Kramer, a title that indicates some expertise on the matter.

It’s the sort of rhetoric that shows National believes it is onto a winner in driving hard at law and order – they will be calculating there are more voters than not who (justifiably, for the most part) hate gangs and want to see them smashed. Perhaps this is just something that opposition parties do – Labour also promised a gang crackdown from there. But as Politik’s Richard Harman writes, this all represents a hard swing to the right for National on law and order.

A combined announcement on early childhood education negotiations pausing has put pressure on the government. ECE employers and the NZEI union representing ECE teachers have told the government that there needs to be an urgent pay jolt for the profession, along with new standards for pay parity and other roles being brought up alongside teachers. It is part of a wider campaign being run by the NZEI, looking for a funding package like what primary and secondary teachers got.

The dreadful measles outbreak in Samoa has continued to rage, with dozens of deaths now recorded. The Samoa Observer reports most of those deaths have been children under four years old, with hundreds more cases among older people that have less often been fatal. At least 24,000 people have been vaccinated in the last week, but there are fears that a peak in cases hasn’t yet been reached.

This is a bizarre and troubling story about misuse of police resources. Stuff reports notes were placed on the police intelligence database against the name of a domestic abuse victim, alleging that the complainant was a liar and had made it up. That information then ended up being accidentally sent to a journalist. Police have apologised and corrected their internal record, but have refused to pay compensation over the matter.

A highly contagious outbreak of mumps has hit Auckland, particularly clustered around a couple of gyms, reports Josie Adams for The Spinoff. That’s considered a particular concern, because in a gym environment people might be passing the virus on to people that they have no way of contacting subsequently. Those who have had both their MMR (one of the M’s being measles) shots are considered immune to mumps.

A bushwalker is facing charges over accusations that he repeatedly walked Waitākere Ranges tracks which were closed to fight kauri dieback, reports Radio NZ. The man was allegedly caught three times in the space of five months, and Auckland Council have had enough. Mayor Phil Goff said he thought it was regrettable that the prosecution had to be brought, but that Council were trying to send a message with it. Even a single person walking through infected areas of kauri forest can spread the disease, which has no known cure.

Here’s a really interesting and unsettling look inside the reality of modern online publishing. Business Desk recently launched a public-facing website, to go with their more than a decade of providing news copy to a wide range of publications. But they’ve just been told by Google that their publication won’t be considered a “verified news source”, and Facebook won’t give them a similar tag either. It’s kind of ridiculous, and creates an unfairly uneven playing field for publications to compete in. So if anyone from either digital giant happens to be a Bulletin reader, consider dropping your colleagues a line and sorting it out.

Finally for this section, best wishes to Labour MP Jan Tinetti, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Newshub reports she will be taking several weeks off to recover after an operation. The cancer was discovered after a regular mammogram, and she said it showed the importance of getting checked regularly.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Duncan Greive writes about the immense excitement at Vodafone over the potential of 5G. Liam Hehir, former chair of the Palmerston North National electorate committee, assesses the chances of their new 17 year old candidate. Alice Neville suggests a few solutions to the problematic Western Springs geese, including for example simply eating them. Glen Herud of Happy Cow Dairy returns to update us on how his relaunch is going.

And there’s a brand new edition of The Side Eye to get into. It’s a topic that is very close to my heart – Toby Morris has profiled the work of community pest control groups around Wellington, who have done so much to bring native birds back to the city. Bloody good on them, I say.

There was a mention of a possible local breakthrough in lithium extraction in yesterday’s Bulletin, and for a feature today I want to expand that out a bit. Basically, the reason why it is potentially such an important development is because of the current conditions lithium is mined in, and the overall supply chains of use. This piece from the New Republic goes into an American-focused view of the lithium industry, and how it is tangentially connected to (though not necessarily the cause of) the recent political upheaval/coup in Bolivia. Here’s an excerpt:

It’s the kind of future suggested by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s recent proposal to invest $454 billion over a decade to build out electric car manufacturing and charging stations, incentivizing consumers to swap out today’s combustion-powered clunkers for the EVs of tomorrow. “My plan,” he wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed, “is estimated to create tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs in this country and should re-establish the United States as the world leader in auto manufacturing.”

Schumer’s proposal, which is supported by labor and environmental groups, embodies the kind of cheery techno-optimism that has dominated climate policymaking in wealthy countries like the U.S. for decades: We have the money and technology to mostly maintain business as usual by simply replacing the energy source that powers it, with a few complementary tweaks along the way. Green manufacturing jobs offer the added bonus of returning America to its postwar industrial heyday. The supply chains and extraction that make them possible are kept out of sight.

In an extremely promising sign for elite netball’s medium term future, Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua is moving back to New Zealand. Newsroom’s Suzanne McFadden has interviewed her about her future plans – which are still up in the air – but there are signs that a more long term involvement with the team is taking shape. She’s off contract after January’s Nations Cup, but there’s every chance Netball NZ will throw absolutely everything they can at keeping her. The next big local netball event is the Super Club tournament, which will feature all six domestic teams, along with Wasps from the UK and the Collingwood Magpies from Australia.

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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