Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In this morning’s edition: Minister Clare Curran still under fire over Radio NZ meeting, New Zealand’s spies can’t find any Russian spies, and no National candidacy for Dr Lance O’Sullivan.
Radio NZ’s Head of Content Carol Hirschfeld has resigned after lying over the arrangement of a meeting with Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran – Toby Manhire has a cheat sheet on the details here. The problems for the Minister though may just be beginning. Tracy Watkins at Stuff writes that Clare Curran did not correct the record at a Select Committee hearing, which PM Jacinda Ardern may need to crack down on, and is worth quoting at length.
“Ardern’s bigger headache is whether there may be more that tips Curran’s actions over the line from naive’ to unacceptable.There are lingering questions, for instance, over whether Curran was going over the top of the Radio New Zealand board and executive to consult directly with Hirschfeld on the shape of broadcasting policy.”
Clare Curran isn’t resigning, but Stuff reports that text messages to arrange the meeting are in the process of being released. Politik is also reporting that the ministerial career of Clare Curran is in the balance. But the NZ Herald‘s Claire Trevett doubts the episode meets the threshold for Jacinda Ardern to sack Curran, which would be a first ministerial sacking for the new government. And for a truly meta experience, read Andrew Geddis’s commentary published on Radio NZ, in which he commentates that those most pleased about the Radio NZ story will be the commentariat. It’s a fair point – this is an incredibly ‘media’ sort of story. But it sure is getting coverage – the papers for four major cities are all leading with it on the front page.
National is revelling in the scandal, and is linking it to previous stories of ministers seeming to act outside the bounds of the Prime Minister’s authority. National leader Simon Bridges described the government as like a “banana republic”, reports Newstalk ZB. And NZ Herald business reporter Damian Venuto says the incident will give ammunition to those who claim the state broadcaster is partisan towards Labour – though he notes that there had previously been little evidence to support that view.
PM Jacinda Ardern will not be ordering any Russian diplomats to leave the country, in the wake of the nerve agent attack on a spy in Britain. Newsroom reports her reasoning, which is that New Zealand’s intelligence services are unaware of any spies operating here. She said diplomats had been scrutinised, though any Russians working as spies wouldn’t exactly advertise it. More than a dozen Western countries have now expelled diplomats. Radio NZ reports that New Zealand is the only Five Eyes country to not do so – a fact that has not escaped British newspapers overnight.
It appears Dr Lance O’Sullivan won’t be joining the National Party. Stuff‘s Jo Moir reports that party leader Simon Bridges has rather delicately indicated that Lance O’Sullivan joining the party “wouldn’t be the right choice for him.” It’s not you, it’s me, as it were. There had been some speculation O’Sullivan might have stood for National in the upcoming Northcote by-election.
An exclusive for One News, who broke the story that charges have been laid against an international education provider for passing students who deserved to fail. NZQA says 90% of students at the International College of New Zealand were wrongly given pass marks. The charges are seen as part of a wider crackdown by NZQA, who have closed eight tertiary education providers in the last two years.
Stuff reports that rural firefighters are missing callouts because of patchy cellphone reception. The story discusses the rural Manawatū and Rangitīkei regions, but the issue has been reported across the country in mobile phone black spots. The government has plans to raise mobile phone coverage across New Zealand by 20-30%, and Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran is urging affected firefighters to contact her office.
Wellington public transport has security cameras, but they often aren’t turned on, reports Stuff. Concerns are being raised about the process of having drivers turn the camera on, in the wake of several incidents of harassment and abuse on buses.
Right now on The Spinoff: Leonie Hayden has a great explainer about the window that has just opened up to switch between the Māori and General electoral rolls. Guest writer and nurse Elizabeth Alice explains what nurses are fighting for in their dispute with DHBs. And Alex Casey meets the women behind Auckland Arts Festival show Body Double, which “seeks to destroy traditional ideas of sex, desire and female passivity in the bedroom.”
Will hosting the America’s Cup be good for Auckland and New Zealand? On one level, that question is now somewhat immaterial, given the city has now been confirmed once and for all as the host of the 2021 regatta. And the answer is: it depends who you ask.
The Marine Industry Association is already feeling the benefits, reports Radio NZ. Vessels are already being commissioned, and boatbuilders are being hired. Simon Wilson in the NZ Herald says the plan for a base that has been settled on, as it’s one of the cheaper options on the table, the harbour won’t be significantly encroached on, and says the “Cup Village will be vibrant, spectator-friendly, syndicate-friendly and even superyacht-friendly.”
On the other side of the coin, the MBIE estimate of how much economic benefit hosting the Cup will bring New Zealand had to be revised down significantly last year – here’s an NZ Herald article on the story. The new estimates show the government may actually lose money on hosting the event. The idea that the Cup should have government money spent on it is beautifully skewered by Eric Crampton here – just read it, it’s tremendously funny.
But in a nuanced piece on Newsroom last year, sports sociologist Toni Bruce suggests that the money side of it isn’t necessarily the only thing that matters. Patriotism, pride, awe at the sailing prowess of those cutting through the waves – it doesn’t do really do it for me personally, but it does for an astonishingly large number of New Zealanders. Up and down the country tens of thousands of people went to victory parades, and anyone who saw news analytics during the 2017 Cup will know it’s a highly clicked on topic.
So if you’re an Aucklander and you really hate the America’s Cup, mark March 2021 in your calendar. Book leave, and take a holiday. Because like it or not, it will take over the city while its on.
In sport, the Warriors will field a team in the NRL Women’s Premiership. Radio NZ reports that club CEO Cameron George intends to sign primarily local players, for the four team competition that will run alongside the NRL finals. Given the run to the final that the Kiwi Ferns had in the last Rugby League World Cup, the Warriors will have to be considered strong contenders in this tournament.
And breaking pretty much right now in Australia’s ball tampering balls-up: Coach Darren Lehmann will survive and stay on, but captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner, and sandpaper wielder Cameron Bancroft have all been suspended and sent home from South Africa. Their full punishments have not yet been revealed, but I’m personally hoping for a life ban for David Warner, and a small fine for the other two.
And from our partners, Vector’s new technology engineer Kate Murphy writes about the humble LED, and shines a light on the history and impact little things can make on energy reduction at scale.
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.