Chris Hipkins speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Chris Hipkins speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The BulletinJuly 28, 2020

The Bulletin: International students not coming back this year

Chris Hipkins speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)
Chris Hipkins speaks to media during a press conference (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Bailout to stave off crisis in international education sector, return flight bookings freeze extended again, and man selling bleach as Covid cure raided.

If it wasn’t already on the cards, the international education sector got a clear message that students would be unlikely to return this year. The sector is worth about $5 bn a year to the wider economy, which made it one of the country’s most important export industries, and is a particularly important source of income for institutes and some secondary schools. However, with the borders closed and managed isolation facilities at a premium, institutes were told that they couldn’t expect the situation to change. Universities were not included in this particular package, because as education minister Chris Hipkins put it, their balance sheets are healthy enough for now.

The warning came with money, intended to keep the sector afloat until things improved. Our live updates carried details of that – $51 million from the Covid response and recovery fund will be used to keep jobs in place and prevent a collapse. Of that money, $10 million will be spent on developing “new products and services”, which could theoretically allow students to remain in their home countries while studying. It’s hard to imagine how that would replicate the experience of actually being at a New Zealand institute though.

There have been some suggestions that a way be found to allow international students in to assist the sector. National has argued that students could do their managed isolation periods in student accommodation buildings, but the government has ruled that out on the grounds such facilities aren’t fit for purpose, reports Stuff. Economist Eric Crampton has also consistently called for the sector to be able to take advantage of the country’s ‘lifeboat’ status, making it a particularly attractive destination. Education minister Chris Hipkins talked up the possibility of the sector sharing in the wider reputational benefits of that in the future, and $3 million of the package was put towards marketing, to keep New Zealand in the view of potential markets.

Meanwhile as Politik reports, it signals something of a shift in thinking from the main parties of government, who to varying degrees campaigned on lower the number of international students coming in. As the piece notes, “If anything reflects the pragmatism that has been forced on the Government by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is this issue.”

An exciting development for The Spinoff: We’ve now got merch for sale! You can check out everything we’ve got on offer here, but among other things we’ve got tea towels, pens, coffee cups, tote bags and T-shirts for sale. You can also buy copies of The Spinoff Book, which we released at the end of last year, featuring dozens of the best pieces of writing to appear on the site over our first five years. And of course, Spinoff Members get a discount on all of it, which you can sign up for here.

The booking freeze on flights home has been extended, meaning a longer wait for New Zealanders overseas trying to return, reports the NZ Herald. It comes after an agreement between Air NZ and the government to manage bookings, so that managed isolation facilities weren’t overwhelmed – and in terms of the story above, it really puts some context around why international students aren’t able to come in right now. About 15,000 returning NZers can go through managed isolation each month, and it is basically at capacity. No flights are available from major Australian cities until August 10. Meanwhile, the PM confirmed yesterday that a law change would be needed to charge fees for managed isolation.

Police have raided the house of a man who sells a type of bleach as a Covid-19 cure, reports Susan Strongman for Radio NZ. In fact, according to the Ngatea man, his ‘Miracle Mineral Solution’ can cure all sorts of things, with no scientific proof to back the claims up. In fact, consuming the substance is highly likely to do more harm than good. Strongman has been following this story for a while, and for a fuller account of it all, I encourage you to read her original story on it.

Some updates around the polls: National leader Judith Collins has promised to show her MPs internal polling at their caucus meeting tomorrow, to demonstrate that the numbers are better than the dramatic Reid Research result on Sunday night, reports Radio NZ. Presumably those internal numbers will then leak out to the public in a matter of hours. If you’re wanting a bit more information on rogue polls generally, I’d recommend this piece by statistician Thomas Lumley on the subject, which also comes with a lot of useful points about the value of individual polls taken in isolation.

The Chinese dissident community in New Zealand is mourning the deaths of two of their own in a car crash last week. This story from Newsroom’s Laura Walters does an excellent job of putting the loss in context, particularly the role they played in raising awareness of issues experienced by the diaspora in this country. Their deaths are being described as a loss for democracy, and not just in this country.

A piece of legislation went through last week that could have a major effect on the dairy industry: Radio NZ’s Maja Burry has reported on the changes, which mean that Fonterra will no longer be required to take milk from anyone and everyone who wants to get into dairy farming. This means they could theoretically now refuse to take milk from unsustainable conversions, or from farmers whose conduct around animal welfare isn’t up to scratch. The changes have been made now in part because Fonterra’s share of the market has fallen to 80% – so still easily a majority, but not the monopoly it once effectively was.

Some electorate selections are underway after various MPs found themselves tossed from parliament. For Clutha-Southland, Stuff reports that the field includes Queenstown lawyer Joseph Mooney, sports journo Olivia Caldwell, and Dunedin restaurant owner Matthew French. A banker from Dunedin had been expected to feature, but he pulled out of a crucial meeting in the town of Winton. Whoever wins the selection is highly likely to take the deep blue seat. In the more closely contested Palmerston North, Labour have picked current deputy mayor Tangi Utikere as their candidate, reports Stuff, after a very speedy selection contest to replace Iain Lees-Galloway.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris explain the various processes for finding a Covid-19 vaccine. Madeleine Chapman debuts her brand new election column Memebers of Parliament. Felix Walton looks at the situation with Huawei in the US and UK, and asks what that means for NZ. Kathy Errington introduces a conversation with Anjum Rahman on online harm, an extract from the upcoming BWB text Shouting Zeroes and Ones. Sam Brooks reviews the pared-down, folksy new album from Taylor Swift. Tara Ward reviews a positively bizarre 34 minute tourism promotional film made in 1980.

And I’m very excited to see my favourite webseries in the world is back for another season. Scratched – which tells the stories of Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends – has returned with an episode about former rugby player Joeli Vidiri. I remember him from some of my earliest days of watching rugby, and was forever confused about what became of him after a brief period in which he was unstoppable. As I say, it’s great to have Scratched back, and there are some very cool episodes to come.

For a feature today, a look at how ethical certifications of products and brands don’t necessarily change anything for the better. The Guardian has reported on a survey study which takes in about 40 such voluntary certifications, and found that you simply can’t rely on them to prove ethical practices are taking place. In some cases, it even acts as a shield for worse behaviour. Here’s an excerpt:

In light of its critique, MSI Integrity warns that consumers “can’t rely” on the claims made by many ethical labels. Not only are abuses continuing to occur, but generic terms such as “fair” and “sustainable” can be misleading. As Evans says: “The risk is that these initiatives are legitimising abusive behaviours by failing to detect them and by suggesting that a wider range of issues are being addressed than often is the case.”

Sarah Newell, a spokesperson for the US-based Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network, goes even further, arguing that multi-stakeholder initiatives exist to intentionally “obscure” worker abuses in multinational supply chains. Their “primary function”, she argues, is “to distract from the fact that these abysmal conditions are the direct result of the business practices of the brands at the top of these supply chains”.

One of New Zealand’s most unsung coaching successes is finishing up her tenure at the end of this ANZ Premiership netball season. Stuff reports Pulse coach Yvette McCausland-Durie will be stepping down when the competition ends this year, which her team is in a great position to win for the second time in a row. It’s easy to forget how poor a team the Pulse used to be, particularly during the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship era. But since the NZ-only competition started, McCausland-Durie has never finished worse than 2nd place on the ladder.

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