The Bulletin: Government in crisis?

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Commentators say government is in crisis, record gains in net migration, and the cost of posting a humble letter is going up. 

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Is the government in crisis? We’re going to have a rare break from normal programming and lead The Bulletin with commentary today, because a strong theme has emerged in the last few weeks. A minister, or someone attached to the Labour Party, will say or do something unfortunate, and then Jacinda Ardern ends up being dragged into it.

Some of the criticism is coming from the usual sources – Matthew HootonMike Hosking. But it’s also raining down from non-partisan sources, which will be a real worry for the government.

Tracy Watkins wrote on Stuff on Tuesday that bad news just keeps being laid at Ardern’s door. Brigitte Morten on Radio NZ said the fiasco over Clare Curran’s meeting that resulted in RNZ’s Head of Content Carol Hirschfeld being sacked was becoming Ardern’s problem. Pointedly, Morten also said Ardern had been unable to discipline NZ First MPs who got out of line, like Shane Jones, Ron Mark, or Jenny Marcroft. And on One News last week, columnist John Armstrong put down a brutal assessment of how Ardern was managing the coalition.

From the left, Gordon Campbell says Ardern’s habit of expressing support for nice sounding positions isn’t necessarily being matched up by the bureaucratic grinding of actual government.

Of course, it’s possible none of this actually matters to most voters. The government ticked everything they intended to do off their 100 days plan. The minimum wage is about to go up. Big new house building programmes are being announced. This sort of stuff really does matter, and some of the scandals may be being viewed through the distorting bubble of media and politics. Either way, it’s fair to say any sort of honeymoon Jacinda Ardern might have had with media is now long gone.


There’s been a record net gain in migration to New Zealand in the last year. The NZ Herald reports that is despite government measure to bring the number of migrants down. In particular, there’s been a huge increase in the number of temporary work visa holders – up 16% on last year. However, the number of permanent residency approvals is down 8%.


Stuff reports that the cost of sending a letter is about to increase, to cover a significant loss of revenue at NZ Post. It will go up from $1 to $1.20, and the cost of sending parcels will rise by 50c. International postage rates will also go up. Part of the wider context here is that standalone post offices are disappearing, and more and more services are being integrated into other businesses. The Dominion Post had a good story in January about protests in the suburb of Newtown against the Post Office closing, to give a bit of context about NZ Post’s financial position.


An extension of the Waihi Gold Mine is being proposed, but some of the mining would take place underneath what is currently a residential area. The Waihi Leader’s editor Melanie Camoin reports for the NZ Herald that the company OceanaGold has found more gold in the Martha open pit, and it could extend the life of the pit by ten years. But former Green MP Catherine Delahunty says further encroachment into Waihi town will “mine the heart out of Waihi.”


New Zealand’s defence spending has fallen a long way behind that of Australia, both in total and per capita terms. Bernard Lagan writes in the Listener that “an immense gap in technology and firepower has opened up” between the two forces, who work closely together. Lagan says “it has not gone unnoticed” across the Tasman that New Zealand spends far less on defence.


An intriguing story on the front page of today’s Dominion Post – a community trust in the Kāpiti coast village of Paekakariki wants to build three wind turbines, to generate enough energy to power every house in town. There was a good discussion on Radio NZ‘s Nine to Noon about community wind turbines last week, which is also worth a listen.


This Easter, remember the reason for the season, which is of course arguing about Easter trading lawsStuff has an incredibly useful explainer which goes through exactly where businesses are allowed to open on Easter Sunday, what worker rights are regarding whether or not they choose to work, surcharges, and religious views. Also, if you’re in Dunedin and want to have a drink on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, make sure you toast Ed Sheeran for keeping the bars open.

Image: Toby Morris

Right now on The Spinoff: Tax heroes! The series derided by the Taxpayers Union as “neosocalist propaganda” is here, to reframe what exactly paying tax means to society. In the first piece of the series, Rebecca Stevenson looks at how much tax our biggest companies actually pay. Other good stuff: Privacy Commissioner John Edwards  wrote for us about how well facebook complies with the law, and why he personally deleted facebook. And Calum Henderson goes on a mission to find Dunedin’s Ed Sheeran mural.


And now, a guest feature from our man in London Don Rowe. He’s covering the upcoming Joseph Parker fight, and has filed his first dispatch here:

Boxing and journalism go together like alcoholism and journalism. Some of the greatest works of sports writing have centred around the human drama and unparalleled emotion of championship prizefighting – with millions of dollars, pride, and potentially life on the line, few environments provide such fertile ground for reporting.

This weekend, South Auckland’s Joseph Parker takes on British superstar Anthony Joshua in front of 80,000 people at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium. Joshua, a 6’6’’ adonis of a man, is no stranger to high profile fights. Read the sardonic Kelefa Sanneh’s account of his toughest and most triumphant bought against Ukranian legend Wladimir Klitschko in the New Yorker here.

Though having boxed around 60 more professional rounds than Joshua, Joseph Parker has never seen upwards of even 20,000 people at one of his fights. Unlike Joshua, who boarded a well-funded hype train as soon as he entered professional boxing aged 18, Parker has had to grind his way from dubious undercards to small scale pay-per-views to, finally, this historic bout, clawing sponsorship and respect every step of the way. Read my account of four months spent following Team Parker on The Spinoff here.

And finally, not all boxers need prove successful on a championship level to be worth talking about. Chauncey Welliver, whom one might generously call a journeyman, clocked up a middling 55-12-5 record over 15 years, fighting his penultimate fight in a losing effort against Kiwi sporting icon Sonny Bill Williams in 2015. Peter Malcouronne profiled Welliver for Metro shortly after the fight – read it here.


In sport, Australian cricketers David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft have all been whacked with heavy bans for their role in the ball tampering saga. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Warner has been fingered as a the ringleader, and will be banned from captaincy for life, which is a shame for him because he did a pretty good job as skipper in the recent T20 tri-series against New Zealand and England. And it turns out they were using sandpaper on the ball after all, not tape with granules of dirt attached as originally claimed.


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.


And to finish, a personal word from the author. The Bulletin will be taking a break over Easter, and will be back again on Tuesday morning. This project has been running for about four weeks now, and it’s so far succeeded way beyond what I was expecting. Already, almost 5000 people get this email every day, and I’ve lost count of the number of messages people have sent in to say why they read it, or how it could be improved.

I am really, really lucky to be in a position to highlight important stories and great pieces of journalism, from all over the country. So to everyone who reads The Bulletin, thank you so much. You, the reader, make the 5.00am starts worthwhile. And please tell people about The Bulletin! Forward it on to your colleagues, your friends, your family. Tell them if they want to keep up with the news, that is exactly what we’ll deliver right to their inbox every morning. They can sign up here

Anyway, I’m off to Taranaki to spend a few days off the grid with my wonderful partner. We’ll catch up again on Tuesday.


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