Jacinda Ardern and Grant Robertson(Radio NZ)

The Bulletin: Soft steps for big business push

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Government makes moves on business confidence, National wants US military whistleblower kept out of NZ, and schools strugging with stand-down rates.

The Prime Minister has made a big push to bring business back onside, after the government has spent much of the year dogged by low confidence. Let’s put to one side the argument about whether or not business confidence matters – it’s been pretty conclusively shown that business confidence about the wider economy doesn’t matter as an economic indicator, but the figures that show what respondents feel about the outlook for their own business do matter as both an economic and political indicator. That it matters has been proven by PM Ardern’s conciliatory moves to address it.

One thing that was announced at the speech (which editor Toby Manhire was at) was that the government would form a Business Advisory Council (basically a working group) to provide advice to the government. It’s going to be chaired by Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon. As the top guy at a partially state owned near-monopoly, he may not exactly represent the wider business community – Politik reports that there has been some political and business disquiet over the appointment. But the rest of the Council is yet to be selected so there’s room for a few other views.

The National Party has derided this as just more talk, when it’s government policies that business leaders don’t like, reports Newshub. ACT Party leader David Seymour came out with a tidy play on words to describe what it looked like – ‘suitwashing,’ a la greenwashing. Mr Luxon said he wasn’t concerned it would just be a talkfest, because “CEO’s don’t join those,” Stuff quoted him as saying.

On Interest, Jason Walls argues that the biggest sticking point for business has been a lack of certainty around government policy. He says that this will do little to solve that, though notes that when it comes to worsening economic indicators, not a lot of that is actually the new government’s fault – international trade wars between two of our biggest export markets looms much larger for business than a rising minimum wage. And on the NZ Herald, Liam Dann argues that there isn’t an awful lot Ardern can do about policies that rebalance the economy back towards workers, without also betraying her base.

The other substantive thing Ardern did signal though was that there would only be “one or two” industry-wide fair pay agreements over the current term, reports Stuff. It’s a form of collective bargaining, designed to set standards across industries, and there isn’t yet a lot of clarity around how they’ll work in practice. The message to business is that changes won’t be made rapidly. But for political reasons, the government may simply never be able to get them fully on board, no matter what the speed of changes are.


The National Party wants to bar controversial US whistleblower Chelsea Manning from entering the country for a speaking tour, reports Stuff. Manning had been imprisoned for seven years after leaking a mountain of classified material while a soldier. National’s Michael Woodhouse says her visit is just to make money, she was convicted of serious crimes and should be denied a special visa on those grounds. The government says an application for a visa has been received, but the decision not yet made, reports Stuff.

That has proven to be a contentious stance. The Free Speech Coalition – the bunch that fought a decision to bar those two racist Canadians from speaking at Council venues – has condemned National’s stance. And as Danyl McLaughlan points out on The Spinoff, it doesn’t exactly seem like National is being consistent with their position on that matter.


Rates of school stand-downs and expulsions for assault are at an 11 year peak, reports the NZ Herald on their front page this morning. A range of causes have been put forward for why, including P-addicted parents, insecure housing and health services, and social media footage of fights meaning that school authorities can’t turn a blind eye to them.


The NZ Herald has done an investigation on the state of the Park and Ride system around Auckland, and found that many are completely filling up well before rush hour. I know many Bulletin readers will use this system, so it may be something you already know, but as the population around major centres like Albany and Swanson grows, and public transport numbers increase, it’s only going to become more of a problem.


New Australian PM Scott Morrison won’t be attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru next week, reports Radio NZ. PM Jacinda Ardern will be going, and Newstalk ZB reports that she still intends to visit some of the hundreds of asylum seekers stuck in Australian detention camps.


Tasman Councillors have voted against the Waimea Dam, reports the Nelson Mail. One of the concerns was that the Council would have been asked to put up more funds – something regional economic development minister Shane Jones had pushed for. It’s not a good outcome for major water users in the district, like farmers, who might in future may struggle with water supply.


Rich-lister Eric Watson’s tax situation is currently before the courts, reports the NZ Herald. The IRD is chasing his Cullen Group for $112 million dollars, and in part goes back to a 2004 audit process aimed at high net worth people. It all gets rather difficult to summarise after that, so if you want to know more, read the story. The trial continues.


Just two days to go in our referral competition, so if you haven’t got your signups in, now’s the time. A reminder: quite a few people have been giving their own email address twice – that’s not how it works, sorry. You have to give your email, and the email address of the person who referred you – and the referrer gets the prize.


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Right now on The Spinoff: ACT leader David Seymour calls for Chelsea Manning to be allowed into the country. Madeleine Chapman questions why there’s still so much preciousness around girls and boys playing on the same sports teams. Guest writer Arie Faber attacks ‘wellness culture’ as dangerous, manipulative crap. And Catherine Robertson has filed a steamy report from the Auckland Romance Writers Festival.


The complex legacy of US Senator and Presidential candidate John McCain is being hotly debated, after he died of brain cancer earlier this week. Whether a convention against speaking ill of the dead ever really existed at all, it is now well and truly broken. And McCain himself was a polarising political figure, in ways that cut across traditional party lines and ideologies, and in his later career especially, illustrated the sharp turn to the hard right by sections of his Republican party.

The Washington Post focused on his moments of political courage. In particular, his refusal to indulge in race-baiting attacks on Barack Obama, the guy who beat him in the Presidential race, was highlighted. Actions like that earned McCain wide admiration around Washington, and it also earned him a lot of enmity from parts of his base. That party of the party later coalesced around the Tea Party movement, and more recently, an increasingly potent white nationalist movement. In his final years, McCain was lauded as a principled critic of the Trump administration, and with that representing a decency and decorum in politics that has been lost.

Writing for the US socialist magazine Jacobin, Branko Marcetic argues that McCain’s image as an independent maverick was largely a fabrication, and really, he was just another political opportunist. He enthusiastically supported disastrous and destructive wars all over the world, and opened partnerships with some truly dire people under the principle of an enemy’s enemy being a friend.

The years McCain spent as a prisoner of war have also come up. He was famously insulted by Donald Trump during the last campaign – Trump said he preferred calling people who weren’t captured war heroes – and contrasts have been drawn between the Vietnamese POW camp, and the draft-dodging Trump himself indulged in. But it’s not like McCain’s pre-POW service was as a humanitarian. He flew bombers, which indiscriminately dropped huge quantities of explosives over areas that included civilians, before his plane was shot down. As the New York Times reports, many of the bombs dropped by the USA over Vietnam and Laos remain unexploded, waiting to kill and maim.

The view from countries affected by the wars McCain supported was bleak. An obituary on Al-Jazeera noted that his career reflected American militarism. “Give a pen and a piece of paper to a Yemeni or Iraqi or Palestinian child and ask him or her what “war hero” and “maverick” mean.” But his former jailer in Vietnam paid tribute to McCain’s “toughness and strong stance,” reports ABC News, and noted that McCain had played a key role in normalising relations between Vietnam and the USA after the war.

As for McCain’s relationship to New Zealand, foreign minister Winston Peters paid tribute to him as an “inspirational leader” and a friend of the country. Those words were echoed by other prominent politicians, reports Stuff, with National’s Gerry Brownlee saying he admired McCain’s “views on the restrained use of force in pursuit of peace,” and former PM Helen Clark saying he lived a life of public service, and was a voice of moderation.


In sport, the Warriors are practically throwing open the gates at Mt Smart, in what could well be retiring former skipper Simon Mannering’s final match. Stuff reports that they’ve been offering ‘pay what you like’ tickets, and it seems incredibly likely that they’ll be taken up enthusiastically. The Warriors have a feasible shot at a home playoff game next week, provided they win well and other results go their way.


From our partners: The chair of Vector’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Teina Teariki Mana, ponders the state of gender equity in an industry that still lags behind, and we hear about three women working in the male dominated work of energy generation and maintenance.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, get them amongst our signup referral competition.


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