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NZ First’s Shane Jones, Winston Peters and Ron Mark (Photo: Getty Images)
NZ First’s Shane Jones, Winston Peters and Ron Mark (Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinSeptember 30, 2019

The Bulletin: Is NZ First already in election mode?

NZ First’s Shane Jones, Winston Peters and Ron Mark (Photo: Getty Images)
NZ First’s Shane Jones, Winston Peters and Ron Mark (Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Shane Jones says the quiet bit out loud to forestry industry, massive marches take place against climate inaction, and pharmacists fear Chemist Warehouse wipeout.

Cabinet minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones has allegedly been caught saying the quiet bit out loud again. The NZ Herald’s David Fisher reports on claims from a forestry awards ceremony, in which Jones is alleged to have told the industry that because he’s secured them so much money, he should also get their votes. A formal complaint has been made, and National have called on the PM to censure him, though Jones says as a retail politician, he’ll continue to remind people of what he has delivered. It speaks to a wider perception around the provincial growth fund, that it is a slush fund to get NZ First re-elected.

Has the provincial growth fund actually delivered? Earlier this year that was totally opaque, with Eric Crampton writing this piece on the difficulty of getting a straight answer on job creation figures. Money might be being spent and press releases about projects going out, but those in the industries being targeted will probably have a fair idea of how effective the scheme has been. If it has been highly effective, they probably don’t need Shane Jones to tell them so.

And that’s sort of the problem in a nutshell as well. It’s not the first time Jones has turned an opportunity to speak to business groups as a chance to pitch – earlier this year Stuff reported on a post-budget speech that included a nudge about NZ First killing the capital gains tax, and a plaintive murmur about how nobody was thanking them for it.

There are a few other recent examples of NZ First looking to carve out some differentiation from the rest of the coalition government. Over the weekend, One News reported that the party had stymied an effort to get drug-testing in place for summer festivals. As far as the overall term of this government has gone, it’s a classic, in that it’s an evidence-based but politically risky policy beloved by the Greens, killed off by the much more conservative NZ First. See also this year moves around taking abortion reform to a referendum, and the ongoing agitation around the Zero Carbon bill’s methane targets. The many examples of this sort of thing happening suggest it isn’t so much that NZ First are back in campaign mode – it looks more like they never left it.

Massive numbers turned out in protest against climate inaction on Friday. The Spinoff was there at various events, with upper estimates of nationwide crowd numbers of 170,000. Depending on definitions, that makes it easily one of the largest mass protests in New Zealand’s history. Given how motivated the teenagers who organised it sounded, it will be fascinating to see how politicians respond to ongoing pressure on the matter.

Pharmacies fear being wiped out, as the Chemist Warehouse looks to start expanding across the country, reports Debrin Foxcroft for Stuff. The Australian-owned chain has taken a sizeable share of the Auckland market already, with aggressive pricing and marketing. But there’s a wider disruption going on in retail generally, which is compounding pressure for pharmacies.

Thousands of x-ray procedures could be cancelled today, amid a strike by radiographers, reports Radio NZ. Multiple strikes in that part of the medical sector are scheduled for the coming days, and DHBs have accused employees of looking to cause maximum disruption to the system with the strikes. The union rejects that assertion.

Councillor ratings have the potential to really make or break an elected member’s day, and these ones are causing huge drama among Wellington local government twitter. The Dominion Post’s Collette Devlin and Dileepa Fonseka, who have both been watching the whole term, have assessed the performance of everyone on the WCC. Suffice to say, a lot of councillors thought the journalists had got their rating wrong.

Have you voted yet? Have you voted yet? Have you voted yet? These are three useful questions you could be asking your friends and family if they haven’t voted yet. For today’s reason as to why it’s a good idea to vote in local body elections, Julienne Molineaux has written an explainer for The Spinoff on District Health Boards, and how they add a potentially unnecessary layer of complexity to local body elections. But don’t let that stop you getting around to sending your papers back in.

Some game-playing is afoot around the use of Parliament TV footage in political attack ads. Newshub reports speaker Trevor Mallard has ordered National to take down a series of selectively edited social media posts, which show government MPs bumbling or generally making prats of themselves – Andrew Geddis wrote an explainer about the decision here. National in turn has refused, and in fact all 55 MPs defied the ban by reposting one of the videos. The stoush could dominate the news this week. Speaking personally, it’s all very disheartening. At times members of our parliament genuinely behave like their jobs are important, and at other times this sort of carry-on happens.

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Right now on The Spinoff: 10 years on from a deadly tsunami hitting Samoa, Sapeer Mayron speaks to the people who were there. Departing Auckland councillor Penny Hulse really opens up to Hayden Donnell about how she sees the state of the election. I spoke to a New Zealander trying to save the lives of asylum seekers in the Mediterranean. Alex Casey met her doppelgänger, who is also an 18 year old climate activist running for Council in Kāpiti. Duncan Greive reviews a book charting the horrifying rise of Uber.

Finally, The Spinoff Review of Books is marking the departure of one of the most beloved figures in New Zealand literature. Jack Lasenby has died at the age of 88, and all sorts of writers and readers have paid tribute to him in a collective obituary.

For a feature today, a contest of ideas. The academic world has been roiled in recent days by a publisher’s decision to not publish a book by New Zealand scholar James Flynn. His book was about freedom on speech, and in an article on Quillette he claimed it had been banned, and that it was another worrying example of restrictions being put on speech that people might not want to hear. The publisher – while stressing that it did not believe the book was racist – suggested that “racial hatred could be stirred up as a result of the work.”

We had a response on The Spinoff from Danyl Mclauchlan, who points out that in fact, it hasn’t been banned at all. And he gets deep into the reasons why the publisher chose not to go ahead with it, and points out that these sorts of ideas aren’t actually abstract at all – they have real world consequences. He also criticises a culture developing among a section of the academic world, in which it is actually far more profitable to suffer a minor setback if it can be turned into controversy and publicity. I encourage you to read both pieces.

The most exciting team in world rugby have pulled off another thrilling upset. Japan have beaten Ireland 19-12, and in fact completely outplayed the Irish with both ruthless commitment in defence and thrilling verve on attack. They look set to be a serious force at this tournament. And it makes their pool potentially the most evenly contested in World Cup history – any of Ireland, Scotland, Japan or Samoa could end up getting the top two spots. As this report on Radio Sport outlines, that matters for the All Blacks, who will play whoever comes 2nd in the quarterfinals. Also in World Cup news, Australia lost to Wales last night, but since Fiji’s struggles against Uruguay it isn’t likely to cost them a place in the quarterfinals.

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