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Winston Peters getting ready to address a press conference (Stewart Sowman-Lund)
Winston Peters getting ready to address a press conference (Stewart Sowman-Lund)

The BulletinSeptember 30, 2020

The Bulletin: Peters draws distinction between NZ First party and NZ First Foundation

Winston Peters getting ready to address a press conference (Stewart Sowman-Lund)
Winston Peters getting ready to address a press conference (Stewart Sowman-Lund)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: SFO files charges against two people in connection with NZ First Foundation, tourism industry holding out Christmas bubble hope, and Advance NZ go to court over debate exclusion.

Just days before voting starts, we got an update yesterday on the Serious Fraud Office investigation into the NZ First Foundation. Toby Manhire has put together a cheat sheet with all the information we got at 5pm yesterday evening, along with the background of the issue. The SFO put out a statement, and I’ll quote it here in full, because it is a short one:

The SFO has filed a charge of ‘Obtaining by Deception’ against two defendants in the New Zealand First Foundation electoral funding case. The charges were filed on 23 September.

The defendants have interim name suppression and so cannot be named or identified at this time. We note, however, that neither defendant is a Minister, sitting MP, or candidate in the upcoming election (or a member of their staff), or a current member of the New Zealand First party.

The SFO has no further comment.

In a press conference, NZ First leader Winston Peters said the lack of charges against anyone within the party amounted to a complete exoneration of NZ First, and denounced the timing saying it “raised serious questions about the Serious Fraud Office.”He said NZ First lawyers would be taking the SFO to court on allegations that it had abused its statutory powers. He also insisted that the NZ First Foundation is completely separate from the party itself. “Total exoneration for everyone in my party is clarity, and I’m happy with that,” said Peters. Political editor Barry Soper told Newstalk ZB that the party had attempted to gag the SFO from releasing details of the charges that were filed until after the election.

The suggestion that the NZ First Foundation is completely different to the party is a bold one. The two trustees of said foundation are Peters’ personal lawyer Brian Henry, and former NZ First MP Doug Woolerton. As Radio NZ reported last year, the foundation also made loans totalling almost $200,000 over several years to the party itself. Electoral law expert Andrew Geddis said last night on Checkpoint that the nature of the foundation was unique, and that the foundation in his opinion was “set up as a shadow way of gaining donations and running the party.” If you’d rather read the thoughts of Professor Geddis than listen to them, we’ve published an article by him on The Spinoff.

Meanwhile, the National Party has announced a policy to increase funding for the Serious Fraud Office. The NZ Herald reports the policy would include renaming the organisation as the Serious Fraud and Anti-corruption Agency, along with a mandate to take on more cases. “The SFO takes very few prosecutions, not because there isn’t fraud, bribery and corruption in New Zealand, but because the office doesn’t have the resources to do its job properly,” said leader Judith Collins.

The tourism industry is holding out hope for a trans-Tasman bubble in time for Christmas, reports Radio NZ’s Sally Murphy. Work has continued on the project ever since the Victoria outbreak put paid to it several months ago, and now there is the possibility of one opening up with the state of New South Wales. That has raised the prospect of a good summer for tourism, which has suffered from a loss of revenue from international visitors. However, Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said they won’t be getting ahead of themselves, which is probably wise given how previous plans have worked out.

Advance NZ have gone to court in a bid to be part of Newshub Nation’s minor party debate, reports Newshub. Party co-leader Jami-Lee Ross says the exclusion “will cause the party serious harm if left unchallenged.” They will be taking part in the TVNZ minor party debate, after meeting the inclusion criteria which was set before the party would have. In this case, it appears Mediaworks (who own Newshub) could be on firmer ground to exclude them, as their stated criteria is ‘leaders of parties that have won seats in the last two parliamentary terms’ – presumably Advance NZ does not qualify as Ross was a National MP when last elected. My personal view – neither broadcaster should take the political views of Advance NZ into account when deciding whether or not to platform them on the debate stage. They either meet the criteria or they don’t, and in this case it would appear they don’t.

The Greens have put forward a multi-billion dollar transport plan that includes significant upgrades in the passenger rail network, reports Newshub. The idea would be to make rail a genuine option for people to get around the country for daily travel, particularly from Auckland to Tauranga via Hamilton, Wellington to Palmerston North, and from Christchurch down to Ashburton. Co-leader James Shaw says that would help slash future transport emissions, while also providing jobs to conduct the extensive new networks.

I woke up to some very pretty snow in Dunedin yesterday, but across Southland the weather was much wilder and more damaging. Stuff reports the cold front smashing into the region caused power outages and road closures. Most of it has now been fixed up (not all, check NZTA for more details) but just in case, they also published a useful guide of driving tips for terrible weather. Farmers Weekly reports it came at a bad time for sheep farmers, as lambing season is in full swing. It’s frankly tropical this morning in Waimate, at about zero degrees.

National leader Judith Collins has made some ugly comments about journalist Nicky Hager, who wrote about her in his book Dirty Politics. Radio NZ reports Collins was speaking in Nelson, and was urged to ’embrace her crusher persona’, before she described Hager as “a dreadful man and what he wrote about me was disgraceful.” She followed that up by saying “he still needs to meet his maker.” The NZ Herald reports that she clarified her comments to say she wasn’t wishing death on him.

We’re on another platform – The Spinoff has finally joined LinkedIn. We’ll be posting a few times a week, particularly around the best of our business content, examples of work we do with brands, and the odd piece of custom content we create for partners. If you’re on the platform and want to stay up to date, you can have a look at our page here.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Ben Thomas writes about the rise of David Seymour, based on not trying to be all things to all people. Ted Dawe writes about cultures of bullying and abuse that can settle over schools. Michael Andrew talks to property managers who operate poor quality housing on behalf of landlords. The 100 Year Forecast looks at where NZ will get wetter and drier. Conversations that Count looks at misinformation and what motivates it. Jihee Junn writes about how to finally get on top of investing money. Wyoming Paul describes the humiliating, thrilling experience of learning to ride a bike as an adult. And Leonie Hayden writes about a nonce who got himself Vodaf-owned by pretty much all the major telco companies.

The tax returns of US president Donald Trump have finally been obtained. The New York Times were the ones who got the story over the line, and there are some wild details – including the opening line that Trump paid only $750 in Federal income taxes in the year he won the presidency. It may not end up mattering come the next election, but regardless these facts are important to the historical record. Here’s an excerpt:

The tax data examined by The Times provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defense lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.

Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base.

Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life.

The schedule for the Black Caps home summer is out, with a heavy diet of limited overs cricket in the New Year. Stuff reports test matches will go to Tauranga, Wellington, Hamilton and Christchurch, with that part of the season wrapped up by mid-January. Those will be as part of series against the West Indies and Pakistan. After that, Australia and Bangladesh will arrive for ODI and T20 series. It’s all fairly subject to change of course – Covid restrictions being what they are – but in general terms it’s not a bad outcome for NZ Cricket given the uncertainty.

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