New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, talks with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a bilateral meeting following a national remembrance service for the victims of the March 15 mosques terrorist attack in Christchurch (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: More deportations loom with proposed Aussie law

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: More deportations of NZers loom with proposed Australian law, authorities not probing root causes of truck crashes, and AUT under fire for Tiananmen Square event not going ahead. 

The deportation of New Zealanders from Australia could intensify under new, tighter visa laws being proposed. Radio NZ reports it’s a change to what level of sentencing will result in an automatic visa cancellation. Previously a 12 month jail sentence had been the minimum for an automatic visa cancellation. But now that would be widened to those circumstances in which a person is guilty of a certain crimes carrying a two year sentence or more, regardless of what they were actually sentenced to. And it would be retrospective, so could catch many who thought they could stay.

That would spark huge alarm among the NZ government, should the Australian law change go ahead. Countless lives have been thrown wildly off track by the existing policy, and it has most recently been described as “corrosive” on the relationship between the two countries by PM Jacinda Ardern. But on her recent visit to Australia, she made no progress towards ending it, reports the ABC. Immigration minister Peter Dutton basically said the policy wasn’t going to change before the meeting between Ardern and PM Scott Morrison too place. Ardern said after the meeting that New Zealand wouldn’t retaliate, reports Newshub. And in fairness, the NZ government doesn’t have an awful lot of leverage to use anyway.

It’s another example of Australian domestic politics affecting the lives of New Zealanders, both here and there. Things may have been different had Labor won the recent election, and as Stuff reported before the vote, Kiwis there were hopeful that would lead to improvements in their rights. But the Coalition won, and they’ve enjoyed electoral success in part from a harsh and punitive immigration system, even by Australian standards. As Peter Dutton put it in the ABC article, “we need to stand up for Australians.” After many years of that attitude underpinning the relationship between the two countries, there seems little chance it will change any time soon.


Despite a rise in truck crash fatalities, authorities aren’t probing the root causes of them, reports Maria Slade for The Spinoff. Over a two year period, police barely ever investigated whether there were ‘upstream’ health and safety breaches, like drivers working unlawfully long hours, when a fatal truck crash took place. That is despite the previously reported ‘race to the bottom’ around conditions in the trucking industry, in which truckers are routinely made to break the law by their employers.


AUT appears to have acceded to a request from the Chinese government to shut down a Tiananmen Square anniversary commemoration, reports Laura Walters for Newsroom. The university denies that, saying instead the event being moved away from the university was as a result of scheduling clashes and a process issue. However it is also clear that the Chinese consulate in NZ put heavy pressure on AUT, and that the event was taken off-site after a meeting between the Vice-Chancellor and the Vice Consul General. China has plenty of leverage over universities, as they can “turn off the tap” on overseas students.


The power of journalism, in this case brought to you by veteran bureaucrat-beater Phil Pennington. The Radio NZ journalist asked on Friday why Thames Hospital had been granted a building warrant of fitness, despite known defects. And then by Monday, that had been revoked. Curious timing, for sure. Not having a BWOF doesn’t necessarily mean the building is unsafe, it should be said, it just means the building isn’t fully compliant with codes.


Something strange is going on with Council consultation in Christchurch, as this editorial from The Star shows. On the contentious topic of the future of the city’s water, eight drop-in sessions were held to give information out, and take views in. However, across all of them, “about 19 people in total attended.” That’s despite widespread notifications to stakeholders, and advertising aimed at the general public.


A mystery illness, believed to be a form of influenza, is sweeping through the West Coast, reports Radio NZ. Westport North School is closed after more than a third of its students came down with it, as a precautionary measure to stop further spread. People who are sick are urged to stay home until they recover, rather than heading into a medical facility and potentially infecting more people.


French food giant Danone will spend millions of dollars to make a milk processing plant in Balclutha carbon neutral, reports the NZ Herald. It will be the first such plant in the country, and will be fuelled by wood waste from nearby plantation forests, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20,000 tonnes a year. It also leaves Fonterra’s recent pledge to not install any new coal boilers in the dust – and quite frankly, I’m all for big companies going head to head in a green-off to see who can make more progress.


National’s agriculture spokesperson and MP for Ōtaki Nathan Guy is stepping away from politics at the end of this term. His departure means Todd Muller will step into the agriculture role, which is effectively a promotion. But Muller also loses the climate change portfolio, and as Thomas Coughlan at Stuff writes, losing it could affect the status of the issue within the party, given Muller was making progress on it across party lines. The new climate change spokesperson will be Scott Simpson, who is the leader of the Bluegreen group of National MPs.


A bit of feedback I heartily enjoyed, from Mandy who has been down at the Fox River cleanup: “Just if you wanted some positive news I’m down at Operation Tidy Fox and there’s been huge progress here. Should be on track to be finished before the spring rains. Great sense of community here, all in good spirits. Apparently there were 100+ volunteers here over the weekend, however the real highlight was finding a dildo.”


From our partners: With several high profile government objectives in the spotlight, a single ministry could drive better outcomes across them all. Robyn Holdaway, senior policy advisor at Vector, makes the case for a Ministry for Energy.


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Right now on The Spinoff: There’s a brand new edition of The Side-Eye out, which is exciting. Today Toby Morris looks back and ponders at the phenomenon of putting plastic bottles filled with water on the lawn, which swept the country in the late 80s and early 90s, and what remembering it says about nostalgia.

As well as that, Josie Adams is back with another edition of her zero-waste diary. I’ve got a cheat sheet on the amendments David Seymour is hoping will get the End of Life Choice bill over the final hurdles. Amanda Thompson suggests a range of greens more fun to eat than the “cattle fodder” of kale. And Flick’s Nikki Cockburn explains the difference between fixed rates and spot prices in the electricity market.


Today’s feature is a disturbing piece about the philosophy behind chemical warfare, and the scientists who research it. It comes from the New Yorker, and focuses on the Edgewood facility, which is no longer operational but during the last century conducted extensive studies on how to fight wars without guns and bombs. Perhaps they had the best of intentions, but perhaps that’s not the point. Here’s an excerpt:

Edgewood began reviewing hundreds of chemicals, many provided by pharmaceutical companies. One officer remarked, “The characteristics we are looking for in these agents are in general exactly opposite to what the pharmaceutical firms want in drugs, that is the undesirable side effects.” Starting in 1959, the arsenal aggressively pursued phencyclidine—or PCP—which Parke, Davis & Company had marketed as an anesthetic but abandoned because patients were having hallucinations and delusions.

Edgewood doctors tested it as an aerosol and surreptitiously gave it to soldiers to see if they could then “maintain physical security over simulated classified material.” One subject—who had been exposed to sarin gas a week earlier—was handed a glass of whiskey laced with twenty milligrams of PCP. “Manic reaction and much hostility,” a doctor observed. The subject passed out, and began breathing in a pattern associated with neurological trauma or cardiac stress.


Well well well, there has been another development between Spark Sports and Sky TV. The two broadcasters have announced they’ll work together to provide commercial premises with a Rugby World Cup pop-up channel, reports the NZ Herald. That should allow venues to basically use their existing setups for the tournament, rather than having to invest in new kit.

And cyclist George Bennett has earned plaudits after helping his team to a podium place in a brutal Tour de France, reports Stuff. Jumbo-Visma’s leader Steven Kruijswijk finished in third overall, and the team also secured their best ever tally of stage wins with four. Bennett really wore a few for the team as well, battling through both illness and a couple of crashes.


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