Jacinda Ardern doing an anime run at the Labour Party conference (Dianne Manson, Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Labour revels in reversed fortunes at conference

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Labour revels in rare display of party unity at annual conference, we’re buying massive numbers of the wrong cars, and Phil Goff’s mayoralty in focus.

For nine of the last ten years, the Labour Party conference has been notorious for factional fights and a general sense of gloomThis year, it’s dramatically different. While there were stirrings of something good being cooked up last year, it was still almost impossible to see where the party’s momentum was going to come from. Being in government certainly helps with these things, but it also appears that is only part of the story.

The Labour Party is at peace with itself, in part because they’ve all decided to move on from the baggage that has weighed down the party since the 80s. That’s a conclusion in this report from Politik, where it is noted that no Labour PM since Big Norm Kirk was mentioned by name in PM Jacinda Ardern’s keynote speech – that means no David Lange, no Helen Clark, and definitely not those other two guys who briefly held the job as the party flailed towards defeat at the end of the 4th Labour government. The rest of the speech is well covered and wrapped in this piece by Toby Manhire.

And it’s apparently working too, from an organisational perspective. Party president Nigel Haworth told Newsroom that all of a sudden, there’s plenty of money in the coffers and a line of potential candidates out the door. That’s a dramatic turnaround from even a few years ago, when the party was broke, and seemingly had very few talented people putting their hand up.

Of course, the current success of Labour is in a large part down to allied parties. Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson was there at the conference to show support/pay homage to the PM, and the collapse in Green polling back to core levels has been one notable feature of Ardern’s leadership. Labour haven’t swallowed their coalition allies in the way the last National government did, and they probably wouldn’t want to either – the most likely way for the current government to be tossed out of office will be if either or both of the Greens and NZ First don’t make it over the 5% threshold. But they have seemingly swept up a huge share of the voters who swing between the parties.

As for the substantive policy stuff on the day, the big one was that there will be 600 learning support coordinators in schools by 2020 – Newshub has wrapped the policy here. The idea behind it is that it will help free up teachers to do more teaching. in that context, 600 actually isn’t quite so big a number – there are after all just under 2000 primary schools in the country. All schools are intended to have access to one of the coordinators, and Austism New Zealand CEO Dane Dougan says while it’s not a bad start, more than double the number is needed.

Meanwhile a clear signal was given by members that they want ‘period poverty’ to be looked at by MPs, passing a remit calling for sanitary products to be more accessible, reports Stuff. That doesn’t make it government policy at this stage, but will put it on the agenda. As an aside, conference remits are one way ideas become policy, and having a say in them is one of the many reasons why people should join political parties – plenty of other reasons why are given in this piece by National-leaning columnist Liam Hehir.


This from Radio NZ outlines in pretty stark detail one way in which consumer behaviour is working against climate change action. Eight out of ten new cars sold are double-cab utes, otherwise known as SUVs and light commercial vehicles. Mostly they’re diesel, and 64 of them are currently sold for every electric car.

It’s the absolute opposite of what needs to happen, and yet it’s not exactly clear how it will be changed without intervention. Incentives for purchasing electric vehicles are on the way, but they’ve been on the way for a while now, and it’s hard to see how they could go far enough to make a dent in the difference between diesel and electric vehicle sales.


Here’s a big feature on the Auckland mayoralty of Phil Goff, collecting what his councillors think of him. It’s by keen council-watcher Simon Wilson at the NZ Herald, and sets the scene for what some of the battles in the elections next year could be, including transport, housing, and whatever it is that’s going to happen to the waterfront.

As for who might be on the other side of the battle, a couple of days ago this came out on Stuff, by veteran Auckland reporter Todd Niall, covering the canvassing former Labour MP John Tamihere is doing of councillors ahead of a possible run at the mayoralty. He went down to Council a few weeks ago to set the scene for a bid, and I filed this report from it.


A flurry of oil and gas activity is going to be taking place in Taranaki over the next two years, reports the Taranaki Daily News on their front page this morning. With a temporary regional exemption to the government’s exploration ban, oil companies are getting amongst for both onshore and offshore drilling. The legislation for that ban is likely to pass the final reading in parliament this week.


And on the front page of The Press this morning, warnings that Christchurch’s water supply could be threatened by a bid from a bottling company. The plan is for the Chinese-owned company to drill down into their Belfast bore, and bottle up around 1.5 billion litres a year for export overseas. But there are fears that could end up competing with growing areas of the city, leaving parts of Christchurch at risk of shortages.


The NZ government has been left on the back foot in the Pacific with China announcing a new multi-million dollar deal with Niue, reports Stuff. The self-governing nation has a free association with New Zealand, but the people of Niue are NZ citizens. There are also suggestions that another big deal could be on the cards with the Cook Islands.


This is a really good co-publication between Crux and the NBR about the challenge of over-tourism. The industry is still booming, but the strain that is putting on the country is really showing. As well as that, living in the tourist hotspots like Queenstown and Wanaka is becoming increasingly difficult for residents – the “teachers, doctors, panel beaters and cleaners” who are necessary for the industry to exist at all.


Finally, it’s Guy Fawkes tonight. And when it comes to fireworks, maybe just don’t be an asshole with them. After all, people who act like that are only strengthening the case being made by Emily Writes to get rid of Guy Fawkes.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Alex Casey has a destructive obsession with the Chemist Warehouse. Michael Appleton laments the lack of publicly available polling coming out this year. Joel MacManus takes on an old Dunedin tale of peaceful men from Parihaka being held prisoner in a Southern cave. And Madeleine Chapman has got to ask, it Claire and Jamie’s relationship in TV show Outlander worth the drama?


Both Stuff and NZME have sent correspondents over to the States to cover the US midterm elections (on Tuesday) and they’ve been coming through with interesting features. For the NZ Herald, Natalie Akoorie has been over on the West Coast, meeting among others some people in that most contentious of industries during the Trump Presidency – the media. Here’s an excerpt.

“The anti-Republican feeling has been hard to miss in California but at the Orange County Register, a metropolitan daily newspaper, political editor Andre Mouchard said the paper strives to stay as objective as possible.

“Right now there are not a lot of people covering politics from the middle of the road, we do that – or we try to.”

However Mouchard said despite the paper having a reputation for objectivity, only a few weeks ago police volunteered to train journalists in the newsroom about how to escape should they come under attack.

And for Stuff, Henry Cooke has been on a bit of a dream road trip, heading across some of the states that could be key bellwethers for how the night goes. Here’s an excerpt from his report from Janesville, the post-industrial hometown of top Republican Paul Ryan, where a left-wing ironworker Randy Bryce – known as ‘Iron Stache’ – is running to replace Ryan.

“Bryce’s campaign is a test for the party. Can it win with grandiose and expensive policies like Medicare-for-all in a state that isn’t already a liberal stronghold? Or is the path of senators like Claire McCaskill, who paints herself as a Centrist problem solver, the way to win purple states? That question won’t be definitely answered this election – it never really can be – but whoever runs for president in 2020 is going to learn a lot about the state of the country from this election, and the others like it.”


In sport, a chance to have your say. Not to me, though I do always love your feedback, but to Sport NZ themselves, as part of their review into sport integrity. A survey will be up for the next month or so for public consultation.

The White Ferns have departed for the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies, at a moment when there’s quite a bit of excitement building up about their team generally. That’s the subject of this NZ Herald feature by Alex Chapman, which covers their rise in public profile. The tournament starts at the end of the week – I’m getting bloody hyped for it personally.

And in UFC, NZ fighter Israel Adesanya has put himself in the frame for a shot at the middleweight world title, reports MMA News. He smashed Derek Brunson in the first round of his Sunday afternoon fight, and talked up his chances of getting a title shot sooner rather than later. He’s also building up a profile for exciting striking and supreme confidence – something that could be very commercially appealing for UFC bosses.


From our partners, World Energy Day has put a spotlight on New Zealand’s sluggish progress towards net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Vector’s Beth Johnson explains why the time is right to accelerate.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, pass on this signup form to them.


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