Five men walk into Te Papa, business leaders present a long face
Party leaders pitched to business yesterday. A new survey described the mood of business as 'sombre' and Act claimed more dead people as likely supporters. Elsewhere on the trail, a banana was thrown
Mōrena and welcome to The Bulletin for Wednesday, September 6, by Anna Rawhiti-Connell. Presented in partnership with Z Energy.
In today’s edition: University of Waikato vice chancellor ‘intimately involved’ in the National party med school policy; sole psychiatrist in Kāpiti strikes alone; drink spiking suspected at Auckland accounting firm; but first, Christopher Luxon tells room of business leaders to stop behaving like children, while James Shaw impresses with detail
Party leaders pitch business
Party leaders descended on Te Papa yesterday to attend the triennial BusinessNZ conference and make their pitches to a room full of business leaders. While the main event speeches were delivered by Winston Peters, David Seymour, James Shaw, Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins, Nicola Willis and Grant Robertson went toe-to-toe in a panel debate. For the best account of the day, I cannot recommend BusinessDesk’s Pattrick Smellie’s piece this morning enough (paywalled). Smellie writes that Peters “emerged from the crypt to quote Phil Collins, claim that in some respect NZ is lagging Equatorial Guinea, dismiss the latest Roy Morgan poll as “junk”, and accuse other parties of “throwing around promises like an eight-armed octopus”.
‘Stop behaving like children’
Onto the more serious substance of Smellie’s account. Smellie writes Luxon with “his slightly scary brand of fast-talking, possibly irritable chief executive,” told the room to stop behaving like children and worrying all the time about what the government thinks. Thomas Coughlan also clocked that and noted an implication that Labour had been treating business like children. A survey released by BusinessNZ to coincide with the conference found that 85% of the 876 businesses surveyed don’t believe the government had a coordinated plan focused on raising New Zealand’s economic performance. It was 65% in 2020. More stark however was the number of businesses agreeing with the statement that climate change is affecting the cost of doing business. In 2020, the most common answer to that question was that climate change wasn’t affecting business “at all”. Smellie has handed Luxon and Shaw the awards for “turning up and making sense” and bringing policy to the table. Shaw was across detail and at home with an audience who care about the challenges of climate change and Luxon offered hints of closer ties between Crown Research Institutes and universities.
Seymour goes in on productivity and summons more dead people
Aside from launching a policy on productivity at the conference and zeroing in on staff numbers at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (paywalled), Act party leader David Seymour once again reached into the realm of the dead, positing that the country’s most famous suffragette, Kate Sheppard, would have been an Act voter. Green MP Julie Anne Genter, who was sitting next to Seymour on the panel, put her head in her hands while Helen Clark tweeted “What next!” Sheppard joins Nelson Mandela and the chiefs that signed the Treaty on the list of deceased people Seymour thinks would have voted Act. Who knows? Personally, I think it vibes like the early days of internet message boards.
A chorus delivers a rousing rendition of ‘writing cheques that shouldn't be cashed’
In case anyone is inclined towards gruntier musings that don’t involve a seance to verify, and is eyeing up election promises amid the current economic climate and broader global goings-on, a growing chorus is joining you. The Herald’s Liam Dann had an excellent column (paywalled) over the weekend. Firstly, he apologises for writing about tax, which I truly identify with. He goes on to talk about China, asking why this election is a referendum on two different varieties of tax cuts and pronouncing it a “terrible idea until we have declared victory over inflation and shored up the Crown accounts against the risk of another external shock.” Newsroom’s Andrew Patterson argues there’s been minimal focus on the state of our own economy six weeks out from an election. Brian Easton has his eye on the recent financial failures of two “ginormous Chinese property companies”, Evergrande and Country Garden, and the implications for the New Zealand economy while Cameron Bagrie thinks the election is degenerating into a populism farce. If that kind of farce isn't your cup of tea, here’s a picture of the banana thrown at Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis yesterday. It did not hit either of them but bounced off a sign.
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‘A present to you to start your second term in government!’
RNZ’s Guyon Espiner reported yesterday that University of Waikato vice chancellor Neil Quigley was intimately involved in the National party’s policy of establishing a medical school at the university. In an email cited by RNZ, Quigley wrote to National’s health spokesperson Shane Reti in March this year saying “The first student intake would be 2027 — a present to you to start your second term in government!” National announced that if elected, it would commit to spending $300m on a new medical school in the Waikato in July. Espiner reports Reti emailed Quigley about doubts within caucus about the credibility of the costs outlined in the policy, going on to say National would now promise $300m in government funding, with the university to pay the rest. “Can you massage this into the message please,” Reti asked. Quigley also asked Reti to change National's policy from funding 100 medical students to funding 120. Reti responded, agreeing to the increase and saying that will largely be an issue for the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) in years to come. Quigley is also the chair of the board of directors of the Reserve Bank.
Sole psychiatrist not so alone after all
As The Post’s Rachel Thomas and Kexin Li report this morning, Marie Bismark thought she’d be all alone in her strike action yesterday. Bismark is the sole psychiatrist in her community in Kāpiti, with a caseload of 300 patients. The area should have three psychiatrists and Bismark says “I worry every day that someone is going to die because we don’t have a psychiatrist here.” As her senior doctor colleagues gathered en masse outside hospitals yesterday, Bismark cut a lonely figure, holding a sign that read “All by myself” until a member of the public joined her. “I just wanted to support her, because I knew that she would be here alone,” they said. “I’m a patient.”
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The Young Nat living her childhood dream
The smash hit of the 2020 election is back with Youth Wings season two. In episode one we meet Dallas Kete, the Young Nat from rural Waikato who keeps a letter from John Key in her childhood memory box, along with the fairy from her fifth birthday cake. Follow Kete to the frontlines of O-Week as she convinces punters to “Live, Laugh, Luxon” while also making time to visit her beloved Nana, the woman who first inspired her to get into politics over a coffee at their local Robert Harris.
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