Media monitoring

Thursday’s Pro email: Debt to only rise to 21.5%

In the political economy, Finance Minister Grant Robertson unveiled a $12 billion infrastructure spending boost that was at the top end of most short-term political expectations and economists' forecasts, but was nowhere near enough to fill a yawning and growing infrastructure deficit.

To give an idea of how much fiscal headroom the Government has chosen not to use, the plan unveiled yesterday only increases net debt to 21.5 percent of GDP, which is well below the top-end of Robertson's purely-political and self-imposed target range of 15-25 percent and barely up from the current level around 20 percent of GDP. 

The forecasts show the Government is still detracting from economy in the final three years of the forecast range. 

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1. Peters to call for media moves?

New Zealand’s struggling media sector may have found an unlikely ally, with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters set to call for greater government efforts to protect the industry – including support for media mergers.

Newsroom Pro understands Peters – a long-time critic of the state of journalism in New Zealand – will deliver a speech at Parliament on Thursday morning on the problems facing media outlets and what should be done to help them.

The Government is expected to release a decision before Christmas on whether to merge the RNZ and TVNZ outlets, as part of efforts by Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi to shore up New Zealand’s public media offerings.

However, it’s believed Peters may steal a march on Faafoi’s work by backing both a RNZ-TVNZ merger, and reconsideration of the Stuff-NZME merger (also known as StuffMe) that was blocked by the Commerce Commission.

Newsroom Pro understands there is some frustration within New Zealand First at the coalition’s slow progress on media reforms, and a desire to generate momentum within the Government.

We will have more on Peters’ speech when he delivers it later today.

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2. Robertson reveals $12b infrastructure boost

Capital investment will rise to the highest level in more than two decades after Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced another $12 billion of new investment on Wednesday.

The announcement accompanied Treasury’s Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) and will still keep government debt well within its revised budget responsibility rules, between 15 to 25 percent of GDP.

According to Treasury, the new spending will drive net core Crown debt as a percentage of GDP up from 19 percent in 2019 to a peak of 21.5 percent in the 2022 fiscal year – below both the Government’s own 25 percent threshold and the 22.9 percent debt it inherited in 2017. At that point, the figure will tumble to 19.6 percent by mid-2024.

See the full story here on Newsroom Pro

But, as Dileepa Fonseka reports, without the detail to go with it, some say an infrastructure promise can’t even be described as a wish-list.
 
A multi-billion dollar infrastructure boost is being hailed as “a good start” but also as “predictable and frustrating”.
 
Civil Contractors NZ Chief Executive Peter Silcock says the lack of any detail on projects means those in the industry can’t plan or make decisions based on the announcement – the opposite of the government’s stated goals with its infrastructure pipeline announced earlier.
 
Infometrics Economist Brad Olsen said today’s announcement wouldn’t allay any of those concerns as it was “not even a wish-list”.
 
“We keep talking about everything without any specifics, it doesn’t allow you to plan it doesn’t allow you to consider your options, it doesn’t provide certainty.”
 
And while the need to check timelines on projects before they’re released has been given as the reason for the delay on details being released, Infrastructure NZ CEO Paul Blair says you need those details to give businesses the certainty to create the capacity so those timelines can be met.
 
See Dileepa's story on the industry reaction here.

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3. Bridges steadies National ship heading into 2020

After a shaky start to 2019, National leader Simon Bridges ends the year in a far better position – but with a number of problems he will still need to solve before the election, as Sam Sachdeva reports.

Bridges says his party’s policy work and the Government’s failings have both contributed to National’s strong polling, and is unworried about his own low rating in the preferred prime minister stakes.

He confirmed he would publicly announce next year whether or not National would be willing to work with New Zealand First in a coalition, but hardly seems warm to the idea now.

And Bridges has pushed back on suggestions he should be acting to discourage attacks on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern by National supporters, while also downplaying criticism of the party’s misleading social media graphics.

You can read the full interview here on Newsroom Pro.

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4. Dunne: Stop the tail from wagging the dog

New Zealand First's insistence on its leader getting to announce, after a prolonged period of parallel negotiation with both major parties, whom he has decided the government will be means incoming Prime Ministers have the authority and mana of their office compromised from the outset, says Peter Dunne in his regular Newsroom Pro column.

Maybe it is time to modify the process of government formation to prevent this in the future, and in so doing allow the lead party of government to assert its leadership from the outset, and not play constant second fiddle to a smaller partner, the way Labour has been forced to do with New Zealand First since 2017, he writes.

See the full column here

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5. Milestones

Let's stop playing hide and seek - Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier is launching a new inquiry into whether central government agencies have addressed any of the weaknesses identified in 2015's landmark Not a game of hide and seek investigation into Official Information Act compliance and practice. He told Parliament’s Government Administration Committee that ‘now is the right time’ to revisit the 12 representative agencies involved in the 2015 Ombudsman's investigation, which was initiated by former Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem in response to concerns that some agencies or Ministers were ‘gaming’ the OIA.

Not given lightly - The tape archive of Chris Knox is to be preserved by the Alexander Turnbull Library, with the announcement coming after more than a year of work by the Flying Nun Foundation. The collection of 254 tapes covers Chris's musical career, from the Enemy through Toy Love, Tall Dwarfs and Chris's rich solo catalogue, and includes many unreleased recordings. It also includes other projects in which Chris had a hand, as an artist, producer or advisor. At the Alexander Turnbull Library the tapes will be preserved over the next three years and, where necessary, restored. The recordings on them will be digitised and part of the agreement with Chris and his family is that the high-quality digital versions will be available for future releases. People will be able to listen to and research the recordings at the Library.

Mediation a must - The Farm Debt Mediation Bill, which started its life as a New Zealand First Member’s bill in 1999, has passed its final reading. It means secured creditors who lend money to farmers will be required to offer mediation to farmers if they default on payments, before taking enforcement action.

Better tracking - The NAIT Amendment Bill, which amends the National Animal Identification and Tracing Act 2012  has been passed. It is designed to improve the framework governing the national animal identification and tracing system (NAIT), to provide for the rapid and accurate tracing of animals and their movements that enables biosecurity management and manages risks to human health.

Early warning - A network of 15 DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami) buoys will be deployed to provide early warning of tsunami waves generated from the Kermadec and Hikurangi trenches before they reach the coast. Until now, New Zealand has been reliant on a single, aging DART buoy, a situation described by Winston Peters as a "shocking inadequacy". GNS Science’s National Geohazards Monitoring Centre will support the 24/7 monitoring to receive, process and analyse the data from the buoys, and the National Emergency Management Agency will issue tsunami warnings and advisories to the New Zealand public.

Visual aid - An online geospatial tool that provides data-rich, dynamic coastline maps - Te Kete Kōrero a Te Takutai Moana Information Hub (Kōrero Takutai) - was launched yesterday by the Office for Māori Crown Relations – Te Arawhiti. The tool collects and overlays publicly available information – such as applications under the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act, coastal permits under the Resource Management Act 1991, Walking Access Commission information and the location of marae – for NZ's entire coastline. The tool is publicly available and free to use.

Appointed Mary Ollivier has been appointed Utilities Disputes Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the Utilities Disputes Board. She will take up the role in the new year. Ollivier was Director, Regulatory, and Acting Executive Director of the NZ Law Society.

Re-appointed - The Chief Victims Advisor to Government Kim McGregor has been reappointed in her role for a further two years.Dr McGregor has held the role since it was established in November 2015. She provides independent advice to government on how to improve the criminal justice system for victims. Her hours have also been increased, to 0.7 FTE.

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6. Coming up

Today
Britain goes to the polls for its general election
Westpac Group AGM, 10:00 AM, Sydney
[RESCHEDULED] Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton was to release a report on the environmental impacts of tourism, now delayed until December 18
RBNZ releases annual Trade-Weighted Index numbers
Stats NZ releases its Food Price Index data at 10.45

Economic Development, Science and Innovation Select Committee receives briefings on the Provincial Growth Fund and annual reviews of the Commerce Commission, New Zealand Tourism Board and AgResearch

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Defence Select Committee receives briefings on annual reviews of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Defence and the New Zealand Defence Force

Justice Select Committee receives briefings on annual reviews of the Privacy Commissioner, the Crown Law Office, the Human Rights Commission and the Law Commission, reviews the Sexual Violence Legislation Bill and the Electoral Amendment Bill, and examines the possibility of an inquiry into the 2019 local elections
 
Environment Select Committee receives briefings on annual reviews of the Environmental Protection Authority and the Ministry for the Environment, reviews the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill and the Resource Management Amendment Bill and hears two petitions

Primary Production Select Committee receives briefings on OSPRI, vocational training in agriculture and the annual review of Land Information New Zealand

Transport and Infrastructure Select Committee receives briefings on Wellington buses and on annual reviews of the New Zealand Transport Authority and the Ministry of Transport and hears two petitions

(Detailed Select Committee schedules can be found here)

Friday
Sanford AGM, 2:00 PM, Auckland

Sunday
A 15 percent tariff hike by the United States on Chinese imports is due today, unless a new trade deal can be done.

Further Ahead
Parliament will continue to sit until December 19
December 17 - ANZ AGM, Brisbane
December 18 - Stats NZ releases Balance of Payments and international investment position data for the September quarter
December 18 - Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton to release a report on the environmental impacts of tourism
December 19 - Stats NZ releases GDP data for the September quarter
December 19 - Stats NZ releases Overseas Merchandise Trade data for November

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7. My pick of the news links

Government/Politics
Stuff Editorial The Government can afford to spend
Thomas Coughlan (Stuff) Politics and economics are strange bedfellows, but they've made $12b of magic
Henry Cooke (Stuff): Government unveils $12b infrastructure boost, much of it focused on roads and rail
Jane Patterson (RNZ):Battle of the ports' reports - it's crunch time for Auckland move
Thomas Coughlan (Stuff) Matthews affair shows our watchdogs are vulnerable to anyone and everyone
Pattrick Smellie (BusinessDesk-paywalled) Why so conservative Grant?
Rahul Bhattarai (Stuff): Picton awaits 'vast' project with upgraded ferry terminal
Businessdesk-paywalled:  Govt loosens purse-strings with $12b new infrastructure spending
RNZ:Govt finances go into the red, with $12b to be borrowed for Infrastructure Fund
Charlie Dreaver (RNZ): Much awaited report on combatting foreign interference in elections delivered
Thomas Coughlan (Stuff): Speaker Trevor Mallard will receive petition from Martin Matthews
Thomas Coughlan (Stuff): Economic growth slows, forcing Government to spend big
Thomas Coughlan (Stuff):Matthews affair shows our watchdogs are vulnerable to anyone and everyone
Samesh Mohanlall (Timaru Herald): New fibre route planned for South Island, minister Kris Faafoi says
RNZ: Shane Jones taken to hospital by ambulance
Businessdesk-paywalled: Door open to pre-election welfare hikes beyond new $12b spend
Herald: National Leader Simon Bridges has accused the Government of 'screwing up the economy'
Herald: National leader Simon Bridges is critical of the Government’s books, specifically next year’s deficit
Herald: Plea to stop politicising Wellington's $6.4b transport project
Brent Melville (ODT): Pressure on system affecting work visas
Hannah Martin (Stuff): 'I can't see any way out': New Zealand doctors suffering from a burnout 'epidemic'
RNZ:Māori have highest rate of mental illness and addiction - new research

Economy/Corporate/Investing
Brent Melville (ODT): Nibs in with hops and malt
Glenda Lewis  (Stuff): Is the vilification of NZ's meat and dairy justified?
Susan Edmunds(Stuff): Almost 20 per cent more tenants competing for rental properties: Trade Me
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Holes filled in Freeview offering as Sky offers up Prime in HD

The Detail, Newsroom's daily podcast co-production with RNZ  Read more and listen here. iPhone users can subscribe here and Android users can subscribe here

Thursday: What’s in the newspapers - Dec 12

                 What’s on RNZ News at 8am – Dec 12

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8. One fun thing:
Innovative baby products via Ken Rutkowski on Twitter. A few of things are 'maybe', the rest ... just no

Ngā Mihi

Bernard, Lynn and the Newsroom Pro team.

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