Bryce Edwards: National’s progressive childcare-consultocracy switch

Bryce Edwards: National’s progressive childcare-consultocracy switch

National’s pitch to voters is both progressive and shrewd. Christopher Luxon declared a war on business consultants in his state of the nation speech yesterday, promising to crack down on the public service’s $1.7bn overuse of expensive business consultants and contractors, and use the savings to fund an expensive new $249m annual subsidy for childcare costs of those in work.

A Populist attack on business consultants in government

External contractors have become an increasingly large part of Labour’s public policy making process – especially those from the “Big Four” business consultancies of Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst and Young (EY) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). They charge government departments huge amounts – such as the $9000 per week, per consultant, for the failed RNZ-TVNZ merger.

The overuse of “consultocrats” is now costing the taxpayer $1.7bn a year. Luxon announced that National was going to focus on reducing that figure by at least 25 per cent, or $400m, and repurpose the savings to low- and middle-income families.

When asked whether he was concerned for the jobs lost by the business consultants he replied: “I feel very good about that. Big-time, big partners at consulting firms up and down New Zealand, thank you very much, but your money is going away, and we’re giving it to hardworking families.”

Luxon is really hitting out hard at the consultants, describing them as being on a “gravy train” and declaring “Under National, this gravy train will stop at the station.” The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire thinks this will be very popular, saying today that “making consultants the whipping boys, is a winner”.

What’s more, the attack on the consultants is something that Labour will find difficult to disagree with, and they will not want to defend the ballooning costs in this area.

While in opposition, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins campaigned against the growing use of costly consultants and criticised National’s overuse of such contractors. However, Hipkins then became the Minister of Public Service, under Jacinda Ardern, and oversaw massive increases.

Conservative political commentator Liam Hehir points out the problem for Labour: “This puts the government in a difficult position, particularly since the explosion in private bureaucracy occurred under the watch of now prime minister Chris Hipkins, who promised the opposite. So now Labour must either accept the criticism or defend the consultants who have done so well at the expense of public finances in the recent years. It’s a hard position for Labour to be put in.”

National’s Family Boost is a leap to the left

The new childcare policy announced by Luxon is a rebate, which would give families with young children up to $75 a week, with a cap of $3,900 every year, depending on their income and use of early childhood education. Under the policy dubbed “Family Boost”, the full $75 a week will be available to families earning up to $140,000, and this will taper off for those earning up to the cut-off point of $180,000.

It is estimated that the policy will advantage 130,000 families. This policy is therefore a significant increase in the welfare state, and it is not a replacement for any other current childcare policy, but goes on top of current programmes.

Family Boost might therefore be seen as a big leap to the left by Luxon. Certainly, the policy has been well received by those who might normally be critical of National. As Newsroom political editor Jo Moir writes today, “Even left-leaning commentators and elected representatives couldn’t find fault, with several even endorsing the policy.”

So, if “Working For Families” was as John Key described, “Communism by stealth”, then this policy is something similar.

By focusing on the “squeezed middle”, and tilting the new policy towards low-income earners, National has made a raid into Labour’s own ideological territory, obviously with the hope of picking up traditional Labour and swinging voters.

Moir said the policy “sounds like something out of the Labour Party playbook”, while the Spinoff’s Toby Manhire pointed out that in listening to Luxon’s speech “you could be mistaken for thinking it was the other Chris, Hipkins of Labour, that was speaking.”

Political strategists refer to this as “triangulation”, in which a politician adopts the type of policy that is normally put forward by an opponent, which means that their opposition has trouble criticising it.

Stuff political editor Luke Malpass says today that the Labour Party will be deeply worried about this latest development: “this was one issue which Labour was quietly worried about: if the National Party went for a big, transformative (and expensive) childcare policy framed in terms of getting women into the workforce, easing the labour shortage while also coincidentally finding a way to dish out some middle-class welfare at a time when cash is tight, it could be quite bad for Labour.”

Similarly, the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan points out the problem for Labour: “Childcare costs are a deep foray into Labour territory – so much so that the words on the page of Luxon’s speech might have been lifted from Ardern herself (the delivery, of course, was quite different). That National should devise a policy that is more universal and costly than Ardern’s should be alarming to Labour.”

The policy can also be seen as politically progressive, in assisting women back into the workforce. Thomas Coughlan explains: “The cost of childcare has become an enormous political issue for both major parties. Childcare costs mean that parents, usually mothers, delay returning to the workforce after giving birth.” Coughlan himself suggests the policy could be described as “feminist”.

And yet, according to Coughlan, National can also pitch the policy as fulfilling National’s traditional philosophies too, as it “fits within the party’s philosophy of self-reliance and empowerment through work.”

The real shrewdness of the policy is that it is being conceptualised as a “switch” of spending – from rich consultants to struggling families. This means National can’t be criticised for fueling inflation with their new big spend – because they can claim to be repurposing money from elsewhere.

National-aligned commentator David Farrar points out how persuasive the policy will be politically: “I, for one, would much rather have my taxes go on helping low and middle income families with young children, than paying $250 an hour consultants to design a billion dollar cycle bridge or merge together two state media companies that have nothing in common.”

But will the policy really work?

There will be some questions about whether National really can make the $400m cutbacks in management consultants. To do so, they will be relying on the edict to government departments to do so. National will also put much more emphasis on the agencies to report their use of contractors.

The other big question is whether the childcare policy will result in higher prices and bigger profits for childcare providers. When the state increases subsidies for provision of social services from the private sector, those businesses will likely just charge much more.

Luxon’s answer to this is that childcare prices won’t go up because childcare is a “competitive market”.

However, this isn’t so clear. On Saturday, Stuff published a report on for-profit early childhood providers which suggested that state subsidies just end up in big profits for the owners of those businesses. Further debate and research is clearly required. More regulation might be required in this sector if it’s going to be the recipient of even more taxpayer funds. As Thomas Coughlan argues, “A regulatory eye on childcare providers’ margins would not go amiss.”

A Great Realignment

It’s hard to see how much of a change this big policy announcement will make on the election, but it shows just how much “bread and butter” concerns are now driving New Zealand politics.

It also shows that something of a “great realignment” might be occurring in New Zealand politics. Listener political columnist Danyl Mclauchlan has written about how a slow yet deep shift is occurring in democratic politics that is transforming the traditional left into parties dominated by educated urban elites, while the right reinvents themselves as coalitions of a multi-ethnic working class.

As a result, it’s not surprising if parties of the right begin focusing more on policies to deliver on the needs of that coalition. And it’s therefore perhaps no accident that Luxon also spoke so much yesterday about New Zealand becoming a multicultural nation instead of a bicultural nation. This signals that National might be coming after that traditional vote in ways that Labour could have trouble responding to.

The ball is in Labour’s court. It needs to show that it can better deliver policies to its own traditional base.

The problem for Labour is that they are increasingly associated with what political scientists call society’s “professional managerial class” – which is epitomised by the highly-paid business consultants in the bureaucracy. Given National’s new focus against these professionals in favour of working families, Chris Hipkins is going to have to speed up Labour’s shift in focus from the “woking class” to the working class.

 

Dr Bryce Edwards is Political Analyst in Residence at Victoria University of Wellington. He is the director of the Democracy Project.

This article can be republished under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0  license. Attributions should include a link to the Democracy Project.  

 

Further reading on National’s policy announcements

Luke Malpass (Stuff): Christopher Luxon whacks the Big Four to pay for childcare, but is it enough?
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): National strikes deep into Labour territory with expensive childcare policy (paywalled)
Rachel Smalley (Today FM): Chris Hipkins pulls Labour right as Chris Luxon takes territory off the left
Liam Hehir (Patreon): An actually pretty shrewd cost of living policy from Luxon
Jo Moir (Newsroom): Luxon back in the fight stealing from Labour’s playbook
Toby Manhire (Spinoff): Christopher Luxon just launched a raid behind Labour lines
Glenn McConnell (Stuff): Politics’ week ahead: A ‘good start’ or just ‘rushed’ for the election?
Amelia Wade (Newshub): Christopher Luxon feels ‘very good’ about plans to sack Labour’s consultants to fund childcare
Grant Duncan: National’s election campaign begins with a shot across Labour’s bows
Matthew Hooton (Patreon): Proxy bet on election (paywalled)
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Between Two Ferns: Chris Luxon gives least worst speech of his political career
Kate Hawkesby (Newstalk ZB): What Luxon did right in his State of the Nation, was to remind us of all the wastefulness of this government
Rachel Sadler (Newshub): Labour lambasts National’s ‘not very well thought through’ childcare tax rebate policy
RNZ: National’s childcare pledge ‘not well thought through’ – Sepuloni
————
Glenn McConnell and Luke Malpass (Stuff): Christopher Luxon promises childcare rebates for any family earning less than $180,000
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Christopher Luxon announces cost of living policy FamilyBoost with tax rebate for childcare costs
Jamie Ensor (Newshub): Christopher Luxon announces childcare tax rebate policy, expected to benefit 130,000 low, middle-income families
RNZ: Christopher Luxon’s State of the Nation speech: Affordable childcare plan unveiled
1News: ‘Up to $75 a week’: Luxon unveils childcare tax rebate policy
Dileepa Fonseka (BusinessDesk): National bids for middle income families with childcare rebate (paywalled)
Jonathan Mitchell (NBR): Luxon promises businesses relief from rampant inflation(paywalled)
————
Luke Malpass (Stuff): Christopher Luxon set to take aim at government consultant ‘gravy train’, promises $400 million cut if elected
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Christopher Luxon tries to regain the narrative after two false starts (paywalled)
Jo Moir (Newsroom): Less word soup, more vision needed from Luxon

 

Other items of interest and importance today

PARLIAMENT
Luke Malspass (Stuff): Why the stage is set for the first negative election campaign in a long while
Claire Trevett (Herald): Beehive Diaries – Chris Hipkins, serial stuff-ups admitter(paywalled)
Lee Kenny (Stuff): Chris Hipkins reflects on first five weeks as New Zealand’s prime minister
Kirsty Johnston (Stuff): The rapid ascent of Carmel Sepuloni, our first Pasifika deputy prime minister
Peter Wilson (RNZ): Week in Politics: The trigger was co-governance, Campbell says
Herald: Chris Hipkins versus Christopher Luxon (versus Rob Campbell): Who won the week in politics? (paywalled)
Mark Quinlivan (Newshub): Senior Government minister Michael Wood hints at voting age referendum
Brent Melville (BusinessDesk): TOP’s best chance: Raf Manji’s battle for Ilam (paywalled)
Shaneel Lal (Herald): Can Efeso Collins take out Jenny Salesa in Panmure-Ōtāhuhu?(paywalled)
Georgina Campbell (Herald): Labour selects former councillor Fleur Fitzsimons for Rongotai electorate
Tom Hunt (Dominion Post): Fleur Fitzsimons to run in safe Labour seat of Rongotai
Nicholas Jones (Herald): Election 2023: Meet Auckland paediatric emergency doctor Nina Su, who is taking on Act’s David Seymour in Epsom electorate (paywalled)
Carly Gooch (Press): Former Labour Party member becomes National candidate
Jason Walls (Newstalk ZB): Fight for Life: National MP Mitchell challenges ‘Minister of Muscles’ Nash
Anneke Smith (RNZ): Shortage of protective gear put police in danger during Parliament riots – advocates

ROB CAMPBELL, PUBLIC SERVICE
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Rob Campbell swept up by winds of change (paywalled)
Rob Campbell (Herald): Blatant hypocrisy of Public Service Commissioner should be called out
Rob Campbell (Newsroom): New chair must fix clumsy and poorly delivered Health NZ super-agency
Jonathan Milne (Newsroom): Is health chair wrong on neutrality– or are the rules wrong?
Ian Powell (Newsroom): The long political game behind the sacking of Rob Campbell
Sandra Coney (Herald): I’m worried about Ayesha Verrall and I’m worried about the future of Māori health
Tracy Watkins (Stuff): When keeping your mouth shut isn’t on your CV
1News: Q+A: Government backing away from co-governance – John Tamihere
Damien Venuto (Herald): Rob Campbell sacked by the Government: What type of leadership do we really want? (paywalled)
Ian Taylor (Herald): The fall of Rob Campbell – why our health has been forgotten in political debate (paywalled)
Heather du Plessis-Allan (Herald): How Rob Campbell has done Labour a favour
Emile Donovan (Stuff): Prime Minister Chris Hipkins looks to restore confidence in ‘constipated’ health system
Bridie Witton (Stuff): Outspoken former health boss Rob Campbell lashes out at ‘constipated’ health system
Giles Dexter (RNZ): Ousted health boss Rob Campbell lays down challenges facing successor
RNZ: Too early to talk job cuts at Te Whatu Ora – union
Jonathan Milne (Newsroom): Ousted health chair reveals plan for ‘many hundreds’ of job cuts
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Hundreds of jobs could go in mega Health NZ restructure
Stephen Forbes (Local Democracy Reporting): Redundancies won’t reduce ED wait times at Middlemore – National
Steve Braunias (Herald): The Secret Diary of … Rob Campbell (paywalled)
Victor Billot (Newsroom): An Ode to .. Rob Campbell

EXTREME WEATHER, INFRASTRUCTURE
Jamie Ensor (Newshub): ACT’s Cyclone Gabrielle recovery ideas: Declare Special Economic Zone, exempt affected businesses from minimum wage increases
Thomas Manch (Stuff): ACT wants ‘special economic zone’ for Hawke’s Bay, Tairāwhiti cyclone recovery
RNZ: ACT proposes ‘special economic zone’ to speed up East Coast flood recovery
Jonathan Barrett (The Conversation): Why a temporary flood levy on higher earners would be the fairest way to help pay for Cyclone Gabrielle
Conor Whitten (1News): Are flood protections putting New Zealanders at greater risk?
Jane Phare (Herald): ‘I could hear it coming after me’: Are Auckland’s cliffs too risky for building homes? (paywalled)
Katie Ham (Stuff): ‘We can’t forget the hundreds still cut off’: Cyclone Gabrielle 20 days on
Lauren Crimp (RNZ): ‘We have land that is build-ready’: Housing minister considers temporary Hawke’s Bay villages
Newshub: Government called on to purchase houses for families displaced by Cyclone Gabrielle
Tom Dillane (Herald): Auckland Council ‘expect’ access to Mayor Wayne Brown’s private cellphone used for correspondence during floods (paywalled)
RNZ: Cyclone Gabrielle aftermath: Mistakes made in way rates relief process handled – deputy mayor
Felix Walton (RNZ): Muriwai residents vent anger at Auckland Council staff on future of slip-hit houses
Jonathan Killick (Stuff): Coastal seawalls take on new urgency in Auckland, as properties crumble away
Nikki Macdonald (Stuff): Cyclone Gabrielle: How do you get back up when you’ve lost everything?
Marty Sharpe (Stuff): Hawke’s Bay homeowners told to deal with their own silt
Hamish Cardwell (RNZ): Couple plead for Pakowhai area to be red-zoned after losing everything in cyclone
Ulrich Speidel (The Conversation): Cyclone Gabrielle broke vital communication links when people needed them most – what happened and how do we fix it?
Phil O’Reilly (Herald): Cyclone Gabrielle – Five principles that should underpin rebuild(paywalled)
Rayssa Almeida (RNZ): Some freight railway lines will remain closed for months due to Cyclone Gabrielle damage – KiwiRail
RNZ: Cyclone aftermath: More coastal shipping needed as roads, rail taken out
RNZ: Public access to Karekare roads may be ‘more than a year’ away – Auckland Transport
Tom Taylor (RNZ): Some vegetable prices double since Cyclone Gabrielle hit crops
Charlie Mitchell (Stuff): Cyclone Gabrielle passed. Then the rumours of hundreds of deaths began
RNZ: Tens of thousands file claims over floods, slips
RNZ: Government injects $3.25m into Hawke’s Bay mental health support expansion
RNZ: US sending technical experts to help cyclone recovery efforts
RNZ: National emergency ends for Northland, Auckland, Waikato and Tararua

FORESTRY INDUSTRY
Damien Venuto (Herald): The Front Page podcast: Slash crisis – How did we allow the forestry sector to get away with this for so long?
Hamish Bidwell (Hawkes’ Bay Today): Cyclone Gabrielle: Forestry slash inquiry – Stuart Nash’s industry ties could be ‘impediment’, forestry boss James Treadwell says
John Campbell (1News): The story of Slash
Rebecca Howard (BusinessDesk): Scapegoating the forestry sector isn’t going to solve the problem (paywalled)
Katy Jones (Stuff0: Council forestry taskforce to take Cyclone Gabrielle lessons into account

CLIMATE CHANGE
1News: Q+A: Focus turns to managed retreat post-cyclone, floods – Shaw
1News: Q+A: ‘I will never give up’ by resigning as climate minister – Shaw
1News: Q+A: Q+A: Seymour denies ACT contributed to climate change denial
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Q+A James Shaw’s wet blanket vs David Seymour’s dry sandpaper vs John Tamihere’s defence of cogovernance
RNZ: Greens demand more climate action from Labour: ‘There’s always more to be done’
Hamish Cardwell (RNZ): What those affected can expect from managed retreat in flood-vulnerable areas
RNZ: Managed retreat talk needs to happen soon – engineer
Catherine Knight (Stuff): As the climate crisis deepens, is degrowth the only pathway out?
Chris Nicoll (Newsroom): We must fight this climate enemy instead of fiddling while Rome burns
Rod Oram (Newsroom): Surprise! Farmers can be the new heroes of climate mitigation
Michael Neilson (Herald): Climate Change Minister James Shaw blasts National over protest MP no-show as candidate booed
Felix Desmarais (1News): James Shaw says National hung candidate ‘out to dry’ at climate protest
Seni Iasona (Newshub): School Strike 4 Climate returns, some demands may already be in the works by Government
Anna Whyte (Stuff): National candidate faces heckling, abuse at Parliament climate strike
No Right Turn: National: tone deaf on climate change
Anna Whyte (Stuff): Take five: What the climate strikers are demanding
Stuff: Christchurch mayor tells school strikers his stance on climate changed after Cyclone Gabrielle
RNZ: Climate strikes: Thousands march around New Zealand to demand action from government

ENVIRONMENT, CONSERVATION
Andrea Vance (Stuff): Is our international reputation worth the price of fish?
Stuff: Points of order: Take a bow Ministry for the Environment’s crack news team
Newstalk ZB: Public transport “not always possible” for Ministry for the Environment staff
Lois Williams (Newsroom): Conservation’s bridge too far
Torika Tokalau (Stuff): New Zealand records third-warmest summer, and North Island’s second wettest ever
Maxine Jacobs (Stuff): Green light, red light: Will Taranaki’s seabed be mined this time?
Alisah Evans (Local Democracy Reporting): Mount Maunganui marae disappointed heavy industry will stay
Debbie Jamieson (Press): Fears new chairlift would create danger by funnelling skiers into conservation land
Stuff: Public asked to report any ‘suspicious sightings’ before 300 fish found dead

LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Simon Wilson (Herald): Auckland Council: The budget that follows the storms, floods, Cyclone Gabrielle (paywalled)
Ben Leahy (Herald): Wayne Brown v The Spinoff: Auckland Art Gallery advisor reveals more from ‘hostile’ exchange
Todd Niall (Stuff): Auckland mayor Wayne Brown hires Leo Molloy’s former media manager
Bernard Orsman (Herald): Auckland Council deputy mayor Desley Simpson: Her love for the city, its people and the finer things in life
Julie Jacobson (Dominion Post): Is Wellington an expensive ‘drain hole’? The jury’s out
Tom Hunt (Dominion Post): Plummeting lamp syndrome: WCC findings secret for now
Emma Hatton (Newsroom): Review slates council for ‘soft and slow’ response to food factory noise complaints
Stephen Ward (Waikato Times): Putting off projects, spending cuts considered as Hamilton City Council tries to save $6m
Liz McDonald (Press): Christchurch council wants super city, warning NZ has reached ‘peak rates’
Maia Hart (Local Democracy Reporting): Vehicles banned from Marlborough’s east coast, except for 9km stretch
RNZ: Marlborough councillors choose user pays and rates rise proposal

THREE WATERS
Craig McCulloch and Jane Patterson (RNZ): National’s three waters plan leaves councils to carry the can
Chris Tobin (Stuff): Councils call for halt to Three Waters bill until after election
Mike Munro (Herald): Cyclone brought home the need for reform – just don’t call it Three Waters (paywalled)
Stephen Ward (Waikato Times): National Party leader Christopher Luxon talks three waters replacement in Hamilton
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): The Political danger to National of their 3 Water’s blocked gutter
Brent Edwards (NBR): Councils worry about uncertainty over Three Waters reform(paywalled)
John MacDonald (Newstalk ZB):: The environmental disgrace beneath our feet

HOUSING
Paul T Gilberd (Stuff): Housing is nearing a humanitarian crisis in this country
Miriam Bell (Stuff): Falling house prices cause more optimism than concern
Molly Swift (Newshub): New Zealanders’ house price expectations plummet to lows last seen during Global Financial Crisis – ASB
Greg Ninness (Interest): ASB survey shows gloomy expectations for the housing market, suggesting it’s likely to get worse
RNZ: Increasing numbers of people think house prices will fall – ASB
Tim Murphy (Newsroom): New housing law hit by flood backwash
Geraden Cann (Stuff): Mortgagee sales more than double in February but total remains low – Trade Me
Miriam Bell (Stuff): Here’s how natural disasters impact on rental markets
Newstalk ZB: Survey finds 26% of landlords upped rent in the past six months

BANK PROFITS
Rebecca Stevenson (Interest): NZ bank profit probe by Commerce Commission would be a good start: Shamubeel Eaqub
Jonathan Milne (Newsroom): Growing momentum for ‘David and Goliath’ official inquiry into banks
Sam Stubbs (Stuff): We need a proper Commerce Commission inquiry into bank profits
Geraden Cann (Stuff): Homeowner says banks offering 4.99% under the table is a ‘market failure’
David Hargreaves (Interest): RBNZ: ‘The banks are aware that there is a social licence aspect to the work they do’
Tim Dower (Newstalk ZB): Banks are a nice, big, slow-moving target, so it’s easy to throw mud and have some of it stick

COST OF LIVING, ECONOMY
Benedict Collins (1News): Government’s debt fairness plans revealed
Lucy Thomson (Newshub): Growing anger from people unable to contact Ministry of Social Development for help
Liam Dann (Herald): Kiwis still waiting at start line of recessionary marathon (paywalled)
Jonathan Mitchell (NBR): Academic gives RBNZ a 5/10 ‘pass’ mark for monetary policy(paywalled)
Jenée Tibshraeny (Herald): Adrian Orr dismisses talk about central banks being in the red as ‘noise’ (paywalled)

BUSINESS, MIGRANT WORKERS
Teuila Fuata’i (E-Tangata): RSE: How can we make sure everybody wins?
Jonty Dine (RNZ): Immigration declines residency visa for family of much-needed Wairoa nurse
Maria Slade (NBR): Unemployment becoming a foreign concept (paywalled)
Bridie Witton (Stuff): National claims new tax for Uber, AirBnB will make it more expensive
Katie Scotcher (RNZ): National claims Airbnb and Uber price hikes possible under govt’s planned tax changes
RNZ: Consumer confidence ‘bouncing around the bottom’, survey finds
RNZ: Hopes of tourism boost pinned on increase in return flights from China

HEALTH
Stuff: What the alcohol industry doesn’t want you to know
Rachael Kelly (Stuff): Funding shortfall results in ‘inequity for our rural community’: Hospital boss
Craig Cooper (Hawke’s Bay Today): $465 for one filling is proof the dental health system is in crisis
Ruth Hill (RNZ): RNZCGP calls for vapes to be prescription-only
Hannah Martin (Stuff): Aotearoa needs to up its game on HPV vaccination to protect tamariki
Megan Wilson (Bay of Plenty Times): Bay of Plenty: More than 3000 people waiting for surgery at Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospitals
Megan Wilson (Bay of Plenty Times): Rotorua Hospital: Teenager waits seven years for tumour removal
Kristie Boland (Stuff): Overrun Christchurch Hospital diverts patients to smaller hospitals in Canterbury
RNZ: Family violence puts women at greater risk of suffering health issues – research
Janet Fanslow (The Conversation): Family violence is literally making us sicker – new study finds abuse increases risk of chronic illness
RNZ: Rongoā experts fear crackdown in Therapeutics Products Bill
Shannon Redstall (Stuff): Frustrations rise as shortage of antidepressant fluoxetine continues

DISABILITY
Olivia Shivas (Stuff): New Minister for Disability Issues Priyanca Radhakrishnan says ‘inequities are pretty obvious’
Olivia Shivas (Stuff): ‘Appalled’: Kāinga Ora achieves only 10% of target for accessible new homes

CENSUS
Herald Editorial: Census at a time of turmoil (paywalled)
Chris Knox and Julia Gabel (Herald): Census 2023: Four surprising uses of Census data
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Be warned: mistakes on census forms can’t be corrected or updated
James Nokise (Stuff): Census tells us who we are, and what we need to be doing better
Eda Tang (Stuff): Census ethnicity question important for addressing institutional racism, says expert
Eda Tang (Stuff): Census 2023: Intersex New Zealanders encouraged to tick the box

EDUCATION
Michelle Duff (Stuff): The Jugglenaut: How childcare became a for-profit game
Michael Neilson (Herald): Government spends another $301m on Christchurch schools post-earthquakes for rebuilds
RNZ: Prime Minister Hipkins confirms $301m for Christchurch schools rebuild
Gianina Schwanecke (Stuff): Delays in processing overseas teacher qualifications adding to shortage woes
Melanie Earley (Stuff): Concerns over AUT allowing ‘anti-gay’ church to use lecture hall

RICHARD DAWKINS
Steven Cowan: The deplatforming of Richard Dawkins
Anna Leask (Herald): Elon Musk, Richard Dawkins’ criticism of mātauranga Māori in schools faces backlash from Kiwi researcher
Steven Cowan: Richard Dawkins and the climate of fear

CRIME, JUSTICE
Adam Pearse (Herald): Law expert and National MP clash over why criminal sentences have reduced
Jarrod Gilbert (Herald): Why we should be suspicious of politicians pushing prisons(paywalled)
1News: Ram-raids see 465% increase in two years
Mohammad Alafeshat (RNZ): Revealed – the total number of ram raids last year

TRANSPORT
Thomas Coughlan (Herald): Petrol tax hikes on the table as Government plans multi-billion dollar transport shakeup, swapping car parks for bus lanes and cycle ways
William Terite (Newshub): Saliva roadside drug testing scrapped because ‘tech doesn’t exist in the world’
Emma Hatton (Newsroom): Random roadside drug testing no longer going ahead
Oliver Lewis (BusinessDesk): Auckland light rail won’t cost $30 billion – CEO (paywalled)
Bruce Cotterill (Herald): New Zealand’s road to the future is full of potholes (paywalled)
Herald: Interislander’s Kaitaki ferry out of service again due to engineering issue
Jonathan Killick (Stuff): A property investor opposed highway works and taxpayers picked up the $195k bill

FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND TRADE
Kurt Bayer (Herald): Russia-Ukraine war: NZ Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta declines plea for help over grain harvest (paywalled)
Ritesh Shah (The Conversation): Race and erasure: Why the world’s other humanitarian crises don’t see the same response as Ukraine
Jamie Ensor (Newshub): New Zealand takes another plunge in global soft power rankings
William Hewett (Newshub): Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announces $150k relief package after back-to-back tropical cyclones devastate Vanuatu
Jonah Franke (Stuff): The New Zealand goods still lining Russian supermarket shelves

iNTERNATIONAL WOMEN’ DAY
Alison Mau (Stuff): Don’t waste your time this International Women’s Day – go to the movies instead
Sasha Borissenko (Herald): International Women’s Day – ‘The presentation would have been more palatable had I been a man,’ they said (paywalled)

CULTURE WARS
Jonathan Ayling (Stuff): The free speech door swings both ways
Chris Lynch: Human Rights Commission accused of double standards
Martyn Bradbury (Daily Blog): Free Speech vs Drag Queen story time vs violent Samoan Poetry vs Right Wing Hypocrisy
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): What would you make of this poem?

OTHER
Damien Grant (Stuff): Things get done because of agitators and advocates
Duncan Greive (Spinoff): Lessons for TVNZ and RNZ from the architect of the ABC’s digital transformation
Thomas Manch (Stuff): Defence Force orders TikTok to be wiped from phones, as government agencies grapple with data risks
Janet Wilson (Stuff): Damaging effects of social media deserving of more action
RNZ: Coroner’s inquest into mosque terrorist attack delayed
RNZ: Important Christchurch terrorist attack inquiry is approached methodically – FIANZ chair
Laura James (1News): Number of animals killed at NZ rodeo events this summer climbs to four
Claudia Orange (E-Tangata): Why did Māori leaders sign Te Tiriti?
Richard Swainson (Stuff): MP David Bennett asked the Naked Attraction question that had many wondering
Nicholas Boyack (Stuff): Protest and progress: photos that captured an era that changed NZ forever