Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am: English's Pacific tour

Bill English has headed off on one last big trip before the election. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we follow Prime Minister Bill English on his trip to the Pacific, and learn one task he had to complete before setting off was apologising to Israel for co-sponsoring the UN resolution on Israel's settlements in Palestinian territories being illegal.

1. A few days in the sun

Newsroom's Co-Editor Tim Murphy left Auckland for the Pacific yesterday with Prime Minister Bill English and a delegation of politicians, business and community leaders on the RNZAF's Boeing 757.

It is expected to be English's last big trip overseas before the election and Tim has previewed the trip for Newsroom here.

They arrived last night in Rarotonga, and will then travel to Nuie and Tonga for a series of ceremonial and political meetings. Tim makes the point there are now just 101 days to go before the election.

2. English apologises to Israel

Meanwhile overnight, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement announcing the return of Israel's ambassador to Wellington and the resumption of diplomatic ties.

He said English had spoken to him on the phone a couple of days ago and expressed regret for co-sponsoring the UN resolution on Israel's settlements in Palestinian territories being illegal.

Netanyahu said English had sent him a letter, in which he stated: "First and most importantly, as I said in our conversation, I regret the damage done to relations between New Zealand and Israel as a result of New Zealand's co-sponsorship of UNSC resolution 2334. We welcome the return of Israel's ambassador to Wellington.”

There's no comment yet from English or from new Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee, who is also on the Pacific trip with English.

3. Is PACER Plus a plus?

One of the centrepieces of the Pacific trip will be the signing of the PACER Plus trade and development agreement between New Zealand, Australia and 11 other Pacific nations in Tonga on Wednesday Pacific time.

Newsroom's Foreign Affairs Editor Sam Sachdeva has taken a deeper look at the agreement over at Newsroom Pro.

It has not been plain sailing and not everyone is on board. Vanuatu announced last week it needed more time to review the 1000-page document before signing on. It joined Papua New Guinea and Fiji - the two largest countries in the Pacific - in opting against signing the deal for now.

Papua New Guinea said the agreement would benefit Australia and New Zealand, but “kill” its own manufacturing sector, while Fiji has claimed it was excluded from final negotiations after its appeal for a delay was ignored.

4. Corrections transparency

Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw yesterday covered the appearance of Corrections Minister Louise Upston before the Law and Order Select Committee.

Alongside the increase in spending on prison capacity and prisoner mental health issues, much of the discussion revolved around the importance of being clear and open about what happened inside New Zealand prisons.

It follows a move by Corrections to loosen their media policy, after several years of blanket refusals regarding interview requests.

Here's Shane's full report on Newsroom Pro on the change in approach in the wake of the "Fight Club" scandal and the subsequent removal of Serco from Mt Eden.

5. Profiling Simeon Brown

Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy has been profiling potential new MPs, including one on Monday on Labour's Deborah Russell.

Today he publishes an interview with Simeon Brown, the 26 year old selected for the safe National seat of Pakuranga being vacated by Maurice Williamson.

It turns out National voters have selected a conservative Christian commercial banker who submitted against the gay marriage bill that Williamson championed.

Here's Tim's profile in full.

6. Numbers of the day

Down 0.4 percent - The fall in seasonally adjusted retail spending in May from April, as measured by Statistics New Zealand's credit and debt card spending figures. Economists had expected a 0.2 percent rise. Spending is expected to resume rising in June and July because of the Lions tour.

Up 6.9 percent - The rise in guest nights in April from April 2016, largely due to Easter falling in April this year rather than March last year, Statistics New Zealand reported.

7. Coming up...

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett is scheduled to announce the "Dairy Action for Climate Change" plan at the Fieldays near Hamilton this afternoon.

The Real Estate Institute is scheduled to publish its sales and prices data for May later today.

The OECD is scheduled to release its latest economic survey for New Zealand on Thursday afternoon. It said it would include special chapters on strategies for improving productivity across the economy and adapting to the changing labour market.

8. One fun thing

It was great to see the Highlanders beat the Lions in a thriller under the roof in Dunedin last night by one point. A great game, despite a bitter southerly, as one commentator attested:

Scotty Stevenson: I'm not saying it's cold but my nipples could type a match report. #HIGvBIL