Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am: Reputational risk; Brown's guitar; Dodgy pokies

The Government plans to approve and fund private institutions who want to call themselves universities, leading to concerns of reputational risk for our tertiary sector. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

In today's email we look into concern from universities about proposed changes to the tertiary education sector.

1. Reputational risk

Late in its third term, the Government is pushing ahead with its drive to bring in more private education providers and provide more competition in tertiary education in particular.

Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw covered yesterday's debate at the Education Select Committee about the Government's plans to approve and fund private institutions who want to call themselves universities in the Education (Tertiary Education and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

Academia rolled out its heavy-hitters for the Select Committee, with Auckland University Vice-chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon, Victoria University Vice-chancellor Professor Grant Guilford, and Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan appearing as a triumvirate.

McCutcheon did most of the talking, starting off by stating that the group were not against equal funding for public and private courses, as long as they were of the same quality.

He said the problem was that not all institutions were up to that standard, describing some as “frankly ordinary”.

Shane covers the debate in detail in his full report on Newsroom Pro, including the most unusual use of blocks of cheese and chocolate in a select committee.

2. A New England Patriot

The United States' new ambassador to New Zealand, Scott Brown, formally presented his credentials to the Government yesterday and hosted an engaging news conference out at his residence in Lower Hutt.

Newsroom's Foreign Affairs and Trade Editor Sam Sachdeva covered both events and reported on Brown's charm offensive and his plea for New Zealanders to give President Donald Trump a chance.

Brown was quick to talk up his own swift installation in the post, as well as recent visits by US officials, as a sign of the esteem New Zealand is held in.

“The fact that you had a Five Eyes meeting here, then you had Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson come, then you had me as the second ambassador out the door speaks volumes about the relationship that we have with your country.”

Brown, who spent 35 years in the Army National Guard, says his military background and the current state of instability in the Asia-Pacific was one factor in Trump’s decision to send him to Wellington so quickly.

“As you know, what’s happening with China and their basically taking rocks and turning them into islands and potentially militarising them...North Korea and what’s happening up there - this is a very, very important part of the world.”

Brown focused a lot on America's relations with China and New Zealand's role in this part of the world in his news conference.

Read Sam's full report on Newsroom Pro to find out more, including detail on Brown's guitar playing and strategic use of donuts.

3. Secret gambling shoppers

Shane Cowlishaw was also busy yesterday digging through an undercover audit by the Department of Internal Affairs of the pokie machine industry.

The department did a mystery shopper exercise and found more than half of “class 4” pokie bars failed to meet problem gambling expectations.

Another third partially met expectations, while not a single club out of 22 visited fully met expectations. However, Sky City did improve its performance substantially.

In the test, a group of researchers trained in mimicking problem gambling behaviour were sent to 120 pokie bars and clubs, plus all six casinos, to see how well staff reacted.

Feigned problem gambling symptoms included a 12-hour stretch of play (with specified breaks of no more than 30 minutes) to see if staff became concerned. Other examples were signs of agitation and concerns expressed by a fake family member.

Some bureaucrats have all the fun...

Read Shane's full report on the audit on Newsroom Pro, including details about how Internal Affairs prefers to encourage operators to improve rather than take an enforcement approach.

4. Numbers of the day

$6.036 billion - The total new residential mortgage lending in the month of May, as reported yesterday by the Reserve Bank. This was up from $4.558 billion in April, but was in line with March's $5.985 billion. April's numbers were affected by the inclusion of both the Easter and Anzac day long weekends in the month.

New lending in May remained down from the $7.287 billion in the same month a year ago as the Reserve Bank's 40 percent deposit requirement kicked in during the second half of last year. Rental property investor lending was $1.490 billion in May, which was down from $2.489 billion in May a year ago.

3.3 percent - The average rates increase agreed unanimously yesterday by Wellington City Council for 2017/18. It also agreed a $5000 rate rebate for first-home builders, free admissions for spectators at Council pools, a living wage for all council staff and $500,000 in new funding for the arts.

4.9 percent - The averages rates increase agreed by the Napier City Council for 2017/18, which was partly to fund over $502,000 worth of work to upgrade water safety standards.

5. Quotes of the day

Environmental campaigner Jane Goodall at a Green Party event, discussing the release of a Greenpeace report on the connections between intensive dairy farming and public health. Greenpeace called for the Government to stop funding irrigation schemes.

"I would have one wish for people in NZ, that they would be as passionate about the environment as they are about rugby."

In response to the report, Federated Farmers' water spokesman Chris Allen said:

"This is Greenpeace doing a good job of what they do best - plenty of headlines and hyperbole. Let’s be frank, those claims made about New Zealanders’ health being endangered due to livestock is extreme to say the least. What’s particularly disturbing is their accusation that irrigation and farming causes cancers and infectious diseases here."

6. While you were sleeping

US officials are expected to announced upgraded security measures for flights coming to the United States later today, which are expected to become the defacto global standard. However, contrary to some fears, the new measures won't include a ban on laptops and other devices big enough to contain a bomb, Reuters reported.

The US dollar continued to fall against other currencies overnight on talk of tighter monetary policy in Europe. That saw the New Zealand dollar rise overnight to over 73 USc.

In another sign that Donald Trump is losing patience with China, the SCMP reported US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, as saying she would support “secondary sanctions” to stop North Korea’s military from producing a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile. This would target Chinese companies helping to funnel hard currency to its neighbour.

7. Coming up...

ANZ's monthly survey of business opinion is published today at 1pm.

Labour is expected to release its industrial relations policy for this election later today.

Prime Minister Bill English is due to speak at a Property Institute event in Queenstown later this morning.

8. One fun thing

Tweet of the day yesterday was from comedian ThomedySci:

"Let's make the next America's Cup involve land yachts that have to get across Auckland at 8am."