Newsroom Pro's 8 things at 8 am: Weekend Reads; Instant Kiwi; Labour's labour plan

In today's email we check out ANZ's monthly business confidence survey, Labour's plan for labour, the revelations about instant kiwi Peter Thiel - and more.

1. A Goldilocks economy

ANZ's monthly business confidence survey published yesterday depicted an economy rollicking along with GDP growth accelerating again towards four percent and inflation stable around two percent.

The survey for June found a net 25 percent of businesses were confident about the wider economy in the year ahead, which was up 10 percentage points to its highest point since September last year.

A net 43 percent of businesses saw their own businesses improving over the next year, up five percentage points from May to its highest level since July 2014. Confidence in the agricultural sector improved most.

"Our confidence composite indicator is pointing to GDP growth in excess of four percent. We don’t think the economy has the capacity to grow that fast amidst capacity pressures (i.e. skilled staff shortages)," ANZ's Cameron Bagrie wrote.

"However, there is still a large gap between signalled growth and where actual GDP growth sits (2.5 percent)," he wrote, noting he saw official growth measures above three percent.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the robustness of the growth and confidence, pricing intentions remained subdued. The survey found a net 31 percent expected to put up their prices in the next year, up only marginally from 30 percent in May. Inflation expectations were unchanged at 2.0 percent, although the pricing intentions measure was at its highest level since February 2014.

The notable exception in the otherwise positive survey was a sharp drop in residential investment intentions to a net 18 percent from 45 percent in May. Commercial construction intentions also fell to 29 percent from 37 percent.

2. Labour's labour plan

Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw covered the release of Labour's employment policy for the election yesterday and found a surprise plan to return to industry-wide employment agreements.

Shane reports these Fair Pay Agreements (FPA) would determine standards of pay and employment conditions within entire industries, to be negotiated by businesses and unions.

The aim, Little said, was to set a floor that would stop a “race to the bottom” seen in some industries, where good employers were undercut by bad employers who cut costs through low wages. The policy’s release at the E Tu offices in Auckland was followed by a flurry of press releases from both sides of the debate.

Unions threw their support behind the initiative, which they had likely played a part in shaping, saying it would restore fairness.

Meanwhile, Business NZ and the Employers and Manufacturers Association were quick to raise their concerns that the changes could see a return to an old-fashioned approach to industrial relations.

Labour’s FPA plan would see negotiations in an industry begin once a sufficient percentage of employers or employees called for one.

Little told Shane that the exact threshold had yet to be determined but it would not apply to every industry.

See Shane's full report on the policy out yesterday on Newsroom Pro, including details on plans to lift the minimum wage and keep the 90 day trial periods, with a few caveats.

3. 'Instant Kiwi'

The Department of Internal Affairs finally revealed yesterday that US billionaire and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel was granted citizenship in 2011 under an "exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian or other nature" clause after he had spent a total of 12 days in New Zealand over four visits.

RNZ's Benedict Collins challenged the DIA's initial refusal to release the information about the amount of time Thiel had spent in New Zealand, but Ombudsman Peter Boshier recommended its release after a review on the grounds that the public interest outweighed Thiel's right to privacy. Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne agreed and it was released yesterday.

Former Immigration Minister Nathan Guy defended his decision to grant New Zealand citizenship to Thiel, even though the usual residency period to grant citizenship is 1350 days.

Guy told reporters before question time in Parliament that journalists were only asking questions because of Thiel's active and public support of President Donald Trump. He defended his decision.

"This guy has made a significant investment here in New Zealand. If you think back to 2011, at the time we were coming through a GFC, we were rebuilding Christchurch, and this individual had stepped up and said 'yes I want to be a part of the rebuild'," Guy said.

"He's a great ambassador and salesperson for the New Zealand. He's promoting New Zealand all the time to people in the US. It's a very important market," he said.

Thiel invested in Xero and Pacific Fibre in 2011 and 2012, and also invested in Vend in 2014. He donated NZ$1 million to the Christchurch earthquake relief fund. But his investments and advocacy have receded from New Zealand in recent years.

Icehouse CEO Andy Hamilton, who along with Sam Morgan and Rod Drury supported Thiel's application, said in this RNZ interview that Thiel's investment and advocacy had opened doors for the likes of Xero in Silicon Valley.

"I think Peter Thiel still loves New Zealand, but he's not investing here like he did," Hamilton said.

4. RNZ restructure fears

Newsroom's Sam Sachdeva covered Radio NZ's appearance before a select committee yesterday and found plenty of internal drama, despite the recent rise in ratings and funding from the Government.

A leaked internal document revealed staff concerns about a culture of “fear, division and mistrust”

The document outlines the staff response to the disestablishment of three newsroom positions - including editorial development director Gael Woods - and the creation of three new roles, including the director of a new investigative unit and deputy head of news in Auckland.

It says there was a strong feeling from staff that the organisation’s pool of journalists was under-resourced and would be stretched further by the investigative unit.

Read Sam's full report out on Newsroom Pro yesterday.

5. A funding shortfall

Newsroom's Teuila Fuatai reports that the pay equity deal that is due to kick in from tomorrow is threatening to derail service providers.

Teuila reports emails and letters provided to Newsroom detail the Ministry of Health’s persistent avoidance in confirming funding amounts to providers, as well as admissions that its “funding model” does leave some outfits out of pocket.

Furthermore, the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act, which took only two weeks to be passed into law, has ensured providers have minimal say at the contract negotiating table.

See the full details in Teuila's report on Newsroom.

Another Newsroom story picked up yesterday was Morgan Tait's report on a mysterious slump in fuel prices just before the June 30 deadline for Judith Collins to receive back the Fuel Market Financial Performance study.

6. Quotes of the day

Nathan Guy on why there was such media interest in the granting of citizenship to Peter Thiel after he spent 12 days in New Zealand:

"This story got legs because of his connection to the Trump regime."

An unnamed close associate of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in this article in The American Conservative:

"Rex is just exhausted. He can’t get any of his appointments approved and is running around the world cleaning up after a president whose primary foreign policy adviser is a 36-year-old amateur (Jared Kushner)."

7. Two fun things

Jim Morin's latest cartoon on Donald Trump's comments about fake news hits the mark: Narcissus.

I'm not great fan of Piers Morgan and this on-air takedown of him by his co host on a British television breakfast show is quite the thing.

8. Weekend Reads

Back by popular demand, here's a few longer reads on matters economic, social and political for the weekend.

The Saudi Arabia vs Qatar dispute seemed come out of nowhere and is now causing all sorts of ructions in the Middle East. Here's a useful analysis from the US side of things from Mark Perry in The American Conservative.

It seems Jared Kushner endorsed Saudi Arabia's plans, while the US military and State Department are not on the same page. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appears to be mightily frustrated by President Donald Trump's tweets and Kushner's involvement.

The latest Reuters annual report on digital news is well worth a read. It shows the young aren't that interested in watching video news and are becoming more interested in paying for news, as Nieman reports.

This little factoid illustrates the challenges for news organisations depending on advertising: Google and Facebook now make more money from advertising than every newspaper, magazine and radio network in the world, reports.

The algorithms inside Facebook and Google are now the most powerful chunks of IP in the world, and secret. They determine so much about what we read and buy. Propublica got its hands on some internal documents from Facebook that explain how its algorithm differentiates between hate speech and legitimate political expression. It protects white men, but not black children.

Sir Peter Gluckman's report on using citizen-based analytics to inform social policy (ie social investment) is well worth a read.