Newsroom Pro's 7 Things: CPTPP official analysis due today; Ron Mark's change of view

1. 'Why didn't you tell us everything'

Newsroom broke the story last week about sexual misconduct at Russell McVeagh and is continuing to follow up on the fallout.

Today, Newsroom's Melanie Reid and Sasha Borissenko report a national law firm that hired a former Russell McVeagh solicitor after he was accused of misconduct says it was led to believe by a reference check that the incident was minor.

The man is one of two Russell McVeagh employees who it is claimed sexually harassed and assaulted young women who were working at the firm's Wellington office over the summer of 2015/16.

The man allegedly involved in the incident at El Horno did not return to Russell McVeagh in mid-January and then started with the new firm in mid-February.

Speaking through a PR company, the second firm told Newsroom the man applied for a role it had advertised.

“Prior to employing this solicitor, we undertook our usual reference checks. We were made aware in a verbal reference check with Russell McVeagh that the solicitor had been involved in an incident however we believed that the matter had been resolved."

That verbal reference was given by a Russell McVeagh partner.

Newsroom understands the law firm hiring the ex McVeagh solicitor did not know the extent and degree of the complaint against him. It heard there had been "an issue", but there had been no disciplinary action and the matter had been resolved.

"A decision was made to hire the solicitor. In hindsight, we should not have made that decision,” the smaller law firm said.

See the full story here on Newsroom. Your subscription is helping us report these stories for the public.

2. 'That's none of our business'

News companies NZME and Stuff (formerly Fairfax NZ) have taken a slightly different tack in their attempts to get the courts to over-turn the Commerce Commission block on their merger plans.

They are essentially saying that informing the public is not their job in a democracy. They say in their challenge to a High Court ruling in favour of the Commerce Commission's block that informing the public is the Government's responsibility.

Newsroom's Co-Editor Tim Murphy writes here they argue the High Court has outdated and wrong views on the importance of newspapers and online media to the country's democracy.

Stuff Ltd and NZME, whose merger bid is known as StuffMe, have also told the Court of Appeal the High Court was wrong to turn their deal down because "if there are concerns about media concentration" these could be addressed separately by the state increasing funding to RNZ and TVNZ.

The companies' application to challenge Justice Robert Dobson's judgment (which largely endorsed a powerful Commerce Commission rejection) in the Court of Appeal repeats their view that the Commerce Act does not exist to regulate media plurality.

The applicants' case is being run by lawyers from Russell McVeagh, with Wellington QC David Goddard as barrister. NZME and Stuff believe their deal should have been dealt with on business benefits alone, not intangible values such as the range of voices in the media, quality of journalism or the media's contribution to democracy.

In one pointed paragraph they say Parliament did not intend an assessment of a proposed merger to be "based on speculation, intuition, political preference or any other basis for decision-making that falls outside the expertise of Commissioners."

See Tim's full article here on Newsroom.

3. 'Give us some of that $1 bln'

The Government is scheduled to start announcing how it will spend its $1 billion fund in Gisborne on Friday. The first announcements are expected to be around regional rail.

Newsroom's Teuila Fuatai has talked to leaders in some of the regions that are struggling the most. They want their cut. One of the biggest debates early in the piece will be on whether to fund a four lane highway to Whangarei, which the previous Government wanted to do.

See Teuila's full story here on Newsroom.

4. Staying awake in Christchurch

One recipient of a lot of Government infrastructure spending in recent years has been Christchurch. But the Council has also had to borrow a lot of money, and it started before the earthquake with a lot of debt.

Newsroom's Christchurch reporter David Williams has taken a closer look at the debt and found it is keeping Mayor Lianne Dalziel up at night.

See David's full story here on Newsroom.

5. Mark-ing his words on Taji

It's amazing what happens when the rigour and demands of Government meets the views shaped in Opposition.

Defence Minister Ron Mark told Sam Sachdeva yesterday a visit to Camp Taji has convinced him Kiwi trainers are both valued and wanted by Iraqi forces, but not that he was wrong to oppose their initial deployment.

Mark has also indicated the importance of Iraq’s reconstruction and recovery to New Zealand and other allies, saying it will have a direct effect on our safety at home. Earlier this month, the Defence Minister visited NZDF deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates for the first time.

The Government is due to make a decision by November on whether to extend its training deployment in Iraq.

Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First were all critical of the National government’s original decision to head to Iraq, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not tipped her hand so far as to her preference.

Asked whether he regretted his comments in Opposition, he said the Government had failed to provide enough information to opposition parties about the scope of the mission and the work that would be done.

“If you lock people out and you’re not inclusive, you don’t trust people, then you get a different result…"

Mark is including National's Simon O'Connor in the loop from now on.

See Sam's full story on Newsroom Pro, where it was published yesterday.

6. CPTPP = half the benefits

The Government released its full analysis of the new CPTPP this afternoon, and the benefits have been downgraded.

The national interest analysis (NIA) for the CPTPP, released by Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker, says the deal has been labelled comprehensive and progressive because it “goes beyond reducing costs for businesses” by including safeguards to protect and enforce environmental and labour standards across the Asia-Pacific region.

The NIA says the withdrawal of the United States from the deal last year has allowed the suspension of a number of provisions that had originally concerned New Zealanders, including those related to intellectual property, pharmaceuticals and investment.

Whereas the NIA for the TPP estimated “at least” an additional one percent increase to GDP at full implementation ($2.7 billion), the CPTPP analysis estimates an increase of between 0.3 percent ($1.2b) and one percent ($4b).

If CPTPP went ahead without New Zealand, the document estimates there would be a $183 million decline in GDP due to the erosion of New Zealand’s place in regional supply chains, the favoured status of competitors’ exports, and the diversion of investment to other CPTPP countries.

See Sam's initial story in full here.

7. This morning's political links

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