Newsroom Pro's 8 Things: Clinton warns NZ on soft power; The curious case of Robert Stryk; Fresh labour shortages

The things that mattered this morning

Be warned - Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned last night that New Zealand should take the threat of China using its soft power here more seriously.

"Experts are sounding the alarm about Chinese efforts to gain political power and influence policy decisions. And it's just getting started," Clinton said last night.

"Anne-Marie Brady of the University of Canterbury has rightly called this a new global battle. And it is just getting started. And we need to take it seriously," she said. (Newshub)

See Newsroom's coverage from last year highlighting Anne Marie Brady's work, and our exclusive on National List MP Jian Yang being trained by China's military intelligence.

Get ready - US President Donald Trump said overnight he would decide tomorrow whether to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. America's US allies have quietly acknowledged that have failed to convince Trump not to pull out.

Trump would, in theory, scrap the deal and impose new sanctions. Iran would then be free to resume making nuclear fuel, although some think it would sit on its hands to try to divide Europe and America. Europe has promised not to reimpose sanctions. (New York Times)

2. The curious case of Robert Stryk and us

Trump World is a strange place indeed.

We're now discovering all sorts of strange dealings between hangers-on to the Trump train and shadowy figures connected to shady governments.

It turned out Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, was connected to various figures in the Russian mafia and made millions of dollars from very fast property transactions in New York. (NYT) Anyone who has read about or watched anything to do with Trump mentor and Republican lobbyist Roger Stone (I'd recommend 'Get me Roger Stone' on Netflix) will recognise the strange mix of entrepreneurial approach, self promotion and the eye for the main (i.e financially rewarding) chance that the people around Trump seem to mimic and adopt.

It also turns out New Zealand is not immune from these various self-appointed Trump whisperers operating in the shadows between Trump World and the rest of the world.

Newsroom's Foreign Affairs and Trade Editor Sam Sachdeva has been working for months on the curious story of Robert Stryk. He is one of these lobbyists with obscure business interests who happened to bumped into a New Zealand embassy official on election night.

Stryk apparently then arranged to get Trump's number so then-Prime Minister John Key could be among the first to talk to Trump. The lobbyist then arranged a deal with the New Zealand Embassy worth $250,000 to represent New Zealand in Trump World and helped arrange some prominent events at the New Zealand embassy early in the Trump presidency, including the one pictured above (Stryk is on the far right).

Sam has been digging around in the past of Robert Stryk and it makes for some awkward reading for New Zealand diplomats. It turns out Stryk inhabits a world of arms dealers, alleged fraud, and "uncomfortable" auditions for foreign allies.

See Sam's full story here on Newsroom Pro.

It's the sort of journalism we like here at Newsroom. It's in-depth, took months to find and confirm, and tells us something new about our world in a wider sense than the latest from Dancing With The Stars or Kim Kardashian's Instagram feed.

3. Reviewing social investment data

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern invited Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni into the Beehive Theatrette yesterday to announce a review of the use of data by social agencies, and more broadly the social investment approach taken by the previous Government.

They didn't throw the baby out with the bathwater completely, but did indicate they won't be calling it social investment anymore. It will be called 'investing for social wellbeing,' and it will not involve collecting personalised data that allow any one person to be identified.

Newsroom's Thomas Coughlan took a closer look at the review.

4. Please stay and pick our fruit

The Ministry of Social Development yesterday declared a seasonal labour shortage across the Bay of Plenty in a bid to find at least 1,200 people to pick and pack the remainder of this year's kiwifruit harvest.

The harvest is tipped to be around 19 percent, or 20 million trays, higher than a year earlier.

The declaration will be in place from May 7 until June 8 and allows overseas visitors, who already hold visitor visas, to apply to vary the conditions of their visas to working in kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty. The declaration is the first time in a decade that it has been necessary in the Bay of Plenty.

MSD declared a seasonal labour shortage in the Hawkes Bay in early March and then extended it in late March to help fruit growers. It declared a seasonal labour shortage in the Tasman region in April to help wine growers.

5. Briefly in our political economy...

Cooler spending - Electronic transactions network Paymark, which handles over 75 percent of credit and debt card sales, reported sales fell 1.4 percent in April from March on a seasonally adjusted basis and spending was just 2.9 percent up from April a year ago. Paymark suggested the timing of Easter going into early April and the effects of rising fuel prices may have dampened spending growth.

Bill withdrawn - New Zealand First List MP Jenny Marcroft has withdrawn her ‘Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill’. The member's bill to stop teachers who don't have recognised qualifications from being called teachers or calling themselves teachers passed the first reading on February 21. Attorney General David Parker ruled in a report to the Education select committee in April the bill would breach the Bill of Rights, as Shane Cowlishaw reported then.

This is Marcroft's second false step around Parliament. Her leader Winston Peters forced her to apologise to National MP Mark Mitchell after she threatened to withdraw regional funding from a project in Mitchell's electorate.

New RNZ chairman - Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran announced yesterday Former Maori Television CEO and current Te Wananga o Aotearoa CEO Jim Mather had been appointed chairman of Radio New Zealand for a three year term. He replaces outgoing National Government appointee (and former staffer for Jim Bolger) Richard Griffin.

New Maori TV chairman - Maori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced yesterday former Maori TV political journalist Jamie Tuuta as chairman of the board of Maori TV. Tuuta is the chair of Te Ohu Kaimoana, Chair of Te Rūnunga o Ngāti Mutunga, Independent Chair of Taranaki Mounga Project and a director of Moana New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand. Tuuta takes over from Georgina Te Heu Heu, who was appointed by the previous Government.

Parliamentary protest - National MPs (other than deputy speaker Anne Tolley) were reported by Stuff and NZ Herald to have attended a Business Committee meeting last week in protest at the way Speaker Trevor Mallard is running question time. He has been deducting supplementary questions from parties if members of that party are unruly.

From Greens to Labour - Green Party Communications and Strategy Director Andrew Campbell was yesterday appointed Chief Press Secretary in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's office with effect from May 21. He takes over from Mike Jaspers, who will stay on the ninth floor of the Beehive as Chief Advisor Strategic Communications.

6. Coming up...

Parliament resumes at 2 pm today for the second week of its four-week Budget session. The political parties hold their weekly caucus meetings around 10 am.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is scheduled to give a pre-Budget speech this evening, which is expected to give more detail on an expected funding increase for his ministry. Sam Sachdeva will cover it for Newsroom Pro.

The Finance and Expenditure select committee meets at 9 am on Wednesday to discuss the Overseas Investment Act changes, the Base Erosion and Profit Shifting changes to tax legislation and to hear a briefing on the Budget process. It will also hear submissions on the 2018 investment statement.

The Social Services Committee will hear submissions on the Child Poverty Reduction bill from 9 am on Wednesday.

Statistics New Zealand is scheduled to publish electronic card transactions data on retail spending in April at 10.45 am on Wednesday.

The Reserve Bank publishes its May Monetary Policy Statement at 9 am on Thursday. Governor Adrian Orr will hold a news conference shortly after 9 am and then take questions at a Finance and Expenditure select committee from 1.10 pm on Thursday.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade select committee will discuss in public the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership from 9.30 on Thursday.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will give his traditional pre-Budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce at 1 pm on Thursday.

REINZ is expected to release its sales data for April on Friday morning.

7. One fun thing...

Former US Secretary of State and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke for 90 minutes to a sold-out Vector Arena last night. Former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley moderated a discussion with her on stage as well.

Earlier, Clinton met with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and gave her a Buzzy Bee toy for her baby due on June 17. Ardern gave Clinton books by Lynley Dodd and Margaret Mahy for her grand-daughters.

Clinton was clearly jealous of New Zealand's track record.

"You are now onto your third female prime minister . . . just saying," she said last night.

8. This morning's political links

These are available in the morning subscriber email.