1. The news that mattered this morning

Updated

The top stories this morning include American nervousness over China's political connections in New Zealand, a looming decision on M.Bovis, the first nurses' strike planned in 30 years, a review of ACC's culture and CEO, and Donald Trump announcing his summit with Kim Jong Un is back on.

Four eyes? - A former CIA analyst has suggested to a US Congressional hearing that New Zealand's status within the Five Eyes security alliance should be reconsidered because of China's connections to members of the Government and the Opposition. The analyst made the comments in a hearing before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission on April 5 (transcript here - see page 122) David Fisher had the story in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday.

The analyst, Peter Mattis, said China's connections were close enough to New Zealand's political core that America had to consider what actions New Zealand was taking to minimise the risks to Five Eyes. Mattis said New Zealand had denied it had any problems and had not taken any actions to launch an inquiry, as Australia had done.

He said New Zealand's Five Eyes partners needed "to have a discussion about whether or not New Zealand can remain given this problem with the political core."

"It needs to be put in those terms so that New Zealand's Government understands that the consequences are substantial for not thinking through and addressing some of the problems that they face," he said.

Mattis suggested in the hearing without evidence that then Prime Minister Bill English had given briefings to National MP Jian Yang, who was trained by Chinese military intelligence. Here's Newsroom's investigation from September last year of Yang's background.

National Leader Simon Bridges rejected claims Yang had been briefed. English also rejected the claim in comments to Politik.

Mattis also claimed one of the major fundraisers for the Labour Party was linked to the United Front, which is a Chinese Government-backed organisation working with international ex-patriate Chinese groups. He did not identify who that was and Labour General Secretary Andrew Kirton said he did not know who Mattis was talking about, saying all donations over $15,000 were declared.

Both Labour and National have insisted there is 'nothing to see here', but it's clear that elements within the Five Eyes alliance think there is plenty to see and worry that New Zealand is in denial and should be challenged. We will ask Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern questions about this at her weekly post-cabinet news conference later today.

RNZ's Guyon Espiner interviewed Mattis on Morning Report this morning. Mattis told Espiner his information had come from the media and research from Anne-Marie Brady.

"This isn't the evidence to say someone is guilty or innocent, or that there is not a problem. There's sufficient information there to suggest there is an issue, or at the very least a very real risk," Mattis said.

The interview is worth a listen. Also, to get a sense of America's sensitivity about China's rise, read this piece from Axios' Jim Vandehei on how China was the greatest, growing threat to America.

Contain or eradicate - Ardern will announce the Government's decision on whether to contain or eradicate mycoplasma bovis this afternoon in Wellington after meetings with industry leaders. Newsroom's David Williams writes in a comment piece this morning that MPI has a huge job ahead of rebuilding trust with farmers.

Pay pressure - The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) voted this morning to stage the first nationwide nurses strike in 30 years. It said members had agreed to stop working on July 5 and July 13 if DHBs did not accept an independent panel's recommendation for a nine percent pay increase by next August. (RNZ)

ACC review - The ACC has hired Hugh Rennie QC to review anonymous allegations about ACC's CEO Scott Pickering and its hiring culture, Stuff's Hamish Rutherford reported on Sunday. . The allegations also relate to the hiring of a headhunting firm by Kiwibank, where Pickering is now a director.

NCEA reforms - Education Minister Chris Hipkins released the recommendations from an advisory group on NCEA reform on Sunday night, including the idea of removing exams from NCEA level one and including credits for work experience at levels 2 and 3. He talked more about the ideas in this interview with Corin Dann on Q+A broadcast yesterday. (Transcript)

Back on again - US President Donald Trump tweeted this morning that his summit with Kim Jong Un was on again. He said a US team of diplomats had "arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself."