John Armstrong's opinion: If Peter Dutton becomes Australia's PM it means bad news for NZ in general, Jacinda Ardern in particular

Just at the very moment when circumstances demand that an Australian politician chock-full of vision, integrity and credibility step forward into the breach — the Lucky Country lucks out and instead lands itself with Peter Dutton.

A bigger step backwards not just for Australia, but for already worsening trans-Tasman relations to boot would be hard to find.

Queensland's master of the dark arts of politics is not yet ensconced in the Prime Minister's office in the federal parliament in Canberra.

But the maintenance staff in the complex might as well change the name-plate on that office’s door right now.

Malcolm Turnbull's leadership of the Australian Liberal Party may technically be still alive after Tuesday's "spill" failed to deliver quite enough votes to see Dutton take charge and simultaneously become prime minister.

But Turnbull is dead meat. No party can go into an election — even one which may still be a year off — with a leader who does not have the confidence of nearly half his colleagues.

Mr Dutton says he wants to do everything he can to stop Labor leader Bill Shorten becoming Australian Prime Minister. Source: 1 NEWS

It all adds up to very bad news for New Zealand in general and Jacinda Ardern in particular.

Turnbull did not seem to care very much about the deteriorating condition of trans-Tasman relations.

Dutton seems positively hostile towards Ardern and anyone else in her administration who has the audacity to question the propriety of the policies he administers - be it the incarceration of New Zealand citizens in mainland detention centres or asylum-seekers stuffed into offshore refugee processing centres.

When Ardern started to question the acceptability of such practices, Dutton rounded on her by saying New Zealand "would have to think about their relationship with Australia and what impact it would have".

He described Ardern's offer of New Zealand aid to those asylum-seekers on Manus Island and Nauru "as a waste of money".

Mr Turnbull only barely blocked challenger Peter Dutton. Source: 1 NEWS

He suggested New Zealand was free-loading on the "many hundreds of millions of dollars" spent by Australia on blocking boat-people from landing on its shores.

The former police officer and Australia's now ex-Home Affairs minister is a politician who puts the "hard" into hard-line.

The policies which make Wellington unhappy are most unlikely to change when he becomes prime minister — something which might be just weeks if not days away.

Ardern and her colleagues will have to rely on Winston Peters' canny skills as Foreign Minister to broker a more satisfactory working relationship between the leader and the likely soon-to-be leader.

Otherwise, those on the New Zealand side of the trans-Tasman relationship will have to cross their fingers and hope Australia's next election solves the problem for them.

A composite image of Peter Dutton and Jacinda Ardern.
A composite image of Peter Dutton and Jacinda Ardern. Source: 1 NEWS

Meet the transgender Wellington school caretaker brightening up kids' days

A transgender caretaker at a Wellington school has been using her musical talents to brighten up the kids' days.

Molly Mason was born as Michael, but soon discovered she was a female born in a man's body.

"I believe I'm a woman, and I associate as a woman, so I live my life as a woman," Molly told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

Molly has a love of music that began when she was just six.

Now, in her role as caretaker at a Wellington school, she uses her talent to good effect by beat boxing with the kids at lunchtime.

"When I realised that beat boxing and making sounds was something I couldn't live without, that was it, nothing else mattered."

However, to be this woman - that little boy Michael, had a fight on his hands.

"I got bullied from primary school right through until the day I left college and left Blenheim."

Molly is now proud to be transgender and says the stage is her safe place. She performs as her drag alter ego called Bette Noir.

"Anything that makes me sad, makes me worried, makes me scared, anything that I find stressful, it's not there, it's gone." 

Seven Sharp’s Arrun Soma spoke with Molly Mason. Source: Seven Sharp

Ministry of Justice union members strike, launching a month of industrial action over pay

Court security officers and Family Court coordinators are among Ministry of Justice employees going on strike for two hours nationwide today as they start more than four weeks of industrial action over pay.

Ministry of Justice members of the Public Service Association will strike from 10.30am to 12.30pm today.

PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay said on Monday that eleventh hour meetings were held between the PSA Bargaining Team and Ministry of Justice to reach a resolution but no movement on fundamental pay issues was offered.

He said the union is seeking an outcome that ensures members including court security officers, registry officers, victim advisors, court reporters and Family Court coordinators are reasonably paid. 

The ministry’s own engagement survey shows that only a third of staff feel valued for the work that they do, with a clear impact on recruitment and retention issues across the ministry, Mr Barclay said. 

He said the ministry offered the third lowest average salary in the public sector last year and the PSA believes this is being worsened. 

As well as strike action today, the employees will ban overtime, only work contracted hours of work and take common breaks until October 19 "to push for fair pay systems and a modest across-the-board pay increase," Mr Barclay said.

Kaitaia, New Zealand - August 18, 2014: Kaitaia District/Family Court outdoor sign and symbol. It is the most northern District Court in new zealand
Kaitaia District Court. Source:


Netsafe won't pursue Sir Ray Avery's complaint over media website

Scientist and entrepreneur Sir Ray Avery will have to go to the district court if he wants to pursue his complaint about media website Newsroom any further.

Sir Ray complained to Netsafe under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, regarding five articles Newsroom had published about fundraising he was doing for his LifePod inventions, and about his other past products.

He said the articles caused him severe emotional distress and amounted to harassment and digital harm under the Act.

Newsroom has refused to take the articles down.

Netsafe Director Martin Cocker said there isn't anything more Netsafe can do through mediation.

"As soon as one party says, you know they're not prepared to engage in the process, then that's a pretty strong sign that it's time for Netsafe to conclude its process."

That mediation process is a mandatory first step under the Act, and most Harmful Digital Communications Act complaints are sorted at this point.

However Mr Cocker said the main thing they do to get resolution, is to advise parties on what the likely legal ramifications are of different actions that they might take.

In this case, Mr Cocker said, there is not clarity in the Act about how these particular cases should be handled.

"It is for the court to set that precedent, so our recommendation is that has to happen," he said.

Mr Cocker said if they did not feel they could progress the case, their advice was to consider taking it to the district court. But he said that was "entirely optional" for the complainant.

By Gia Garrick

Newsroom is standing by its reporting on the former New Zealander of the Year, and questioning the method of the complaint.
Sir Ray Avery. Source: 1 NEWS

What to do and what not to do if you come across a kiwi in the wild

A rare daytime encounter with a kiwi on the Heaphy Track got TVNZ1's Seven Sharp thinking - what to do and what not to do when you come across the native bird in the wild.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says it's pretty unusual for these nocturnal birds to be out during sunshine hours.

As we all know kiwi don't fly so escaping predators can be pretty tricky. An average of 27 are killed every week, so we've got to be pretty careful around them.

DOC gave Seven Sharp some important tips to remember if you encounter one of these unique birds.

Firstly stay still and just enjoy the rare experience. Stay a few metres away and don't worry if they approach you, just keep still.

Second, don't move towards the bird or try to pick it up - it's an offence to hold kiwi without permission from DOC.

Also, be weary of their sharp claws - they're wild animals and can get stroppy.

Lastly, feel free to take photos or video, but only in low light conditions and don't use a flash as it can stun the birds.

An encounter with one of the birds on the Heaphy Track got us thinking. Source: Seven Sharp