The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Live updates, July 27: $50m boost for international education; no new cases of Covid-19 in NZ

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for July 27. The latest on New Zealand news, politics and the Covid-19 crisis, updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7pm: The day in sum

The international education sector received a $51.6m funding boost from the government to help protect jobs and stabilise the industry.

Judith Collins criticised Newshub’s latest poll as “rogue”, “ridiculous” and “fake”. Jacinda Ardern was also sceptical, but wouldn’t go so far as to totally dismiss it.

The legality of the level four lockdown was scrutinised in the High Court.

Stronger protections for migrant workers were introduced by the government in the wake of Covid-19.

There were no new cases of the coronavirus in New Zealand, for the third straight day.

The number of Covid-19 cases topped 16 million worldwide.

In Victoria, 532 were recorded as having the virus overnight, the highest yet for the state.

4.05pm: $51.6m for international education sector

With the international education sector taking a significant blow due to Covid-19, the government has announced a $51.6 million funding boost from the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund to help protect jobs and stabilise the industry.

Jacinda Ardern described it as a path to recovery for the sector, which she described as having a strategic advantage on account of New Zealand’s strong response to Covid-19.

“We’re one of the few countries in the world where students can come to study and be safe from Covid.”

Education minister Chris Hipkins said the money would be divided according to a three-part strategic plan, covering stabilising, strengthening and transforming.

Under “stabilising”, $20m would go to state and state-integrated schools for the remainder of this year to help them cope with a reduction in revenue. Private training establishments, including English language schools, would get $10m, while another $10m would go to develop new products and services, for example, by allowing students to study from their home countries.

Other initiatives include $6.6m towards pastoral care and other activities for international students, $3m for “marketing activities” to keep our education brand visible, $1.5m to deliver English language training to migrants, and $500,000 to make sure New Zealand education is being delivered offshore.

“We won’t be able to save every single job in international education, but it will certainly help to cushion the blow,” said Hipkins.

He said education institutions should plan for no additional international students for the rest of this year, with the view to bringing in smaller cohorts than they would have previously expected next year.

Managed isolation fees

Asked if a decision on whether returning New Zealanders would be charged for managed isolation was imminent, Ardern said cabinet committees were still running and “as soon as we have a decision, we’ll be sharing it with you”.

She indicated a charging regime would not be implemented immediately as it would need “legislative footing”

“It’s not something that’s going to happen at a quick pace, it needs to be done right. There’s a number of factors we need to weigh up.”

Behrouz Boochani

Asked about National leader Judith Collins’ suggestions of political interference in the case of Behrouz Boochani’s refugee status (see 1.40pm), Ardern said the suggestion was wrong.

“I think it does a disservice to our public service to imply that there’s been any role for anyone other than those who have an official role,” she said. “It’s kept entirely separate from politicians and that is as it should be.”

“That is something we keep very distinct in the New Zealand system and that was certainly the case here.”

In response to NZ First’s Twitter account retweeting a story about Boochani with the comment “this is why New Zealand First must provide the minister of immigration”, Ardern said “that would assert that the minister of immigration has a role in a decision like this. Any decision around refugee status or asylum seekers, we keep that separate from politics. That is something that we keep very distinct in the New Zealand system.”

Traveller to South Korea

On the traveller to South Korea who tested positive for Covid-19 (see 1.15pm), Hipkins said a second test had been requested to rule out a potential false positive. He said, however, that contact tracing was underway for those on the domestic flight between Auckland and Christchurch the traveller undertook as a precaution

Ardern added that the traveller also spent time in the US for several months until mid-March before returning to New Zealand, referring to some cases where symptoms had appeared in past Covid cases.

“There’s a number of possible explanations here, but a precautionary approach is being taken,” she said.

Birthday celebrations

Ardern said she celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday with “a bit of cake, a bit of quiet time”, adding that the briefcase cake she posted on Instagram was “fantastic” and “heavy on the fondant”.

3.55pm: Jacinda Ardern to speak to media

Jacinda Ardern is about to begin her weekly post-cabinet press conference. She’s expected to unveil details of an overseas education package to help the sector due to the effects of Covid-19. Watch below:

3.30pm: New protections for migrant workers

The government’s introducing stronger protections for migrant workers, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The announcement’s a minister triple-header, coming from the offices of deputy prime minister Winston Peters, workplace relations minister Andrew Little, and immigration minister Kris Faafoi.

Peters said protecting migrant workers is a priority for the government, and was highlighted in the coalition agreement.

A number of changes, which will be implemented in stages, have been announced:

  • Creating a new visa that will support migrants to leave exploitative situations without negatively affecting their immigration status.
  • Setting up a new dedicated free phone number, online reporting and better triaging to make it easier to report migrant worker exploitation (in place by the middle of next year)
  • Higher standards will be required from franchises, labour hire companies and similar businesses where migrant exploitation often occurs.
  • Disqualifying people convicted of migrant exploitation and people trafficking from managing or directing a company.
  • Preventing exploitative employers from accessing migrant labour in the future by expanding the existing employer stand down list.
  • Establishing new immigration and employment infringement offences targeting non-compliant employer behaviour.
  • Notifying impacted migrant workers that their employer has been stood down.

The government’s investing $50 million over four years to implement these changes.

2.45pm: National caucus to see internal polling

Judith Collins has told media she will be providing the party’s internal polling to caucus tomorrow, following a devastating new poll for the opposition.

The Newshub-Reid Research poll had the party on just 25%, compared to Labour on almost 61%.

Collins has slammed the poll throughout her engagements today, calling it “rogue” and “ridiculous.”

When asked by media in Palmerston North this afternoon, Collins said: “I want to remind you all that polling goes up and down.

“Its obviously a rogue poll, clearly false.”

Collins said her internal polling is much higher. But, by providing it to her caucus colleagues, Collins opens herself up to potential leaks if the result isn’t as good as she’s made out.

I guess we’ll just have to tune into Newshub tomorrow night and see. 

1.40pm: Collins wants answers on Boochani

National’s leader has questioned why she hasn’t received a special “author’s visa” when refugee Behrouz Boochani has.

Boochani had his refugee status formally recognised by New Zealand before the weekend and was granted a visa. The Kurdish Iranian exile and journalist became the voice of those incarcerated on Manus Island.

Today, Judith Collins discussed the matter on Magic Talk, saying she planned to raise it in parliament when she goes up against Jacinda Ardern.

“I’m sick to death of this stuff. It looks like to all of us a very, very interesting situation that needs a bit more blowtorch on it,” she said.

“He seems to me to have come here on a very dodgy idea of some sort of author’s visa or something. Well, I’m an author too, and I can tell you I don’t think anyone’s going to give me a special visa.”

Okay, Judith.

1.15pm: No new cases of Covid-19

Updated

There’s no new cases of Covid-19 today, the Ministry of Health has announced. It’s the third day in a row with zero new cases of the coronavirus.

The total number of confirmed cases remains at 1,206, and it’s been 87 days since the last possible case of community transmission. Only 550 tests were completed yesterday.

The ministry said it’s normal to see lower testing rates in the weekend, but they are continuing to support efforts to increase the amount of community-based testing.

“There are three areas of action underway, with the ministry working closely with the Colleges of GPs, Urgent Care and Emergency Medicine and their members to offer testing to all people who present with symptoms,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The second area of focus is working with the district health boards to ensure testing is widely available, including at general practices and community-based assessment centres.”

“Thirdly, as New Zealanders we all have a part to play and the Ministry encourages anyone who is offered a swab, to take up that offer.”

Traveller to South Korea – infection in NZ ‘can’t be ruled out’

The Ministry of Health said it continues to work with its counterpart in South Korea for more information about the traveller from New Zealand who has tested positive.

The individual left New Zealand six days ago and arrived in South Korea on July 22 after transiting through Singapore. Despite having no symptoms for Covid-19, they returned a positive test on arrival.

South Korean authorities have informed us that based on their initial investigations they suspect the traveller was infected during transit.

However other causes, including infection in New Zealand, can’t be ruled out at this stage.

12.50pm: Ministry to update Covid case numbers

Following record numbers of new cases globally and across the ditch, the Ministry of Health will be updating us on the latest cases here via press release at 1pm. This could mean anytime between 12.55pm and 1.30pm.

Yesterday, there were no new cases to report – with the total number of confirmed and probable cases sitting at 1,556, with 21 still active. All active cases are in quarantine.

12.25pm: Record number of new Covid cases in Victoria

Updated

The state of Victoria has recorded another 532 cases of Covid-19 overnight. The previous highest number was 484 last Wednesday.

It follows the state’s deadliest day on Sunday when 10 people lost their lives to the virus.

Over the weekend, the number of global cases topped 16 million (more info below) – with the US leading per country totals.
Speaking at a Melbourne media conference, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said there had been six further deaths overnight.

He said there were worrying reports of people going to work, including at aged care facilities while unwell. That was “the key driver of these numbers going up rather than down”, he said.

“The key message today for Victorians is you simply can’t go to work if you have symptoms, you can’t go to work even if you feel sick slightly … The only thing you can do is get tested. And wait at home until you get your test results.”

“The lockdown will not end until people stop going to work with symptoms.”

11.45am: Number of global Covid cases tops 16 million

The US, Brazil, and India are leading the country counts for total cases of Covid, as the global tally ticks over the 16 million mark.

The data comes from Johns Hopkins University, showing the US has the most cases at 4.1 million, followed by 2.3 million in Brazil and 1.3 million in India.

The US also has the highest number of deaths with 146,460.

Meanwhile, a new poll has recorded a record low approval rating for President Trump’s handling of the pandemic. The survey found that just 32 percent of Americans supported the president’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, marking a 12-point decline from an identical survey released in March.

10.40am: Court case regarding legality of lockdown underway

As noted earlier this morning, the High Court is today hearing a case regarding whether the level four lockdown was in fact legal.

Andrew Geddis has written a piece for The Spinoff which you can read here.

Meanwhile, law expert Dr Dean Knight has been given permission to tweet updates from the courtroom, which you can read below:

9.10am: Newshub poll ‘unbelievable’ – Brownlee

Updated

National’s deputy leader and campaign chair Gerry Brownlee is backing his leader’s claim that a new poll showing the party on just 25% is not to be believed.

The Newshub-Reid Research poll had Labour on almost 61% – meaning they could comfortably govern alone.

Brownlee told RNZ’s Morning Report that one in 20 polls are going to be wrong, and this is that one. He said it’s true that National has had a terrible couple of weeks, but this poll is off the mark: “You know instinctively from the way people deal with you [on the ground] whether or not you’re in political trouble, and that’s not the feeling at the moment.”

Brownlee was also quick to use some Winston Peters-esque deflection tactics when pressed on the poll’s veracity. He went as far as to question the polling company’s methodology: “[The methodology used] potentially could not be random. When they applied that methodology, you’re going through selecting people who meet certain criteria that you want to have inside your polls – age groups and diversity, but that doesn’t mean you are always getting a truly random sample of what people are thinking politically.”

Meanwhile, National is going on the election offensive following the poll result. The party’s economic spokesperson Paul Goldsmith this morning issued a press released saying, “Labour/Greens government certain to raise tax and destroy jobs.”

9.00am: Jami-Lee Ross sets sights on re-election

Former National MP Jami-Lee Ross has announced his Advance New Zealand Party is joining forces with the conspiracy theory-focused Public Party.

The two parties joined forces at a conference over the weekend. Ross will co-lead the party with Public Party leader, Billy Te Kahika, who wants to stand in Te Tai Tokerau.

The Spinoff’s Alex Braae has written a wild and wondrous piece on the party conference right here.  

Meanwhile, Ross told Morning Report today there are questions to be asked about Covid-19, but he wouldn’t go so far as to say the coronavirus was man made like his new ally Billy Te Kahika has claimed.

8.10am: Legality of the lockdown to be scrutinised

The High Court will today hear a case on whether the level four lockdown was, in fact, lawful. Andrew Geddis has written a piece about it for The Spinoff, arguing it’s important the lockdown gets challenged in this way.

Here’s a taste of what he’s written:

Two things immediately signal that this case really matters. First, the High Court proactively has issued a press release to summarise what it is (and it is not) all about. I’ll come back to that release later, but can’t help smiling at this claim: “The Court does not engage in nor provide answers to political, social or economic questions.” That’s the sort of emphatic statement you might see in a jurisprudence exam, followed by a somewhat raised eyebrow and “discuss”.

Second, the case is going to be heard by not one, not two, but three High Court judges; presided over by the chief High Court judge. The only precedent I can think of for holding a trial hearing like this before a full High Court bench is in relation to “electoral petitions” that question an MP’s election. Clearly, then, the judiciary are taking the matter extremely seriously.

Read the full piece here

7.45am: Collins slams Newshub poll; Ardern also sceptical

National’s leader Judith Collins has continued to slam the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, showing the party on just 25%. Labour, meanwhile, has skyrocketed to 61% – meaning it could govern alone comfortably.

Appearing on Newstalk ZB this morning, Collins told Mike Hosking the poll was “ridiculous” and that internal polling had the party closer to 40%. That would mean Newshub’s result was off by about 15%, well above the margin of error.

“We’ve seen a big increase in our support, since I took over as leader – both in preferred prime minister and party vote,” she told the programme. Her deputy, Gerry Brownlee, backed up the claim that internal polling had the party much higher than 25%.

Last night, he issued an emergency press release following the poll, claiming it was “rogue” and wasn’t even in the “same ballpark” as other results he had seen.

“Even with the most rigorous methodology, one in 20 polls will always be a rogue and this is clearly one of them.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ’s Morning Report that while she found it hard to believe National could plummet to such depths, she wouldn’t be using the word rogue herself.

She described the poll result for Labour as “high” but said the trend in her internal polling was going upward.

“I’ll be really consistent in the way that I treat polls, I’m never complacent. I’m equally as sceptical in the ones that are high as the ones that are really low,” Ardern said.

Ardern said that we are in extraordinary times, and from time to time the polls will also be extraordinary.

The poll shows Labour could easily govern without the support of New Zealand First or the Greens, but when pushed on potential coalition partners, Ardern said the last three years have shown they can work with both.

“Everything we’ve done we’ve done with consensus, and that takes time – but we’ve demonstrated we can do that for the good of New Zealand… and that’s something I’d like to think I bring to the table.”

She said it’s unlikely she’ll be working with any party not already present in parliament, following September’s election.

7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin

There are two possible explanations for an astonishing political poll that came out last night. Conducted by Reid Research for Newshub, it showed National plummeting to just 25%, and down a significant margin from the last time the poll was taken too. Labour was soaring at 61%, which is the best it has ever done in this particular poll. The poll was conducted between 16-24 July, so during the period since Judith Collins took the National leadership, and has a standard margin of error of 3.1%.

Now, it could be that the poll is simply wrong. It is only one survey, and we’ll also likely have a One News Colmar-Brunton poll to compare it against later in the week. National’s deputy leader Gerry Brownlee immediately put out a statement dismissing the result as “not even in the same ballpark as our internal polls, other public polls and the hugely positive public response to our Leader Judith Collins, including as measured by the Massey University-Stuff study,” which you can read here. National aligned pollster David Farrar drew attention to a piece on polling site 538, which noted that even the most rigorous polls will have outliers. It’s not a slight on either Newshub or Reid Research to say that this can happen. Incidentally, Collins has been out and about recently, and Justin Giovannetti followed her to the Wairarapa, where she was talking about things other than the long list of recent scandals.

Or, the poll could be right, and it means that Collins has totally failed to turn things around for National. Collins is up to just under 15% in the preferred PM stakes, reports Newshub, which is better than any other leader of National has managed in a while. But one perception that Collins has often had to deal with is that she’s very popular with the base, but very polarising with the wider public. It’s certainly possible that National now is down to just their core support, and very few others. Some with longer memories might also remember a time when Collins herself said that any National leader polling below 35% should be in trouble.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.00am: Yesterday’s key stories

National recorded a terrible result in a new Reid poll for Newshub, with Labour passing 60%. Judith Collins rejected it as a rogue poll.

A new, merged political vehicle was launched by Jami-Lee Ross and Billie Te Kahika.

Chlöe Swarbrick hit back at being called a “celebrity” candidate by Auckland Central rival Helen White.

There were no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

Australia reported its deadliest day since the pandemic began.

An investigation into “pumped storage” options was announced.

The Green co-leaders made a pitch for support based on public trust.

Jacinda Ardern turned 40.

Read yesterday’s live updates here



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