Apr 4 2023

‘I won’t miss the weight’: Jacinda Ardern on exit from politics – watch the full interviews

Jacinda Ardern spoke to John Campbell and Samantha Hayes. Images: TVNZ/Discovery

On the eve of her valedictory speech to parliament, two interviews with the former prime minister and departing MP Jacinda Ardern have aired on television. They followed Chris Hipkins’ announcement that Ardern had been appointed as special envoy for the Christchurch Call, to continue the work she began as prime minister. She also revealed in the interviews that she would take up a spot with Prince William’s climate charity, the Earthshot Prize.

Both Samantha Hayes and John Campbell, speaking to Ardern earlier today, asked about her motivation for leaving. Was it because of the toxicity of politics? “I remain absolutely clear and I really want to reinforce that I did not leave because I felt I was being given too much of a hard time,” Ardern told Hayes for Newshub. It was, however, something she reflected on, she said.

Ardern told Campbell for 1News: “Sitting in the back of my mind was this question and belief that perhaps my departure might bring the tempo, the heat, the friction that had come into politics, that it might take it down a peg and, if it did, that would be good for New Zealand.”

Asked whether she had managed to deliver on the most difficult issues, including child poverty and climate change, Ardern told Campbell: “I believe I did, but I won’t miss the weight. Because it is heavy.”

Of the ongoing Christchurch call role, Ardern told Newshub: “I believed it had more to do, and I knew that I would have the time to do it. And I certainly have the passion for it … I also still feel a duty at a personal level to the community who are affected by this tragedy.”

She spoke about the impact of the Christchurch mosque attack in 2019, telling Campbell of the moment she read the terrorist’s manifesto. “I remember feeling rage. Because it was so clear that this person had come to New Zealand to try and create a sense of ‘other’ to members of our community. And I just remember feeling angry,” she said.

Ardern told Hayes she would leave politics happy, her voice cracking. Asked “where does that emotion come from”, she said: “Fifteen years of being here. Just a privilege.”

Want to watch the full videos? Here they are.

Ardern’s resignation comes into effect on April 15 – a date calculated to be within six months of the general election, meaning that, pending the approval of at 75% of MPs, a byelection will not be required in her Mt Albert electorate. 

Jacinda Ardern accepts new role with the Christchurch Call

Jacinda Ardern and Emmanuel Macron at the May 15 2019 press conference on the Christchurch Call (Getty Images)

Prime minister Chris Hipkins has appointed former prime minister Jacinda Ardern as special envoy for the Christchurch Call.

The newly created position will begin April 17, mere days after Ardern officially leaves parliament, and will report directly to the prime minister.

Ardern will serve as New Zealand’s senior representative on Christchurch Call-related matters, working closely with France as co-leaders, having been pivotal to the formation of the initiative after the March 15 attacks in 2019.

The Christchurch Call was a summit co-chaired by Ardern that aimed to bring both countries and tech companies together to examine how future acts of radicalised violence could be prevented. While Ardern was able to gather a number of powerful tech players and world leaders to discuss the issue of violent, extremist online content, the ambitious project has so far underwhelmed in its delivery. Ardern will now work on the summit without the responsibilities of a prime minister or even an MP. “Her relationships with leaders and technology companies and her drive for change will help increase the pace and ambition of the work we are doing through the Christchurch Call,” said Hipkins.

“Work is also underway in new areas, like the way algorithms affect radicalisation and how the implications of fast rising tech such as AI and augmented reality can be exploited by terrorists and violent extremists.”

Ardern has declined to receive any remuneration for the role.

TVNZ chief quits after 16 months

Simon Power has announced he’s stepping down as TVNZ’s chief executive after about 16 months in the role.

The former National Party MP joined the company in late 2021 and will formally leave his position at the end of June.

TVNZ’s chair Andy Coupe said Power had led the company through a period of change and had expected to be dealing with a media merger. “His strong leadership through the uncertainty that followed ensured the business remained highly engaged, ready to embrace new opportunities and focused on delivering for audiences and advertisers regardless of the outcome,” said Coupe.

The media merger was one of several Labour policies dumped on the scrapheap when Chris Hipkins became prime minister earlier this year.

Power said the job had been a privilege and he was proud of what the company had achieved. “This has been a tough decision to make, but it feels like the right time to finish,” he said.

David Seymour questioned over comments made on Max Key podcast

David Seymour and fellow Act MPs on Election night 2020 (Getty Images)

Act Party leader David Seymour joked that former PM Jacinda Ardern was “too dumb” to be involved with a “global conspiracy” and that “no one would have an affair with [former minister] Hekia Parata”.

The comments were first made by Seymour on an episode of the Key’d Up podcast hosted by Max Key, and picked up today by AAP journalist Ben McKay.

During a discussion of misinformation surrounding Ardern’s government during the Covid-19 pandemic, Seymour commented that “there are a lot of people who are looking at really crazy theories.” He then added: “Believe me, I know Jacinda. She couldn’t keep up with a global conspiracy, even if she was in one she’d screw it up. Don’t worry about it.. she’s not going to do a conspiracy, she’s too dumb.”

Later, Seymour added that he never thought Ardern was a malicious person and he believed her reasons for stepping down as prime minister. Laughing, he said: “When your Dad [Sir John Key] resigned, people were like ‘he was having an affair with Hekia Parata…’ No one would have an affair with Hekia Parata.”

The Act Party leader faced questions on the comments as he made his way into parliament this afternoon.

‘Not a… Spinoff-style documentary’: National re-cuts video over copyright concerns

A shot from the now-deleted National Party video

The National Party’s taken a “documentary” on the Stuart Nash saga back to the cutting room after it received a cease and desist from Newshub, but promised it will still be released.

The Spinoff first reported last night that Newshub had not approved the use of footage from its news bulletins in the National Party video.

The party first teased the documentary with a 15-second trailer shared to social media yesterday afternoon. That video, which encouraged people to visit National’s Facebook page at 7pm, included Newshub coverage of Nash’s recent resignation and audio from presenters including Samantha Hayes.

A spokesperson for Warner Bros Discovery told The Spinoff: “We were not aware of this advertisement and have formally requested all Newshub footage be removed.”

Come 7pm and the promised video was never shared.

National’s campaign chair Chris Bishop told the Herald that the video was now being re-edited. “I could point you to three or four examples of the Labour Party doing exactly the same thing,” he said.

“We are re-slicing it to avoid breaching copyright, but the Stuart Nash documentary will be coming.”

Bishop took a sly dig at The Spinoff, saying the video wasn’t a “20-minute Spinoff-style documentary” and the party hadn’t “received any taxpayer funding from New Zealand on Air for it”.

It was, however, funded though National’s Parliamentary Service allocation, meaning taxpayer dollars were spent on it. “We haven’t had any taxpayer funding from New Zealand on Air, put it that way,” Bishop added.

National candidate once compared civil unions to incest

Photo: Getty Images

A new National Party candidate has been forced to clarify comments he made 20 years ago during the debate over civil unions.

Greg Fleming was recently named as the party’s candidate in the Maungakiekie electorate. In the early 2000s, Fleming was the managing director of the Maxim Institute.

According to Newshub, Fleming at the time released a press statement criticising government “propaganda” around civil unions and comparing them to incest. “Why is the government allowing discrimination to continue by refusing to legally recognise other relationship forms such as the union of siblings or more than two people?” he said.

Fleming has now said those remarks weren’t helpful. “My comments two decades ago were trying to make a point about contractual law but weren’t helpful and I wouldn’t make them again,” he told Newshub.

“Our marriage laws are now well and truly settled and I support leaving them as they are.”

National’s leader Christopher Luxon condemned the remarks and had called on Fleming to clarify his position. “They are obviously comments from 20 years ago, they are comments I absolutely utterly reject. I am a big supporter of same-sex marriage. People should be free to love whoever they want to love,” Luxon said.

Another cash rate hike is coming – but what will it be?

The (Image: Getty Images)

The Reserve Bank will tomorrow provide its next update on the official cash rate, with economists widely predicting we’re in for another hike.

The OCR’s currently sitting at 4.75 after a series of rises over recent months. This has been triggered by both domestic and international pressures and comes as the country prepares to formally enter a recession later this year.

The Herald has handily wrapped up the word on the street from economists ahead of tomorrow’s Reserve Bank announcement. The consensus appears to be that after a few larger jumps of 0.5 basis points, the central bank will move the OCR up to a tidy 5% tomorrow – a 0.25% increase.

“We believe that the RBNZ will give an explicit nod to the fact that the tightening cycle is probably not complete,” said BNZ’s Stephen Toplis.

ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner agrees, noting that another 0.25 rise in May is likely. “Global financial sector wobbles suggest a degree of caution is appropriate, which the RBNZ can now afford given they are fairly confident the OCR is now in contractionary territory,” she said.

It’s possible, Zollner noted, that the bank could opt to go straight to 5.25% tomorrow – and that was more likely than the OCR remaining steady.

The OCR is due at 2pm tomorrow.

Greens launch ‘two tick’ campaign in safe Labour seat

Former AAAP director Ricardo Menéndez March, pictured here at a rally organised by AAAP, left the organisation last year ater being elected to parliament. (Photo: Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

The Green Party have announced a “two tick” campaign in the Labour stronghold of Mount Albert.

The Auckland electorate has never not been held by a Labour MP – and has been the electorate of two prime ministers (Helen Clark and Jacinda Ardern) and three Labour Party leaders (Clark, Ardern and David Shearer).

It was announced today that current list MP Ricardo Menéndez March would seek to become the Green MP for Mount Albert, while also bolstering the party vote.

“This year I’m asking for two ticks – to grow the party vote and become Mt Albert’s first Green electorate MP,” he wrote on Twitter.

The Greens typically run a party vote only campaign, though have previously secured two electorates: Jeanette Fitzsimons won Coromandel in 1999 and current MP Chlöe Swarbrick secured Auckland Central in 2020.

The party’s announced a handful of two tick campaigns for this year’s election. Swarbrick has set her sights on retaining Auckland Central, while Julie Anne Genter is campaigning in Rongotai and Tamatha Paul in Wellington Central.

National not sure if video using Newshub footage breached copyright

Simeon Brown, Christopher Luxon and Nicola Willis (Photo: Toby Manhire)

The National Party has removed a social media video that used footage from Newshub after a cease and desist letter from the news outlet.

Newshub was asked yesterday afternoon whether it had cleared the use of the footage, saying it was unaware of the video until approached by The Spinoff. “We… have formally requested all Newshub footage be removed,” a spokesperson said.

In comments to Stuff, National deputy leader Nicola Willis said the video, which teased some sort of announcement on the “Stuart Nash scandal”, wasn’t supposed to be a political advertisement. “Both political parties have from time to time used footage from both major channels and organic posts on Facebook,” she said.

“This wasn’t intended to be an advertisement as such but a post on the National Facebook page, but we want to deal with the issue fairly.”

The video had asked people to visit the National Party Facebook page at 7pm last night, but following the cease and desist there was nothing posted at that time.

Willis said she hadn’t seen the cease and desist and wouldn’t comment on whether there was any copyright breach. “We’re yet to see that so I won’t make any further comment until that’s been established.”

A shot from the now-deleted National Party video
A shot from the now-deleted National Party video

The Bulletin: National’s first climate policy — good and/or magical thinking?

On Friday, the National Party announced plans to double New Zealand’s renewable energy supply. National Party leader Christopher Luxon described the current consenting regime for wind farms as an unnecessary barrier, saying a new wind farm will take 10 year to complete — “eight years to obtain resource consent, and two years to build.”

Couple of reads for you on this. First, Simon Wilson asked Luxon what parts of the current consenting process he would remove (paywalled). Luxon replied “none of them”. Wilson pressed him further on how the time frame would be shortened and concludes the promise sounds like magical thinking. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder concludes the plan is undoubtedly good but if National also repeals policies like the oil and gas exploration ban, Luxon will have a hard job setting out what he’ll do to plug the gaps he’s creating.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Click here to subscribe and join over 37,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.

Hipkins addresses ‘perception’ of transparency – but is it enough?

PM Chris Hipkins in Waitangi over the weekend (Photo: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

PM Chris Hipkins has launched a crackdown on lobbyists in the wake of an investigation by RNZ’s Guyon Espiner. 

A long term review has been ordered (it will report back sometime in 2024) while three immediate areas have been targeted. The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire analyses those changes here and you can also read about them in The Bulletin.

Speaking to Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking this morning, Hipkins said that lobbyists having parliamentary swipe card access was part of a “perception” issue that he wanted to address. “Swipe card access doesn’t guarantee you a meeting with anybody… the change that I recommended was to remove the swipe card access from lobbyists because it creates a perception of preferred access which I think there is some anxiety about. I think fair enough,” he said.

“There is a legitimate concern that’s been raised about the lobbying industry’s access to members of parliament.”

Writing for Newsroom, Jo Moir said it’s clear the prime minister’s latest announcement was a shift from a “bread and butter” issue – something we’ve heard the PM reference ad nauseam – to the “meaty beltway”.

It was, said Moir, a way of addressing the “revolving door” that can see members of parliament quickly move from elected office into a lobbying role, such as former minister Kris Faafoi.

National supported the removal of swipe card access for lobbyists, Moir said, but wanted the changes to go further – including stand-down periods for former ministers and a register. Neither of these were announced as immediate changes but could be part of the longer term review.

Hipkins was clear that he simply wanted to remove any “perception” that lobbyists may have greater access to parliament than any member of the public. But one lobbyist, Mark Unsworth, told RNZ that removing the swipe card access was a meaningless change – it just stops them bypassing security. “The only difference is whether you screen your cellphone, or whatever you’ve got, through the machine,” he said.