It’s only the fourth death connected to the vaccine since the pandemic began. According to Te Whatu Ora: “a link to the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine could not be excluded”. It’s believed that the individual died from myocarditis.
“The Board now considers that the development of myocarditis in this individual was possibly due to vaccination with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. It’s important to note this case is with the Coroner who is still investigating the cause of death,” a statement read.
“The Board considers that the circumstances of this case do not impact or change the known information on myocarditis, and the benefits of vaccination with the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine continue to greatly outweigh the risk of such rare side effects.”
It’s the last day of parliament for 2022 – which means there is room on the agenda for some light hearted politicking.
During what was actually quite a touchy question time session today, immigration minister Michael Wood was asked to confirm whether or not Santa Claus had been given visa approval to enter New Zealand.
“I have received one application for a short term work visa from the North Pole,” confirmed Wood, adding: “I’ve spoken to the minister for customs about expediting the customs clearance for 12 live animals that will be coming in with him. I’ve also confirmed the EU free trade agreement provisions will mean no tariffs will apply to the large cargo coming in with him.”
Any elves visiting New Zealand will, you’ll be glad to know, be paid the minimum wage.
National’s Erica Stanford then popped up with a “supplementary Christmas question” and asked: “Can the minister confirm that Santa’s family will also be included on the visa given that so many split families are still waiting to be [reunited] nearly three years after the borders were closed?”
Getting in with the last jibe of question time, Wood replied: “I can confirm that visas have been issued to the whole family group – and that Santa Claus is very aware of the difference between Honolulu and Te Puke so he won’t get lost on the way.”
The government has confirmed it will briefly extend its cuts to fuel tax before phasing them out entirely.
The 25 cent excise discount will remain in place until the end of February, then be increased 12.5 cents per litre until the end of March when it will be completely phased out.
Meanwhile, half price public transport will stay in place until the end of March. The road user charge discount will end on January 31 as planned.
“We have to strike a balance between broad ongoing support and careful management of the government accounts. That’s why we are transitioning to more targeted support for those most feeling the pinch,” said the finance minister Grant Robertson.
From April, the government will increase superannuation, benefits, the family tax credit, student allowances and childcare support. “We have deliberately timed the full phase out of [the fuel tax and public transport fare cuts] to coincide with lifts to support for families, students and seniors.”
Robertson said the extra extension of support through to the end of March is estimated to cost about $116 million which will be paid for through savings in other areas.
The government says it’s accepted the findings of a review into the supermarket attack at Auckland’s LynnMall back in September 2021.
While no recommendations were made in the report, minister Andrew Little, who was in charge of overseeing the inquiry into the Christchurch terror attacks, said the government would work through the findings and ensure improvements were made as a result.
“This will include a focus on what we can do to address signs of radicalisation to violent extremism earlier. Work has already been undertaken in development of the He Aranga Ake programme led by police,” said Little. “This approach uses appropriate, coordinated, supported and effective interventions that are proportionate to a person of concerns’ risk, needs, responsivity and circumstances.”
The 2021 terror attack left eight people injured, before the perpetrator was shot dead by police. Jacinda Ardern said at the time that the attack was “Isis-inspired”.
Little added: “New Zealand is sadly not immune from the threat of terrorism. The Government’s commitment is to learn from the two terrorist attacks we have experienced in recent years and to take all possible steps to ensure a safe, secure and resilient Aotearoa New Zealand.”
The report concluded that police were justified in shooting the LynnMall terrorist, but recommendations were made to prevent similar attack happening in the future. Shortfalls identified included missed opportunities to provide rehabilitation, insufficient coordination between agencies and a reluctance to share information about the risk the attacker posed.
Stuff’s Luke Malpass is reporting this morning that half-price public transport fares will come to an end on March 31 next year. Cabinet is also deciding on whether the cut to the fuel excise and road user charges will continue beyond January 2023 today. The universal half price public transport fares will be replaced by permanent and targeted support for community services card users.
Any extension of the fuel discount requires legislation to be passed as the Herald’s Thomas Coughlan reported last week. The house rises for the year tomorrow. Treasury will publish the government’s economic and fiscal forecasts (HYEFU – Half-Year Economic and Fiscal Update) today and an announcement on extending the fuel tax cut will likely be tied to that. This piece (paywalled) wasn’t bylined when I looked at it this morning but as it’s a 12 minute read on HYEFU in the Herald, I’m picking it’s also from Coughlan.
Also in politics from today’s Bulletin: Parliament has passed some of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the world
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Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has addressed New Zealand MPs today, becoming just the second world leader invited to speak to the House of Representatives.
During his 10 minute address, which started with “kia ora” and ended with “nga mihi”, Zelensky reminded MPs of the impacts of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and revealed his intention to organise a global peace summit in the coming months.
Zelensky also thanked New Zealand for taking action against the Russian invaders. “New Zealand was one of the first countries to support Ukraine,” Zelensky said. The conflict had given world leaders opportunities to “prove themselves”, said Zelensky, who reiterated his thanks to New Zealand’s humanitarian assistance throughout the conflict.
“There is no true peace where the consequences of war can be there… We will liberate our land, we will win this war. The countries of the world are already taking leadership,” he added.
In response, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said that she hoped the president took notice that New Zealand MPs continued their condemnation of the war and had not forgotten it. “Our support for Ukraine was not determined by geography or by history… we asked ourselves the question: what if it was us?”
New Zealand increased its humanitarian support for Ukraine today, said Ardern, with another $3 million in aid being offered to the nation.
Speaking next, National Party leader Christopher Luxon said Ukraine “cannot and will not” lose the war against Russia, paying tribute to Zelensky’s performance as leader and saying he was “this generation’s Winston Churchill”.
Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin had underestimated the impact of Zelensky’s resolve and ability to rally the world as leader, said Luxon. “This war has proved that when you have to right for what you believe in, you need an army… this war has again highlighted the shortcomings of the United Nations,” Luxon added.
The National Party, like the rest of New Zealand, will stand with Zelensky and Ukraine, concluded Luxon.
Lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sue Grey is set to face a disciplinary hearing, Stuff has reported this morning.
It follows Grey being yesterday taken into custody for contempt of court, though the reports do not suggest there is any connection between that incident and the tribunal appearance.
Grey has been one of the most prominent faces of the anti-vaccination and anti-mask movement throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and has continued to practice law throughout. Most recently, she represented the parents of Baby W – those seeking unvaccinated blood for their child – in the Auckland High Court.
According to Stuff, Grey is facing “a number of complaints” that will soon to be filed with the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal. It could result in Grey’s ability to represent clients in court being removed or suspended, or Grey could be given a fine.