blog april 21

Live UpdatesApr 21 2022

Inflation hits 30-year high

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 21, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.

A huge thanks to Alice Neville for filling in for me over the past two days!


On the agenda

  • There have been 18 more deaths of people with Covid-19, 524 people are in hospital and there are 10,294 new cases in the community.
  • Annual inflation has risen by 6.9% – a 30-year high, but not quite as high as some economists had predicted.
  • Christopher Luxon has backtracked on his call to cut Labour Day.
  • Today’s Covid numbers will be out at 1pm. Yesterday saw a bump in daily cases after around two weeks with numbers below 10,000.
  • Jacinda Ardern has arrived in Japan for the next step on her trade tour.
blog april 21

Inflation hits 30-year high

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for April 21, I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Get in touch with me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.

A huge thanks to Alice Neville for filling in for me over the past two days!


On the agenda

  • There have been 18 more deaths of people with Covid-19, 524 people are in hospital and there are 10,294 new cases in the community.
  • Annual inflation has risen by 6.9% – a 30-year high, but not quite as high as some economists had predicted.
  • Christopher Luxon has backtracked on his call to cut Labour Day.
  • Today’s Covid numbers will be out at 1pm. Yesterday saw a bump in daily cases after around two weeks with numbers below 10,000.
  • Jacinda Ardern has arrived in Japan for the next step on her trade tour.
Apr 21 2022

Luxon rules out axing a public holiday, but defends floating the idea

National’s leader has definitively ruled out removing a public holiday if he becomes prime minister in 2023.

Christopher Luxon faced criticism yesterday after appearing to suggest he would axe Labour Day to make up for the new Matariki public holiday. He later backtracked on that claim, saying he wouldn’t follow through on that “commitment”.

Responding to a question from The Spinoff today, Luxon confirmed that he wouldn’t be “unwinding” a public holiday once it had been introduced. However, he said it was fair for him to ask questions. “Do we want to add $450 million of extra cost to businesses in New Zealand because when you do that they have to pass that through with higher prices,” he said.

Asked whether it was a good idea to joke about scrapping a public holiday, Luxon denied his initial comments were a joke – despite yesterday saying he was being “facetious“. Instead, he told The Spinoff he just wanted to question whether adding a public holiday was “an expenditure we want to be passing through”.

So, is it entirely off the table if Luxon gets the top job next year? “We’re not unwinding a public holiday but we are right to ask the question: is it the right thing to do?” he said.

Read more: Christopher Luxon wants us to scrap a public holiday. But which one should go?

Jacinda Ardern poses with anthropomorphic kiwifruit in Japan

A pair of terrifying, slowly swaying, anthropomorphic kiwifruit greeted Jacinda Ardern as she visited Zespri in Japan to open the kiwifruit season.

The prime minister is on a trade tour of Asia, with Japan the second stop on her first overseas trip since the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a video shared by Stuff’s Henry Cooke, who is with Ardern in Japan, sombre music plays as the duo of horrifying human-like fruit move from side to side.

Ardern later posed in between the fruit, as this snap from Newstalk ZB’s Jason Walls shows. The PM may be happy to be overseas, but her eyes here say “help”.

Wealth tax not the way to combat inflation – Luxon

National’s leader doesn’t think a wealth tax is the way to combat the growing cost of living.

It’s a proposal that’s been put forward by the Greens, who said broadening our tax base would help to dampen down inflation. New stats out today confirmed inflation had jumped by almost 7%, the highest in over three decades.

Christopher Luxon told The Spinoff during a press conference today that he disagreed with the Greens and that cutting back on government spending was key to dampening the growing cost of living. “Listen Grant Robertson, you’re addicted to spending. Ultimately you need to get a return for that investment,” he said.

“The reality is the government has had a massive increase in government spending since it came to power. Some of it was necessary in respect to Covid, but there’s an assumption that every dollar spent is really wisely spent and that’s not the case. There is good and there is bad spending, and there is wasteful spending.”

One example of wasteful spending was the “slow” Te Huia train between Auckland and Hamilton, said Luxon.

Asked whether he believed the cost of living impacted lower income New Zealanders more than the wealthy, Luxon agreed. However he did not believe this justified the introduction of a capital gains tax. “The cost of living does disproportionately impact lower income people but it’s also impacting the squeezed middle who don’t get any government assistance,” said Luxon, referencing people earning between $55,000 and $70,000.

Photo: Stewart Sowman-Lund

In an earlier press release, Luxon described inflation as “a silent thief in your pocket putting Kiwis under massive pressure”.

He added: “Grant Robertson has no plan to help tackle skyrocketing inflation. He must take responsibility for presenting a sensible plan to help combat inflation pressures, reducing costs, removing bottlenecks and ensuring value for taxpayers’ money.”

Robertson has responded by saying international pressures are to blame for growing living costs, an assertion rejected by the opposition.

Footage of Rudy Giuliani’s Masked Singer appearance emerges

Rudy Giuliani’s appearance on this week’s episode of The Masked Singer is doing the rounds, and the footage is as grimly dystopian as you’d expect. News that Giuliani was a performer on the new US season of the show leaked in early February and the backlash was swift, with critics arguing that a political figure as injurious to civil society as Giuliani had no place on a primetime family entertainment show.

A lawyer and former mayor of New York, Giuliani was of the key players in the attempts to overturn the 2020 election, culminating in the attempted coup of January 6, 2021. He also pushed then president Donald Trump to oust the ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, which would later become a focus of Trump’s first impeachment trial in late 2019.

In a clip shared on Twitter today, Masked Singer panellist Ken Jeong can be seen saying “I’m done,” and leaving the set as Giuliani performs ‘Bad to the Bone’, shortly after being unmasked as the Jack in the Box character. While previous reports said fellow panellist Robin Thicke followed Jeong out, that isn’t shown in the broadcast episode, according to Variety.

18 deaths, 524 in hospital and 10,294 new Covid cases in the community

Today 18 more people have died with Covid-19, the Ministry of Health reports. The deaths being reported today include people who have died over the past seven days. The ministry says delays to reporting can be associated with people dying with Covid, rather than from it, and Covid being discovered only after they have died.

These deaths take the total number of publicly reported deaths with to 633 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths to 12.

One of the people who died was from Northland, three were from the Auckland region, four were from Waikato, one was from Lakes, three were from Bay of Plenty, two were from MidCentral and four were from the Canterbury region.

Two people were in their 50s, two in their 60s, three in their 70s, seven in their 80s, and four were over 90. Ten were men and eight were women.

There are 524 people in hospital with Covid today, 14 of whom are in ICU.

There are 10,294 new cases in the community, higher than last week’s daily figures but less less than yesterday’s total of 11,217. The seven-day rolling average of case numbers continues to decline, says the Ministry of Health. Today it is 7,935, while the seven-day rolling average of cases as at last Thursday was 8,990.

Labour launch offensive over Luxon’s public holiday ‘flip-flop’

Despite National’s Christopher Luxon walking back his commitment to scrap a public holiday should he become prime minister, the Labour Party has gone on the offensive over the issue.

A new press release sent out with Labour Party letterhead, as opposed to under the government masthead, calls for Luxon to clarify his position on public holidays.

“The formal record is clear, it’s National Party policy to take away a public holiday from New Zealanders,” claimed Michael Wood, using his title of MP for Mount Roskill.

It’s not exactly clear that it is National Party policy. Luxon said yesterday that he wouldn’t axe Labour Day, but reiterated his view that another public holiday was too expensive.

Wood said Luxon’s “flip-flop” was unconvincing. “If not Matariki, which public holiday will they cut?” he questioned. “Claiming he was being facetious when National have clearly put on the record that it’s their policy to cut a public holiday doesn’t cut the mustard. Cutting public holidays is a serious policy matter, not something to joke about.”

Luxon’s due to front media in about an hour’s time and it’s highly likely he’ll be questioned on this subject.

‘High inflation is not experienced equally’: Greens renew call for capital gains tax

The Greens have called for a capital gains tax as part of its plan to tackle the growing cost of living.

It was revealed today that inflation has increased by 6.9% over the March quarter. That’s the highest annual rise in over three decades.

“High inflation is not experienced equally, and for people on the lowest incomes this means struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table,” said Julie Anne Genter, the Green Party’s finance spokesperson. “Those with the least experience inflation at a much higher rate than those with the most.”

Genter said the government should “broaden the tax base” and move forward with a tax on capital gains or the wealth of the richest New Zealanders. This has been ruled out by Jacinda Ardern, although the government did introduce a higher tax rate after the 2020 election. “Not only would broadening our tax base help to dampen down aggregate demand and inflation in the short-term, it is essential to having a fairer, stronger tax system,” said Genter.

Inflation surge Labour’s fault, says Act

Today’s confirmation that inflation has reached a 30-year high is the “direct result of Labour’s addiction to borrowing”, according to Act Party leader David Seymour.

New stats out this morning have revealed a 6.9% jump in inflation – the highest annual rise since 1980, but not quite as high as some economists had predicted.

Seymour said the government had refused to take responsibility. “Its relentless borrowing and spending has added to the cost of just about everything,” he said. “Prices are rising because there’s too much money chasing too few goods.”

According to Seymour, the rise in inflation amounted to a 6.9% tax on New Zealanders. “If the government put up GST by 6.9% there would be an uproar. Inflation amounts to the same thing,” he said.

Cost of living on the rise: Inflation hits 30-year high

Annual inflation has risen by 6.9% in the March quarter compared with the year prior – the largest annual rise since 1990.

It brings with it a marked bounce in the cost of living as the likes of petrol prices and construction costs skyrocket.

Today’s consumer price index rise followed another 30-year high of 5.9% in the December 2021 quarter.

According to Stats NZ, the main driver of today’s inflation surge was housing costs largely influenced by construction. Prices for the construction of new dwellings increased 18% in the March 2022 quarter, the largest increase on record.

“Construction firms have been experiencing many supply-chain issues, higher labour costs, and also higher demand, which have pushed up the cost of building a new house,” said Stats NZ’s Aaron Beck.

Petrol prices and the rising cost for second hand cars also propped up the cost of living, said Beck. Petrol prices increased 32% in the year to the March 2022 quarter, the largest annual increase since June 1985.

While 6.9% is the highest inflation rise in three decades, it’s not as high as some economists had been predicting. Many had tipped a 7%, or even 8%, jump.

The argument for keeping our Easter trading rules

Last week we heard a lot from people, mainly politicians, on why it was time to scrap our supposedly outdated Easter trading rules. I’ll be honest: I bought into it too. But what about the other side of the issue?

I asked First Union, the group that represents most retail workers in the country, for the argument in favour.

“Our position is that Easter trading rules should continue to be respected as they currently are,” the First Union’s general secretary Dennis Maga told The Spinoff.

“Retail workers have only three-and-a-half days that they’re not required to work in a given year, so why would try to take away a much-needed break from them?” Our current retail rules require almost all shops to close on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and half of Anzac Day. Other public holidays carry requirements about additional pay, but retail workers can still be rostered on.

“Many are exhausted following the pandemic and deserve a rest, especially now that some have been required by their employers to use up sick and annual leave to isolate for Covid-19,” said Maga.

“Employers should be empathetic with their workers and ensure that they’re getting every possible opportunity to rest and relax – Easter holidays are a time to be with their families and friends and enjoy their leisure.”

Act’s small business spokesperson Chris Baillie said before the Easter long weekend that our existing rules were antiquated. He’s submitted a member’s bill that would scrap them. “It’s quite simple – if you want to trade, you can,” he said of his proposed law. “That’s how a free society should operate.”

Have Harry Styles fans crashed the JB Hi-Fi website?

The website for New Zealand retailer JB Hi-Fi crashed this morning, possibly due to a flood of Harry Styles fans trying to score early tickets to his upcoming concert.

The former One Direction singer has announced a New Zealand show at Mount Smart Stadium next March. While most tickets go on sale next week, a pre-sale is happening tomorrow for anyone who pre-ordered Styles’ upcoming album from JB Hi-Fi. The trouble, as some in The Spinoff office discovered today, is that pre-ordering said album proved impossible.

If you were lucky enough to make it through to the listing page for the album, titled Harry’s House, you couldn’t actually add it to your trolley. Most of the time the entire website displayed an error message.

It wasn’t just The Spinoff having trouble – Harry fans jumped onto social media to complain. “When you click on pre order on all of the items it says error,” said one fan on Facebook. Another, on Instagram, appeared desperate: “It keeps saying error when you go to preorder it please fix it I don’t want to live with an upset girlfriend.”

The Spinoff attempted to contact JB for comment but… their “contact us” page was also down. We sent a DM instead.

And for anyone who misses out – another pre-sale will happen next week.

New poll positions Te Pāti Māori as ‘kingmaker’

new Taxpayers’ Union-Curia poll has the National Party on 37.8%, just one point ahead of Labour. Based on the poll of a sample of 1000 eligible New Zealand voters, the Labour/Green bloc would still have more seats than a National/Act coalition. National could not govern without the support of both Act, which is a likely pairing, and Te Pāti Māori, which Audrey Young assesses as being less likely in this interactive piece for the NZ Herald (paywalled). The poll was conducted between April 7 and April 13, before Christopher Luxon backtracked on his position as holiday breaker.


Three strikes to be struck out.

The Detail takes an in-depth and reflective look at the three strikes law which was introduced 12 years ago and is due to be repealed. The law has always been contentious. Former justice minister Andrew Little described it as “absolutely absurd” and Labour promised to repeal it. NZ First blocked that move in 2018. Now, five years on, a law that’s been criticised for jeopardising judicial independence, prompting judges to invoke the “manifestly unjust” clause at sentencing, will be ditched. The justice select committee will report back in mid-May and from there, the majority Labour government can finally make good on their 2017 election promise.


Three picks up rights to women’s rugby world cup. 

Announced this morning, Duncan Grieve, host of The Fold, says the move is a big story during a chaotic and fascinating year for the media industry. “Since the launch of Spark Sport the telco has had a very friendly relationship with TVNZ – this move shows that Discovery has convinced Spark to play the field with its biggest asset of the year. It comes in the shadow of two huge mergers – Three’s owners Discovery joining forces with WarnerMedia, and the TVNZ/RNZ merger. It’s also a setback for brand new TVNZ CEO Simon Power, who has key staff that will be bitterly disappointed by this outcome.”

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Luxon walks back ‘commitment’ to get rid of Labour Day

We won’t be losing a public holiday should National win the 2023 election.

Party leader Christopher Luxon has backtracked on his comments suggesting he’d axe Labour Day in place of the new Matariki public holiday.

Speaking yesterday on RNZ, the National leader said: “We’re very supportive of Matariki; why don’t you cancel Labour Day?”

But appearing a few hours later on Newstalk ZB, Luxon clarified his position. “I’m sorry I won’t be able to follow through on the commitment of removing it, because once it’s done it’s going to be set in place,” he said of the new Matariki holiday.

Luxon’s position throughout the Matariki debate has appeared to be that while National endorsed the new holiday, it should only be introduced in place of another national holiday. His criticism has stemmed largely from the cost of a new public holiday, yesterday saying it will cost the country $450 million.

Latest inflation figures due out today

The latest inflation figures are due out today and many are predicting a grim announcement.

The consumer price index is pegged to rise by around 7% – or maybe more – as the cost of living continues to skyrocket.

Finance minister and acting prime minister Grant Robertson told RNZ that it was the Reserve Bank’s job to keep inflation under check over the long term, but the government could assist. “From our side of the fence we’ve got to continue working on some of those underlying issues like supermarket prices and like getting us into a position where we’re not so reliant on oil and fossil fuels,” he said. “And in the meantime we have to support people to get through this. It’s a difficult picture, there’s no silver bullet.”

While the rise in inflation has often been put down to global events, like the spread of omicron and the war in Ukraine, dairy prices in New Zealand have also soared in recent months. It’s now often more than $7 for a block of butter, for example. Robertson said that New Zealanders pay some of the export price for dairy goods. “That has been the case for a very long time and it’s particularly obvious now as prices go up,” he said.

As for the cut to petrol tax, which will remain in place until at least July 1, Robertson said the government will review this in the coming months and look to see whether or not there’s been some stabilisation.

We’ll have those new inflation figures for you later today.