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LIVE UPDATES

Brian Tamaki reveals new umbrella party: Freedoms NZ

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Tuesday, August 23 – it’s looking like a busy one. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • An anti-government protest led by Brian Tamaki has arrived at parliament. A “people’s court” is now being conducted.
  • Meanwhile, Tamaki has also revealed his new political party dubbed “Freedoms New Zealand”.
  • A counter-protest of around 500 people gathered near the Cenotaph earlier.
  • Gaurav Sharma is a Labour MP no more – he’s been dumped from the party’s caucus.
  • Covid-19 update: 3,693 cases, 402 in hospital.
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Brian Tamaki reveals new umbrella party: Freedoms NZ

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Tuesday, August 23 – it’s looking like a busy one. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, you can reach me via email on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz


The agenda

  • An anti-government protest led by Brian Tamaki has arrived at parliament. A “people’s court” is now being conducted.
  • Meanwhile, Tamaki has also revealed his new political party dubbed “Freedoms New Zealand”.
  • A counter-protest of around 500 people gathered near the Cenotaph earlier.
  • Gaurav Sharma is a Labour MP no more – he’s been dumped from the party’s caucus.
  • Covid-19 update: 3,693 cases, 402 in hospital.
Aug 23 2022

Chris Bishop issues one-word statement on Trevor Mallard resignation

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News that Trevor Mallard retires tomorrow from the role of speaker of the house has been greeted by his parliamentary and constituency adversary Chris Bishop with a single-word statement. As shared on Twitter, here it is, in full:

Bishop was narrowly beaten in the Hutt South electorate by Mallard in 2014, before winning the seat in 2017 after Mallard went list-only. (Both are now list MPs after Labour’s Ginny Andersen won in 2020.) The pair have clashed numerously in the house, sometimes affably, sometimes viciously, particularly when Bishop has filled the role of shadow leader of the house.

Bishop’s statement appears to be inspired by a similar effort by Anthony Albanese, now Australian prime minister. In February 2015, Albanese responded to news that Max Wilton-Moore (whom he loathed) was standing down as Sydney Airport chairman with this:

albo_release

For more short press releases, see here.

Trevor Mallard quits, confirmed as next ambassador to Ireland

Trevor Mallard looks on after being nominated as Speaker during the opening of parliament on November 25, 2020.. (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The long-signalled resignation of Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard will take effect from tomorrow at 1.45pm, it has been announced.

Mallard will, as widely rumoured, head to Ireland and become New Zealand’s ambassador.

Foreign affairs minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand and Ireland enjoyed close links. “Our two countries have extensive family, cultural, historical and, of course, sporting connections that ground our strong friendship,” she said.

“As New Zealand’s second resident ambassador to Ireland since the opening of our Embassy in Dublin in 2018, I am delighted that the strong relationship between our countries will continue to be in excellent hands with the appointment of Mr Mallard.”

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed Mallard would step down earlier this year, but no date had been confirmed.

As reported by the Herald, the National Party had considered trying to secure a speaking slot for now-independent MP Gaurav Sharma in parliament this week. But, with Mallard’s resignation taking effect from tomorrow afternoon, question time and the general debate will be cancelled.

The election of a new Speaker will take place at 2pm tomorrow. Labour MP Adrian Rurawhe will be nominated.

Despite resigning this week, Mallard won’t take up his new post until January next year.

Survey reveals drop in willingness to comply with Covid restrictions

Image: Getty Images/Tina Tiller

Data proactively released by cabinet has revealed a drop in people’s willingness to comply with Covid-19 restrictions.

The latest in a series of Covid-19 check-ins ordered by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and conducted in May, revealed an 11 point decline in the number of people willing to wear a face mask. That meant 67% of people surveyed were prepared to be compliant with the rule.

At the other end of the scale, just 27% said they would officially record the results of their rapid antigen tests.

Just over half, 55%, said they would isolate if they tested positive for Covid-19, a drop of 5% on the previous survey.

Considering this snapshot was taken back in May, it’s not entirely unreasonable to assume that people’s compliance may have decreased further over the subsequent months.

Bizarrely, just 36% said they were prepared to “cough or sneeze into their elbow” (down 9%), while 35% said they would wash their hands with soap for at least 20 seconds (down six points).

Meanwhile, the highest motivator for complying with rules (58% of people) was protecting family and friends, although those who have had Covid-19 were overall less motivated to follow restrictions.

The survey also revealed that 42% of people sought out Covid advice from the former director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield, while 33% looked to the PM Jacinda Ardern (down 7% from her March score). Covid communicator Siouxsie Wiles scored 18%, just above Otago University epidemiologist Michael Baker on 17%.

Protest disperses after mock ‘guilty’ verdict at ‘people’s court’

The protest heads to parliament (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Toby Manhire in Wellington:

The protest at parliament grounds has wound up with a dramatised “people’s court” returning the least surprising verdict imaginable: guilty, said the crowd (or “jury”). The charges were many and various but centred on “crimes of humanity”. The supposed defendant, the government, was not represented.

Despite organiser Brian Tamaki’s appeals, no member of parliament addressed the crowd. Tamaki, founder of both Destiny’s Church and the Freedom and Rights Coalition, used the occasion to announce Vision NZ (led by his wife), the New Nation Party and Sue Grey’s Outdoors Party would be joining his new umbrella party “Freedoms NZ”, which he would soon be registering formally. Tamaki has previously insisted he will never personally stand for parliament.

As of 2pm, most of the crowd had dispersed, with about 100 still gathered near the barriers, with around three dozen police officers standing guard.

Earlier, a counter protest wrapped up with organisers declaring it a success. While the two groups exchanged verbal salvos – before the main march passed a small group hollered slogans like “government sponsored genocide” – there was no serious incident as the demonstrators filed on to parliament grounds.

Covid-19 update: 3,693 cases, 402 in hospital

Image: Toby Morris

The number of new Covid-19 infections has bounced back above 3,000.

Another 3,693 cases have been reported nationwide overnight, just above the new seven-day rolling average of 3,496. Last Tuesday, that average was higher: 4,073.

There are currently 402 people in hospital with Covid-19, while just six are now in intensive care. The seven-day rolling average of hospitalisations today is 453 – last Tuesday, it was 556.

Most of the current hospitalisations – 66 – are in Waikato, while 57 are in Waitematā.

There are now a total of 1,841 deaths confirmed as attributable to Covid-19, either as the underlying cause of death or as a contributing factor. The seven-day rolling average increase in total deaths attributable to Covid-19 is now eight.

Tamaki announces new ‘Freedoms’ party, calls for Gaurav Sharma to join

Brian Tamaki at a protest in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Brian Tamaki has announced an “umbrella” party that will go by the name of “Freedoms New Zealand”.

Speaking from outside parliament, where a crowd of up to 2,000 people has now gathered, the Destiny Church leader and anti-government protester said his new party had not yet been registered with the Electoral Commission. Two parties had so far agreed to merge: the New Nation Party and Vision NZ (led by his wife Hannah). The Outdoors Party, led by Sue Grey, would also be involved but had yet to finalise details with the board.

Two other parties were in talks, he said, before challenging others, including the New Conservatives and Winston Peters’ NZ First to get on board. He went on to encourage “Dr Sharma Drama”, now an independent MP, to “give me a call”.

Tamaki’s lengthy address to the crowd included verbal attacks on politicians, a denouncement of the charges against him and a lament to the demise of various values such as freedom, being able to leave your door unlocked and Waikato Draught.

Some of the protesters outside parliament (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Additional reporting Toby Manhire

Around 1,000 protesters descend on parliament

The protest heads to parliament (Photo: Toby Manhire)

At least 1,000 people have arrived outside parliament as part of the Brian Tamaki-led anti-government protest.

Most of those in attendance appear directly linked to the Freedom and Rights Coalition, founded by Tamaki, with our reporter in the capital spotting little evidence of other fringe groups such as Voices for Freedom being present.

Crowds have gathered to watch the procession from surrounding buildings. Wellington’s mayor Andy Foster was spotted looking from a cafe balcony.

Now that the group has arrived at parliament grounds, speeches have started and these will be followed by the so-called “people’s court” holding a mock trial of government officials.

The protest heads to parliament (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Tamaki spoke first, baselessly accusing the transport minister for cancelling ferries between the North and South Islands to stop protesters. He, and his wife Hannah, railed against the “far left liberal agenda”.

“Shame on the media that go out and cannabalise us”, Tamaki said.

Meanwhile, an anti-fascist counter-protest has amassed a significant crowd outside the Cenotaph near parliament. There are reports of jeering between the two protest groups, however no incidents have broken out.

Gaurav Sharma expelled from Labour caucus after ‘calculated’ rule breaches

Gaurav Sharma in the halls of parliament (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Gaurav Sharma has officially been expelled from Labour’s caucus.

It was a move widely predicted and followed Sharma’s repeated leaking of private conversations with fellow MPs and unverified allegations of bullying within Labour. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern had repeatedly rejected the claims of bullying.

Sharma was suspended from Labour one week ago and provided a potential pathway to reentering the caucus. That was predicated on him staying quiet and following a mediation process, but Sharma quickly returned to the media with further allegations and a secret recording of another Labour MP.

Speaking to reporters after his expulsion, Sharma said nobody in his caucus wanted to listen to his claims. “When I tried to present the facts … the specifics, I was told I can’t talk about it,” he said.

“When we were in the room nobody wanted to talk about how we arrived at that point.”

He questioned whether a “fair process” had been carried out and reiterated that he wanted an independent investigation to clear his name. An investigation would also give Kieran McAnulty, the MP that Sharma accused of bullying, an opportunity to state his case.

Asked whether he would do anything differently, Sharma said there was “no other avenue left” after what he had gone through over the past 18 months. He denied being “arrogant”.

On Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, Sharma said: “Leadership is not just about the values you put on paper, it’s about the values you show.” He would not label Ardern a “hypocrite” but questioned the message that not ordering an investigation sent to the New Zealand public.

Next on his agenda would be “a coffee” and he’d take time to think about the next steps in his career.

Gaurav Sharma in the halls of parliament (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Case closed: Ardern says Labour now focused on bigger issues

In a statement, Ardern said today’s decision would mean Sharma could no longer receive support from the party or have access to the caucus in any way. “Gaurav Sharma has been expelled for his repeated and calculated breaches of caucus rules over the past 12 days,” said Ardern.

“When Gaurav went public about his staffing issues 12 days ago our response was one of concern. We attempted to offer support and find a way to resolve his concerns. We offered mediation and a pathway back for him.

“Despite providing an opportunity to resolve his issues and to rebuild trust he has repeatedly demonstrated that he no longer wishes to be a member of the caucus. His consistent and ongoing breach of the caucus rules has resulted in the complete loss of trust by his fellow Labour MPs.”

Ardern said people should remember that the “root cause” of this situation was issues raised by Sharma’s own staff. Rather than take steps to address this, Sharma had contested the process. “Labour and the Parliamentary Service would have been negligent if we had failed to act on the concerns that were raised by staff, but this example does highlight how difficult improving the situation for staff can be if an MP does not fully engage,” said Ardern. “We also believe the process was protracted.”

She added: “There are definitely things to be learned from this episode, but none of it justifies the recent behaviour of Gaurav.”

The matter was now closed, said Ardern, and Labour’s focus now remained on the “significant issues” impacting the public rather than the “interests of an individual MP”.

TikTok bans Andrew Tate for anti-hate policy violations

Andrew Tate (Image: Supplied/ Tina Tiller)

Social media platform TikTok has removed controversial online influencer Andrew Tate’s account after breaching anti-hate policies, days after Facebook and Instagram banned the self-described misogynist for similar reasons.

A representative from TikTok said Tate’s account violated its policies barring “content that attacks, threatens, incites violence against, or otherwise dehumanises an individual or a group” based on attributes including sex, according to The Washington Post. Over the weekend, Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, made similar moves against 35-year-old Tate on the basis of breaching its policies on “dangerous organisations and individuals”.

In 2017, Twitter permanently banned Tate after he said women should “bear some responsibility” for being sexually assaulted.

Responding to Meta’s actions, Tate described many of his videos as parodies based on “playing a comedic character”.

“Internet sensationalism has purported the idea that im [sic] anti women when nothing could be further from the truth,” he told The Guardian, adding that he has donated to charities benefiting women. “I am genuinely innocent.”

His rapid rise to social media prominence in the last few months has worried a range of people globally, including teachers in Aotearoa concerned his misogynistic, violent views are swaying young boys and men to follow suit. TikTok videos using hashtags related to the former reality TV star and onetime kickboxing world champion have been seen nearly 13 billion times and Tate had 4.7 million followers on Instagram at the time of his removal, up from about 1 million in June.

Andrew Tate (Image: Supplied/ Tina Tiller)

Civic Square fills, Tamaki urges ‘non-violent’ approach

A full Civic Square (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Toby Manhire is in Wellington:

Most of Civic Square has now filled up ahead of today’s march to parliament.

In a social media post this morning, Brian Tamaki’s Freedom and Rights Coalition urged non-violence. “Just a reminder that today’s protest at parliament is non-violent.  It is peaceful. It is family-friendly,” was the message. “We are depending on you, every individual within the crowd to assist with keeping today non-violent. Please ensure that if you see anyone close to you becoming angry and violent within the crowd, calmly talk to them and de-escalate them. Let’s show the police…we do not need them to maintain peace. We are able to peacefully manage ourselves, thank you!”

I was just informed by one protester (non-violently) that “all mainstream media are now controlled by Cindy”.

A full Civic Square (Photo: Toby Manhire)

‘People’s court’ unveiled outside parliament

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Protesters will be holding a “people’s court” outside parliament today, holding the government responsible for what they call “crimes against humanity”.

What exactly those “crimes” are remains to be seen, but what we can now see is the full court set-up that’s been erected in front of the parliament building.

The “people’s court” (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Our reporter on the ground has just arrived at parliament ahead of the crowd and we’ll have continued coverage as the “trial” gets under way.

A nearby counter-protest at the Cenotaph has started, while a smattering of people outside parliament are shouting slogans like “government sponsored genocide”. Police have asked early-arriving protesters to cross the road and enter parliament grounds via Molesworth Street, so as to avoid the counter-protest.

(Photo: Toby Manhire)

D-day for Gaurav Sharma: MP will attend crucial caucus meeting

Gaurav Sharma speaks to media prior to a Labour Party caucus meeting (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

It’s a big day in Wellington – so let’s briefly check-in on the other headline-dominating news out of the capital. The latest in the Sharma Drama/Sharma Saga/Sharmageddon.

Embattled Labour MP Gaurav Sharma has arrived in Wellington today ahead of a caucus meeting that will decide his fate. Speaking to reporters, Sharma has confirmed he will attend the meeting and voice his side. “What I am asking for is a fair investigation and a fair trial,” he said, as reported by Newshub.

“A chance to clear my name… but also a chance for Kieran McAnulty to clear his name.”

He added: “I am just wanting to present my side of the story and talk about what has happened… all I wanted was an opportunity to be heard and an independent investigation.”

McAnulty has been labelled the “main bully” by Sharma, a charge strongly rejected by the Wairarapa MP. Flanked by fellow MPs today, McAnulty said he had never bullied anyone. “It is really awful to be accused of something that isn’t true,” he said.

Gaurav Sharma speaks to media prior to a Labour Party caucus meeting (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Other MPs from within Labour have also voiced their opinion ahead of today’s caucus. Several, including Priyanca Radhakrishnan, have admitted they don’t trust Sharma. David Parker called Sharma’s behaviour “attention-seeking”.

Crucially, Sharma has still not provided any definitive evidence to substantiate his claims of bullying from within parliament.

Counter-protest prepares to meet Tamaki group

Some of the placards on display (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Toby Manhire is in Wellington:

Crowds have gathered in and around Civic Square in Wellington for the Freedom and Rights Coalition march to parliament. With 30 minutes to go before the event was due to begin at 10am sever hundred were in attendance, holding flags and signage, including a number of boards familiar from the parliamentary occupation earlier this year.

Some of the placards on display (Photo: Toby Manhire)

At the Cenotaph alongside parliament grounds a counter-protest has assembled, complete with rainbow flags and their own billboards.

The protest group, organised by Brian Tamaki of Destiny Church, are expected to walk to parliament ahead of a “people’s court” scheduled for 11am.

Shortly before 10 parliament grounds were largely empty apart from police and Māori wardens. A stage has been set up, and the PA was gently playing U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer.

Members of the counter-protest group (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Police call in back-up as protest gets under way

Crowds gather at Civic Square (Photo: Toby Manhire)

Police reinforcements have been brought to Wellington from around the country as Brian Tamaki’s latest demonstration against the government gets under way.

About a thousand people are expected to march to parliament from Civic Square about now, where a “people’s court” will be held and the government will be condemned for so-called “crimes against humanity”.

A fascinating interview with Tamaki on Today FM this morning suggested that even the Destiny Church leader does not have a specific cause for today’s rally.

In a statement, Wellington district commander superintendent Corrie Parnell said police would maintain a highly visible presence around the capital today. “Parliament’s Speaker of the House has given Police permission to run an operational base out of parliament buildings,” he said.

“Our primary mission is to maintain law and order, and to ensure the public feels safe and free to move around.”

Any behaviour deemed unlawful or that disrupts people from going about their lawful business will not be tolerated, said Parnell, and the trespass orders issued against some of the protesters from earlier this year remained in place. “Any unsafe or dangerous behaviour occurring throughout the event will be followed up by Police and appropriate action taken,” he added.

Crowds gather at Civic Square (Photo: Toby Manhire)

The Bulletin: State failed young people in care

As the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care continues, Oranga Tamariki admitted yesterday that the state did not stop abuse and did not meet the basic needs of youth, between 1950 and 1999. Oranga Tamariki chief executive Chappie Te Kani said abuse survivors faced “unacceptable and abhorrent” experiences in state care. Te Kani faced questions about whether structural racism was a feature of the state care system and part of the reason Māori and Pacific peoples were disproportionately represented in the number of people in care. Te Kani answered yes on both questions. Oranga Tamariki is giving evidence for another two days.

Want to read The Bulletin in full? Subscribe and join over 36,000 New Zealanders who start each weekday with the biggest stories in politics, business, media and culture.  

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Anti-government convoy prepares to converge on parliament

Photo: Getty Images

It’s not fully known just how many people will march on parliament today, but early reports suggest it could be around 1,000.

Led by the Brian Tamaki-founded Freedom and Rights Coalition, today’s protest could be the largest since the disbandment of the parliamentary occupation in early March. Police, however, are well prepared for any violence – they’ve spent the past 72 hours barricading the parliamentary precinct, including moving large stone bollards into place. Nearby roads have also been closed.

It’s expected a march from Civic Square to parliament will get under way at about 10am, followed by what’s been dubbed “the people’s court” at about 11am.

Wellington mayor Andy Foster told the Herald he wasn’t expecting a repeat of the February-March occupation. Instead, he was expecting protesters would disperse once their point had been made. “At this stage, we’re expecting maybe 1000 people, give or take a few hundred, but we’ll see what happens as we get closer,” Foster said.

Meanwhile, Brian Tamaki himself told a Herald reporter that anyone planning to occupy parliament grounds would be stopped. “We’re there for a day. The police know this. There’s no occupation,” he said. “Any tents that come out … even my guys will be telling them [to] put them away.”

We’ll have sporadic updates from Wellington throughout the day. If you’re in the capital and have any photos, they can be sent to stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

Labour to decide on fate of MP Gaurav Sharma today

Gaurav Sharma (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The fate of rogue Labour MP Gaurav Sharma will be decided by his caucus colleagues today.

The backbench Hamilton West MP has been suspended from Labour’s caucus until at least December after publicly revealing details of private conversations with fellow politicians. He also made several bullying claims and suggested the prime minister’s office was complicit in this.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern had previously said she hoped Sharma would be able to rejoin the caucus at the end of the year, but pointedly she had not ruled out expulsion.

That possibility became even more likely after Sharma continued to appear on various news programmes last week, where he revealed further allegations against his own party. These bullying claims have routinely been rejected by Ardern and other Labour MPs.

Caucus will today hold a special meeting to decide on the future of Sharma’s time in Labour. It’s widely predicted he will be expelled, which would either trigger a by-election or see Sharma stay on as an independent MP. A spokesperson for Ardern said over the weekend: “Gaurav has repeatedly breached his colleagues trust, and caucus was clear that should there be further breaches such as this then further steps would be taken.”

Speaking at yesterday’s post-cabinet press conference, Ardern added that an inquiry into Sharma’s claims remained unlikely. “There has been no basis to the claims and I think we do need to have thresholds before we launch into things like inquiries,” she said.

The allegation that backbench MPs were coached on how to avoid the Official Information Act had been “mischaracterised”, she said.

According to 1News, Sharma has been invited to attend today’s caucus. There is no word on whether he will take up that offer.

We’ll have the outcome for you when it’s revealed – at this stage we don’t know how that information will be made public.

Gaurav Sharma in October 2020 (Photo by Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images)