Roe v Wade debate becomes domestic political issue

Welcome back to The Spinoff’s live updates, I hope you had a wonderful long weekend wherever you were around the country. It’s Monday June 27 and I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Flick me an email at

The latest

  • Grant Robertson has labelled Christopher Luxon’s comments on the Roe v Wade decision “spin”. But Nanaia Mahuta has been criticised for condemning the Supreme Court ruling despite her own voting record.
  • Rongotai MP Paul Eagle has confirmed rumours he will be running for mayor of Wellington.
  • Jacinda Ardern has jetted to Europe for a series of trade and tourism engagements.
  • The rolling average of community Covid-19 case numbers has risen slightly, now sitting on 5,132 compared with 4,939 last Monday.

Roe v Wade debate becomes domestic political issue

Welcome back to The Spinoff’s live updates, I hope you had a wonderful long weekend wherever you were around the country. It’s Monday June 27 and I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund. Flick me an email at

The latest

  • Grant Robertson has labelled Christopher Luxon’s comments on the Roe v Wade decision “spin”. But Nanaia Mahuta has been criticised for condemning the Supreme Court ruling despite her own voting record.
  • Rongotai MP Paul Eagle has confirmed rumours he will be running for mayor of Wellington.
  • Jacinda Ardern has jetted to Europe for a series of trade and tourism engagements.
  • The rolling average of community Covid-19 case numbers has risen slightly, now sitting on 5,132 compared with 4,939 last Monday.
Jun 27 2022

Family Planning NZ ‘amazed’ by membership surge after US abortion ruling

Pro-choice demonstrators during a protest outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Abortion rights suddenly emerged as an issue that could reshape the battle between Democrats and Republicans for control of Congress, following a report that conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court were poised to strike down the …  Read more

Over the last 48 hours, Family Planning New Zealand has seen the biggest surge in membership in its history, CEO Jackie Edmonds told The Spinoff this afternoon.

“In terms of member donations, it’s the most we’ve ever had. It’s really amazing – along with the emails of support, we’ve had an amazing couple of days.”

The surge in support comes in the wake of the reversal of Roe v Wade, the 1973 court decision that guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion in the United States.

“I just think it is a very sad day for women of the US to have such a fundamental right taken away,” says Edmonds. “It feels like we are back in the dark ages.”

If you’re feeling helpless here in Aotearoa and want to take a stand, get educated or support others who are struggling, check out this guide we prepared earlier.

Robertson declines to wade in on criticism of Mahuta’s abortion comments

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – APRIL 22: Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta talks to media during a press conference at Parliament on April 22, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne is on a two-day visit to New Zealand for formal foreign policy discussions with New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta.  It is the first face-to-face Foreign Ministers’ consulations since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Grant Robertson has chosen not to give his view after Nanaia Mahuta was criticised for her comments on the Roe v Wade decision.

Mahuta, the foreign minister, was quick to condemn the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the landmark abortion case over the weekend. However, many pointed out that Mahuta herself had voted against removing abortion from the Crimes Act in New Zealand back in 2019.

Fronting today’s post-cabinet press conference, the deputy prime minister said he would not speak on behalf of Mahuta. “The Labour Party continues to support women in New Zealand to access abortion services,” he said. “We passed the legislation, it was a government bill. Everyone in New Zealand knows what Jacinda Ardern’s view is.”

Robertson said the Labour Party had always had members who took different “conscience positions” on the matter of abortion. But as for whether it was “hypocritical” for Mahuta to condemn the Wade ruling despite her voting record, Robertson said: “You would have to ask her that.”

Earlier in the day, Robertson called into question National leader Christopher Luxon’s assertion that he would not tamper with abortion legislation should he become prime minister in 2023. Robertson reiterated that Luxon’s position on the issue needed clarification. “In America, you have a generation of women that thought this law was settled. We know what Jacinda Ardern’s position is and we know what Christopher Luxon’s is,” said Robertson.

Robertson denied “politicising” the issue of abortion, saying he was simply trying to demonstrate that Labour had championed the issue and National’s track record showed otherwise.

Additional $4.5m in non-lethal aid for Ukraine, NZDF deployment extended

Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Another $4.5 million in support will be offered to Ukraine, as the prime minister heads to Europe to further trade talks.

The extra funding will go toward the Nato support fund and help provide non-lethal aid such as equipment, supplies and medical kits for the Ukrainian Army. It’s on top of the roughly $33 million that has already been spent on diplomatic, humanitarian, legal and military support for Ukraine, coupled with a range of sanctions applied against Russia.

“Russia’s continued assault on Ukraine is a blatant attack on innocent lives and the sovereignty of another country,” said Jacinda Ardern in a statement. “Our response has not only included the condemnation of Russia’s actions, but practical support for Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed an extension and expansion of the Defence Force deployments to Europe, in both the UK and Germany. Defence minister Peeni Henare said the personnel deployed over recent months have provided a welcome contribution to the war effort. “In response to requests, we are increasing our intelligence contributions to support international efforts,” Henare said.

(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Further Ukraine support set to be announced as PM heads to Europe

Grant Robertson (Photo by Mark Mitchell – Pool/Getty Images)

The deputy prime minister is expected to unveil further government support for Ukraine at today’s post-cabinet press conference.

Grant Robertson will step in for Jacinda Ardern, who is currently travelling to Europe. Ardern will speak at the Nato leaders’ conference this week, before heading to Belgium and the UK for further bilateral talks (including with Boris Johnson).

While Ardern’s trip and the Nato visit are taking place against the backdrop of conflict in Ukraine, a meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky on his home soil was not able to take place due to scheduling issues.

Other topics likely on the agenda at today’s post-cabinet press conference include abortion law, Paul Eagle’s bid for Wellington mayor, and political donations.

We’ll have full coverage from 3.30pm.

Greens claim win over proposal to tighten political donation rules

Golriz Ghahraman, an MP who initially moved to New Zealand as a refugee. Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The government’s plan to tighten our political donation rules has been labelled a “win” by the Green Party.

It was announced today that, ahead of next year’s election, our electoral rules will be amended to reduce the threshold for which donations to political parties remain anonymous. It’s currently $15,000, but will be lowered down to $5,000.

The rule change is one of a series of sweeping changes announced this morning, and comes ahead of a review of our entire electoral law landscape due to be finalised next year.

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman has a private member’s bill up for debate that would see a major overhaul of our electoral rules. While her proposed law would go further than the government’s current plans, Ghahraman was pleased with today’s announcement – and said it came about following “pressure” from the Greens.

“The Green Party has been the only voice consistently calling for changes to the way our elections are funded,” she said.

“But our work on these important changes is far from finished. The failure to introduce any cap on big money that can be poured into our democracy leaves us vulnerable to the kind of interference that may stop a wealth tax, rent controls, building affordable homes, or urgent climate action.” Ghahraman’s bill would see an annual $35,000 cap for political donations, per person to a single party.

Golriz Ghahraman. Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

A vital message from The Spinoff’s publisher, Duncan Greive

If you’re reading this, you’re hopefully getting value out of The Spinoff. Yet like many publishers, The Spinoff has suffered a significant drop in members, despite our costs continuing to increase. On one level I understand why our membership has dropped away. There’s a cost of living crisis, and inflation has made life hard for many of us. It’s totally normal to feel like you don’t need to support your local media organisation at a time like this.

The promise we’re making to you is that we’re actually better-suited to times like this than the pandemic itself. Our plan is to return to something more of what made us – coverage of culture, politics, te ao Māori and more with heart and humour. We will do that with features, essays and opinion pieces, but also podcasts, comics, video and newsletters. We are here to help walk you through this fascinating new era, and feel well-suited to being your guide.

But we can’t do it without you. The Spinoff has been cut out of the government’s enormous $100m plus Covid-19 campaign, which has been a boon to the big media companies and social media platforms. We returned the wage subsidy, unlike almost every other media organisation. The public interest journalism fund was narrowly targeted and is winding down. The big tech companies are refusing to do what they did in Australia and make meaningful deals with local media. And the recessionary drums continue to beat loudly, impacting the commercial spend we rely on, along with you, our members.

All of which is to say that we need your support more than we ever have. So please, if you can, click here to support The Spinoff by becoming a member today.

Covid-19 update: Average number of cases jumps after long weekend

Image: Toby Morris

The rolling average of community Covid-19 case numbers has risen slightly, now sitting on 5,132 compared with 4,939 last Monday.

There are 5,549 new community cases today, with Auckland recording the highest overnight total of 1,796. Today’s figure comes after a long weekend, when numbers typically reduce. There were roughly 13,000 cases registered across the entire Matariki weekend.

The pandemic death toll has risen by 11 and is now sitting at 1,472 overall. The seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 13. Of the latest deaths, two people were in their 60s, two were in their 70s, three were in their 80s and four were over 90. Five were male and six were female.

There are now 383 people in hospital with Covid-19 and six in intensive care.

The government had previously signalled it would be reviewing our current traffic light settings before the end of June, so an update is likely later in the week.

Meanwhile, this morning, the government confirmed who will be eligible for a second Covid-19 booster shot.

Grant Robertson calls Luxon’s abortion comments ‘spin’

Grant Robertson (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The implications of the Roe v Wade decision continue to wash across the world, including here in New Zealand where MPs from across the political spectrum have broadly denounced the news (or been denounced for their lack of denouncing).

But while it may seem like the views of our politicians had been settled, deputy prime minister Grant Robertson today called for further clarification from opposition leader Christopher Luxon.

The National Party leader has previously compared abortion to murder, but in the wake of the Wade ruling said a National government led by him would not relitigate the issue.

That wasn’t enough for Robertson. “New Zealanders know where Jacinda Ardern and Labour stand on this, we decriminalised abortion, we put it into a health setting and while Mr Luxon might be saying convenient political things now, I think people know where he really stands and obviously people will judge on what he says as well as his actions,” he told Newshub.

The deputy prime minister called for Luxon to clarify his position even further, questioning whether he would stop National MPs from putting forward private member’s bills or whether he would rule out a law change as part of a coalition. “The issue for Christopher Luxon here is he said what he believes about abortion and now he’s spinning to tell New Zealanders a different story,” added Robertson.

Ed Sheeran joins Tova

(Image: Supplied)

One of the world’s biggest names joined Tova O’Brien last week to talk about fame, the media and why Dunedin holds a special place in his heart.

Ed Sheeran told O’Brien despite being one of the most recognisable singers in the world, he’s not had much trouble with the media. “They’re quite respectful if you are consistent. I have always been the same and just said ‘I want privacy’.”

Listen to the full interview on Today FM.

Secret party donations targeted in proposed new electoral law change

‘The Root of All Evil is Deeply Rooted’, as one law review title put it. Illustration: Toby Morris

It could soon be harder to secretly donate to a political party. The government’s announced new changes to our electoral laws around donations that it hopes to bring in before next year’s general election.

The changes include making all donations over $5,000 identifiable, a shift from the current rules that keep the identity of donors secret on all party donations under $15,000.

The number and total value of party donations under $1,500, not made anonymously, will also need to be disclosed and all registered parties would be required to make their financial statements publicly available every year.

These proposed changes come ahead of an independent review of our electoral laws that is not due to report back until the end of next year.

They also arrives in front of the backdrop of a series of high profile court cases around party donations. Currently, the New Zealand First Foundation is facing scrutiny in the High Court, while charges have also been laid by the Serious Fraud Office against National and Labour. A case against the former is due to begin next month.

Justice minister Kiri Allan said the changes follow public consultation that showed New Zealanders wanted greater transparency in the political system.  “Appropriately regulated political donations and loans underpin public trust in the integrity of our electoral system, and the key institutions of a democratic government,” said Allan.

“Importantly, better transparency of party and candidate financing helps support public trust and confidence in our electoral system. These changes will provide the public with more of the information they want.”

Image: Toby Morris

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman last week called for political donations to be capped at $35,000 per person every year, and said the public disclosure threshold should be dropped from $15,000 to just $1,500.

Eagle running as independent in mayoral race, despite endorsement

MP Paul Eagle Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

Newly confirmed Wellington mayoral candidate Paul Eagle will run as an independent, but has been given the endorsement of his party.

After months of speculation, Eagle finally revealed today that he will stand as a candidate in race to become Wellington mayor. But he won’t run on the Labour Party ticket, instead campaigning as an independent candidate.

Labour’s general secretary Rob Salmond said the party voted this weekend to endorse Eagle’s campaign. “Paul Eagle’s campaign builds on his long and successful record working for the people of Wellington as a Wellington City Councillor, as deputy mayor of Wellington, and as MP for Rongotai,” Salmond said.

“A Paul Eagle mayoralty will bring Wellingtonians’ progressive values to the Wellington mayoralty, and represents a strong positive change for the city on critical issues like housing, transport, and infrastructure.”

Labour looked forward to supporting the campaign and working with him as Mayor of Wellington, added Salmond.

Free flu vaccines for children aged 3-12

The government has announced this morning that they are widening the eligibility for free flu vaccinations from this Friday. It will mean an additional 800,000 New Zealanders are now eligible. The widening includes all children aged 3-12 and people with serious mental health or addiction needs. More than a million New Zealanders have already had a flu shot, but in acknowledging the significant pressure on the health system, health minister Andrew Little said “We’re ramping up efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

A second Covid booster shot will also be available from Tuesday for everyone over the age of 50. It is recommended for anyone over the age of 65, as well as Māori and Pacific peoples older than 50 and people who are severely immunocompromised.

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

Jacinda Ardern turns down invite to meet with Zelensky

(Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The prime minister has confirmed she was invited to meet with Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky on his home soil.

Jacinda Ardern jetted off for Europe overnight, where she will speak at a Nato meeting in Spain and head to UK for a face-to-face with Boris Johnson.

However, it’s now been confirmed that, despite an invitation, Ardern will not be jumping over to Ukraine during her overseas tour. The prime minister told 1News that existing travel commitments were to blame.

“Where Ukraine has expressed a need for support, New Zealand has been there. That won’t change and nor would a visit on the ground change that,” Ardern said.

“I’m mindful though it’s a huge logistical and security operation to have any leader on the ground in Ukraine and while it’s in the middle of a war we will continue to send our support in a meaningful way.”

It’s expected that Zelensky will also speak at the Nato conference, though not in person.

Confirmed: Labour’s Paul Eagle to run for mayor of Wellington

Labour MP Paul Eagle, who was himself a child of adoption (Radio NZ, Richard Tindiller)

It was the worst kept secret, but now it’s been confirmed. Labour MP for Rongotai, Paul Eagle, wants to be the next mayor of Wellington.

Eagle has for months denied speculation he had his sights set on becoming mayor. In recent weeks, the prime minister was pressed to discuss the rumours – though she never commented on them.

Speaking to the Herald, Eagle said incumbent mayor Andy Foster’s time was up. “I’m running because Wellington needs new leadership that’s strong and stable and they need someone who’s prepared to put the mojo back into the capital city of Aotearoa New Zealand,” he said.

Foster has not put his name forward for reelection so far, after one term in the role.

While currently a Labour MP, Eagle will not run on the Labour ticket. However, he has been endorsed by the party.

Labour MP Paul Eagle, who was himself a child of adoption (Radio NZ, Richard Tindiller)

Today’s announcement follows a passionate plea by The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire over the long weekend, who called on Eagle (and Foster) to reveal their mayoral ambitions. “The countdown is on. The lack of clarity from likely contenders looks less like a question of committing to the city and more and more like cynical smoke and mirrors. Opaqueness and rumour make a rotten springboard for a mayoral campaign. And every passing day is an insult to Wellingtonians,” he wrote.

So far, Eagle’s primary competition in the race is former Green Party chief of staff Tory Whanau who announced her mayoral bid last year. Several minor candidates are also running.

Should Eagle win the mayoralty, a byelection will be triggered in the Rongotai seat.