PM’s trade tour hit with another case of Covid

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Tuesday, May 31. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on

The agenda

  • The PM’s US trade tour has been hit with yet another case of Covid-19 as Jacinda Ardern arrives in Washington DC.
  • More allegations have surfaced about ex-TVNZ broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria.
  • Covid-19 latest: 18 deaths, 389 in hospital, 8,436 new cases.

PM’s trade tour hit with another case of Covid

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for Tuesday, May 31. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, reach me on

The agenda

  • The PM’s US trade tour has been hit with yet another case of Covid-19 as Jacinda Ardern arrives in Washington DC.
  • More allegations have surfaced about ex-TVNZ broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria.
  • Covid-19 latest: 18 deaths, 389 in hospital, 8,436 new cases.
May 31 2022

Simon Bridges lines up another post-parliament gig

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND – NOVEMBER 25: National Party MP Simon Bridges holds a news conference to discuss the removal of Judith Collins as leader following a caucus vote on November 25, 2021 in Wellington, New Zealand. Judith Collins has lost the Nationals Party Leadership following an emergency caucus meeting to demote MP Simon Bridges over comments overheard by MP Jacqui Dean in 2016. Shane Reti has been installed as interim National leader. (Photo by Lynn Grieveson/Getty Images)

Former National MP Simon Bridges has been announced as chair of a new transport advisory group.

It’s Bridges’ second role since leaving parliament, after it was confirmed he would take over as head of the Auckland Business Chamber later this year. He’s also writing a new column for NBR and hosting a podcast for Stuff.

John Baillie, chair of National Road Carriers, said the new transport and logistics advisory group had been created with the purpose of having a platform to discuss some of the industry’s most challenging issues.

“Simon brings significant business, economic and transport experience to the role having been both the minster for transport and the minister for economic development,” Baillie said. “His knowledge of the inner workings of government and his background as a lawyer mean he has the ability run both a political and business lens over many of the issues the industry is facing.”

TVNZ boss orders internal review after Santamaria resignation

Kamahl Santamaria (Photo: Supplied)

A review of TVNZ’s recruitment process has been ordered by the broadcaster’s chief executive in the wake of allegations directed at Kamahl Santamaria.

The Herald has reported that boss Simon Power emailed staff today, and explained that a senior lawyer would review recruitment policies, processes and practices.

“We do not tolerate any form of harassment or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. We’re committed to providing a working environment that is inclusive and respectful,” Power said.

It was his view, said Power, that TVNZ’s recruitment policy had not been followed consistently.

Santamaria resigned abruptly from TVNZ over the weekend, about a month after he began co-hosting Breakfast. He’s facing accusations of improper behaviour both at TVNZ and his former employer, Al Jazeera.

The Spinoff’s Toby Morris wins prime minister’s award for science communications


The Spinoff’s creative director Toby Morris has been awarded Te Puiaki Whakapā Pūtaiao, the Prime Minister’s Science Communication Prize, for his work conveying complex scientific information throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The award was presented at a ceremony in Wellington this afternoon by research, science and innovation (RSI) minister Megan Woods and associate RSI minister Ayesha Verrall.

The award, which comes with a $75,000 cash prize, is given each year to one person and is a recognition of nearly three years of Morris’s work in health and science communications in collaboration with Siouxsie Wiles. The graphics that Morris illustrated were published on The Spinoff and subsequently shared around the world. The prime minister used at least one of them in a national press conference to assist her explanation of New Zealand’s Covid response.

Shortly before the first 2020 lockdown, Morris and Wiles’s collaboration began with “Flatten the Curve”, an illustration of how to approach Covid-19. “Flatten the Curve” was an instant viral success. The prime minister used it in a national press conference to help explain New Zealand’s approach. Among the millions of sharers online were the Washington Post, Buzzfeed and Wired. NBC News called it “the defining chart of the coronavirus”. Morris and Wiles continued producing a steady stream of graphics over 2020, which aimed to help the public understand both the science and the urgency of the situation.

Jacinda Ardern holding up the ‘Flatten the Curve’ illustration (Photo: Dave Rowland/Getty Images)

The work attracted more than 3.5 million page views on The Spinoff from over 2.1 million people. The animations reached many hundreds of millions beyond that.

The graphics have been translated into te reo Māori, Sāmoan, Tongan, Mandarin, Punjabi and many other languages.

In late March, the pair went internationally viral again, with a gif called “Break the Chain”. This time the Guardian, Reddit, NPR, Vox, India Today and the national broadcaster of Ireland shared the animation with their huge global audiences. It was adapted and used in official government public health campaigns in Australia, Argentina, Germany, Scotland and Canada. “It was fascinating for me as a designer to see how people would take the same concepts and translate them into the language of their own communications campaigns,” Morris said.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees had the work translated into seven languages to distribute in refugee camps, and Somali versions were created for use in migrant communities in Europe.

In awarding the 2022 science communication prize, the selection panel felt Morris was fully deserving for “bringing his immense talent and creativity to light on an ever-changing complex topic at a time of crisis”.

Morris has always been a big believer in the power of illustration to convey complex messages. “For a long time, I’ve been making comics about mostly social and political issues,” he said. “I’m interested in how the world works and how we all get along together.

“My approach in general across a lot of the work that I do is to try and take a complicated thing and make it as clear as possible.”

Morris, whose illustrations, comics and graphics have won a number of awards over the years, was both honoured and surprised to be the recipient of this particular one. “I would never in a million years have predicted that I would be doing science communication, let alone being recognised for it. It’s a real honour to have people see what we’ve done and recognise the value.”

The Science Communication Prize is one of five prime minister’s prizes awarded each year as a way of raising the profile and prestige of science among New Zealanders, in Aotearoa and internationally. The recipient is chosen by a panel selected by the pou whakahaere/chief executive of Royal Society Te Apārangi based on the recommendation of the panel chairs and secretariat.

Other recipients of the 2021 prizes awarded today include researchers involved in the Neonatal Glucose Studies team, who received the 2021 Prime Minister’s Science Prize, while the Emerging Scientist Prize was awarded to University of Otago evolutionary biologist and virologist Dr Jemma Geoghegan. Burnside Primary School kaiako Bianca Woyak was awarded the Prime Minister’s Science Teacher Prize and Burnside High School student Carol Khor the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist Prize.

“The winners, who include emerging scientists and future scientists, are all outstanding role models, playing a big part in showcasing science and the value it brings, whether they work in the community, the lab, or behind an illustrator’s desk,” said Ayesha Verrall in a statement announcing the awards.

No, Jacinda Ardern did not plagiarise Bee Movie


A meme claiming that a recent speech by prime minister Jacinda Ardern was partially plagiarised from an animated movie has been debunked.

Shared on the National Party Meme Working Group Facebook page, the meme alleged, clearly jokingly, that Ardern had taken an element of her Harvard commencement speech from Bee Movie, the 2007 animation starring Jerry Seinfeld.

The offending meme

While it may seem obvious the meme was not purporting to be fact, Facebook has censored it today on misinformation grounds. “Checked by independent fact-checkers,” the post now reads, asking people whether they want to see the original photo.

The meme also prompted a response from AAP’s Fact Checker page. “Transcripts of Ms Ardern’s address and video coverage show she did not say the words attributed to her in the meme,” the AAP reported.

“And in a true case of hive mind, it turns out the meme is actually plagiarised – from another meme involving former US president Donald Trump, making the exact same claim that he plagiarised lines from Bee Movie for his inauguration speech in 2017.”

New poll has Labour on top, Te Pāti Māori in crucial position

Photo: Getty Images

Just a day after a TVNZ poll showed National could be forming the next government, a new survey has Labour back on top.

The Talbot-Mills corporate poll, seen by the Herald, has Labour on 37%, up one point, and National on 36%, down one.

The Greens are on 8%, and Act drops two points down to 7%. Once again, Te Pāti Māori are in the kingmaker position. Based on previous comments by the party’s co-leaders, that effectively would secure a Labour victory.

Perhaps most interestingly, this new poll has New Zealand First on 4% – just one point shy of the crucial 5% that would see Winston Peters return to parliament.

Last night’s TVNZ poll showed an even closer race among the major parties, with a hung parliament being a likely result. It had National on 39%, four percentage points ahead of Labour. But with the Greens above Act, and Te Pāti Māori ruling out going into government with Act, neither major party would be able to secure a majority.

Covid-19 latest: 18 deaths, 389 in hospital, 8,436 new cases

Image: Toby Morris

Another 18 people with Covid-19 have died, bringing the nationwide death toll to 1,172 and the rolling seven-day average to 14.

Of the latest deaths, three were from Northland, two were from the Auckland region, one was from Waikato, one was from Taranaki, two were from Midcentral, two from Nelson Marlborough, three from Canterbury, two from West Coast and two from the Southern region.

One person was in their 50s, two were in their 60s, one was in their 70s, eight were in their 80s and six were over 90. Of these people, ten were male and eight were female.

There are now 389 people in hospital with Covid-19, with nine now in intensive care.

There are 8,436 new community cases being reported today. The seven-day rolling average of community case numbers today is 6,885 – last Monday, it was 7,507.

No action by police after allegation of ‘inappropriate behaviour’ at top private school


An allegation of inappropriate behaviour by a worker at a top Wellington private school won’t lead to police action.

Police have confirmed to The Spinoff that a parent made a report about a staff member at Scots College. While the nature of the alleged behaviour has not been confirmed, Stuff has reported that it was sexual and involved a student.

Despite the complaint, a police spokesperson told The Spinoff there was “no criminal offending by the staff member” and as such police “will be taking no further action in relation to that allegation”.

The spokesperson stressed the complaint was made about a “staff member” and not a teacher.

According to Stuff, the worker has been stood down and headmaster Graeme Yule said the complaint was being taken “very seriously”.

Aldi looking at move to NZ, hints Grant Robertson


The government’s hoping it can lure the likes of supermarket chain Aldi to New Zealand after putting the existing grocery duopoly “on notice”.

It was announced yesterday that supermarkets would be given until the end of the year to open up their wholesale distributors to additional providers. If they don’t, then new regulations will effectively force that to happen.

Deputy prime minister Grant Robertson told RNZ that Aldi, the discount supermarket chain with stores around the world, was one provider that had eyed up moving into New Zealand. “Aldi is one of the players [looking at NZ]… but I’m not gonna announce things to people today,” he said. “We’re making sure the conditions are there so that not only competitors enter the market but New Zealanders will get fairer prices.”

An Aldi supermarket (Image / Getty Images)

Last night’s TVNZ poll showed no post-budget bounce for Labour. But Robertson said he felt the government’s actions on the cost of living crisis would look after New Zealanders. “A budget is one moment in a political year, there are many other things we’re doing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Robertson defended a new Labour Party attack ad targeting National’s Christopher Luxon over comments on the cost of living. The ad shows a picture of Luxon along with the quote: “The cost of living crisis, that’s how we’ll win this election”. Luxon said that at a recent National Party conference.

Robertson said the cost of living shouldn’t be a political issue. “The cost of living crisis is about households in New Zealand who are struggling to make ends meet because we’ve got this massive global inflation spike,” he told Newshub.

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Albanese to lead majority Labor government

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese delivers his victory speech, May 21, 2022 in Sydney. (Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Australia’s new government will be a Labor majority, according to final projections after days of ballot counting.

New prime minister Anthony Albanese will govern with at least 76 seats, according to The Guardian, and will seek to form a “constructive relationship” across all parties.

The confirmation of a majority comes after Labor secured the seat of Macnamara in Melbourne. However, despite forming a majority government, Bloomberg says Labor will likely have the lowest margin for an incoming Australian government since World War II.

The Liberal National coalition will hold 57 seats, with the remainder of the 151-seat parliament going to the Greens and independents.

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese delivers his victory speech, May 21, 2022 in Sydney. (Photo: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

Kamahl Santamaria accused of trying to kiss young Al Jazeera colleague

Kamahl Santamaria (Photo: Supplied)

More details have come to light about alleged behaviour of broadcaster Kamahl Santamaria while he was at Al Jazeera.

Santamaria resigned from TVNZ’s Breakfast over the weekend after being off air for more than a week. It came less than a month after he started co-hosting the programme, following his return to New Zealand from Doha where he had worked at Al Jazeera.

Stuff has today reported further details of Santamaria’s conduct while at Al Jazeera, including a lewd email sent to a young, female colleague.

“.. there is no more attractive outfit on a woman than the white blouse/black skirt combo…… and YOU are making it work, baby ;)” wrote Santamaria in the message. “(Between you and [name withheld], I may just combust!!)”

Santamaria has also been accused of trying to kiss the woman in the Al Jazeera newsroom on at least two occasions. “As we started to chat more, always in a work setting with people around, he started to become more friendly and then I remember one day, he came up to me to greet me, and he had hands on both my upper arms and he went straight to kiss me on the lips,” the woman told Stuff.

“I was relatively junior in the newsroom, he was a senior anchor, he carried a lot of weight. I was absolutely terrified,” she said.

The woman described how she used to hide in the toilets during work hours to avoid Santamaria. She eventually reported his behaviour to an executive producer and contact from Santamaria stopped.

TVNZ has so far provided no comment on the alleged behaviour that led to Santamaria leaving Breakfast.

Do you know more? Email

The Bulletin: No consensus on agreement between China and Pacific countries

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi is currently touring the Pacific region and was hoping to sign Pacific countries up to a sweeping regional security and cooperation deal. But consensus hasn’t been achieved after a meeting in Fiji between Wang and leaders from Samoa, Tonga, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Niue and Vanuatu. Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama told reporters the Pacific nations were prioritising consensus. “Geopolitical point-scoring means less than little to anyone whose community is slipping beneath the rising seas, whose job is being lost to the pandemic, or whose family is impacted by the rapid rise in the price of commodities” Bainimarama said.

China’s ambassador to Fiji, Qian Bo said participants had agreed to discuss the draft five-year plan “until we have reached an agreement”.

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.  

More Covid and a broken down plane as Ardern arrives in Washington

PM Jacinda Ardern in San Francisco (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The prime minister’s US trade tour has been hit with yet another case of Covid-19 as Jacinda Ardern arrives in Washington DC.

1News has reported an official in the delegation returned a positive PCR test result this morning. They do not have any Covid symptoms and are continuing to return negative rapid tests, but they are now in isolation.

It comes just a day out from the long-awaited White House meeting between Ardern and president Joe Biden. That will take place overnight (NZ time) after being pushed to the end of the tour. Three members of the PM’s delegation have now tested positive for Covid-19 while in the United States, including Ardern’s chief press secretary who remains in isolation in San Francisco.

Meanwhile, the oft-grounded New Zealand Air Force Boeing that has carried the delegation around the US has broken down after landing in Washington DC. The Herald’s Claire Trevett said the plane was due to take Ardern back to San Francisco tomorrow ahead of her trip home, but she will now travel the entire route commercially.

Thankfully, Washington DC is the last official date of the tour – and where the Biden face-to-face will take place – meaning no meetings have to be cancelled.

Former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, who visited the Oval Office for two presidential meetings, told The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire that tomorrow’s meeting will be highly choreographed. “You don’t wing these meetings. It’s not an informal chat,” she said. “What one says needs to be well scripted in advance to be of maximum value to New Zealand.”

We’ll have full coverage of the meeting in tomorrow’s Bulletin and live updates.

PM Jacinda Ardern in San Francisco (Photo by JOSH EDELSON/AFP via Getty Images)