Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for October 2, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other NZ news. The essential campaign dates are here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Explore the parties’ pledges at Policy. I’m on email@example.com
7.00pm: The day in sum
American president Donald Trump tested positive for Covid-19, as did the first lady, Melania Trump.
There were no new cases of Covid-19, and no one in hospital with the virus.
The Ministry of Health said it believed one of the three people who tested positive for Covid-19 after leaving managed isolation was infected via a rubbish bin.
The Māori Party toned down its strict immigration policy.
Labour announced its housing policy, which contains a pledge to repeal and replace the Resource Management Act.
6.40pm: Trump’s doctor issues statement
The president’s doctor, Sean Conley, has put out this statement:
I release the following information with the permission of President Donald J Trump and First Lady Melania Trump.
This evening I received confirmation that both President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The President and First Lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.
The White House medical team and I will maintain a vigilant watch, and I appreciate the support provided by some of our our country’s greatest medical professionals and institutions. Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments.
6.05pm: US president Donald Trump tests positive for Covid-19
The American president, Donald Trump, and first lady Melania have tested positive for Covid-19. Trump has just tweeted this:
5.00pm: Māori Party quietly tones down immigration policy
The Māori Party has softened its strict immigration policy, which previously called for immigration to be halted.
The party’s Whānau Build policy has now been adjusted to say immigration should be “curbed” until the supply side of housing meets the demand. There is also now an exception for refugees and displaced whanaunga, who would be permitted entry.
“For us to exercise manaaki we have to commit to indigenous first so that we can then support others later,” the policy now reads.
4.10pm: Travel bubble with Australia ‘finalised’ – report
There are reports out of Australia that a travel bubble with New Zealand has been finalised.
New Zealanders will be allowed to travel across the ditch in a fortnight’s time, 7 News reports.
It’s understood the system will initially just be one way, meaning Australians cannot come to New Zealand without having to quarantine.
4.00pm: Donald Trump goes into quarantine
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania have gone into quarantine, after one of his closest advisors tested positive for Covid-19.
Trump tweeted to say that Hope Hicks – the 31-year-old counsellor to the president – had tested positive after “working so hard without even taking a small break.”
The US has now ticked over 7.3 million cases of Covid-19, with more than 200,000 deaths.
3.45pm: Winston Peters looked like a man transformed at the Newshub debate
The Winston Peters I saw today (see 2.30pm update), actively battling with the media, is quite different to the Winston Peters who featured in last night’s pre-recorded Newshub Nation debate.
As promised earlier, Toby Manhire’s written a recap of what went down at the “powerbrokers” debate, which you can watch tomorrow morning on Three.
Here’s an excerpt:
Had I disappeared off-grid to live in a cave 10 weeks ago – and don’t think I wasn’t tempted – then returned last night to the Newshub “powerbrokers” debate, I’d have confidently told you this: Winston Peters, perched on the far-left stool, beaming above his immaculate white-spotted tie, is heading back to parliament. While I was hibernating, New Zealand First must have climbed to 5% or more, or taken the lead in Northland. That man is a picture of contentment.
2.30pm: A quiet afternoon in Aotea Square with Winston Peters
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has entertained a crowd of about a hundred in Auckland’s CBD this afternoon, as part of his re-election campaign.
I headed along to see what all the fuss was about, and witnessed a greatest hits of Winston Peters-isms.
After fending off a representative from the Taxpayers’ Union dressed as a “debt monster”, Peters entered into a rampage against the media, the Serious Fraud Office and justified his decision to enter into a coalition with Labour. Positioning himself as an “insurance” policy, Peters implored the crowd to vote for their future. It was classic Peters, and the crowd treated him like a superstar – selfies and all.
However, one change in today’s Winston Peters performance was his attitude toward coalition partner Labour. In previous weeks, Peters has been critical of the party. Today, he spoke highly of the “combined effort” of the duo, saying they provided “stability.”
“My party brought serious experience to this coalition,” he said.
The stand-up was held in Aotea Square, in front of the massive campaign bus that has taken Peters around the country. Plagued by the sound of nearby construction, Peters struggled during the Q&A portion of the event and often had to have questions repeated to him by those closest to him. But, he appeared to relish at the opportunity to address peoples’ concerns and queries about a wide range of topics.
Later, Peters addressed media, where he defended his party’s decision to quietly release its policy manifesto this week – just two weeks out from the general election. The manifesto, which promises a tight immigration regime, “degrees of murder” criminal charges, and a tax crackdown on Facebook and Google was released yesterday.
Peters said releasing it this week made sure the numbers were correct, criticising National’s Paul Goldsmith for making errors in his party’s plan.
2.00pm: A high-level data visualisation of the rubbish bin cluster
The Spinoff’s deputy editor Alice Neville whipped up this diagram showing how the cases linked to the Christchurch managed isolation rubbish bin (see 1.00pm update) were infected. Please enjoy.
1.00pm: No new cases of Covid-19
There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,492, and there is no one in hospital. Ten previously reported cases have recovered, so we now have 43 active cases, 11 of which are community cases and the remainder imported.
Director of public health McElnay said it now appeared likely that the positive cases in people who had completed managed isolation in Christchurch came from a contaminated rubbish bin at the facility. The man who was reported to be a positive case on September 19 – who the ministry initially thought may have contracted the virus in India but had a very long incubation period – was in fact infected on the charter flight from Christchurch to Auckland on September 11 by another person who had completed managed isolation.
That person had no symptoms but was tested as they were on the same flight as the first case, and returned a positive result on September 23.
“Investigations at the managed isolation facility show that the case reported on September 23 was likely exposed to Covid-19 near the end of their stay in managed isolation and was likely incubating the virus at the time of their day 12 test, which was negative,” said McElnay.
“While we cannot be conclusive, we now believe that this person was likely infected on that charter flight by a person seated behind them by a person who had also completed 14 days in managed isolation and had returned two negative tests.
“Our hypothesis is that the virus may have been transmitted to that person via the surface of a rubbish bin which was used by another returnee who was likely infectious at the facility. That returnee tested positive on day 12 of their stay in managed isolation but they were likely infectious a few days prior.”
A family member of that person, who they were in managed isolation with, also tested positive, as did another family member after they returned home to Auckland.
This means that transmission of Covid-19 in New Zealand is likely to include a public bus, an elevator button, and the lid of a rubbish bin.
Public health officials in Christchurch have conducted an investigation. “This is not dissimilar to the case at the Rydges in Auckland, where we believe a maintenance worker may have picked the virus up from pressing a button on a lift,” McElnay said. “It goes to show how tricky this virus can be.”
The Ministry of Health has updated it infection prevention guidance to prevent contraction of the virus via rubbish bins. McElnay said there was “high standard of cleanliness” in managed isolation facilities, but that as an additional step facilities are now using bins that don’t require touching. “We shouldn’t have bins with lids,” she said.
Yesterday’s 12 imported cases
Genomic sequencing from the 12 cases in managed isolation yesterday has not yet been completed. “They are not symptomatic, so that lessens the infectiousness,” said McElnay.
McElnay issued advice to New Zealanders overseas who are returning home, requesting that they avoid social events and avoid being in contact with those who have Covid-19 for the fortnight before getting on a plane.
The ministry is working with Air New Zealand to deduce high-risk areas, and McElnay said layovers were being investigated. “Some of the staff are not spending any time [on layovers], others are spending a longer period of time.” Los Angeles, she said, was a higher-risk area due to the longer layover.
McElnay said that although the Auckland outbreak had died down, testing of the contact tracing system and isolation procedure would continue. “We’ve changed some of our approaches and seen that in action,” she said. “But, of course, there’s always more we can do better.”
Yesterday laboratories processed 4,403 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 970,641.
12.50pm: Case numbers to be updated – watch live
Director of public health Caroline McElnay is providing a Covid-19 update at 1pm. Watch below.
12.20pm: Covid-19 media briefing at 1pm today
An unscheduled media briefing is happening at the Ministry of Health at 1pm today, fronted by director of public health Caroline McElnay. It’s unexpected, since there was a briefing yesterday. We’ll have the live stream and provide updates here.
12.10pm: Labour agrees with National – RMA should be repealed
Whether it’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern or Judith Collins after the next election, there’s one thing that can be guaranteed: RMA reform. Labour has announced its housing policy, which contains a pledge to repeal and replace the resource management act – the same policy that National’s already announced.
Labour’s also promised to continue building houses and make it easier for first-home buyers to get onto the property ladder, though it’s a far cry from the 2017 KiwiBuild promise.
“We firmly believe that all New Zealanders have the right to live in warm, dry, healthy homes, whether we rent or own our homes. We will continue to ensure tenants and landlords have a fair deal by regulating property managers, following our work setting basic health standards for rental properties” said Jacinda Ardern in a statement.
“We are committed to reducing barriers to the building of new homes and the repeal of the resource management act, along with work we have done on to better integrate planning and investment in urban development, infrastructure and transport.”
The RMA would be replaced with two separate laws – a natural and built environments act and a strategic planning act. Again, this is incredibly close to National’s policy.
“Labour agrees the number of local government resource management plans should be drastically reduced to a plan per region, and that there should be more national direction to better protect environmental bottom lines for biodiversity and ecosystems,” Labour’s environment spokesperson David Parker said.
More to come.
On The Spinoff: 100 Year Forecast – the full series
Right now on The Spinoff, you can check out our new five part documentary series 100 Year Forecast.
Climate change is big and it can feel overwhelming. It may seem like New Zealand does not have a big part to play in any solutions to the global problem. Yet despite our low total emissions, our emissions per person are some of the highest in the OECD. So something needs to change. But what – and how?
Check out the special interactive site here and watch the first episode below:
10.40am: Half of voters back National’s tax cuts
A new poll suggests half of voters support National’s tax cuts – either temporarily, or permanently. Currently, the opposition’s pledged to implement a 16-month tax break for all earners.
The Herald poll, an online survey of 1000 eligible voters, found that 28% thought the tax cuts should be permanent, with 22% backing National’s plan for them to be temporary.
Almost 30% of voters wanted no change, while 9% backed an increase to taxes.
10.10am: Minor party leaders face off in ‘powerbrokers’ debate
Last night saw representatives from the Greens, Act, New Zealand First and the Māori Party go head-to-head in Newshub Nation’s “powerbrokers” debate.
Winston Peters was a late addition to the line-up, after initially not being expected to make an appearance. Meanwhile, yesterday afternoon saw Jami-Lee Ross’ Advance NZ barred from the debate by order of the court.
I headed along to watch the festivities, which was a relatively muted affair in comparison to the Newshub leaders’ debate (and certainly the US presidential debate). Topics tackled included the economy, housing and Covid-19.
We’ll have a full write-up later today from Toby Manhire on The Spinoff, which I’ll share here when it gets published.
9.00am: Advance voting starts tomorrow
Today’s the last day before the election cycle kicks up a notch, with advance voting booths opening nationwide tomorrow.
Nearly 450 advance voting places will open their doors from tomorrow morning, with expectations around 60% of people could vote before election day.
Chief electoral officer Alicia Wright said the number of early voting places will continue to rise over the next two weeks. On Saturday October 10, for example, Wright said there will be about 1,350 voting places open.
On election day itself, the number reaches about 2,600.
“We have voting places in an enormous range of locations, from schools and church halls to mosques, marae, universities, clubrooms and libraries. There’s even a camping ground and adventure bike park. And in remote parts of electorates such as East Coast, Northland and West Coast-Tasman, we’ll have pop-ups in retail spaces,” Wright said.
On The Spinoff: ‘We are not urging landlords to delay installation of heating’
Property Investors’ Federation head Andrew King copped a fair amount of flack – including on The Spinoff – in recent weeks for comments alleging he was suggesting landlords should delay installing heatpumps.
Today, he’s responded. Here’s an extract from his article:
In recent weeks I’ve had the misfortune of seeing my name in headlines suggesting that I have “urged” landlords not to install heating in rentals. This is incorrect, but has been repeated in two Spinoff articles drawing on the original report – the first by Hayden Donnell and the second, yesterday, by Michael Andrew. I’d like to set the record straight.
I had told a reporter about Property Investors’ Federation findings that many tenants don’t want heat pumps. I explained that we believe tenants should be thought of as customers and it was a good idea to involve them in the heating decision and to talk to them first. If they want a heat pump then you might as well install one sooner than later. If your tenant doesn’t want a heat pump then you could take this into consideration and not put one in until you have to. This, as best I can tell, led to the front page headline “Landords urged to delay heating”.
This does not reflect the kind of organisation we are. While we represent private rental property providers, we operate as an industry group who acknowledge that tenants are a critical part of the rental industry. To be clear, the NZPIF doesn’t urge people to not install heating in their rentals.
8.20am: Ardern called out for ‘mostly false’ comments about Collins
Comments made by Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern during Wednesday night’s Newshub debate have been called out for being “mostly false”.
Ardern said: “when Judith [Collins] was minister of police, the police numbers declined on her watch.”
But an AAP fact check has revealed this is largely false. Actual police numbers rose between 2008 and 2016, covering the two periods in which Judith Collins served as the minister in charge.
However, the AAP report stated that when police numbers are described as an “officer to resident ratio”, the numbers declined during Collins’ second time as minister (but rose during the first).
“This means Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is only correct to say police numbers fell under Collins when those figures are expressed as police per head of population,” the report stated.
7.50am: Megan Wood denies government has failed on affordable housing
The housing minister has rejected claims that the government failed on its promise of delivering more affordable houses, despite house prices and rents rising.
An RNZ report this morning shows rents have increased by 3.3% in the year to July (according to Stats NZ) while house prices have continued to rise. Similarly, economist Shamubeel Eaqub told RNZ despite the foreign buyers ban, the brightline test extension, and KiwiBuild, affordability has not changed in the last three years.
“KiwiBuild failed, the ban on foreign buyers and the brightline test were put in place but they weren’t very effective,” he said.
“They increased state housing stock, which is good, but demand has still outstripped supply.”
But housing minister Megan Woods disagreed, telling RNZ no government wants to see the property market crash.
“What KiwiBuild and the market is demonstrating is that there is plenty of room to be building at the affordable end of the market, without fundamentally bringing down house prices,” Woods said.
National’s leader Judith Collins, unsurprisingly, promoted her party’s plans to rip up the resource management act, if elected.
7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin
One of the major newslines out of Wednesday’s leaders’ debate was on a point of agreement between Ardern and Collins. During the quickfire question round, both were asked if they supported moving to a four year parliamentary term, as opposed to the existing three years. And both agreed that we should. So how does the idea stack up?
The case in favour was put succinctly in a NZ Herald editorial in 2018 – in brief, the argument is that governments could get more actual governing done if they didn’t have to spend a third of every term effectively in election mode. They also noted that it tends to come from within the political system more often than not, which is probably a reflection on the reality of governing. Local governments are also seeking to change the length of their electoral cycles, on the grounds that the increasing complexity of the challenges they’re being asked to take on requires more time. And in both cases, the underlying message is clear – governments are elected to govern, so they should be given ample room to get on with it.
But is that necessarily the best outcome for democracy as a system? As Stuff’s Henry Cooke argues, governments (and particularly the executive branch of governments) are already incredibly powerful in New Zealand, relative to other democracies we compare ourselves against. He also argues that because of this power, governments could actually accomplish plenty over three years if they really set their mind to it – it’s not for nothing that New Zealand is sometimes described as the “fastest legislature in the West.” And for those on the outside of the political system looking in, there would be fewer opportunities to make their case to voters. Social Credit put out a press release after the debate saying that it would amount to a two-party power grab if Labour and National went ahead with it.
Having said that, Judith Collins tempered her enthusiasm by saying it would have to be decided by a referendum. New Zealanders have done that twice before, most recently in 1990 when the proposal was thoroughly rejected. It might be worth noting the context of the time – the country had just seen six years of the Rogernomics revolution, in which the government pushed through profound and rapid social and economic changes. Under MMP (rather than the old First Past the Post) those sorts of rapid transformations are more difficult for governments to achieve, but that’s partly because we’ve always had multi-party governments since 1996. Coalitions aren’t by any means assured under MMP – but with a three year term, regular elections for people to decide if they want change or more of the same are.
7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories
There were 12 cases of Covid-19, all in managed isolation. Ten of the cases originated on the same flight from India.
Advance NZ failed in its eleventh hour High Court bid to be allowed to appear in Saturday’s minor party Newshub debate.
Labour pledged to complete two current investigations into the price of supermarket groceries and building supplies should it be returned to government.
Labour also released its fiscal plan for the coming years, built around the government’s budget and the recently released pre-election economic and fiscal update.
National said it would invest $600 million into developing a long term plan for water storage if elected next month.
National leader Judith Collins emphatically rejected the prospect of a coalition agreement with Advance NZ, because she’s “not insane”.
Just 2.8% of applications for compassionate leave from managed isolation were approved between July and September, according to MBIE figures.