Election Live, October 5: PM announces Auckland moving to alert level one

Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for October 5, 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 stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

The day in sum

Auckland will move down alert levels on Wednesday night to join the rest of New Zealand at alert level one.

One new case of Covid-19 was reported from managed isolation. No community cases were reported.

More than 93,000 people went to the polling booth for the first day of advance voting over the weekend.

A complaint was made to the Electoral Commission after promotional flyers opposing assisted dying were found in official EasyVote packs.

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern has committed to banning conversion therapy if re-elected.

National’s Judith Collins pledged to stop New Zealand becoming a “nation of renters”

Donald Trump greeted supporters outside Walter Reed hospital where he is receiving care following a Covid-19 diagnosis.

6.45pm: Eden Park set to be renamed

The naming rights for Auckland’s Eden Park have been sold to ASB Bank, according to a report from Newshub. Financial pressures due to Covid-19 are understood to be the catalyst for the change of heart from the Eden Park Trust Board, which had resisted conceding the rights.

The stadium’s new name is yet to be announced, but the second Bledisloe Cup test on October 18 looks likely to be the first game played under the venue’s new name.

3.55pm: NZ passport world’s most powerful – except we can’t travel

New Zealanders stuck admiring their own backyard due to Covid-19 can still take pride in the fact our passport’s been determined the world’s strongest.

As the Herald reports, our passport has topped the global passport index, which compares the access granted by the passports of 193 UN member countries.

There are now  129 countries offering visa-free access, placing us just above Germany, Austria, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Ireland, South Korea, Japan and Australia with 128.

Check out the full list here

Who knew election policy debates could be so funny?

There’s nobody better than our video wizard José Barbosa to pick out the best bits from the build-up to Election 2020.

3.05pm: Jacinda Ardern criticised for ‘politicising’ Covid-19

The prime minister’s being criticised for using the podium during her 1pm media briefing on Covid-19 alert levels to attack other party’s policies.

Jacinda Ardern today announced Auckland would be shifting down to alert level one from Wednesday night.

Moments later, however, Ardern took the opportunity to answer media questions on her faith and criticise National’s housing policy.

Act Party leader David Seymour has said it’s “deeply disappointing”.

“Ardern today delivered an important public health announcement to the nation as the prime minister and then immediately began campaigning for the Labour Party,” he said in a statement.

“The prime minister apparently can’t tell the difference between crisis management and political campaigning.”

National’s Judith Collins was equally unimpressed, sending out a tweet questioning what “hat” Ardern was wearing during the press briefing.

2.40pm: Labour commits to banning conversion therapy

After continued pressure from the public over the past electoral term – including a recent poll showing overwhelming support – Jacinda Ardern has committed Labour to banning conversion therapy, if re-elected.

In an interview with Gay Express magazine, Ardern said: “this is a prime example of where an element of our system allows for quite damaging activity, which in modern New Zealand should not be happening”.

In the interview, Ardern cites watching the film Latter Days as part of the reason she has chosen to push for this change.

“That film never left me,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons I feel quite strongly about this policy.”

Labour will be launching its full rainbow policy in Wellington tonight.

2.00pm: More than 90k vote on first polling day

Figures show huge numbers of New Zealanders have cast an advance vote, compared to equivalent dates in 2014 and 2017.

On Saturday, the first day of advance voting for the 2020 election, 93,420 people went to the polling booth. By comparison, just over 12,000 advance votes were cast on the first day in 2014, and 39,570 in 2017.

By yesterday, more than 165,000 votes had been cast – well above the cumulative figures from the previous two elections.

(Graph : Electoral Commission)

1.00pm: Auckland to move to level one on Wednesday night

Updated

Auckland will be joining the rest of New Zealand in alert level one from Wednesday night at 11.59pm, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has announced. The city has been in level two for two weeks, and before that, level “2.5”.

The decision follows a virtual cabinet meeting this afternoon and is based on advice from director general of health Ashley Bloomfield. It’s now been 12 days since the last new case linked to the Auckland cluster, Ardern said, and there’s a 90% chance it is now contained.

“Just as our team came together to deliver a world-leading response to the first wave of Covid, we did so again for the second,” Ardern said.

Around the world, cases continue to surge, Ardern said, demonstrating that our response has worked. Ardern said her message to New Zealanders was clear: “we are in a good position because we went hard and early.”

“Covid will be with us for many months to come, but we should mark these milestones,” said Ardern, before warning New Zealanders that milestones like this don’t mean the threat is over. “Resurgence of the virus is not our only worry; resurgence of complacency is right up there, too,” she said.

Daily use of the Covid-19 tracer app has decreased from a peak of two million to only one million scans in the past week. At level one, businesses are still required to display QR codes for the app. Mask use will remain optional, but encouraged, at level one. They will no longer be mandatory on public transport.

Ardern advised that it would be wise to maintain the habits we formed during level two – wearing masks, scanning QR codes, and hand-washing – throughout level one.

The trans-Tasman bubble would be seriously considered “as soon as it is safe to do so”, Ardern said. At this stage, non-quarantine travel to Australia will only be one way, with those returning to New Zealand required to stay in a managed isolation facility.

Strict protocols remain in place for workers in high-risk areas, such as at the border and in MIQ, but otherwise Ardern did not have specific advice that suggested Aucklanders were at more risk than other members of the public.

12.55: Watch – PM to announce if Auckland shifting to alert level one

Jacinda Ardern is about to give an update from Christchurch on whether or not Auckland will be moving down from alert level two. The earliest this shift could happen would be from 11.59pm on Wednesday night.

Just now, the Ministry of Health revealed there was one new case of Covid-19 to report today, in managed isolation. There are no new community cases.

Watch live:

On The Spinoff: Complaint laid after assisted dying ‘vote no’ flyers found in official EasyVote packs

Right now on The Spinoff, reports that four members of a Northland household have opened their official election information packs to find promotional material from a group opposing the End of Life Choice Bill.

Here’s an excerpt:

EasyVote packs have been sent out around the country ahead of the October 17 general election and referendums. But some of the orange-man emblazoned envelopes have contained more material than they should have, in the form of a flyer urging a no-vote in the referendum on the End of Life Choice Bill, a member of a Northland household has told The Spinoff.

Amber Grant said four of the six adults in her home received in their packs a flyer from VoteSafe, a group that is urging the country to vote against the End of Life Choice act. The flyer was inside their sealed EasyVote packs when they opened them, she said.

Only those in the household who had the surname Grant got the flyers in their packs. The other two did not. It is not yet clear how widespread the apparent error has been.

Read the full report here

12.45pm: One new case of Covid-19, in managed isolation

The Ministry of Health have sent out this release:

There is one new confirmed case of Covid-19 to report from managed isolation in New Zealand today and no new confirmed cases in the community.

The person who has tested positive arrived from Hong Kong on 1 October and returned a positive test as part of routine testing at around day 3. They have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.

Our total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 is 1,499, which is the number we report to the World Health Organization.

Two previously reported cases are now considered to have recovered, meaning our total number of active cases is 40.

Of these active cases, 34 are imported cases in MIQ facilities, and six are community cases.

There is no one in hospital with Covid-19 in New Zealand today.

Yesterday our laboratories processed 2,834 tests, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 982,819.

12.00pm: Labour targets possible National-Act coalition

The Labour Party’s coming after Act, following reports the minor party is the latest to have botched its budget costings.

It also follows a Spinoff report this morning from Toby Manhire, who clearly laid out how Judith Collins could become PM with Act’s support.

In a press release, Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson said National would be “beholden” to the demands of Act, if elected this month.

“National’s draft budget already means cuts to services like health and education. These will be magnified by an Act Party that wants to get rid of policies like the Winter Energy Payment, and potentially cancel contracts that government departments have entered into with private businesses,” Robertson said.

A Newsroom report today claimed Act has an $8.7 billion hole in its fiscal plan – joining National as the latest party this election cycle to have its costings in the spotlight.

“Newsroom has reported today a multi-billion dollar gap in Act’s fiscal plan. Added to the multi-billion dollar mistakes in Paul Goldsmith’s fiscals and you have an Opposition not fit to govern, who would pose serious risk to our economic recovery,” Robertson said.

Latest poll results show Act surging to 8%, meaning David Seymour could soon be leading a caucus of 10.

11.00am: Collins pledges to stop NZ becoming ‘nation of renters’

Judith Collins has outlined how National would support New Zealanders getting into their dream home, rather than relying on the rental market.

Home ownership is an important part of our social fabric. It helps give people financial security, helps families build roots in their communities and gives parents a valuable asset to pass on to their children,” Collins said in a press release.

“Sadly, the dream of home ownership has slipped further away under the Labour-led Government, which is turning New Zealand into a nation of renters. National will fix this.”

National’s housing plan includes the much talked about RMA replacement, and a promise to pass emergency legislation in the first 100 days of office that would allow councils to permit more housing. This will require councils to immediately open up 30 years’ worth of growth for urban development in “tier one and two” urban areas, which includes our main centres.

The funding from the Covid-19 recovery act could also be used to consent infrastructure for urban growth, National said.

Social housing tenants would also be able to buy their home through a rent-to-own or shared equity scheme, and there is also more support for community housing providers to build social housing.

The party’s also offered a vague promise to “address the state housing waiting list”, which Collins said has exploded under Labour’s watch.

10.40am: Trump greets supporters outside hospital

President Trump has delivered another message to supporters on Twitter, saying the work of doctors at Walter Reed hospital is “just absolutely amazing”.

Trump was hospitalised with Covid-19 over the weekend.

In his latest video, Trump also said he’s been able to meet with some of the soldiers and first responders at the facility, despite being infectious.

The street outside the hospital has been lined with Trump supporters ever since the president was admitted for treatment. In the past hour, despite his diagnosis, he’s been driven past his fans, waving from a secure vehicle.

In his Twitter video, posted moments before getting into a closed vehicle with several other people, Trump said: “I learned a lot about Covid. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn’t the ‘let’s read the book’ school. And I get it. And I understand it. And it’s a very interesting thing.”

Walter Reed attending physician Dr James Phillips posted on Twitter to criticise the president’s actions, saying the risk of Covid-19 transmission within the vehicle is “as high as it gets”.

“Every single person in the vehicle during that completely unnecessary presidential ‘drive-by’ just now has to be quarantined for 14 days. They might get sick. They may die. For political theatre. Commanded by Trump to put their lives at risk for theatre. This is insanity,” he wrote.

On the campaign trail

We’re into the home stretch, readers. It’s now less than two weeks until election day.

Here’s where our political leaders are today:

  • Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern is in Christchurch today, where she will chair cabinet and front a 1pm media briefing on Covid-19 alert levels.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins is in Auckland, where she will make a housing policy announcement and give a media stand-up.
  • New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is back out in the regions today. He’s visiting Rotorua, where he will chair a public meeting before speaking to media.
  • Act Party leader David Seymour is no where to be seen, but presumably will be lurking around Epsom? The Act Party election campaign tour is hitting Whakatane and Rotorua today, with Brooke van Velden, Nicole McKee and Chris Baillie.
  • Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is voting this morning at Manurewa Library, before heading to Palmerston North to meet up with list candidate Teanau Tuiono. James Shaw is meeting volunteers tonight in Te Aro and later making an electric vehicle policy announcement.

Also today:

  • The PM will be announcing whether or not Auckland is shifting down to alert level one at 1pm. We’re expecting details on any new Covid-19 cases ahead of this.
  • Advance voting numbers will be released by the Electoral Commission at 2pm.

8.00am: Auckland would already be in level one, if Collins was PM

Updated

National’s Judith Collins is giving a two hour, wide-ranging interview on Newstalk ZB this morning, in the build-up to election 2020.

Here are some the biggest hits.

Auckland would no longer be in level two, if she was the prime minister.

Judith Collins said the shift to level one would already have happened under her leadership.

“The whole thing is getting to the stage where it just seems to be wallowing in Covid…it is causing immense hardship, economically and also stress level-wise for people,” Collins said. She also repeated her claim that New Zealand’s Covid response needed to be more like Taiwan’s – a comment she made during last week’s Newshub leaders’ debate.

The travel bubble with Australia would be two-way, if she was prime minister. Currently, it’s expected that people will be able to travel to Australia without quarantine requirements – but would have to stay in a managed isolation facility upon returning to New Zealand.

While you listen to the next hour of Collins’ live interview on ZB, Toby Manhire’s crunched the numbers and looked at the ways Judith Collins could become the next prime minister. 

National would undertake a full review of Auckland Council

During this morning’s interview, Collins also took the opportunity to announce new policy: National would undertake a full review of Auckland Council.

“Auckland Council is not delivering for Aucklanders, and change is overdue to achieve better performance, which National will do,” Collins said.

“I have a particular beef with Auckland Transport, I just think it’s destroyed the central city.”

Cycle lanes were in the firing line, with Collins saying they were fine until people needed to go shopping or get children home from school.

“These guys can’t sort themselves out, we are going to have to do it…it is the number one issue when we go around Auckland….it is a huge brake on the economy in Auckland,” she said.

Collins says she wasn’t politicising her faith

The National leader faced criticism from across the political spectrum yesterday, when she was pictured praying before casting her advance vote.

There were claims that Collins had never made a big deal of her faith previously, and was possibly attempting to appeal to a more conservative voter base.

Collins rejected this assertion, telling Newstalk ZB she’s been a Christian her whole life.

“We just happened to be voting in a church… the minister said, would you like to pop in and have a prayer?”

The media weren’t invited in, Collins said, but chose to follow her and take photographs.

“It just happened to be that I was in a church…I was hardly going to turn it down.”

Māori seats a ‘relic of the past’

Judith Collins has said it remains National policy to scrap the Māori seats, but they don’t bother her personally.

It’s likely something the party would look at for the next election, if they are in government, Collins said.

The seats are a “relic of the past”, she said, and should never have been needed under MMP. Labour likes them because they win them, Collins added.

Collins highlighted several of her high profile Māori MPs, including Shane Reti and Simon Bridges, who can win general seats.

Collins admires Roger Douglas, calls Chloe Swarbrick ‘naive’ 

Judith Collins admitted Roger Douglas, the former Labour minister, was probably the politician who has had the largest impact on New Zealand. “I probably should choose a National MP,” Collins said.

Asked to put together a grand coalition, including MPs from other parties, Collins selected Labour’s Megan Woods and Chris Hipkins, New Zealand First’s Ron Mark and Tracey Martin (“even though she doesn’t like National”), Act’s David Seymour and the Greens’ Chloe Swarbrick.

Collins described Swarbrick as naive, but said she admired her “gutsiness”. She said that Swarbrick reminded her of herself at that age, where: “I thought I knew all the answers but I actually didn’t know anything”.

7.40am: Covid decision day – will Auckland move to alert level one?

It’s been roughly two weeks since New Zealand, except Auckland, shifted down to the relative freedoms of Covid-19 alert level one.

Today, we’ll find out whether the supercity will be following suit. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern will be speaking at a media conference in Christchurch at 1pm today. If it’s announced Auckland will be moving to level one, the earliest it can happen is Wednesday night, at 11.59pm.

It’s been more than a week since the last community case of Covid-19 in Auckland, and that was a household contact who was already in self-isolation. The last week has seen a spike in imported cases of the virus, all detected in managed isolation.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

It will be impossible to have missed the news that US President Donald Trump, and many in his inner circle, have now tested positive for Covid-19. The latest is that we don’t know how serious Trump’s condition is, because conflicting and contradictory information has been coming out. The NZ Herald has an update of what his doctors are saying, and what treatments he is on, but the key moment of the weekend was when White House chief of staff Mark Meadows gave reporters a briefing that expressed how concerned medical staff were about his health. Covid-19 is a virus that progresses relatively slowly, so there could still be days of confusion on this front to come. At the moment, Trump remains at the Walter Reed military hospital.

It seems most likely that he picked it up at an event on September 26, though that is not certain. The New York Times has details on the White House ceremony at which the spread could have taken place, which was held to mark the nomination of potential Supreme Court judge Amy Coney Barrett. That in and of itself is a wild story, because of the politics of the nomination – Trump and the Republican party have a small window of unfettered power before the election to try and entrench the conservative majority on the court. But now, as the Guardian reports, with several US senators now testing positive (senators have to vote on Supreme Court nominations made by presidents) the window is closing.

It may be that Trump becomes too ill to govern. If that happens, CNN has an explainer on what happens next – there is a long line of succession, starting with vice President Mike Pence. However, such a determination of incapacitation requires clarity around his health, which at the moment remains mysterious. And the current White House hasn’t exactly built up a reputation for credibility over the last four years, reports the Los Angeles Times – that report included a startling quote from a political science professor on confusion around the extent of Trump’s illness: “That’s something you see in authoritarian regimes. You shouldn’t see that in democracies.”

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.00am: Yesterday’s headlines

Judith Collins’ stop for a prayer at an Auckland church on her way to vote led to claims she was politicising faith.

For the ninth straight day there were no new cases of Covid-19 in the community. Five people were reported to have tested positive in border facilities.

A new poll by Colmar Brunton for Q+A showed the race for Auckland Central tightening, with Helen White of Labour on 35%, Emma Mellow of National on 30%, and Chlöe Swarbrick of the Greens on 26%.

Labour pledged new funds to target rheumatic fever: the Greens pledged to save kauri.

Donald Trump released a video from hospital updating Americans on his health and “miracles coming down from God”.



The Spinoff is made possible by the generous support of the following organisations.
Please help us by supporting them.