Election Live, August 6: Parliament adjourns; CovidCard trial announced

Welcome to Election Live for August 6, bringing you the latest on election 2020 and other breaking news. For key dates in the election season click here. For all you need to know about the cannabis referendum click here. For the assisted dying referendum click here. Policy launching soon. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

3.00pm: Parliament adjourns; Ardern, Collins go head-to-head

Jacinda Ardern has paid tribute to Winston Peters, as parliament officially wraps up ahead of the election campaign.

During her adjournment speech, Ardern thanked the leaders of her coalition and confidence and supply partners – New Zealand First and the Greens. She also thanked her own party members.

When talking of the upcoming campaign, Ardern hinted at the fact there will likely be a bit of mud-slinging from her government partners. But, she said that in her mind, that won’t diminish her the achievements from the past term.

‘About time’ – Judith Collins thanks MPs during adjournment speech

National’s leader has thanked her MPs for their support, joking that it’s “about time” she got to deliver an adjournment speech. She also paid tribute to her predecessors in the role, Simon Bridges and Todd Muller. Bridges, in particular, was singled out for providing an “opposition voice” at the start of this parliamentary term.

During a highly critical speech, Collins made it clear she expects to be prime minister after September, saying Ardern will soon be famous for being a one-term prime minister. She also hit out at the MPs in Ardern’s government, questioning why Phil Twyford and Kelvin Davis were so high-up the party list.

Finally, she called out Winston Peters for considering himself the “handbrake” on Labour and the Greens, calling him “the enabler.”

Winston Peters: ‘I made the right decision in 2017’

“That was eyebrow raising stuff,” Peters said, responding to a quite extraordinary adjournment speech by Judith Collins. The deputy prime minister said he made the right call choosing Jacinda Ardern in 2017, rather than forming a government with National. He also criticised some in the media for saying the government wouldn’t make it through an entire term: “they said we wouldn’t last. Well, last we did.”

“We have got through by agreeing on most things… or making compromise,” Peters said, praising his partners in government for working alongside him over the last three years.

James Shaw: NZ First ‘stop progress’

Green’s co-leader James Shaw has used his adjournment speech to criticise his government partner, New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters.

“It’s always a pleasure to follow the right honourable Winston Peters – I’ll miss it.” He also suggested New Zealand First should adopt a new slogan, saying: Labour will campaign on keeping New Zealand moving while New Zealand First will campaign on stopping it. “It’s a great slogan for NZ First: You can stop progress.”

However, he finished his speech by thanking Peters – saying everything that the Greens’ have achieved in government has been done alongside New Zealand First.

Shaw also said he’d give National some “false hope”, saying that when he gave his 2017 adjournment speech the Greens were polling below the 5% threshold – and yet on election night the result was much higher.

2.45pm: Hamilton Council switches to proportional voting

Hamilton City Council will switch to the single transferable vote (STV) system for the 2022 local election and onwards, it’s been confirmed. As Stuff reports, the 11-2 vote in favour of switching from the first past the post (FPP) system was made in a council meeting on Thursday. It followed a recent council that had 78.1% in favour of changing to STV. of which were in favour of moving to the system that asks voters to rank their candidates in order of preference.

The STV voting system allows for voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

2.35pm: Hamilton bomb incident – culprits still at large

Police say two thieves who tried to blow up an ATM machine at a Hamilton mall were armed with seven pipe bombs. The two suspects were caught on CCTV, but have not yet been found.

Hamilton City area commander inspector Andrea McBeth told media the explosives were “unsophisticated”, but that it was “incredibly dangerous.”

1.05pm: No new cases of Covid-19, ministry updates mask rules

New Zealand has no new cases of Covid-19, the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield has announced. There remain 23 active cases, all in quarantine facilities.

It comes as the government announces a Rotorua-based field trial for its new contact tracing device – the CovidCard. The bluetooth-enabled card would allow for close contacts to be easily identified, should a second wave of Covid-19 hit New Zealand. More information on the CovidCard is available below (1pm update).

Kiwis asked to add face masks to emergency supply kits

The Ministry of Health has updated its advice on the use of face masks. It is now recommending that households add sufficient masks for everybody who normally lives there, in preparation for a possible outbreak. There is currently no community transmission of Covid-19, so in the mean time there is no need for a mask to be worn in public, the health minister Chris Hipkins said.

But, he said that if our alert level rises, people will be required to wear masks in situations where social distancing isn’t possible.

Bloomfield said masks are just “one tool in the toolbox” to help reduce the risk of Covid-19 being spread, if another outbreak occurs. He said adding masks to the “overall toolbox” is part of the ministry’s plan to try keep us at alert level one. Bloomfield said he’ll be featured in a new Facebook video showing people how to properly use a mask.

1.00pm: ‘CovidCard’ trial to go ahead, government announces

The government has revealed a small scale trial of an alternative to its Covid tracer app will go ahead in Rotorua. CovidCard is a bluetooth enabled tracking device that would make the need for QR codes in contact tracing redundant.

The trial comes as the government is seeking to increase contract tracing options ahead of a feared second wave of Covid-19 in New Zealand.

In a release, health minister Chris Hipkins said effective contract tracing is a vital part of the government’s Covid-19 response.

“While manual processes remain the critical component for contact tracing, we know digital solutions can help make contact tracing faster and more effective. This is important from a public health perspective and also in supporting our economic and social recovery,” Hipkins said.

The government funded a trial run by the University of Otago in conjunction with the Nelson Marlborough DHB during lockdown, digital services minister Kris Faafoi said. Now, a community trial will take place: “After consultation with community leaders and iwi, we have selected the Rotorua region for a further trial involving around 250-300 people,” he said.

There is no mention of how much this trial will cost.

The CovidCard is a wearable swipecard-sized plastic tag fitted with a Bluetooth chip. It sends a constant signal and picks up and registers signals from cards it comes into contact with. The card carries no personal information and requires nothing from the wearer but to remember to carry it.

Faafoi said the trial will allow the government to understand how the cards work in a real-world scenario, whether they are compatible with our contact tracing systems, and whether the public would accept and use the cards if they were rolled out.

Any decision on whether to deploy the CovidCard will be made later this year.

“It’s fair to say that no single technology to ‘solve’ contact tracing has been identified anywhere in the world. That’s why we need to explore all available technology options,” Hipkins said.

But, despite this, the government remains attached to its Covid tracer app. Hipkins said it will continue to be improved.

Read more: Despite its starry backers’ claims, the CovidCard is no magic solution

11.55am: Police confirm bombs found at Hamilton mall

Updated

Police have confirmed they located several homemade explosives at the Chartwell shopping centre, in Hamilton. The explosives were part of an attempted scheme to blow up an ATM machine, located on the exterior wall of the shopping centre at its southern end.

A cordon remains in place around the mall, which is still closed. A comprehensive search of the shopping centre and surrounds is now underway, to ensure nothing of concern is left unnoticed.

Initial indications suggest two devices had already detonated before police were notified, with damage contained to the ATM and immediate surrounds. Earlier, locals in the area reported hearing loud bangs. No people have been injured.

11.00am: Why Auckland Central is 2020’s most exciting electorate

The Spinoff’s politics podcast Gone By Lunchtime is back for another week.

This week: The height of the summit for the National Party? A poll came out last week with Labour at 53%, and that was considered good news for Judith Collins and the Strong Team.

Annabelle, Ben and Toby assess the state of the race, as well as the Act surge and Seymourmania, the valedictory speeches, the state of social liberal thinking in National, the battle for Auckland Central, the Māori seats (which are up for grabs), and the Operation Burnham inquiry.

Read more here and subscribe here

9.40am: Takanini – the sparkling new seat in the 2020 election

Following the 2018 census, 35 electorates have been modified in some way ahead of the upcoming election. At the same time, there’s also been the creation of a new seat – Takanini. The Spinoff’s new South Auckland editor Justin Latif has written about what it means, who’s running, and who will be voting.

Here’s an extract from his piece:

The name of New Zealand’s newest electorate can be traced back to a prominent Te Ākitai Waiohua chief of the 19th century, Ihaka Takaanini.

A significant landholder and powerful leader in South Auckland during the 1850s and 60s, he held the important role of land assessor for the Crown. His story ended in tragedy, however, as he was falsely accused of being a sympathiser with Māori rebels wanting to invade Auckland. Stripped of his roles and land holdings he was imprisoned without trial, along with his wife, elderly father, and three children. He would eventually die on Rakino Island in the Hauraki Gulf, never to see his home again.

Read the full article here

9.20am: Grace Millane’s killer appeals sentence

The killer of British backpacker Grace Millane is back in court today, appealing his conviction and prison sentence. The 28-year-old, who still cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty in November last year, almost a year on from Millane’s death.

He’s appealing a life sentence, with a minimum 17-year non parole period.

There was criticism during last November’s trial about the way in which victim blaming played a part in the defence case. You can read some of The Spinoff’s coverage of the trial here.

9.00am: Majority of Kiwis want border to stay shut – poll

A new poll this morning shows a majority of New Zealanders want our strict border measures to stay in place. The NZ Herald-Kantar poll shows 68% of those surveyed are happy with the current border policy. 29% think the ban should be relaxed, so long as those coming into New Zealand cover the cost of quarantining.

The results will sit comfortably with government, who yesterday passed legislation allowing for returning New Zealanders to be charged.

One of those who will not be in the 68% is former prime minister John Key, who yesterday told The Spinoff our border restrictions should be softened to allow businesspeople and international students into the country.

8.00am: Possible bombs found at Hamilton mall

Reports this morning that a number of possible homemade explosives have been located at a Hamilton mall. Roads around the Chartwell shopping centre have been cordoned off, with the bomb squad alerted.

The bomb squad has been alerted of the situation and are now attending.

We’ll keep you updated if the situation evolves.

7.45am: New laws pushed through under urgency

Its the final sitting week of this parliament, which means the government has been attempting to push through as many new laws under urgency as possible before the election campaign kicks off.

Yesterday, the legislation allowing the charging of returning New Zealanders passed. Later, new rental regulations passed into law. According to associate housing minister Kris Faafoi, the new rules increase the security of tenure for tenants and promote good-faith relationships in the renting environment. You can read a bit more about what it all means on The Spinoff right now.

The government has also tackled the issue of over-priced petrol. The Fuel Industry Bill does a number of things to encourage competition in the fuel market and hopefully drive down prices.

Finally, the government has also fulfilled one of its big promises from the last three years, by passing new vaping regulations. The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products (Vaping) Amendment Bill regulates vaping products and heated tobacco devices. The minister in charge of this bill, Jenny Salesa, said it’s the most significant change to the Smoke-free Environments Act in 30 years. Salesa said it limits generic retailers such as dairies, service stations and supermarkets to selling only tobacco, mint and menthol flavoured vaping products, but specialist vape retailers will be able to sell any flavours from their shops and websites.

Read more: A landlord tells people to calm the hell down about new renting rules

7.35am: Top stories from The Bulletin

First of all, it’s pretty clear that the top-line unemployment figure going down is a misleading picture of the state of the economy. Yesterday new figures from Stats NZ suggested unemployment was now down to 4%, which defied predictions, but of course it isn’t the full story. The Spinoff’s Michael Andrew has gone through the numbers, and found a big rise in the number of people who are ‘underemployed’ – that is, working less than they’d like to be. There has also been a fall in the number of hours worked, which suggests that many employers have responded to Covid-19 with tightening, rather than extreme mass layoffs.

A lot of the statistical quirks also have more to do with how various states of employment are categorised as well. Interest’s David Hargreaves has looked at this, and noted that because of lockdown, some people were unable to look for work when they were surveyed – because of this, they’re not technically counted towards the unemployment rate, even though they are not employed. He described the drop in unemployment as being “frankly nonsensical”.

And of course, for those unemployed it remains a really difficult time right now.Radio NZ’s Charlotte Cook has spoken to several people on the hunt for jobs right now, and it’s tough to get hired for the sort of full time position that would provide security. One person said they’d applied for about 200 entry level receptionist jobs, and got none of them back.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here 

7.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

The unemployment rate has dropped to 4%, but the number of people out of the labour force has skyrocketed.

The National Party unveiled its Wellington transport plan, which includes a second Mt Victoria tunnel.

There are two new cases of Covid-19, both in managed isolation.

The legislation for charging returnees has passed, with the new rules to come into effect mid-month.

Rob Fyfe and former PM John Key offered their thoughts on Auckland’s rebuild at a conference following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gerry Brownlee asked whether the government is withholding information about the risks of a Covid outbreak.

massive explosion in Beirut left countless people injured, and the death toll continues to climb.

Read yesterday’s Election Live here




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