Welcome to The Spinoff’s Election Live for October 8, 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. Stewart is off today. Toby, Josie and Catherine are sharing the wheel in his absence.
7.20pm: The day in sum
The new TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll has Labour on 47% and National on 32%.
The CovidCard trial will begin in Rotorua this month, after being delayed due to privacy and security concerns.
There were three new cases of Covid-19 at the border.
The Serious Fraud Office alleged the two people charged in the NZ First Foundation case made fraudulent bank account deposits totaling more than $746,000.
A New Conservative candidate was revealed to have a fraud conviction for faking a pregnancy and childbirth.
6.10pm: Little change in latest TVNZ poll
With a little over a week until the election, a new poll suggests time is running out for National to make up the gap with Labour. The latest TVNZ/Colmar Brunton has Labour on 47%, National on 32%, Act on 8%, the Greens on 6% and NZ First on 2%.
On these numbers, Labour would need the help of the Greens to form a government.
Parliamentary seat entitlement based on these poll results:
Labour Party: 60
National Party: 41
ACT Party: 11
Green Party: 8
Jacinda Ardern is on 50% as preferred PM, a drop of four points from the last poll, while Judith Collins remains steady on 23%.
Tonight’s results show little change from the last TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll on September 28 which had Labour on 47%, National on 33%, Act on 8%, the Green Party on 7% and NZ First on 1%. That poll was in the field directly following the first televised leaders’ debate; since then there have been two more debates between Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins, and one featuring leaders of the minor parties. TVNZ’s minor party debate is at 7pm tonight.
4.45pm: What’s that person doing?
Rarely does New Zealand politics experience so many media stand-ups, press gaggles and PR stunts, and the people in the camera’s glare get the lion’s share of attention. But what of those who are caught in the background, usually completely unaware? In the second edition of his pre-election miniseries ‘What’s that person doing?’, José Barbosa highlights the best unwitting guest stars of the past week.
4.20pm: New Conservative candidate in bizarre baby fraud case
A candidate for the New Conservative party was convicted of fraud 20 years ago in a case that involved falsely claiming that she had given birth. Jan-Marie Quinn, who is standing for the party in the Taupō electorate, was sentenced to six months’ periodic detention after being convicted of “lying in an affidavit, forging an obstetric discharge record and giving a forged letter to her lawyer as evidence a baby had been born”, reports the NZ Herald.
The details of the case are pretty extraordinary. “She had miscarried early in a pregnancy but after the relationship with her partner soured she determined to carry on with the charade forging a letter from Southern Health showing she had given birth, and even taking photographs of another baby to support her lies.” Quinn also committed perjury by submitting a false affidavit to the Family Court as part of an application for paternity and custody orders.
Today Quinn said it had been a “horrible mistake” that she deeply regrets. New Conservative leader Leighton Baker said he was aware of the conviction and was standing by her.
3.00pm: The Warehouse Group defends receiving wage subsidy
In a leaders’ debate just over a week ago, the Warehouse Group – which was recently under fire for laying off hundreds of workers only months after receiving the wage subsidy – was heavily criticised by both the prime minister and Judith Collins during a leaders’ debate. Collins threatened to change the law to force companies that didn’t need the subsidy pay it back. Ardern called its actions “immoral”.
Today, the group has announced a profit of $44.5 million for 2020, something it apparently couldn’t have done without the $67.7 million wage subsidy. The company says it would have made a loss of $4.3 million without financial support from the government.
2.30pm: CovidCard trial delayed
The Bluetooth-based CovidCard technology was scheduled to be trialled in Rotorua last month, but a Ministry of Health spokesperson told Stuff the trial was being delayed until later in October due to privacy and security concerns with the prototypes.
TradeMe founder Sam Morgan, who partially funded the technology, seems to believe the card may never see the light of day, telling Stuff “there is no technical capability at the Ministry of Health to deliver such a project or even further trials, so we have all stepped back from it”.
The Defence Force has given its approval to the card despite its bugs.
2.15pm: Vice-presidential debate under way
The US vice-presidential debate between the Republicans’ Mike Pence and the Democrats’ Kamala Harris is under way in Salt Lake City, Utah. The audience is socially distanced and, at the request of the Biden-Harris campaign, plexiglass is in place to prevent the candidates from Covid-19 infection. This was not installed for the presidential debate last week.
2.05pm: Another big day of advance voting
Yesterday 107,853 advance votes were cast. It’s the third 100k-plus day in a row, bringing the total to 478,860. At the equivalent stage last election, five days in, there had been 309,246 votes cast.
Based on the turnout of 2017, it means almost one in five (18%) likely voters have already cast their ballot.
There are nine days to go.
1.00pm: Two new cases in managed isolation, none in community
There are two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and one historic case. There are no new cases in the community.
One case, from Ireland via Dubai, has been in managed isolation at the Sudima hotel in Rotorua since arriving on September 29; the other, from Hong Kong, entered managed isolation at the Holiday Inn in Auckland on October 3rd. They were both transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility once they tested positive.
The historic case arrived from India on August 27, tested negative on days three and 12, and completed managed isolation on September 11. The case was found during a routine check of Christchurch returnees, when they delivered a weak positive result. They are not believed to have infected anyone.
The total number of cases in New Zealand is now 1,508. There are currently 39 active cases, all imported. One person remains in Middlemore with Covid-19, but they are not in intensive care.
“As Auckland has joined the rest of New Zealand in alert level one today, it’s worth reflecting on our collective success,” said Bloomfield. However, he warned the virus is still a threat.
“Alert level one is not alert level none.”
Report on Covid-19 and healthcare workers to be released
A report is being published today on Covid-19 among healthcare and support workers in New Zealand. Healthcare workers made up 11% of confirmed and probable cases in our first wave. The WHO reports that 14% percent of Covid-19 cases worldwide are healthcare and support workers.
Bloomfield said there were 167 Covid-19 cases among healthcare and support workers, 96 of whom were likely to have been infected in the workplace; the remainder were infected via overseas travel or the community. Of those infected in the workplace, 62.5% worked in aged residential care.
When asked whether a lack of PPE could be responsible for some of the transmissions from patients to healthcare workers, Bloomfield said the large clusters in aged residential care proved somewhat difficult, and the first wave involved learning. He said the problem wasn’t necessarily the availability of PPE, but the use of it. Three healthcare workers were infected in the latest Auckland outbreak, two of whom were infected at the workplace; the third’s place of infection is still uncertain. “So I think we were able to put on board that learning,” he said.
“While the proportion of our healthcare workers as the proportion of total cases is lower than other countries, the report reinforces the importance of work that is needed to protect these workers and the people they work, live, and interact with,” said Bloomfield.
Measles vaccinations encouraged
Bloomfield announced a targeted measles vaccination campaign for 15-30 year olds, who he said have lower vaccination rates “for reasons that you may well know”. Misinformation around vaccination has been an ongoing issue in the effort to stamp out measles.
“Measles continues to be a problem globally,” he said. “It’s eight times more contagious than Covid-19.” Last year’s measles outbreak showed how quickly it can spread. You can learn more about the vaccination programme here.
12.55pm: Watch – Bloomfield back in action
A 1pm update from the Ministry of Health is about to begin, featuring director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Today is Auckland’s first day at level one. Yesterday, minister for health Chris Hipkins announced there are now zero community cases, and there are three new cases in managed isolation.
12.30pm: Winston Peters is on Waiheke
Peters is holding a press conference on Waiheke to reaffirm NZ First’s stance against the pesticide 1080. The conference is being held outside a pest trap workshop, and Stuff reports the trapper Peters wanted to meet is unavailable due to being stuck in the bush.
As Stuff’s Thomas Manch reports, Peters is refusing to answer questions about the SFO charges detailed today, citing “sub judice” as the reason.
11.15am: Pharmaceutical genius Donald Trump issues advice
“I feel great. I feel, like, perfect. So I think this was a blessing from God, that I caught it. This was a blessing in disguise. I caught it, I heard about this drug, I said let me take it. It was my suggestion. I said let me take it, and it was incredible the way it worked, incredible.”
He also attacks China.
11.00am: SFO alleges $746k fraudulent deposit in NZ First Foundation case
Stuff has revealed fresh new information about the Serious Fraud Office charges relating to the New Zealand First Foundation. The two people charged, both with name suppression, are alleged to have fraudulently deposited $746,881 into two accounts between September 30 2015 and February 14 2020.
“The defendants adopted a fraudulent device, trick or stratagem, whereby party donations for the Party were paid into the bank accounts … and not notified to the party secretary, or declared by the party secretary to the Electoral Commission,” the SFO alleges. “Those undeclared funds thereby became available to [suppressed]/NZFF to use as the defendants saw fit, and were used to pay expenses of the party and to develop a fundraising database for the benefit of the party and [suppressed].”
Stuff, RNZ and NZME are in court today challenging the name suppressions on the grounds that their identities are critical to testing Winston Peters’ insistence that the SFO decisions “completely exonerate” the NZ First Party.
10.30am: Australian state borders slowing the trans-Tasman bubble
Health minister Chris Hipkins told RNZ’s Morning Report that the re-opening of state borders could slow the formation of a bubble between Australia and New Zealand. “There are some states that we could have travel with relatively quickly but if there is a risk that they will then re-open their borders between states then obviously that increases the risk of there being transmission between states in Australia which therefore makes us a bit more hesitant,” he said.
10.00am: Today on the campaign
Judith Collins is in the great city of Dunedin, where she is giving a speech at the Otago Chamber of Commerce.
Jacinda Ardern is in the great city of Gisborne, where her appointments include a walkabout. Hopes are high that Hamish Price might be there.
Marama Davidson is at Auckland University for a picnic; James Shaw is also in Auckland.
Winston Peters is swapping bus for ferry and heading over to Waiheke, where he’ll be making a policy announcement at lunchtime.
Ashley Bloomfield is not a candidate in the election and does not belong under an ‘on the campaign’ header, but he is making an appearance today, with a media briefing at 1pm.
There’s a poll tonight, too, with the latest Colmar Brunton / TVNZ presented at 6pm to whet the appetite for the minor leaders debate that follows.
8.15am: John Key speaks up for Judith Collins
Sir John Key has come to the defence of Judith Collins, whose uneven campaign hit a low mark yesterday with a walkabout on Ponsonby Road that went very wrong (“dumb, dumb, dumb”, was the assessment of One News’s Benedict Collins). She was doing “really well”, the former National leader, who it’s fair to say is not Collins’ favourite figure in the party, told Mike Hosking on Newstalk ZB.
The Ponsonby pantomime was unlikely to hurt Collins, he said – it was really just a “process issue”. National’s task was always extremely tough, said Key, given Jacinda Ardern had enjoyed “ubiquitous coverage” across the Covid coverage.
In contrast to the other long-serving prime minister of the century, Helen Clark, Key said he was opposed to the legalisation of cannabis. He said he believed it would see more widespread drug use and disputed the idea that it would disempower gangs.
8.00am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Labour’s climate change policy announcement has been received as a bit of a letdown by their potential allies in the next parliament. Newshub covered the details of the package – a lot of it isn’t exactly new, but there was a pledge to decarbonise the bus fleet by 2035. Little of note was added around converting the private car fleet to electric vehicles, which would reduce a greater share of transport emissions, and is an area where government underperformance has been exploited by arguably more ambitious National party policy.
The full release from the party can be read here, and also included a commitment to “increasing funding across agricultural climate change research programmes by $6 million a year”. There was also a fairly contestable claim from Ardern that “during our first term in Government, climate change was at the centre of all our policy work and commitments.”
The issue of climate change is central to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern’s political brand. As the NZ Herald’s Derek Cheng noted in this analysis piece, she certainly is happy to use it as a cudgel against her National opponent Judith Collins. But the difference between the two parties probably isn’t really as great as it might seem – particularly in sectors like transport, though they do get larger in sectors like agriculture.
For the Greens, the issue is one of their biggest points of difference with Labour. The NZ Herald reports co-leader Marama Davidson welcomed the fact that there was now a climate change policy out there, but that they’re too weak to meet Paris Agreement targets. “We are running out of time. Their policy is not going to meet the challenge at the scale it demands,” said Davidson. Many parties have emissions policies to take to the electorate, and you can read all of them (along with Labour’s existing slate) on Policy.
We’re once again down to zero active known Covid-19 cases in the community. As our live updates reported, the ministry is still urging people to be vigilant, despite the milestone. The full total of confirmed cases to date, including those caught at the border, is 1505, and close to a million tests have now been processed.
What a day for Judith Collins. It perhaps seemed fanciful that she would get a friendly reception in the ultra-liberal Auckland suburb of Ponsonby, but she tried it anyway. Stewart Sowman-Lund was there to see party loyalists get caught out impersonating ordinary members of the public, and get barred entry from a shop. Meanwhile Ben Thomas has written about her position as leader, how a day like that doesn’t necessarily mean the party is imploding, and how attention will start to turn soon to what happens after the election.
An accounting professor has hit out over big firms who (legally) pocketed the wage subsidy, when they “morally” should not have. Stuff’s John Anthony has covered the comments from University of Auckland accounting professor Jilnaught Wong, who has looked particularly at Briscoes, retirement village operator Summerset, and Hallensteins-Glassons. The contention is based on the profits reported and dividends paid out by some of those companies for the year. You may also recall Duncan Greive writing about this topic last month – that’s worth going back and rereading for more context.
The diversity of political thought within Christianity is one of the great under-covered topics in New Zealand, and this piece is a stunning contribution. The Spinoff’s Justin Latif has taken the recent photo of Judith Collins praying as a starting point, and then looked at the candidates running in the heavily religious electorate of Māngere, to ask how their faith influences their views. He also spoke to ordinary voters about what their faith means for their political choices, and rounded it out with some expert commentary.
More complaints have emerged about VoteSafe flyers ending up in EasyVote packs, where they should not be. I report that three more people have declared on the record that their packs included the flyers, amid a continuing Electoral Commission investigation. VoteSafe themselves, who are adamant they had absolutely nothing to do with it, are concerned that their campaign will be unfairly suspected of skullduggery as a result of the incident.
A fascinating story on how student money at Auckland Uni is being spent (or perhaps misspent, who knows) by clubs. Craccum’s Justin Wong and Daniel Meech have dug deep into the sums that have been handed out, funded out of the Student Levy, and sought to investigate whether the actual spending is above board. In the vast majority of cases, no information has been forthcoming, suggesting further investigation is more than warranted.
7.45am: Auckland joins the rest of NZ at level one
Fifty-eight days after Covid re-emerged in New Zealand, sending Auckland back into level three, the region has returned to level one as of midnight. Yesterday also saw a milestone in the second round of stamping out Covid-19: with six people now considered recovered, there are zero active community cases of Covid-19.
Under level one the border restrictions remain and businesses are required to display QR codes for contact tracing. Masks are no longer obligatory on public transport, but, you know, might as well, right? More details on level one are here.
7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines
New Zealand now has no active cases of Covid-19 in the community. Three new cases were recorded at the border.
Judith Collins went on a poorly received walkabout on Auckland’s Ponsonby Road.
The High Court threw out a claim by the New Conservative party to be included in Thursday night’s TVNZ multi-party debate.
Labour announced its long-term climate change policy. It was short on new initiatives, largely emphasising the work done by the government over the past three years.
Internationally, Facebook announced it was banning QAnon groups from both Facebook and Instagram, with immediate effect.