Election Live, August 10: Review finds no inappropriate spending by Lees-Galloway

Welcome to Election Live for August 10, 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 launches soon. Get me on Stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

6.45pm: The day in sum

New Zealand achieved 101 days without community transmission. There were no new cases of Covid-19.

The PGF is bankrolling a horse-racing track in the middle of Christchurch, RNZ revealed, despite officials saying the $10.5 million project doesn’t meet the fund’s key “provincial” criteria.

Labour won’t make a deal with the Greens to help Chloe Swarbrick win Auckland Central, thereby helping to ensure the Greens get into parliament, Jacinda Ardern said.

National’s deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said he is “puzzled” why the government is warning people to be prepared for a second wave of Covid-19

A Ministerial Services review cleared former minister Iain Lees-Galloway of any inappropriate spending or transactions while in government.

Officials from New Zealand and the Cook Islands could meet within 10 days to decide on details of a “travel bubble” between the nations, the PM said. She refused to be tied down on a date for its opening, however.

The Act Party’s “Change Your Future” tour kicked off in David Seymour’s Epsom electorate. The “bus” – actually a large van – will be making its way down the country, with stops from Whangārei through to Bluff.

5.45pm: New Zealand’s managed isolation fees begin tomorrow

Managed isolation fees will come into force from 12.01am after they got their final sign-off at cabinet earlier today. From tomorrow, those arriving into New Zealand who are liable for the fee will be charged $3,100 for a single person in a room. Additional adults or children sharing that room will be charged $950 and $475 respectively. The fees include GST.

Returnees who need to pay will get an invoice at the end of their stay in managed isolation and will generally have 90 days to pay. They will not have to pay at the managed isolation facility itself. The invoice will explain how to pay the charge.

Read more about the fees, and who will will have to pay, here.

4.45pm: No inappropriate spending by Lees-Galloway

A Ministerial Services review of Iain Lees-Galloway’s expenditure has found no inappropriate spending or transactions by the former minister while he was in government. The review was ordered by Prime Minister’s Office after Lees-Galloway was fired for an affair with a former staffer in one of the agencies he oversaw.

“Following this report, but also Iain Lees-Galloway’s exit from parliament, I consider the matter now closed,” Jacinda Ardern said in a media release announcing the review’s findings.

In his valedictory speech last week, Lees-Galloway apologised to his family for the affair and accepted that his dismissal was appropriate.

“We must recognise not only the imbalance of power involved but also the impact such a relationship can have on a workplace,” he told parliament. “That’s why I have to go.”

3.30pm: Northland poll a ‘call to action’ – Shane Jones

A Colmar Brunton poll of the Northland electorate over the weekend put New Zealand First’s candidate Shane Jones in third position – some 30% down from the incumbent, National’s Matt King.

Talking to fill-in host Paula Bennett this morning on Magic Talk, Jones said the poll was a “call to action”, but that he is still hoping he can win the seat. “Of course I’m going to go out there and boost everything I can to get returned to parliament but also the party vote is what forms any government that comes to pass.”

“I’m out there to win Northland, obviously.”

2.30pm: Correction: Seymour actually travelling country by van

The Spinoff would like to apologise to all readers who were led astray by an earlier update, where it was claimed Act leader David Seymour was travelling the country in a “big bus” with his face on it. It has since been revealed that, in fact, the vehicle by which Seymour will be preaching classical liberalism to the country is actually a 16-seater Mercedes van (with his face on it).

Reference: here

1.20pm: PM holds off giving public timeframe for Cook Islands travel

Updated

Cabinet has today met to consider opening quarantine-free travel with the Cook Islands. The prime minister told media at parliament this afternoon that the draft text of the agreement has “almost” been agreed to.

Political editor Justin Giovannetti has more:

New Zealand is close to establishing quarantine-free travel with another country for the first time since Covid-19 struck after cabinet approved a draft plan today to reopen links with the Cook Islands. A three stage process to reopen travel with the realm country should be finished before the end of the year allowing New Zealanders to travel freely to the Cook Islands, prime minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters at parliament.

Once the draft plan is finalised, officials from both countries will be travelling to verify plans on both sides of the proposed travel bubble. That could happen within 10 days, according to Ardern. “We are working studiously to get this ready, but we are going to be sure that it is based firmly on assurance from a framework that we feel we can undertake this travel safely and that we don’t run the risk of exporting or importing covid,” said Ardern, who took a break from the campaign trail to chair the cabinet meeting.

After officials are satisfied with conditions, the third stage will require approval from the director-general of health, the cabinet and the Cook Islands government. “Our expectation is that it will be in place before the end of the year. We haven’t wanted to give dates beyond that while we’re undertaking that verification work,” said the prime minister.

Auckland airport has said it could be prepared to operate flights within a Cook Islands travel bubble within two weeks. The plan means that a trans-Tasman bubble with Australia has now been ruled out in the near future. “At this point, in such a fragile global environment, quarantine-free travel with others at this stage isn’t a current reality,” said Ardern.

1.10pm: No new cases of Covid-19

There are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today – 101 days after the last case of community transmission.

Two more people have recovered from Covid-19, bringing the number of active cases down to 21. The total number of confirmed cases remains at 1,219.

The Ministry of Health is continuing to recommend people add face masks to their at home emergency kits, ahead of a potential second wave of the virus. “We know there has been concern around supply issues,” the Ministry said in a statement. “But we urge people to take the same approach as shopping for groceries during Alert Level 4 – shop normally and there will sufficient masks for everyone.”

The ministry said testing remains one of the best ways to “ensure there’s no undetected community transmission.”

“We can’t afford for people to wait until there is a case of community transmission to start using the app – we need to quickly be able to isolate any contacts of a future case in our community before the virus spreads out of control.”

12.45pm: Fringe parties pipe up from crowd in first Auckland debate

The first Auckland Central debate took place last night, despite the lack of a National candidate. The Spinoff’s Josie Adams went along to watch Helen White, Chlöe Swarbrick and the rest.

Here’s a teaser from Josie’s article:

The Auckland Central electorate stretches from the depths of Grafton across the Hauraki Gulf to Aotea (Great Barrier). Its residents are Waiheke’s hippies and vintners, the yuppies and the homeless of the CBD, students in seven-person flats in Newton, and small dogs in Ponsonby.

It’s a diverse electorate, and its candidates should match: they range from a 26-year-old small business owner and politician through to a 68-year-old small business owner and politician. The Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick represents the rainbow community, youth, and evidence-based policy. Labour’s Helen White, an employment lawyer, has a focus on housing and schooling. New Zealand First’s Jenny Marcroft wants you to party vote NZ First.

But newest to the table is Tuariki Delamere, back in action. He first entered parliament in 1996, and immediately joined cabinet as minister for immigration. Now, 20 years after his brief stint in government ended, he’s running in Auckland Central as a candidate for the Opportunities Party.

All four were present at last night’s Auckland Central debate, hosted by the editor of the Ponsonby News, Martin Leach. Vernon Tava of the Sustainable NZ was there, too. And with the National Party having a miserable time getting around to replacing Nikki Kaye (a new candidate will be selected tonight), East Coast Bays MP Erica Stanford filled in. There was no sign of the Act candidate, Kartini Clarke.

Read the full article here

12.35pm: ‘Psychic healer’ joins conspiracy pushing Public Party

A prominent New Zealand “psychic healer” that once advocated the use of a dietary supplement to counter the risk of Covid-19 has joined the political party responsible for pushing conspiracy theories about the virus.

Jeanette Wilson has announced she’s joining Jami-Lee Ross’ Advance NZ Party, which recently joined forces with the Public Party. 

“If I’m putting my hat in the ring and going into politics, I’m going to do it with absolute truth and absolute integrity,” she said in a Facebook live video. “I’ve been asked to stand in the Mount Albert constituency.”

“I have found something that is absolutely mind-blowing. I have found something that is going to challenge our very constitution here, whether our government has the right to make the laws – such as the Covid [sic].”

“Whether they’ve got the right to have the police come into our homes. The information I have got is, as far as I can see, really sound. I feel with all honesty… what I need to do is lay out to… the public, this evidence.”

Wilson said she’s sent this “evidence” in the mail to 100 people, so it doesn’t get lost. At 4pm today, she’s going to be at an undisclosed location to discuss it. She will be announcing the location on her Facebook page, at 4pm.

“I want a really calm, peaceful, loving explanation of the evidence I have,” she said. “I would love for this information to go viral, newspapers [and] reporters will not touch this information.”

Wilson said she’s putting herself at risk by disclosing this information, saying that a hitman has this week been targeting Public Party leader Billy Te Kahika.

“I’m not a lawyer,” Wilson said, before proceeding to talk about the law. “I’m worried that this government does not have the jurisdiction to call a general election,” she said, in the same video announcing her candidacy for the upcoming general election.

11.25am: What’s this – ANOTHER new magazine?!

We’ve gone from a magazine drought to a magazine flood, with another new title heading to shelves from the end of the month.

NZME’s lifestyle publication Viva will soon be produced as a “stand-alone glossy magazine.” Editor in chief Amanda Linnell said: “Viva has always been at the forefront of change – leading the cultural conversation and exploring how we express ourselves through fashion, art, food and design.

“New Zealand is in an incredibly unique place globally, with a freedom and ability to revisit and reinvent who we are, where we are going. VIVA Volume 1 is a magazine for people who are looking to the future and want to be part of the social discourse that will drive and inspire change.”

NZME said the magazine will fill a “gap in the New Zealand market” following the closure of a number of brands during the lockdown. While a number, like The Listener, have made a comeback – other lifestyle magazines like NEXT and Fashion Quarterly are still being assessed.

10.35am: David Seymour jumps aboard big bus with his face on it

In true election fashion, buses are back in fashion with MPs from across the political divide. NZ First’s Winston Peters is touring the country for his “Back Your Future” bus tour.

Today, it’s the Act Party’s turn – with the similarly-named “Change Your Future” tour kicking off in David Seymour’s Epsom electorate. The bus will be making its way down the country, with stops from Whangārei through to Bluff.

“New Zealanders from all walks of life are turning to Act as we focus on the real issues facing our country,” Seymour said. “Voters are tired of the old red-blue duopoly, the dirty politics and the mud-slinging.”

The Spinoff will (hopefully) be jumping on the Seymour bus later this week – stay tuned for live bus tour coverage.

10.25am: Collins takes calls on ZB, says she could have stopped Covid-19

Answering questions from callers on Newstalk ZB, Judith Collins explained that National had a social services delivery policy on the way. “I can tell you that we are committed to social investment and we have a very good policy on that coming out soon,” she said.

“I think we learned a lot from the Whānau Ora programmes.

“I just hope the Māori Party get in and I hope they realise that the Māori Party and Māori generally did well under a National-led government.”

She criticised the current government for its “inability to give credit where it’s due”, and went on to explain that Labour’s flexi-wage expansion program is eerily similar to an old National policy. “The Labour Party’s now picked up a policy we put out in 2012,” she said. “Which was about giving people who are unemployed an opportunity through employment by allowing an employer to get the dole.” She doubted this approach would work the same in 2020.

A caller told Collins she was frustrated that National had said the current government handled the Covid-19 crisis well, and felt National would have done a better job. “It’s hard to disagree with you in any way,” said Collins. “We could have stopped Covid-19 coming in the first place.”

Warned by host Kerre McIvor that she might be coming across as churlish, Collins acknowledged New Zealand had handled the crisis relatively well. “Ultimately, people feel New Zealand has not suffered the same way other countries have,” she said. “The issue is, what do we do next?” In Collins’ view, what comes next should be investment in business and the economy, but she would not “just borrow huge amounts of money and spray it all around.”

8.10am: Brownlee still ‘puzzled’ by warnings of second wave

National’s deputy leader is still confused about why the government is warning people to be prepared for a second wave of Covid-19. Last week, he asked the government to “come clean” about what they knew about a resurgence of the virus. He later said advice for having a face mask at home “came out of the blue.” Today, he’s told Newstalk ZB it’s “puzzling” that the government continues to warn people to be prepared for another wave.

Last week, Victoria went into lockdown after a second wave of Covid-19 caused thousands of infections. More than five million cases have now been confirmed in the United States. The number of cases worldwide is nearing 20 million. New Zealand has just 1,569 confirmed cases.

“People have made a big effort on this and they expect to get all the relative freedom,” Brownlee said this morning.

8.00am: No Labour-Greens deal in Auckland Central

The Labour Party won’t be making a deal with the Greens to help Auckland Central’s Chloe Swarbrick wins the seat. That’s despite the Greens teetering perilously close to falling out of parliament entirely, based on recent polling.

Swarbrick is going up against Labour’s Helen White in the seat, with National yet to announce who will be replacing their candidate – the seat’s holder Nikki Kaye. In 2017, White was just 1500 votes behind Kaye. Jacinda Ardern told RNZ this morning her party hasn’t done deals in the past, and won’t be starting now.

“We take running in seats very seriously; we want to make sure we give Labour voters and supporters that choice to vote for their candidate on the ground,” Ardern said.

Similarly, Ardern said there won’t be a deal in Northland to help New Zealand First’s Shane Jones.

Meanwhile, Swarbrick told RNZ she doesn’t want a deal to help her win the seat. She said if she’s going to win, she’s “going to win this the old-fashioned way.”

“I live here and I am working really hard to do my best to bring Green representation to [Auckland Central].”

No polling has been done by the Greens in Auckland Central, Swarbrick said, because the polling companies they’ve called have “exclusive contracts with the larger parties.” But, she’s still intending to poll before the election.

7.45am: PGF bankrolling city-based racecourse

Another week, another story about the provincial growth fund. Today, RNZ’s de facto NZ First reporter Guyon Espiner is reporting that the PGF is bankrolling a horse-racing track in the middle of Christchurch. That’s despite officials saying the $10.5 million project doesn’t meet the fund’s criteria – namely, because it’s not provincial.

Racing Minister and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters announced in May that the all-weather track in Riccarton would be funded, along with another track in Manawatu’s Awapuni.

Documents obtained by RNZ show the Provincial Development Unit (PDU), which administers the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), opposed paying for the synthetic tracks, saying the fund was for projects in the regions not urban centres.

But despite the opposition, the minister in charge of the PGF, NZ First’s Shane Jones, and Labour Ministers Phil Twyford, Grant Robertson and David Parker, approved the funding.

Read the full investigation here

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The Labour Party has held a rally at the Auckland Town Hall to launch their campaign. Toby Manhire was there, and it was clear from Jacinda Ardern’s speech that she intended to run on the record of Covid-19, and other such crises over the term. According to the piece, it was a simultaneously more confident, and more muted event compared to the party’s 2017 launch.

National now has a list to take into the election. The NZ Herald’s Amelia Wade has taken a useful look through who is up and who is down, and there will be a lot of MPs or highly touted candidates who (on current polling) will have no choice but to win their constituency. One surprise rise in the list is profiled by Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva – 26th placed chartered accountant Nancy Lu. Among the big falls is list MP Alfred Ngaro, who last year flirted with the idea of setting up a breakaway party of his own – he’s likely going to have to beat Phil Twyford in Te Atatu to remain in parliament.

Meanwhile, the party has picked a new candidate to run in the Rangitata electorate, in place of disgraced MP Andrew Falloon. The winner of the nominations is Environment Canterbury councillor Megan Hands, who has a background in farming and environmental management. The Timaru Herald reports that one reason she has for standing is to see more mothers in parliament. There’s still no word on a candidate to run in Nikki Kaye’s old seat of Auckland Central.

7.00am: Yesterday’s headlines

New Zealand hit a milestone of 100 days without any community spread of Covid-19.

The Green Party launched its housing policy, with a scaling up of Kāinga Ora’s building programme at its core.

A poll for Q+A put Shane Jones at a distant third in the race for Northland, putting the New Zealand First’s hopes of returning to parliament in even greater peril.

Michael Baker called for a day of mass mask wearing in New Zealand.

Catch up with yesterday’s happenings here.



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