Live updates, May 11: Another zero Covid case day – but new case threatens trans-Tasman bubble

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 11, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

4.40pm: PM signals change to pay restrictions, says more workers could move to automatic raises instead

The government’s plan to freeze pay increases for most of the public sector over the next three years seems to be thawing a week after it was announced.

After a meeting with the Public Service Association today, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said she would be keen to see more public servants move onto step-based contracts that provide automatic raises. Any pay freeze wouldn’t apply there.

The pay guidance from public services minister Chris Hipkins that is at the centre of the ongoing issue will now be reviewed next year as well, the Council of Trade Unions said in a statement after meeting the minister. It’s unclear whether that means the pay freeze on people earning more than $100,000 could be lifted as early as next year.

The CTU said Hipkins was also willing to discuss adding automatic cost of living increases to all members covered by collective agreements.

In a statement, Hipkins denied that his position had changed from last week, but then said that he would review his guidance next year and was open to discussing the automatic increase.

Under the minister’s guidance, public servants paid more than $60,000 will see their pay effectively frozen for the next three years, except for those with contracts receiving step-based increases or with annual cost of living increases.

Adding both of those automatic increases to all workers would be a significant change to contracts that would greatly lessen the impact of the government’s announcement last week.

In a sign of what the government has to gain from concessions, CTU president Richard Wagstaff said “there is no pay freeze” in a statement, backing up the government’s position that the issue had been “misreported” in the media.

3.30pm: Melbourne Covid-19 case latest to threaten travel bubble

There’s a new community case of Covid-19 in Melbourne, health officials have confirmed.

The man, according to TVNZ, quarantined in South Australia after returning back into the country from abroad. He then returned to his home in Wollert in Melbourne a week ago before developing Covid symptoms on Saturday.

Since being tested yesterday he has been confirmed as a positive case.

The man is isolating at home and urgent tests are being ordered to confirm the result.

It’s too early to know what locations the man visited but contact tracers have been interviewing him today.

3.20pm: Australia’s budget to ‘secure economic recovery’ – Treasurer

It’s Australian budget day, with “record commitments” being teased for essential services, disability support, mental health, aged care and women’s safety.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said today’s budget would secure Australia’s economic recovery in the aftermath of Covid-19. “Australia’s strong position today is not the result of luck,” he said. “Australia makes its own luck.”

One economist told Australian media that the “winners list” from the budget will be huge.

“First home buyers, single parents, older superannuation members, something additional in there for women, more infrastructure spending, home builders, people needing childcare. The list is going to go on and on, people needing childcare and so on,” said AMP’s Shane Oliver.

Media across the Tasman are currently in their “budget lock-up”, meaning no reporting is able to be done. The full details of the federal budget will be revealed later today.

Meanwhile here in New Zealand, Grant Robertson has this week teased a “balanced” budget following a year of Covid-19 spending.

2.50pm: Lab that tested NZ sunscreens falsified results, committed fraud

A US lab that tested sunscreen products sold in New Zealand has been found guilty of falsifying results and defrauding customers of millions of dollars.

AMA Laboratories has been used by many manufacturers to justify the SPF claims for sunscreens sold in New Zealand. A number of these products have been found to have inaccurate SPF information.

“With all the attention on this issue, it isn’t reasonable for a manufacturer to maintain that an AMA Lab report is good evidence its product provides the protection claimed on the label. Consumers have been deceived,” said Consumer NZ chief Jon Duffy.

AMA Lab owner Gabriel Letizia has since been found to have defrauded customers of more than $63 million and is facing up to seven years behind bars.

Duffy said any manufacturer that’s relied on reports from AMA Labs should urgently retest its products. In the latest Consumer test, products by Ecosol, Natural Instinct and Sukin used results from AMA.

On The Spinoff

Here’s just a taster of what’s available on The Spinoff this afternoon:

  • The Masked Singer is the latest in a long line of shows drawing on our increasingly shallow pool of celebrities. Sam Brooks asks how long it will be before our well runs dry?
  • A decision on who should represent Auckland Council on the government’s light rail project board has sparked debate about whether Phil Goff is doing enough to ensure gender equality in the ranks. Justin Latif reports.
  • One morning in 1978, a University of Auckland law lecturer walked into the police station and made a confession. His crime? Stealing a ballpoint pen from his employer. The final episode of The Single Object is available now.

1.15pm: Government to face more questions on pay freeze

The government is set to face another round of grilling on the pay freeze that is not a pay freeze in question time this afternoon.

Jan Logie from the Green Party will ask minister Chris Hipkins: “How is suppressing the wage increases of nurses, teachers, and border workers who earn between $60,000 and $100,000 in order to ‘control the public wage bill’ going to ‘reduce inequality’?”

Meanwhile, both Judith Collins and David Seymour will be asking Jacinda Ardern whether she stands by all her previous statements – a tactic that will allow them to subsequently question the PM on any topic.

1.00pm: Another zero case day

For the second day in a row, there are no new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand in either the community or managed isolation.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases detected at the border is three. Two previously reported cases have now recovered, taking the total number of active cases in New Zealand down to 24.

Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,287. A previously reported historical case has now been reclassified as “not a case” by the Ministry of Health and removed from the total tally.

Meanwhile, travellers who have arrived in New Zealand from Sydney and were at a location of interest during the exposure time are being reminded to immediately self-isolate, and call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 for advice on when they should be tested.

“As restrictions remain in place around greater Sydney, travellers to greater Sydney are advised to be careful when travelling and safeguard themselves, by wearing a facemask and maintaining physical distance wherever they go,” a ministry spokesperson said.

11.00am: Toi Tū Toi Ora proves massive success for Auckland Art Gallery

Toi Tū Toi Ora – a contemporary Māori art exhibition – was the most attended at the Auckland Art Gallery since 1989.

The largest in the gallery’s history, Toi Tū Toi Ora took over all floors of the inner city gallery and displayed more than 300 artworks by 110 Māori artists. Before its closing, more than 140,000 people walked through.

In our review, The Spinoff’s Leonie Hayden said: “Lacking the vocabulary to describe art in terms that the art-literate would deem adequate, I can only tell you how these works made me feel. Proud. Sad, at times, thinking about the number of artists who weren’t given the same spotlight or accolades as their peers at the height of their careers. Surprised at how broad the expression of Māoritanga can be. Overwhelmed with gratitude to artists for teaching us about ourselves, and to [ex-curator] Borell for fighting for the show.”

According to the Herald, 51% of people who came to see the exhibition were first timers to the gallery, 6000 were students (double the normal average), and Māori visitation was up from 4% to 15%.

10.00am: ‘We have never used the phrase pay freeze’ – Government continue to reject media reporting

The Public Service Association is set to meet with Jacinda Ardern today following a week of staunch opposition to the government’s announced three-year pay freeze.

Except, as detailed by our political editor Justin Giovannetti this morning, the government is now hitting back at media reports that there is even a “freeze” at all.

Speaking on RNZ, public services minister Chris Hipkins defended the government’s messaging. “There’s a lot of things lost in translation – some of the coverage I’ve seen of it is simply factually incorrect,” Hipkins said. “Certainly communication could have been better but I don’t think the government is completely to blame for that. We have never used the phrase pay freeze.”

8.30am: Gangs and guns targeted under proposed new law

It will soon be illegal for “high risk people” to own – or even be around – firearms, the government has announced.

The “firearms prohibition orders” are in response to gun crime and gang activity, and will make it a criminal offence for certain people to be access, own or even be in the same house as a gun.

Police minister Poto Williams said it’s about keeping people safe from gangs and gun crime. “It is a privilege, not a right, to own or use a gun in this country and we need to take that ability out of the hands of people who pose a threat to our communities,” she said. “This government is very clear that violent gangs and other criminals cannot continue to threaten, intimidate, and exploit our communities.”

Alongside this, the law will be amended to introduce a new power enabling seizure of assets of those associated with organised crime, where the person’s known legitimate income is likely to have been insufficient to acquire the asset. 

Justice minister Kris Faafoi said that change will hit criminals in their pockets. “This new organised crime power will help prevent those involved in organised crime from benefitting from crime and remove the primary reason for organised crime to exist – the profits they can make from vulnerable New Zealanders,” Faafoi said.

“Those involved in organised crime, including those who launder their money, would have to demonstrate their assets were obtained legitimately.”

Both new laws are set to be introduced later in the year.

8.00am: 42yo man arrested after Dunedin stabbing, charged with attempted murder

Following on from the top story in The Bulletin: a 42-year-old man has been arrested after a stabbing in a central Dunedin Countdown yesterday afternoon.

The suspect has, according to Newshub, received four charges of attempted murder.

Four people were stabbed at the Cumberland Street store shortly before 3pm yesterday afternoon. At this stage, there is no indication the incident was more than just a random attack. Police have ruled out any links to terrorism.

Two of the victims were staff members, and another was a bystander who attempted to stop the attacker.

The condition of the victim at this stage is said to be stable, although three received critical injuries in the attack. The suspect was also initially treated in hospital but was moved to the Dunedin central police station last night.

“Three of the injured are now described as in a serious but stable condition. A fourth person is in a moderate condition,” a spokesperson said.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

What is as yet believed to be a random stabbing attack has taken place in Dunedin. Details are still emerging about what happened – and more importantly why – but the initial reports from yesterday are that four people are in hospital with stab injuries, after the rampage in a supermarket. Two of the people in hospital are supermarket staff. These kinds of attacks are highly unusual in New Zealand, and at her afternoon press conference yesterday, the PM was quick to outline that there was no evidence to suggest it was a terrorist attack.

The response of ordinary people on the scene may have prevented more from being injured. The ODT reports comments from police that paint a picture of what happened before officers arrived. “What I can say is those who intervened, some of who became injured themselves, I think have acted selflessly and with great courage to prevent this man from harming anybody else,” said Southern District Commander Superintendent Paul Basham. Stuff spoke to a witness who described people stepping in with bottles, and even a chair, in an attempt to slow the man down.

The alleged attacker will appear in court today. He is likely to be charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm at a minimum, reports the ODT. He also reportedly sustained a minor injury during the incident. There have been suggestions reported on Radio NZ this morning that he may have been having a “psychotic episode” of some sort, but as previously said, a motive has not yet been established.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here




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