Live updates, May 12: Māori Party co-leader kicked out of ‘racist’ debate after interrupting 

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 12, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

Top stories:

4.55pm: Long queues prompt pause to walk-ins at two Auckland vaccination centres

Walk-in vaccinations have been paused at two Auckland Covid-19 vaccination centres due to overwhelming demand, the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) has announced.

The Mt Wellington and Highbrook centres began trialling walk-ins last week and demand has been high. Now, due to “increasing concerns about traffic flow and lengthy queues”, the trial has been paused.

“We acknowledge that there have been some issues around queues and traffic congestion at these sites and we do apologise to anyone who has had issues being vaccinated over the last week,” said NRHCC vaccination programme lead Matt Hannant in a statement.

“This is the most significant logistical exercise ever undertaken by the health sector in New Zealand and we’re continuing to take learnings from our operations every day. We want this to be an easy process for people and our teams are working incredibly hard to try to make this happen.”

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Two of the stars of the new series Creamerie remember the first time they saw Asian representation on New Zealand TV, their earliest acting experiences and more in the latest episode of FIRST.

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2.40pm: Waititi kicked out of ‘racist’ debate after interrupting

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi has been kicked out of parliament after interrupting a debate he felt was “racist”.

Judith Collins was facing off with prime minister Jacinda Ardern about the He Puapua report – the controversial report which outlines a plan to realise the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples in New Zealand – when the stoush erupted.

Waititi’s co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer was first to object to Collins’ questions, asking Ardern: “Can you please give your view on whether the leader of the opposition’s continued attack on Māori is racist?”

Speaker Trevor Mallard said that question was out of line, and the debate continued. Then, Waititi offered a point of order: “Over the past two weeks there has been racist propaganda and rhetoric towards tangata whenua,” Waititi said to Mallard. “That not only is insulting to tangata whenua, but diminishes the mana of this house.”

Waititi’s concerns were rejected and Mallard “warned” him about continuing to make the same point of order. Once again, Waititi rose to speak and said that he objected to the “barrage of insults to tangata whenua” in the house.

“Indigenous views cannot be determined by those who are not indigenous,” said Waititi. At this point, David Seymour (who is of Ngāpuhi descent) could be seen shaking his head.

Eventually, Waititi’s microphone was switched off and Mallard asked him to leave the house for continuing to protest. As he left, Waititi performed a haka while Ngarewa-Packer stood alongside him.

Watch the full exchange here

2.00pm: Man who broke alert level four rules has conviction quashed

A man who breached lockdown rules during alert level four last year has his conviction quashed.

45-year-old Fraser Wright Maddigan was charged by police after being stopped several times for using his car during the lockdown. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty in the Invercargill District Court and said he had been obeying all Covid-19 restrictions while self-isolating in his car.

According to Stuff, Maddigan had left his Christchurch home due to “fraught circumstances” and took all necessary Covid-19 precautions while in his car.

Maddigan’s conviction was quashed after Justice Nation decided by a “narrow margin” that a miscarriage of justice would be committed if Maddigan was sentenced.

1.00pm: Vaccine roll-out on track to hit half a million doses

Updated

The Covid-19 vaccine roll-out remains ahead of schedule, Chris Hipkins has revealed at a media briefing this afternoon.

As of midnight last night, 388,877 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have been given out nationwide – 83,000 of those over the last week.

120,000 people are now fully vaccinated, having received both required doses. Yesterday alone, 14,000 doses were given out nationwide and last Friday saw more than 16,000, said Hipkins.

“We are expecting to hit the half million mark in the next fortnight,” Hipkins added.

Overall, the vaccine roll-out is 7% ahead of schedule – but some DHBs are even further ahead. Mid-central is sitting 66% ahead, Nelson-Marlborough is up by 53% and Bay of Plenty by 46%. In contrast, Northland is well behind, having hit just 74% of its target

Following a question from The Spinoff’s Justin Giovannetti, Hipkins acknowledged that the vaccine roll-out in some DHBs may need to be slowed down if it continues to be well ahead of schedule. However, he said that he’d rather more vaccines were being given out than less.

Hipkins reminded anyone in group four – the final group in the vaccine roll-out – to avoid simply “walking up” to vaccine clinics at the moment. This may cause people who are at risk to miss out on their booked appointment.

Meanwhile, there are no new community Covid-19 cases in New Zealand with one in managed isolation. There are now just 22 active cases, Ashley Bloomfield said.

Addressing the new Melbourne case, Bloomfield said that the risk to the public in New Zealand is “low” and quarantine-free travel across the Tasman can continue.

“From what we know so far — based on information from Victoria health authorities — the case is linked to the Australian border, and there is a limited period where the person was considered infectious while in the community in Melbourne with a modest number of locations of interest,” a ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

“Our contact tracing team will be contacting by email roughly 4,500 passengers by who recently travelled from Victoria to New Zealand to remind them of the above measures.”

12.50pm: Watch – Bloomfield, Hipkins to front Covid-19 update

The director general of health Ashley Bloomfield will join Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins for a Covid-19 media briefing this afternoon.

The pair will likely discuss developments in Melbourne since a new case was discovered yesterday, along with providing the regular vaccine update.

Watch below:

11.55am: Labour accused of avoiding Covid scrutiny

The government’s being accused of avoiding scrutiny around its Covid-19 response plan.

Both Act and National have sent out press releases to the media today after government MPs rejected a proposal to have weekly Covid briefings during the health select committee.

Previously, the opposition has requested the return of the epidemic response committee – but this has also been turned down by the government.

“The government argued we didn’t need the epidemic response committee because we had select committees but now it doesn’t want to discuss Covid there either,” said David Seymour. “The health select committee’s refusal to have regular constructive debates about our response to Covid-19 is an indictment of this government.”

National’s Chris Bishop agreed, accusing the government of blocking Covid scrutiny. “Labour even voted against hearing from Dr [Ashley] Bloomfield and MIQ officials next week. It is unclear when the committee will next hear from senior officials who are at the heart of our response,” he said.

Alongside National and Act, the Greens also backed the proposal for regular Covid briefings.

11.25am: Trans-Tasman bubble intact after Melbourne Covid scare

The Ministry of Health isn’t recommending any changes to the trans-Tasman bubble following the discovery of a new Covid-19 case in Melbourne.

The new case, announced yesterday, tested positive on Monday after returning to Melbourne from South Australia where they had been in managed isolation.

According to the ministry, the number of locations of interest in Australia is low as the individual spent a relatively short amount of time in the community while infectious.

“Individuals in Australia who were at a location of interest at the specified times are required to follow Victoria’s health advice regarding isolation and testing,” a ministry spokesperson said. “Anyone who has been at a location of interest cannot travel to New Zealand from Australia within 14 days of exposure.”

A further update – along with the latest vaccine data – will be provided by Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield at a 1pm press conference.

10.15am: Pre-budget funding boost for early childhood education

The government is investing a further $170 million into early childhood, aiming to close the pay gap between early childhood and kindergarten workers.

The funding builds on $151 million provided in last year’s budget and will be delivered over four years.

“Pay parity for education and care teachers is a manifesto commitment for Labour and is reflected in the government’s Early Learning Action Plan,” said education minister Chris Hipkins. “It addresses the obvious pay gap between teachers in early education, child care centres and their equivalents in kindergartens.”

From the start of July, the minimum salary for qualified and certificated early childhood teachers moves from $49,862 to $51,358 per annum. “It’s only fair that teachers with the same qualifications carrying out the same work get paid equally,” Hipkins said.

“These changes will address difficulties with recruitment and reduce turnover in education and care services as fewer teachers leave for higher pay elsewhere.”

Funding has also been set aside to work with kōhanga reo to improve pay, he added.

In addition, another set of higher funding rates will be made available from the start of next year – if services agree to pay teachers in line with the first six pay bands of the same collective agreement kindergarten teachers belong to. “Such a change would benefit teachers earning from around $50,000 to around $65,000, with some getting increases of as much as 17%,” Hipkins said.

“We have an unequivocal expectation on centres receiving this funding that it is all passed onto teachers.”

8.05am: Claims of police bias ‘denigrate’ work of officers – Collins

Judith Collins does not believe that there is systemic racism in the police.

The National Party leader has responded to the government’s new “firearm prohibition orders” proposal. The policy, which will make it an offence for certain people to own or even be around firearms, is backed in principle by the opposition – but Collins said it doesn’t go far enough.

“[The government] saying that they would allow a court to declare a firearm prohibition orders after a gang member or violent offender has committed a serious violent offence. It’s a bit late, like shutting the gate after the bull has got out,” she told RNZ.

Asked whether she thought it was reasonable for the Māori Party to be cautious about the new policy due to a lack of trust in the police, Collins said it was not. “I absolutely trust the New Zealand Police and I certainly trust them more than gang members,” she said. “When we talk about gangs, people tend to forget that some of the more prolific gangs when it comes to methamphetamine – say the Hell’s Angels or the Headhunters – are predominantly Pakeha.”

She added: “The Māori Party are very clear that they don’t trust the police, well I do trust the police. I’ve been the minister of police for four years and I do not see the systemic racism that it’s easy to throw around, I’ve never seen it.”

Collins said she does not believe a police review into unconscious bias is necessary and it would not be happening under a National government. “When I was the minister of police, the trust and confidence in police was at astronomical levels,” she said. “For people to say that there is systemic racism completely denigrates the hard-working men and women of New Zealand police and I’m going to stand up for law and order and for them any day over patched gang members who commit awful offences in this country, many of them against women and children,” Collins said.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Well, I think now we can all agree that it is no longer a pay freeze. The government has effectively given several concessions to unions, after a series of meetings that took place yesterday. Now again, as with much of this story, that wording is not how the government would characterise it, but I stand by it as an accurate reporting of what has actually happened.

So what were the concessions? Our political editor Justin Giovannetti filed the following to our live updates:

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 [public services minister Chris] 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.

A couple of other interesting things to read on this all: Business Desk’s (paywalled) Pattrick Smellie has gone into what the changes might mean for upcoming collective bargaining and pay negotiations. Stuff’s Dileepa Fonseka analyses why the government appears to be encouraging the public workforce in the direction of becoming contractors, rather than employees. And Duncan Greive plays some 5-dimensional chess to try and figure out what the master plan behind the policy was.

Meanwhile, in other government corrections: The health ministry has apologised to the minister and the public for giving incorrect information on a stripped down mental health report. Stuff’s Henry Cooke reports that information was then incorrectly repeated by health minister Andrew Little in parliament – Little subsequently corrected the record.

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