Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee lead out the National caucus after their selections as leader and deputy. (Photo by Robert Kitchin-Pool/Getty Images)

Live updates, July 15: Collins replaces Woodhouse with Reti, urges ‘stop being so jolly woke’

Hello, my name is Stewart Sowman-Lund and I’m the new editor of The Spinoff’s Live Updates. Thank you for having a read. If you have any feedback, please get in touch with me at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz.

7.30pm: The day in sum

New National leader Judith Collins gave more than a dozen media interviews across her first day in the job.

Her deputy Gerry Brownlee said the National Party wouldn’t cave on the issue of diversity, while Collins rebuked the “woke”.

National health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse was stripped of the role, with Shane Reti being promoted to the front bench.

Jacinda Ardern outlined a new plan should Covid-19 leak through the border and into the community.

Two new cases of Covid-19 were reported in managed isolation, health minister Chris Hipkins announced.

Regional lockdowns could be on the cards if Covid-19 spreads outside of our quarantine facilities.

Mike Hosking apologised to John Tamihere over defamatory remarks made in 2018.

7.00pm: ‘Stop being so jolly woke’ – Judith Collins

Judith Collins has completed another round of broadcast interviews, this time on drivetime. She told Ryan Bridge on Magic Talk that “people should stop being so jolly woke” on calls for diversity.

A similar choice of language cropped up when Bridge relayed that Ardern had said she had paid little attention to the change in the National leadership. “If Jacinda Ardern hasn’t noticed that I’m here and leader of the National Party maybe she should stop being quite so woke and wake up a bit,” she said.

Speaking to Lisa Owen on Checkpoint, Collins said it was likely the party would “shuffle to the right … on some things”, but “I wouldn’t get too caught up in the left and the right.” She promised “a big announcement this Friday”.

In the meantime, Collins is expected to detail a limited reshuffle tomorrow at 10.30am.

6.10pm: NZ’s new Covid-19 outbreak plan

The Spinoff’s political editor Justin Giovannetti this morning watched Jacinda Ardern return to the Beehive after a short break to announce a strategy for responding to Covid-19 community spread in New Zealand, should it occur, as it has overseas. It also offered a hint of how she intends to go into the election campaign: governing as long as possible

“New Zealand now has a plan to respond to an outbreak of the virus beyond the border. It takes the government’s mantra, ‘go hard, go early’ and intensifies it. This is now much harder, and much earlier,” writes Justin.

“Lockdowns will be thrown around any community transmission found in the country. If caught early, the lockdowns could be localised to a neighbourhood. Otherwise, entire cities or regions could be cut off. If that fails, the country as a whole could return to level four.”

Read the piece here.

5.50pm: Winston Peters on Judith Collins

Speaking on The Country earlier today, said that while there was some mutual respect between him and Collins, in part owing to their legal backgrounds, her task was tougher than she might imagine.

“It’s one thing to change the leader, it’s a whole lot different to change the trend and all the margins in between,” said the deputy prime minister and NZ First leader.

“I’m not here to give you a political science lecture but let me tell you this. Nothing has changed in the context from just five or six weeks ago. I can recall them all walking out of the National Party leadership caucus decision all cheering, all going on TV and all the media saying this is fantastic. You see what I mean? That’s how you think this morning. But you won’t think that tomorrow morning, next week or the week after that. So let’s not all get carried away here”.

He later said, with a trademark verve that suggests he is unhampered by the surgery he recently undertook: “I’ve come 27 long years being put down by the journalists and by the pollsters and by these shyster and schemesters and we’ve survived and we’re not going down now because these merchants of deceit think they can push some poll that says New Zealand First’s is not coming back.”

5.05pm: Auckland quarantine hotel evacuated

People in quarantine at Rydges Hotel on Federal St in central Auckland were evacuated this afternoon after an alarm was activated, Newshub is reporting. After the hotel was evacuated around 3.30pm guests were forced to wait outside on the street, only being allowed to return inside after it was established it was a false alarm.

Rydges Hotel accommodates returning travellers who show symptoms of Covid-19 at the border, or test positive after arrival.

3:05pm: Michael Woodhouse loses National health spokesperson role

Judith Collins has unveiled a minor portfolio rejig, less than a day after replacing Todd Muller in the party’s top job. She’s confirmed that Michael Woodhouse has lost his role as health spokesperson for the party, following last week’s scandals involving the disclosure of Covid-19 patient information. Dr Shane Reti has taken over the portfolio, and been promoted to National’s front bench.

Collins said Woodhouse is a “stand-out person” and has given him two new portfolios. He’ll pick up Pike River recovery and regional economic development. He will keep associate finance and will remain deputy leader of the House. But Collins said Woodhouse made an “error” in not passing on the fact he received the private Covid-19 information last week to the health minister, and made those views clear to him today. She said the reason for stripping him of the portfolio wasn’t a matter of trust, but rather she wanted to move on from the saga.

“I have no doubt that Michael will not make that mistake again.”

Collins said she’ll be making a further announcement on the ranking of her MPs tomorrow.

Reporters also took the opportunity to press Collins on a range of subjects relating to the ongoing pandemic. When asked about the Covid tracer app – that the government has asked people to continue using while we’re at level one – Collins said she last “tried” to use it about two weeks ago but had trouble making it work. That’s despite her being, “generally on to apps and things.” She claimed that if she’s struggling to use it, a lot of people probably are. Collins might have a point here, with less than 600,000 people having signed up to the app, according to latest ministry of health figures.

She also said, somehow related to a possible travel bubble with the Cook Islands, the following iconic line: “If life was fair, I’d be five foot 10 and a gorgeous Slovakian model.”

Wouldn’t we all, Judith.

2.55pm: Judith Collins about to address media

National’s new leader Judith Collins will be speaking to media at parliament at 3pm. She’s expected to reveal details of a minor portfolio reshuffle.

2.15: Mike Hosking apologises to John Tamihere

Newstalk ZB’s breakfast host Mike Hosking has today apologised to Māori Party co-leader John Tamihere, as explained in this piece on The Spinoff by Leonie Hayden. 

Hosking (full name Michael Noel James Hosking IV) was apologising for defamatory comments made in 2018. The comments relate to a $600,000 private shareholder payment from Whānau Ora contractor, Te Pou Matakana, to its major shareholder, the National Urban Māori Authority. Tamihere is the CEO of NUMA foundation member, Te Whānau O Waipareira.

Tamihere told RNZ the settlement payment will help fund the Māori Party’s election campaign. He said he had offered to resolve the dispute with Hosking “the Kiwi way” with an apology over a beer – but had to take it to court to clear his name.

1.45pm: Today’s data, charted

1.25pm: Covid case numbers surge in Victoria

The Australian state of Victoria is continuing to be the country’s Covid-19 epicentre. The state has recorded its tenth consecutive triple-digit daily increase in cases, rising by 238 on Wednesday. Victoria’s death toll has also risen by one, with a woman in her 90s dying overnight. The total number of deaths in the state now sits at 27. Meanwhile, more than 100 people remain in hospital.

Meanwhile, there are questions around whether or not a second lockdown will actually be effective. Maximilian de Courten, Bojana Klepac Pogrmilovic and Rosemary V Calder of Victoria University, Melbourne have written about the parts of the world going back into lockdown in this piece for The Spinoff. 

1.00pm: Two new cases of Covid-19, both in quarantine

New Zealand has two new cases of Covid-19. That brings the number of active cases – all in quarantine – up to 27. There is still no evidence of community transmission, with the last case without a known link being recorded 75 days ago.

The total number of confirmed and probable cases on our shores has now risen to 1,547.

Ashley Bloomfield said the first new case is a man in his 60s, who arrived in New Zealand on July 10 from Pakistan via Dubai. He is staying at the Sudima Hotel in Rotorua and tested positive around day three of his time in managed isolation.  

The second case today is a woman in her 50s who also arrived on July 10 from Dublin, via Dubai. She is also at the Sudima Hotel in Rotorua and tested positive around day three  of her time in managed isolation.

Ministry of health updates testing guidelines

The updated advice clarifies for health professionals which lower-risk symptomatic people should be tested in the community.

The ministry said the emphasis will be on “people with respiratory symptoms who are at higher risk of complications if they contract Covid-19, including older people with respiratory symptoms, people with pre-existing conditions, and people in our Māori and Pasifika communities.”

On the Covid tracer app

Chris Hipkins said there will soon be more promotion of the government’s Covid tracer app. Just short of 600,000 New Zealanders have signed up to the app – or about an eighth of the population.

Hipkins wouldn’t call the app “doomed” when pushed by a reporter, saying it’s getting better all the time. He said he’s hoping to make the QR code posters – seen at the entrance of many businesses – more widely available, and is waiting for advice on just how to do that.

“The all of government group are putting advice together on how we can improve uptake…I’m not in a position to make announcements today.”

“We’re not dilly-dallying about this.”

12.45pm: Chris Hipkins and Ashley Bloomfield to update Covid numbers

Health minister Chris Hipkins will be joined by the director-general of health at 1pm to provide an update on new Covid-19 cases. You can watch live on the stream below.

12.20pm: Brownlee says National’s moved on from Orewa speech

New National deputy leader Gerry Brownlee told RNZ’s Midday Report his party will be balancing the need for diversity, with the need for an experienced team.

He told the programme, “it’s very interesting when people call out for diversity but at the same time demand confidence, and sometimes balancing the two isn’t easy.”

“Judith will do a sensible job in putting forward great capability onto our front bench, mindful of the fact that it has to be as reflective as it possibly can of New Zealand society,” he said.

Long time MP Brownlee was Maori-affairs spokesman at the time Don Brash delivered his controversial Orewa speech. He said the National Party has moved on from the sentiments expressed at that time.

Meanwhile, new leader Judith Collins told Newshub she won’t be thinking about diversity when she tweaks her line-up. 

12.00pm: What can Judith Collins learn from her opponent?

Judith Collins has just 66 days to prove to New Zealand that she should be the next prime minister. But Jacinda Ardern only had 56. Clint Smith, who was senior communications strategist under Andrew Little and Jacinda Ardern, has written a piece for The Spinoff about what lessons Collins can learn from the Labour Party’s dramatic leader swap before the 2017 election.

11.30am: State sector gets clean energy boost

The government’s offered up clean energy support to the state sector.

The University of Canterbury, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand Defence Force, Inland Revenue, and MidCentral and Lakes District Health Boards will receive support from the clean-powered public service fund.

“The projects will reduce state sector carbon emissions by an estimated 14,730 tonnes annually and help lower New Zealand’s dependence on fossil fuel,” climate change minister James Shaw said. “That’s the equivalent of taking more than 6,000 petrol vehicles off the road.” 

The six projects mark the second round of money from the fund, which Shaw said is an important part of the government’s plan to tackle climate change.

11.05am: David Seymour says Labour ‘governing by fear’

The leader of Act has criticised the government for a lack of progress on developing a travel bubble. The prime minister today said there still wasn’t a timeline on getting some international travel back up and running, despite the Cook Islands’ government being keen to push ahead. Now, one-man opposition party Act has hit out, with David Seymour saying the government needs to make progress on letting New Zealanders travel around the Pacific.

In a post on social media, Seymour said until the election, “the government will govern for the Labour Party, taking zero risks, and keeping New Zealanders in a state of fear.” Seymour says the Cook Islands need our tourism dollars, and the government could even make the trip “a domestic flight.”

10.00am: PM reveals next steps in Covid recovery

Jacinda Ardern is delivering a speech from parliament on next steps in Covid-19 response and recovery. She explained how the country could enter regional lockdowns if the virus reappears on our shores.

This from political editor Justin Giovannetti.

Every place in the world that has eliminated community spread of Covid-19 has seen it return, prime minister Jacinda Ardern cautioned this morning. In a speech where she unveiled the country’s plan to fight a reemergence of the virus, she called the Australian state of Victoria “a cautionary tale for New Zealand.” Melbourne has now gone into lockdown for over a month as cases have exploded, only weeks after the virus seemed under control.

Much of Melbourne’s outbreak has been linked to the state’s managed-isolation facilities.” The virus can spread and it can move from being under control to out of control, and that even the best plans still carry risk in a pandemic,” said Ardern, speaking at the Beehive. Even the best trained and best equipped staff face a high risk of picking up the virus at one of New Zealand’s border facilities, the prime minister warned.

In the case the virus reappears in the community, New Zealand will implement regional lockdowns. National lockdowns, like the last bout of level three and four, will be kept as a last resort. Calling this the “stamp it out approach,” Ardern said people need to continue keeping diaries or using apps, while washing their hands. She said people need to ask themselves this question every time they go out: “if I come into contact with Covid today, how will I know, and how will others know”.

As for lockdowns, the country will shut things down on different scales, from neighbourhood to suburb, town, city, region, and if needed, country. The prime minister warned that once a case is detected beyond the border, the lockdowns will come swiftly.

9.25am: Judith Collins reckons she can unify the National Party

New National Party leader Judith Collins was first up on RNZ’s Nine to Noon programme this morning, reiterating her claim that she’s the right person to unify a divided opposition.

“Everybody knows me, everybody knows [deputy leader] Gerry Brownlee, and everyone knows that we have experience and competency.”

The new leader focused on her and Brownlee’s experience in a crisis, citing the Christchurch earthquakes and Pike River Mine Disaster which occurred while they were in John Key’s government. Collins said the way these crises were managed demonstrated they were up for the job of dealing with what’s to come following the Covid-19 pandemic.

On how to counter the prime minister’s popularity, Collins said she was different from Jacinda Ardern – and offered up some praise.

“[Ardern] is one of the most excellent communicators that I have seen in my time in politics, but communication is not execution.”

But Collins thinks the track record of her team is what sets National aside from the current government – despite the fact her finance and health spokesmen, Paul Goldsmith and Michael Woodhouse, haven’t held those positions in government before.

Collins said there would be some portfolios to shuffle, saying keeping her own four would be difficult when she needs to be all over the country as party leader. 

And you can read more about Judith Collins on The Spinoff, with a piece by Ben Thomas right here.

9.00am: Government unveils funding boost for recycling

The government has announced a $124 million investment in recycling infrastructure, as part of a plan to reduce the amount of waste ending up in our landfills. The funding boost was unveiled this morning by associate environment minister Eugenie Sage at the Green Gorilla waste service provider in Auckland. Sage said the funding, “will include plastic recycling and reprocessing plants, weighbridges for improved waste data collection and improved material and community resource recovery plants.”

There’s also plans to increase and expand the waste levy, which could increase the cost of weekly council kerbside rubbish bag by about 25 cents, depending on individual council decisions. Sage said the proposed increases will have a minimal impact on family budgeting.

“Expanding the levy will help recognise the real costs of waste, make it fairer for everyone, and incentivise materials reuse and recycling, rather than just ‘taking it to the tip’.”

8.00am: Judith Collins gives first interviews as new National leader

Judith Collins has done the media rounds this morning, giving us a first look at her priorities and style as leader. In her first interview, on the AM Show, Collins said it was “the right time” for her to take over as leader. But she was coy when pressed on what actually went on behind the scenes last night, saying “I like to think that everybody voted for me…we’re not discussing what happened in the caucus room.”

And she wouldn’t disclose whether there were any other contenders for the leadership, refusing to address reports Mark Mitchell also threw himself in the ring. “I emerged from the caucus room, along with Gerry [Brownlee]. I think it’s important that, as a caucus, we are one team.” At last night’s press conference, Collins also made a point of unifying her caucus, and it looks as though it will remain one of the key priorities for her first few weeks in charge of the party.

But there’s one person who didn’t make an appearance last night and who has remained silent throughout this whole saga – Todd Muller. Appearing on Newstalk ZB, Collins told Mike Yardley she hadn’t spoken directly to Muller – who she replaced as leader – but claimed he was pleased about her taking on the job.

“I have heard from one of his close friends that he and his wife were delighted with the results yesterday.”

However, it looks like there would still be a role for Muller in a Collins-led government. She told the AM Show a role would be available for the former leader, with ousted deputy Nikki Kaye set to remain in the education portfolio.

On RNZ, Collins hinted at a potential reshuffle following a week of scandals for the National Party. She wouldn’t confirm whether her party’s health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse would retain that portfolio following the disclosure of Covid-19 patient details. Collins told Morning Report she’d be talking to him today, “and then I’ll be making a call.”

7.35am: Updates from today’s edition of The Bulletin

If you didn’t pay attention to the news yesterday from about 7.15am onwards, there’s a bit to catch up on. The big story is this: Todd Muller handed in his resignation as National leader, and after an emergency late night caucus meeting was replaced by MP for Papakura Judith Collins. Her deputy will be Gerry Brownlee, with the caucus deciding to elect two of their most experienced MPs to the top jobs, after a few wild months of internal strife. The day of drama was captured in our live blog.

Collins fronted a press conference immediately after the vote, and was flanked by pretty much the entire National caucus. Was that a tacit nod to the need to urgently unify the party? “The common goal is to get rid of the current government,” said Collins, stressing the economy as a focus. She said she would “not let Jacinda Ardern get away with any nonsense”. She also said she wouldn’t underestimate Ardern, describing the PM as “an adversary I would absolutely respect, but our party is better than her party and we’re going to take it back.” On the surface, it sets up a more competitive election than it otherwise might have been. And as Justin Giovannetti writes, there was immediately a sense that the opposition under Collins will be much tougher (and some would say meaner) than they were under Muller.

Is the National Party actually willing to get behind Collins? We know that there’s a lot of bad blood in that room, and it would be pointless to pretend otherwise. Politik reports there was a contest over both two top jobs, with Mark Mitchell having a go at the leadership, and Paul Goldsmith having a crack at deputy. Nikki Kaye is understood to have not even bothered trying to hold onto that job. The contest itself isn’t necessarily a good sign for National – as former Labour strategist Clint Smith writes, one of the key factors in the Jacinda Ardern ‘miracle’ in 2017 was that she inherited a united caucus, and was elected unopposed.

What about how the government and the Labour party itself sees Collins? Commentator Ben Thomas argues they’re in serious danger of under-estimating her. “Just as National MPs have consistently under-rated Ardern, seeing her as a naif out of her depth despite the obvious proof to the contrary, Labour tends to take a one-dimensional view of Collins that is not widely shared by the electorate.”

There was a good point made by Newshub’s political editor Tova O’Brien last night, during her channel’s rolling slog through the evening. She noted that the electorate would have to choose between two leaders they colloquially know as ‘Judith’ and ‘Jacinda’. It’s a very rare thing for politicians to have the force of personality to be on a first name basis with the public – think Winston, for example. For better or worse, Judith Collins resonates. And as former parliamentary staffer Josh Van Veen wrote on the Democracy Project, Collins is similar to Ardern in that she connects with the public on a much deeper level than policy, or even ideology.

And yet, Collins also comes into the top job after a career filled with scandal. Out of every MP discussed in the 2014 book Dirty Politics, she was by far the closest to the ruthless attack bloggers at the heart of the book, and an enthusiastic participant in their hit jobs. There was the Oravida scandal – you can go back and read a timeline of that on Newshub here – which involved some seriously dodgy looking dinners and donations. On a less damaging but still politically pertinent level, Collins was also involved in matters like the awarding of the contract for Mt Eden Prison to private prison operator Serco, which ended terribly. She considered crossing the floor to vote against the otherwise bi-partisan Zero Carbon bill. There was the long war with retired Canadian judge Ian Binnie over compensation for David Bain. Her polarising image isn’t for nothing – there is some very real meat on the bones there.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

6.45am: Judith Collins, National leader

Shortly before 10pm last night, Judith Collins was declared the new leader of the National Party, with long-serving MP Gerry Brownlee elected her deputy. All of the action from a big day in New Zealand politics that began with Todd Muller resigning the role after just 53 days is recapped here. Our political editor Justin Giovannetti watched the action from parliament. Read his report here.

6.30am: Yesterday’s key stories

Todd Muller announced his resignation as leader of the National Party after just 53 days in the role, citing health reasons.

National Party MPs assembled in Wellington for an emergency caucus meeting to vote for a new leader, 67 days out from the general election.

Judith Collins was elected leader, with Gerry Brownlee her deputy.

One new case of Covid-19 was reported in managed isolation, health minister Chris Hipkins announced. The woman in her 60s, who arrived from Pakistan, tested positive on her day 12 test after testing negative at day three.

The Cook Islands deputy prime minister said they hoped to be able to announce a travel bubble with new Zealand next week. Prime minister Jacinda Ardern, however, said that “any speculation at this stage would be very premature.”

Read yesterday’s live updates here



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