Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 19, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
5.00pm: Did a National MP drop an f bomb in parliament?
National MP Nicola Willis has been ordered from the house by speaker Trevor Mallard after appearing to utter a swear word on the floor. As Mallard spoke during Question Time this afternoon, a loud interjection from Willis prompted him to immediately order her out. To many who’ve listened to the recording, Willis appears to exclaim “Oh for fuck’s…”. However Willis adamantly denies the charge:
I know what I said: “Oh Come on”.
— Nicola Willis (@NicolaWillisMP) May 19, 2021
So did she say it or not? You be the judge:
I said “Oh Come On”. I have just spoken with the Speaker who backs me up: he says he heard me say “Oh come on”. I was booted out for the interruption. The Speaker was just a couple of metres from me when I said it.
— Nicola Willis (@NicolaWillisMP) May 19, 2021
3.25pm: Trump Organisation facing criminal inquiry
The organisation owned by former US president Donald Trump is facing a new criminal inquiry.
“We have informed the Trump Organisation that our investigation into the organisation is no longer purely civil in nature,” said a spokesperson for the New York attorney general. “We are now actively investigating the Trump Organisation in a criminal capacity, along with the Manhattan DA.”
The investigation was first launched in a purely civil capacity 2019 while Donald Trump was still president. While the ex-president is yet to respond to the new announcement, he has previously slammed the investigation and called it politically motivated.
A new episode of FIRST
It’s Wednesday which means a brand new episode of FIRST. Today, Liam Finn tells us about the time he accidentally harshed the buzz of a 90s alt rock icon, becoming a dad and more.
2.30pm: Wastewater testing reveals further ‘weak positive’ Covid-19 result
Further testing of wastewater in Wellington has revealed “weak positive” results for Covid-19 in Porirua and Karori.
Testing took place over the weekend and on Monday around the Wellington region, with the positive result coming from samples collected on Sunday alone. The results were negative on the other two days.
Samples were also collected from Moa Point and the Hutt Valley but these all returned negative results.
The testing followed a previous weak positive result detected last week. Additional samples were collected yesterday and the results of these will be revealed on Thursday.
The Ministry of Health said there is no risk of infection from Covid-19 in wastewater and still believe the cause of the initial weak positive was due to recently recovered cases continuing to shed the virus.
“However, this is a timely reminder to anyone with symptoms consistent with Covid-19, especially if they are in the Wellington region or have visited recently, to stay at home and promptly call Healthline about getting a test,” a spokesperson said.
2.20pm: Vaccine roll-out still running ahead of schedule
The vaccine roll-out remains just a nudge ahead of schedule, according to the latest Ministry of Health data.
8% more vaccine doses have been given out than planned for, with several DHB areas running at more than 150% of the schedule.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins today said his main concern with the vaccine roll-out was that it could run too far above schedule and then need to be slowed down to meet vaccine stocks.
As of yesterday, 321, 502 people have received the first dose of the vaccine and 152, 933 have received both and are therefore fully vaccinated.
Despite the roll-out operating as planned, just 6.43% of the population has so far received one dose – and New Zealand is ranked 112th in the world.
1.50pm: Real estate agent reprimanded for anti-vax messaging
A real estate agent has been reprimanded by her employer Harcourts after sharing anti-vaccination propaganda in her weekly property newsletter.
The Spinoff has been provided with several email newsletters sent by the agent that include links to discredited news sources and raise concerns around the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine. In one, from February, the agent shares links to a website that references conspiracy theory “the great reset”. More recently, the agent shared a video that suggests the Covid-19 vaccine will cause death.
While the newsletters are not distributed by Harcourts, they carry the company’s branding throughout.
After a Spinoff reader raised their concerns with Harcourts directly, a representative for the real estate firm said they had informed the agent to cease referencing the vaccine in her newsletter.
“I have spoken with [the agent] and discussed that this is not a message we agree with and shouldn’t be distributed in her newsletters,” a Harcourts representative said.
“She has agreed that she will make no further comments regarding the vaccine in her future newsletters. We apologize for any concern caused.”
1.05pm: No new community Covid-19 cases
There are no new Covid-19 cases in the community with six announced in managed isolation.
The case reported in a recent returnee in managed isolation yesterday as historical has been reclassified as not a case.
The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 25. Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,302.
Meanwhile, an update on wastewater testing in Wellington will be released this afternoon after a “weak positive” Covid-19 result was detected over the weekend.
1.00pm: Vaccine roll-out will cost $1.4b over two years
The total cost of the government’s vaccine roll-out has been confirmed, with $1.4 billion being invested to ensure all New Zealanders can get their Covid-19 jab for free.
Making the announcement, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said more than $1 billion of that funding had been allocated for purchasing vaccines and specialist equipment. “$964.3 million is for manufacturer advance purchase agreements and the COVAX facility to support equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. $66.3 million is for specialist vaccine equipment, including purchase of syringes and related vaccine storage facilities and transport,” he said.
“The remaining $356.9 million has been allocated for technology to support the roll-out, funding for DHBs, ongoing support for Medsafe, and to stand up community immunisation centres.”
On top of the $1.4 billion, another $30 million has gone into vaccine research and $75 million will help support Pacific and global access to the vaccine.
“We’re closely monitoring the programme to ensure it’s as effective and efficient as it can be and so we can prepare to support annual immunisation programmes in future to maintain the ground we have gained,” Hipkins said.
11.50am: ‘Team of five million’ has to take some responsibility if vaccine roll-out drags on – Hipkins
The Covid-19 response minister has once again been forced to defend the government’s vaccine roll-out in the face of concerns it won’t meet its target.
Chris Hipkins has previously said all New Zealanders will be vaccinated by the end of the year. But a damning report from the auditor-general, released yesterday, questioned whether that could be achieved.
Hipkins today, speaking to Newshub, addressed the approach taken by the auditor-general.
“I think the auditor-general has engaged in a new type of approach to audits – which is to audit something before it’s happened, rather than after it’s happened,” Hipkins said.
He said that if the vaccine roll-out dragged into 2022, it would be because of people missing appointments or failing to book in.
“If we find that people aren’t coming forward and we have to go out and chase people, that’s one of the things that will slow this down,” the minister said. “Every one of us in the team of five million has a role to make sure this is successful. That means when you make an appointment, show up to your appointment. When you book in for the follow-up vaccine three weeks later, make sure you show up for that one too.”
The biggest hurdle at this stage was getting enough vaccines into the country as the government ultimately cannot control international shipping delays.
11.20am: No plans for purpose-built MIQ facility – report
Tomorrow’s budget is tipped not to include funding for a purpose-built managed isolation facility.
Health experts and the opposition have called for such a facility in order to move possible Covid-positive individuals out of our biggest cities. It would also mean that the chance of the virus spreading within the facility could be lessened.
According to the Herald, today’s pre-budget announcement by Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins will not include money for a facility but will include up to $2 billion of Covid-related spending.
10.30am: Major overhaul of electoral law recommended in new report
Radical changes to the electoral system are being recommended by the body that manages it.
As Stuff reports, the Electoral Commission has urged the government to reduce the party vote threshold to needed to get a seat in parliament to 4% and scrap the coat tail rule that has previously secured seats for MPs like David Seymour.
The overhaul would possibly lead to a more diverse parliament and see parties like the New Conservatives and TOP gain a spot in parliament.
The recommendations were made in a review of last year’s election – but it’s not the first time the commission has made this call. A similar review in 2012 led to the same recommendation.
“The commission considers that the 2012 review of MMP recommendations would improve New Zealand’s voting system and again recommends that they be considered by parliament,” the commission said.
9.20am: NZ nurse who cared for Boris Johnson quits job over pay
The New Zealand nurse who looked after UK prime minister Boris Johnson while he was in intensive care with Covid-19 has quit the NHS and criticised Johnson’s government.
Jenny McGee, from Invercargill, was invited to Downing Street personally by Johnson last year after he publicly praised her following his stint in hospital.
Now, she has left her role in the UK and is planning a trip home to New Zealand. She told Channel 4 that NHS nurses were not getting the pay they deserve.
“We have put ourselves on the line and we have worked so incredibly hard, and there’s a lot of talk about how we’re all heroes and all that sort of stuff,” she said.
“We’re not getting the respect and now pay that we deserve. I’m just sick of it. So I’ve handed in my resignation.”
In a statement, Downing Street said: “Our NHS staff have gone above and beyond over the past year and this government will do everything in our power to support them.”
While Johnson has not specifically responded to McGee’s comments, Labour leader Keir Starmer said they were a “devastating indictment of Boris Johnson’s approach to the people who put their lives on the line for him and our whole country”.
8.30am: National opposes Greens’ motion on Palestinian statehood
The National Party will not support a motion by the Greens to “recognise and support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and statehood through a two-state solution”.
Announced yesterday, the Green Party said they would seek leave to table the motion in parliament today.
National’s foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said the party’s position had consistently been in favour of the two state system.
“Despite the failure of talks over many years to achieve this, we are firmly of the view that it is the best solution to the extraordinary violence that has for a long time and currently is afflicting both Israelis and Arabs on the two sides of the argument,” said Brownlee.
“It is our position that the two sides need to desist from the current violent engagement and get back to the table on talks that could lead to this two state solution that with commitment from both could bring peace to both states.”
8.00am: Urgent law change needed to ensure legality of vaccine roll-out
New legislation is on the way to ensure that the government’s vaccine drive can continue.
A High Court decision questioned whether the entire population could be legally given the Covid-19 jab under the Medicines Act – the law used by health minister Andrew Little.
“The law has for some time now, lacked clarity over how it can be applied,” Little said last night.
“There are six products currently in use under section 23 [of the Act], including two types of contraceptives, two pandemic flu vaccines, the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and an electrolyte solution used in hospitals, potentially affected by the decision.”
A new bill to ensure the vaccine roll-out continued according to schedule will be introduced today, Little confirmed. “The Medicines Amendment Bill is expected to be passed under urgency [today] in order to protect New Zealanders early access to medicines when needed.”
Both National and Act have pledged support for the law change, although David Seymour told Stuff the courts were right to uphold the law.
The legal debacle is the latest in a recent string of issues potentially impacting the Covid-19 vaccine drive. Yesterday, as I reported in the live updates, a report by the auditor-general questioned whether the vaccine roll-out would be able to meet the end of the year deadline for population-wide vaccination. “I am not yet confident that all of the pieces will fall into place quickly enough for the immunisation programme to reach the level of vaccinations required for the government to meet its goals,” the auditor-general John Ryan said his report.
7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin
Something very wrong has happened to the computer systems at the Waikato DHB, and it’s not yet clear how long it will last. Yesterday what is believed to be a hacking attack was launched, taking down information systems from Hamilton down to Taumarunui. In terms of the effect, it has left hospital workers relying on a lot more paper copies of records than would normally be the case, and some patient services have been affected. The NZ Herald reports the National Cyber Security Centre has been called in, on the grounds that they monitor and defend against threats to organisations of national significance.
According to RNZ’s news this morning, patients are still waiting to hear when postponed services will go back to normal. Some procedures had to be cancelled at very short notice.
The local DHB boss has been adamant that no ransom will be paid, reports One News. There has been speculation that it might be a ransom attack. Chief executive Kevin Snee said police were currently trying to verify that, after a message was received. There has also been speculation that the attack is similar in nature to those that hit the NZX and other organisations last year. Radio NZ has a good explainer on what ransomware and ransom attacks involve.
Meanwhile in unrelated news (though it is a story about health system capacity) the Auditor General is concerned about vaccine rollout timeframes. Our live updates reports a number of recommendations have been made to ensure that all New Zealanders who want one can be vaccinated by the end of the year. In response, the health ministry said some of those recommendations had already been put in place. Both Dr Ashley Bloomfield and minister Chris Hipkins described the target as challenging but achievable.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is criticising the practice of locking asylum seekers up in prisons. Newshub’s Amelia Wade reports that people fleeing their countries have then found themselves double-bunked with prisoners who are violent and dangerous. Immigration NZ said most asylum seekers aren’t detained – and those who are is because of questions around their identity. But Tim Maurice from the Asylum Seekers Support Trust said that doesn’t make sense as a policy, because in some cases the only way asylum seekers will be able to get to safety in New Zealand is on false documents.
Meanwhile, the Chief Ombudsman is criticising Corrections for not making improvements to prisoner welfare, despite many calls for them to do so, reports Radio NZ. Ombudsman staff regularly make surprise visits to prisons, but the recommendations haven’t gained much traction – Peter Boshier said this is in contrast to other, more proactive government departments. “I want to find out why problems continue to exist across the whole prison network and how the department is genuinely taking action to address these,” said Boshier in announcing a new investigation into Corrections.
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