Live updates, October 29: Labour-Green deal coming Sunday; six new imported Covid-19 cases

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for October 29. All the latest New Zealand news, updated throughout the day. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.30pm: The day in sum

There were six new imported Covid-19 cases.

A group of top epidemiologists suggested New Zealand’s MIQ system could become more flexible, with arrivals from lower-risk countries allowed to spend half their quarantine stay at home.

The Green Party said the results of its negotiations with Labour would be announced on Sunday.

A post-election poll suggested euthanasia is on track to be legalised.

The ‘on the ground’ trial of the Covid Card technology got under way in Rotorua.

5.45pm: Air New Zealand to cut almost 400 more jobs

Air NZ has announced it is cutting another 385 cabin crew roles, reports the NZ Herald. The airline has announced almost 4400 job losses this year, a result of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The roles that are being cut were on the airline’s international 777 and 787 fleets, which have now laid off 85% of their cabin crew.

Air New Zealand has received almost $150m in wage and freight subsidies since the start of the pandemic.

The airline reported an underlying loss of $87 million for the 2020 financial year, compared to earnings of $387m in 2019.

3.20pm: Post-election poll shows euthanasia set to be legalised

A poll commissioned by the Act Party and conducted after the election has revealed the End of Life Choice Act is on track to become law.

Under our electoral laws, exit polling is illegal – however as this poll was conducted after the election it is within the rules, despite the outcome being revealed before the preliminary results from voters.

The poll showed 61% of New Zealanders said they voted “yes” in the binding referendum, with 29% against and 10% unsure or refused to say.

Preliminary results for both referendums will be released at 2pm tomorrow, with finalised results a week later. You can read more about when we’ll know the official results here.

2.00pm: Labour-Green deal to be revealed on Sunday

To editorial staff at The Spinoff, tomorrow remains “Super Friday” (with referendum results being released at 2pm and Labour-Green negotiations drawing to a close). However, Marama Davidson and James Shaw have just told media they don’t expect to publicly reveal the outcome of discussions until Sunday.

Political editor Justin Giovannetti reports from parliament:

The shape of New Zealand’s next government will be announced Sunday, according to Green co-leader Marama Davidson.

Negotiations between the party and Labour are expected to finish by the end of Friday.

About 150 delegates representing the Green Party’s membership will then look at the deal Saturday and vote on it. The public will be shown the deal and the results Sunday.

If the Green delegates reject the deal, the party will sit in opposition and Labour will govern completely alone.

Today’s talks, like the previous three sessions, lasted about 90 minutes and were described as “constructive” by a grinning James Shaw.

The two co-leaders offered little about what was discussed. “We had to talk about the things we hadn’t concluded yesterday, basically,” said Shaw, carefully choosing words that mean absolutely nothing.

There’s been reporting that Shaw and Davidson have been offered ministerial portfolios as part of a loose confidence agreement between the two parties, but neither of the co-leaders have confirmed anything.

“We’ve put every effort into getting a deal we hope is worth putting to members,” said Davidson. “It’s not solely up to James and I. We’ve had really careful considerations of all of the things our party needs”.

1.35pm: Greens expected to address media… soon?

A pack of press gallery reporters are anxiously waiting for any sign of Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson. The pair were expected to address media earlier this afternoon, and there’s no known reason for the delay.

The Greens have said they expect to be able to announce a deal with Labour tomorrow which they can then present to their members.

While we wait for the co-leaders to speak, let’s enjoy some Twitter content from parliamentary reporters slowly losing the will to live.

1.00pm: Six new imported cases of Covid-19

There are six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, the Ministry of Health has announced. There are no new community cases.

All six cases were identified during routine testing around day three of their stay in managed isolation. One person arrived from the Netherlands via Singapore on October 23, and four people arrived from India the next day. The ministry is continuing to seek details of the sixth person’s arrival.

Two previously reported cases are now considered to have recovered, bringing the total number of active cases to 70. The total number of confirmed cases is now 1,593.

Yesterday, 7,403 tests were completed, bringing the total number of tests to date to 1,083,230.

The crew of the cargo ship Ken Rei were all tested for Covid-19 again yesterday, with all returning a second negative test result. The ship will today depart Napier and head for Tauranga.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health continues to work with its Japanese counterparts regarding a New Zealand child who returned a weak positive Covid-19 test after their arrival in Japan last Friday.

The ministry still suspects this is a historical case or a false positive result, and will provide further details when they are available.

The Covid Tracer app recorded 808,250 poster scans over the last 24 hours. “It is encouraging to see the uptick in scans continue following the long weekend,” a ministry spokesperson said. A further 29,605 manual diary entries were created over the same period.

“The better our habits are in alert level one, the more likely we will be able to stay here without the restrictions of higher levels.”

There are now 2,332,300 users registered on the app.

11.55am: ‘On the ground’ Covid Card trial under way in Rotorua

Up to 1500 people in the Rotorua suburb of Ngongotahā will be involved in the first “on the ground” trial of the bluetooth-enabled Covid Card.

The trial will involve participants wearing the card for a week and then providing feedback on their experience.

The purpose of the trial is to understand how a contact tracing card works in a real-world scenario, whether it is compatible with New Zealand’s contact tracing systems, and if people will accept and use them.

The minister for government digital services, Kris Faafoi said the trial will provide important help for the government to decide whether to role out the card as a contact tracing option.

“On behalf of government, I acknowledge the commitment of the Ngongotahā community and local leaders to deliver this trial,” Faafoi said.

Ngongotahā was selected for the trial as it is large enough to have a number of marae, a school, a Four Square, a cafe, pubs and community facilities – but small enough that the trial will involve a significant proportion of the population. Around 40% of the population is Māori, and the geography is compact.

The Covid Card trial is under way (Photo : Supplied)

10.25am: A Labour-Green deal – What we know so far

We’re expecting a further update from the Greens early this afternoon about how negotiations with Labour are progressing, with a view to seeing a finalised deal released as early as tomorrow.

Newshub has already revealed that a formal coalition is off the table, but it’s possible Labour will want to keep its former confidence and supply partner close in the next government.

According to RNZ, James Shaw will retain a portfolio, as climate change minister outside of cabinet. It’s also being reported Marama Davidson will be offered a ministerial position, although it’s not yet known what portfolio she’ll take. Neither co-leader would comment on these speculative reports.

In 2017, it took about a month for a deal to be finalised – but that included the complicating factor of New Zealand First being in the position of queenmaker.

If just Shaw and Davidson are offered ministerial roles, that would mean the demotion of Eugenie Sage and Julie Anne Genter. David Williams, for Newsroom, writes that if Sage has her portfolio taken away, it would be because she has shown a willingness to “rock the boat” over the past term of government.

At this stage, we’ll likely find out some (but maybe not all) of the details tomorrow, when the Labour-Green deal will be presented to Green Party members. It will require 75% support before getting finalised.

As always, we’ll have all the latest on the ongoing negotiations right here as soon as anything comes to hand.

The day ahead

What’s on the agenda?

1pm: The Ministry of Health will provide the latest Covid-19 update

The Greens will likely provide a further update on their negotiations with Labour. An announcement could come as soon as tomorrow.

National leader Judith Collins is continuing to meet with her party’s MPs one-on-one.

9.15am: New government urged to keep Te Tiriti promises

The chief human rights commissioner is calling on the incoming government to keep its human rights and Te Tiriti promises. But it’s a move which has caused the ire of one political party – with Act’s David Seymour lashing out the Commission, calling it a “hard-left organisation”.

In a statement released this morning, chief commissioner Paul Hunt said now is time for the government to “take these commitments seriously” and do everything in its power to deliver for everyone.

“Human rights place responsibilities on governments. They also place responsibilities on individuals to embrace diversity, support vibrant communities and not be racist or homophobic.

“For many years, our governments have signed up to human rights and promised to deliver. Now we need them to honour human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” Hunt said.

The pledge forms part of the Commission’s d Ko Ō Tika, ko Tō Reo/Your Rights, Your Voice.

Seymour was unimpressed, labelling the Commission’s manifesto as “clear evidence that the organisation must be abolished”.

“The Commission is no longer interested in helping real people with actual human rights issues, but simply advancing a left-wing agenda,” he said.

8.10am: The trailer for Dawn Raid is out and looks incredible

Duncan Greive writes:

The trailer for the upcoming Dawn Raid records documentary emerged yesterday and already has over 15,000 views – showing the continuing cultural power of the label which, in its ambition and style, set the tone for the New Zealand hip hop explosion through the early-mid 00s.

Watching it today, the memories come flooding back – artists like Savage, Aaradhna, Adeaza and Mareko, the songs, the confidence, the sense of the young city of South Auckland finding its voice.

Directed by Oscar Kightley, it uses a mix of electric archive and reflective interviews to examine the trajectory the movement took – from early hits, to free-spending extravagance, to the enormous tax bills which came back to break it.

As a young music journalist, Dawn Raid was the best local storyline of the era – Savage was the first cover story I ever wrote – yet still, watching it back I feel like, as a Pākehā, I failed to clock just how significant it was.

That went for much of the media establishment at the time, which seemed more interested when the tax bill came due than when the hits were flowing.

This documentary looks like it will correct the historical record, and recall that summer when it helped like every car had Stop, Drop and Roll spilling out its windows and hyping the whole city.

7.45am: Experts propose flexible quarantine solution

A group of top epidemiologists are suggesting New Zealand’s quarantine system could become more flexible, in order to catch us up with other parts of the world.

Professor Nick Wilson from the University of Otago told RNZ it would be possible to allow people travelling from lower risk countries to spend half of their managed isolation time at home.

In addition, travel bans should be in place from areas of “uncontrolled spread” such as the US and India, while we could “stratify” countries with low risk such as Taiwan and Australia where people could have a “different type of quarantine”.

Digital technology would be used in order to ensure people remained at home, Wilson said.

Wilson said: “It’s time to learn from some of these other countries that are ahead in some of their tools.”

Asked whether it would be politically acceptable to block citizens returning home from countries like the US or the UK, Wilson said it should be seriously considered. “There’s a real case for this type of so-called right to be returned to be reviewed in extreme pandemic situations.”

Wilson said he was “shocked” to learn that maritime workers were being flown into the country with no testing, and it has showed our system is not state of the art. “This is a very infectious disease and we have done a great job in New Zealand, but we have had problems – we have had five cross-border incursions in the last three months.”

7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin

In the US, a particularly odd attack came from the show of Fox News host Laura Ingraham. In it, some guy from an organisation called the Hoover Institution “condemned New Zealand’s institution of coronavirus quarantine “camps” – mischaracterising the rules around testing requirements in managed isolation. The fellow said the policy made no sense, because New Zealand has had only 25 deaths from Covid, without ever actually making the connection between the extremely low death toll and such policies.

From the UK, a thought leader and former senior figure in the UK Independence Party described New Zealand as having a “fascist government”. As Newshub reports, this was also based on the testing requirements. Suzanne Evans followed up by likening the replies she was getting from New Zealanders to the enabling efforts of Germans in the leadup to the Nazi regime taking power. It’s not the first time such comparisons have come from Britain.

Much as we might like to think of ourselves as the centre of the universe, these interventions aren’t necessarily about New Zealand. Rather, they’re arguably more about the domestic politics of the country they’re coming from. The Fox News story was particularly notable in how it barely skated over New Zealand, before pivoting towards propaganda about the upcoming US election – raising the (misleading) spectre of something horrifying, and then asking if that is what Democrat candidate Joe Biden would put in place. In the UK, an intense battle is currently under way about how fiercely the country should respond to an alarming new wave of cases. A massive recession has arrived, despite the policies pursued there to date ostensibly being about protecting the economy.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here 

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

The Electoral Commission confirmed preliminary results of the two referendums will be released at 2pm on October 30.

Labour and the Greens spent another 90 minutes negotiating an agreement in the Beehive today, and say they hope to have reached one by Friday.

Health minister Chris Hipkins called for all arrivals into the country to be tested for Covid-19, including shipping crews.

Reserve Bank governor Adrian Orr suggested addressing the risks of climate change “requires broad transformational change”.

There were two new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and no new community cases.




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