Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 3. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
7.00pm: The day in sum
There were nine new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, four active and five historical.
The UK became the first Western nation to authorise a Covid-19 vaccine, with the rollout set to begin next week.
The IRD warned the government could miss out on on $1.5 billion of tax revenue by leaving the trust tax rate at 33 cents in the dollar, while raising the personal income tax rate to 39 cents.
A new government financial update showed, once again, that the economy is doing better than expected.
New Zealander Robert Martin was re-elected to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The highest number of new homes since 1974 was consented to in the year to October, Stats NZ revealed. Almost 38,000 new homes were given consents.
New police data revealed almost half of reported hate crimes are being downgraded from a criminal offence, to either “incidents” in which no crime was committed, or to lower level crimes.
2.45pm: National MP wants harsher penalties for killing police dogs
A National Party MP has called for a maximum five year prison sentence for killing a police dog – an increase from the current penalty of up to two years.
Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey has submitted a Members Bill on the matter, and wants the government to get behind it.
“Like many New Zealanders, I am outraged by the recent shooting of a police dog in the line of duty in Northland, leaving the police dog critically injured,” Doocey said.
“In countries and territories like the United States, Canada, and South Australia, the penalties for killing a police dog are between five and 10 years’ imprisonment.”
Doocey said the current law is too lenient, citing the $60,000 cost for training a police dog and the fact they are called out more than 40,000 times a year nationwide. “These dogs work hard and are valuable assets in fighting crime,” said Doocey.
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1.45pm: International Day of Persons with Disabilities; New Zealander reelected to UN committee
New Zealander Robert Martin has been re-elected to the UN’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with our foreign affairs minister praising the announcement.
In a statement, Nanaia Mahuta said Martin has been a lifetime advocate for persons with disabilities. “His experience brings a unique and crucial perspective to the Committee’s work,” Mahuta said. “New Zealand is grateful for the international support shown to Sir Robert in his successful bid.”
Martin’s re-election campaign had been backed by the government, with Mahuta saying it reflected a commitment to championing the rights of persons with disabilities.
Today marks the 28th United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, aiming to promote an understanding of disability issues.
1.00pm: Nine new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation
There are nine new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation in New Zealand today, the Ministry of Health has announced. There are no new community cases.
Of the nine new cases, four are active cases and five are historical cases.
Of the active cases:
- One arrived in New Zealand on November 29 from the United Kingdom. This person tested positive at day three routine testing and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility;
- Two cases who travelled together arrived in New Zealand on November 21 from Qatar. The ministry said further travel details for this pair are still to come. The duo tested positive at day 12 and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility; and
- One case arrived in New Zealand on November 30 from the United States. This person tested positive at day three routine testing and has been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
Of the historical cases:
- Two members of the Pakistan men’s cricket team we reported yesterday as “under investigation” tested positive at day six routine testing. These people are confirmed as having historical infections, and will be counted in our total as they have not been counted overseas;
- One case arrived in New Zealand on November 17 from Germany via Singapore. This person tested positive on day 12 testing. Further investigation indicates this is a historical case; and
- Two cases, who travelled independently, arrived in New Zealand on November 18 from the Netherlands via Singapore. These people tested positive on day 12 testing. Further investigation indicates they are both historical cases.
Eleven previously reported cases have now recovered, the ministry said, bringing our number of active cases to 70. The total number of confirmed cases is now 1,713.
Yesterday, laboratories processed 5,843 tests for Covid-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,291,609.
Pakistan men’s cricket team
The team is scheduled to have its routine day nine tests today. Decisions around exemptions from managed isolation requirements which would allow the team to train are still under consideration.
NZ Covid Tracer
The ministry’s Covid Tracer app now has 2,392,500 registered users. Poster scans have reached 131,834,302 and users have created 5,323,150 manual diary entries.
12.05pm: IRD warns new top tax rate could be avoided
The government is missing out on $1.5 billion of tax revenue by leaving the trust tax rate at 33 cents in the dollar, while raising the personal income tax rate to 39 cents.
The warning comes from the Inland Revenue, which has suggested the new top tax rate could be avoided due to the discrepancy with the trust rate.
“The benefits of the proposal will reduce to the extent that the 39% tax rate can be sidestepped by taxpayers, eg, by earning income through a trust,” the IRD said, according to Business Desk. “Therefore, options which reduce the scope for this behaviour will increase the benefits of the proposal.”
As a result, revenue minister David Parker has indicated that the trust tax rate could increase too. That’s despite a pre-election promise to leave the trust rate and to not introduce any further tax changes during this term of government.
11.30am: Deficit down again as economy recovers, New Zealanders spend more than forecast
Political editor Justin Giovannetti writes:
A new financial update from the New Zealand government shows, once again, that the economy is doing better than expected.
Revenues are up substantially from the pre-election forecast released in September, while the deficit is $8.8 billion, about $2 billion less than expected. That’s a big change in just over two months.
There have been a string of forecasts and updates from the treasury since the end of the first lockdown that have shown the economy bouncing back faster than expected while employment has avoided plunging anywhere near as far as once feared.
This update, for the quarter that ended October 31, showed that expenses were down, mostly because demand for the wage subsidy was $1.4 billion less than forecast. GST revenue into the government coffers was up significantly as New Zealanders spent more than expected.
“Overall, the government accounts are holding up well, which is a result of the government’s action to support the New Zealand economy through a once-in-a-lifetime economic shock,” finance minister Grant Robertson said in a statement.
The half-year economic and fiscal update will be released later in December, which hopefully, will be another report that says these numbers were still too conservative and New Zealanders once again defied expectations by spending more and hiring more.
11.10am: Highest number of new home consents in almost 50 years
The highest number of new homes since 1974 was consented to in the year to October, Stats NZ has revealed. Almost 38,000 new homes were given consents, bolstered by a surge in townhouses, flats and units.
It’s a 2.8% increase on the number of new homes consented to in the previous year.
“Annual new homes consented reached 37,000 late in 2019 and are now close to 38,000 for the first time in decades,” construction statistics manager Michael Heslop said.
10.30am: UK to rollout Covid-19 vaccine next week
There’s been some major developments out of the UK overnight in relation to a Covid-19 vaccine, with news it will be rolled out from next week (I know!).
As CNN reported, the UK become the first Western nation to authorise a Covid-19 vaccine.
A final analysis of the vaccine showed it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns.
What does this mean for New Zealand?
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins says New Zealand is under less pressure to rush regulatory approval for a Covid-19 vaccine than other countries are, due to the success we’ve had with eliminating the coronavirus.
Hipkins told RNZ that New Zealand is working “very quickly” to approve a vaccine, but countries that are still experiencing thousands of deaths daily are using their emergency provisions to fast track a treatment.
9.50am: Hipkins ‘very disappointed’ about university’s $5m house
The education minister has weighed into the issue of a $5 million property purchased by the University of Auckland for its vice chancellor, slamming it as a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The high end home was bought by the university late last year as a rental for the new vice-chancellor, Dawn Freshwater.
As the Herald reported, Chris Hipkins has criticised the purchase, saying he was “very disappointed” and universities taking taxpayer dollars needed to spend their cash “wisely”.
“The auditor-general has said this expenditure did not meet expectations on a number of levels, which is very disappointing,” Hipkins said.
The university said it accepted the findings of the auditor-general and had called in independent advisors to improve its processes around sensitive expenditure.
9.25am: Almost half of hate crimes wrongly downgraded by police
New police data has revealed just how many hate crimes are being downgraded from a criminal offence, to either “incidents” in which no crime was committed, or to lower level crimes.
According to RNZ, in New Zealand, hate crimes include racially motivated abuse, violence, threats or intimidation. But the new figures show that the majority of police staff do not know how to code them.
The report showed that 43% of hate crime complaints had been downgraded from what should be classed as a criminal offence. Just four out of 10 complaints are being dealt with properly, RNZ reported.
7.45am: Climate change emergency more than just virtue signalling, says Shaw
The climate change minister has rejected claims from Act and National that the government’s declaration of a climate emergency simply amounted to “virtue signalling”.
Parliament voted in favour of declaring the climate emergency yesterday, fulfilling a Labour Party election pledge.
James Shaw told RNZ it’s more than just a symbolic move: “there’s a whole work programme behind it and a reorganisation of the machinery of government from ministers right through agencies to deliver on our commitments,” he said.
Alongside the declaration itself, the government has declared that the public service will be carbon neutral by 2025.
According to Shaw, the public sector accounted for about 7% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
“That’s a reasonable chunk, it doesn’t solve the whole problem but it does solve a measurable and significant part,” he said.
“But really it’s about making sure we’ve got our own house in order. If we’re going to require this astonishing transformation of every aspect of our economy and society, it really is important that we pull finger and lead by example”, he said.
Where do other parties stand on the declaration of a climate change emergency?
As RNZ reported, both Act and National were strongly against yesterday’s declaration.
National’s climate change spokesperson Stuart Smith said it was simply a “symbolic gesture” and called it “virtue signalling”.
New MP Simon Court from the Act Party agreed: “It’s simply a triumph of politics over practical solutions,” he said. “Slogans over substance”.
The Māori Party backed the declaration, saying it was well overdue. But, co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the government could go further. “We need tangible policies that reflect the urgency of this emergency … and to ensure Aotearoa plays a leading role on the world stage in protecting papatūānuku and taking real climate action,” she said.
7.40am: Top stories from The Bulletin
The climate emergency has been declared, and has come with a set of new targets to boot. Yesterday after Question Time, parliament voted in favour of passing a motion declaring the climate emergency, which you can read in full here. The first sections of it are essentially about formally recognising the science of climate change, and the emissions reductions needed to limit warming. It also notes the public support for more climate action, highlights the effects if global action isn’t taken, and makes mentions of what the government has done so far.
But the key new detail of it is that the government is now committed to running carbon neutral operations by 2025. As opposed to other targets, this is concrete and in the relatively near future, and will be easier said than done. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder has looked at what will be necessary to get there, and significant actions in the programme include phasing out coal boilers, electrifying the vehicle fleet, and increasing the emission efficiency of buildings. As this grilling of climate change minister James Shaw by Heather du-Plessis Allen on Newstalk ZB showed, completion of that won’t be possible within the window of time, and that some emissions will be offset – this is a slightly concerning point, because offsetting is only a medium term solution compared to cuts.
What are interested groups saying? Academic Bronwyn Hayward wrote that it could provide a “badly needed reset moment” – to quote:
“New Zealand has lost momentum across all parties on climate action since the prime minister memorably declared it was her generation’s “nuclear-free moment” and launched a bold ban on new oil permits. Since then much of our action has lagged behind our rhetoric. So much so that last week it was revealed New Zealand had not yet been invited to a high ambition virtual summit to mark five years since the Paris Climate Agreement.”
If the declaration is backed up by urgency, what considerations should be taken into account? Three young climate activists have written about any such declaration needs to bring people with it, and not contribute to further marginalisation.
7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines
Parliament formally declared a climate emergency, and the government announced it would be going carbon neutral.
The auditor general issued a damning assessment of the University of Auckland purchase of a Parnell home for its vice chancellor.
There was one new case of Covid-19 in managed isolation, a member of the Pakistan cricket squad.
The Greens signalled they would abstain from voting for a bill that puts a new top tax rate in place.
Minister Phil Twyford is on leave for the foreseeable future, after his wife was diagnosed with cancer.
A new report from the Child Poverty Monitor revealed one in five children are living in income poverty.