Live updates, November 18: Royal commission completes March 15 inquiry; South Australia goes into lockdown

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for November 18. Reach me on stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

7.00pm: The day in sum

The state of South Australia was put into a strict lockdown for six days.

The royal commission of inquiry into the March 15 terrorist attacks finished.

There were three new cases of Covid-19, all detected in managed isolation.

The government said there had been an almost 50% jump in New Zealanders taking up apprenticeships, after they became free in July this year.

Climate change minister James Shaw said he wanted to see a new petrol and diesel car ban implemented.

The new tourism minister, Stuart Nash, said he wanted to target big-spending international tourists and essentially ban freedom campers.

6.10pm: South Australia put into strict six-day lockdown as Adelaide cluster grows

The state of South Australia is going into a major lockdown for six days, during which only one person per household will be allowed to leave the house each day, and only for specific purposes, reports ABC via RNZ.

From midnight tonight, for the next six days, all schools, pubs, cafes, takeaway food outlets, and the construction industry will close. Exercise will be banned outside the house.

South Australia premier Steven Marshall called the measures a necessary “circuit breaker” to allow for a contact tracing blitz on cases linked to the Parafield cluster. Four new cases were announced yesterday, and two today, in the rapidly growing cluster of 20-plus cases.

Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said the particular strain of the virus was breeding “very, very rapidly” with a short incubation period of about 24 hours, and with infected people showing only minimal symptoms.

Echoing New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, Marshall said, “We are going hard and we are going early. Time is of the essence.”

3.50pm: Royal commission completes inquiry into March 15 terrorist attack

The royal commission of inquiry into the terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques on March 15, 2019 has finished and a report will be released next week – though it’s not clear when, or if, it will be made public. 

The inquiry, which was established on April 8, 2019, conducted almost 400 meetings and interviews with a range of people and groups including survivors and witnesses to the attacks, as well as the likes of the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, former PM John Key, the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand, and author and investigative journalist Nicky Hager. The terrorist himself, who is serving a life sentence without parole, was also interviewed. 

The commission’s report will be presented to the governor-general next Thursday, November 26, and subsequently presented to the minister of internal affairs, Jan Tinetti. “Our report has been informed by months of gathering evidence, talking to community members and analysing submissions,” said Jacqui Caine, one of two members of the inquiry team, in a statement. 

“We want to thank everyone who interacted with the royal commission throughout the inquiry, providing vital information, insights and expertise,” said Sir William Young, the other commissioner on the inquiry team.

According to the statement, “the royal commission’s report has been written so that it can be published in full without the need for redaction to protect national security or privacy or confidentiality matters”, but it won’t be released to the public on November 26. “It is for the government to decide how and when to publicly release the royal commission’s report.”

1.55pm: Trump fires cybersecurity director who rejected voter fraud claims

President Trump is continuing to push back at the result of the US election, today firing the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Chris Krebs, who was appointed by the president, had recently rejected reports of voter fraud in the election.

There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised,” Krebs had said.

In a tweet this afternoon, Trump announced Krebs had been “terminated”, calling his statement on the election “highly inaccurate”.

1.10pm: Three new imported Covid-19 cases

There are three new cases of Covid-19 today, all in managed isolation, the Ministry of Health has announced.

No new cases have been detected in the community with no change to the existing cluster linked to a Defence Force worker.

Of the recent returnees who have tested positive for Covid-19:
–        One person arrived from the United Kingdom via Dubai on November 14; and
–        Two people arrived direct from Dubai, also on November 14.

All three people tested positive during routine testing around day three of their time in managed isolation.

There are now 64 active cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand and our total number of confirmed cases is now 1,652.

Yesterday our laboratories processed 8,392 tests for Covid-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,199,426.

November quarantine cluster

Auckland Regional Public Health Service continues to follow up contacts from existing cases that are part of November cluster, the ministry said, and no further positive results have come back from close contacts of known cases.

Residents at the accommodation facility that the New Zealand Defence Force is using in Auckland where Case A had been staying have all had a second test, and those have all come back negative.

The genome sequencing has shown that Cases A, B, D and E are all part of the same outbreak.  “We are still awaiting the sequencing from Case C, who is a close contact of Case B,” the ministry said. Epidemiological investigations continue as to how Case D was infected.

“Wide testing around these known cases allows us to have greater confidence that there are not possible undetected links in the chain of transmission, said a ministry spokesperson. “Laboratories in Auckland have received more than 22,000 tests from the community since Case D came to light on Thursday, all returning negative results except for Case E, who is a close contact of Case D.

“However, we continue to encourage anyone who visited a location of interest during the relevant time period to get tested – to ensure that we quickly identify anyone who may have been infected.”

12.15pm: Twitter launches ‘story’ feature that nobody asked for

In a move that literally (and I mean that with no hint of hyperbole) nobody wanted, social media giant Twitter has launched its own “story” feature, following in the footsteps of Facebook, Instagram and, yes, LinkedIn.

Called “fleeting”, users are now able to send photos, text or share tweets in posts that vanish after 24 hours.

At this stage, the feature is only available on mobile and it does not look like it’s reached New Zealand. But a post on Twitter by Twitter suggested it will reach the rest of the world shortly.

12.00pm: Spike in post-Covid apprenticeships, number of women more than doubles

The government is patting itself on the back over an almost 50% jump in New Zealanders taking up apprenticeships, after they became free in July this year.

Since then close to 14,000 apprentices have started an apprenticeship nationwide – up from 7,500 a year earlier.

Today, the government is launching a new campaign to raise the profile of vocational education and training (VET).

“The first phase of the VET marketing campaign includes social media influencer activity targeted at school leavers and learners under the age of 25, and radio announcer adlibs aimed at starting meaningful conversations about vocational education and training in the community,” Education minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.

“The second phase of the campaign, set to begin next month, will include TV, radio and social media ads, digital displays and online videos.”

Hipkins also said that the number of female apprentices has more than doubled over the past year, but still only represented 1,785 of the total. “It’s a welcome development to see more women going into these traditionally male-dominated industries. But I acknowledge that there’s still a long way to go,” Hipkins said.

11.30am: Climate change minister wants ban on imported petrol, diesel cars

James Shaw has started his second term as climate change minister with a hefty goal, saying he wants to see a new petrol and diesel car ban implemented.

The UK is planning a similar ban by 2030 – something Shaw is concerned will lead to a flood of imported vehicles arriving in New Zealand, unless a ban is enforced at the same time.

“Transport emissions are the one area where our emissions growth is uncontrolled,” Shaw told Stuff. “In every other sector, including agriculture, emissions are roughly stable and have been for some time – they’re high, much higher than they need to be, but at least they’ve been flat. But transport has just gone up and up and up because we fell in love with the Ford Ranger.”

However, Shaw admitted his goal of a ban might not get the support of cabinet. “I’ll be recommending that, but we have to warm people up,” he said.

10.20am: Dolly Parton helped fund successful Covid-19 trial

Country superstar Dolly Parton gave $1 million USD toward Covid-19 research, it’s been reported, helping to fund the development of the Moderna vaccine.

Showing 95% protection from the coronavirus, the Moderna vaccine is the second promising vaccine trial announced in recent weeks.

Parton donated the money to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center – a partner of Moderna. Stephen Hoge, the president of Moderna, told Sky News that through her financial support of Vanderbilt, Parton had indeed helped fund early research and clinical trials that led to the recent success.

9.20am: Tourism minister targets tourists that ‘shit in our waterways’; wants to attract ‘high value’ travellers

The new tourism minister Stuart Nash is setting his sights on big spending international tourists, as part of the post-Covid recovery. Backpackers, on the other hand, are in the firing line.

Speaking on RNZ this morning, Nash said there will be build-up demand for our country once the borders open, and the government will be hoping to attract “high value” tourists.

“There are a hell of a lot of discerning, wealthy travellers who are stuck in the Europe and the United States and parts of Asia who are looking across at our little country going ‘that is paradise’,” Nash said.

The government won’t be “means testing” tourists who want to travel to New Zealand, Nash said, but any advertising will not be targeted at backpackers.

“We don’t need to spend millions more, but we will be targeting high value tourists.”

Asked how he would stop backpackers from renting out a van and freedom camping, Nash suggested he would simply ban them. “I will ban the leasing or hiring out of vans to tourists that aren’t self-contained,” he said.

“I’m not saying that we close the borders to those who haven’t got a million dollars in their bank account, but what I’m saying is that they won’t be the target market and everyone who comes into New Zealand will pay for the New Zealand experience.”

Pushed for examples, Nash said he will be looking at regulations to stop tourists hiring vans that aren’t self-contained. “We get all these vans driving round at the moment that are not self contained so if the driver or the passenger wants to go to the toilet they pull over to the side of the road and shit in our waterways,” he said.

“Our marketing effort will be going into those high net worth individuals who are looking for a piece of paradise as they sit in lockdown in New York or London.” He described these tourists as someone “who flies in business class or premium economy, hires a helicopter, does a tour around Franz Josef and then eats at a high end restaurant”.

7.50am: Top business group against National’s plans for Reserve Bank

Updated

Business leaders have come out against calls by the opposition to “rein in” the Reserve Bank.

“The Reserve Bank’s funding for lending scheme could pump up to $28 billion into the banking system but there would be no requirement for that money to flow into productive parts of the economy,” National’s Andrew Bayly said.

He wants the government to mandate the Reserve Bank to ensure the scheme is targeted at the more productive parts of the economy – not the housing market.

But the business community isn’t buying in. Business NZ’s Kirk Hope told RNZ the government should stay out of the Reserve Bank.

“You’ve already seen some of the banks come out and, for example, introduce their own loan-to-value ratio restrictions with respect to housing, so I think they’re in the best possible [position] to make the risk decisions about where they lend to and you can expect that they’ll be lending to the place where they can make the biggest difference,” he said.

Similarly, Infometrics economist Brad Olsen told RNZ the Reserve Bank was simply doing its job: “It’s quite clear that the increased activity in the housing market has been driven by low interest rates. I’m not sure exactly how else we were supposed to try and bring interest rates lower to stimulate economic activity,” Olsen said.

National’s Judith Collins rejected the criticism, and said this morning that we’re in “extraordinary times”.

“I’ve certainly never seen this amount of money being instantly created by credit transfers into the trading banks and no controls at all on what those banks are doing with it when it comes to putting that money into the productive sector.”

7.45am: Top stories from The Bulletin

The term ‘housing crisis’ featured a lot in NZ politics over the last decade, but it means different things to different people. In today’s Bulletin, I’m going to pick out several stories from the last week that in my view capture what the housing crisis of today is: It is about the simple fact that prices have inflated to an extreme degree in recent years, often regardless of the quality of the house itself, and the flow-on effects that has for the whole population.

The extreme escalation in house prices has led to a political fight over how independent the Reserve Bank should be. Stuff’s Thomas Coughlan has analysed the various interventions that have been made so far, coming to the conclusion that it represents a real shift in what had previously been a wide consensus view in NZ politics. National has come around to the position of reining the bank in, while PM Jacinda Ardern derided that approach as ‘Muldoonist’.

When asked about the house price crisis, Ardern hinted at new support for first house buyers to get on the property ladder, reports the NZ Herald. She identified a problem around the increasing impossibility of younger people getting into the market without parental support. And it’s true – that is a fair problem to try and address. But the proposed solution would run the risk of exacerbating the much more systemic problem, which is that house prices and house price inflation now far outstrips anything people can earn through working, and the divide will continue to grow between the have-houses and the have-nots.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.30am: Yesterday’s headlines

There were four new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation

Act leader David Seymour called on Chris Hipkins to apologise after the Covid-19 response minister labelled Taiwan an “authoritarian regime”. Taiwan is a multi-party democracy.

The government launched a market study into competition and pricing in the supermarket sector.

The prime minister hinted that help was on its way for struggling first home buyers.

US company Moderna announced tests suggesting its Covid-19 vaccine is 95% effective against the coronavirus – only a few days after Pfizer reported similar results for its own vaccine.

Read yesterday’s updates here




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