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The BulletinSeptember 18, 2023

At a chaotic Act campaign launch, an assault and a very unwelcome guest

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His name is Karl, he’s a Freedoms NZ candidate, and this was the third election event he’s disrupted in less than a month, writes Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

A chaotic afternoon at the Civic

Act’s campaign launch drew headlines this weekend, though probably not the sort leader David Seymour was hoping for. His speech was interrupted by the now-familiar Karl Mokaraka, who previously heckled Chris Hipkins on a South Auckland walkabout and famously climbed over a wall to disrupt a standup with Chris Luxon and Simeon Brown, accidentally gifting us with the meme of the campaign so far. As detailed in an on-the-ground report by Toby Manhire on The Spinoff, Mokaraka extemporised on “everything from South Auckland underrepresentation to morality to BlackRock Investments” while for 10 minutes security tried in vain to reach his position in the Civic Theatre stalls. How did Moraraka make it past security in the first place? A deep dive by Newshub’s Jamie Ensor reveals he was wearing a fake moustache made from “eyelash adhesive”. The drama wasn’t over yet. “A handful of overzealous Act supporters lashed out at media” recording the scene, writes Manhire, with one Newshub camera operator reporting he had been struck in the face. Seymour says he is “really sorry” about the “totally unacceptable” incident, and the party is investigating.

Seymour plays the hits

As for the campaign launch itself, Seymour reiterated Act’s opposition to co-governance, ethnicity-based rights, and what it sees as “revisionist interpretations” of the Treaty of Waitangi. Act wants its own interpretation of the Treaty, emphasising a “colour-blind” approach to equity, put to a public referendum. As The Spinoff’s Tommy de Silva writes in a comprehensive explainer on Act’s approach to the Treaty and co-governance, many Treaty experts believe it’s impossible to reduce the Treaty to digestible tidbits for a referendum while maintaining its meaning, and that the public isn’t sufficiently educated on the Treaty to make an informed decision. Meanwhile across town, Labour launched its women’s health manifesto, including a commitment to raise the free breast screening age to 74 years old from its current maximum of 69. Glenn McConnell from Stuff notes that this was originally a 2017 Labour and NZ First coalition commitment, “which hasn’t been actioned despite calls from the Opposition and Breast Cancer Foundation”. The manifesto also includes a promise to create an endometritis action plan under which medical professionals will be better trained to recognise and treat the often-misdiagnosed condition.

NZ First releases its list, Greens and Labour court the unions

That was Sunday. The day before it was NZ First creating headlines – more specifically its Tauranga-based candidate Kirsten Murfitt, who has voiced enthusiastic support for a number of conspiracy theories regarding chemtrails, vaccines and the 9/11 attacks, among others. She scored a pretty decent 11th place on the party list, meaning she’d be an MP if NZ First achieved around 8% of the vote. Also on Saturday both PM Chris Hipkins and Greens co-leader Marama Davidson spoke at an election event organised by the E Tū union. Both had worker-friendly policies to plug: Hipkins said Labour would ensure the minimum wage is raised every year, “closing the gap between the minimum and living wages”, while Davidson confirmed a manifesto commitment to five weeks statutory annual leave by the end of 2025. As reported by RNZ, the current four-week minimum entitlement has been in place since 2007. Before that it was three weeks, and prior to 1974, just two weeks.

The debate countdown is on

Both major party leaders have a relatively light schedule today, no doubt to allow clear air for prep ahead of tomorrow’s TVNZ debate. Toby Manhire has an excellent piece this morning on how the Chrises will be preparing (campaign chairs Chris Bishop and Megan Woods are both staying mum on who from their team is standing in for their opponent, sadly), what they want to achieve from the debate, and how the whole event has changed since the first televised debate in 1969. Legal challenges, memorable moments, moderator controversies and The Worm (RIP) – it’s all here. Highly recommended reading before you settle down in front of the box at 7pm tomorrow.

Keep going!