A hotel staff worker sanitises the outside of Auckland’s Stamford Plaza on July 10, 2020 (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
A hotel staff worker sanitises the outside of Auckland’s Stamford Plaza on July 10, 2020 (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The BulletinJuly 20, 2020

The Bulletin: User-pays managed isolation on its way

A hotel staff worker sanitises the outside of Auckland’s Stamford Plaza on July 10, 2020 (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)
A hotel staff worker sanitises the outside of Auckland’s Stamford Plaza on July 10, 2020 (Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: National announces its plan to charge returnees $3,000 and the government indicates a policy is coming soon, Judith Collins’ first weekend as National leader, and Northland reels from flood damage.

The days of free hotel stays for all returning New Zealanders appear to be drawing to a close. With taxpayers having already stumped up more than $81 million in managed isolation and quarantine costs, the government is under increasing pressure to introduce some form of user-pays.

Yesterday National announced it planned to charge returnees $3,000 each, with children under three years exempt; those over three would incur a charge of $500. Deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said it all comes down to fairness. “Many Kiwis have only one or two overseas holidays in their lives. National won’t expect taxpayers to pay for other Kiwis returning from high-paying careers or expensive holidays in Europe.”

It’s very clear by now that the government has something similar in mind. Instead of the usual sniping at National’s policy, minister in charge of managed isolation and quarantine Megan Woods simply said it was “encouraging” to see the opposition support “something the government’s been talking about for a number of weeks now”. The prime minister has previously said she wants to charge only those who chose to leave the country after lockdown, and Woods said yesterday the charges should be “fair and equitable”. But last night, Stuff’s Henry Cooke reported a cabinet paper was circulating proposing the exact same charge as National’s policy – $3k. Cabinet is set to discuss it this afternoon, though it’s not clear if an announcement will be made today. Either way, by getting out in front of the government, National is now in a position to claim the moral high ground on the issue.

So does that mean a “fees for returnees” policy will sail through parliament? Not quite, according to Victoria University of Wellington law lecturer Dean Knight. He told Stuff a payment scheme would likely require a new law, carefully calibrated to avoid breaching citizens’ legal rights. While the Bill of Rights protects the right of return to the country, it also allows the government to introduce “reasonable and proportionate constraints” on that right.

Another risk factor is the reaction of those forced to pay up, argued Knight’s Victoria University law colleague Eddie Clark in a tweet thread. “It feels inevitable that a charging regime will increase non-compliance with managed isolation. If people feel fine, are being charged an arm and a leg, and resent their detention, you think that encourages compliance? Yes the current regime is expensive. But with a very few exceptions, it seems to be working.”

The Spinoff would like to invite Bulletin readers to a special event with Breast Cancer Foundation NZ. 

The effects of Covid-19 are often hidden from everyday view. Writing on The Spinoff, Breast Cancer NZ ambassador Stacey Morrison spoke to Chloe Irvine about her experience with breast cancer through lockdown.

To support Breast Cancer Foundation NZ’s vital work, The Spinoff is holding a Pink Ribbon Breakfast. Hosted by Stacey Morrison at Kind cafe in Morningside, Auckland, on July 28 from 7.30am, the breakfast will hear from women about their breast cancer journeys and foundation advocates about the work they do.

Limited tickets are available here, including breakfast. If you live outside Auckland or are unable to join us for breakfast we still welcome your support for Breast Cancer Foundation NZ.

No surprises that Judith Collins’ first weekend as National leader was a busy one – on Saturday morning she appeared on Newshub’s The Nation in typical bullish form about her party’s chances at the election, then headed out to her Papakura electorate to put up hoardings, joking that wielding the electric drill felt like holding a taser.

While the headshots have been replaced – Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye with Collins and new deputy Gerry Brownlee – the Muller-era slogan (“Strong team. More jobs. Better economy”) remains. National’s supposed stronger team has been a frequent refrain since Collins took the reins on Tuesday and, as The Spinoff’s Toby Manhire hinted at earlier in the week, is a bit of a misnomer given the past week’s exodus of MPs. The Herald’s Audrey Young made the point in an op-ed on Saturday, saying the continual reference to it in Friday’s transport package announcement jarred.

On Sunday morning, an Andrea Vance feature in the Sunday Star-Times provided a fascinating insight into the events that led to Collins taking the reins, painting a picture of indecisiveness, in-fighting and constant leaks. That morning, Collins appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A, previewing the quarantine charging policy that Brownlee announced later, and telling host Jack Tame she thought the economy was this generation’s nuclear-free issue. She also went on Newshub’s The Hui, challenged by host Mihingarangi Forbes on her comments suggesting she was “demonised” for being white. “I will not be told that because I happen to be white I don’t care, I don’t empathise,” Collins said. For more on Collins’ views on diversity and why, to some, they are concerning, read Saturday’s excellent piece by The Spinoff’s Leonie Hayden.

New Zealand First launched its campaign yesterday, with leader Winston Peters rallying against, well, pretty much everything, as The Spinoff’s live updates reported. Alongside introducing the pleasingly whimsical spectre of “woke pixie dust” – thank you for unwittingly providing The Spinoff pub quiz team with a new name, Mr Peters – taxes and immigration seemed to be the main concern. In a report for The Spinoff, Hayden Donnell said the overarching theme was fear.

After two days of torrential rain, the full extent of the damage from the weekend’s floods in Northland is becoming clear. Civil defence minister Peeni Henare, who visited yesterday as the clean-up got under way, described the damage in his hometown of Moerewa as “heartbreaking”, and said a long-term solution was needed. The cost of the damage is still being assessed, but repairs to roads alone is expected to reach $2 million, Far North Council chief executive Shaun Clarke told the Northern Advocate. Acting Far North Civil Defence controller Alastair Wells said an assessment of flooded properties would be completed by the end of Sunday, with work on an assistance package for affected residents due to start today.

Workers at The Warehouse stores across the country are expected to learn their fate this morning. All waged team members across all stores will meet at 8am for “important information about proposed changes”, according to an internal memo reported by Stuff. More than 1,080 jobs are expected to go as part of major restructure across The Warehouse Group that could result in at least six store closures. The company had taken $68 million in wage subsidy payments before announcing the proposed job cuts in June, which angered prime minister Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand’s emissions reduction target is too low to meet the government’s goal of keeping the average temperature increase to within 1.5 degrees CelsiusStuff’s Eloise Gibson reported over the weekend. Climate change minister James Shaw received advice from the Ministry for the Environment to that extent in February, documents obtained under the OIA show. The emissions reduction target was set by the Key government as part of the Paris Agreement in 2015, while the 1.5C goal was set in last year’s Zero Carbon Act. The target allows around 85 million tonnes more emissions between 2021 and 2030 than would be compatible with a 1.5C goal, reports Stuff, which puts the country over budget by about one year’s current emissions.

Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Drop us a line at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz


Right now on The Spinoff: Dirty Politics author Nicky Hager gives five reasons why Judith Collins is unlikely to be the next prime minister, saying she’s the wrong person at the wrong time. Laura O’Connell Rapira says politicians are trying to divide us to win power, and they can’t be allowed to succeed. Liam Hehir warns of the dangers of ideological factionalism within the National Party. Michael Andrew reports on a Te Awamutu sustainable fashion business whose sewing centre in Cambodia provides disadvantaged people with a better life. And Hayden Donnell calls for New Zealand to memorialise its lovesick hero, Nigel the gannet.

For a feature today, Stuff’s Nikki Macdonald explores why New Zealand’s low-wage workers – those doing what are often the most taxing, and most essential, jobs – are paid so poorly. Macdonald speaks to hospital security guards, cleaners, bus drivers unionists and economists to investigate the “hollowing out” – the ravine that has eroded between New Zealand’s best and worst paid.

It was a great weekend for Super Rugby Aotearoa, with two nail-biter matches as the Hurricanes edged the Blues on Saturday and the Highlanders made an incredible comeback to snatch victory from the Chiefs yesterday. Saturday’s match saw the battle of the Barrett brothers: read Liam Napier’s report for the Herald here.

That’s it for The Bulletin. If you want to support the work we do at The Spinoff, please check out our membership programme

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