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The BulletinSeptember 22, 2020

The Bulletin: Country moves to a more cautious level one

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Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Country outside Auckland now at level one, previewing the first major leader debate, and another error found in National’s costings.

The alert levels will shift down around the country this week, with most of the country moving back into level one. Our live updates from yesterday has the details – as of now, the country outside of Auckland is at level one. Auckland meanwhile will move to level two proper (as opposed to 2.5) on Wednesday night, and remain there for a further two weeks.

There were no new cases yesterday, but an existing case from the weekend is still causing something of a headache. Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the source of infection was “still under investigation” and they remain “open minded” – this was the case that may have resulted from an abnormally long incubation period. Bloomfield also noted that the man had kept an eye out for any symptoms, and praised him for getting a test when they emerged. The official advice on managed isolation hasn’t changed as a result, but Dr Siouxsie Wiles argues that it shows a need to keep an eye on those who have just come out of the system.

As for how life will change at the new alert levels, remember normal life? It still won’t quite be like that, even at level one. Stuff has a piece with a bunch of advice for those who will be at level one, including a request that people keep washing their hands (which, come on, do this anyway) maintain a reasonable amount of social distancing, and keep using either the contact tracing app or some other form of readiness for cases to pop up again. The Herald has also reported warnings from experts encouraging people to be a bit more careful with level one this time around. Masks will remain mandatory on public transport in Auckland, and will become optional (but encouraged) everywhere else. And as always, if you’ve got the symptoms, stay home except for ducking out to get a test.

The first leaders TV debate of the campaign will take place tonight, hosted by John Campbell on One. Toby Manhire has gone through what you can expect to see in it, and what strategies will be most likely to be deployed by Ardern and Collins. It’s likely to be the biggest single stage of the entire campaign, so a strong performance could make a huge difference. On that note, Jose Barbosa has made a video of his entirely serious and sensible advice on how to win an election debate.

Meanwhile, a One News poll is expected to be released tonight before the debate, and a lot of predictions have been made. So here’s mine: In my considered expert opinion, after weighing up all the potential numbers and permutations, it is my view that the largest two polling parties will be Labour and National.

Another error in costings has been discovered in National’s economic plan, reports Newshub’s Jenna Lynch. It again relates to differences in the May Budget and subsequent Pre-Election Fiscal Update, and amounts to the princely sum of $88 million. That in government spending terms is an extremely small amount of money, but it cuts against the assurance given by leader Judith Collins yesterday that there wouldn’t be any more errors to find. Finance minister Grant Robertson has gratefully latched onto it, describing it as “not only sloppy, this is a sign of a lack of competence.” Meanwhile, National has announced a technology policy, which aims to create 100,000 tech jobs over the next decade – Stuff’s Tom Pullar-Strecker is a journo who covers this area, and reported out some useful analysis of the wider package.

Sticking with the party, if a National-Act government gets in, we’re likely to see private providers for managed isolation. The NZ Herald’s Derek Cheng reports that will be the meat of an announcement by National later today, and Act has also expressed an openness to such policies. The idea is to increase capacity in the system by having providers operating under the auspices of the proposed new border security agency.

Weta Digital staff say they’re hopeful for improvements after a QC investigation was launched into misconduct allegations. The story comes from Kristin Hall at One News, who broke the whole thing open by getting current and former staff to speak out about an allegedly toxic culture at the high profile film company. More than 40 people have now come forward. The company says they will make no further statement about it until the investigation is complete.

A policy which almost seems designed to increase homelessness will be rolled out by the government just a few days after the election. Newsroom’s Dileepa Fonseka has reported on the resumption of a plan to charge those in emergency accommodation 25% of their income for it – a plan that was temporarily scrapped during Covid-19. This will negatively affect thousands of people with almost nothing to their name, at a time when the social housing wait list has blown out to record levels, and the rental market is screwed. The arguments for it from the Labour government are paraphrased as “a question of fairness along with a much-needed incentive to get people out of emergency housing and into private, transitional or social housing.” I can’t help but think Michael Joseph Savage would be rolling in his grave at that.

Here’s a write-up of one of the more unusual election events I’ve ever been to: A minor party debate in which the aim was to build consensus on issues to challenge the major parties. They’re conspiracy theorists, in the literal sense of believing that the public is currently being subjected to a conspiracy. But the piece I’ve written isn’t about finding the most outrageous things said on the stage – rather, I wanted to work out where they’re coming from, how they got there, and why it matters.

I’ve been in Haast overnight taking the pulse of a town that relies extremely heavily on tourism. And to be honest, with the extremely heavy weather coming in it’s possible I’ll end up spending a bit more time here. I’ll probably be taking my own pulse a bit after attempting to get over the mountains on State Highway 6 to Southland. Fortunately the Jucy Democracy Wagon handles itself very nicely in all sorts of conditions, so this hopefully won’t be the last Bulletin you get from me.

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How do you ACTUALLY win an Emmy? Spoiler: Being Meryl Streep might be a necessary leg up.

Right now on The Spinoff: Sherry Zhang spoke to students and institutes about how universities are preparing for the rest of a Covid-disrupted year. Chris Farrelly of the Auckland City Mission asks people to seriously consider what kind of future they want to choose at the upcoming election. New Zealand Orthopaedic Association president Peter Robertson writes about what needs to be done to solve the elective surgery crisis. Sam Brooks writes about what will and won’t help you win an Emmy award. And the Papercuts podcast talks about the flood of Covid-delayed books that are now starting to come out.

For a feature today, a look at the financial state of New Zealand’s only professional sporting franchise, the Wellington Phoenix. It’s not really a sport story at all, rather it’s about a business that had been competitive in its industry until Covid-19, and then required a relatively massive government bailout to stay afloat – particularly around the wage bill for employees. And as Stuff’s Andrew Voerman reports, the club may well need another, probably with conditions attached to it. Here’s an excerpt:

In handing them $950,000 at the start of June, Sport NZ chief executive Peter Miskimmin said to Dome and Morrison in a letter that “we expect you to work in close alignment with NZ Football in this next phase”.

“Any further support for the Phoenix,” he added, “will come with greater expectations and obligations relating to the growth and development of the sport of football in New Zealand, particularly for women and girls”.

Miskimmin told Stuff in a statement this month discussions were underway “with various organisations, including the Wellington Phoenix, about their ongoing needs and potential future funding,” and added it was too early to speculate as to what their needs might be or what criteria might be applied.

In sport, you’ve just got to feel for Danny Lee. The Kiwi golfer mentally collapsed on the putting green at the US Open, and One News has the footage. It’s a horrible and demanding sport at the best of times, and when things start going wrong it can escalate alarmingly quickly – not least when you’re on a big stage with nowhere to hide. In the end, he got a quintuple bogey on the last hole of the round, before withdrawing with an injury.

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