Time for Judith Collins?

There is only one person I can see who would be capable of stepping up and taking over the National Party leadership – Judith Collins.

National is in real trouble with the struggles and now resignation of Todd Muller they quickly need to get someone else in charge.

Collins is very good handling media, and she has a lot of support in the party.

She just lacks major support in the National caucus. A lot of their recent problems have been factional – the aggrieved Bridges faction versus the new Muller faction.

Having a leader independent of both of these factions would be a plus for someone able to command respect and demand loyalty.

National MPs either have too accept and support someone like Collins as leader, or continue to self destruct.

There is some talk of the reappointment of Simon Bridges, but I think that would be a bad move. National support was sliding under his flawed leadership, and he lost the confidence of a majority of his caucus. Putting him back in charge would be nuts.

So I don’t see any option but Judith – if she is willing to give it a go.

Todd Muller resigns as National leader

Todd Muller has just announced he iis step;ping down as leader of the National party. He has been one of the shortest serving political party leaders.

He says this is for the good of the party and the good of his family and his health.

It looks like ongoing media pressure has got to him. He has not handled the leak scandal well, but he has been relentlessly hammered for the last week.

The National Party caucus is having an emergency meeting too work out how to replace Muller.

A million new Covid cases in 5 days

In New Zealand we fret about each of a handful of people arriving in the country not staying in isolation for 14 days while life has returned more or less to normal for most of us.

But Covid-19 is causing a lot of concern with a surge in cases around the world.The World Health Organisation chief warns that it will continue to get worse unless many countries change how they are dealing with the virus.

There has been a million new Covid-19 cases in five days, with now over 13 million cases in total recorded.

The death toll has flattened (but is showing signs of rising again following the surge in cases), suggesting a number of possibilities – health care and prevention of deaths has been improved, infected populations are younger and less vulnerable, newer strains of virus are not as lethal – but still the current death toll is 573,000 and going up by thousands a day.

There is an obvious concern that the death rate will follow the case rate upwards, but the daily toll is bad enough as it is.

Reuters:  WHO sounds alarm as coronavirus cases rise by one million in five days

The number of coronavirus infections around the world hit 13 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, climbing by a million in just five days.

The pandemic has now killed more than half a million people in six-and-a-half months, and World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there would be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future, especially if preventive measures were neglected.

“Let me be blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” he told a virtual briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva.

“If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go, it is going to get worse and worse and worse. But it does not have to be this way.”

Parts of the world, especially the United States with more than 3.3 million confirmed cases, are still seeing huge increases in a first wave of COVID-19 infections, while others “flatten the curve” and ease lockdowns.

Some places, such as the Australian city of Melbourne and Leicester in England, are implementing a second round of shutdowns.

The Melbourne surge means that trans-Tasman travel will remain off limits to Kiwis for some time, and reopening borders to the rest of the world looks to be months away at least.

The United States reported a daily global record of 69,070 new infections on July 10. In Brazil, 1.86 million people have tested positive, including President Jair Bolsonaro, and more than 72,000 people have died.

India, the country with the third highest number of infections, has been contending with an average of 23,000 new infections each day since the beginning of July.

In countries with limited testing capacity, case numbers reflect a smaller proportion of total infections. Experts say official data probably under-represents both infections and deaths.

Covid is affecting the United States more than most countries, with a third of the new cases there. And the health problems aren’t limited to Covid.

Reuters: New U.S. health crisis looms as patients without COVID-19 delay care

A Texas man who waited until his brain tumor was softball-sized; a baby who suffered an ear infection for six days; a heart patient who died: The resurgence of COVID-19 is creating another health crisis as hospitals fill and patients are fearful or unable to get non-emergency care.

With U.S. coronavirus infections reaching new heights, doctors and hospitals say they are also seeing sharp declines in patients seeking routine medical care and screenings – and a rise in those who have delayed care for so long they are far sicker than they otherwise would be.

After the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March, many states banned non-essential medical procedures, and the number of patients seeking care for other ailments took a nosedive. Hospitals and medical practices were hit hard financially.

Emergency department use dropped by 42% during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic despite a rise in patients presenting with symptoms of the coronavirus, data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. In the same period, patients seeking care for heart attacks dropped by 23% and stroke care by 20%.

This is a real problem but with no easy solutions. If Covid was even less contained people with other health problems would be exposed more.

…the recent surge in cases has swamped hospitals in many states, including Texas, Arizona, Florida and parts of California.

But with new COVID-19 cases swamping the hospital, sickening nearly 30 staff members and forcing it to divert non-coronavirus cases to other facilities for several days, Wolcott fears that again patients with heart conditions and other illnesses will stay away.

“We won’t know for years how many people lost their lives or lost good years of their lives for fear of coronavirus,” he said.

While individual states are responsible for a lot of their handling of Covid it doesn’t help that the country’s leadership has been hopeless. Donald Trump remains intent on reopening businesses and schools and abusing those trying to deal with the pandemic.

Reuters: Trump swipes at Fauci, CDC as U.S. coronavirus cases rise

President Donald Trump on Monday took swipes at health experts in his government leading the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak, as his relationship further frayed with top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci.

In the early morning, Trump retweeted to his 83 million followers the accusations of a former game show host that “everyone is lying,” including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The most outrageous lies are the ones about Covid 19. Everyone is lying. The CDC, Media, Democrats, our Doctors, not all but most, that we are told to trust,” Chuck Woolery wrote Sunday night without citing evidence.

The White House did not respond to questions on whether the president believed the CDC was lying.

Tensions with Fauci have risen with the decline of Trump’s popularity in the polls over the president’s handling of the outbreak. Fauci’s plain-spoken assessments during White House coronavirus briefings have made him a household name.

Trump told the Fox News Channel on Thursday that “Dr. Fauci is a nice man, but he’s made a lot of mistakes.” Fauci said in a Financial Times interview the following day he has not briefed Trump in two months.

Trump appears to be finally losing trust and support with the US people as he slides in the polls, with the highest disapproval levels for two and a half years. He is more concerned with his own re-election chances than people getting sick and dying, but poorly as he is lagging and slipping further behind an old, lacklustre Joe Biden.

He is even turning on his favoured Fox:

But that is a sad sideshow. Covid is a crisis that doesn’t look like going away, with major immediate effects and major longer term implications.

At least here in New Zealand Covid is well under control. We just have to hope the impact on business and jobs isn’t too harsh as we observe from a distance as many other countries struggling with far greater problems.

 

 

Open Forum Tuesday

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

SFO investigating Labour Party donations

The Serious Fraud Office announced today that they are investigating Labour Parry donations from 2017.

SFO commences investigation in relation to Labour Party donations

The Serious Fraud Office has commenced an investigation in relation to donations made to the Labour Party in 2017.

The SFO is presently conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding matters. A fifth matter that the agency investigated relating to electoral funding is now before the courts.

“We consider that making the current announcement is consistent with our past practice in this area of electoral investigations and in the public interest,” the Director of the SFO, Julie Read, said.

In the interests of transparency and consistency, the SFO has announced the commencement of all these investigations.

RNZ: Serious Fraud Office to investigate 2017 Labour Party donations

In a statement, the SFO said it was conducting four investigations in relation to electoral funding, and a fifth was now before the courts.

The other cases involved respectively the New Zealand First FoundationAuckland Council, and Christchurch Council.

An SFO investigation into the New Zealand First Foundation was launched in February, after police promptly handed in a complaint from the Electoral Commission last November.

Kiwiblog: SFO announces investigation into Labour’s 2017 donations

This is very interesting. If I had to guess, I’d say the investigation was into Labour not naming people who paid tens of thousands of dollars for artworks as a donation to Labour.

The Standard:  SFO to Investigate Labour Donations

It appears the investigation may be into donations made at a ‘silent’ art auction in 2017. In February, Labour acknowledged that two men facing SFO charges along side National Party bag man Jami-Lee Ross and another man over donations to the Tories, had made donations to Labour as well.

Labour Party president Claire Szabo said at the time that Zheng Hengjia donated $10,000 by buying a piece of art at a silent auction in April 2017 and Zheng Shijia donated $1940 in 2018.

Szabo noted both donations were included in the Labour Party return filed in the respective years.

Possibly the main change of note here is that finally the SFO are investigating donations. In the past the Police tended to kick for touch on political investigations.

ACT Party – organised and more than one MP

David Seymour has been the sole representative in Parliament for the ACT Party for six years, but polls suggest he will be joined by several colleagues after this election. They look like fresh and young team, and they look organised, having already announced a number of policies.

Their biggest problem this election is not themselves but their only possible coalition partner, National, who look like a dated party and are very disorganised.

Seymour has been successful on his own but the party leadership will have wider appeal than a sole MP, with ex adviser Brooke van Veldon now deputy leader.

Brooke van Velden is ACT’s candidate for Wellington Central.

Brooke left the private sector to work behind the scenes in Parliament to pass the End of Life Choice Act. She is a highly effective operator who knows how to deliver real positive change in the corridors of power.

Brooke is qualified in international trade and economics and has been a factory worker and corporate affairs consultant. Her practical and political experience has given her a deep understanding of the economy and the effect big government policies and rushed laws have on businesses and individuals.

She switched from being a Green voter to an Act supporter while studying economics at university. The ability for free markets to lift countries from hardship was a revelation for her. She is also a committed social liberal, championing the right to autonomy over our own bodies.

They also have the ‘gun lobby’ on side with Council of Licenced Firearms Owners spokesperson Nicole McKee at number 3 on their list.

Nicole is ACT’s candidate for Rongotai

Nicole is a small business owner, who delivered firearms safety education in rural and isolated communities for the New Zealand Police. She also has a background in law, firearms component imports, and was the coordinator of the nation’s volunteer firearms safety instructors for the Mountain Safety Council and the spokesperson for the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners and its Fair and Reasonable Campaign.

ACT have already launched their anti-gang policy- see ACT policy targeting gangs and their proceeds.

In the weekend they announced two more policies:

Mental health and addiction services to empower New Zealanders

“A new approach to mental health and addiction will reduce bureaucracy, improve patient choice, and empower New Zealanders,” says ACT’s Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson Brooke van Velden.

“We need an approach that will solve the big problems identified in the Government’s Mental Health Inquiry:

• Inequity of access and lack of choice
• Too much confusion and bureaucracy
• People having to navigate a web of agencies
• No whole-of-government approach
• Too much burden placed on primary healthcare providers who are not always well-equipped.

“The Government has established a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, but it does not have real power to improve choice or establish a clear, nationwide approach to tackling mental health and addiction.

“ACT would give the Commission the power to transform mental health and addiction services by taking the $2 billion per annum currently spent through the Ministry of Health and DHBs, and channelling it to providers and patients through an upgraded Commission.

“The Commission would be renamed Mental Health and Addiction New Zealand (MHANZ).

“MHANZ would not be a provider of services, but a world-class commissioning agency that assesses individual needs and contracts the best providers for a person’s therapy and care. It would put people at the heart of the system.

Fair, modern employment insurance for a post-Covid-19 world

ACT is proposing a fair, modern employment insurance scheme:

• Income tax rates remain unchanged but 0.55 percent of the tax paid would be allocated to a ring-fenced employment insurance fund.

• On the loss of employment, a taxpayer can claim 55 percent of their average weekly earnings over the previous 52 (or fewer) weeks. The maximum yearly payable amount is $60,000.

• Insurance can only be claimed for one week for each five weeks the person has worked, up to a maximum of 26 weeks per claim. Someone who has worked continuously for only one year could claim up to ten weeks’ employment insurance.

• Once a recipient has used up their employment insurance entitlement, they can move to Jobseeker Support and Electronic Income Management would apply. (Under Electronic Income Management, a benefit is issued on an electronic card and restrictions on alcohol, gambling, and tobacco expenditure apply.)

• Over time, the government would adjust the 0.55 percent levy so that the fund balances out over a four-year cycle. In a high unemployment year, the levy would increase. In a low unemployment year, taxpayers would benefit from a levy reduction.

• Those receiving employment insurance would be expected to look for work and report fortnightly on their preparedness to work and job application activity. In practice, recipients would want to get back to work instead of remaining on 55 per cent of their previous income.

“ACT’s employment insurance scheme would be fairer than the current system because people get paid out in proportion to what they pay in, rather than a flat benefit rate regardless of their outgoings or previous tax contributions.

RNZ: ACT leader uses campaign launch to slate government’s Covid-19 response

At the party’s campaign launch in Auckland, ACT president Tim Jago said membership had more than doubled in the last year.

“You’ve seen the polls, certainly 3 percent, nudging 4 percent and we’re hearing stories that the other parties have us at 5 percent,” Jago said.

“We were being written off little more than a year ago as a one-MP party unable to climb above 1 percent.

“We are the only parliamentary party that’s consistently over the past 12 months trended upwards.”

Jago told the crowd of 600 party faithful that they were aiming to get as high as 6 or 7 percent of the party vote, which would give ACT eight MPs.

ACT are targeting small demographics, obviously hoping to grow their vote. In recent polls they got 3.5% and 3.1%, which would be good for 3-4 MPs. ACT could benefit from National being in disarray and pick up support from, so they may get more MPs but fail to get into Government.

 

Green Party – Clean Energy Plan

The Green Party announced their Green Energy Plan yesterday. As for any small party policy this is subject to the Greens making the 5% threshold to get them back into Parliament, and is then subject to being able to negotiate this with the Labour party if they get to form a Government, and don’t get blocked by NZ First if they are also in the governing mix.

James Shaw says their policies would be funded from the Covid Recovery Fund, and would cost about $1.3 billion in the first three years.

And ditching fossil fuels will take time as they are phased out.

Clean Energy Plan

Powering Climate Change Action

When all our energy comes from the sun, the wind, and the flow of rivers, we won’t need to burn the fossil fuels that cause the climate crisis.

For decades, governments have chosen to keep burning last century’s dirty fuels. Many factories still use huge coal boilers and our largest power plant relies on 1970s coal technology. But clean alternatives exist and the Green Party understands that change is needed. The climate crisis demands urgent action to decarbonise the energy system. As we reset the economy after COVID-19, investing in clean energy will help tackle the climate crisis to build a stronger, more resilient economy. The Green Party will:

  1. Bring forward the Government’s target for 100% renewable electricity from 2035 to 2030 and re-instate the ban on building new fossil fuel electricity generation.
  2. Equip all suitable public housing with solar panels and batteries, saving people on their power bills and enabling them to share clean energy with their neighbours.
  3. Make it 50% cheaper for everyone to upgrade to solar and batteries for their own homes, with Government finance.
  4. Create a $250 million community clean energy fund to support communities, iwi, and hapū to build and share low-cost, clean energy with their neighbours.
  5. Train thousands of people for clean energy careers with a clean energy training plan, developed with the energy industry, training providers, and unions.
  6. Ban new fossil-fuelled industrial heating systems and boilers in our first 100 days in Government, end industrial coal use in Aotearoa by 2030, and end industrial gas use by 2035.
  7. Triple existing financial support for businesses to replace coal and gas with clean energy alternatives.
  8. Stop issuing permits for new onshore fossil fuel extraction.
  9. Update planning rules to make it easier to build new wind farms.

Affordable home solar

Grants will cover 50% of the cost of a standard sized solar and battery system, including for rental homes. These grants will be delivered in partnership with existing solar companies and not-for-profit energy organisations, who already have the skills and experience needed to scale up.

Solar state homes

The rooftops of the 63,000 state homes throughout Aotearoa are an untapped opportunity to create free electricity from the sun. The Green Party will put solar panels on every suitable state house, along with a battery pack to store the power for when it’s needed. The rooftops of our public houses will become a huge Virtual Power Plant, sharing clean electricity with neighbours. This will save households $1,000 each, a year.

Community Clean Energy Fund

A $250 million Community Clean Energy Fund will empower communities, iwi and hapū, and local councils to build small-scale clean electricity generation and smart grids. Community groups will be able to apply for a grant or a loan to get good projects built. These could be local wind turbines, community solar systems, or community-owned batteries that store and share excess power generated by household rooftop solar panels. The fund would also be available for people who live in apartment buildings and papakāinga who want to share access to rooftop wind or solar electricity.

Clean industrial energy

Burning fossil fuels generates 60% of Aotearoa’s industrial heat, making it Aotearoa’s second biggest energy-related contributor to climate change. Replacing coal with clean alternatives is one of the best ways to quickly reduce Aotearoa’s carbon emissions.

The Green Party will triple current government support for businesses to replace coal and gas with clean alternatives, and to increase their energy efficiency. We expect many businesses to choose electricity, while others might burn biomass and wood waste. We will also modernise grid connection rules, making it easier for businesses to switch to electricity.

A Clean Energy Industry Training Plan will be developed with working people, energy companies, unions, and local government to help create sustainable careers and ensure a just transition to new clean energy jobs for people currently working with fossil fuels.

I had to search the full policy to find the projected costs. Some costs are vague.

Solar grants would be funded from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, and would cost $45 million in the first year, increasing over time as more people take up the offer and the solar industry expands to meet demand. The Crown would seek to recoup half the subsidy over 15 years, from a small levy.

The solar state home plan would be funded from the Government’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund at a total cost of $1.27 billion for all 63,000 state homes.

The Green Party in Government will triple the Government’s financial support for businesses making the switch to clean energy, from $33million to $100 million a year.

Building on the $200 million Clean Powered Public Service fund announced by the Government in January 2020, we will continue upgrading government buildings to be more energy efficient.

The Green Party in Government will work with Transpower to solve this problem so grid upgrades can happen faster and their costs get shared fairly.

This will cost users.

How we’ll pay for it

The cost of doing nothing to stop climate change would far exceed the costs of upgrading to clean energy. Increased droughts, floods, and storms are already taking an economic toll on Aotearoa, and around the world.

I keep hearing this claim from Greens but It is probably debatable. They link to OCDE (Organisation for EconomicCo-operation and Development) – Climate change: Consequences of inaction

Read the full Clean energy Plan policy here.

 

Open Forum Monday

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you, or you think may interest others.. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts. Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts. Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few, first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria. If they pass muster they will be released as soon as possible (it can sometimes take hours).

Media continue pressure on National but they are scrutinised as well

Media continue to pile pressure on the National Party over their handling of emails leaked by Michelle Boag.

Boag has already resigned from the party and withdrawn from being involved in Nikki Kaye’s electorate campaign, and MP Hamish Walker has pulled the plug on his political career after admitting forwarding private information about Covid cases to media.

But the weekend is full on trying to find something else to dump on National.

Kaye fronted up on Q+A – 1 News chose an uncomplimentary photo.

This is a common way media try to convey something about politicians.

Jack Tame also said that while Kaye looked genuine in denying knowing about the leaks from Boag ‘it still looked very suspicious she didn’t know’.  Why? Either they take her word for it, or find evidence she wasn’t being truthful. Politicians have enough problems when they don’t look genuine, but saying ‘she looked genuine but…’ is bordering on dirty politics.

In contrast, the Spinoff was more kind with it’s photo selection:

Political leaks are frequently used by media. In this case they are distancing themselves, but questions are also being asked about the media involvement.

Mediawatch (RNZ): Walkergate revives Dirty Politics vibes (audio):

A universally-condemned leak of Covid-19 patients’ personal data for political purposes prompted the media to ask if ‘Dirty Politics’ was back – or had ever gone away in the first place.  But just like Nicky Hager’s book in 2014, this episode also raised questions about the media’s handling of the leak itself.

Dirty politics worked and works because the media amplified political attacks, often from leaks.

Is people leaving isolation a big deal?

Obviously if someone in isolation breaks the rules and gets out, and if they have the Covid-19 virus, it’s a fairly big deal. One person who got out this week and visited a supermarket put potentially many people at risk, they caused a supermarket to shut down and do extensive cleaning, and that resulted in many employees going into precautionary self isolation.

But is it too much to expect that with thousands of people in isolation in hotels (not prisons) that a few won’t choose to break the rules?

Perhaps we have to accept that a few escapes are inevitable, and as long as there are comprehensive systems in place to deal with it when it happens we should be reasonably comfortable with what is being done.

But this is an ongoing awkwardness for the Government.

When two women were let out of isolation without being tested – and tested positive after travelling from Auckland to Wellington – the army involvement in managing isolsation and quarantine facilities.  Megan Woods (name corrected) was also installed to cover for the poorly performing Minister of Health David Clark.

Things kept going wrong, people kept getting out.

Clark resigned and Chris Hipkins took over. He handles media interviews much better, and seems to bo on top of the details of the job much better, but people still got out.

The police were called in facilities 24/7, but people kept getting out.

Four people this week left isolation, despite a lot of publicity and public angst and anger.

Is this just something we can expect may keep happening?

The last person who got out, by cutting fence ties and going to buy some booze ended up in prison. Was this a fair warning to all others in isolation, or was it draconian, especially compared to previous consequences for absconders?