Adjournment speech – David Seymour

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Not in living memory has our country entered an election against such a backdrop of global uncertainty. The medical, economic, and geopolitical impacts of COVID-19 remain unpredictable, but we know that these impacts are on New Zealanders’ businesses, on their household finances, on their jobs, and on their mental health.

We politicians enter this election campaign with a job to do. The world is changing all around us, and our small island nation must find its place anew in that ever changing world.

At the same time, people’s faith in our politics in this Parliament is at an all-time low ebb, and it’s not just the most recent, highly publicised ructions that have led to that low ebb; it is a long period over the past three years of poor quality delivery and poor quality lawmaking. We all know the examples: KiwiBuild, light rail, child poverty, the gun buyback, the oil and gas exploration ban, the Provincial Growth Fund. It’s been one disaster after another.

I think it’s fair to say that we have a disaster Government led by a disaster Prime Minister, because, if it wasn’t for the disasters, what we would have is a long series of let downs, where everything the parties over there promised in 2017 has been a failure.

Let me say that that’s not a personal critique; I happen to like our Prime Minister as a person, and I admire what she’s done holding people together at critical times of disaster. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the world is changing, and a different style of leadership is required. We require problem solving.

We require an open debate about what exactly New Zealand’s public health strategy is, because, at the moment, the Government would have it that we can either remain physically isolated from the world and borrow to paper over the cracks or we can open it up and people will die. In other words, they want us to be either dead broke or dead. I believe that this country deserves an open debate, not a state of fear; asking what we can do, not what we can’t; going country by country when it comes to the border; working together with, not against, the private sector; and embracing technology to augment our public health response.

Those are the principles of a smart public health response, and when we’ve done that, we can start being honest about the debt, because my army of 14-year-old Instagram followers have been sending me messages saying, “David, who is the Government borrowing all this money off and who has to pay it back?” You know, if 14-year-olds can figure out that the Government borrowing $140 billion is a problem, and it is for them, maybe we in this Parliament need to start being honest about this country’s fiscal track.

If we can do those things, we can seize the opportunity of a lifetime: an island nation on a pandemic planet that actually, for once, is the place that skills and capital want to go to—if only we’re prepared to seize the opportunity and stop being so hostile to foreign investment and wealth-creating activity in this country.

That is what New Zealanders need out of this election debate, and that is what the ACT Party brings: a consistent, constructive critique and contribution to the challenges that our country faces at this time, about the challenge of a country finding its place in a world that is changing around it. That’s what New Zealanders need out of this election debate. That’s what the ACT Party will be bringing, and I look forward to a group of independent-minded, thoughtful ACT MPs sitting across here, on the cross-benches, supporting a Government far more competent than the one that we have now.

That is why you give your party vote to ACT. That is a positive future for New Zealand. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Peters versus everyone he hasn’t already lost in court against

Winston Peters already seemed tetchier than usual over the weekend and since. Perhaps it was his recent operation that unsettled him, or the smaller than usual attendance at his campaign launch speech on Sunday, or the awarding of $320K costs against him on Friday, or the exposure of him employing the services of misinformation hit men from the UK after first denying it, or the poor poll results for NZ First, or staring down the barrel of being dumped from Parliament again.

Maybe all of that.

And it’s likely the constant digging at him by David Seymour has worn thin, because that’s who he launched an attack on under the protection of Parliamentary privilege yesterday.

Here is the court case he lost: PETERS v BENNETT & ORS [2020] NZHC 761 [20 April 2020]

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler thinks that Peters had a legitimate grievance about his overpayment of his super (despite the obvious question about how Peters failed to fill in a form properly and failed to notice an overpayment for years), but he points out that if Peters was really concerned about fixing the ‘no surprises’ procedure rather than political utu there was a far cheaper and more effective way of dealing with it:

There is another option, of course: the no surprises principle isn’t “law” – it’s simply stated in the Cabinet Manual, which Cabinet could change. Peters is the deputy prime minister, and a member of Cabinet: and as he didn’t have success in the Courts in vindicating his rights, he could push for it to be changed for the rest of us. That wouldn’t fix the breach of privacy that occurred in his case, but it would hopefully make similar breaches less likely in the future.

But Peters is a very political animal and having already launched attacks on partner parties Greens and Labour already this week, decided to attack ACT and National by making serious accusations – but he was only prepared to do this under parliamentary privilege, not in public without legal protection.

In General Debate yesterday:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Today, I am going to outline the truth about the leak of my superannuation. There have been news reports about the case. The matter is not sub judice. But a source totally connected to both the ACT Party and the National Party has revealed that the leak was one Rachel Morton.

Morton heard about the case because she was present when former Minister Anne Tolley told her ministerial colleague Paula Bennett about it—not outside by the lifts, but in a ministerial office. Ms Morton then, thinking it would be kept in confidence, told ACT Party leader, David Seymour, but, desperate for any sort of attention, Mr Seymour contacted Jordan Williams of the wage subsidy – receiving taxpayer union fame. Williams—no stranger to dirty politics—told John Bishop, father of National MP Chris Bishop, and the details were then leaked to Newsroom’s Tim Murphy.

Williams also told another dirty politics practitioner, National Party pollster David Farrar. Farrar tried to shut it down, seeing the risk it exposed to the National Party, but then went along anyway, although he later tried to steer the story away from National’s guilt, which is its usual modus operandi.

But Newshub wanted to control the story. Barry Soper and Newshub knew more about the story than Tim Murphy, who nevertheless tweeted about—and I quote him—”the mother of all scandals” about to break a day before the story leaked publicly. Ms Morton used to work for Newshub and Newstalk ZB. Newshub was trying its best to protect her after David Seymour tried to get the story leaked through channels not connected with Morton. Three Newshub journalists—Jenna Lynch, Lloyd Burr, and Patrick Gower—looked collectively stunned when they were told that they had burnt Ms Morton as a source. They knew they’d been tumbled.

When this was put to the Newshub reporters that it would also expose National and Jordan Williams’ dealings with Tim Murphy, one of the Newshub journalists paused and said that National were “distancing themselves” from the story, but it was an ACT-inspired hit job to damage me politically, in collaboration with a senior National Party staffer, Rachel Morton, who was the source of the leak and the source that led to Jordan Williams weaponising the information during the election campaign. Every last one of them—Morton, Seymour, Williams, Bishop, Murphy, Farrar—played dirty politics to breach my inalienable right and the inalienable right of every New Zealander to privacy.

My source also revealed that National Party members joked amongst themselves about the leak, but realised they couldn’t do anything with the “no-surprises disclosure”—their risk was too high. That, of course, didn’t prevent Ms Tolley from telling her sister, nor did it prevent 42 people being made aware of my super case. All it took was for that private information to fall into the hands of David Seymour, who craved media attention but couldn’t claim the limelight, because that would have placed a spotlight on Rachel Morton, his source.

This is what dirty politics looks like.

That’s why I have brought this case on principle, at a huge cost—the principle of privacy.

The collusion between the National Party, ACT, and these grubby figures in and around politics is what turns people off politics. The characters in the story of my super leak viewed dirty politics as their religion, but it’s the worship of jackals by jackasses.

What I now know, and I didn’t know it as I went to court, is that during my court case, there were witnesses who gave evidence who knew the truth, even as they were not speaking it, and journalists—but not Barry Soper—who sat in the court who knew the truth, but printed a tissue of lies. That I now know. Shame on them, but now they’ve been exposed for what they truly are.

Maybe Mr Seymour could tell the precise circumstances in which he was told this information. Will he tell them, or will I have to? This has been a disgrace, and Mr Seymour is now outed.

I have got the witness. I never had it until the court. The judge said to me, “But you must tell me who did it.”, as though—with all their resources—one man against them, paying for his own costs, could be expected to do that.

Mr Seymour, I am resolved that this is day one of the truth fightback, and he is going to be in my line.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): I seek leave to make a personal explanation.SPEAKER: The member has sought leave to make a personal explanation. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

So Seymour was blocked from responding directly to the allegations.

“This is what dirty politics looks like” is somewhat ironic from Peters.

Seymour has since strongly denied doing what has been accused. Morton has strongly denied, Farrar has strongly denied.

Peters says this won’t go to court until after the election. So he is putting all this out there, under protection, obviously aimed at doing as much political damage as he can as we approach the election.

He filed his original court action a day before the last election, just before going into negotiations with National ‘in good faith’.

Faith in a miracle may be all Peters has to go on this campaign. He seems to have jumped the shark. Unless he fronts up with evidence soon his claims can be dismissed as dirty campaigning.

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.

 

ACT policy targeting gangs and their proceeds

David Seymour has announced ACT Party policy that targets the criminal proceeds of gangs.

Newshub: Gangs targeted in ACT Party proposal, pledges to ‘hit them where it hurts’

Party leader David Seymour told Newshub Nation the policy was simple.

“If the police find illegal firearms and illegal activity by a gang, then they can take their assets because, at the moment, gangs are getting around the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act by having a large number of small operations,” Seymour told host Simon Shepherd. “We’re saying that if you have a firearm and you are dealing drugs and you are a gang, then the Crown can take your assets because, ultimately, these guys don’t care about going to jail.”

Gangs were using money and assets to recruit people and keep “feeding the disease”, he said.

Seymour said under the current Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, police had to prove at least $30,000 worth of assets were involved before a seizure.

“What we’re saying is that if you’re a gang that’s breaking the law and you’ve got an illegal firearm onsite – we’re going for your assets straight away.

“This is a practical policy – it’s achievable and it would make a difference. Will it solve the whole problem? No. Will it get us going in the right direction with practical steps? Yes.”

ACT will hit the gangs where it hurts

“ACT will target the gangs by hitting them where it hurts – their pockets,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour and Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities.

“Over the past two and a half years, the number of gang members has increased by a third.

“There’s been a 54 percent increase in the number of gang members being charged with firearms offences. That’s at least one gang member a day being charged with firearms offences.

“We’ve seen a clear escalation in behaviour from the gangs, with regular shootings using illegal firearms.

“The current approach to dealing with gangs and illegal firearms hasn’t worked.

“Neither the Government’s new gun legislation, nor the buyback, has made a difference to the number of illegal firearms in circulation.

“Locking people up gets them off the street, but the gangs don’t care if young prospects are sent to jail and just carry on operating in our communities.

“We need to get smarter. That means hitting the gangs where it hurts.

“If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful, gang-run operation, we’ll seize their assets.

ACT will amend the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (the Act) so that if a Police search finds:

  • an illegal operation (e.g. drug manufacturing for supply or money laundering), and
  • the unlawful possession of a firearm, and
  • a person who is either a gang member or is closely affiliated,

it can apply to the courts for an order to seize the operation’s assets.

Currently, Police must meet a number of tests before it can apply to the courts to seize assets under the Act.

That includes proving a link between illicit money and the purchasing of assets, and proof of drug manufacturing or money laundering at a value of more than $30,000.

Police often wait until the suspected value is much higher as an offence is then easier to prove.

“Under our proposal, if an illegal firearm is found in the possession of a known gang member at a property where an illegal operation is taking place, authorities will not be required to meet the current tests. The discovery of an illegal firearm can be used to fast-track the seizure of assets,” says Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“ACT is going to go after the gangs and their guns by hitting them where it hurts.

“In the wake of our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch, the Government targeted the wrong group of New Zealanders by scapegoating law-abiding firearms owners. It should be going after the gangs.

“One illegal firearm in the hands of a gang is one too many. If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful operation run by a gang, we’ll seize their assets.

“Under our proposal, gangs will either need to shut up shop, disarm, or have their assets seized.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities. ACT’s plan to get smarter in dealing with the gangs is a step towards safer communities.”

ACT have been improving in polls, getting between 1.8% and 3.5% with the last from Colmar Brunton at 3.1%, and if the get this sort of result in the election Seymour will have several MPs in with him. If National keep bungling then ACT may pick up even more support.

Seymour will also be on Q+A this morning and plans to announce more policy.

 

ACT Party list

The ACT Party have announced their list for this year’s election. The top twenty:

  1. David Seymour
  2. Brooke Van Velden
  3. Nicole McKee
  4. Chris Baillie
  5. Simon Court
  6. James McDowall
  7. Karen Chhour
  8. Mark Cameron
  9. Stephen Berry
  10.  Toni Severin
  11. Damien Smith
  12. Miles McConway
  13. Beth Houlbrooke
  14. Carmel Claridge
  15. Bruce Carley
  16. Cameron Luxton
  17. Grae O’Sullivan
  18. Myah Deedman
  19. David Seymour
  20. David King

Odd to see two David Seymours but #19 is a candidate from Whangarei.

Brooke Van Velden (who has been an adviser to Seymour before running for Parliament) is a good and obvious choice for #2. It looks like five of the top ten are male and female, which looks different for an ACT list.

Nicole McKee is the spokesperson for the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners and has been vocal in opposition to firearms law changes since the Christchurch mosque murders.

Beth Houlbrooke (“an award-winning businesswoman, former farmer, and Chair of the Rodney Local Board”) has been an ACT candidate before and is the only candidate currently featuring on the ACT website.

Going by recent polls there is a reasonable chance of the top few on that list to get into Parliament as long as the Epsom Seymour wins his electorate again, which seems very likely.

 

Pressure grows on Cabinet to review Alert Level 2

Last week Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern indicated that the current Alert Level 2 lockdown would not be reviewed until next Monday and Cabinet agreed that they would consider “no later than 22 June” whether to move to Alert Level 1 or not.

It is the Government’s view that we should also move as quickly as we safely can to alert level 1. On that basis, Cabinet will check in again on our settings on 8 June, and we’ve agreed that no later than 22 June, four weeks from today, we will consider then the move to alert level 1

…and I should add: this is based on the advice of the Director-General of Health, who supported these recommendations and made these recommendations.

25 May 2020

But there is increasing pressure to review the level move earlier, like when Cabinet meets today.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters had already broken ranks with the collective Cabinet decision, and Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller has also mildly pushed for a move back to most business as usual.

Yesterday’s Black Lives Matter protests where hundreds of people gathered in various places, contrary to Level 2 rules, ramped up calls for change.

So far Ardern has remained silent.

NZ Herald: Social distancing concerns as thousands attend protests

In Wellington one person went as far as temporarily tying himself to the fence of the US Embassy following a vigil attended by around 500 people.

Earlier in the day an estimated 4000 people gathered in central Auckland to attend the Black Lives Matter March for Solidarity. The group travelled from Aotea Square to the US Consulate General on Customs St.

Very little social distancing occurred at any of the main protests, prompting concerns from deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Act leader David Seymour David Seymour and microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles about the risk of spreading Covid-19.

Despite constant calls from organisers for social distancing, people gathered close due to the sheer immensity of the crowd.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declined to comment on the protests or on the death of George Floyd.

No sign yet of Ardern commenting on alert levels either. She will have to front up on this today publicly, and peters says that it must be discussed at today’s Cabinet meeting.

.RNZ – Winston Peters Peters: If protests condoned ‘why are we not at level 1?’

Cabinet meets today and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says alert level 2 restrictions have to be discussed.

Peters said the breaching of alert level 2 rules at the protests should have resulted in prosecution for the organisers.

And if they won’t be prosecuted, then there’s no choice but to move to alert level 1, he said.

“If they condone that and there’s no prosecution of the organisers of these two events then why are we not at alert level 1?”

“Why is this going on against the rules we’ve all agreed to?

“It’s a question for all of us. We cannot have rules where some people decide that they don’t wish to comply and there are no consequences.”

There have been no new Covid cases for the last ten days, and there is only one active case known about.

However there is also pressure from health people to continue with the lockdown.

Dr Siouxsie Wiles (@SiouxsieW:

“Absolutely gutted to see so many people joined the NZ BLM gatherings/marches without taking covid precautions. If you went today, please please please self isolate for the next 14 days. The last thing any of us want is to see a surge in cases.”

And epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker has been on RNZ this morning saying we should remain at Level 2 – he has recently been pushing for compulsory wearing of masks in public.

So this is shaping up to be a clash between health experts and Ardern versus Peters, Seymour, National and a lot of the public who seem to have already decided that Level 2 is too restrictive.


Ardern is being interviewed on RNZ.

“I understand the sentiment and  urgency” in protesting.

But “we have the rules there for a reason” but she says it is an operational matter for the police in how to deal with clear breaches of the rules “their call, not mine”. She appears to agree with the police approach to not try to restrict the protests.

Ardern certainly did nothing to criticise or condemn level 2 breaches by protests.

“We always want too keep under review” decisions on levels and Ardern suggests that Dr Bloomfield may have underestimated the success of the lockdowns.

Ardern has specifically committed to Cabinet reviewing the alert level next Monday 6 June. She indicates that we could go down to alert level one a couple of days after that if we continue to have no or few new cases.

So that’s a move by Ardern, but is it enough? A week of Covid restrictions is a long time for businesses already severely impacted by over two months of no or restricted activity. It’s also a long time for the public who have been moving on from restrictions before level changes have happened.

Another problem for Ardern and the Government – by saying she is bringing forward a decision on reducing the alert level by a week and indicating that if we continue with virtually no Covid cases then the Alert level is likely to drop in just over a week, the public are likely to continue to act as if we are already there.

RNZ: Cabinet to consider alert level 1 move on 8 June

It’s trickier for businesses who could get shut down for breaching the Level 2 rules. from what I’ve seen rules are not being strictly applied anyway. Are we already in a virtual Level 1 now anyway?

If protesters who have a good cause to promote can do as they please, why not the rest of us with causes of our own?

Businesses have a good cause – their survival.

The Government appears to have lost control.

 

Pressure increasing on lowering to Level 1 and trans-Tasman travel

Opening up travel between New Zealand and Australia has been proposed as both countries appear to have Covid-19 well under control. It looks unlikely to happen before New Zealand drops to Level 1 restrictions (whatever they may end up being), and Cabinet are not due to consider lowering to level 1 for a week and a half and it has been indicated (on Monday) it may be up to 4 weeks away.

Winton Peters has been talking about a Trans-Tasman bubble for over a month, and is now breaking ranks with Cabinet and says he wants one “yesterday”, but Jacinda Ardern has indicated that September is more likely

24 April: Trans-Tasman bubble could start ‘more quickly than we think’ – Peters

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says some businesses could be saved if the country creates a trans-Tasman bubble – and he’s open to starting on a state-by-state basis.

Fifty-five per cent of tourists who visit New Zealand come from Australia and the foreign affairs minister said it therefore made sense to start planning how a trans-Tasman travel bubble might work.

“So, it requires us to put our best minds together here and in Australia. I’ve spoken to the Foreign Minister in Australia about the need for us to start thinking about that now,” he said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is on board and said it made sense to work with New Zealand on any relaxing of the border restrictions.

“I would have thought New Zealand would be the obvious candidate [for border openings] and that’s the nature of discussions we’ve had,” Morrison said.

Wednesday: Hopes to get trans-Tasman bubble flying by July

A high-powered group investigating opening up trans-Tasman travel amid the coronavirus pandemic hopes to put its proposal to politicians by early June, and get people travelling by the July school holidays.

The ‘Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group’ is made up of 11 government agencies, six airports, two airlines, and includes health experts and airline, airport and border agency representatives from both Australia and New Zealand.

Started by Auckland Airport, and co-ordinated by the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF), the team of 40 experts have been working for the past two weeks on recommendations for the re-opening of borders between Australia and New Zealand.

ANZLF co-chair Ann Sherry said the group wanted to focus on getting it right first on the Tasman before opening up to the Pacific and other destinations.

“We’ve got an early June objective to get recommendations back to government, but we’re testing it with government as we go along to make sure our thinking isn’t divergent at this stage of the process.”

Once the systems were considered by decision-makers, she was optimistic the trial might be completed in time for the July school holidays, she said.

Prime Minister Ardern was non-committal:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has not set a date for how soon the bubble could be set up, saying both countries would need to be comfortable.

Ardern spoke with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday about the proposal, and said on Wednesday that there was enthusiasm on both sides of the Tasman.

The two countries were at different stages of easing restrictions, and New Zealand had had a bit more time to see how progress was going in stamping out Covid-19, she said.

“I’d say good work is taking place and it won’t be too long before we will be ready.”

Deputy Prime Minister Peters is pushing different aspirations:

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has broken rank with Labour, saying that quarantine-free trans-Tasman travel should already be allowed out of one side of his mouth, but has a different story out of the other.

However, Peters told a Trans-Tasman Business Circle briefing on Wednesday that opening the trans-Tasman border was urgent for both economies, but the two countries were not yet ready.

“If the decision was made today could we start tomorrow, I’m going to be honest and say no – but we’re working on it with the greatest of urgency now so that if the decision was made sooner rather than later, we’d be off and hopefully got every contingency foreseeable and imaginable covered,” Peters said.

Travel isn’t even allowed between states in Australia so opening up to New Zealand looks unlikely right now.

Yesterday in Parliament Winston Peters says he’d like to see trans-Tasman bubble implemented ‘yesterday’

National’s deputy leader Nikki Kaye questioned Mr Peters, who was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister in question time today, over recent disagreements within the Government on Covid-19 restriction timelines.

“Has the Foreign Minister (Winston Peters) advocated to her (Jacinda Ardern) or to the Cabinet to proceed faster around the trans-Tasman bubble,” Ms Kaye asked.

Mr Peters gave a direct response to the question.

“Take a wild guess,” he said with a wry smile.

Ms Kaye then pressed him whether he had pushed for a date that the travel bubble should come into force.

“Yesterday,” he replied before once again taking his seat.

But that may just be typical Peters posturing to an audience.

Margy Osmond, co-chair of the Trans-Tasman Safe Border Group, told the Sydney Morning Herald they expected it to commence “as early as September”.

When asked about this, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “that could be realistic”.

“I have been careful about putting down specific dates, but have been very focused on making sure we are ready, then we can move and we won’t be constrained by needing to do any administrative or logistical work at our borders,” she told media today.

Opening borders is dependent on moving to level 1.

ACT MP David Seymour has accused Peters of breaching Cabinet rules – Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters accused of breaching Cabinet rules in revealing Jacinda Ardern’s views on level 1 move

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Peters – NZ First leader as well as Deputy Prime Minister – openly talked about conversations had in Cabinet.

Asked if New Zealand had been in level 2 for too long, he said: “My party made it very clear we thought that. And the Prime Minister has actually admitted that at the Cabinet meeting – she said it.”

According to the Cabinet Manual – the set of rules for ministers, enforced by the Prime Minister – ministers are not allowed to talk about what happens within Cabinet meetings.

“Discussion at Cabinet and Cabinet committee meetings is informal and confidential,” it says.

“Ministers and officials should not … disclose or record the nature or content of the discussions or the views of individual ministers or officials expressed at the meeting itself.”

Seymour said that by saying what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Cabinet on live radio this morning, Peters was in breach of this rule.

It is up to the Prime Minister as to whether or not a minister is disciplined for breaking the Cabinet Manual rules.

Ardern has a record of turning a blind eye to what Peters and Shane Jones do.

Regardless of this political posturing, the public may be adding to the pressure to ease restrictions and get back closer to normal. There have been no new Covid cases in New Zealand for a week, and there are now only 8 active cases, all in the  Auckland region. The case for continuing restrictions will get increasingly hard for the Government to maintain.

The country has virtually eliminated Covid – but the big risk now is if it comes back into the country when border restrictions are eased.

And while Australian Covid numbers look proportionally similar to here The virus figure Australian officials are most worried about

…despite the country’s achievements in overcoming the worst of the virus, there is still one concerning figure looming over its recovery.

Figures released by the Department of Health show that 732, or about 10.3 per cent, of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country have been locally acquired with no contact identified.

This means hundreds of people have caught the virus in Australia but the source of the infection could not be found.

That will be a concern to health officials here, and the Government says they rely on the officials for advice on easing restrictions.

But when should we at least lower to level 1 restrictions here? There has been no community transmission since early April, and business concerns are growing.

NZ Herald: Jacinda Ardern’s wriggle room on moving to alert level 1 early

Cabinet is set to look at whether New Zealand should move to level 1 on June 22, but pressure is mounting to move earlier, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters saying it should have already happened.

Yesterday a top business restructuring expert, Grant Graham, whose firm KordaMentha partner makes money from insolvency work, pleaded for a move to level 1 to save “unjustifiable” job losses.

Yesterday was the sixth straight day of no new Covid-19 cases, and there have been no community transmission cases – whose branches are harder to trace and isolate – since the beginning of April.

It is possible that there will be no active cases in New Zealand by Cabinet’s D-day on June 22.

Meanwhile Stats NZ revealed that the number of filled jobs plummeted by a record 37,500 in April.

The decimated industries of tourism, hospitality, and events are hoping for an earlier move to level 1, where there will be no physical distancing requirements and no restrictions on numbers at social gatherings.

Ardern said on Monday that Cabinet would consider the settings of level 2 in 10 days, on June 8, and it will meet no later than on June 22 to look at whether the country could move to level 1.

She reiterated that timetable yesterday, saying it was based on Bloomfield’s advice.

But Cabinet could decide, based on his advice, to open up level 2 even more after June 8, or consider moving to level 1 before June 22.

“We have given us some space, just in case,” Ardern said yesterday.

Ardern seems to have one eye on health advice, hopefully she has one eye on deteriorating business news, and both eyes on the election.

June 22 looks a long way away as we move close to no active cases in the country.

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill under urgency in Parliament

The Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill is currently progressing through Parliament under urgency. So far just the National Party has opposed the Bill.

The Bill gives the Police the legal ability to walk into anyone’s home without a warrant, so there are risks to civil rights and liberty.

It is being rushed under urgency to try to make the move to Level 2 tonight legal, but it leaves open the question about whether the first move to Level 2 in March may have been illegal.

David Parker:

“This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.”

Michael Woodhouse:

“I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.”

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.”


Attorney General David Parker introduced the Covid-19 Public Health Response Bill yesterday:

This bill creates a bespoke legal framework to support the Government’s future efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 in New Zealand. This is designed to last for a maximum of two years although can be brought to an end earlier if the threat passes.

New Zealanders have been on a precarious journey combatting this virus. We’re not at our final destination yet, but together we’ve made extraordinary progress through the largely voluntary efforts of our people, who accepted the need for unprecedented actions to isolate ourselves in bubbles to cut off the chains of infection.

We went hard and we went early to fight a virus for which there is currently no vaccine and no cure. We know it can hide and spread through those with no symptoms, and around the world we’ve seen the devastation and loss of life it can cause, especially in aged care and in dementia units. We’ve negotiated difficult terrain and have broken the chain of community transmission.

In the meantime, we’ve improved our stocks and supply lines for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits and reagents as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and distribution. We’ve ramped up testing and the quality and capacity of track and tracing. We’ve minimised the damage the virus would have otherwise done to our people and to our economy.

To date, restrictions at alert levels 3 and 4 were given legal effect by notices under section 70 of the Health Act, in conjunction with the state of emergency under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act and the Economic Preparedness Act. To support alert levels 3 and 4, the Director-General has issued notices to close premises, except those providing essential services, prohibiting congregation in outdoor places, and require people to remain at home in their bubble except to access essentials and to exercise. These orders are lawful under the Health Act, and the restrictions proportionate to the scale of the COVID-19 threat.

I think there’s doubt about that, as pointed out here: New legal framework for Alert Level 2 to be introduced today

That said, some aspects of the Health Act do need to be modernised and adapted, and this is particularly true for the detailed level 2 measures, which are not well suited to the existing Health Act and Civil Defence Emergency Management regime. This bill provides new enforceable measures that don’t depend on a state of emergency being in force.

We went into Level 2 and Level 3 before the State of Emergency was announced in March.

The bill will give police and other authorised enforcement officers clearer powers to enforce the orders, consistent with the graduated approach police have taken to enforcement to date. Those powers sit aside along voluntary measures, public health, and other guidance.

This bill creates a power to enter premises, a power to direct people, to stop activities that are in breach of the order, a power to close roads and public places, and a power to close businesses operating in breach of the rules for 24 hours. Clause 23 allows a constable to enter a private dwelling house without a warrant only if they have reasonable grounds to believe that people have gathered there in contravention of an order and entry is necessary to give a direction to cease the activity.

We acknowledge that it is unusual—though not unprecedented—for a constable to have warrantless power of entry into a private dwelling house. This is due—the fact that it is unusual—to the high expectation of privacy that citizens have in these places.

The extraordinary risk posed by COVID-19—I will cover instances in later speeches; I haven’t got time to detail that now—and the fact that it can be spread readily in large social gatherings, whether in public or in private, justifies the power in these circumstances and the limits it places on rights.

There are safeguards in the bill so that a constable must report every time a warrantless entry power is exercised, summarising the circumstances and the reason why the power needed to be exercised.

This bill will create a new infringement offence regime. Some breaches will be dealt with as an infringement offence, and an intentional breach will be a criminal offence which may result in a fine or imprisonment on conviction. An infringement offence regime gives police another graduated step in their enforcement options where the breach is not serious enough to warrant criminal prosecution.

The bill also amends the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 to ensure a nationally consistent approach to the response and to management of risks arising from COVID-19, and to better deal with concurrent emergencies that are not COVID-19 but which might arise during the period of the COVID-19 response.

We believe this legislation is needed to appropriately continue our response to the unique and unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

Simon Bridges in reply:

… it’s with regret that I say we have on this side of the House in the National Party, real concerns with this bill. You’ll hear from other members of National about, I am sure, civil liberty concerns—concerns with our freedoms as a people that have been long fought for—in the speeches and contributions. I want to simply place on record my concerns in two areas, really, but four for completeness: funerals, tangi; churches or places of worship; enforcement; and the length of time that this bill—or law, as it will, I think, become—applies for.

…this bill, in coming here, has had very limited scrutiny. There will be, as it becomes law, no select committee. It’s a case of, on this side of the House—I don’t know about the support parties in Government—us having it for less than 24 hours. I think it was Geoffrey Palmer who lamented this Parliament being the fastest lawmaker in the West. Dare I say it, to the members opposite, in recent times we have got it wrong; passing things that we didn’t even know we were passing. So the room for error in this bill, I suggest, is incredibly high, given the legal complexities.

Michael Woodhouse:

I find myself in the situation of going, within an hour and a half, from commendation to condemnation for this piece of legislation—both in its process and in its executive overreach. I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness.

I’m old enough to remember carless days, wage and price freezes, reducing the road speed limit from 100 kilometres to 80 kilometres per hour — that’s right: SMPs — by an executive that road roughshod over this parliamentary process. Even they pale into comparison with the influence and executive fiat that is being exerted on this country by this bill.

I am, frankly, astounded that a Government that purports to be open and transparent, to be kind, and to give the country, the public, the credit for the amazing work that they have done, still increases further and further into their freedoms and their lives.

Let’s be very clear. If there was a question about whether the level 4 and level 3 lockdown was legally allowed under section 70 of the Health Act—and that is a question yet to be answered—then there’s no doubt that the sort of influence that the Government wants to have in level 2 is not. So if the Government wants to act in this way, it does need to pass legislation. But, as I said in my previous intervention, that is the very time when this place matters most, when the rule of law matters most, and where changes to that law need to be carefully thought through, well-considered, consulted on, robustly debated, and definitely not rushed through.

Now, the Minister of Health, very clearly says there is haste—understandable. But this Government has had three months. I think this Government did get legal advice that said that there was a question mark over their ability to act at level 3 and 4, and, clearly, they wanted to continue to impose themselves on New Zealanders’ lives under level 2 in a way that was entirely inconsistent given what we heard about what level 2 would look like. And so they’re going to pass that bill.

But not even the Minister of Health knows his own legislation, because he said in his speech that he will have to consult with the Director-General of Health. Actually, the bill doesn’t say that; it says quite the opposite. At subclause (2) of clause 9, on page 5, when making a section 11 order, “Nothing in this section requires the Minister to receive specific advice from the Director-General about the content of a proposed order or proposal to amend, extend, or revoke an order.” So he doesn’t need to consult the director-general, and not even Dr Clark knew that.

 I’m sad that at this stage in the process the National Party cannot support this bill, because we want this to be a team of 5 million, but it’s the Government that is racing off in a direction that we cannot support, curtailing the freedom of New Zealanders without their right to have their say. Unless there are material changes to it, which will be signalled, it will be difficult to support this subsequently.

Ron Mark spoke for NZ First but his speech was mainly an attack on National with little altention given to the Bill.

Julie Ann Genter for the Green Party:

I rise in support of this bill.

This bill, I think, is absolutely necessary to ensure that all New Zealanders will benefit from the period of lockdown that we’ve already been in, and will benefit from being assured that that the rules will be able to be enforced. Because even if the vast majority of New Zealanders embrace these rules and want to stop the spread of COVID-19, it would only take a small number who ignore the rules to cause an outbreak that could quite quickly become very serious and cause us to have to move back to a stricter level.

So, of course, the vast majority of New Zealanders support the actions that have been taken thus far. I think they will absolutely respect the rules in level 2, which are not at all arbitrary, but absolutely informed by what is going to prevent the spread of the illness.

Many people were pushing boundaries if not overstepping them under Level 3 over the last two weeks.

Of course, the Green Party would always prefer that there would be a select committee, even a very short one, and we would’ve liked to have seen that. But we also understand the need for urgency right now, given the move to level 2 at—was it at midnight on Thursday morning or 11:59 Wednesday? So recognising that this is a very, very short period of time and that there was a desire to move back to level 2 sooner rather than later, then we can understand this.

But the Bill didn’t have to be only introduced to Parliament the day before the we go back down to Level 2.

David Seymour (ACT):

I rise on behalf of ACT in support of this bill to its first reading. The reason ACT supports the COVID-19 Response (Further Management Measures) Legislation Bill is very simple. It’s about the rule of law, and the rule of law matters because if it means anything to be a New Zealander, it is to live freely under democracy and the rule of law: to be able to send representatives to this House to make laws that are clear, that we can read for ourselves and understand what the law is. Having the rule of law protects the weakest people in our society because they can see it written down and it applies equally to every person.

But, unfortunately, I can only support this bill to the first reading, through this urgent process, because it has some real problems. I can understand the Government going through urgency. I won’t relitigate the issues that got us here, except to say that it has been four months–actually, nearly four and a half months–since it became clear to countries such as Taiwan that there might be an issue.

The idea that this has all suddenly happened and the Government has to rush Parliament through urgency now is a poor reflection on the preparedness of the Government. But, no matter, we’re here, and we have to rush this through urgency so we can get to level 2 lawfully and quickly. Understood.

There was a lot of debate over the severe restrictions on funerals still.

The Bill looks certain to pass, probably today, with the support of Labour, NZ First and the Green Party and possibly ACT.

First and second reading votes were the same:

  • Ayes 64 New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand 8; ACT New Zealand 1.
  • Noes 56 New Zealand National 55; Ross.

Hansard (Tuesday): https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20200512_20200512_34

Hansard (Wednesday: Tuesday, 12 May 2020 (continued on Wednesday, 13 May 2020) – Volume 745

 

 

Young Act sexual harassment – members removed, investigation started

A follow up to Young Act acknowledge claims of sexual harassment from vice president – the vice president who resigned when going public on her claims is “pleased with the actions that are now being taken”.

Two Young Act members have been ‘removed’, and the Act Party president has appointed an employment lawyer to investigate and says “the allegations were being taken very seriously”.

 

Stuff: Young ACT members booted out, vice-president resigns over sexual harassment claims

The vice-president of Young ACT has resigned and two members of the youth wing have been kicked out amid allegations of sexual harassment.

Young Act president Felix Poole acknowledged the youth wing had failed Gammeter, saying it did not have a system in place to deal with complaints.

“It was our fault,” he said.

“There was hesitancy on the behalf of Young ACT to act because we had no system or guidelines in place.”

He said the offending had taken place online, and there were two further incidents, but did not elaborate.

Two members of Young ACT had been removed as a result, and it would be conducting its own investigation, as well as a possible independent inquiry.

The members had been blocked from Young ACT’s social media, and Poole said he did not think they would appeal the decision.

It was not calling in the police but would co-operate if they were brought in, he said.

RNZ: Young ACT to investigate sexual harassment of vice president

The Act Party has hired an employment lawyer to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations of misconduct within its youth wing.

Andrea Twaddle has been appointed by the party to investigate the claims of sexual harassment made by Gammeter.

ACT president Tim Jago said the party first became aware of Gammeter’s allegations last night.

Jago said the allegations were being taken very seriously.

“We will be providing Ms Gammeter with any support she requires,” he said.

MP and party leader David Seymour seems to be keeping a distance from this.

Mistake in abortion vote allows safe areas but no way of setting them up

The final stage of the Abortion reform Bill was debated in Parliament yesterday and last night, with Supplementary Order Paper amendments being voted on.  A late night mistake has resulted in an unintended change.

A David Seymour amendment to axe ‘safe areas’ from protests near where abortions are carried out are failed. But a stuff up removed the part of legislation allowing safe areas to be set up.

So safe areas will be allowed, but there is no way to set them up.

Stuff: Last minute mistake changes abortion law as Parliament accidentally passes amendment

A cross-party attempt to reform New Zealand’s abortion laws looked like it would emerge intact from a debate on proposed amendments until a dramatic last minute mistake axed one of its key provisions.

The amendments, known as Supplementary Order Papers or SOPs, were the subject of a lengthy debate that stretched from Tuesday afternoon to the early hours of Wednesday morning.

An attempt by ACT leader David Seymour to axe “safe areas” failed, but a last minute mistake by MPs supporting safe areas meant that safe areas were effectively nixed anyway, despite a definition for safe areas remaining in the bill.

Seymour proposed an amendment to remove safe areas from the bill. The bill initially allowed a safe areas to be established up to 150 metres around a place offering abortion services. It would be illegal to protest against abortions in these areas.

The intention was to prevent American-style protests where people getting abortions are harassed and intimidated before visiting clinics.

The first part of the amendment failed, but by a very tight margin, 59 votes to 56, however later in the night a second part to his amendment passed effectively by accident.

The second part of Seymour’s amendment was to delete parts of the bill that would give effect to the safe areas. It went to a voice vote, where MPs vote by saying “aye” and “no”, which it passed.

MPs then had an opportunity to call a conscience vote on the amendment as they had done for other amendments that night, but supporters of safe areas failed to do this, meaning the amendment passed. A late attempt by Green MP Jan Logie to save the provision failed.

This means that while safe areas remain in the legislation, the parts of the bill relating to establishing safe areas and making them function have been removed – effectively making it impossible to set one up.

This demonstrates a problem with long sittings dealing with a lot of amendments late in the legislative process. It isn’t a good way to form laws.

All the speeches and votes here:

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/drilldown/HansD_20200310_20200310/HansDeb_20200310_20200310_20?Criteria.PageNumber=1