Australian Minister Dutton joins list of prominent people with Covid-19

Australian Minister of Home Affairs Peter Dutton has been hospitalised with Covid-19, joining a growing list of prominent people confirmed to have the coronavirus.

Dutton was recently in Washington where New Zealand minister Tracey Martin sat beside him for 90 minutes but that is thought to be long enough go to be safe for her.

Despite this I think it would be prudent of Martin to avoid any chance of spreading the virus through the New Zealand Government and Parliament (unless it’s too late).

Ivanka Trump also met with Dutton.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau has tested positive for Covid-19, with both her and her Prime Minister husband going into isolation for 14 days. There are now 160 presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada – but the number of prominent people catching the virus makes me wonder whether confirmed cases are the tip of the virus iceberg.

CBC: No need for Trudeau to be tested, despite wife’s COVID-19 diagnosis, experts say

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau doesn’t need to be tested for COVID-19 — even though his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, was diagnosed with the disease — if he isn’t showing any symptoms, experts say.

“Certainly for people asymptomatic, we do not recommend testing,” said Colin Lee, a specialist in public health and infectious disease. “But I could certainly see that people in position of power may want testing. And that might happen. But it’s certainly not the medical and public health recommendation.”

Seems odd not to take the precaution – and to test whether people without symptoms could be carrying the virus. At least PM Trudeau is taking precautions by going into isolation.

Al Jazeera: Bolsonaro aide who met Trump tests positive for coronavirus

A Brazilian government official who attended an official meeting at Donald Trump’s resort in Florida on Saturday and posted a photo of himself standing next to the United States president has tested positive for coronavirus, Brazilian officials said on Thursday.

In the photo posted on his Instagram account, Fabio Wajngarten, the communication secretary of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, is standing next to Trump wearing a “Make Brazil great again” cap. Vice President Mike Pence was next to Trump.

“Let’s put it this way: I’m not concerned,” Trump told reporters while meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office.

He said he had heard about the aide’s exposure but that “we did nothing very unusual”.

Trump may not have the virus, but this shows how easily it could spread around world leaders. The US hasn’t closed their borders to Brazil.

I expect health experts will be looking at where these people caught the virus from, and how it is being spread.

Hello Magazine: Celebrities affected by coronavirus: from Tom Hanks to Robbie Williams

Hollywood couple Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson shared the news on Thursday that they had both tested positive for coronavirus. Taking to Instagram, Tom shared a photo of himself and Rita together in Australia, where they are currently in self-isolation, writing: “Hello folks. @ritawilson and I want to thank everyone here Down Under who are taking such good care of us. We have COVID-19 and are in isolation so we do not spread it to anyone else.”

Robbie Williams is also in Australia at the moment, where he was due to perform a one-off show. However, the Angels singer has been forced to cancel his gig after the Australian government announced that all gatherings of more than 500 people should not go ahead.

Production of hit Netflix show Riverdale has shut down after a member of the team was exposed to COVID-19. The decision was made after a crew member came into contact with someone who had tested positive for co

On Friday, the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand remained at five. It seems inevitable this number will increase.

Many events have been affected. The New Zealand versus Australia one day cricket match in Sydney last night was played in an empty stadium. The Highlanders rugby team will be playing in an empty stadium in Buenos Aires. The Pasfika event scheduled for Auckland this weekend was cancelled.

Surprisingly the mosque attack anniversary event scheduled for Christchurch seems to be still going ahead, but scaled down:

This may change before tomorrow.

The cancellation list is growing around the world. RNZ – Covid-19: Cancelled, crowdless and closed

Cancelled/postponed in New Zealand

  • Auckland’s Pasifika Festival has been cancelled amid concerns about the risk of the virus being transmitted to the Pacific Islands by festival attendees
  • One of the biggest surf events seen in New Zealand, the Corona Piha Pro, has been postponed, with The World Surf League deciding to postpone all events in March.
  • Two rock bands have postponed concerts in Auckland – Deftones were set to perform at Trusts Arena on Sunday and My Chemical Romance at Western Springs later this month.

Cancelled/postponed/closed around the world

These include:

  • The Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled after a McLaren Racing Team has tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Basketball and hockey fans in North America will miss out on games, with both the NBA and the NHL suspending their seasons.
  • The US PGA Tour has cancelled The Players Championship and all tour events for the next few weeks.
  • The massive E3 video game conference in Los Angeles has been canned, and American music festival South by Southwest has also been cancelled. The Coachella Festival, due to be held next month, has been put off until October.
  • There will be no Broadway shows in New York for the rest of the month, while Disney has closed its Disneyland and Disneyworld theme parks in California and Florida, as well as several others around the globe.
  • The ATP has suspended its professional men’s tennis tour for six weeks, and the world figure skating championships have been cancelled.
  • Several blockbuster movies have had their release dates pushed back as filmgoers stay away from the cinema, including the latest Fast and Furious instalment – pushed back by 11 months – and new James Bond movie No Time To Die, which has been delayed until November.
  • The Van Gogh museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam are closed until end of March, while New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is temporarily closing all three of its locations in the city. All Smithsonian museums in Washington DC and New York City will close from Saturday.
  • Qatar has announced the closure of all cinemas, theatres, gyms, play areas and museums.

Still going ahead (so far)

  • The WOMAD music festival is going ahead at Brooklands Park in New Plymouth this weekend, although organisers are asking people who feel unwell to stay home as part of their plans to mitigate the effects of the virus.
  • The St Patrick’s Parade on Queen Street in central Auckland is set to start at midday tomorrow, while the Irish Music and Dance Festival will be held outside Auckland Town Hall, from 12:30pm – 3:30pm.
  • Despite organisers admitting a delay of one or two years would be the “most feasible” option if the Tokyo Olympics can’t be held this year, the games are still set to take place.
  • Commemorations to make the 15 March mosque terror attacks are still set to take place in Christchurch on Sunday.
  • While Pasifika has been cancelled, the Auckland secondary schools’ dance festival Polyfest starts next week, running from from Wednesday to Saturday.

The situation is changing daily, with increasing numbers of cancellations and restrictions.

Back to the beginning First Covid-19 case happened in November, China government records show

The first case of someone suffering from Covid-19 can be traced back to 17 November, according to media reports on unpublished Chinese government data.

The report, in the South China Morning Post, said Chinese authorities had identified at least 266 people who contracted the virus last year and who came under medical surveillance, and the earliest case was 17 November – weeks before authorities announced the emergence of the new virus.

The data obtained by the Post, which the Guardian has not been able to verify, said a 55-year-old from Hubei province could have been the first person to contract Covid-19. For about one month after that date there were one to five new cases reported each day, the report said, and by 20 December there were 60 confirmed cases.


RNZ – Covid-19: how to protect yourself and others:

The Ministry of Health says the WHO pandemic declaration does not change anything for New Zealand which is already following a pandemic plan. The ministry’s key message is to stay home if you are ill.

“The most fundamental thing that every New Zealand citizen and other person in this country can do is to make sure that if they are unwell they do not go out and they do not put others at risk, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on 12 March.

Doctors and the ministry are telling people who have symptoms not to just turn up at the GP or hospital emergency department, but to phone ahead or ring Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of Covid-19:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature (at least 38°C)
  • shortness of breath.
  • tiredness

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing are a sign of possible pneumonia and require immediate medical attention.

Other symptoms may also be present:

  • Aches and pains
  • Nasal congestion and/or runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhoea

Having symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you have Covid-19 as some are similar to a cold or flu. It’s not certain how long symptoms take to appear after a person has been infected, but WHO assessments suggest it is 2-10 days.

The World Health Organisation’s reports have shown 80 percent of those infected only a mild illness, 14 percent experience more severe disease, and 5 percent become critically ill.

How is coronavirus spread?

Coronavirus can spread from person to person, by personal contact when droplets from someone who is infected coughs and sneezes.

Droplets containing the virus also settle on surrounding surfaces. Studies suggest they may survive on surfaces for a few hours or up to several days, the WHO says. You can catch the disease by contact with a surface that has the viral particles on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

WHO expert Dr Bruce Aylward said 10 percent of people who come in contact with an infected person contract the virus. An early WHO report analysing about 50,000 cases from China suggested the virus was unlikely to spread from people who are not showing symptoms.

How to avoid catching and spreading Covid-19

Good hygiene, regularly washing and thoroughly drying your hands, and other simple steps can help stop the spread, the Ministry of Health says.

To reduce your chance of being infected or spreading the virus:

  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or by covering your mouth and nose with tissues.
  • Put used tissues in the bin or a bag immediately.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often (for at least 20 seconds).
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • Stay at least 1 metre away from someone who is coughing or sneezing,
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.
  • Avoid personal contact, such as kissing, sharing cups or food with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.

– Sources: MoH and WHO

What to do if you may have been exposed

People have been advised NOT to turn up to a doctor’s office or hospital if they are showing symptoms, but to instead call Healthline 0800 358 5453 (or for international SIMs +64 9 358 5453).

If you may have been exposed to Covid-19 you should isolate yourself for 14 days.

If you have returned from countries subject to New Zealand travel restrictions you should to isolate yourself for 14 days. Read more from the Ministry of Health on which countries have restrictions and what type of restrictions they are.

 

Poll – replacement NZ First leader (plus more donations drip feeding)

At this stage there is no indication that Winston Peters will step down as Deputy Prime Minister pending the SFO investigation into how the NZ First Foundation has been dealing with donations. Peters has both distanced himself saying he has nothing to do with the foundation, but has also said he knows the foundation has bone nothing wrong and has been doing all the media releases and interviews in relation to the issue.

And there is no indication that Winston Peters is ready to step down as leader of NZ First or to retire from politics. He doesn’t exactly look like an energizer bunny but politically he just keeps on going (with the occasional top up of voter energy after things have gone flat).

But regardless, Newshub decided to do some polling on a replacement NZ First leader – Who Kiwis think should be NZ First leader if Winston Peters stands down

In the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll, voters were asked for their thoughts on who should take over if Peters ever stands down as New Zealand First leader.

Thee results are quite mixed.

  • Ron Mark: 17.9%
  • Shane Jones: 14.5%
  • Tracey Martin: 13.8%
  • Fletcher Tabuteau: 3.6%

The three most popular are the three most prominent NZ First MPs. All are ministers. Jones is by far the most visible (he does a lot of attention seeking), but interesting to see Mark top the poll, as he has been a much more quiet worker.

Results from NZ First voters must be suspect as the sample must be quit small, with only 3.6% preferring the party in the poll.

  • Ron Mark: 34.4%
  • Shane Jones: 18.5%
  • Fletcher Tabuteau: 13.6%
  • Tracey Martin: 2.9%

So Jones doesn’t seem very popular even amongst the few NZ First voters polled. This doesn’t mean much, but it’s a bit interesting.

Peters has always been leader of NZ First, the Peters is sometimes referred to as Winston First.

Tracey Martin was chosen as deputy leader of NZ First on 14 February 2013.

Ron Mark challenged her and was selected to replace her on 3 July 2015.

Fletcher Tabuteau replaced Mark as leader on 27 February 2018.

Meanwhile Simon Bridges hasn’t ruled out working with Winston Peters forever:

It would be ridiculous making a commitment on this for future elections, so this means less than the replacement leader polling.


Meanwhile the donations story continues to drip feed, despite Peters saying he was slaying a complaint with the police over the ‘theft’ of information from the Foundation  he has nothing to do with.

RNZ: NZ First Foundation received tens of thousands of dollars from donors in horse racing industry

The New Zealand First Foundation has been receiving tens of thousands of dollars from donors in the horse racing industry in payments which fall just below the $15,000.01 at which party donations are usually made public.

As racing minister, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has delivered significant benefits to the industry, including millions of dollars of government money spent on tax breaks and scrapping betting levies.

Records viewed by RNZ show one of the big donors was the Lindsay family. Brendan Lindsay sold the plastic storage container business Sistema for $660 million in late 2016 and a year later bought Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud.

Three lots of $15,000 were deposited into the bank account of the New Zealand First Foundation on 11 October, 2018, according to records viewed by RNZ.

One of the donations was in Brendan Lindsay’s own name and one was in the name of his wife, Jo Lindsay. There was a third deposit made that same day listed as Lindsay Invest Donation.

The year before – in the 2017 election year – Brendan Lindsay also donated $15,000. On the same day there is another deposit for $15,000 listed as Lindsay Trust Donation. Both were banked by the New Zealand First Foundation on 5 May, 2017.

Brendan Lindsay told RNZ, via email, that neither he nor his wife were aware of the Foundation.

Spreading payments between related people and entities all just below the disclosure threshold looks designed to avoid the law. Time will tell whether it is actually illegal or not, but can have an appearance of being deliberately deceitful.


 

Peters claims party financials legal, but no explanation of Foundation

Yesterday Winston Peters claimed that NZ First  has operated “within electoral laws” and that their financial arrangements using the NZ First Foundation are legal, but has given no explanation of how they have handled donations.

A media release:

Rt Winston Peters

Leader of New Zealand First

19 November 2019

Allegations raised this morning by Stuff Limited / Fairfax concern a party matter but I am confident that New Zealand First has operated within electoral laws, now and for the last 27 years. Declarable donations were declared to the Electoral Commission.

Our system of democracy is based on the secrecy of the ballot and privacy of party memberships and donations within specified limits.

We look forward to discussing this matter with the Electoral Commission.

Their financials don’t just remain secret from the public. Newsroom: Peters under fire over ‘foundation’ loans

New Zealand First MP and former deputy leader Tracey Martin expressed ignorance about the reports, saying: “I don’t know anything about the New Zealand First Foundation.”

Asked whether she was concerned by the allegations, Martin said simply that they were “interesting”.

Remarkable that she knows nothing about the Foundation, presuming that she is telling the truth – (Peters has a history of making false claims and denials:

Peters would not comment on the allegations in detail when approached by media before New Zealand First’s caucus meeting this morning, but said he would put out a press statement later in the day to “put the record straight”.

“For 27 years we’ve obeyed the electoral law of this country, we’ve never deviated, the last time there was allegations like this was in 2008.

“There were three inquiries, the Serious Fraud Office, the police and the Electoral Commission – they all found us to be exonerated, we’re not going to have this again.”

But:

In 2008, Peters was indeed cleared by police, the SFO and Electoral Commission over allegations of fraud regarding a $100,000 payment from Owen Glenn to his lawyer Henry. However, he was formally censured by Parliament after its privileges committee said he had “knowingly provid[ed] false or misleading information on a return of pecuniary interests”.

The problem for Peters and NZ First doesn’t look like going way.

Newsroom: Peters allegations another political toothache for PM

Serious allegations about New Zealand First’s approach to electoral laws are some way from being established – but there is enough in the claims to concern both Jacinda Ardern and the public as a whole.

RNZ’s Guyon Espiner opened a crack in the door with a piece asking important questions rather than providing answers about the foundation.

Now, Stuff’s Matt Shand has busted it down with an investigation alleging a concerted effort to cloak hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from “primary industry leaders, wealthy investors and multi-millionaires”.

Shand’s story suggests the donations were used to finance election campaigns, pay for legal advice, and even hiring Joseph Parker to speak at the party’s 2017 conference.

So far, Peters has done little to refute the substance of the article.

A press release he claimed would put the record straight amounted to little more than a dodge of the allegations, along with the tautological statement that “declarable donations were declared”.

To borrow another tautology, this is deja vu all over again for Peters.

In 2008, a cascade of claims about donations made to New Zealand First by wealthy businessmen such as Sir Robert Jones, Sir Owen Glenn and the Vela family – but concealed from the public – sparked numerous investigations and contributed to the ousting of the Labour-led government at that year’s election.

Over a decade later, Peters remains unrepentant and insists his name was unfairly dragged through the mud, noting that the police, Serious Fraud Office and Electoral Commission all decided against taking action.

But that is not the glowing exoneration he makes it out to be.

While SFO director Grant Liddell said there was no basis for laying fraud charges, he suggested there were unanswered questions about other possible electoral breaches – essentially punting the matter to the police and the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission’s final ruling on the matternoted that the party’s 2007 return was “materially false” but not illegal, as the party secretary had no intention to misstate or conceal the facts, while the 2005 and 2006 returns fell outside of the time limit for prosecution.

Party officials have been leaving the party because they have been put at risk over the financial transactions that they know little about.

It noted specifically that the decision was about the party secretary’s actions only, and not any other members of the party – such as Peters himself.

The police investigation also cleared the party secretary specifically, rather than New Zealand First as a whole.

So Peters claiming exoneration looks farcical, but typical.

Unravelling the claims seems set to take months, rather than days or weeks – and is yet another political toothache that Ardern would rather not be dealing with.

It may run well into election year. Ardern and Labour should be concerned after what happened in 2008.

Stuff: What NZ First slush fund was spent on: Campaign HQ, staff overtime, and a shredder

NZ First officials and MPs were kept in the dark while $38,000 was spent on campaign headquarters and staff overtime by the party’s political slush fund, the New Zealand First Foundation.

Expenses records for the foundation seen by Stuff show it collected more than $500,000 in donations from April 2017 to March 2019 that could be in breach of electoral donation laws, particularly if the foundation was paying party expenses.

Many of these apparent donations to the foundation do not appear on the party’s electoral returns.

Invoices, seen by Stuff, reveal the foundation spent $325,000 in about 18 months to March 2019 – with most of the money appearing to directly benefit the NZ First Party.

This included renting and furnishing the party’s campaign office for the 2017 election as well as advertising material, reimbursements for travel, internet bills, legal advice and consultancy work.

It does not appear this spending was declared to the Electoral Commission by the party.

Nor revealed to many in the party.

One former MP said that discovering details about the foundation “slush fund” undermined the work of NZ First’s volunteer fundraisers.

Former NZ First treasurer Colin Forster said the accounts were disorganised and inaccurate when he took over the role in 2008.

“All of the accounts were all written in a A4 exercise book, like a child would use for school,” he said.

“It would be fair to say they were inaccurate.”

Forster said he had questioned the party’s income at meetings and he could not figure out where the money came from.

“A lot of people have given a lot to this party and they have been kept in the dark.”

In October 2019, Lester Gray resigned from his position as NZ First Party president after refusing to sign off on its financial statements.

Gray said in a letter to the NZ First board that he had not been shown documentation he requested and therefore could not sign off the returns.

“I refuse to sign off the 2019 financial reports with the information I have been provided,” he wrote to the  board.

“As president, the limited exposure I have had to party donations and expenditure leaves me in a vulnerable position.

“This type of operation does not align with my moral and business practice values, and I am therefore not able to support the party any longer.”

Former MPs say the financial reports and party expenses were never presented to members.

NZ First Party presidents – who are ostensibly in charge of the organisational wing of the party – are not welcome at caucus meetings.

While the NZ First constitution states that “the president has the right to attend any party meeting”, a party spokesman said it was a “longstanding convention since the inception of NZ First” that party presidents did not attend caucus.

NZ First are in disarray with ex MPs and officials apparently willing to break the secrecy.

I don’t think that denials and claims by Peters can be trusted.

And given that Peters appears to have maintained secrecy and control along with few cronies, I think the secret buck stops with him.

Stuff: Electoral Commission probes NZF

The Electoral Commission, which oversees electoral law, said it would contact the party this morning following revelations from Stuff around donations to the party’s foundation that were not declared to the commission.

“The documents being referred to in the media have not been shown to the Electoral Commission,” a spokeswoman said.

“We will be contacting NZ First and the New Zealand First Foundation to seek further information.”

$150m to help youth transition from state care

In another pre-budget announcement the Government is putting $150 million to help youth who don’t have family support to transition into work.

RNZ: $150m package to help youth transition from state care

Young people transitioning from state care to independence will no longer be cut off from Government support when they turn 18.

A $150 million dollar transition support service announced today is intended as a safety net for 18-25 year olds who don’t have a family to fall back on.

Children’s Minister Tracey Martin said the new service would help some 3000 young people over the next four years.

“We know that young people leaving care often have high needs. By definition they’ve had a rough start – it is hard, it is traumatic for any child to be separated from their parents.

“The care experience young people involved in the design of the new service said that they felt lonely and isolated after their time in care and often didn’t know how to get the help that they needed.”

The minister said that young people who have left the state’s care and protection have in the past ended up with worse outcomes in nearly every key area including health, housing and incomes.

“Teenagers leaving care should have the right to expect what any young person would want – knowing there is someone to turn to if they need help; a warm bed to sleep in; some help and encouragement when it is needed.

“This service will provide that, both by allowing young people to stay longer with their caregivers and providing specialised transitions support workers whose job is to help this group.”

Oranga Tamariki has been tasked with building the service, which will employ 175 new specialist staff employed and make 60 supported accommodation facilities available by year four.

Twenty-five million dollars will go towards supporting young people live with their caregiver beyond the age of 18, and $9 million to help the transition from care to independence, up to the age of 25.

Young people were engaged with in the design of the transition service, which would largely be provided by NGOs, iwi and Māori organisations.

Making the investment now reduced the risk of personal cost to the young people and would help break the cycle of families needing state care.

Nearly 30 per cent of children in care have parents who had also been in care, Ms Martin said.

The new services include:

  • 175 new specialist transition support staff by year four providing day-to-day support to individual young people as they transition out of care
  • 60 supported accommodation places by year four for young people who need a stepping stone to make a successful transition to independent living
  • $25 million over four years to support arrangements for young people to continue to live with their caregiver beyond the age of 18
  • $9 million over four years to provide advice and assistance to individual young people transitioning from care to independence, up to the age of 25.

 

Minister for Children Tracey Martin on Oranga Tamariki taking newborn babies from mothers

Minister for Children Tracey Martin was interviewed on Newshub Nation this morning, and was asked about the jump in the number of newborn Maori babies being taken from their parents by Oranga Tamariki in the last three years.

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd interviews Minister for Children Tracey Martin

Simon Shepherd: Minister for Children Tracey Martin, Thanks for your time this morning. So, we’ve seen this jump in the number of newborn Maori babies being taken from their parents in the last three years. Is that because it’s a directive from Oranga Tamariki to get involved earlier?

Tracey Martin: First of all – two things – between 2015 and 2017, certainly, there was an increase in the uplift of babies. Between 2017 and 2018, there’s been a decrease. In the Waikato, there’s been a decrease; in the Hawke’s Bay, there’s been an increase. So none of this is just a standard ‘we’re going in and picking up babies’, which is a little bit what is being portrayed across the media at the moment.

Okay. But there has been— I mean, let’s just talk about those figures. Maori babies in the first seven days, between 2015 and 2016 – 164 in those two years. Bring it forward, 2017, 2018 – 230. And that’s in the first seven days of a newborn. And in the first three months, there’s been a 33% increase.

Sure. And I would think that some of this is around the ‘subsequent baby’ situation, which was a piece inside the Oranga Tamariki legislation put in by the previous government. I believe that the intent of that insertion was appropriate – which means that what we’re talking about here is that the mum, the parents, have already had a child that has been removed due to neglect or violence or other issues, and then they now have another baby coming. So what the intent of that legislation was was – is the second child, the subsequent child, safe?

Okay. You talk about measurable outcomes in this legislation. So what are these measurable outcomes? Are you going to put targets in place to reduce the number of Maori in care?

I don’t like targets; that’s the first thing.

So that’s a no?

Yeah, because that says that there’s an acceptable level. I want to see a reduction of— And actually, something like 80% of the Maori children who are in the care of the Oranga Tamariki are living in whanau placements. So they’re not inside care and protection areas or anything like that. They are with whanau, but the CE still technically has legal guardianship rights over them.

Well, if you look at the statistics, 59% of children in care are Maori, and yet Maori are 15% of the population.

That’s right.

Would it not be a goal to say it would be actually representative of the population?

Oh, absolutely. It’s a wonderful goal for it to be representative of the population. But let’s be clear –Oranga Tamariki cannot change all the social ills; Oranga Tamariki’s job is to protect children.

Okay, so, that case has been in the headlines, but I’ve talked to other social agencies, and they’ve given me an example of a 17-year-old who had a baby, went to have a shower after three hours and came back, and the baby had been taken.

Is that in Oranga Tamariki’s time?

Yeah. In the last year, yeah.

Right. So I would be very interested if people— In the same way that I have made the offer to Jean through the MP Meka Whaitiri, I would be very interested for them to actually email me specifically about those cases.

Okay. You talk about measurable outcomes in this legislation. So what are these measurable outcomes? Are you going to put targets in place to reduce the number of Maori in care?

I don’t like targets; that’s the first thing.

So that’s a no?

Yeah, because that says that there’s an acceptable level. I want to see a reduction of— And actually, something like 80% of the Maori children who are in the care of the Oranga Tamariki are living in whanau placements. So they’re not inside care and protection areas or anything like that. They are with whanau, but the CE still technically has legal guardianship rights over them.

Well, if you look at the statistics, 59% of children in care are Maori, and yet Maori are 15% of the population.

That’s right.

Would it not be a goal to say it would be actually representative of the population?

Oh, absolutely. It’s a wonderful goal for it to be representative of the population. But let’s be clear –Oranga Tamariki cannot change all the social ills; Oranga Tamariki’s job is to protect children.

Full transcript: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1905/S00273/the-nation-minister-for-children-tracey-martin.htm

Government considering mandatory classifications for streaming services

This looks like being too late and impractical, especially for overseas streaming services .

NZ Herald: NZ Government mulling mandatory classification rules for Netflix and other streaming services

The Government is exploring the possibility of making classifications for on-demand streaming services, such as Netflix and Lightbox, mandatory.

What about Youtube? Facebook?

What about live streaming? That’s where one of the biggest problems is with objectionable material.

Minister of Internal Affairs Tracey Martin said this would bring streaming services in line with other forms of media in New Zealand.

The Government today started consultation on options on classifying content that is available online.

“The way in which New Zealanders access entertainment has changed and New Zealand’s classifications system is not keeping pace.”

It is nowhere near the mark and it’s hard to see how it could keep pace, with the amount of content that becomes available.

She said the current classification system was built around traditional platforms, such as cinema-released films and broadcast television programmes.

The Films, Videos and Publications Classification Act was passed in 1993.

But the media landscape has changed significantly since then.

“Many commercial video-on-demand services do self-classify content under a voluntary scheme provided by the New Zealand Media Council,” Martin said.

But, she added, those classifications had not always been consistent with New Zealand’s regime and some streaming service providers chose not to participate in the voluntary scheme.

“This inconsistency means it can be confusing for parents trying to pick something for their kids to watch or that helps young people make informed choices.”

The only way any sort of consistency could be achieved is if all content was checked and classified by one entity, like the New Zealand Censor. A recent classification by our censor of the streamed video of the Christchurch mosque massacres was generally supported, but the classification of the killer’s manifesto was controversial.

Martin said it was the risk of children being harmed that had driven the process.

Research from the Chief Censor’s office shows 76 per cent of New Zealanders are concerned about children’s and teens’ exposure to visual media content.

Classifying material before it becomes available would be hard enough, but how do you then ensure children don’t watch restricted material. Banned content is only a small part of the problem.

Martin said the reaction to the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”, which features graphic suicide scenes and scenes of rape, was an example of the issue.

“As with many services and media that have developed from the internet, this issue of classification is one that many countries are looking at and the Censor has told me that there is international interest in what we are doing.

“Our work will also be informed by the steps being taken in Australia and the United Kingdom.”

Sydney Morning Herald: Netflix gets approval to classify own shows after two-year trial.

The Morrison government has given Netflix the green light to regulate film and television classification on its streaming platform in an unprecedented shift following a two-year trial.

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield approved the ongoing use of the scheme, which allows the company to quickly rank content between G and R18+ after the review was finalised in August.

The new system removes immediate control of classifications for movies from the Classification Board for the first time since it was established in 1970.

The Classification Board will retain the power to change the ratings made under the new system, and decisions can also be appealed to the Classification Review Board.

Free-to-air stations already classify their own programming under a process administered by another organisation, the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Ratings are generated by considering the film’s themes, level of violence, sex, drug use, nudity and the language — before being given a classification of G, PG, M, MA15, R18 or being refused.

UK: BBFC Digital Age Ratings

People are concerned to know about how best to choose appropriate films, TV and music videos for their children and families to watch online, on their computers, tablets, games consoles and smartphones.

To provide you with guidance, the BBFC works with a number of on demand services to give age ratings for video content available for download and streaming.

Some of these platforms also provide parental controls, enabling parents to make films with an appropriate age rating available to their children

Using BBFC age ratings for online content helps children and families make the same informed viewing choices when they’re using digital video services, as they can when they’re going to the cinema or renting or buying DVDs and Blu-ray.

Classifications would help responsible parents who can control everything their children watch, but there are big holes in the system. This has been a problem since VCR and DVD content became available – and kids found and watched their parents’ collections.

Classifications have long been a problem. I remember wearing a coat over my school uniform and being allowed in to watch A Clockwork Orange, which in New Zealand was rated R20 until 1984.

The good old days – I don’t remember this one (from Kiwi censorship’s most infamous moments):

Then there was the bizarre decision around the 1967 film adaptation of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Little old New Zealand made worldwide headlines for its decision to segregate male and female viewers. Cinemas found their own ways to interpret the law, whether via separate sessions, the use of stalls and circle seating, or even a rope.

And who new that we had political interference?

Film could also provide inspiration for a solution should the eventual decision on Into the River not go the way of public opinion. 1942 film Love on the Dole focuses on a young woman who decides to become a rich bookmaker’s mistress in order help her family through the Great Depression.

It was initially banned, but Government MPs (including the Prime Minister Peter Fraser) pressured the censor into reviewing the decision. However, knowing that the notoriously conservative appeal board were unlikely to make a change, the Government made the simple decision to replace the entire board. Unsurprisingly, the film was passed for general exhibition.

The modern means of (attempted) interference is censorship by social media outrage or instant petition.

Classification guidance would be helpful for some, but it’s unlikely to make a lot of difference – people, including children, are resourceful in finding ways of watching forbidden content.


Taketh and giveth – a Government media release from Friday: Helping more New Zealanders access online services

More New Zealanders than ever will be able to access online services safely and securely, with today’s launch of a new Digital Inclusion Blueprint, Minister Megan Woods has announced.

“In a world where the internet impacts more and more of our lives, it’s important that all New Zealanders have the tools and skills they need to access online services and use the internet safely and securely.

“Some people can’t easily apply for jobs as many recruitment processes start online, kids may be prevented from doing their homework, and others could feel isolated from more digitally savvy friends and family who communicate using social media.  We want to ensure no one is left out or left behind as more and more of our lives move online.

“Today we are launching the Digital Inclusion Blueprint, which lays out how people can take full advantage of the internet. This will help us identify groups of New Zealanders who may struggle to access online services.

“This Blueprint will be used to coordinate the planning of different Government and community initiatives, and identify where future investment and action is needed.

“Access to online service is a key priority is one of my priorities and an area Government has already invested in. For example, the Prime Minister recently announced $21 million funding for Regional Digital Hubs (RDHs) in towns to connect local people and businesses to digital services.

 

Consultation on our ageing population

This should be popular here – it must concern all of us as we are all ageing.

RNZ: Consultation opens on govt strategy for aging population

Seniors Minister Tracey Martin opened a consultation to a new strategy that is going to “help older New Zealanders live well”.

The draft strategy, Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034, has been designed to ensure New Zealand is prepared for and makes the most of our aging population.

The strategy incorporates feedback from nationwide consultation last year about what people what for the future.

The key areas of the strategy are supporting seniors in the workforce and how business can better recruit and retain older people; and promoting housing options appropriate for older people, Ms Martin said.

Super Seniors (MSD):  Strategy for an ageing population


Draft new strategy

The draft new startegy, and a summary, Better Later Life – He Oranga Kaumātua 2019 to 2034, takes a fresh look at what is required to ensure New Zealand has the right policies in place and is prepared for an ageing population.

We would like to hear your feedback about the draft strategy. Please:

Feedback closes at midnight on 3 June 2019.

Summary of submissions report

This report summarises what people told us was important and what the new strategy for an ageing population should cover. The report highlights the significant themes raise by submitters during the public consultation that occurred between June and August 2018.

Our population is ageing

Population growth

We have developed short snapshots on key topics:

We’ve asked some experts to tell us what they think that future looks like. We’ll be publishing these over the coming weeks. The following are available now:

If you have any questions, queries or feedback, contact us at ageing_population@msd.govt.nz

Tracey Martin alleges National organised ‘troll’ attack on Andrew Little

I’m not sure why this has come out now, but NZ First MP and Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin has said she witnessed a troll attack being organised by a National MP against Andrew Little when he was Labour leader.

NZ Herald:  Cabinet Minister alleges that National MP directed trolls to attack former Labour leader Andrew Little

New Zealand First MP and Cabinet Minister Tracey Martin says she personally witnessed a National Party MP instructing online “trolls” to attack a political opponent.

Martin will not name the MP, but says she watched him direct a group of supporters on Facebook to personally attack then-Labour leader Andrew Little while they were sharing a domestic flight during the election campaign.

“During the 2017 election I was on a plane and there was another Member of Parliament sitting in front of me.”

“… I watched this person in front of me, who was running a group of 15 trolls on Facebook, give them the messages that they needed to start bombarding the other party that they were trying to have an effect on.

“The messages they sent changed the outcome of the election. It wasn’t the outcome they were hoping for, but that was what they were attempting to do.

That’s referring to Little standing down as leader. Did a few messages in social media cause that? I doubt it.

“They personalised the messages to try and get one individual to feel so uncomfortable about their position that they removed themselves from it.”

Martin told the Herald after her speech that she was certain of what she saw on the plane. She told her colleagues about the National MP’s actions but did not consider any further action or making a complaint.

“It won’t be a shock to anybody that it’s a political tool. I wouldn’t be surprised if Labour runs similar groups of people.

“But we need to decide whether that’s appropriate, because they run personal attacks against either the leadership or individual MPs in the name of politics.

This is hardly shocking. MPs and parties, and political activists, have run campaigns against political opponents for a long time.

It may happen more with social media. It has certainly widened to attacks on anyone involved in politics. Social media can be a fairly knarly political environment, but I have noticed a number of times a distinctly different, specific attack line on myself when I have raised issues on both Labour leaning The Standard and National leaning Kiwiblog. You get to recognise things like this when certain anonymous identities get involved in sustained attempts to discredit and divert.

Should we be concerned?

“I don’t think it’s reasonable or appropriate behaviour for any adult to be creating a group of others to specific target a single individual. If a young person did that, we’d all be calling it bullying.”

From my experience most political forum bullying comes from numpties who seem to see sustained attacks as some sort of game of attrition.

Party initiated attacks are less common, hence they stand out. Some have involved insidious threats.

There’s not much that can be done to prevent this, apart from pointing out when it happens – so I don’t know why Martin has waited until now to tell her story. Standing up to the political attackers and doing what can be done to hold to account is best done at the time.

I don’t think that the Harmful Digital Communications Act is the right thing to use to address political attacks. Sunlight is the best way of dealing with them.

 

Hauhama report delayed

It was highly questionable that Tracey Martin should have been put in charge of the inquiry into the appointment of Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Hauhama. She  received the inquiry report a week ago, but is not releasing it. She is under increasing pressure from critics, which seems fair enough.

Newsroom:  Release of Haumaha report delayed

The controversy over the investigation into the appointment of Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha continues this week as the release of the findings are delayed.

Haumaha’s appointment to one of the top policing jobs was called into question following revelations he backed police officers accused of raping Louise Nicholas.

Bullying allegations from 2016 then surfaced, and are now subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA).

The investigation into the process of Haumaha’s appointment had a false start due to a conflict of interest, and was then extended, but has now concluded.

However, the findings are yet to be released.

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin said she was the only one who had a copy of the report. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was also aware of the findings, she said. And Cabinet met on Monday to discuss the release of the report.

But a wider circle of people involved – including the Police Commissioner – had not seen the report, and would not be briefed until those mentioned in the report had the chance to see it, Martin said.

It had now been almost a week since the Minister received the report, and the opposition is accusing her of cynically delaying the release as Parliament approaches a two-week recess.

This looks increasingly messy.

 

The Learning Support Coordinator announcement

Yesterday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin announced a school based Learning Support Coordinator programme, with funding for up to 600 coordinators (who will be trained teachers) to be funded from next year’s budget spread over four years, as a ‘first tranche’ in dealing with special learning and behavioural needs in schools.

Generally this looks like a good plan, but it may be spread thinly as there are four times as many schools as there will be coordinators. Ardern has ‘promised’ to double the number of coordinators if the budget allows.

From Prime Minister’s speech to 2018 Labour Party Conference

Today, I am announcing that we’ll be employing a new workforce of approximately 600 Learning Support Coordinators to work alongside teachers across the entire country.

Their job will be to make sure that children with extra needs are identified.  They’ll work alongside classroom teachers to ensure kids with high and complex physical needs get the support they deserve.

This will be a game changer for those children.

It will be a game changer for teachers, who’ve been crying out for these roles, so they’re freed up to do what they do best – teach.

And it’s a game changer for those children who don’t need additional learning support, who’ll get more quality learning time with their teachers.

These coordinators – similar to what we now call SENCOs – are part of a new way of doing things and have been developed by my New Zealand First colleague and Associate Minister of Education, Tracey Martin, through the draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan.

But teachers have been urging governments for some time for this kind of role to be dedicated and fully funded. And for good reason.

At the moment schools ask their existing teaching staff to do the work of Special Education Coordinators.  But teachers tell us this is a drain on their time and takes them away from their classroom teaching.

That’s why these coordinators will not only do that job for them, they will also support teachers, with professional advice and guidance about how to teach children with additional needs.

But more than that – these new roles will give parents a single point of contact with someone who understands the needs of their child, and will advocate for them as they move through their time in the school.

This is a big change.

It will mean investing $217 million over four years – and these 600 fully funded Learning Support Coordinators are just the start.

Beehive release: New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs

An odd headline, describing it as a ‘workforce’.

The Coalition Government will fund a new workforce of educational professionals who will work in schools to ensure children with diverse learning needs get the support they need to learn, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

In a game-changer for students, parents and teachers, approximately 600 Learning Support Coordinators will be employed as early as the beginning of 2020. This will be the first tranche of these positions.

They will work alongside teachers, parents and other professionals to give our students the individualised support they deserve.

The new Learning Support Coordinators are a win-win; kids with both high and moderate needs will get on-the-ground support, parents will have a specialised point of contact and teachers will have more time to teach.

“This $217 million investment over four years follows a major spending increase in Budget 2018, and brings the extra funding the Coalition Government has put into learning support to half a billion dollars. That is a huge investment in our first year into supporting both our kids and our teachers.

“One in five New Zealand children has a disability or other learning and behavioural needs and it’s been too hard, for too long, for them to get support at the right time. Learning support has been neglected for more than a decade.

The announcement delivers on a number of the 26 recommendations from the Labour, New Zealand First and Green parties’ minority report to the Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism Inquiry in the last Parliament.  It is also consistent with the Labour and Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement.

“Learning Support Coordinators will be key people at the heart of a new learning support model, developed by Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin, through her draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan,” said Jacinda Ardern.

Tracey Martin said today’s announcement would go a long way to delivering for those students with additional and diverse learning needs.

“The Government is progressing its plan to ensure every child with barriers to learning has access to the tools and professionals they need,” Tracey Martin said.

“For too long these students have been poorly served by an underfunded system. Our targeted investments, along with our work to streamline the support system, will reduce the issues parents and teachers face and lead to better student wellbeing.

“These coordinators will be a specialised point of contact for parents with someone who understands their child’s unique learning needs. They’ll also provide expert assistance for teachers.

“They will work alongside classroom teachers to ensure all students with needs – including disabilities, neurodiversity, behavioural issues and giftedness – get the support they should expect.

“We’ve been piloting and refining the new Learning Support Delivery Model in a number of places and regions and the goal is to have it ready to be rolled out across the country by the end of 2019.

This has been an issue since special needs children and those with learning difficulties have been integrated into schools. They can take a lot of time from teachers from general teaching, and can be disruptive in class.

Sounds good as a start, but it will take a couple of years to get it up and running.