Cabinet is scheduled to meet today to assess alert level restrictions, with announcements to be made during a 4pm press conference. We look forward to hearing from the PM at that time.
So, too, will National Party leader Judith Collins, who has been pressing the PM to “come out from the shadows” after several days of no-shows at previously daily press conferences.
Collins’ demand for the PM to front up to news media followed the release of the latest Covid-19 numbers, which suggested the outbreak was slowly spreading around the North Island (the news has been somewhat brighter today). She said:
Scattered across time zones, united in desperation, Jacinda’s team of 25,000 hunched over PCs and phones on Tuesday to secure one of the coveted 3,700 rooms (more or less) for returning New Zealanders. The two hours or so it took to work down the electronic queue were an opportunity to catch up on international coverage of the government’s acknowledgement that Covid elimination was not going to work.
The Opposition parties must be watching with glee, writes Graham Adams, as councils reject Nanaia Mahuta’s plan for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater.
Even Labour’s most one-eyed supporters must be aware by now that the Three Waters reform being pushed by Nanaia Mahuta is fast becoming a make-or-break issue for the government. The eight-week “engagement” period that ended on September 30 saw a swathe of councils across the nation objecting — sometimes angrily — to the proposed changes to the management of drinking water, storm water and wastewater.
Mahuta’s plan is for the 67 councils’ water services to be merged into four giant regional authorities that ratepayers will not directly own or control. As National’s Chris Luxon says, councils are rightly worried about “not having direct influence and no shareholding or formal stake in the new entity whatsoever”.
The roll call of disaffected councils includes those overseeing our two biggest cities. Between them, Auckland and Christchurch represent nearly two million inhabitants — or roughly 40 per cent of New Zealand’s population.
Furthermore, their mayors — Phil Goff and Lianne Dalziel — are former high-ranking Labour ministers, which makes dismissing their opposition difficult.
Is the political tide which Labour rode in triumph to victory last year beginning to ebb? The September Colmar Brunton poll pointed at least to it being on the turn.
Not that political pundits saw it that way. They were too heavily focused on how National’s leader Judith Collins had crashed to a new low point and canvassing how soon the caucus dissidents would coalesce to overthrow her.
Those experts hardly noticed that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s once stellar popularity has moved off its peak and is now down at 44% — even though the communication skills which propelled her to the heights have been in daily evidence during the latest Covid Delta outbreak.
PM Jacinda Ardern is planning a major visit to Europe next month. Details have yet to be announced but she is expected to visit Paris, Brussels and possibly Berlin.
She is heading NZ’s campaign to secure a free trade agreement with the European Union. First visit is likely to be Paris where she will have a warm welcome from President Emmanuel Macron. This couldn’t come at a more appropriate time.
The French are feeling bruised over the Australia-UK-US nuclear submarine agreement and the cancellation of the $80 billion contract to build French nuclear submarines converted to diesel-electric power in Adelaide. France has already signalled it would not impede a NZ-EU trade pact.
In a lame explanation for the state’s failure to prevent the stabbings inside Coundown LynnMall on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the government has acted as quickly as it could to bring in changes to terrorism laws that will cover the planning of a terrorist act.
The Crown tried – and failed – to charge Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen under the Terrorism Suppression Act because planning to commit a terrorist attack is not an offence under current law.
Slowly but surely – we are told – is the way to do things.
“In these areas it is important to get this right,” he told Morning Report.
“The consequences of getting it wrong are large, and from the government’s perspective we think the policy work has been done, the bill is in and the public have now had their say we now get on with passing that law.”
Oh, and let’s not forget the Immigration Act.
Robertson said work was under way with this legislation, too.
But could he and his government try picking up the pace?
PM Jacinda Ardern and her government have developed a Covid-speak which holds its own fascination and, according to some, needs its own interpreters.
In much the same way (according to Forbes) the World Health Organisation is monitoring a new coronavirus variant known as “Mu”, amid concerns that it has mutations which suggest it is more resistant to vaccines.
In a weekly pandemic bulletin, the UN agency said Mu – known scientifically as B.1.621 – has been designated as a “variant of interest”, a classification used to target research and highlight potentially worrying new strains.
“The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape,” the WHO report said.
The war in Afghanistan is over after 20 years, according to a defiant speech by President Joe Biden, but the withdrawal has left him and his administration wobbling.
Biden’s personal poll ratings are now at 36%, down from 50% previously, while those of his vice president Kamala Harris are only 46% and she is failing to make political headway.
He faces strong domestic challenges. The House and Senate have passed two bills to fund infrastructure and a huge $US3 billion bill to fund a rang of measures from healthcare through education to social welfare. The latter is mired in internal Democratic party struggles, largely because Biden wants to fund it largely through raising taxes from an average 23% to 28% and capital gains to 43%.
This sticks in the craws of moderate Democrats and most Republicans and is unlikely to proceed in its current form.
Later in 2022 the US will hold mid-term elections and already the parties are gearing up. The Democrats need lose only five seats in the lower house to surrender control to the Republicans (and end the career of Speaker Nancy Pelosi) while the Republicans need to gain only one seat in the Senate to control the upper house. This would leave Biden a lame duck.
On past results over 60 years, the party holding the White House also loses the lower house.
“Biden’s Debacle”: The Economist said it all with those words on its cover page headline last week. The Guardian Weekly chimed in with “So Long: The End of the American Century”.
In its editorial, The Economist said:
“If the propagandists of the Taliban had scripted the collapse of the 20-year mission to reshape Afghanistan , they could not have come up with more harrowing images….Afghans were left in such a horrifying bind that clinging to the wheels of a hurtling aircraft seemed their best option.
The Ardern government is clinging to its Covid elimination strategy, even as the Ministry of Health is looking at the need for booster shots for those who were vaccinated six months ago.
A new study by researchers in Britain has found that protection offered by the Pfizer vaccine, which is 88% effective in the first month, begins to fade within five to six months of the second injection. By then it is only 74% effective The Astra-Zeneca vaccine is only 67% effective after about five months.
New Zealand’s Director-General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, today confirmed officials are considering booster injections for those who received their Pfizer vaccines in February, March and April.
Among NZ experts there has been debate on whether booster shots would be necessary. They agree the Pfizer vaccine is highly effective at preventing serious disease, hospitalisation and death.