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Live updates, May 21: Government urgently changes law to justify some MIQ charges

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Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 21, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at Three new Covid-19 cases in MIQOnce again, there are thankfully no new community cases of Covid-19.Wastewater testing Rotorua has not revealed any results for the coronavirus, along with tests conducted in Queenstown […]

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for May 21, bringing you the latest news updated throughout the day. Get in touch at

1.10pm: Three new Covid-19 cases in MIQ

Once again, there are thankfully no new community cases of Covid-19.

Wastewater testing Rotorua has not revealed any results for the coronavirus, along with tests conducted in Queenstown and Wellington. Results from samples taken in Christchurch have not yet been returned.

There are three new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, all linked to the border. The first, from India, is a contact of a previously confirmed border case while the other two tested positive after a routine test on arrival in New Zealand.

Four previously reported cases have now recovered. The total number of active cases in New Zealand today is 23.

Our total number of confirmed cases is 2,306.

12.50pm: Government criticised for retrospectively fixing MIQ botch-up

The government has moved to retrospectively amend, under urgency, a managed isolation botch-up that saw hundreds of Australians charged for their stay without lawful justification.

Victoria University’s Eddie Clark wrote a compelling Twitter thread about the significance of this law change.

I asked him to expand on that and he kindly wrote the following:

Over the past two days, we have seen two examples of urgent, retrospective legislation from the government. The first of these was a change to the provisional approval process under the Medicines Act. This was done in response to an interim decision of the High Court on what that process allowed that raised the potential for the Pfizer vaccine rollout to be delayed. Every party in parliament voted for this change; everyone could see the urgency and the importance.

This universal support might be seen as unusual, because retrospective legislation is generally seen as objectionable. Law is supposed to set out what government is authorised to do and let us plan our behaviour accordingly. Retrospective law takes away that ability to plan: you can’t make sure you are acting in accordance with the law because it hasn’t been passed yet. It is especially objectionable when there’s a criminal penalty or financial consequences for people affected. It is therefore only justified when there is an extremely pressing goal which overrides this presumption against retrospectivity. The Medicines Act change meets that threshold, as have similar validations that have taken place over the years.The second piece of retrospective legislation, which passed the house in under three hours, does not. This bill relates to a drafting error in the law setting MIQ fees. A narrow class of Australians (totalling 600-650 people) who the government intended to charge fees were not included in the law. This means that there was no authority for government to charge these people fees. This bill will retroactively authorise the fees.

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Unlike the Medicines Act situation, this seems neither urgent nor a pressing goal. The consequences of having to pay refunds are only comparatively modest financial ones for the government. Its reasoning – that its intent matters more than the law – is not compelling. Where there is an emergency (for example with the first lockdown) some latitude might be given for a disconnect between intent and law. There is no emergency here, and retrospective legislation is not justified. The government should have just take its lumps from opposition and media here and paid back the unauthorised fees it charged.

Eddie Clark is a senior lecturer in law at Victoria University.

12.00pm: ’14 million’ pieces of Covid misinformation removed from Facebook last year

Social media giant Facebook has revealed the staggering amount of misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic it removed from the site in 2020 – 14 million.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, content about “fake preventative measures” and “exaggerated cures” were some of the main pieces of false information deleted.

The information was made public in a “transparency” report from Facebook – the first of this kind it has produced.

Pushing back against misinformation was a “constant task” for Facebook and essential for any democratic society, said Facebook Australia’s Josh Machin.

“The new Australia-specific commitments contained in this report are in addition to the significant global efforts that Facebook already undertakes to combat disinformation and misinformation,” he said.

11.15am: ‘Predictable cheap shot’ – Ruth Richardson’s response to Grant Robertson

In the house yesterday, Grant Robertson said budget 2021 would fix changes made in Ruth Richardson’s “mother of all budgets” back in 1991.

Unsurprisingly, Richardson herself was unimpressed with that jibe and told Stuff it was a “predictable cheap shot”.

Richardson, who was finance minister from 1990 to 1993, told Thomas Coughlan she stood by her controversial budget.

“My budget was driven by a desire to lift economic growth and to make employment attractive,” she said. “Grant Robertson’s budget is overtly driven by politics and the desire to pay off Labour supporters.”

10.30am: When the Facts Change – 2021 budget special

There’s a brand new episode of When the Facts Change – and after yesterday’s budget it’s essential listening. Here’s an extract from Bernard Hickey’s accompanying piece:

It’s great the government has righted one of the wrongs of the “Mother of all Budgets”, but there were many, and the work has only started. It should have done much, much more with its pristine balance sheet and a torrent of literally free money sloshing around the world desperate to be invested in government bonds.

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The government remains stymied by the bond-vigilante-driven thinking from the early 1990s about keeping debt low, and is missing a giant opportunity to invest heavily in physical and social infrastructure to repair the underinvestment damage of the last 30 years.

Now it should adopt the rest of the WEAG recommendations to increase Working For Families tax credits and widen it out to non-working families. Then there’s the still-massive investment needed in housing, education, health etc.

Read more here and listen to the podcast below.


Follow When the Facts Change on Apple PodcastsSpotify or your favourite podcast provider.

9.50am: ‘Trucky McTruckface’ – Lower Hutt’s new recycling trucks named

In some far less budget-heavy but arguably just as important news: Hutt City Council has revealed the seven names for its seven new electric recycling trucks. And they are outstanding.

Seeing as the public came up with the names, I shouldn’t be so surprised.

The winning names were Bin Diesel, Truck Norris, Recyclosaurus Rex, Bruce Springclean, Trash Gordon, Chitty Chitty Bin Bin, and Trucky McTruckface.

If it was up to me this would be the only live update all day.

Hutt City Council chief executive Jo Miller – possibly under coercion – said she was very happy with the results.

Newstalk ZB’s Katrina Bennett confirmed that not only are these names official, they will be printed onto the trucks. Incredible stuff.

9.00am: Campaigners ‘devastated’ by $200m Pharmac budget boost

While $200 million for the government’s drug buying agency Pharmac is certainly nothing to ignore – campaigners were hoping for far more from budget 2021.

The cash injection will cover the next four years, meaning it’s a $50 million annual boost.

A recent Newshub report highlighted that for Pharmac to clear the drugs backlog, it would need an extra $400 million every year.

Patient Voice Aotearoa chair Malcolm Mulholland told RNZ that people were considering leaving New Zealand just to get their treatments funded. He said he was “devastated” by the budget.

“There are thousands and thousands of New Zealanders [who] are desperately in need of these drugs and have been for a number of years. Honestly after today’s announcement, I really don’t know what it’s going to take for this government to listen,” he said.

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“For this government to get up there and say you know this is a ‘well-being budget’, nothing could be further from the truth for these people and I just don’t know quite what it’s going to take for Robertson and Ardern who want to get up on the world stage and say that they’ve been kind to actually listen to the needs of the people and give Pharmac the money that they need.”

8.15am: Government accused of ignoring ‘middle New Zealand’ in budget 2021

The government is being accused of ignoring “middle New Zealand” in its first budget without the shackles of a coalition.

Yesterday’s budget – dubbed the “Recovery Budget” by the government – will see the largest increase to benefits in a generation, along with millions for Māori housing and a new unemployment insurance scheme.

National’s leader Judith Collins dubbed it “a budget for benefits, not jobs”, but neither Jacinda Ardern nor Grant Robertson are apologetic.

“It’s a balance of all the different things you need to do,” said Robertson on RNZ. “We know that there is more to do. You’ve got to see the budgets across the three years together. I think this is an important step forward but nobody is denying there isn’t more to do.”

Robertson said that, despite the criticism, there is a lot in this budget for job growth that will positively impact middle New Zealanders. “There’s big increase in the health spending, significant boosts to education, all of the things that support job growth for middle New Zealanders,” he said.

“In terms of things like working for families, we are reviewing that. That’s a programme that has been around for a long time that’s supported a lot of middle income New Zealanders and we want to make sure that it’s working well.”

Jacinda Ardern, unsurprisingly, said much the same. As the Herald reports, the PM said this budget would help all New Zealanders.

“We are making investments that are good for our people, and good for the economy,” she said. “So we expect the investments we make will also stimulate the economy in a range of ways – whether it’s building new houses, or putting money in the pockets of low-income families and they’ll be out spending that in the economy. Those are exactly the types of decisions we need to make.”

Want to read more on the budget? 

Source: The Spinoff

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