Morning Briefing April 13: Border back under scrutiny

The Government faces pressure over border worker testing and vaccinations, two political parties are in hot water over donations, and Princes William and Harry pay tribute to their grandfather.

People walk past a MIQ facility. Source: Getty

The workforce tasked with shoring up New Zealand’s border defence against Covid-19 is in the spotlight once more as questions are raised about surveillance testing and vaccinations.

An investigation’s been launched after two frontline workers recently contracted Covid at the Grand Millennium Hotel, with revelations one of them may not have been routinely tested for the virus.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says rules are now being tightened around the logging of MIQ staff testing, a move that some say is months too late.

Border worker vaccinations have also been a source of debate following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s edict that those who don’t get vaccinated in the next few weeks will be “moved from the front line”.

The E tū union says it agrees workers should be vaccinated by May 1 but says those who don’t receive the jab should be moved without penalty.

An employment lawyer has also told RNZ’s Checkpoint the mandatory vaccination rule may mean people lose their jobs, which could potentially lead to legal action

Meanwhile, the latest border-related cases of Covid-19 are causing other headaches as officials work to establish how they caught the virus.

The two new cases are linked to a cleaner at the same MIQ facility, who tested positive for Covid 18 days earlier.

Epidemiologist Michael Baker says the time delay suggests an undetected case between them. He says there’s a chance that could mean a small outbreak is still undetected in the community.

That warning comes as Auckland bus passengers are told to watch for Covid symptoms after confirmation one of the new cases took three different bus journeys before testing positive for the virus. 

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Parties in hot water over donations 

Police will soon decide whether to lay charges against the Māori Party after they failed to declare more than $300,000 of donations in time.

Party President Che Wilson says they are all "volunteers" and "rookies", but did declare the donations once they realised they needed to.

The donations, including those from former party co-leader John Tamihere, were made last year but not declared until this year. 

A similar failure by the National Party is also under investigation after they were late to file a donation of $35,000 from Garth Barfoot. 

NZ 'not ready' for new drug laws

Health Minister Andrew Little has shot down calls for a swift overhaul of New Zealand’s drug laws, saying any major changes would first have to go back to a referendum.

His comments follow an open letter from dozens of social service providers and health experts, which says the Government should treat drug use as a health issue.

Little says the letter is “12 months too late” and that the Government is constrained by last year’s public vote on cannabis legalisation. 

However, Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick says New Zealand’s “Frankenstein” drug laws lack clarity and need an overhaul.

The National Hauora Coalition’s Dr Rawiri Jansen also says New Zealand needs to move towards a "compassionate stance" on drug use and end prosecutions for low-level drug offences.

Export controls probed

New Zealand companies have been allowed to export military equipment to countries blacklisted by the United Nations for killing children.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry approved exports to Saudi Arabia and other nations in 2016 and 2018 when they were on the blacklist for their actions in Yemen. Some of the equipment sent includes the technology to help fire mortars. 

The Government has now appointed a former senior public servant to carry out a review into New Zealand's export controls.

Princes pay tribute to grandfather

Prince Harry has described the Duke of Edinburgh as “cheeky right till the end” in a new tribute to his grandfather. He says Prince Philip was a man of service and honour, as well as a “legend of banter”.

His statement came minutes after one from his brother, Prince William, which says he’s grateful to have had his grandfather in his life for as long as he did. 

New Zealand will hold a state memorial service for the Duke of Edinburgh next week. 

Other news of note this morning:

- Protests have erupted in the US city of Minneapolis after police shot and killed a man in an area already on edge over the murder trial of former officer Derek Chauvin. 

- Much of the UK has taken a big step back to normality, with shops, gyms, and hairdressers reopening and pubs able to serve customers again.

- Samoa's general election has put the Pacific nation on the cusp of a remarkable political shift.

- One year on from New Zealand's maritime border closing, tourism operators are pleading for the reopening of a trans-Tasman cruise ship bubble.

- Almost 40 Auckland beaches were deemed unsafe for swimming following the weekend’s considerable rain.

- Residents are in a stink over a proposal to expand the dump located just kilometres from their Southland community near Winton.

- Nomadland has won big at the BAFTAs

- And new research suggests dogs show jealousy in a similar way to humans. 

And finally...

The Popstars panel - Nathan King, Kimbra, and Vince Harder. Source: 1 NEWS

Back in 1999, a TV show called Popstars graced our screens – and nobody could have predicted what would come next.

Not only did it give the world TrueBliss in all their PVC- and PPE-clad glory, it ultimately spawned major TV talent contests around the world. There may not have been an American Idol or an X Factor without the little Kiwi show that could.

Now we’re back to where it all began with a rebooted Popstars hitting our screens last night.

Seven Sharp’s Laura Daniel spoke to panellist Kimbra about how the show’s changed 22 years later – and managed to sneak in her own late audition, which you can watch here.