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Morning Briefing July 8: National MP confesses to Covid-19 privacy leak

Just one day after the Government announced an investigation into the Covid-19 patients' privacy leak, the source has been revealed: National MP Hamish Walker. His source? Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust and former National Party president Michelle Boag.

National MP Hamish Walker. Source: Hamish Walker / Facebook

Mr Walker, the MP for Clutha-Southland, says he did it to "expose the Government’s shortcomings so they would be rectified". Meanwhile Ms Boag says her part in the leak was "a massive error of judgement" and she didn't realise Mr Walker would send the information to media.

Mr Walker was already under fire for an earlier press release criticised as racist, where he claimed there were 11,000 people from high-risk countries, specifically "India, Korea and Pakistan", heading to Otago.

When the leak was first revealed, National leader Todd Muller had some fiery words for the Government, calling it a "shambles", "shabby" and "a reminder these guys can't manage important things well". Last night he stripped Mr Walker of his spokesperson portfolios and said the MP made an "error of judgement".

John Campbell will be talking to Mr Muller on TVNZ 1's Breakfast just before 7am. 

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The fallout

In a hasty press conference last night, Health Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the formal investigation into the leaks would continue despite the confessions. He says the situation has "a ring of dirty politics to it".

Meanwhile Privacy Commissioner John Edwards says it's "hard to overstate the seriousness of this". "To send sensitive health information to a number of news outlets is really, at the low end, misguided but it's really quite unforgivable".

The admissions coming from both a National MP and a former National president will be "hugely damaging" for the party, according to 1 NEWS political reporter Maiki Sherman. She describes it as not just a "bad look", but also "bad strategically for the National Party".

Putting victims first

Onto today's other news, a new report found more than three-quarters of New Zealanders want victims to get a fairer share of spending in the justice system. Currently just 51 cents per $100 is spent on victims.

It also found just 6 per cent of Kiwis are completely confident the justice system, as a whole, is effective. One in five Pasifika worry all or most of the time about being a victim compared to one in 20 Pākehā. The full report by the Ministry of Justice can be found online here.

Incoming flights frozen

Air New Zealand will be restricting new international bookings over the next three weeks to try and ease pressure on New Zealand's managed isolation facilities. While flights already booked will still go ahead, the airline says it's putting a temporary hold on new bookings and the number of seats will be managed. The three-week freeze could be extended if necessary, according to Air NZ CEO Greg Foran. The Government says it's also talking to other airlines about restrictions.

Two new Covid-19 cases were announced yesterday, both caught at the border in managed isolation. There are currently 22 active cases, all in quarantine.

Property curve flattening

House prices are still rising, but growth has slowed over the last few months. The average national value increased 1.3 per cent over the past three months, after increasing 2.4 per cent in May. QV general manager David Nagel says pent-up demand after lockdown, large numbers of returning Kiwis and record low interest rates have all contributed.

Other news of note this morning: 

Potential tornados, thunderstorms and power cuts are possible for Auckland with severe weather sweeping over the upper North Island today, ranging from Waikato to Northland.

Melbourne's gone into a full lockdown for six weeks after a surge in Covid-19 cases.

There are renewed calls for Sir John Key to apologise for false claims brides were leaving New Zealand for the Islamic State. 

NZ First leader Winston Peters has denied his party hired a team of UK political operatives to help them in the upcoming election, decrying "clickbait journos". 

Brazil’s president has tested positive for Covid-19 after repeatedly playing down the risks of the virus. 

A poster featuring the Prime Minister's face has been ruled a party advertisement by the Electoral Commission.

A South Island teenager has brought back old-fashioned milk deliveries to try and earn some extra cash.

And finally...

Source: Seven Sharp

Got a dog but no car? Uber is finally accepting some four-legged riders, but it comes at a cost. It's only in Auckland and Wellington so far and you'll want to bring a towel along. Seven Sharp’s Mary-Jane Aggett took her pooch Stanley out for a spin - watch the video here to see how it went.