Morning Briefing May 26: Govt accused of welfare double standard

The Government has been accused of creating a two-tier welfare system with its latest temporary benefit for workers affected by the Covid-19 crisis.

Grant Robertson Source: Getty

Finance Minister Grant Robertson yesterday revealed details of the Covid Income Relief Payment, which is available for 12 weeks to those who’ve lost their jobs since March 1 due to the impact of the coronavirus.

At $490 per week for people who lost a full-time job, the payment is more than double the standard unemployment benefit.

Beneficiary advocate Kathleen Paraha says the Government is playing favourites and that those who lose their jobs due to Covid-19 should be treated the same as other unemployed Kiwis.

National leader Todd Muller agrees, saying there’s no coherence to a plan that pays a certain group of unemployed a different amount. 

Stuff’s Susan Edmunds also writes that the generous new payment will be “a rude shock” to those who are already unemployed and “seems to be tacit recognition of the fact that beneficiaries are expected to live on an amount smaller than most could handle”.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson agrees, telling RNZ the new offering is a “very clear” admission that base benefit rates are not enough. She says the Greens will continue to push for benefit increases. 

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Muller sticks with party policies

New National leader Todd Muller says he’s sticking to the party’s promises to bring back oil and gas exploration and raise the retirement age to 67.

Mr Muller told TVNZ’s Q+A with Jack Tame the party hasn’t changed its stance on those issues under his leadership. 

That pledge capped a big 24 hours for the National party in which Mr Muller announced his reshuffled caucus.

Former leader Simon Bridges was not on the list, with National saying “he needs time to reflect on his future”. However, 1 NEWS understands he still intends to stand as MP for Tauranga.

But the big surprise in the refreshed line-up is senior MP Amy Adams, who has reversed her decision to retire from politics and will become National’s spokesperson for Covid-19 Recovery.

Ms Adams will be on TVNZ’s Breakfast just after 7am to discuss her reasons for staying in parliament.

Lockdown bubbles burst wide open

The Government has decided to extend gathering limits under Alert Level 2, with the number of people allowed to gather increasing from 10 to 100 from midday this Friday.

It’s good news for churches, as well as events businesses who have been struggling through lockdown.

Bars and restaurants can also take group bookings of up to 100 from Friday, however guests still need to be seated with the dancefloor out of bounds.

The move also means a return to community sport, with the extension of the 10-person limit allowing the country’s winter codes to resume at amateur level. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has revealed the timeline for potentially moving the country to Alert Level 1.

She’s signalled the move could be within the next month if New Zealand continues to have a low number of new Covid-19 cases. 

More media shockwaves

It never rains but it pours when in it comes to news about the country’s media these days.

Yesterday morning saw MediaWorks announce 130 people will be made redundant in its radio and sales teams, with CEO Michael Anderson telling staff the company “needs to be a different shaped business to operate in a different world”.

Soon after that announcement came the news that Stuff had been sold to its CEO, Sinead Boucher, for the token sum of $1.

The sale follows years of negotiations with rival company NZME. Unlike those negotiations, Ms Boucher’s purchase of Stuff doesn’t require Commerce Commission approval.

The move to return Stuff’s website and newspapers to New Zealand ownership is being hailed as good news for the industry, but Newsroom’s Tim Murphy writes the manager buyout also presents “a hell of a task” for Ms Boucher. 

New Covid-19 milestone

As the Ministry of Health revealed another day with no new Covid-19 cases, they also noted another milestone in the battle against the virus, with the 10,000th person entering managed isolation or quarantine upon arriving in the country.

One of those 10,000 is 1 NEWS Australia correspondent Ryan Boswell who’s currently quarantined in a 22 square metre hotel room for two weeks.

He’s written about the experience, saying he’s not surprised some people have tried to escape the enforced isolation.

However, a Kiwi who has just spent two weeks in quarantine in Melbourne tells Stuff Australia has much stricter rules than New Zealand when it comes to isolating overseas travellers. 

Other news of note this morning:

A person has died following a workplace incident in Auckland last night.

Farmers in parched regions of the country say the rain that’s fallen this week is a small reprieve - but it's no drought breaker.

The rationing of prescription birth control pills will continue with two more brands now suffering from supply shortages. 

As students enter their second week of school after lockdown, one education expert is urging schools to put wellbeing ahead of assessments this term. Meanwhile Re: has investigated unfairness claims as some universities automatically bump up students’ grades in response to Covid-19. 

And a very generous boss in Taranaki has decided to give all her employees some cash, but on one condition – they have an hour to spend it at a local business.

And finally...

The Okarito gecko is patterned in lichen-like shades of grey, green and brown, making them well camouflaged and very difficult to find. Source: Rheanne Sullivan, DOC

It looks like the humans of New Zealand weren’t the only ones excited to get out and about once the country moved to Alert Level 2.

Department of Conservation rangers on the West Coast say they’ve “struck gold” with the discovery of a species of gecko last seen several decades ago.

Very little is known about the elusive Okarito or broad-cheeked gecko, but the sighting has been welcomed as an “exciting find” for a taonga on the brink of extinction.