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Morning Briefing Nov 25: Govt uses power of the pen to tackle house prices

The Finance Minister has used the power of the pen to try and make housing more affordable for Kiwis.

Source: Getty

Grant Robertson has written a letter to Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr, asking the independent agency to assess what tools it could use around housing demand.

Orr responded with his own letter, saying the Monetary Policy Committee “gives consideration to the potential impact of monetary policy on asset prices, including house prices”.

While an exchange of letters doesn’t sound like much, it’s still a significant move by the Government – and this Stuff explainer details why

Robertson says the Government’s review of housing settings will focus on stability in the housing market and improving access for first home buyers. He’s also seeking advice around altering the bright-line property rule and the rules around foreign buyers. 

National’s Shadow Treasurer Andrew Bayly says Robertson’s decision to write to the Reserve Bank was an “excellent thing to do”. Bayley had earlier suggested sending a letter of expectation to the organisation after it rolled out its Funding for Lending Programme.

ACT leader David Seymour also says Robertson has “vindicated ACT’s position that the Bank should consider asset prices, not just the consumer price index, when setting policy".

However, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says that while attempts to address the housing crisis were welcome, it’s a "disservice to New Zealanders not to use all of the tools in the toolbox", such as taxing wealth or capital.

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'Suspected' case due back in NZ

An Air New Zealand flight crew with one potential Covid-19 case among them is due back in the country this morning.

The crew are returning on a cargo-only flight to avoid contact with other passengers and will be quarantined and re-tested after landing.

Contact tracing has revealed the suspected Covid case visited the Resene paint shop in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill last Friday and the Animates pet store in Manukau on Saturday afternoon.

While the Resene customers are considered low risk and don’t need to get tested, health officials are asking anyone who was in the Animates store between 1.20pm and 2.20pm on Saturday to get a test and isolate until they receive a negative result. 

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that while 2021 will be “the year of the vaccine”, she’s not prepared to make sweeping changes to New Zealand’s border systems yet.

She says the Government is investigating the point at which there will be enough confidence around a full vaccination programme to substantively change those border arrangements. 

But there are already indications international travellers might need to be vaccinated before boarding a plane.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the Australian airline is looking at making vaccination a requirement for international flights and that other airlines are considering the same

Prison conditions in spotlight

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis has asked prison officials for a “please explain” after canisters of pepper spray were allegedly released into a female prisoner’s closed cell.

An RNZ investigation into Auckland Women’s Prison claims an asthmatic woman has been repeatedly pepper sprayed and that prisoners have been left in segregation for months on end.  

Davis says he didn’t know prisons “bombed” cells with pepper spray and is “quite disturbed” by the reports. He was due to be briefed by officials about the situation yesterday afternoon. 

A human rights lawyer has told RNZ Corrections may have broken the law in keeping women in the segregation unit for four months, and that the conditions may have also breached the International Convention Against Torture. 

Trump begins transfer of power

Just three short weeks after the US election, Donald Trump has finally agreed to begin the transition to Joe Biden’s presidency.

Although he’s still yet to concede defeat, Trump allowed the move following a declaration from the General Services Administration (GSA) that Biden was the “apparent winner” of the election. The Guardian has shared this explainer about why the GSA decision is a crucial step in the transfer of power.

Biden will now get access to government intelligence and money, allowing him to begin coordinating with federal agencies. 

Biden also selected former presidential candidate John Kerry as his climate envoy yesterday.

Kerry will become the first member of the National Security Council to focus exclusively on climate change.

The move comes as the United Nations’ weather agency revealed the slowdown in industrial activity linked to the pandemic has cut emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases but hasn’t reduced their record levels in the atmosphere

Complaint over cancellation policies

Consumer NZ is challenging Airbnb and Bachcare's "unfair" cancellation terms, lodging a formal complaint with the Commerce Commission.

Consumer NZ says customers were left hundreds of dollars out of pocket when the country went to Level 4 lockdown and couldn’t travel, something the organisation has labelled as “plainly unfair”.

The Commerce Commission has the power to investigate and take court action if it finds the cancellation policies breach the Fair Trading Act.

Other news of note this morning: 

- The official opening of the 53rd Parliament begins today – RNZ has this rundown of what’s involved in the process.

- A new report has found the way New Zealand gathers and uses DNA for criminal investigations is severely inadequate.

- Today’s planned strike action involving St John ambulance staff has been called off, with union members reaching a tentative agreement.

- Wellington City Council has confirmed it’s investigating Mayor Andy Foster over a complaint made on the day of their Shelly Bay vote.

- A new discreet service to help domestic violence victims has been launched today. 

- A Christchurch man says he was kicked out of a bar for kissing his male friend on the dance floor.

- Steven Adams' time at the Oklahoma City Thunder has officially come to an end with the Kiwi centre's trade to the New Orleans Pelicans confirmed today.

- And Kiwis are being urged to not turn their backs on smaller avocados this season. 

And finally...

Laura Daniel plays Flesh and Blood. Source: Seven Sharp

You wouldn’t expect a new card game that requires people to sit and play face-to-face to be a business success story during a pandemic.

But then 2020 has been full of surprises - and Flesh and Blood is one of them.

The Kiwi trading card game is currently selling out around the world, with collectors selling rare cards for as much as $10,000.

Seven Sharp’s Laura Daniel went and spoke to the creators of Flesh and Blood, before beating one of them in a round of the game (with absolutely no help from anybody else, thank you very much).