Morning Briefing Nov 26: Is it time to change parliament's oath of allegiance?

Parliament's oath of allegiance is questioned, authorities investigate how an Air NZ crew member got Covid-19, and Meghan Markle reveals she suffered a miscarriage this year.

Rawiri Waititi. Source: Getty

But first, in breaking news this morning, Argentine football great Diego Maradona has died two weeks after being released from a Buenos Aires hospital following brain surgery. He was 60.

Famed for the 'Hand of God' goal, in which he punched the ball into England's net during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals, Maradona captivated fans over a two-decade career. 

The office of Argentina's president is to decree three days of national mourning following his death.

Parliamentary oath 'unfair'

As the Māori Party officially returned to Parliament yesterday with the formal swearing in of MPs, its co-leaders made their feelings about pledging allegiance to the Queen clear.

While both Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer took the pledge, they made sure their allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi was also heard.

Waititi performed a haka as he stepped forward to take the oath, later saying he wasn’t against the Queen, but believed “it's very unfair at this particular time to be swearing an oath to one partner of that Tiriti”.

The language of the oath, which makes no mention of the Treaty, hasn’t changed since 1852 and has been a source of contention for MPs for some time.

Many feel it’s time for reform, while others are keen to preserve the current oath.

New Green Party MP Ricardo Menéndez March also sparked a public backlash last month when he ridiculed swearing allegiance to the Queen, however he believes the abuse he copped had more to do with being gay and a Mexican migrant to New Zealand.

Meanwhile, yesterday’s proceedings also saw Trevor Mallard re-elected as Speaker, which he said was “an honour and a privilege”.

More pomp and ceremony is set to take place this morning with the State Opening of Parliament.

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Crew member's case probed

An investigation is underway into how an Air New Zealand crew member became infected with Covid-19.

The staff member returned a positive test for the virus in Auckland yesterday after originally testing positive in China.

Health authorities say urgent genome sequencing is being completed, which could provide more information about the source of the infection.

The airline worker and seven close contacts have all been moved to the Jet Park quarantine facility. 

And as officials investigate this latest case, New Zealand’s fight against Covid-19 has seen the country ranked as the best place in the world to be during the pandemic.

The number one ranking comes from a new Bloomberg Covid resilience report, which sought to find where the virus has been handled most effectively. Japan and Taiwan also emerged as top performers. 

Reserve Bank's new warning

The Reserve Bank says it’s pleased to be working with the Government to rein in the booming housing market, following a letter from Finance Minister Grant Robertson asking the organisation to help tackle the issue.

Governor Adrian Orr says part of the Reserve Bank’s response will likely include advice on tax changes that could be put in place. 

Meanwhile, Orr has also cautioned that the big financial shocks from the Covid-19 pandemic have yet to be felt.

The Reserve Bank’s six-monthly financial stability report yesterday noted low-deposit home loans had grown and could threaten financial stability if left unchecked.

It says high leverage in the housing sector poses risks if house prices fall or unemployment rises.

Soldier accused of espionage

A soldier with far-right links has been charged with spying following a joint investigation by the NZ Defence Force and police.

The soldier, who’s based at Linton Army Camp near Palmerston North, is facing 17 charges, including espionage, possessing objectionable material, and accessing a computer dishonestly.

It comes nearly a year after the accused was arrested during a police search at the army base.

Espionage is communicating information or delivering an object to a country or organisation with the intention of undermining New Zealand's interests and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

America back, says Biden

US President-elect Joe Biden declared “America is back” as he introduced selections for his national security team.

Many of Biden’s selections have ties to Barack Obama’s administration, however Biden says his presidency won’t be “a third Obama term”.

Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average traded above 30,000 points for the first time yesterday, with investors encouraged by Covid vaccine progress and Biden’s transition of power going ahead.

The historic stock market rally prompted President Donald Trump to make a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room, which one reporter eloquently described as “weird as s**t”.

Trump also took part in the traditional Thanksgiving turkey pardon ceremony at the White House yesterday, where he offered reprieve to a pair of birds named Corn and Cob.

As the president walked away, reporters asked if also planned to issue a pardon for himself. Trump didn’t respond.

Markle's miscarriage heartache

Meghan Markle has revealed she suffered a miscarriage in July. The Duchess of Sussex shared the news in an article published in the New York Times overnight.

She described her “almost unbearable grief” following the loss of her baby, saying it happened while she was caring for her son, Archie.

“I knew, as I clutched my firstborn child, that I was losing my second,” she wrote.

Other news of note this morning: 

- As Oranga Tamariki’s practices continue to be questioned at an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing, Newsroom has released a new investigation into the agency, with the story of four young Māori siblings being taken from their “forever” foster home.

- A Covid-19 contact tracing card trial has been hailed as a win for elderly and those without smartphones. 

- Scotland has become the first country in the world to pass legislation making period products free to all – and a New Zealand charity is hoping to see the same here

- Tiny home rules are about to be made clearer under new Government guidelines.

- Auckland Zoo says it’s made the difficult decision to rehome its two popular Asian elephants, Burma and Anjalee.

- And if you're planning on buying your Christmas gifts online or sending them to your family this year, you might want to check this guide to post deadlines.  

And finally...

Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze in a scene from Ghost. Source: 1 NEWS

It used to be a hobby exclusively for artsy folk and supernatural romances.

But pottery classes are now selling out around New Zealand as people look for a hands-on, tech-free distraction to get them through the pandemic.

Seven Sharp spoke to The Hairy Potters, a collection of “three enormous hairy gays who love ... making beautiful things out of mud”, about the phenomenon.

As well as offering a critique of Demi Moore’s pottery skills in the movie Ghost, they share why pottery has become the new yoga