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Morning Briefing Oct 29: Should there be an inquiry into NZ's Covid response?

Calls are growing for an inquiry into New Zealand’s pandemic response – and soon – however Health Minister Chris Hipkins says it would “distract people’s attention” from the country’s response while the virus is still a threat.

A Covid-19 testing station in Auckland. Source: Getty

It follows a recent report published in the Lancet that compared New Zealand’s pandemic response to Taiwan’s and concluded Taiwan had fared better.  

Epidemiologist Michael Baker argues the Government should hold an inquiry sooner rather than later to improve the country’s response now.

But Hipkins says that while an inquiry would take place at some point, now isn’t the time and that Kiwis would have to “learn as we go”.

Meanwhile, microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles has told Stuff New Zealand’s current collective action and its “swiss cheese model” of measures is still one of the best lines of defence against Covid-19.

But it would appear not everyone’s a fan of those layers of defence, with British far-right politician Suzanne Evans likening New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine protocols to Nazi Germany.

Her tweets criticising Jacinda Ardern’s “fascist government” called on Amnesty International to intervene in the perceived plight of New Zealanders – however Kiwis were quick to pour scorn on Evans’ concerns. 

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Govt told to 'honour human rights'

But New Zealand’s human rights record is in the spotlight today with the release of a new report from the Human Rights Commission.

It calls on politicians to keep “decades-old” human rights and Te Tiriti o Waitangi promises and lays out 39 issues it wants the new Government to adopt.

Those issues include decent housing, minimum wage increases, more employment opportunities for disabled people and a national action plan against racism.

The full report can be found here.

Nervous wait for MPs

The looming release of special votes for the general election is weighing heavily on MPs who currently hold their electorates by just a few hundred votes.

1 NEWS political reporter Anna Whyte has rounded up those MPs nervously waiting for those final votes, including National’s Shane Reti, Labour’s Tamati Coffey and the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick.

Some MPs face being turfed out of Parliament altogether if the special votes don’t go their way.

Meanwhile, Labour and the Greens are still confident they can wrap up their talks about a potential Government partnership by tomorrow.

There’s still no agreement in place, but in the ongoing biscuit watch, yesterday’s negotiations featured a mixed plate of cookies.

Should police be armed?

The issue of arming New Zealand’s police is back on the agenda with some Auckland officers choosing to wear special body armour as gun crimes rise.

It comes as the hunt continues for two gunmen who shot at a police officer in the Far North earlier this week.

The incident’s sparked renewed calls for police to have easier access to guns, however former police negotiator Lance Burdett doesn’t think this would have necessarily been the answer in the Northland incident.

Gender gap in financial knowledge

There's concern a lack of financial knowledge could see women fall behind later in life.

A Commission for Financial Capability survey tested thousands of people on their understanding of basic financial concepts, including interest, inflation and risk diversification.

Only half as many women as men could answer all the questions correctly – and that gap in financial literacy widened with age.

Retirement Commissioner Jane Wrightson says education programmes in schools could help address the issue.

Other news of note this morning:

- The Herald reports Air New Zealand’s been ordered to refund a customer for flights cancelled when the airline cut its own services during the pandemic – and it could have implications for thousands of other travellers.

- A New Zealander jailed in Bali has written to the Prime Minister saying Covid-19 is spreading through the prison and he'll die if he's not helped soon. 

- Police have released the image of a man who allegedly chopped down pōhutukawa trees on an Auckland street.

- The Silver Ferns have marked the return of international netball with a convincing win over England.

- Benee’s hit song Glitter has won the 2020 APRA Silver Scroll.

- And a North Canterbury fire siren will keep sounding at night after residents in Oxford stepped in to save it from modern technology.

And finally...

A black panther. Source: istock.com

An associate professor of ecology at Lincoln University is not convinced a black panther is prowling around the South Island.

Tales of the fabled giant cat have re-emerged after a Christchurch man snapped a photo of what he swears was a panther on a mountain biking track on Sunday (which shouldn’t be confused with the above image of a confirmed panther seen far, far away from New Zealand).

However, ecology academic James Ross has pointed out a few of the ways in which the claims of a panther roaming through Canterbury don’t quite stack up.