Live updates, December 8: Muslim leaders call for ‘powerful action’ following release of Royal Commission report

Welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates for December 8. Get in touch at stewart@thespinoff.co.nz

8.00pm: The day in sum

The Royal Commission report into the Christchurch terrorist attacks was released, including recommendations to bolster support for ethnic minorities and expand the security state.

Jacinda Ardern apologised on behalf of the government for failings prior to the attacks, including security services’ lack of focus on potential white supremacist violence.

Christchurch Muslim leaders also spoke following the report’s release, and called for the recommendations outlined in the report to be put into action.

There were six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation, and it was announced that 52 members of the Pakistan cricket squad would be released from MIQ after testing negative on their 12-day swabs.

Home ownership has plunged to a 70-year low, a Stats NZ report revealed.

4.40pm: Royal Commission recommendations put government in a tight spot

Political editor Justin Giovannetti writes: The first thing I did this morning at parliament, locked into a room and given a package containing the seven-part Royal Commission’s report was read the executive summary. It was a thickly detailed 35 pages with the inquiry’s hopes and 44 recommendations.

Then I read the prime minister’s response, which was pretty much the speech she would deliver in the house a few hours later. The gap between the inquiry’s hopes and the prime minister’s response is striking; it might define the political reaction to the Royal Commission for months to come.

The inquiry, kept focused by a tight mandate, looked at what the government did and more importantly, what it didn’t do to stop a terror attack on two mosques in Christchurch. The programme it sets out now is a difficult one for a Labour government, with a real focus on building up the national security apparatus. There’s also a significant shift on helping ethnic communities, somewhat to the chagrin of the Islamic community in Christchurch, which is a religious community with many ethnicities.

Ardern’s response accepted the entire inquiry response, but neglected to mention the recommendations that will be hard for Labour. Yes to a new ethnic ministry, yes to more supports for minority groups in the public service and those directly linked to the Christchurch attack. Also new protections for LGBTQ people, which I didn’t see in the Royal Commission’s report. But a new security agency, with a new spy chief and new parliamentary intelligence oversight? Completely missing.

By avoiding the debate over a substantial component of the inquiry’s report, the prime minister has made parliament an odd place this afternoon, with the opposition appearing to appeal to her own base. National leader Judith Collins is arguing for the need to protect civil liberties before creating a new security agency, while Act’s David Seymour says the security services and New Zealand Police shouldn’t be let off the hook so quickly.

ICYMI: A visual history of the New Zealand parliament – 2020 edition

I thought I’d just take the chance to flag a story from The Spinoff from today that you may have missed. Chris McDowall has released an updated version of his epic graph view of our national political history.

It’s a road map from 1853 to the present, taking in the results of the recent general election in New Zealand.

Check it out here.

3.30pm: Royal Commission report should be scrutinised – Judith Collins

The leader of the Opposition has welcomed the release of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch mosque shooting – but said the 44 recommendations must be properly scrutinised.

“The Opposition stands ready to work constructively with the government to ensure sure we learn from this event and make New Zealand a safer place for all five million of us,” Judith Collins said.

“In principle, we support strengthening the role of our security and intelligence agencies but we must tread carefully to safeguard New Zealanders’ rights and liberties.”

Collins said we cannot end up sacrificing our liberal democracy or we will end up with the sort of New Zealand the terrorist was trying to create. “It is clear this terrorist should never have had a gun licence and we support moves by the police to improve training and firearms licence vetting,” she said.

The National Party’s firearms prohibition orders would be “a crucial tool”, Collins said, saying that more needs to be done to get guns out of the hands of criminals.

3.10pm: Muslim leaders speak in response to Royal Commission report

Christchurch Muslim leaders are currently holding a press conference in response to the release of the Royal Commission’s report into the March 15 terror attacks. Abdigani Ali, spokesperson for the Al Noor and Linwood mosques, said his community “should have been safe here”.

“We’ve known for a long time the Muslim community has been unfairly targeted with hate speech and hate crimes – this report shows that we are right.”

Ali said it was “alarming” that the risk posed by right-wing extremism was “so poorly understood and resourced” by New Zealand intelligence services and that prior to May 2018, resources were allocated almost exclusively to the threat of Islamist extremist terrorism.

“This report must lead to change,” he said. “We have 800 pages of words, we now need them translated to powerful action.”

“It’s time for change and the time is ripe to make those changes. We have one of the most diverse parliaments in the world, and all sorts of groups are waking up to outdated ideology that has disadvantaged different parts of New Zealand’s community for a very long time.

“We are not the only minority group that has been subject to prejudice and racism,” said Ali, acknowledging media company Stuff’s recent apology to Māori.

2.45pm: Islamic Women’s Council criticises Royal Commission report

Justice has not been served by the Royal Commission report into the mosque attack, the Islamic Women’s Council of New Zealand has said in a statement.

“This is due to the way the terms of reference were defined, which severely restricted the review of evidence by the commission. There was a lack of transparency under the guise of confidentiality and national security,” the council said.

They say it is “concerning” that the commissioners found systemic failures and an inappropriate concentration of resources towards Islamic terrorism in New Zealand – and yet state that these would not have made a difference to the terrorist being detected.

“It is difficult to see why they would recommend changes throughout the report, if such changes would have had no impact in this particular case.”

2.30pm: Human Rights Commission welcomes report; Act calls for cautious approach

The Human Rights Commission said it welcomed all 44 recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the Christchurch mosque attacks, calling for a whole of government approach to building social cohesion and inclusivity.

“Given the report’s detailed account of major institutional failings over successive years and the inappropriate focus on Islamist terrorism, we applaud the government’s apology to Aotearoa New Zealand’s Muslim communities,” said chief human rights commissioner Paul Hunt.

He added: “this report provides extensive detail on how the attack happened, and we are examining the wide-ranging overhaul and creation of a new agency being recommended to prevent it happening again.”

Act Party calls for ‘considered, sensible’ change

David Seymour has urged the government to adopt “practical and honest solutions” to the problems identified in the Royal Commission of Inquiry report – not “knee-jerk reactions”.

“It is critical that actions and law changes that happen from here solve the shortcomings highlighted in the Royal Commission’s report, but that doesn’t mean accepting its recommendations in full,” Seymour said in a statement.

The Act Party leader said the government must not create new agencies without holding the existing ones to account.

“Today’s report is full of examples of government agencies not coming up to scratch, and in some cases not being even close, the Police in particular,” Seymour said. “They all had the powers and the resources needed to do their jobs, but the report says they hadn’t deployed them properly or were focussed on the wrong things.”

Seymour has called on the government to be “brave enough” to disregard recommendations made by the Royal Commission “no matter how well intentioned”.

“For instance, embarking on a regime of state-sponsored domestic social engineering under the banner of social cohesion is not something Act supports.”

Seymour labelled the Royal Commission report “comprehensive and thoughtful” and said the public policy response needs to be robust, enduring and practical.

2.20pm: ‘On behalf of the government, I apologise’: Ardern on Royal Commission report into terror attacks

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern spoke in parliament today ahead of the public release of the Royal Commission report into the mosque attacks.

Here’s an extract from her speech:

When we set up the inquiry I said I wanted no stone left unturned to find out how the March 15 attack happened, what could have been done to stop it and how we can keep New Zealanders safe. Today we have answers.

On the matters of how the attack occurred and what could have been done to stop it the Commission found no failures within any Government agencies that would have allowed the terrorists planning and preparation to be detected. But they did identify many lessons to be learnt and significant areas needing change.

For many years the Muslim community has raised concerns over the disproportionate scrutiny by security and intelligence agencies.  As one member of the community put it to me recently, they could only assume that same level of scrutiny was being applied to those who may have posed a threat to their security.

Read Jacinda Ardern’s full speech here

2.00pm: March 15 report released – all you need to know

The Royal Commission of Inquiry has released its in-depth report into the March 15 Christchurch mosque attacks, concluding that little could have been done to stop the terrorist from carrying out his horrific act.

Our political editor Justin Giovannetti has spent this afternoon in parliament dissecting the 800 page report and hearing from the prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who has apologised on behalf of the government for the failings identified by the inquiry.

Here’s an extract from Justin’s report:

The immediate failings for the 2019 attack in Christchurch were few, but the need for changes gaining forward is great, the inquiry found.

Nearly one-third of the 44 recommendations from the inquiry’s massive report call for New Zealand to expand its national security state, with a new intelligence agency, more funding, more spies, more analysts and more powers.

Balancing the enlarged security state is a call for more to encourage diversity. The inquiry recommends a new ministry of ethnic communities, to focus on increasing the country’s social cohesion. That would be accompanied by a series of legislated changed to hate-crimes, more police training around firearms licensing and a way for the public to tell security agencies about things that concern them.

The report’s authors said that one thought that kept returning to them as they wrote the document was the need for New Zealand “to confront and engage openly with hard issues”. The inquiry said that there has been limited public or political appetite in recent years to discussing firearms licensing, counterterrorism, social cohesion and diversity.

Speaking with reporters just before the report’s public release, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said that her government has decided to adopt all 44 of the inquiry’s recommendations.

“On behalf of the government, I apologise,” said Ardern, speaking at the banquet hall in the Beehive. “An apology would be hollow without action,” she added.

Read our full report on the Inquiry’s recommendations here

1.45pm: Royal Commission report into March 15 to be released

The Royal Commission of Inquiry’s report into the March 15 Christchurch mosque attack will be publicly released at 2pm.

We’ll have a full report on The Spinoff plus all you need to know here as well.

As some background, the report was given to families of victims over the weekend, allowing those most impacted by the terror attack to come to grips with the key findings.

The PM has said that there will be accountability where needed from the 800 page report. According to media this morning, the report will include information about a self-caused shooting injury sustained by the gunman, which required hospital care but did not lead to a police investigation.

1.15pm: Six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation; Pakistan cricket team to be released from MIQ

There are six new cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation today and no new community cases, the Ministry of Health has just revealed. It’s also been confirmed that 52 members of the Pakistan cricket squad will be released from managed isolation in Christchurch after negative 12-day swabs. But one case will remain in Christchurch quarantine until fully recovered.

All people who tested positive as part of the November Quarantine Cluster have recovered and been released from isolation.

Today’s Ministry of Health update marks the penultimate regular daily briefing. After tomorrow, the ministry will only be sending out four emails per week unless there is breaking Covid-19 related news.

Of the six new cases announced today:

  • One person arrived on December 3 from the United Arab Emirates via Australia. They tested positive at routine testing around day three. They have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived on December 3 from Hungary via Germany and Qatar. They tested positive at routine day three testing and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived on December 1 from the United Kingdom via Qatar and Australia. This person was retested following an inconclusive result from the routine testing at around day three. They tested positive on day five. They are in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived on December 1 from Sweden via Qatar and Australia. They tested positive at routine testing around day three and are in the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived on December 3 from the United Kingdom via Singapore. They tested positive at routine testing around day three and have been transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility.
  • One person arrived on December 5 from Turkey via Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. They were transferred to the Auckland quarantine facility on arrival and had a positive test on day two.

Eight previously reported cases have now recovered, bringing our total number of active cases is 54. The total number of confirmed cases is 1,729.

Yesterday laboratories processed 2,894 tests for COVID-19, bringing the total number of tests completed to date to 1,315,201.

Pakistan men’s cricket team

The ministry’s announced that 52 members of the Pakistan cricket squad will be released from managed isolation in Christchurch today. One case will remain in the Christchurch quarantine facility until fully recovered.

One person repeatedly tested negative and is being released from the Auckland quarantine facility today, where they had been transferred on arrival as a precaution.

After extensive testing and completion of their time in managed isolation in Christchurch, the Canterbury DHB medical officer of health is satisfied these people pose a very low risk to the community.

Within the Pakistan men’s cricket team there were:

  • Six acute COVID-19 cases; all now recovered except for the one remaining in the Christchurch quarantine facility; and
  • Four team members had positive PCR results, but are considered historical cases.

11.55am: UK begins Covid-19 vaccine rollout

UK hospitals and clinics are preparing to administer the first Covid-19 vaccine in the Western world, less than a week after the treatment was approved.

The process involves each recipient being given two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, three weeks apart. According to media reports, 50 hospital hubs across England have already received their allocation of the vaccine.

The government has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, with a tenth of that expected to be available by the end of the year. About 800,000 doses of the vaccine are expected to be available in the UK from next week.

10.55am: Home ownership rate plummets to 70 year low

Business editor Michael Andrew reports:

The rate of people living in their own home has fallen to the lowest level in 70 years, and homeownership rates are dropping for younger people, according to Stats NZ.

A new report released today, Housing in Aotearoa: 2020, found that homeownership peaked in the 1990s at 74% and by 2018 had fallen to 65% of households, the lowest rate since 1951.

“Homeownership rates for younger people have seen significant falls since the 1990s; however, ownership rates for those aged 60 years and over have only fallen slightly,” report author Dr Rosemary Goodyear said.

“This may be because the baby boomer generation was more likely to get a foot on the property ladder earlier than young people today.”

A pilot housing survey conducted by Building Research Association of New Zealand (BRANZ) MBIE and Stats NZ showed that rented homes were more likely to be smaller, older, and in need of major repair, and be prone to mould and damp problems.

The new data provides the most comprehensive window to date on the state of New Zealand’s housing.

10.15am: Police won’t extradite Korean diplomat to face indecent assault charges

A Korean diplomat who left the country before being charged with three counts of indecent assault won’t be extradited back to New Zealand, police have confirmed.

In July 2019, police received a complaint regarding allegations of indecent assault by a Korean diplomat in Wellington. An arrest warrant was issued in February this year, by which time the offender had left the country.

In a statement, detective inspector John Van Den Heuvel said: “After carefully considering the evidence and legal advice NZ Police has concluded that, while the standard of proof to prosecute the alleged offender and to seek a warrant of arrest had been met, the higher threshold required to initiate extradition proceedings has not been met.”

Van Den Heuvel acknowledged that the complainant was disappointed with the outcome.

9.30am: Better protections announced for security guards

Security guards have been added to “schedule 1A” of the Employment Relations Act, better protecting their pay and working conditions.

It fulfils a key election promise by Labour, after the party promised the union representing security guards that it would make changes to the law.

Workplace relations minister Michael Wood said the government has recognised that security guards need to be supported given the frontline role they play at our managed isolation facilities.

“The industry is highly competitive and prone to restructuring, which means security guards can find themselves being made redundant without compensation, or being taken up by a new contractor where they lose their entitlements and offered worse pay and conditions,” Wood said in a statement.

“With these new protections, the 7,800 security guards nationwide will be able to keep their jobs and retain their pay rates and conditions when a business is sold or restructured.”

Wood added: “This will help stop the race to the bottom where companies are undercutting each other and lead to an industry that competes on service quality, which helps the companies already offering good conditions.”

7.45am: Mosque attack report to be made public; new details revealed

The Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the March 15 terror attack will be released to the public today, providing answers as to how our darkest day was able to happen.

The report was given to victims’ families over the weekend, allowing time for those closest to the attack to digest any key findings.

And at 2pm today, the rest of us will see it too. We’ll be across everything here on The Spinoff, don’t you worry.

Earlier this week, Jacinda Ardern said that there will be “accountability” once the findings are made public.

It is up to Ardern how much of the report is made public, but the Royal Commission has said that no redactions were necessary.

Gunman treated for bullet wound before March 15

In a new development revealed this morning ahead of the report’s release, it’s been confirmed the gunman was treated for a gun wound after accidentally shooting himself months before the 2019 terror attack.

Stuff reports that the Christchurch shooter required hospital treatment in Dunedin after the accidental shooting that happened while cleaning a firearm.

Hospital staff did not report the incident to police.

It’s also being reported that Dunedin doctors treated the shooter for issues arising from his steroid use.

7.30am: Top stories from The Bulletin

Labour has taken a significant winners bonus in the first poll run after the election. The One News Colmar Brunton survey had them on 53% – a number worth unpacking a bit. This particular poll undercounted their eventual election result (50%) in the final days of the campaign, and while it’s possible the methodology has been tweaked a bit, it also seems likely that the victory has created something of a warm glow effect. In short, people tend to like winners in the immediate aftermath of their win.

National meanwhile are lower than both the final pre-election poll, and their election result, crashing in this survey to just 25%. For leader Judith Collins personally, there’s a few disasters within those numbers: Her own preferred PM rating has slipped to 12%, and she now has to deal with former Air NZ boss Christopher Luxon on 2%. Those with long memories will remember those are the sort of numbers Collins herself once got, when she was an MP serving under one beleaguered National leader or other. And people might also remember the name of a guy who has turned up at 1% in the preferred PM ratings – former PM Sir John Key. Jacinda Ardern meanwhile is at the stratospheric level of 58%, suggesting much of the country is currently having whatever the opposite of buyer’s remorse is.

As for the rest of the parties, there’s been little really significant change. The Greens and Act both came in at 8%, pretty much where they were on election night. NZ First are still turning up, with 2%. The Māori Party has the same share. And for all of those other parties, you’ll just have to eagerly await the full Colmar Brunton report to see if there’s any movement at the margins.

Read more and subscribe to The Bulletin here

7.00am: Yesterday’s key stories

An investigation into the pay gap and lack of equal employment opportunities experienced by Pacific communities in New Zealand has been launched by the Human Rights Commission.

The Whakaari alert level for the volcanic island has been lowered to 1 (Green) just wo days out from the anniversary of the eruption that led to 22 people losing their lives.

Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci called New Zealand’s Covid-19 response better than any other Western nation.

The latest 1 News/Colmar Brunton polls sees Collins drop further as Labour maintains its leads.

There was one new case of Covid-19 in managed isolation.

Read all the key stories in yesterday’s live updates




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