Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has tested positive for Covid-19, a spokesperson has confirmed.
Hipkins was supposed to attend a Samoan church service in Mangere this morning, but his staff advised he could no longer attend.
He tested positive today after experiencing “cold and flu symptoms” from yesterday.
Hipkins will be isolating for five days or until he returned a negative test, his spokesperson said.
Hipkins would perform engagements he could via Zoom.
The spokesperson said further updates on his schedule would be provided “in due course”.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni would be standing in Hipkins’ place at today’s election manifesto launch in Auckland.
The timing could not be worse for Hipkins as Labour continues to struggle in the polls.
National’s Christopher Luxon wished Hipkins a quick recovery.
Hipkins isn’t the only Labour MP to have fallen victim to Covid-19.
Labour commits $100m to teaching
Labour is promising to invest almost $100m into free maths and literacy tutoring, upskilling teachers to deliver the new curriculum and increasing education and training pathways for disengaged youth.
They have announced that they will provide Intermediate and secondary school students access to two million free tutoring sessions to help lift maths and literacy achievement.
Labour will also provide a maths and literacy training fund for all primary and intermediate teachers.
Labour has also promised more funding to help young people get back to school, into training or work.
Senior Labour figure Carmel Sepuloni made the announcement today in place of Labour leader Chris Hipkins, who today confirmed he is Covid-positive and will be isolating for the coming days.
Labour’s campaign promise comes amid the release of its election manifesto in Auckland today.
The near-$100m package includes $43m over four years to provide more education and training pathways for 2000 young people not engaged in school.
A total of $35m would be used to fund two million hours of free maths and literacy “catch-up” tutoring for intermediate and secondary school students.
Schools in regions most impacted by Covid-19 lockdowns and the North Island weather events (Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland Anniversary floods) would be prioritised.
Programmes targeting Māori and Pasifika students would also be included.
Finally, $25m over two years would be provided to upskill primary and intermediate teachers to implement the new maths and literacy curriculum.
All 2131 primary and intermediate schools across the country would have access to the fund in order to provide the course to their teachers.
Several Labour candidates arrived in West Auckland around lunchtime ahead of the launch of Labour’s election manifesto.
Many of the signs the crowd were brandishing had Hipkins name on them. Slightly unfortunate given Hipkins wasn’t here as he’s Covid positive.
Labour deputy Kelvin Davis acknowledged how “Chippy” was not well.
“I wanted to say on Chippy’s behalf, we know he can’t be here, thank you all very very much,” Davis said.
“Read your script,” an audience member shouted out as Davis temporarily forgot to introduce Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni to speak.
Davis, laughing it off, said while the crowd couldn’t have Chippy, they could have “Māori Ken and Samoan Barbie” in Willie Jackson and Sepuloni.
“Let’s just have fun,” was the message Sepuloni - the Kelston MP - shared with Davis ahead of leading today’s rally in Hipkins’ stead.
She said Labour had knocked on more doors and made more phone calls than in any other campaign.
“Kiwis like a good comeback,” she said of Labour’s chances in the election.
Sepuloni is rolling through Labour’s election promises. On its commitment to bring in 300 more police, Sepuloni revelled in how National had adopted the same policy, something that was “not on Chris [Hipkins’] bingo card this election”.
Sepuloni passed on another message from Hipkins to the crowd which was that he was “staking his job” on the promises Labour had made.
It was unclear whether that meant Hipkins would step down as Labour leader if he didn’t win the election or if it meant he would step down if, as the next PM, he didn’t make good on his promises.
Sepuloni says her and Hipkins will be working out between them how to cover what he had planned over the next week.
“I wasn’t expecting to be here today but here I am.”
On the education manifesto, education minister Jan Tinetti said we need to create a public education system that works for everyone.
Tinetti says all students year seven and above will be given access to the manifesto.
Asked if the manifesto was a black mark on how Tinetti and been running the education sector, she said “We wouldn’t be needing to catch them up if Covid and weather events weren’t affecting their learning”.
On Hipkins, Sepuloni said people get sick and he wants to do the responsible thing and stay isolated.
She said she hasn’t tested today but will keep testing.
“I’m sure his brain will still be ticking over the next few days but we just need to pick up when he’s not able to.”
Hipkins messaged Sepuloni last night telling her that he wasn’t feeling great.
As for politicians that have been around Hipkins over the last few days, Sepuloni expects them to take precautions and test.
Sepuloni says no decision has been made about the best person to take on the PM’s commitments over the next week.
“The plan is that everyone steps in”
Sepuloni said she doesn’t know of anyone else who is showing symptoms.
She said she wasn’t gutted, they plan to just get on with the job.
On Christopher Luxon, David Seymour and Winston Peters, Sepuloni said “that three-headed beast would not be good for New Zealand and would be absolute chaos”.
National’s 100-day plan
National Party leader Christopher Luxon has announced the party’s 100-day plan - what it hopes to achieve within 100 days of being elected.
Within its first 100 days, National plans to introduce legislation intended to make the following changes:
- Remove the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax which adds 11.5 cents per litre of petrol.
- Remove the Reserve Bank’s dual mandate to get the Bank focused on putting the lid back on inflation.
- Restore 90-day employment trial periods for all businesses.
- Extend free breast cancer screening for women aged up to 74.
- Repeal Labour’s water reform legislation.
- Repeal Labour’s resource management laws
- Ban gang patches, stop gang members gathering in public, and stop known gang offenders from communicating with one another.
- Give police greater powers to search gang members for firearms and make gang membership an aggravating factor at sentencing.
- Scrap offender cultural reports
- Extend the eligibility for remand prisoners to access rehabilitation programmes.
- Encourage more virtual participation in court proceedings.
The plan also includes scrapping the Clean Car Discount scheme, stopping work on the income insurance scheme, instructing public sector chief executives to identify “back-office savings” and report their spending on consultants, banning cellphones in schools, requiring primary and intermediate schools to prepare to teach an hour a day each of reading, writing and maths, stop work on the Lake Onslow scheme, introduce a fast-track consenting regime and establish a “priority one” category on the social housing waitlist.
“There is no time to waste, we have to go to work on day one,” Luxon told an exuberant crowd of National supporters.
“The Government I lead is not going to let [students] down,” Luxon said when talking about falling student achievement.
Laughs come from the audience in an Albany hall when Luxon talks about the next Government withdrawing from the capital’s transport plan, Let’s Get Wellington Moving. They also expressed significant support for Luxon’s intention to scrap speed limit reductions and light rail development.
Despite it being a Sunday morning, the roughly 100 people packing out the hall in Albany can’t go a few minutes without bursting into applause or stamping their feet on the wooden floor, causing quite a racket.
After the announcement, Luxon told media he intended to work up to Christmas if elected, saying most Kiwis did that.
“We’ll be as efficient as we possibly can,” Luxon said when asked about how fast coalition negotiations would take place.
“We’ll go as late as we can, we’ll be working right up until Christmas time.” Luxon clarified it could be a few days before December 25.
He was critical of previous governments that only worked up to about December 14.
Asked if he would bring the start of Parliament forward, Luxon said he “may well do”.
He said he wasn’t concerned about interrupting the holidays of MPs.
Luxon confirmed he would follow “due process” with respect to the legislative process but acknowledged the work rate needed to be increased. National has a record of criticising Labour for what it deems to be rushed legislation.
Climate change spokesperson Simon Watts said he was confident he could work with Auckland Council to achieve the necessary reform of water services.
He wouldn’t say how much money had been set aside in National’s fiscal plan for water reform, saying that would be thrashed out with individual councils. Pushed on it, Watts said he didn’t have the number to hand.
Luxon reiterated his “strong preference” to work with Act in a two-party government and disagreed when asked whether five per cent of the population held the power in this election - the same proportion of people currently supporting NZ First according to recent polls.
Elsewhere on the campaign trail
The Green Party co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw will have a day of joint campaigning in Auckland, including unveiling their fiscal plan today ahead of a public meeting at Avondale.
NZ First leader Winston Peters and Act leader David Seymour are both expected to be at the Groundswell Rally in Ellerslie this afternoon.
Winston Peters said we talk to Groundswell because we talk to everyone.
Today Seymour launched a new online video, urging voters to vote for Act with a clear warning against giving their vote to a resurgent NZ First instead: “Only a vote for Act is a vote to avoid more of the same, or chaos. It’s a vote for a strong Act voice in a stable, two-party government,” says Seymour.
“One more seat for Act is the difference between a stable, responsible Act-National government and something else entirely.”
Democracy NZ candidate Matt King said if NZ First is part of a three-party coalition, it will be a coalition chaos.