King Charles has approved the cancellation of disgraced sex offender James Wallace’s knighthood, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed.
“He can no longer use the title of ‘Sir’.”
He made the announcement at this afternoon’s post-Cabinet press conference.
Wallace, who had an estimated net worth of about $170 million, was accused and found guilty of assaulting three men victims in the early 2000s, 2008 and 2016.
The Government started the process of stripping his knighthood in June, when his name suppression lapsed.
On strike notices being issued by senior doctors today, Hipkins said the best way to resolve the dispute was to get back around the bargaining table.
Hipkins said he didn’t want to see doctors or health professionals going on strike and the Government would work in good faith to resolve the dispute.
Te Whatu Ora would have contingency plans in place.
Asked about National’s health announcement today, Hipkins said National wanting to fund 13 more cancer treatments by adding the prescription fee for some New Zealanders was a “smoke and mirrors” policy, taking medicines from one group and giving it to another.
He said Labour planned to continue growing Pharmac’s funding if re-elected, which the Government had been doing.
Politicians need to be careful about picking and choosing medicines, noting Pharmac’s independence, Hipkins said.
Hipkins wouldn’t comment on a High Court case over vaping, but the Government was taking steps to “crack down” on it.
He said vaping was “a good way out of smoking” but there was an “alarming” up-take of vaping by young people, and he would make announcements on how to tackle that issue “shortly”.
The problem had evolved “rapidly” in recent years.
Labour’s vaping policy would be released tomorrow, he said.
On Labour accused of stealing National’s education policy, Hipkins said Labour’s plan on reading, writing and maths in schools was in train for a long time.
He said reading, writing and maths are basic foundation skills, but he decided it was not the right time to roll out changes during the pandemic.
“That wasn’t the time to press ahead more aggressively with that work.”
He said a National-Act-NZ First coalition would be a “coalition of chaos, cuts and confusion”.
An arrangement involving Labour and NZ First after the election was a “very very very very long shot,” he said.
Hipkins said he wouldn’t use race as a wedge in the campaign and he challenged all political leaders to do the same.
He said there was “clearly more risk” of foreign interference this election, and all political parties had received advice on how to handle it.
Asked about David Seymour’s joke about Guy Fawkes and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Hipkins said: “I don’t think jokes about blowing up an ethnic minority are very funny at all.”
He said he was “very aware” of the pressure on the Crown books at the moment.
He would set out Labour’s preferences for post-election governing arrangements closer to the election.
The protest awaiting him at Ōtara at the weekend was “unfortunate” for others hoping to meet and talk to him, but it was also “democracy in action”.
The parliamentary service was working with all parties about safety on the campaign trail. “All candidates, regardless of which party they are standing for, should be free to be safe on the campaign trail.”
“I didn’t feel unsafe,” he said about his experience in Ōtara.
He had a heads-up that the protest was there and was going to “make some noise”.
“I’m concerned about any messaging in the campaign that targets a group of people. We don’t want to drive a wedge between groups of people.”
He said National and Act have “walked away” from where National, under Sir John Key and with the help of Chris Finlayson, had sought to improve relations with Māori.
Asked about the huge gap in fundraising between Labour and National, Hipkins said Labour wasn’t designing policies to “appease millionaires”. “We rely on grassroots donations. That’s always been the way.”
He said he met with the survivors of the LynnMall attack a week and a half ago, and it was a “challenging conversation”. They hadn’t received the level of support they deserved, and he’s asked them to look at issues where more support should be provided.
“I do want to make sure that we put that right.”
Asked about NZ First’s bathroom policy, he said who uses which bathroom wasn’t an issue New Zealanders wanted to focus on this election.
Hipkins is to celebrate a range of health milestones at this afternoon’s post-Cabinet press conference.
Hipkins will also respond to the National Party’s pledge to fund 13 cancer treatments available in Australia but not in New Zealand.
National said it would fund the money for this by rolling back Labour’s Budget decision to make most prescriptions free by cancelling the $5 co-payment.
National will now means-test free prescriptions, keeping the policy for people on low incomes or superannuitants. People with a Community Services Card or Super Gold Card will still have the $5 co-pay removed. Everyone else will have to pay.
The party would return to the old system which caps the total amount paid by a family in a year at $100.
National has costed the policy at $280 million over four years.
This week is the second to last sitting week of Parliament. Both parties are eager to wrap up and get out onto the hustings.
On Monday morning, the Government announced it would amend the law to ensure schools are teaching maths, reading and writing the same way from 2026.
Education Minister Jan Tinetti said the Government intended to add core teaching requirements to the national curriculum under the Education and Training Act 2020.
The requirements, also known as the Common Practice Model, were currently being developed by an expert group and it was expected they would be released for consultation at some point during Term 4 of this year, meaning changes to the legislation would occur in the next term of government.
Schools could then implement the requirements from next year before they became compulsory in 2026.
It would apply to primary, intermediate and secondary schools.
“We have great teachers, but historically the curriculum hasn’t always been clear about how core subjects should be taught, and it’s meant there are wide variations of teaching,” Tinetti said.
Labour had come under fire from National for allegedly going soft on core subjects, something National is campaigning on addressing with a policy to “teach the basics brilliantly”.
The party’s education spokeswoman Erica Stanford said Labour had “copie[d] National’s homework”.
“After six years of being completely directionless in education, Labour has copied part of National’s policy in a desperate attempt to turn around plummeting educational achievement,” Stanford said.
“Labour is so completely clueless in education that they are waiting to see National’s policies and simply copying our homework.
“After six months of attempting to critique National, Labour has today announced one part of National’s four-part Teaching the Basics Brilliantly policy but leaving out core elements that make the policy effective,” she said.