Coalition maintains Newspoll lead federally and in Queensland; Biden’s lead over Trump narrows



AAP/Lukas Coch

Adrian Beaumont, University of Melbourne

This week’s federal Newspoll, conducted August 5-8 from a sample of 1,509, gave the Coalition a 52-48 lead, a one-point gain for Labor since the last Newspoll, three weeks ago. Primary votes were 43% Coalition (down one), 33% Labor (down one), 11% Greens (up one) and 4% One Nation (steady). Figures from The Poll Bludger.

68% (steady) were satisfied with Scott Morrison’s performance, and 29% (up two) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +39, just off Morrison’s record +41 in the last two Newspolls.

Anthony Albanese’s net approval improved two points to +3. Despite these slight movements against Morrison and favouring Albanese, Morrison’s better PM lead widened to 60-25 from 59-26 three weeks ago.

So far the Victorian Labor government is taking the blame for the coronavirus crisis. Three weeks ago, Newspoll polled the ratings of NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews. 57% were satisfied with Andrews and 37% were dissatisfied for a net approval of +20, down 20 points since late June. Berejiklian’s net approval also slid eight points to +34, with 64% satisfied and 30% dissatisfied.

As long as the Victorian government is blamed for the new coronavirus surge, while the federal government escapes blame, it is likely the federal Coalition will maintain its poll lead.

Rex Patrick’s resignation from Centre Alliance makes Senate easier for Coalition

On Sunday, SA Senator Rex Patrick announced he was leaving Centre Alliance and would continue in the Senate as an independent.

After the 2019 election, the Coalition held 35 of the 76 senators, Labor 26, the Greens nine, One Nation two, Centre Alliance two and Cory Bernardi and Jacqui Lambie one each. In January, Bernardi resigned from the Senate, and his seat reverted to the Liberals.

Before Patrick left Centre Alliance, the Coalition’s easiest path to the 39 votes required to pass legislation opposed by Labor and the Greens was to win support from One Nation and one of Centre Alliance or Lambie.

Now the Coalition has an extra option if they win One Nation’s support, needing just one out of Lambie, Patrick or Centre Alliance.

Queensland Newspoll: 51-49 to LNP

The Queensland election will be held on October 31. A Newspoll, conducted July 23-29 from a sample of 1,000, gave the LNP a 51-49 lead. Primary votes were 38% LNP, 34% Labor, 12% Greens and 11% One Nation.

This poll was branded as Newspoll, but Newspoll is conducted by YouGov. A YouGov poll in early June gave the LNP a 52-48 lead from primary votes of 38% LNP, 32% Labor, 12% Greens and 12% One Nation.

Despite the LNP lead on voting intentions, Labor Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s ratings improved from the late June premiers’ Newspoll. 64% (up five) were satisfied with her performance, and 29% (down six) were dissatisfied, for a net approval of +35. Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington was at 34% satisfied, 42% dissatisfied. Palaszczuk led as better premier by 57-26.

Both Palaszczuk and Morrison had great results on handling coronavirus, with Palaszczuk at 81% well, 14% badly and Morrison at 80% well, 17% badly.

Biden’s lead over Trump narrows

This section is an updated version of an article I had published for The Poll Bludger last Friday.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 41.4% approve, 54.7% disapprove (net -13.3%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.0% approve, 54.4% disapprove (net -12.4%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump’s net approval has improved about two points.

Less than three months before the November 3 election, FiveThirtyEight’s national aggregate has Joe Biden’s lead narrowing to a 49.9% to 42.1% margin over Trump, from a 50.3% to 41.2% margin three weeks ago.

In the key states, Biden leads by 7.8% in Michigan, 7.3% in Wisconsin, 6.0% in Pennsylvania, 5.2% in Florida and 3.6% in Arizona.

On current polling, Pennsylvania is the tipping-point state. If Trump wins all states more favourable for him than Pennsylvania, and Biden wins Pennsylvania and other states that are better for him, Biden wins the Electoral College by 278 Electoral Votes to 260. But the issue for Biden is that Pennsylvania is currently 1.8% more pro-Trump than the national average.

Trump’s gains come despite a coronavirus death toll that has trended up to over 1,000 daily deaths on most days. There have been over 160,000 US coronavirus deaths. However, the daily new cases have dropped into the 50,000’s from a peak of over 78,000 on July 24.

I believe Trump has gained owing to memories of George Floyd’s murder fading, and thus race relations becoming less important to voters. An improving economic outlook could also explain the poll movement.

Despite the coronavirus’ effect on the US economy, Trump’s economic approval is close to a net zero rating according to the RealClearPolitics average. Analyst Nate Silver says real disposable personal income increased sharply in April, contrary to what occurs in most recessions. This increase was due to the coronavirus stimulus, and explains Trump’s better economic ratings.

In the RealClearPolitics Senate map, Republicans lead in 46 races, Democrats lead in 45 and there are nine toss-ups. If toss-up races are assigned to the current leader, Democrats lead by 51 to 49. If Trump’s numbers continue to improve, Republicans are likely to be boosted in congressional races.

Danger for Democrats in mail voting

Owing to coronavirus, much of the US election will be conducted by mail voting. Trump has been castigating mail voting, and this could depress Republican mail turnout. But there is a danger for Biden and Democrats in Trump’s attacks.

As Cook Political Report analyst Dave Wasserman says, mail votes can be rejected owing to voter error. Also, while there are some states that conduct elections mostly by mail, the US as a whole does not. This means there could be errors such as voters not being sent their ballot papers in time.

If Republicans mostly vote in person, while Democrats mostly vote by mail, it is likely to distort the election night results as mail votes usually take longer to count. Furthermore, mail errors, whether by election officials or voters, are likely to cost Democrats in close races.

If Trump could get within five points in national polls, his advantage in the Electoral College and the mail issue could see him sneak another win.

Another good US jobs report

After the terrible US April jobs report, the last three have indicated a clear recovery trend from coronavirus. In July, 1.8 million jobs were created and the unemployment rate fell 0.9% to 10.2%. The unemployment rate is still high by historical standards, but much better than the 14.7% in April.

Job gains in July slowed from 4.8 million in June and 2.7 million in May. The employment population ratio – the percentage of eligible Americans employed – increased 0.5% in July to 55.1%, but is still over 3% below the 58.2% low reached in the aftermath of the global financial crisis.

NZ Labour has huge poll lead ahead of September 19 election

On July 28, I wrote for The Poll Bludger that a New Zealand Reid Research poll gave Labour a thumping 61% to 25% lead over the opposition National. A Colmar Brunton poll, released after the Poll Bludger article was published, gave Labour a 53% to 32% lead.The Conversation

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

100 days without COVID-19: how New Zealand got rid of a virus that keeps spreading across the world


Michael Baker, University of Otago; Amanda Kvalsvig, University of Otago, and Nick Wilson, University of Otago

On Sunday, New Zealand will mark 100 days without community transmission of COVID-19.

From the first known case imported into New Zealand on February 26 to the last case of community transmission detected on May 1, elimination took 65 days.

New Zealand relied on three types of measures to get rid of the virus:

  1. ongoing border controls to stop COVID-19 from entering the country

  2. a lockdown and physical distancing to stop community transmission

  3. case-based controls using testing, contact tracing and quarantine.

Collectively, these measures have achieved low case numbers and deaths compared with high-income countries in Europe and North America that pursued a suppression strategy.

New Zealand is one of a small number of jurisdictions – including mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia, Australia and Fiji – pursuing COVID-19 containment or elimination. Most have had new outbreaks. The exceptions are Taiwan, Mongolia, Fiji and New Zealand.

Australia adopted very similar responses to the pandemic and it is important to note that most states and territories are in the same position as New Zealand. But Victoria and, to a lesser extent, New South Wales are seeing a significant resurgence.




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The key difference is that New Zealand committed relatively early to a clearly articulated elimination strategy and pursued it aggressively. An intense lockdown proved highly effective at rapidly extinguishing the virus.

This difference can be seen graphically in this stringency index published by Oxford University’s Our World in Data.


CC BY-SA

There are key lessons from New Zealand’s COVID-19 experience.

A vigorous, decisive response to the pandemic was highly effective at minimising cases and deaths. New Zealand has the lowest COVID-19 death rate in the OECD.

Total all-cause deaths also dropped during the lockdown. This observation suggests it did not have severe negative effects on health, although it will almost certainly have some negative long-term effects.

Elimination of the virus appears to have allowed New Zealand to return to near-normal operation fairly rapidly, minimised economic damage compared with Australia. But the economic impact is likely to keep playing out over the coming months.

Getting through the pandemic

We have gained a much better understanding of COVID-19 over the past eight months. Without effective control measures, it is likely to continue to spread globally for many months to years, ultimately infecting billions and killing millions. The proportion of infected people who die appears to be slightly below 1%.

This infection also causes serious long-term consequences for some survivors. The largest uncertainties involve immunity to this virus, whether it can develop from exposure to infection or vaccines, and if it is long-lasting. The potential for treatment with antivirals and other therapeutics is also still uncertain.

This knowledge reinforces the huge benefits of sustaining elimination. We know that if New Zealand were to experience widespread COVID-19 transmission, the impact on Māori and Pasifika populations could be catastrophic.

We have previously described critical measures to get us through this period, including the use of fabric face masks, improving contact tracing with suitable digital tools, applying a science-based approach to border management, and the need for a dedicated national public health agency.




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Maintaining elimination depends on adopting a highly strategic approach to risk management. This approach involves choosing an optimal mix of interventions and using resources in the most efficient way to keep the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks at a consistently low level. Several measures can contribute to this goal over the next few months, while also allowing incremental increases in international travel:

  • resurgence planning for a border-control failure and outbreaks of various sizes, with state-of-the-art contact tracing and an upgraded alert level system

  • ensuring all New Zealanders own a re-useable fabric face mask with their use built into the alert level system

  • conducting exercises and simulations to test outbreak management procedures, possibly including “mass masking days” to engage the public in the response

  • carefully exploring processes to allow quarantine-free travel between jurisdictions free of COVID-19, notably various Pacific Islands, Tasmania and Taiwan (which may require digital tracking of arriving travellers for the first few weeks)

  • planning for carefully managed inbound travel by key long-term visitor groups such as tertiary students who would generally still need managed quarantine.

Building back better

New Zealand cannot change the reality of the global COVID-19 pandemic. But it can leverage possible benefits.

We should conduct an official inquiry into the COVID-19 response so we learn everything we possibly can to improve our response capacity for future events.

We also need to establish a specialised national public health agency to manage serious threats to public health and provide critical mass to advance public health generally. Such an agency appears to have been a key factor in the success of Taiwan, which avoided a costly lockdown entirely.

Business as usual should not be an option for the recovery phase. A recent Massey University survey suggests seven out of ten New Zealanders support a green recovery approach.

New Zealand’s elimination of COVID-19 has drawn attention worldwide, with a description just published in the New England Journal of Medicine. We support a rejuvenated World Health Organization that can provide improved global leadership for pandemic prevention and control, including greater use of an elimination approach to combat COVID-19.The Conversation

Michael Baker, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago; Amanda Kvalsvig, Senior Research Fellow, Department of Public Health, University of Otago, and Nick Wilson, Professor of Public Health, University of Otago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Should a COVID-19 vaccine be compulsory — and what would this mean for anti-vaxxers?



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Claire Breen, University of Waikato

With COVID-19 vaccine developers reporting promising results, it is probable we will one day face a major public health question: can the government compel New Zealanders to be vaccinated?

Just as inevitably, some people will refuse a vaccine. As we have seen overseas with debates over the wearing of masks, and more generally with anti-vaccination activists everywhere, compulsion is not a simple matter.

There are competing rights and duties on both sides. Forcing an individual to be vaccinated is a violation of their fundamental right to personal autonomy, which informs the more specific right to bodily integrity.

Basically, those rights mean every person can make decisions for themselves and what can and cannot be done to their bodies.

The state’s duty to protect

While international human rights treaties support this, they do not specifically talk about the right to refuse medical treatment. Rather, they state that everyone has the right not to be subjected to medical experimentation without free consent.

And here we see how quickly the stakes are raised. These rights are part of the broader right to be free from torture, cruel and inhuman degrading treatment or punishment. The specific reference to medical experimentation is a response to what happened under the Nazi regime during the second world war.




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But it’s the fundamental right to life that throws the COVID-19 vaccine issue into stark relief, because it also means governments must make some effort to safeguard citzens’ lives by protecting them from life-threatening diseases.

Although everyone has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, this includes the right to be free from non-consensual medical treatment. But this in turn may be subject to the state’s obligation to prevent and control disease.

The right to be free from non-consensual treatment can only be restricted under specific conditions that respect best practice and international standards.

The introduction of mass immunisation programs therefore requires quite a balancing act.

In New Zealand, the courts and their English predecessors have long recognised and protected the right to bodily integrity. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 also clearly states that everyone has the right to refuse medical treatment.




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Public health can trump individual rights

Any restriction of that right, any intrusion into the individual’s bodily integrity, would require explicit statutory authorisation. Such legislation would have to be interpreted very strictly and, wherever possible, consistently with the Bill of Rights Act.

There are examples of how this would work in practice. A recent decision from the Supreme Court of New Zealand addressed whether the fluoridation of water as a public health measure was a violation of the right to refuse medical treatment.

The court found it was. But – and it’s an important but – the court decided some public health measures could override the right to refuse medical treatment where these measures are clearly justified.

Clear justification would mean there must be a reasonable objective to compulsory vaccination that justifies the limits placed on the right to refuse medical treatment.

Such limits must be no more than are reasonably necessary to achieve the desired public health outcome, and they must be proportionate to the importance of mandatory vaccination.

Scientist in white coat in laboratory
A researcher at the Oxford Vaccine Group which is working on an experimental vaccine that has shown promise in early trials.
GettyImages

Consequences for refusing vaccination?

In the end, should a COVID-19 vaccine become available, New Zealanders would have the right (but not the absolute right) under international and domestic law to refuse to be vaccinated. And the government could – and might even be obliged to – override that right.

So, no definitive answer. Furthermore, just because the government could make vaccination compulsory doesn’t mean it should.

It might not even have to. A person could still exercise their right to refuse vaccination but the government could then impose limits on other rights and freedoms.




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In practical terms, this could mean no travel or access to school or the workplace if it placed the health and lives of others at risk. Similarly, a refusal to be vaccinated could limit jobs or social welfare benefits that depend on work availability.

But, again, the government would have to present clear justifications for any such restrictions.

Public consent is vital

Without a doubt, this would be highly controversial and the government would need to engage in another balancing act.

But a purely voluntary approach can have mixed results, too, as the 2019 measles outbreak showed. The main problem appears to have been a poorly designed immunisation program that missed various ethnic, socioeconomic and regional targets.

The success of a voluntary approach will be dependent on a highly performing vaccination program that is accessible to all New Zealanders and backed up by a strong public education campaign.

Ultimately, as the collective effort of the “team of 5 million” has already shown, the effectiveness of any law really depends on each one of us and the decisions we make.The Conversation

Claire Breen, Professor of Law, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘An endless game of COVID-19 whack-a-mole’: a New Zealand expert on why Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown should cover all of Victoria


Siouxsie Wiles

The restrictions in place for metropolitan Melbourne now are in some ways stricter than those that were in force during New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown. A curfew is in place and most people have to wear masks when they leave their home – neither of which happened in New Zealand.

But the state of Victoria has lost valuable time to bring the outbreak under control. Stage 3 restrictions that came into force on July 8 for everyone living in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire provided too many opportunities for the virus to spread. As a result, there are now around 7,000 active cases, and still several hundred new cases each day. For more than 2,000 cases, contact tracers don’t yet know where people were exposed to the virus.

My major concern with Victoria’s approach is that cases outside Melbourne will continue to grow under stage 3 restrictions. The sad reality is that the more opportunities the virus has to spread from person to person, the harder it will be to stop community transmission.

Putting the entire state under stage 4 restrictions would give Victoria the best chance of success, rather than setting it up to play an endless game of COVID-19 whack-a-mole.

There is a major difference in how Australia and New Zealand approached COVID-19 when it first emerged. New Zealand decided on an elimination strategy, while Australia took the suppression path. It meant Australia could be looser with their earlier restrictions and relax them more quickly.




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In March, New Zealanders entered an alert level 4 lockdown, aimed at stopping community transmission of the virus altogether. And it worked. In contrast, the goal of Australia’s suppression strategy was to lower community transmission to some manageable level.

Between early April and the middle of June, new case numbers in the state of Victoria were between one and 20 each day, including some cases of community transmission. But they began to rise again from the end of June.

How asking people to stick to their ‘bubble’ could help

During New Zealand’s alert level 4, our households became “bubbles”.

There were no funerals and we couldn’t get takeaways. Bakeries and butchers were closed. Construction was shut down unless the work was needed to make a building safe.

The bubble concept helped people to restrict their contact to those within a home or between households with shared care arrangements. It reinforced that any contact with people from another bubble would provide an opportunity for the virus to spread.

Even under Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown rules, that message of choosing a bubble at the start of lockdown and trying hard to stick to it could be a helpful addition to Victoria’s health messaging.

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While announcing the new business restrictions for Melbourne and regional Victoria yesterday, the Victorian premier Daniel Andrews was asked about how his lockdown rules compared to New Zealand – and he replied that “this is a uniquely Australian and Victorian approach”, adding:

If you look at what New Zealand did, they went a fair bit further than this.

And in many ways he’s right: while Melbourne has a curfew and compulsory mask wearing, it’s not closing as many non-essential businesses or restricting people’s movement for things like takeaways as strictly as New Zealand did in level 4 lockdown.

While Victoria and New Zealand have similar populations, no one should pretend that one country’s strategy is the perfect solution for another. Victoria today is at a very different stage to New Zealand a few months ago.

New Zealand went into lockdown with just 102 confirmed cases and no known deaths. Compare that to about 7,000 active cases for Victoria right now. That’s why I think it’s all the more important to make the stage 4 lockdown state-wide. Without it, Victoria runs a very high risk of having to do it all again in a few months’ time.The Conversation

Siouxsie Wiles, Associate Professor in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Rogue poll or not, all the signs point to a tectonic shift in New Zealand politics


Richard Shaw, Massey University

Strong team. More jobs. Better economy. So say the National Party’s campaign hoardings. Only thing is, last Sunday’s Newshub-Reid Research poll – which had support for the Labour Party at 60.9% and for National at 25.1% – suggests the team is not looking that strong at all.

Nor will it be having much to say on jobs or the economy following the general election on September 19 if those numbers are close to the result.

As you might expect, National’s leadership dismissed the poll as rogue, saying the party’s internal polling (which hasn’t been publicly released) puts it in a much stronger position.

But this latest poll is consistent with three others released since May (June 1, June 25 and July 15). Averaged out, these polls put support for Labour and National at 55.5% and 29.1% respectively.

That is quite the gap. Assuming they are broadly accurate, what do they tell us about the state of politics in Aotearoa New Zealand?

The centre is now centre-left

For a start, the political centre appears to be shifting to the left. Across the past four polls, support for Labour and the Greens sits around 62%. When nearly two out of three voters in a naturally conservative nation support the centre-left, something is going on.

Correspondingly, as the notional median voter shifts left, parties on the right are being left high and dry. The Reid Research poll put the combined support for National, ACT and New Zealand First at 30.4%, a touch under half the level of support for the centre-left.




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In 2017 National secured nearly 45% of the party vote. Nearly half of that support has bled away – and most of it hasn’t gone to other conservative parties. New Zealand First is on life support; the right-wing ACT party is at 3%; and the other centre-right parties (including the New Conservatives, the Outdoors Party and the conspiratorially inclined Advance NZ/Public Party coalition) are well off the pace.

The leadership gap

Then there is the question of leadership. Judith Collins was installed in an attempt to re-establish National’s bona fides as New Zealand’s natural party of government. But she has not had the impact Jacinda Ardern did when she took Labour’s reins several weeks out from the 2017 election.

In fact, while 25% of those polled by Reid Research support National, the party’s leader sits at only 14% in the preferred prime minister stakes: nearly half of those who would vote National do not rate Collins as the prime minister.

The polling suggests that Collins’s penchant for attack politics is not resonating with voters. She has not been helped by the recent antics of (now departed or demoted) caucus colleagues Hamish Walker, Michael Woodhouse and Andrew Falloon, but the buck stops with her.

National’s default claim of being the better economic manager also took a blow in the most recent poll. Asked who they trusted most with the post-COVID economy, 62.3% of respondents preferred a Labour-led government and only 26.5% a National-led one.

Could we see an outright majority?

Something may be about to happen to the shape of our governments. Under New Zealand’s previous first-past-the-post (FPP) electoral system we saw a string of manufactured governing majorities.

For the better part of the 20th century either National or (less frequently) Labour would win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives with a minority of the popular vote. Indeed, the last time any party won a majority of the popular vote was 1951.

That may be about to change. Since the first mixed member proportional (MMP) election in 1996 we have not had a single-party majority government: multi-party (and often minority) governments have become the norm. That is because MMP does not permit manufactured majorities in the way FPP does. To win an outright majority you need to enjoy the support of a (near) majority of voters.




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Labour may be on the verge of doing precisely that. If it does, it will be a very different kind of single-party majority government to those formed after FPP elections.

In 1993, for instance, the National Party formed a single-party majority government on the basis of just 35% of the vote. If Labour is in a position to govern alone (even if Ardern looks to some sort of arrangement with the Greens) it will be because a genuine majority of voters want it to.

Rogue poll or outlier on the same trend, Collins has had her honeymoon (if it can even be called that). In a way, though, neither Ardern nor Collins is the real story here. Much can and will happen between now and September 5 when advance voting begins. But something bigger and more fundamental may be going on.

If the pollsters are anywhere near right, New Zealanders will look back at the 2020 election as one of those epochal events when the electoral tectonic plates moved.The Conversation

Richard Shaw, Professor of Politics, Massey University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The dangerous new cold war brewing with China will test New Zealand even more than the old one



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Alexander Gillespie, University of Waikato

A new cold war with China is coming and it will be just as dangerous, expensive and pointless as the last one.

The difference will be how much more New Zealand is involved.

Steering an independent course in these dangerous seas will be very difficult: our Five Eyes security partners will want us to jump one way, our largest economic partner the other.

This fine line was visible this week when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke at the China Business Summit in Auckland. New Zealand has “different perspectives on some issues”, said Ardern – to which China’s New Zealand ambassador Wu Xi replied:

Pursuing a zero-sum game and portraying others as adversaries or enemies will lead to nowhere and will only harm its own interests.

The Hong Kong crisis

The latest flashpoint is China’s decision to pass a new security law for Hong Kong. The New Zealand government has ordered a review of all policy settings, despite Foreign Minister Winston Peters having already criticised the law and being told by Beijing to stop interfering in Hong Kong’s and China’s internal affairs.




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But New Zealand is right to be concerned about the new law. Designed to combat political dissidence, it covers serious but ill-defined crimes and imposes heavy penalties through opaque justice systems.

It also breaches the spirit of the 1997 Basic Law, which established the principles for the British handover to China.

Some might argue it’s a price worth paying if it brings stability and prosperity back to Hong Kong. After all, some of the key 1997 promises were never implemented, and China has quite properly taken the initiative.

Moreover, the Basic Law was going to lapse in 2047. What is happening now was going to happen anyway, just sooner than planned.

The new law may be repugnant to those who believe civil liberties enjoyed in Western democracies should be universal. But it is not unique within communist China, where social and economic progress has been achieved at a price of minimal dissent.

New Zealand is already out of step

Self-interest might have had other powers turning a blind eye in the past. But the new geopolitics have seen the security law become a line in the sand.

America is ready to impose sanctions on China over Hong Kong and Uyghur human rights. Australia is increasing its military spending by 40% over the next ten years, as part of a more assertive approach to China with less reliance on the US.




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Britain wants to offer citizenship to 3 million Hong Kong residents. Citing security risks, it has also mandated that all Huawei 5G technology be removed from British networks by 2027.

Following India, US President Donald Trump is pressing for a ban on the popular Chinese social media app TikTok due to security concerns.

Amid all this, New Zealand is increasingly out of step. Our criticism of the new security law was clear, but it wasn’t coordinated with the Five Eyes partners, nor did it employ the kind of language that has seen Hong Kong described as a “bastion of freedom”.

New Zealand has also announced it won’t follow Britain’s ban on Huawei and has avoided discussions about military build-ups or sanctions.

This is wise. There is no military solution to this problem and our economic relationship with China only complicates matters.

China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner in goods and second-largest overall including trade in services. Since the ground-breaking 2008 Free Trade Agreement, two-way trade has increased to NZ$30.6 billion per year, more than half of that in New Zealand’s favour.

Towards a new independence

In an ideal world, these problems would be resolved calmly through a rule-based order of law or arbitration.

Unfortunately, the chances of China consenting to a third party resolving any dispute over what it sees as its sovereign rights are near zero. When such a resolution was attempted over its island building project in the South China Sea, China put the unfavourable ruling in the bin.




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The question, therefore, is how New Zealand positions itself in the new cold war if all sides are angry and there is no clear middle ground. The announced policy review offers the best way forward.

The review needs to consider the tone and independence of our foreign policy voice. It should ensure our trade relations comply with the human rights standards we profess to value. And it should require free trade never comes at the expense of free speech.

Of course, we will have to measure the costs and benefits of elevating human rights goals in our foreign policy. If countries we disagree with can’t change, we need to articulate what our bottom line is.

Most critically of all, we must now learn to navigate for ourselves in what will be the most difficult foreign policy challenge the next government will face.

Because whether we like it or not, we are sailing into a new cold war.The Conversation

Alexander Gillespie, Professor of Law, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How New Zealand could keep eliminating coronavirus at its border for months to come, even as the global pandemic worsens



Mark Baker/AP

Michael Plank, University of Canterbury; Alex James, University of Canterbury; Audrey Lustig, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research; Nicholas Steyn; Rachelle Binny, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, and Shaun Hendy

Stringent border controls and mandatory quarantine give New Zealand a good chance to remain free of COVID-19 for months to come, according to our latest modelling.

It’s been 76 days since New Zealand’s last reported case of community transmission, and our model shows the risk of an infectious person slipping through the border undetected remains very low. Provided the rules are followed, we would expect this to happen only once over the next 18 months — and even then, this person may not infect anyone else.

New Zealand’s borders remain closed to everyone except residents, citizens and a small number of foreigners with special exemptions.

Currently about 400 people fly into New Zealand each day. Since June 16, 46 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and of those, 27 remain active cases (at the time of writing). All of them are in quarantine facilities.

Each week, about 12 people have arrived carrying the virus. Provided people are well separated at quarantine facilities and have regular symptom checks, our modelling suggests the risk of an infectious person being released into the community is around 0.1% — which means for every 1000 infected people who arrive at the border, one person will be released from quarantine while still infectious.




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Keeping COVID-19 out

New Zealand has had a total of 1,548 cases of COVID-19 and 22 people have died.

PM Jacinda Ardern.
Daniel Hicks/AP

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced plans for local or regional lockdowns should the virus reemerge in the community. She referred to the Australian state of Victoria, where the current outbreak appears to be linked to cases at a managed isolation facility, as a cautionary tale for New Zealand.

COVID-19 is exploding outside our borders and every country that we have sought to either replicate or draw experiences from in the fight against COVID-19 has now experienced further community outbreaks. We need only look to the experience of Victoria, Hong Kong, Singapore or Korea to see examples of other places that, like us, had the virus under control at a point in time only to see it emerge again.

Since New Zealand closed its borders on March 19, the rate of COVID-19 infections globally has increased 50-fold, to more than 13 million confirmed cases worldwide.

All new arrivals to New Zealand have to spend 14 days in quarantine at government-managed hotels. Each person has to have a COVID-19 swab test on the third and 12th day of their quarantine period and cannot leave without a negative test result.

A shorter quarantine period would significantly increase the risk of an infectious person being released. The swab tests for COVID-19 have quite high rates of false negative results, so even with multiple tests, a shorter quarantine period could miss too many cases.

Allowing mingling of people within quarantine, or contact between staff and recent arrivals, is also very risky. And our model doesn’t take into account people deliberately absconding from quarantine, which has happened four times. It is incumbent on everyone to do the right thing and follow the rules.




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Managing international travel

How many arrivals could New Zealand cope with? Pre-COVID-19, there were around 20,000 international arrivals on a typical day — 50 times the current number of arrivals. There’s obviously no way we could quarantine this number of people. On current trends, this would mean up to 600 infected people passing through at the border per week.

Reopening borders to return to business as usual is just not an option for the foreseeable future. Any plans to ease border restrictions need to be based on a careful risk assessment. For example, countries such as Taiwan, Vietnam and the Pacific Islands have very low levels of COVID-19. A travel bubble with countries that have eliminated community transmission would present a low risk.

Other groups such as international students or migrant workers who contribute to key parts of our economy should be considered. Anyone coming from countries where COVID-19 is widespread would need to be quarantined on arrival, but quarantine facilities are already stretched to the limit with returning New Zealanders. Implementing any plan to allow other groups into New Zealand safely will take time.

New Zealand is in a rare position of having eliminated community transmission of COVID-19. This means we currently enjoy more freedoms than people in most other countries.

But this elimination status poses its own challenges in returning to life as usual when the rest of the world is in an accelerating pandemic. Other countries that have followed a mitigation strategy are facing equally big social and economic challenges of their own. And this is on top of the devastating health impacts that New Zealand has so far managed to largely avoid.


Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker

Freedom within closed borders

The dilemma New Zealand now faces is whether to continue to enjoy Level 1 freedoms within closed borders or to open borders with more restrictions on what we can do. We could, for instance, allow quarantine-free travel from certain countries. But this might require us to implement Level 2 restrictions (including limits on the size of gatherings) to reduce the risk of superspreading events.




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These are difficult choices, but they are choices and not foregone conclusions. We disagree with the recent claim by former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, former prime minister Helen Clark and ex-Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe that new cases of community transmission are “logically inevitable” and New Zealand should therefore reopen borders more quickly.

The recent surge in cases in Melbourne – where 5 million people are now in a six-week lockdown – shows that managing a community outbreak is almost impossible without resorting to strict lockdowns. They have also shown that the most socio-economically disadvantaged people often bear the brunt of lockdown measures, as well as suffering disproportionately from the health impacts of the virus.

These events should serve to remind us just how lucky we are in New Zealand. Let’s not let our guard down now.The Conversation

Michael Plank, Professor in Mathematics, University of Canterbury; Alex James, Associate professor, University of Canterbury; Audrey Lustig, Research scientist, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research; Nicholas Steyn, Research assistant; Rachelle Binny, Research scientist, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, and Shaun Hendy, Professor of Physics

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

COVID-19 provides a rare chance for Australia to set itself apart from other regional powers. It can create a Pacific ‘bubble’



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Peter Draper, University of Adelaide and Jim Redden, University of Adelaide

For a short time Australia has an unrivalled opportunity to set itself apart from donors to the Pacific including China, Japan and the European Union.

As Victoria’s current COVID-19 spike shows, it will take Australia some time to open its borders to the world and allow residents to travel wherever they like.

But there’s no reason why it shouldn’t open its borders to some parts of the world sooner than others, especially those in which it has a special interest and in which the spread of coronavirus is slowing.

Australia and New Zealand have been talking about setting up a trans-Tasman “travel bubble” for some time.

It would allow quarantine-free travel between two geographically-isolated island nations that face little risk of outside infection.

Fiji has already expressed interest in joining, extending the bubble.




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Why a trans-Tasman travel bubble makes a lot of sense for Australia and New Zealand


Throughout the South Pacific, youth unemployment averages over 23%. Tourism accounts for as much as half of gross domestic product and up to one in four jobs.

A bubble that extended beyond tourism to trade, education, and guest workers could help the Pacific (and holidaying Australians) in a way that the generous loans available from powers such as China could not.

Much of the architecture for a trade and tourism bubble is already in place.

The trade and investment agreement known as the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus concluded in Brisbane on 20 April 2017.

Good for Australia, good for the region

The agreement encompasses Australia, New Zealand and nine Pacific island countries: the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. It has been ratified by five of the members and will come into force when it is ratified by eight.

For the Pacific Islands, a “bubble” would provide a major boost to economic development and recovery from the crisis.

It could help relieve the social pressures that come from growing youth populations and attendant unemployment and minimise the danger of future political crises and associated need for Australian interventions and financial support.

The long-term importance of continued access to quality education, vocational and tertiary, for Pacific Islander youth is essential. Hard-pressed Australian Universities and vocational education suppliers would benefit too.

For Australia (and New Zealand) it could provide relief from isolation via travel to attractive destinations. Perhaps more importantly, it could help fill gaps in Australia’s skill set by supplying tradespeople and agricultural workers to meet genuine shortages.

It would also help maintain Australia’s business and investment interests in the Pacific. PACER Plus implementation would reinforce these gains. It will facilitate more investment and trade opportunities, in goods and services.




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Unfortunately, Fiji and Papua New Guinea have not yet signed PACER Plus, for various reasons.

It is unfortunate because trade and investment flows are their best long-term route to advancement. There are strong economic complementarities between Australia and Pacific nations, especially for Papua New Guinea.

A bubble, implemented when the health situation allows, would be supported by many Pacific islands nations and most likely their regional coordinating body, the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat.

Together with PACER Plus implementation, it would benefit Australia and benefit the region in a way that aid and infrastructure support from big powers can not.




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Sun, sand and uncertainty: the promise and peril of a Pacific tourism bubble


The Conversation


Peter Draper, Executive Director: Institute for International Trade, University of Adelaide and Jim Redden, Senior Lecturer & Visiting Fellow, Institute for International Trade, University of Adelaide

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Coronavirus Update


Australia

New Zealand

Germany

Italy

United Kingdom

China

USA

Peru

The next once-a-century pandemic is coming sooner than you think – but COVID-19 can help us get ready



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David Murdoch, University of Otago

COVID-19 is being referred to as a “once in a century event” – but the next pandemic is likely to hit sooner than you think.

In the next few decades, we will likely see other pandemics. We can predict that with reasonable confidence because of the recent increased frequency of major epidemics (such as SARS and Ebola), and because of social and environmental changes driven by humans that may have contributed to COVID-19’s emergence.

A COVID-19-type pandemic had long been predicted, but scientists’ warnings weren’t heeded. Right now, while we have the full attention of politicians and other key decision-makers, we need to start rethinking our approaches to future preparedness internationally and within our own nations. That includes countries like New Zealand, where – despite getting its active COVID-19 cases down to zero in June 2020 – big challenges remain.




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We can’t say we weren’t warned

Less than five years ago, I was one of about 100 global experts invited to a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Geneva, prompted by the then ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Then, as now, WHO was criticised for its response to the outbreak. The December 2015 meeting was meant to improve international collaboration and preparation for future epidemics and other infectious disease risks.

The very last presentation was from Dr David Nabarro, then the United Nations Special Envoy on Ebola (and now a Special Envoy on COVID-19).

In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, politicians were more focused on public health than ever before. Nabarro urged us to show greater leadership and capture that interest, before political and public attention moved on. He stressed the importance of trust, respect, transparent communication, and working with nature.

Yet five years later, we’re still talking about inadequate funding for pandemic preparedness; delays in adopting preventive measures; failure to develop surge capacity in health systems, laboratories and supply chain logistics; and reduced infectious disease expertise.




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But there are signs that some lessons may have been learned. For example, countries most affected by SARS (such as Taiwan and Singapore) have tended to respond more quickly and decisively to COVID-19 than other countries.

Primed and ready, vaccine developers have progressed at enormous pace, with several COVID-19 vaccine candidates already undergoing clinical trials. The volume and pace of sharing scientific information about COVID-19 has been unprecedented.

We’ve also seen a number of rapid reports urging us to learn from this pandemic and past epidemics to protect us from future events – especially by taking an holistic “One Health” approach. This brings together expertise across human health, animal health and the environment.

For instance, last month the Lancet One Health Commission called for more transdisciplinary collaboration to solve complex health challenges. Similarly, the World Wide Fund for Nature’s March 2020 report on The Loss of Nature and Rise of Pandemics highlighted the likely animal origin of COVID-19, and how intimately connected the health of humans is to animal and environmental health.




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What New Zealand can learn from COVID-19

As well as working more effectively together internationally, each country will need its own strategy. So what should we be doing to protect New Zealand from future infectious diseases threats?

Our health system has, for the most part, responded well to COVID-19. Our research institutions and universities have engaged quickly and effectively to provide scientific support for the public health response.

Yet we can and must still do better. Our expertise and systems are not always well joined up – vital for coordinated and timely responses to challenges like COVID-19.

We allow scientists to work in silos, despite obvious overlapping interests and skill sets. Of particular importance for tackling infectious diseases is the need to break down artificial barriers between human, animal and environmental health.

This approach makes particular sense in New Zealand. We are an island nation vulnerable to introduced infectious diseases, and economically dependent on agriculture and the physical environment. But we’re also home to an existing indigenous Māori worldview and knowledge system that emphasises interconnectivity between humans, animals and the environment.

University-led efforts, such as One Health Aotearoa, have brought together professionals and researchers from different disciplines. But more investment is needed to get even better value from such collaborations.

We need to strengthen capability in such areas as epidemiology, modelling and outbreak management, and build pandemic plans that are flexible enough to respond to all eventualities. New Zealand has a Centre of Research Excellence in plant biosecurity – but not in animal biosecurity or infectious diseases.

We also need to better integrate science and research into the health system, a key feature of the New Zealand Health Research Strategy 2017-2027. This requires a culture change so research is regarded as business as usual for district health boards, providing the science needed to inform policy, preparedness and best practice.




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Crucially, we need a new generation of scientists and professionals who are systems thinkers and comfortable working with multiple disciplines and across the human-animal-environment interface.

And we need the kind of leadership Nabarro called for: science-informed and forward-looking, rather than reactive.

We have seen good leadership based on science in the highest levels of New Zealand’s government in response to COVID-19.

We now need to see this at all levels of health, research and politics to get us out of this pandemic in the best shape possible – and be better prepared for our next pandemic.The Conversation

David Murdoch, Dean and Head of Campus, University of Otago

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.