6 Jul 2020

ACC levies will be kept steady through to 2022 - Ardern

3:57 pm on 6 July 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced Cabinet's decision to keep ACC levies at their current rate through to 2022.

Watch today's post-Cabinet media briefing:

She was joined for this week's post-Cabinet media briefing by Minister Responsible for ACC Iain Lees-Galloway this afternoon.

Ardern said the move to keep ACC rates steady would give more time to assess the impact of Covid-19 on businesses.

Lees-Galloway said ACC was in a very solid position right now.

"All claims will be able to be assessed in the foreseeable future," he said.

It would give certainty to businesses, he said, and the government at the time's move to raise levies during the global financial crisis had turned out to be a mistake.

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins also spoke about the matter of what appears to be a breach of privacy of a person who was confirmed to have Covid-19, saying Michael Heron QC would begin an inquiry and be tasked with reporting back in three weeks.

Hipkins said Heron would have the power to summon witnesses, access information and work out who carried out the breach and what could be done to avoid it in future.

Ardern also spoke about continued efforts to establish some sort of trans-Tasman travel bubble with Australia, after she had suggested the possibility of allowing travel to New Zealand on a state-by-state basis.

Officials were talking with Australian counterparts all the time, she said, and efforts had not halted with the resurgence of cases in Victoria.

She said travel operators' top priority was the free movement of New Zealanders domestically, and it was up to Australia's government to decide whether to allow people from various states to come here.

Lack of community transmission, good contact tracing, good testing and tracing and border management were important considerations for letting in outsiders.

"I'm going to make sure when we make this decision [on re-opening the border], it is the right time," Ardern said.

She said the government owed it to citizens and permanent residents to give them priority, but she understood there were foreigners needed for critical infrastructure so it was a matter of striking "a delicate balance".

With more than 22,000 people having come through government facilities so far none had infected anyone else, she said, so it would suggest the protocols were doing what they were meant to.

Discussing travel increasing between countries in Europe, Ardern said the trade-off for New Zealand keeping borders closed was keeping schools open and allowing mass gatherings.

This week's meeting follows Ardern's speech to the Labour Party's congress in Wellington over the weekend, where she said she was eager to avoid the fallout of previous crises including, poverty, inequality, and persistent unemployment.

She told RNZ's Morning Report today pundits' criticism that her tone was self-congratulatory was not backed up by the speeches she had made.

Ardern also announced an extension to the business loan scheme at the Labour congress. The programme offers small and medium-sized businesses loans of between $10,000 and $100,000, with no interest charged if the loan is repaid within a year.

It also follows the resignation last week of Ardern's health minister David Clark, who had been under pressure over his role after failing to follow the government's guidelines during lockdown, and appearing to lay blame on Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield for failures to implement Covid-19 controls at the border.

He has been replaced in the portfolio by Chris Hipkins, although Megan Woods had already been given oversight of managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

The Ministry of Health today revealed one new case of Covid-19 in a managed isolation facility. It said there had been no known cases of community transmission in 66 days.

Speaking about a man who has arrived in New Zealand unwell with Covid-19 symptoms, Ardern said there were expectations on airlines regarding people about to board, but she was also bearing in mind the length of time it could take to fly to New Zealand.

She said the case of a woman who had been charged after attempting to escape managed isolation at Pullman Hotel was a "pretty spontaneous runaway attempt".

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