Aug 17, 2020

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Press Conference Transcript: Delays Election over COVID-19 Outbreak

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Press Conference August 17
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsNew Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern Press Conference Transcript: Delays Election over COVID-19 Outbreak

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern held an August 17 press conference to announce that the country will be delaying their election due to a coronavirus outbreak. Read the full transcript here.

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Jacinda Ardern: (00:00)
[foreign language 00:00:15] everyone. Today will be a busy day of announcements as we continue to roll out our COVID resurgence plan. This morning, I will be sharing with you details on any impact on election planning. At 1:00 PM, there will be the usual update on COVID cases from the director general of health. At 3:00 PM, the minister of finance will give details of the support packages for businesses impacted by the current restrictions as part of our COVID response.

Jacinda Ardern: (00:45)
Clearly as a government, our current priority is getting the covert outbreak under control and removing restrictions on New Zealanders as soon as possible. Our resurgence plan is in full swing. There are high levels of testing, rapid contact tracing, close contacts and self isolation in cases in quarantine, alongside the level three restrictions that are all designed to limit the spread of the current cluster. However, it is clear that the reemergence of COVID in Auckland at the beginning of the formal campaign period has been cause for concern. I should be clear that the electoral commission, since April has planned for a range of scenarios, including the possibility of an election period where the country is at alert level two, and with some areas of the country at alert level three.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:40)
There is no suggestion at this point that New Zealand will be in these elevated alert levels during the September election. However, while the electoral commission’s primary consideration is the delivery of a safe, accessible, and credible election, there are other factors that I believe also need to be considered. These include the participation of voters and the ability of the electoral commission to reassure them that measures are in place to allow them to participate safely in the election. This includes vulnerable communities who might be reluctant to vote in person. Ensuring a fear election with the opportunity for all parties to campaign, and finally, certainty and ultimately the need for an election to be held in a timely way.

Jacinda Ardern: (02:29)
Ultimately, I want to ensure we have a well run election that gives all voters the best chance to receive all the information they need about parties and candidates and delivers certainty for the future. With these considerations in mind yesterday, I reached out to the leaders of every political party with representatives in Parliament. Under normal circumstances, the choice of what day the election is held is a decision that solely rests with the prime minister. However, under these extraordinary circumstances, I see the decision to move an election day as a different proposition that deserves to be treated as such. Moving an election date, especially this late in the electoral cycle, is a significant decision. In the end, what matters most is what is in the best interests of voters and our democracy. Any decision to review the election date must be as free from partisan political interests as possible.

Jacinda Ardern: (03:29)
It is fair to say that there are a very broad range of views amongst political parties, and that complete consensus is unlikely. But there were some areas of agreement. The need for certainty was one. In this respect, the calculation around when to hold an election is not an easy one. COVID is continuing to disrupt life around the world. Pushing an election out by several months, for instance, does not lessen the risk of disruption. This will in part be the reason why many countries have had elections while managing COVID, including South Korea, Singapore, and Poland.

Jacinda Ardern: (04:08)
Weighing up each of these issues in the feedback of a broad range of interests, I have sought and received advice from the electoral commission on a range of options, including retaining the current date of the 19th of September, moving the election by four weeks to the 17th of October, and the final possible date the electoral cause commission considers the election could realistically be held, which is the 21st of November. Having weighed up all these factors and taken wide soundings, I have decided on balance to move the election by four weeks to the 17th of October. At the end of last week, I was advised that this date is achievable and presents no greater risk than had we retained the status quo.

Jacinda Ardern: (04:56)
I’ve also been advised that in moving to a 17 October election day, the commission will be able to leverage and draw on much of the work already undertaken to deliver the election. Beginning early voting during school holidays while having the downside of some people moving around the country would mean that some additional facilities would become available for the purposes of early voting. The biggest risks to overcome will be insuring excess to the election day workforce, which includes some 25,000 workers. This has been identified as a risk, no matter what day is chosen.

Jacinda Ardern: (05:39)
I did consider the possibility of moving the election by the same period of time that we anticipate Auckland could be in level three, a period of two weeks. I was advised by the electoral commission that this would not provide them with enough time to rebook venues, print materials, and reorganize the election workforce. Ultimately, the 17th of October and approximately nine weeks time provides sufficient time parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under, for the electoral commission to prepare, and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible, and credible election.

Jacinda Ardern: (06:22)
Due to this decision. I am proposing that Parliament reconvene tomorrow. The business committee will meet this afternoon to agree a timetable for Parliament for the next few weeks. But under the circumstances I consider it important that Parliament is able to consider the decisions of government and that these decisions are still subject to appropriate scrutiny. The dissolution of Parliament will be scheduled for Sunday the 6th of September and writ day will be Sunday the 13th of September. Nominations will close at noon on Friday the 18th of September. Advanced voting will start on Saturday, the 3rd of October, and the last day for the return of the writ will be Thursday, the 12th of November. I have advised the governor general of the new election date.

Jacinda Ardern: (07:12)
My final comment is a simple one. COVID is the world’s new normal. Here in New Zealand. We are all working as hard as we can to make sure that our new normal disrupts our lives as little as possible. I know the uncertainty COVID has created is incredibly difficult though, and for everyone, we are all in the same boat. So I do want to give an assurance that I do not intend to change the election date again. We are all adapting, but adapting also means preparing for all circumstances we may face together. My hope is that this decision allows us to do just that. I’m happy to take your questions.

Reporters: (07:54)
[crosstalk 00:07:57]. Don’t we run the risk, if you hit October 17, that we could see another resurgence of COVID-19 and we have to go through the process all over again?

Jacinda Ardern: (08:04)
I think it’s an important point to make is that the electoral commission has actually prepared for a range of circumstances, including since April, they have prepared for the holding of an election at level two, and even with some parts of the country at level three. Now, there is nothing currently to seduce that New Zealand will be in that position. But accept that there is a sense of anxiety, including from political parties, around the disruption to the beginning of the formal campaign period. This date, I think will give certainty. It’s a balanced decision, but I do think it’s a decision that needs to stick, and that changes from here should not be made again.

Reporters: (08:44)
[crosstalk 00:08:46]. How much pressure was on you from Winston Peters to push it out rather than stick to September [crosstalk 00:08:50]?

Jacinda Ardern: (08:50)
Ultimately, this was my decision. It’s one that I believe is balanced, and it is fair to say that the deputy prime minister, even at the beginning of the year, was of the view that that was his preferred election date. Long before we had these experiences.

Reporters: (09:05)
Did you feel held to ransom by any political parties in making this decision?

Jacinda Ardern: (09:08)
No, I did not. I did canvas widely. I canvassed everyone. Not everyone was of the same view, but I gave equal weight and equal measure to everyone’s view.

Reporters: (09:16)
Do you feel like you’ve staved off any potential motion of no confidence in the government?

Jacinda Ardern: (09:20)
I personally didn’t consider that a threat in the first place. Of course, a no confidence vote would trigger an election.

Reporters: (09:27)
If it was just your view, would you have preferred to stick with [inaudible 00:09:33]?

Jacinda Ardern: (09:33)
This is my view. The date I’ve chosen actually is my view.

Reporters: (09:38)
Only took into account your interests?

Jacinda Ardern: (09:39)
Even if I have not picked up the phone and contacted anyone, I believe this is still the outcome I would have arrived at. My view is that in normal circumstances, the prime minister has the privilege of choosing the election date. The decision to move the election date is something entirely different. I think it was only right to take soundings from others. I included in that Business New Zealand and the council of trade unions. But ultimately, I do need to provide certainty, a sense of fairness, and a sense of comfort to voters that this will be a safe election. I do think a little extra time to assure them of that is important as well.

Reporters: (10:30)
Prime Minister, ahead of making this decision, did you provide a heads up to any other party leaders this morning about your intention to push the day back forward?

Jacinda Ardern: (10:38)
So I spoke with everyone to canvas their views and to sound them. The only parties that before coming down to announce the decision I made aware of the final decision was my coalition partner and my support party.

Reporters: (10:52)
How’d the Green Party take it?

Jacinda Ardern: (10:54)
Simply, hey, timing. But simply the fact that certainly I do feel that I do have obligations to those that I form government with to inform them of the decision. It was for their information. There was no sense that I was going to change my view. So I simply informed them of the decision that I’d mad.

Reporters: (11:11)
[crosstalk 00:11:13]. If there’s another outbreak in Auckland in the fortnight beforehand, what happens?

Jacinda Ardern: (11:11)
My view is that we are sticking with the date that we have. Obviously, the electoral commission have done planning around conducting elections in level two and level three conditions. My hope is as well that although it is unusual to hold advance voting periods over a school holiday period, my hope is that that will create the opportunity for potentially additional venues. Venues that often have [inaudible 00:11:44] much larger capacity. They already were anticipating that roughly 60% of the population would advance forward and it would enable them to conduct an election in a safe way. The booking of those venues, all of that work though, does sit with the electoral commission.

Reporters: (11:58)
[crosstalk 00:12:01].

Jacinda Ardern: (12:02)
I’m not anticipating that at the stage. There is no evidence to suggest that that is where we would be.

Reporters: (12:09)
If it did, would you have to delay again?

Jacinda Ardern: (12:11)
It’s a hypothetical that I see no cause for me to consider. Under the law, once Parliament has dissolved, if the electoral commission believes that they physically cannot hold a safe election, then they have the ability to move the election if they feel the need to. That’s already set out in law, and it includes in circumstances of a pandemic. Given the planning I’ve done since April, I see no reason why that would occur though.

Reporters: (12:40)
What impact, if any, do you see this having on voter turnout?

Jacinda Ardern: (12:45)
That is front of mine, of course, for the electoral commission, but also is something that I gave consideration to. What enables us to maximize turnout? I do think it is making sure that even though there has been plenty of planning by the electoral commission for these very circumstances we find ourselves in, I think it is important that we take the time to communicate that well to voters too.

Jacinda Ardern: (13:08)
I think advanced voting, we’re already anticipating a large number of people will use that. I think under these circumstances that might only grow. People will take the time to go on days where they feel like perhaps they can avoid crowds and participate safely. That’s the environment we want to create. I absolutely have confidence that we can and will deliver a safe, credible election. This gives the electoral commission a bit of time to talk the public through that as well.

Reporters: (13:34)
A lot of MPS are at the moment in Auckland, just logistically for the next couple of weeks, while the city is in lockdown, will they be given a special dispensation to be able to come down to Wellington, or will we just see a significantly peeled back Parliament?

Jacinda Ardern: (13:47)
I imagine that we will. I, for instance, I’m of the view that at least speaking for the Labour Caucus, I do not wish for my Auckland MPS to be coming out of Auckland in order to attend Parliament. It will be up to different parties as to how they conduct themselves though, because you’ll recall that parliamentary representatives have in the past have dispensation to travel when we have had restrictions in place. But my expectation is that at least for the Labour Party they’ll stay put because we can do the job of holding parliamentary sessions without those Auckland MPS.

Reporters: (14:23)
[inaudible 00:14:23] referendums went into your decision as well?

Jacinda Ardern: (14:24)
No, no. Similar considerations, it’s just essentially making sure that people feel are able to safely participate in voting. Again, keep in mind, my view is where we’ve landed, I do not believe that two weeks worth of restrictions and there’s nothing to suggest it would be otherwise, warrants pushing out the election more than we already have, which is by four weeks.

Reporters: (14:50)
[crosstalk 00:14:50] disruptive to not just the people who work here, but also [inaudible 00:14:54] for businesses and for volunteers and things like that. How much of that weighed into your decision making?

Jacinda Ardern: (15:00)
Oh, yes. I can assure you. I have thought about every single element of this, and there are many, many knock on effects. There’ll be candidates who have taken leave without pay in order to campaign and to be a part of the election. There’ll be electoral workers, 25,000 of them who have planned for a specific date. I absolutely understand the magnitude of this decision, but I also understand the magnitude of calling an election at a time where there may be questions raised over whether or not it’s fair and safe. I think New Zealand deserves to have both certainty and a balanced decision, which I think this one is.

Reporters: (15:41)
[inaudible 00:15:41] mentioned that letter last night, or making [inaudible 00:15:43] letter that Winston Peters wrote to you last night. The sense was that he was so concerned that you were going to go with the September 19th, election date, that he was kind of putting it out there. Can you rule out at any point Winston Peter’s forcing your hand?

Jacinda Ardern: (15:58)
Absolutely, absolutely. At no point in any of my discussions, did I share a view on what my intent was. Because actually my intention was shaped as much by the health information I was receiving and the wide range of other factors. In fact, I think it would be entirely inappropriate for this decision to be based on anything that could be seen as political partisanship. That should not be the way to where the decision sits. So it wasn’t, I did want to take soundings to take on board all of the views, but at no point did I give any particular weight to any political party; that would not have been the right thing to do.

Reporters: (16:37)
[crosstalk 00:16:37] you mentioned that if there were a motion of no confidence passed, you said that that would immediately trigger an election [crosstalk 00:16:43]?

Jacinda Ardern: (16:42)
It’s one of the things that could be the outcome.

Reporters: (16:44)
Because isn’t it possible that a majority caretaker government could be formed as well, and that would have also [crosstalk 00:16:50].

Jacinda Ardern: (16:48)
They would need to demonstrate to the governor general the confidence. Look, I see these as hypotheticals that were never really a reality, but equally they were not things that also caused me to make my decision either way. You’ll have heard me set out all of the factors that I took into account. For me, it would not have been appropriate to make a decision based solely on the views of individual political parties, because an election date is one of those things when you move it, the last thing you want is it to be seen to favor any political parties. That would be wrong.

Reporters: (17:21)
[crosstalk 00:17:21] Did you give any thought to what had been mooted by the National Party, is by forming some sort of super majority and then pushing the election back into 2021?

Jacinda Ardern: (17:28)
No, no, no. My view is that in these circumstances, in these times, what we need is the ability to make decisions very quickly. We’ve seen the importance of that in the pandemic response. We have the absolute right and ability to do that as government until polling day and thereafter. After the election, that’s when caretaker provisions come in, but not beforehand. I do think that that’s important to remember from a constitutional perspective for New Zealand.

Speaker 1: (18:02)
[inaudible 00:18:02] this is the last delay, barring [crosstalk 00:00:18:08].

Jacinda Ardern: (18:07)
I have absolutely no intention at all to change from this point. My view is that this allows all political parties. We are all in the same boat. We are all campaigning in the same environment. To adjust to any of our planning that we need to, to accommodate for whatever environment we find ourselves in. Now, I understand it’s disruptive to have begun the formal campaign period, having to make that adjustment, but this gives really a clear run for everyone to understand we are all in the same position and we have to all prepare no matter what.

Speaker 1: (18:40)
[inaudible 00:18:40] Logistically, when you have another campaign launch and all of those kinds of bits and pieces, or is that it?

Jacinda Ardern: (18:46)
We won’t launch again. We have. Obviously, what we’re having a conversation around now is particularly over the next two weeks what we’ll do. Rightly, the focus for our Auckland candidates is about making sure everyone’s complying with the restrictions about looking after their communities and their wellbeing. So I expect our decisions over the next two weeks in that region will reflect that. But we’re just having that conversation now with our team.

Speaker 1: (19:12)
[inaudible 00:19:12] Suspended campaigning at the moment?

Jacinda Ardern: (19:14)
Those will be decisions for individual political parties. Yeah, and so for us, I imagine, obviously in Auckland, our main focus is making sure that we’re looking after the wellbeing of our communities, that we’re all complying with the restrictions that exist. So over the next couple of weeks, that’s the focus.

Speaker 1: (19:30)
But the MPs will still be campaigning as well as [crosstalk 00:19:35]?

Jacinda Ardern: (19:34)
That’s actually only have just, of course, letting our team know the decision. So we’ll work through that together. But our natural instinct, of course, when we moved into these restrictions was to primarily focus on getting Auckland and New Zealand through this period.

Speaker 1: (19:51)
[crosstalk 00:19:51] reportings across the country all have to be taken [crosstalk 00:00:19:52].

Jacinda Ardern: (19:53)
No, no, no. That’s not my understanding and nor would anyone, I think, think for this extension that it would be warranted. We’re talking an extension of four weeks, a huge amount of work and labor goes into putting-

Jacinda Ardern: (20:03)
… extension of four weeks. A huge amount of work and labor goes into putting those up, and I don’t think that’s a common-sense decision.

Reporter: (20:06)
[inaudible 00:20:06], sorry. Have you had any advice on how this affects spending limits [crosstalk 00:20:10]? Yeah.

Jacinda Ardern: (20:11)
Yeah, so very early advice, and it’s fair to say that we are waiting on a bit more urgent advice from crown law. There are a range of options. One, of course, includes simply that the caps exist but just over an extended timeframe, but there are some alternate interpretations. So we’re waiting on that advice from crown law, and we’ll make sure that we talk to all political parties about what comes back then.

Reporter: (20:35)
[crosstalk 00:20:35]. Will you be proactively releasing the official advice from the electrical commission and other agencies that have informed your decision around-

Jacinda Ardern: (20:43)
Yeah, but I’ve used some of… Because some of the early advice indicated that the view that 17 October would be difficult, I then subsequently received advice that actually they saw it as only as problematic as delivering on the 19th of September. So it has been iterative, as you can imagine, some of that advice, but I anticipate that we’ll be releasing that as we do, all advice that we receive as a government, unless it’s commercially sensitive or legally sensitive.

Reporter: (21:11)
Long term, do you think it’s appropriate for the Prime Minister to be making decision on [inaudible 00:21:16]?

Jacinda Ardern: (21:21)
We do have the ability, of course. These are very extraordinary circumstances. Once the parliament has dissolved and the writ is issued, it does, by law, sit with the electoral commission. The issue was that that hadn’t quite happened yet. Now, it was an option for me simply to allow parliament to dissolve, and for the writ to be issued, and for it to then go to the electoral commission. And I did consider that because it would have taken any perception out of partisan politics away, but their limitation is that they can move the election week by week. And the advice I received from them that was moving it week by week was quite problematic, that if they were having to move it, they needed a block of really, at least, four weeks to be able to do that successfully. So I felt like, even though that might remove the partisan nature of that decision, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to a better, more credible, more secure outcome from the electoral commission’s perspective. So that’s why I took the weight of the decision. In terms of whether or not we may want to adjust that in the future, look worthy of consideration, not something I’ve thought about now, though.

Reporter: (22:30)
[crosstalk 00:22:30]. Are you concerned that, globally, this might seem like an incongruity, that the country that’s had one of the best responses to COVID-19 will now be one of the few to delay its national election?

Jacinda Ardern: (22:38)
There have been others. There have been others, and of course, some of those have delayed for the likes of a year. That was never something that we would entertain here, and I think that the fact that we’ve moved for four weeks does demonstrate that we see this as much as a logistical question as we do anything else. We are not proposing to push out for a long period of time, and in fact, we’re not even proposing to push out beyond the legal term limits. You’ll recall that the election simply had to be held before the 21st of November, so in that sense, it’s not an extraordinary move. It’s not one that is constitutionally challenging. It does sit within the timeframes of when an election legally needs to be held within New Zealand.

Reporter: (23:27)
Last week, you said testing of all the staff had been happening all the way through. That wasn’t true. What exactly are you doing?

Jacinda Ardern: (23:33)
If you wouldn’t mind, we’ve got an update on border staff testing, MIQ testing, and others at the one o’clock.

Reporter: (23:40)
[crosstalk 00:23:40] your statements, though. So that wasn’t true. What are you doing to make sure that the information coming out of you is accurate?

Jacinda Ardern: (23:46)
Actually, border testing had been happening. The issue you raised is whether or not it was as comprehensive as it should have been. That is a fair point and one that the Minister of Health has addressed. My absolute expectation is not only will we have a comprehensive picture through this last tranche of testing, but that we have a very comprehensive, mandated approach going forward as well.

Reporter: (24:08)
[crosstalk 00:24:08]. Now that the fear and anxiety is building in Pacifica and Mari communities with this last class, do you think this new date is fair to Pacifica and Mari voters?

Jacinda Ardern: (24:18)
[inaudible 00:24:18], and that even though the electoral commission, since April, has been planning for an election to be conducted, for instance, with level two restrictions. And so that therefore implies with COVID being managed within our communities, and potentially with level three in some areas. What I do think we need time for is actually to really assure voters that that planning has been done, that it will be safe, that it will be credible, it will be accessible. And so even though that’s been done in reality, I do want the time to assure voters of that because we don’t want a situation where [inaudible 00:24:54] people feel they can’t participate.

Reporter: (24:56)
[crosstalk 00:24:56].

Jacinda Ardern: (24:57)
I’m just coming to Audrey, and then I’ll come to you. [inaudible 00:25:00].

Audrey: (25:01)
Just going on from Gina’s question, do you feel that you were misled about the level of testing going on in quarantine facilitates?

Jacinda Ardern: (25:09)
Border or quarantine?

Audrey: (25:09)
Quarantine.

Jacinda Ardern: (25:12)
Quarantine, because definitely we have said that it hasn’t met our expectations. You will have already heard the Minister of Health say that. We had, as a cabinet, required regular testing at those facilities, both at the border, very regularly at the [Jet Park 00:25:28] as our primary place of quarantine, and regular testing in other facilities, but the most regular being the Jet Park, and so that was something that cabinet had instructed. Obviously, we’ve seen from some of the data that has come out it did not meet our expectations, and we’ve already said that we feel that it has not met our expectations.

Reporter: (26:01)
[crosstalk 00:26:01] misled about the level of testing.

Jacinda Ardern: (26:01)
When we ask, as a cabinet, for something to happen, we expect it to happen, and so of course, that has not met our expectations. No one, of course, said to us at any point that it wasn’t, that I recall that what we asked for was not happening. Yeah?

Reporter: (26:09)
Based on the reconvening of parliament, cabinet won’t be business as usual. You’ll be considering, perhaps, reestablishing the epidemic response committee assigned to-

Jacinda Ardern: (26:17)
No, because remember the epidemic response committee was established when parliament wasn’t sitting at all. In this environment, parliament will be able to sit. There will be able to be things like question time, ministerial statements, and general debates, so I don’t see any need for that because we have the usual practices. Last couple of questions. Darren?

Darren: (26:34)
You said last week that there was weekly testing at Jet Park.

Jacinda Ardern: (26:40)
Yes, that was-

Darren: (26:41)
So who told you that, and were they… It’s clearly not correct, so who misled you?

Jacinda Ardern: (26:47)
I would have to go back and look at who was compiling that information at the time, but as I’ve said, our cabinet mandated that. Cabinet set out a decision for weekly testing at the Jet Park, given that that was the equivalent of a COVID ward. It was essentially where everyone who was symptomatic or tested positive was moved to. We made a cabinet unmitigated decision that we should have weekly testing at that facility. What it appears, and this again is something that we’re still looking into, what it appears was happening is that there was testing on a weekly basis, but at this stage, I cannot confirm that every single staff member, on a weekly rotor, was being picked up by that weekly testing.

Jacinda Ardern: (27:27)
[crosstalk 00:27:27]. I’ve got a couple more questions. Do keep in mind we’ve got two more press conferences today where I anticipate we can pick up some of these issues. [crosstalk 00:27:35].

Reporter: (27:35)
When you spoke to each of the leaders about the preferred date, what did they say?

Jacinda Ardern: (27:42)
I don’t want to necessarily speak on their behalf, but it is fair to say that not all agreed with the idea of pushing out. Some, it was contingent on whether or not there was any more certainty if we pushed out than there would be if we stuck with the exact date. My takeaway was that actually everyone was being very considered. You know, they saw that it was not an easy decision, that there weren’t really absolutes, but it felt to me like their general view was that a delay of some description was warranted. So I felt like generally, that was the view.

Reporter: (28:16)
[crosstalk 00:28:16] this to be basically a brand-new breed of campaigning. I mean, gone are the days of big crowds and walkabouts in streets, and flipping more to sort of maybe online social media. Or do you anticipate it being basically same old?

Jacinda Ardern: (28:29)
In many ways, that transition had been happening in modern campaigning. I don’t see why there’d be any reason to stop walking down a street. That kind of interaction will, of course I anticipate, continue. But there may be an environment, for instance, if some parts of the country or in level two, for instance, where you don’t have some of those mass rallies of the past. But to be honest, general voters often aren’t necessarily likely to go to mass rallies or to turn out to town hall meetings. For a long time, political parties have been discussing how we access people with very, very busy lives, who are using different ways to access information that includes social media. It still includes things like televised debates and so on, so that’s actually been a challenge for us regardless.

Reporter: (29:20)
Do you still believe you’ll win the election?

Jacinda Ardern: (29:23)
I’ve never made any assumption about the outcome of the election because, of course, I would never be so presumptuous. We have to work every, single day between now and the election to earn the support of voters. Gina, I will give you your last question.

Gina: (29:36)
After the cabinet decision on testing…

Jacinda Ardern: (29:39)
Yeah?

Gina: (29:40)
Did you categorically go back and check with the Ministry of Health that it was happening, [crosstalk 00:29:44] an assumption that you made?

Jacinda Ardern: (29:46)
I never assume anything. We were getting reports on… as I recall in our dashboards, I believe, on… Again, when we make a cabinet decision, we have an expectation that testing is occurring, and of course, my expectation would have been that over the testing of patients within the MIQ the first time, around day three and day 12, that when cabinet makes a decision it is followed up on.

Jacinda Ardern: (30:12)
I should add at this stage, although our investigations absolutely continue, there hasn’t been a link that’s been established between our primary cluster and those facilities, but we are going through and testing everyone who has worked with within them, and obviously at the border as well. Okay.

Reporter: (30:31)
Were you misled by the Director General?

Jacinda Ardern: (30:34)
Oh, no, not… These are all very broad sweeping statements, and I don’t think it’s fair to make that assumption at all. Our focus at the moment is making sure we get to the bottom of this cluster. We will continue to make sure that we are constantly amping up what is happening in every facility, and making sure that when we issue an expectation that it is being met. Okay. Thank you, everyone.

Speaker 2: (31:12)
Ah, look. I think that…

Jacinda Ardern: (31:13)
[inaudible 00:31:13], everyone. Today will be a busy day of announcements, as we continue to roll out our COVID resurgence plan. This morning, I will be sharing with you details on any impact on election planning. At one p. m., there will be the usual update on COVID cases from the Director General of Health. At three p.m., the Minister of Finance will give details of the support packages for businesses impacted by the current restrictions as part of our COVID response.

Jacinda Ardern: (31:49)
Clearly as a government, our current priority is getting the COVID outbreak under control and removing restrictions on New Zealanders as soon as possible. Our resurgence plan is in full swing. There are high levels of testing, rapid contact tracing, close contacts and self-isolation in cases in quarantine, alongside the level three restrictions that are all designed to limit the spread of the current cluster. However, it is clear that the reemergence of COVID in Auckland at the beginning of the formal campaign period has been cause for concern. I should be clear that the electoral commission, since April, has planned for a range of scenarios, including the possibility of an election period where the country is at alert level two, and with some areas of the country at alert level three. There is no suggestion at this point that New Zealand will be in these elevated alert levels during the September election.

Jacinda Ardern: (32:53)
However, while the electoral commission’s primary consideration is the delivery of a safe, accessible, and credible election, there are other factors that I believe also need to be considered. These include the participation of voters and the ability of the electoral commission to reassure them that measures are in place to allow them to participate safely in the election. This includes vulnerable communities who might be reluctant to vote in person, ensuring a fair election with the opportunity for all parties to campaign, and finally certainty, and ultimately the need for an election to be held in a timely way. Ultimately, I want to ensure we have a well-run election that gives all voters the best chance to receive all the information they need about parties and candidates and delivers certainty for the future.

Jacinda Ardern: (33:46)
With these considerations in mind, yesterday, I reached out to the leaders of every political party with representatives in parliament. Under normal circumstances, the choice of what day the election is held is a decision that solely rests with the Prime Minister. However, under these extraordinary circumstances, I see the decision to move an election day as a different proposition that deserves to be treated as such. Moving an election date, especially this late in the electoral cycle, is a significant decision. In the end, what matters most is what is in the best interest of voters and our democracy. Any decision to review the election date must be as free from partisan political interests as possible.

Jacinda Ardern: (34:34)
It is fair to say that there are a very broad range of views amongst political parties, and that complete consensus is unlikely, but there were some areas of agreement. The need for certainty was one. In this respect, the calculation around when to an election is not an easy one. COVID is continuing to disrupt life around the world. Pushing an election out by several months, for instance, does not lessen the risk of disruption. This will in part be the reason why many countries have had elections while managing COVID, including South Korea, Singapore, and Poland. Weighing up each of these issues and the feedback of a broad range of interests, I have sought and received advice from the electoral commission on a range of options, including retaining the current date of the 19th of September, moving the election by four weeks to the 17th of October, and the final possible date the electoral commission considers the election could realistically be held, which is the 21st of November.

Jacinda Ardern: (35:39)
Having weighed up all these factors and taken wide soundings, I have decided on balance to move the election by four weeks to the 17th of October. At the end of last week, I was advised that this date is achievable and presents no greater risk than had we retained the status quo. I’ve also been advised that in moving to a 17 October election day, the commission will be able to leverage and draw on much of the work already undertaken to deliver the election. Beginning early voting during school holidays, while having the downside of some people moving around the country, would mean that some additional facilities would become available for the purposes of early voting. The biggest risk to overcome will be ensuring access to the election day workforce, which includes some 25,000 workers. This has been identified as a risk no matter what day is chosen.

Jacinda Ardern: (36:43)
I did consider the possibility of moving the election by the same period of time that we anticipate Auckland could be in level three, a period of two weeks. I was advised by the electoral commission that this would not provide them with enough time to rebook venues, print materials, and reorganize the election workforce. Ultimately, the 17th of October, in approximately nine weeks time, provides sufficient time for parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under, for the electoral commission to prepare, and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible, and credible election.

Jacinda Ardern: (37:26)
Due to this decision. I am proposing that parliament reconvene tomorrow. The business committee will meet this afternoon to agree a timetable for parliament for the next few weeks, but under the circumstances, I consider it important that parliament is able to consider the decisions of government and that these decisions are still subject to appropriate scrutiny. The dissolution of parliament will be scheduled for Sunday, the sixth of September, and writ day will be Sunday, the 13th of September. Nominations will close at noon on Friday, the 18th of September. Advanced voting will start on Saturday, the third of October, and the last day for the return of the writ will be Thursday, the 12th of November. I have advised the Governor General of the new election date.

Jacinda Ardern: (38:16)
My final comment is a simple one. COVID is the world’s new norma. Here in New Zealand, we are all working as hard as we can to make sure that our new normal disrupts our lives as little as possible. I know the uncertainty COVID has created is incredibly difficult though, and for everyone, we are all in the same boat. And so I do want to give an assurance that I do not intend to change the election date again. We are all adapting, but adapting also means preparing for all circumstances we may face together. My hope is that this decision allows us to do just that. I’m happy to take your questions.

Reporter: (38:58)
Don’t we run the risk, if you have October 17th, that we could see another resurgence of COVID-19 and we have to go through the process all over again?

Jacinda Ardern: (39:09)
I think that’s an important point to make is that the electoral commission have actually prepared for a range of circumstances, including, since April, they have prepared for the holding of an election at level two, and even with some parts of the country at level three. Now there is nothing currently to suggest that New Zealand will be in that position, but I accept that there is a sense of anxiety, including from political parties, around the disruption to the beginning of the formal campaign period. This date, I think, will give certainty. It’s a balanced decision, but I do think it’s a decision that needs to stick, and that changes from here should not be made again.

Reporter: (39:49)
How much pressure was on you from Winston Peters to push it out rather than stick to September 19th?

Jacinda Ardern: (39:54)
Ultimately, this was my decision. It’s one that I believe is balanced, and it is fair to say that the Deputy Prime Minister, even at the beginning of the year, was of-

Jacinda Ardern: (40:03)
Here to say that the Deputy Prime Minister, even at the beginning of the year, was of the view that that was his preferred election date, long before we had these experiences.

Speaker 3: (40:09)
Did you feel held to ransom by any political parties in making this decision?

Jacinda Ardern: (40:12)
No, I did not. I did canvas widely. I canvassed everyone. Not everyone was of the same view, but I gave equal weight and equal measure to everyone’s view.

Speaker 3: (40:21)
Feel like you’ve staved off any potential motion of no confidence in the government?

Jacinda Ardern: (40:24)
I personally didn’t consider that a threat in the first place. Of course, a no confidence vote would trigger an election.

Speaker 4: (40:32)
If it was just your view would you have preferred to stick with [inaudible 00:40:36]?

Jacinda Ardern: (40:37)
This is my view. The date I’ve chosen actually is my view.

Speaker 4: (40:42)
Only talking to your interest, though.

Jacinda Ardern: (40:43)
Even if I had not picked up the phone and contacted anyone, I believe this is still the outcome I would have arrived at. My view is that, in normal circumstances, the Prime Minister has the privilege of choosing the election date. The decision to move the election date is something entirely different and I think it was only right to take soundings from others. And I included in that business New Zealand and the Council of Trade Unions, but ultimately I do need to provide certainty, a sense of fairness, and a sense of comfort to voters that this will be a safe election. And I do think a little extra time to assure them of that is important, as well.

Reporters: (41:34)
Ahead of making this decision, did you provide a heads up to any other party leaders this morning about your intentions to push the date back four weeks?

Jacinda Ardern: (41:35)
So I spoke with everyone to canvas their views and to sound them. The only parties that, before coming down to announce the decision, I made aware of the final decision was my coalition partner and my support party.

Speaker 3: (41:51)
How did the Green Party take it?

Jacinda Ardern: (41:59)
Hey, timing. But simply the fact that, simply, I do feel that I do have obligations to those that I form government with to inform them of the decision. It was for their information. There was no sense that I was going to change my view. So I simply informed them that the decision that I had made.

Reporters: (42:15)
If there’s another outbreak in Auckland in the four fortnight beforehand, what happens?

Jacinda Ardern: (42:15)
My view is that we are sticking with the date that we have. Obviously, the electoral commission have done planning around conducting elections in level two and level three conditions. My hope is, as well, that although it is unusual to hold advanced voting periods over a school holiday period, my hope is that that will create the opportunity for potentially additional venues, venues that often have watched much larger capacity. They already were anticipating that roughly 60% of the population would advance vote and that would enable them to conduct an election in a safe. The booking of those venues, all of that work, though, does sit with the electoral commission.

Speaker 5: (43:03)
[crosstalk 00:03:04]?

Jacinda Ardern: (43:06)
I’m not anticipating that at this stage. There is no evidence to suggest that we would be?

Speaker 5: (43:13)
If it did, would you have to delay again?

Jacinda Ardern: (43:14)
It’s a hypothetical that I see no cause for me to consider. Under the law, once Parliament has dissolved, if the electoral commission believes that they physically cannot hold a safe election, then they have the ability to move the election, if they feel the need to. That’s already set out in law and it includes in circumstances of a pandemic. Given the planning they’ve done since April, I see no reason why that would occur, though.

Speaker 4: (43:44)
What impact, if any, do you see this having on voter turn out?

Jacinda Ardern: (43:49)
And that is front of mind, of course, for the electoral commission, but also is something that I gave consideration to, what enables us to maximize turn out. And I do think it is making sure that even though there has been plenty of planning by the electoral commission for these very circumstances we find ourselves in, I think it is important that we take the time to communicate that well to voters, too. I think advanced voting, we’re already anticipating a large number of people will use that. I think under these circumstances that might only grow. People will take the time to go on days where they feel like perhaps they can avoid crowds and participate safely. And that’s the environment we want to create. I absolutely have confidence that we can and will deliver a safe, credible election. This gives the electoral commission a bit of time to talk the public through that, as well.

Speaker 6: (44:39)
A lot of the MPs are, at the moment, in Auckland. Just logistically for the next couple of weeks while the city is in lockdown, will they be given a special dispensation to be able to come down to Wellington or will we just see a significantly peeled back Parliament?

Jacinda Ardern: (44:51)
I imagined that we will. I, for instance, am of the view that, at least speaking for the Labor Caucus, I do not wish for my Auckland MPs to be coming out of Auckland in order to attend Parliament. It’ll be up to different parties as to how they conduct themselves, though, because you’ll recall that Parliamentary representatives in the past have dispensation to travel when we have had restrictions in place. But my expectation is that, at least for the Labor Party, they’ll stay put because we can do the job of holding Parliamentary sessions without those Auckland MPs.

Speaker 3: (45:26)
Did [inaudible 00:45:27] referendums weigh into your decision, as well?

Jacinda Ardern: (45:29)
No. No, similar considerations. It’s just essentially making sure that people feel are able to safely participate in voting. Again, keep in mind, my view is where we’ve landed. I do not believe that two weeks worth of restrictions … and there’s nothing to suggest it would be otherwise … warrants pushing out the election more than we already have, which is by four weeks.

Speaker 1: (45:53)
[crosstalk 00:45:53] hugely disruptive to not just the people who work here, but also [inaudible 00:45:59] the businesses and for volunteers and things like that. How much of that weighed into your decision making?

Jacinda Ardern: (46:04)
Oh yes. I can assure you I have thought about every single element of this. And there are many, many knock on effects. There’ll be candidates who have taken leave without pay in order to campaign, and to be a part of the election. There’ll be electoral workers, 25,000 of them who have planned for a specific date. I absolutely understand the magnitude of this decision, but I also understand the magnitude of calling an election at a time where there may be questions raised over whether or not it’s fair and safe. I think New Zealand deserves to have both certainty and a balanced decision, which I think this one is.

Reporters: (46:45)
[inaudible 00:06:45]. Last night while making Parliament, you said that Winston Peters wrote to you last night. The sense was that he was so concerned that you were going to go with September 19th election date that he was putting it out there. Can you rule out at any point Winston Peters forcing your hand?

Jacinda Ardern: (47:03)
Absolutely. Absolutely. At no point in any of my discussions did I share a view on what my intent was. Because actually, my intention was shaped as much by the health information I was receiving and the wide range of other factors. In fact, I think it would be entirely inappropriate for this decision to be based on anything that could be seen as political partisanship. That should not be the way to where the decision sits. And so it wasn’t. I did want to take soundings to take on board all of the views, but at no point did I give any particular weight to any political party that would not have been the right thing to do.

Speaker 3: (47:42)
You mentioned that if there were a motion of no confidence passed, you said that that would immediately trigger an election.

Jacinda Ardern: (47:46)
It’s one of the things that could be the outcome.

Speaker 3: (47:48)
Because isn’t it possible that a majority caretaker government could be formed, as well, and that would have also [crosstalk 00:47:54]?

Jacinda Ardern: (47:54)
Yes, and they would need to demonstrate to the Governor General the confidence. Look, I see these as hypotheticals that were never really a reality, but equally, they were not things that also caused me to make my decision either way. You’ll have heard me set out all of the factors that I took into account. For me, it would not have been appropriate to make a decision based solely on the views of individual political parties, because an election date is one of those things when you move it, the last thing you want is it to be seen to favor any political parties. That would be wrong.

Speaker 4: (48:27)
[crosstalk 00:48:27] What had been mooted by the National Party is by forming some sort of super majority and then pushing the election back into 2021?

Jacinda Ardern: (48:34)
No, no. No, my view is that in these circumstances and in these times, what we need is the ability to make decisions very quickly. We’ve seen the importance of that in the pandemic response. We have the absolute right and ability to do that as government until Polling Day and thereafter. After the election, that’s when caretaker provisions come in, but not beforehand. And I do think that that’s important to remember from a constitutional perspective for New Zealand.

Speaker 7: (49:07)
This is the last delay barring maybe a level four outbreak?

Jacinda Ardern: (49:10)
Yes. I have absolutely no intention at all to change from this point. My view is that this allows all political parties … we are all in the same boat, we are all campaigning in the same environment … to adjust to any of our planning that we need to, to accommodate for whatever environment we find ourselves in. Now, I understand it’s disruptive to have begun the formal campaign period, having to make that adjustment. But this gives really a clear run for everyone to understand we are all in the same position and we have to all prepare, no matter what.

Speaker 1: (49:44)
Logistically, will you have another campaign launch and all of those bits and pieces or is that actually-

Jacinda Ardern: (49:50)
No. We won’t launch again. We have. Obviously, what we’re having a conversation around now is particularly over the next two weeks, what we’ll do. Rightly, the focus for our Auckland candidates is about making sure everyone’s complying with the restrictions, about looking after their communities and their wellbeing. So I expect our decisions over the next two weeks in that region will reflect that, but we’re just having that conversation now with our team.

Speaker 1: (50:16)
Suspended campaigning at the moment?

Jacinda Ardern: (50:17)
Those are decisions for individual political parties. It’s certain … Yeah. And so for us, I imagine obviously in Auckland, our main focus is making sure that we’re looking after the wellbeing of our communities, that we’re all complying with the restrictions that exist. And so over the next couple of weeks, that’s the focus.

Speaker 1: (50:35)
MPs will still be campaigning, as well as [crosstalk 00:10:39].

Jacinda Ardern: (50:39)
[inaudible 00:50:39] only have just, of course, letting our team know the decision. So we’ll work through that together. But our natural instinct, of course, when we moved into these restrictions, was to primarily focus on getting Auckland and New Zealand through this period.

Speaker 6: (50:55)
[crosstalk 00:50:55] across the country to be taken down?

Jacinda Ardern: (50:57)
No, no. That’s not my understanding and nor would anyone, I think, think for this extension that it would be warranted. We’re talking an extension of four weeks. A huge amount of work and labor goes into putting those up and I don’t think that’s a common sense decision.

Speaker 8: (51:10)
Sorry, do you have any advice on how this affects spending limits?

Jacinda Ardern: (51:14)
Regulated period?

Speaker 8: (51:15)
Yeah.

Jacinda Ardern: (51:15)
Yeah. So very early advice and it’s fair to say that we are waiting on a bit more urgent advice from crown law. There are a range of options. One, of course, includes simply that the caps exist, but just over an extended timeframe, but there are some alternate interpretations. So we’re waiting on that advice from crown law and we’ll make sure that we talk to all political parties about what comes back there.

Speaker 8: (51:39)
Will you be proactively releasing the official advice from the electrical commission and other agencies that have informed your decision around that?

Jacinda Ardern: (51:46)
Yeah. Because some of the early advice indicated the view that 17 October would be difficult, I’ve subsequently received advice that actually they saw it only as problematic as delivering on the 19th of September. So it has been iterative, as you can imagine, some of that advice. But I anticipate that we’ll be releasing that as we do all advice that we receive as a government, unless it’s commercially sensitive or legally sensitive.

Speaker 9: (52:16)
Long term, do you think it’s appropriate for the Prime Minister to be making decisions on the election date? Do you think it should [inaudible 00:52:24] electoral commission?

Jacinda Ardern: (52:25)
Well, we do have the ability, of course … These are very extraordinary circumstances. Once the Parliament has dissolved and the writ is issued, it does, by law, sit with the electoral commission. The issue was that that hadn’t quite happened yet. Now, it was an option for me simply to allow Parliament to dissolve and for the writ to be issued and for it to then go to the electoral commission. And I did consider that because that would have taken any perception of partisan politics away.

Jacinda Ardern: (52:57)
But their limitation is that they can move the election week by week. And the advice I received from them was moving at week by week was quite problematic, that if they were having to move it, they needed a block of, really, at least four weeks to be able to do that successfully. So I felt like even though that might remove the partisan nature of that decision, it wouldn’t necessarily lead to a better, more credible, more secure outcome from the electoral commission’s perspective. So that’s why I took the weight of the decision. In terms of whether or not we may want to adjust it in the future, look, worthy of consideration, not something I’ve thought about now, though.

Speaker 10: (53:34)
Are you concerned that, globally, this might seem like an incongruity, that the country that’s had one of the best responses to COVID-19 will now be one of the few to delay its national elections?

Jacinda Ardern: (53:44)
I think there have been others. There have been others. And of course, some of those have delayed for the likes of a year. That was never something that we would entertain here. And I think that the fact that we’ve moved for four weeks does demonstrate that we see this as much as a logistical question as we do anything else. We are not proposing to push out for a long period of time. And in fact, we’re not even proposing to push out beyond the legal term limits. You’ll recall that the elections simply had to be held before the 21st of November. So in that sense, it’s not an extraordinary move. It’s not one that is constitutionally challenging. It does sit within the timeframes a winter election legally needs to be held within New Zealand.

Jacinda Ardern: (54:29)
[inaudible 00:14:31].

Reporter: (54:31)
Last week you said testing border staff had been happening all the way through. That wasn’t true. What exactly are you doing?

Jacinda Ardern: (54:38)
If you wouldn’t mind, we’ve got an update on border staff testing, MIQ testing, and others at the one o’clock.

Reporter: (54:43)
Your statements, though. So that wasn’t true. What are you doing to make sure that the information coming out of [inaudible 00:54:50] is accurate?

Jacinda Ardern: (54:50)
Actually, border testing had being happening. The issue you raised is whether or not it was as comprehensive as it should have been. That is a fair point and one that the Minister of Health has addressed. My absolute expectation is not only will we have a comprehensive picture through this last tranche of testing, but that we have a very comprehensive, mandated approach going forward, as well.

Speaker 11: (55:13)
Now that the fear and anxiety is building in Pasifika and Maori communities with this last class, do you think this new date is fair to Pasifika and Maori voters?

Jacinda Ardern: (55:22)
And I factored that in and that even though the electoral commission, since April, has been planning for an election to be conducted, for instance, with level two restrictions and so that therefore implies with COVID being managed within our communities and potentially with level three in some areas. What I do think we need time for is actually to really assure voters that that planning has been done, that it will be safe, that it will be credible, it will be accessible. And so even though that’s been done in reality, I do want the time to assure voters of that because we don’t want a situation where people feel they can’t participate.

Speaker 11: (56:04)
[ crosstalk 00:00:56:01].

Jacinda Ardern: (56:06)
I’ll just come to Audrey and end up with you [inaudible 00:56:05].

Audrey: (56:08)
Just following on from Gina’s question, do you feel that you were misled about the level of care has been going on in quarantine and solitaries?

Jacinda Ardern: (56:13)
Border or quarantine?

Audrey: (56:14)
Quarantine.

Jacinda Ardern: (56:16)
Quarantine. Because definitely we have said that it hasn’t met our expectations. You will have already heard the Minister of Health say that. We had, as a cabinet, required regular testing at those facilities, both at the border, very regularly at the Jet Park as our primary place of quarantine, and regular testing in other facilities, but the most regular being the Jet Park. And so that was something that cabinet had instructed. Obviously, we’ve seen from some of the data that has come out, it did not meet our expectations. And we’ve already said that we feel that it has not met our expectations.

Audrey: (56:57)
Do you believe you were misled about the level of testing?

Jacinda Ardern: (56:58)
When we ask, as a cabinet, for something to happen, we expect it to happen. And so of course that has not met our expectations. No one, of course, said to us at any point that I recall that what we asked for was not happening.

Jacinda Ardern: (57:13)
Yeah.

Speaker 12: (57:13)
Based on the reconvening of Parliament, if it won’t be business as usual, will you be considering perhaps reestablishing the epidemic response committee?

Jacinda Ardern: (57:23)
No. Because remember the epidemic response committee was established when Parliament wasn’t sitting at all. In this environment, Parliament will be able to sit. There will be able to be things like question time, minister of statements, and general debates. So I don’t see any need for that because we have the usual practices. Last couple of questions. [inaudible 00:17:40].

Darren: (57:40)
You said last week that there was weekly testing at Jet Park. So who told you that? That’s clearly not correct, so who misled you?

Jacinda Ardern: (57:51)
I would have to go back and look at who was compiling that information at the time. But as I’ve said out, cabinet mandated it. Cabinet sent out a decision for weekly testing at the Jet Pack, given that that was the equivalent of a COVID ward. It was essentially where everyone who was symptomatic or tested positive was moved to. We made a cabinet adminstered decision that we should have weekly testing at that facility. What it appears … and this, again, is something that we’re still looking into … What it appears was happening is that there was testing on a weekly basis, but at this stage I cannot confirm that every single staff member on a weekly rotor was being picked up by that weekly testing.

Jacinda Ardern: (58:31)
[crosstalk 00:18:34].

Jacinda Ardern: (58:33)
I’ve got a couple more questions. Do keep in mind we’ve got two more press conferences today where I anticipate we can pick up some of these issues. [crosstalk 00:00:58:42]. I’ll finish with you, Justin.

Justin: (58:42)
When you spoke to each the leaders about their preferred date, what did they say?

Jacinda Ardern: (58:46)
I don’t want to necessarily speak on their behalf, but it is fair to say that not all agreed with the idea of pushing out. Some, it was contingent on whether or not there was any more certainty if we pushed out, than there would be if we stuck with the exact date. My takeaway was that actually everyone was being very considered. They saw that it was not an easy decision, that there weren’t really absolutes, but it felt to me like their general view was that a delay of some description was warranted. So I felt like generally that was the view.

Speaker 13: (59:21)
[crosstalk 00:59:21] paint this to be basically a brand new breed of campaigning. Gone are the days of big crowds and walkabouts in streets and flipping more to sort of maybe online social media or do you anticipate it being basically same old?

Jacinda Ardern: (59:33)
In many ways that transition had been happening in modern campaigning. I don’t see why there’d be any reason to stop walking down the street. That kind of interaction will, of course, I anticipate, continue. But there may be an environment, for instance, if some parts of the country are in level two, for instance, where you don’t have some of those mass rallies of the past. But to be honest, general voters often aren’t necessarily likely to go to mass rallies or-

Jacinda Ardern: (01:00:03)
Aren’t necessarily likely to go to mass rallies or to turn out to town hall meetings. For a long time, political parties have been discussing how we access people with very, very busy lives who are using different ways to access information that includes social media. It still includes things like televised debates and so on. So that’s actually been a challenge for us regardless.

Speaker 14: (01:00:23)
[crosstalk 01:00:23] Do you still believe you’ll win the election?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:00:27)
I’ve never made any assumption about the outcome of the election because of course, I would never be so presumptuous. We have to work every single day between now and the election to earn the support of voters. Gina, I will give you the last question.

Gina: (01:00:40)
After the cabinet decision on testing, did you categorically go back and check with the Ministry of Health that it was happening, or was it an assumption that you made?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:00:50)
I never assume anything. We were getting reports on, as I recall, on our dashboards, I believe. I’m on… Again, when we make a cabinet decision, we have an expectation that testing is occurring. And of course my expectation would have been that over the testing of patients within MIQ, the first time around day three and day 12. That when cabinet makes a decision, it is followed up on. I should add, at this stage, although our investigations absolutely continue, there hasn’t been a link that’s been established between our primary cluster and those facilities. But we are going through and testing everyone who has worked within them and obviously at the border as well.

Gina: (01:01:35)
Were you misled by the Director-General?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:01:37)
No. These are all very broad sweeping statements, and I don’t think it’s fair to make that assumption at all. Our focus at the moment is making sure we get to the bottom of this cluster. We will continue to make sure that we are constantly amping up what is happening in every facility and making sure that when we issue an expectation that is being met. Okay, thank you everyone.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:01:57)
[inaudible 00:02:16], everyone. Today will be a busy day of announcements as we continue to roll out our COVID resurgence plan. This morning, I will be sharing with you details on any impact on election planning. At 1:00 PM, there will be the usual update on COVID cases from the Director-General of health. At 3:00 PM, the Minister of Finance will give details of the support packages for businesses impacted by the current restrictions as part of our COVID response.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:02:53)
Clearly, as a government, our current priority is getting the COVID outbreak under control and removing restrictions on New Zealanders as soon as possible. Our resurgent’s plan is in full swing. There are high levels of testing, rapid contact tracing, close context and self-isolation in cases in quarantine alongside the level three restrictions that are all designed to limit the spread of the current cluster. However, it is clear that the reemergence of COVID in Auckland at the beginning of the formal campaign period has been cause for concern. I should be clear that the electoral commission since April, has planned for a range of scenarios, including the possibility of an election period where the country is at alert level two. And with some areas of the country at alert level three. There is no suggestion at this point that New Zealand will be in these elevated alert levels during the September election. However, while the electoral commission’s primary consideration is the delivery of a safe, accessible and credible election, there are other factors that I believe also need to be considered. This include the participation of voters and the ability of the electoral commission to reassure them that measures are in place to allow them to participate safely in the election. This includes vulnerable communities who might be reluctant to vote in person and sharing a fair election with the opportunity for all parties to campaign. And finally certainty and ultimately the need for an election to be held in a timely way.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:04:38)
Ultimately, I want to ensure we have a well-run election that gives all voters the best chance to receive all the information they need about parties and candidates and delivers certainty for the future. With these considerations in mind, yesterday I reached out to the leaders of every political party with representatives in parliament. Under normal circumstances, the choice of what day the election is held is a decision that solely rests with the prime minister. However, under these extraordinary circumstances, I see the decision to move an election day is a different proposition that deserves to be treated as such. Moving an election date, especially this late in the electoral cycle is a significant decision.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:05:25)
In the end, what matters most is what is in the best interest of voters and our democracy. Any decision to review the election date must be as free from partisan political interests as possible. It is fair to say that there are a very broad range of views amongst political parties, and that complete consensus is unlikely. But there were some areas of agreement, the need for certainty was one. In this respect the calculation around when to hold an election is not an easy one. COVID is continuing to disrupt life around the world. Pushing an election out by several months for instance, does not lessen the risk of disruption. This will in part be the reason why many countries have had elections while managing COVID, including South Korea, Singapore and Poland.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:06:17)
Weighing up each of these issues in the feedback of a broad range of interests, I have sought and received advice from the electoral commission on a range of options, including, retaining the current date of the 19th of September, moving the election by four weeks to the 17th of October and the final possible date, the electoral commission considers the election could realistically be held, which is the 21st of November. Having weighed up all these factors and taken wide soundings, I have decided on balance to move the election by four weeks to the 17th of October. At the end of last week, I was advised that this date is achievable and presents no greater risk than had we retained the status quo. I’ve also been advised that are moving to a 17 October election day, the commission will be able to leverage and draw on much of the work already undertaken to deliver the election.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:07:17)
Beginning early voting during school holidays while having the downside of some people moving around the country would mean that some additional facilities would become available for the purposes of early voting. The biggest risk to overcome will be ensuring access to the election day workforce, which includes some 25,000 workers. This has been identified as a risk, no matter what day is chosen. I did consider the possibility of moving the election by the same period of time that we anticipate Auckland could be in level three, a period of two weeks. I was advised by the electoral commission that this would not provide them with enough time to rebook venues, print materials, and reorganize the election workforce.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:08:10)
Ultimately, the 17th of October and approximately nine weeks time provide sufficient time parties to plan around the range of circumstances we could be campaigning under, for the electoral commission to prepare and for voters to feel assured of a safe, accessible, incredible election. Due to this decision, I am proposing that parliament reconvene tomorrow. The business committee will meet this afternoon to agree a timetable for parliament for the next few weeks, but under the circumstances I consider it important that parliament is able to consider the decisions of government and that these decisions are still subject to appropriate scrutiny.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:08:52)
The dissolution of parliament will be scheduled for Sunday, the 6th of September and Rick day will be Sunday, the 13th of September. Nominations will close at noon on Friday, the 18th of September. Advanced voting will start on Saturday, the 3rd of October. And the last day for the return of the writ will be Thursday, the 12th of November. I have advised the Governor-General of the new election date.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:09:20)
My final comment is a simple one. COVID is the world’s new normal. Here in New Zealand we are all working as hard as we can to make sure that our new normal disrupts our lives as little as possible. I know the uncertainty COVID has created is incredibly difficult though. And for everyone, we are all in the same boat. And so I do want to give an assurance that I do not intend to change the election date again. We are all adapting, but adapting also means preparing for all circumstances we may face together. My hope is that this decision allows us to do just that. I’m happy to take your questions.

Speaker 15: (01:10:05)
[crosstalk 00:01:10:03]. Don’t we run the risk if you have type of [inaudible 01:10:08] that we couldn’t see a number precisions of COVID-19. We have to go through the [inaudible 01:10:12] ever again.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:10:12)
I think that it’s an important point to make is that the electoral commission have actually prepared for a range of circumstances, including since April. They have prepared for the holding of an election at level two and even with some parts of the country at level three. Now there is nothing currently to suggest that New Zealand will be in that position. But I accept that there is a sense of anxiety, including from political parties around the disruption, to the beginning of the formal campaign period. This state, I think will give certainty. It’s a balanced decision, but I do think it’s a decision that needs to stick. And the changes from here should not be made again.

Speaker 15: (01:10:53)
How much pressure was on you from Winston Peters to push it out rather than stick to September 19?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:10:58)
Ultimately, this was my decision. It’s one that I believe is balance. And it is fair to say that the Deputy Prime Minister, even at the beginning of the year was of the view that that was his preferred election date long before we had these experiences.

Speaker 15: (01:11:13)
Did you feel held to ransom by any political parties and making this decision?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:11:16)
No, I did not. I did canvas widely. I canvassed everyone, not everyone was of the same view. But I gave equal weight and equal measure to everyone’s view.

Speaker 15: (01:11:25)
I feel like you’ve staved off any potential motion of no confidence in the government.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:11:28)
I personally didn’t consider that a threat in the first place. Of course, no confidence vote would trigger an election.

Speaker 16: (01:11:36)
If it was just your view, would you prefer [inaudible 01:11:39]?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:11:41)
This is my view. The date I’ve chosen actually is my view.

Speaker 16: (01:11:48)
They took into account of your interest.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:11:52)
Yeah. And even if I had not picked up the phone and contacted anyone. I believe this is still the outcome I would have arrived at. My view is that in normal circumstances, the Prime Minister has the privilege of choosing the election date. The decision to move the election date is something entirely different. I think it was only right to take soundings from others. And I included in that business, New Zealand and the council of trade unions.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:12:20)
But ultimately, I do need to provide certainty. A sense of fairness and a sense of comfort to voters that this will be a safe election. And I do think a little extra time to assure them of that is important as well.

Speaker 17: (01:12:37)
[crosstalk 01:12:37] ahead of making this decision. Did you provide a heads up to any other party leaders this morning about your intention with the data for which?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:12:46)
So I spoke with everyone to canvas the views and to sound them. The only parties that before coming down to announce the decision I made aware of the final decision was the, my coalition partner and my support party. [crosstalk 00:13:01]. Simply, hey timing. But simply the fact that I do feel that I do have obligations to those that I form government with to inform them of the decision it was for their information. There was no sense that I was going to change my view. So I simply informed them of the decision that I’ve made.

Speaker 18: (01:13:19)
If there’s another outbreak in Auckland in the [inaudible 01:13:19] beforehand, what happens?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:13:19)
My view is that we are sticking with the date that we have. Obviously the Electoral Commission have done planning around conducting elections and level two and level three conditions. My hope is as well that although it is unusual to hold advanced voting periods over a school holiday period. My hope is that, that will create the opportunity for potentially additional venues. Venues that often have much larger capacity. They already were anticipating that roughly 60% of the population would advance vote and that would enable them to conduct an election in a safe way. The booking of those venues, all of that work though, does sit with the Electoral Commission.

Jacinda Ardern: (01:14:08)
[crosstalk 01:14:08] I’m not anticipating that at this stage, there is no evidence to suggest that we would be.

Speaker 18: (01:14:17)
If it did, would you have to delay?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:14:19)
It’s a hypothetical that I am not, that I see no cause for me to consider. Under the law, once parliament has dissolved, if the Electoral Commission believes that they physically cannot hold a safe election, and then they have the ability to move the election, if they feel the need to. That’s already set out in law and it includes in circumstances of a pandemic. Given the planning I’ve done since April, I see no reason why that would occur though.

Speaker 6: (01:14:48)
What impact do you see this happening having on both to [inaudible 01:14:51]?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:14:53)
That is front of mine, of course, for the Electoral Commission, but also as something that I gave consideration to. What enables us to maximize tune out. And I do think it is making sure that even though there has been plenty of planning by the Electoral Commission for these very circumstances, we find ourselves in. I think it is important that we take the time to communicate that well to voters to…

Jacinda Ardern: (01:15:16)
I think advanced voting we’re already anticipating a large number of people will use that. I think under these circumstances that may only grow. People will take the time to go on days where they feel like perhaps they can avoid crowds and participate safely. And that’s the environment we want to create. I absolutely have confidence that we can and will deliver a safe credible election. This gives the Electoral Commission a bit of time to talk the public through that as well.

Speaker 6: (01:15:42)
A lot of the MPs are at the moment in Auckland, just logistically for the next couple of weeks, while the city is in lockdown. Will they be given a special dispensation to be able to come down to Wellington or we just see a significantly peel back parliament?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:15:55)
I have mentioned that we will… I, for instance, I’m of the view that at least speaking for the Labor Caucus, I do not wish for my Auckland MPs to be coming out of Auckland in order to attend parliament. It will be up to different parties as to how they conduct themselves though because you’ll recall that parliamentary representatives have in the past have dispensation to travel when we have had restrictions in place. But my expectation is that at least for the labor party they’ll stay put because we can do the job of holding parliamentary sessions without those Auckland in peace.

Speaker 19: (01:16:29)
If they [inaudible 00: 16:31], do you have decision as well?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:16:33)
No. Similar considerations it’s just essentially making sure that people feel are able to safely participate in voting. Again, keep in mind… My view is where we’ve landed, I do not believe that two weeks worth of restrictions and there’s nothing to suggest it would be otherwise warrants pushing out the election more than we already have, which is by four weeks.

Speaker 1: (01:16:57)
[crosstalk 01:16:57] Hugely disruptive to not just the people who work here and also planned fixed the businesses and for volunteers and things like that. How much of that weighed into your decision making?

Jacinda Ardern: (01:17:08)
Yes, I can assure you. I have thought about every single element of this, and there are many, many knock on effects. There’ll be candidates who have taken leave without pay in order to campaign, and to be a part of the election. There’ll be electoral workers, 25,000 of them who have planned for a specific date. I absolutely understand the magnitude of this decision, but I also understand the magnitude of calling an election at a time where there may be questions raised over whether or not it’s fair and safe. I think New Zealand deserves to have both certainty and a balanced decision, which I think this one is.

Reporters: (01:17:50)
Last night, we’re making a cover that [inaudible 01:17:52] subpoenas wrote to you last night. The sense was that, he was so concerned that you were going to go with September 19th election date that he was putting it out there.

Reporters: (01:18:02)
Can you roll out at any point what subpoenas forcing you here-