Covid 19 coronavirus: PM Jacinda Ardern to face questions on rents and vaccines at post-Cabinet media conference

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will this afternoon face questions on the impact of the Government’s housing announcement on rents, as well as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan.

Ardern will be joined by Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni, who will detail a number of previously announced policy changes which come into effect on Thursday.

These include the minimum wage going up to $20 an hour, the main benefits rising 3.1 per cent (in line with the average wage increase) and abatement thresholds increasing.

Ardern and Sepuloni are likely to be pressed on if the Government has any further plans to increase benefit payments.

As it’s a recess week in Parliament, Ardern will be spending most of her time in Auckland.

But she was in Wellington today chairing her Government’s weekly Cabinet meeting, as per normal.

Ardern is expected to face a grilling on a number of topics this afternoon, including the Government’s vaccination rollout.

She, and her Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, have come under pressure from National to establish targets when it comes to vaccinations.

National wants the Government to set a target of having 70 per cent of all adults in the country vaccinated by the end of the year.

Hipkins has so far been reluctant to set a concrete target, saying last week: “We’ve never set a fixed target.

“We want to vaccinate as many people as possible.”

Ardern is likely to be pressed on this today.

She will also face questions about the effectiveness of the Government’s pre-departure Covid-19 testing regime.

This comes after 11 passengers, all travelling to New Zealand from India, tested positive for the virus after day 0/1 testing.

This is despite the requirement for everyone overseas to produce a negative Covid-19 test before they get on a plane to New Zealand.

University of Auckland microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles has raised questions over the effectiveness of pre-departure testing, given the high number of positive day 0/1 tests in MIQs.

Another issue that Ardern will face questions over is that of rent rises across the country.

Pressure has been mounting on the Government, following its housing announcement last week, when it comes to the issue of rents.

Infometrics senior economist Brad Olsen told TVNZ last week that he expected rents to go up – ASB’s chief economist Nick Tuffley told Newshub “you are more likely than not to see rents going up faster than what they already have been”.

And this morning, an email accidentally sent to Stuff by the Government’s media team, revealed a concern that there was a perception that the housing policy will raise rents.

Ardern’s chief press secretary, Andrew Campbell, asked his staff to put together a list of quotes from economists that could be used to “[argue] against the assumption rents will go up”.

In addition to this, both Act and National are both worried after Finance Minister Grant Robertson refused to rule out rent control measures.

“We’ll keep an eye on that,” he told the Nation.

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