Poll Shows New Political Climate as Leaders Debate in Christchurch
Prime Minister Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern squared off last night in the shadow of a poll that showed National with their lowest numbers in over a decade. The ONE News/Colmar Brunton poll showed Labour unchanged on 43 percent, with National sinking to 39 percent, numbers that mean Labour could form a government with support from the Green Party and the Māori Party, and—significantly—without New Zealand First.
New Charter Schools to Open
The Government has announced four new charter schools. They include an iwi-run junior high school in Gisborne, a military school in Christchurch, a Māori bilingual school in South Auckland, and a science-focused school in Auckland central. ACT leader David Seymour said they will open in 2019 and added that the announcement couldn't be delayed until after the election as the schools needed time to organise. Post Primary Teachers Association President Jack Boyle said opening charter schools would not raise the achievement of children and would instead reward mediocrity by using scarce education money to prop up private owners.
No TOP in Minor Party TV Debate
The Opportunities Party leader Gareth Morgan says he is disappointed about yesterday's High Court ruling not to overrule TVNZ's decision excluding them from tonight's minor party debate. Under TVNZ rules, parties must meet a three percent polling threshold or already have a seat in Parliament. The Opportunites Party currently sit at 1.9 percent, according to the latest Colmar-Brunton poll. TOP's lawyer Francis Cooke argued that the inclusion of the party was critical to the election process and TVNZ's criteria should be improved.
Green Party Announces Plan to Cut Gender Pay Gap
The Green Party has announced a policy which aims to end the gender pay gap. Under the policy, employers would be required to collect data on how much they pay men and women. Co-leader James Shaw also pledged to balance a potential cabinet and cement the Minister for Women's Affairs position within it. "The Green Party," Shaw told bFM, "would make sure that our ministerial posts were gender-balanced... and I would like to announce today that in government we would ensure that the Minister for Women is a cabinet position, always." Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett holds the women's portfolio in the current cabinet.
Hurricane Irma Death Toll Rises in the Caribbean
At least eight people were killed when Hurricane Irma swept across several islands in the Caribbean. Six people were killed in St. Martin and two in St. Barthélemy as a result of the Category 5 storm. Barbuda's prime minister said almost all of the island's buildings were damaged or destroyed. Irma reached the US territory of Puerto Rico late Wednesday, cutting power for 965,000 residents.
Syria Accuses Israel of Killing Two Soldiers in Airstrikes
The Syrian army has accused Israel of killing two soldiers in airstrikes launched early Thursday against military posts in the Hama region. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the jets hit the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center—a factory allegedly linked to the manufacture of chemical weapons used by the Syrian regime.
Son of Philippine President Denies Connection to Drugs Trade
Paolo Duterte, son of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, has denied an alleged connection to narcotics worth $125 million confiscated by authorities in May. Despite a photograph showing Duterte with a businessman suspected of involvement in the drugs trade, he told a Senate panel investigating the allegations that they were "baseless" and "based on hearsay."
Catalan Politicians Vote for Referendum on Independence
Lawmakers in the Catalonia region have voted in favour of holding a referendum on separation from the rest of Spain. The independence vote for the area—which includes Barcelona—is scheduled for October 1, but Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has urged the country's constitutional court to invalidate the vote.—BBC News
Reporting by Reuben McLaren, Conor Mercer, Ollie Powell and James Borrowdale.