Steven Joyce has identified three reasons for border failures:
. . . First, the Government and its Covid response is being run by a way too small group. The Prime Minister and her group of three core ministers hardly trust anyone to make decisions outside their inner circle. While there is always a core group, in this instance even senior portfolio ministers are being sidelined.
The whole Government currently seems to come down to the PM, Robertson, Hipkins, Woods, Bloomfield, and the ever-present Brian Roche and Heather Simpson. . .
The upper coterie didn’t even trust the then-Health Minister to be in Wellington during the initial lockdown.
Keeping to such a small group is a a dangerous level of control freakery and reinforces the belief that Cabinet has a very few capable Ministers and a whole lot of empty chairs.
. . With something this big, it pays to take advice from all quarters and forget the party politics for a bit. Unfortunately, the current Government has remained intensely political and self-protective throughout the Covid response, while maintaining that it isn’t.
It’s particularly egregious that Ashley Bloomfield is being shielded from fronting up to a parliamentary committee to answer questions about the border breaches and the lockdown. He’s not a politician, he’s a well-paid public servant who currently has extraordinary power over people’s lives. He simply must front.
The government-dominated Health Select Committee has turned down National’s health spokesman Dr Shane Reti’s request for it to reconvene to enable the DG to be questioned and on Q&A yesterday Jack Tame said requests for him to front on that programmer have been refused.
Second, Chris Hipkins has a ridiculous workload. Speaking as someone who has held a few portfolios in my time, the idea that any single individual could successfully manage Health, Education, the State Sector, and Parliament’s business all at once is truly ludicrous. And so it has proven.
Chris Hipkins is a capable individual but he is clearly not completely across his health brief. On top of that, his statements this week suggesting first that conspiratorial rumours on Facebook were themselves a conspiracy, and second that the 1pm press conferences were the single source of truth — a statement reminiscent of Comical Ali of Iraq — suggest someone under a lot of stress.
If the already overloaded Hipkins was the only one capable of taking on Health, It indicates a serious lack of ability in Labour’s ranks.
Finally, the PM and her ministers need to stop thinking that politics is a game of how to spin your way out of absolutely everything. This has been their Achilles heel.
They have been caught too often saying one thing one week, and something completely different a couple of weeks later, all in the hope that the public have the memories of goldfish.
It is a politician’s job to put a positive spin on most things, but you can’t keep arguing that black is white when it obviously isn’t. If you try, people stop believing you.
Sometimes an issue is so serious or the failure so obvious that you have to drop the buzz phrases, quit the dissembling and level with the public. They may even thank you for it, and they’ll be more inclined to believe what you say in the future.
As it is, we are approaching a risky point where the public may stop believing the Government and its spin — which is tricky when you are dealing with a pandemic. . .
There are more than enough examples of serious discrepancies in what the government and DG of Health have said and what was actually happening to undermine confidence – from the early days of lockdown when they kept saying there was enough PPE and flu vaccines when front line staff were saying there wasn’t to the recent huge gaps between the policy on border testing and its implementation.
Three big reasons for border failures are bad enough, but there are more, among them are the problems created by having 15 different border agencies dealing with different parts of the process:
National’s new policy to delegate or create an agency to be in charge of the border is exactly what is needed right now. Here is a list of all the various agencies doing various different facets of border control, with insufficient overall leadership or governance from any single body. It’s no surprise that the virus has reemerged! . .
This complex mishmash of responsibility and authority has been described as a spider’s web. That attributes far more skill and direction than it deserves.
There’s a pattern to spiders’ webs.
The only pattern in the mishmash of responsibility and authority for border control appears to be gaping holes and repeated failure to learn from mistakes.
And if we’re looking for reasons it’s hard to go past this government’s record of mistaking pronouncements for achievements.
Time after time it’s been so much better at talking about what it’s doing, or think it’s doing, than actually doing it or ensuring it’s done.