Late start and only a start

16/06/2021

Who’s surprised that the government prioritised border exemptions for film crews over farm workers?:

New documents show tensions arose between government departments over who should get border exemptions and how the dairy industry lost out in favour of space and film projects.

DairyNZ had its border request rejected in the run-up to calving last year, having asked for farm or herd managers already employed in New Zealand, who were overseas on holidays when the pandemic struck.

It said it was concerned the decision may have been pre-determined, and said the the logic didn’t stack up, including why fishing was favoured over dairy.

One email summary on agriculture stated: “Make sure the clear distinction between fishing ‘yes’, and dairy, ‘no’.”

Its chief executive, Tim Mackle, described the assertion in the documents that the industry could source New Zealanders for the jobs as a “pipedream”, as herd and farm managers were specialist staff with many years of experience.

“We’ve got a sector here that’s New Zealand’s largest, a $20 billion export sector, which is going to be critical to New Zealand’s recovery and we couldn’t get 40 or 50 people through that system,” he said. “That was very frustrating and farmers felt that keenly.” . . 

Last week the government announced 250 farm workers, vets and their families will be allowed in.

That’s a start, but it’s a late start and only a start.

It’s late because workers were needed months ago and not just on dairy farms. Horticulturists and viticulturist have also been desperately seeking exemptions so they could harvest fruit and vegetables.

It’s a start because a lot more workers are needed not just on farms, orchards, and vineyards but in meat works, on ski fields and in hospitality.

These staff shortages are bad for business, add to costs, reduce income and put added pressure on staff.

At least as bad as this, is the way the government is keeping the families of workers out:

The government has quietly broken yet another election promise, resulting in thousands of critical workers being unable to enter New Zealand and migrant families separated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Labour campaigned at the election on establishing a 10 percent quota for critical workers in MIQ, saying that “the allocation system will ensure a majority of MIQ places are always available for returning New Zealanders, with 10 per cent of capacity set aside for critical workers and other entrants.

“However the Government has never implemented this policy. Instead, they have been measuring the number of critical workers in MIQ as a proportion of occupied MIQ rooms, rather than total MIQ capacity.

“At the moment there are on average over 1500 rooms vacant every day in MIQ, and over 9000 MIQ room vouchers have been unused since the beginning of the year.

“If Labour was actually carrying out its promise, thousands more critical workers would be allowed into New Zealand, helping spur our recovery from Covid-19 and filling skill shortage gaps.

“The government could also easily reunite the split migrant families, some of whom have now gone over 500 days without seeing their family, thanks to Government policy that is frankly cruel.”

What’s happened to kindness? The emotional and financial burden this imposes on these families is anything but kind.

“Information on the MBIE website gives the impression that for each month this year, the Government has been meeting the 10 percent minimum. But when the spare un-used capacity is taken into account, the Government is nowhere near its original capacity commitment.

“The Government’s broken promise makes no sense in the light of excess capacity in MIQ. It is novel, I know, for this Government, but perhaps they should start implementing what they campaigned on.”

Failure to allow family members in is also forcing workers out.

Maheno dairy farm manager Mark Purugganan has “lost hope” of being able to be reunited with his family in New Zealand, and is returning to the Philippines.

Mr Purugganan has lived and worked in New Zealand since 2012. He was joined by wife Roxanne a year later, and their two sons, Keired (5) and Abram (2), were born here.

He has helped manage Quambatook, a 900-cow dairy farm at Maheno, with James and Bridget McNally, for three and a-half years.

His children suffer from severe eczema and so their mother took them back to the Philippines to let their skin recover, as it seemed to be better in the warmer and more humid climate.

“The original plan was for me to go home every six months to visit them, until they outgrow their eczema problem, and then we can all come back here together.

“And then the lockdown came.”

Mr Purugganan last saw his family in person in December 2019, when Abram was a 7-month-old baby. He has missed three of Keired’s five birthdays. . . 

It’s not just dairy workers, but nurses and other essential workers the country needs and whose skills are valued but who are separated from their families.

This policy might have been excused when the lockdown started and there was so much pressure on MIQ for citizens and permanent residents.

But that excuse can’t be used now and failure to allow these families to reunite and to allow more essential workers in is a major government failure.

 

 


Govt PR vs media, no contest

08/06/2021

Remember Jacinda Ardern’s promise to be the most open and transparent New Zealand had ever seen?

Andrea Vance writes that her promise to be open and transparent is an artfully crafted mirage:

. . . In her first formal speech to Parliament she pledged: “This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information.”

Since then the numbers of faceless communications specialists have skyrocketed. The Government’s iron grip on the control of information has tightened.

And it is now harder than ever to get information. . .

In my 20-year plus time as a journalist, this Government is one of the most thin-skinned and secretive I have experienced. Many of my colleagues say the same.

Even squeezing basic facts out of an agency is a frustrating, torturous and often futile exercise. . . 

Such stonewalling might be common-place in dictatorships. It’s not supposed to happen in a democracy.

Vance gives examples of the difficulty she, and other journalists have, in getting information and notes why:

It’s now very difficult for journalists to get to the heart and the truth of a story. We are up against an army of well-paid spin doctors.

Since the current Government took office, the number of communications specialists have ballooned. Each minister has at least two press secretaries. (Ardern has four).

In the year Labour took office, the Ministry for the Environment had 10 PR staff. They now have 18. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade more than doubled their staff – up to 25.

MBIE blew out from 48 staff to 64. None of those five dozen specialists could give me those figures for many weeks – and again I was forced to ask the Ombudsman to intervene.

The super ministry – and its colleagues uptown at the Health Ministry – are notorious for stymieing even the simplest requests. Health’s information gatekeepers are so allergic to journalists they refuse to take phone calls, responding only (and sporadically) to emails.

But it is the New Zealand Transport Agency that take the cake: employing a staggering 72 staff to keep its message, if not its road-building, on track – up from 26 over five years.

There’s no contest in government PR versus the media.

PR staff will be paid far more than they’d get in the media and instead of providing information they’re keeping it from journalists and so from the public who pay them.

At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information. It has not delivered on promises to fix the broken, and politically influenced OIA system.

It also keeps journalists distracted and over-burdened with a rolling maul of press conferences and announcements, which are often meaningless or repetitive and prevent sustained or detailed questioning.

In this age of live-streaming and blogging, organisations often feel obliged to cover every stage-managed utterance for fear of missing out. . . 

This isn’t openness, it’s obstruction in an attempt to hide the facts and present the fluff.

Perhaps the trials and tribulations of the nation’s journalists do not concern you. Why should you care?

Because the public’s impression of this government is the very opposite.

They see a prime minister that has captivated the world with her ‘authentic’ communication style, intimate social media postings, daily Covid briefings and proactive releases of Cabinet papers.

It is an artfully-crafted mirage, because the reality is very different. This is a Government that is only generous with the information that it chooses to share.

The government isn’t only withholding information from and manipulating it to the media, it’s obstructing the Opposition.

All of which begs the question: what are they hiding?


No regard for OPM

18/05/2021

Last week we learned thousands of school lunches are left uneaten.

Thousands of taxpayer-funded school lunches are being left uneaten by students each week.

And the Government is not counting the leftovers from one of its flagship policies. . . 

Yesterday we learned that the government is owed nearly $7 million in unpaid MIQ fees:

The Government is reducing the amount of time MIQ guests have to pay their bills after figures showed they are owed almost $7 million in overdue fees for MIQ stays.

Figures obtained by 1 NEWS showed the Government was owed $6,907,434 in overdue invoices from MIQ guests, with $3,792,298 owed by guests who stayed at facilities last year.

A total of 13,155 invoices worth $59,519,661 have been issued for stays since August, with guests having paid a total of $36,783,765. . . 

National’s Covid-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop said “hotels don’t run honesty systems and the Government shouldn‘t run one either”.

He said the Government should be chasing people who owe money much harder.

In the last three months, $1,196,695 of the $17,025,158 worth of invoices issued was classified as overdue. . .

Both examples show what Heather du Plessis Allan says is a lax approach to our money:

They’re so desperate to convince us that they are good with money, that’s why they froze the pay of all nurses and teachers and police and so on.

But that is not going to convince us of anything, when we constantly see examples of completely careless spending. 

And we’ve seen a lot of it in the last nearly four years.

$3 billion thrown carelessly at the provincial growth fund to buy Winston’s affection, with a negligible number of jobs created.

Is it $14 billion into the wage subsidy scheme, which is a good scheme, but no real chasing and auditing to make sure people who shouldn’t’ have taken the money didn’t. Even the Auditor General called them out for that sloppiness this week.

And $100 million for marae upgrades that were supposed to create 3000 jobs but only created 158. 

This is the attitude I really object to.

And I’m sorry, but as long as Labour ministers like Chris Hipkins just don’t care whether our money is wasted in uneaten school lunches, as long as that happens, Labour will be perceived to be the party that just throws cash away.

Pay freeze the nurses all you like, that perception will stick, because it’s warranted. 

Every dollar the government spends is a dollar that has been taken from other people – taxpayers.

Every dollar wasted is a dollar that isn’t available for urgent priorities including health and education.

Every dollar mis-spent or not recouped reinforces the view that the government has no regard for other people’s money.


Only front of signing queue

12/05/2021

Remember being told we’d be at the front of the vaccine queue? Now we’re told that’s not what the government meant:

The Prime Minister’s comments today in Question Time that Chris Hipkins’ promise that New Zealand would be at the “front of the queue” for Covid-19 vaccines actually meant that we would be at the front of the queue in terms of signing contracts are baffling, says National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop.

“Her assertion that ‘distribution is secondary’ demonstrates how woeful the Government’s vaccination programme is. Signing a contract does not protect Kiwis from Covid-19.”

Distribution is secondary?

Tell that to the people who can’t reunite with their families. Tell that to people whose businesses are compromised because they can’t travel or who live in fear of another lockdown. Tell that to people who fear for their health or that of their family and friends.

“When Chris Hipkins told New Zealanders that we were ‘at the front of the queue’ for Covid-19 vaccines, we rightly thought that meant New Zealand would quickly roll-out the Covid-19 vaccines.

Yet again the Prime Minister is moving the goalposts. Faced with a very slow roll-out where New Zealand is the 120th slowest in the world and the second slowest in the OECD, the Prime Minister’s new line is that ‘front of the queue’ just means speed of signing contracts.

Front of the queue for signing contracts? Why would that be cause for celebration? Does she really expect us to believe that?

“Why would the Government celebrate being first in line to sign a contract to ensure slow delivery, and consequential slow roll-out of vaccines? It beggars belief.

“The vaccine roll-out is a mess.”

We’ve received pamphlets in the mail, we’ve seen advertisements in the paper and we keep hearing them on the radio reassuring that the vaccine is safe and that we’ll get it.

What we’re not getting is when we’ll get it nor are we getting confidence in the roll-out. Playing word games trying to get us to believe that front of the queue doesn’t mean now what it meant a few months ago isn’t helping.

Mike Hosking asks, when will we start demanding better from the response?

. . . Vaccinated travellers all over the world are now starting to get on planes and fly and we as of now are missing out. . .

Our issue, according to our esteemed leader who told us a few weeks ago when we asked when the borders would be opening to vaccinated travellers, said that was an open question, which is code for she hasn’t thought about it. . . 

Any mountaineer knows getting to the top of the mountain is only half way.

Other countries who were well behind us in stopping the spread of the disease are already well down the mountain while we still don’t know the plan for the descent.

At some point a level of normality will have returned and places like Britain and the states are seeing their vaccination programmes as being comprehensive enough to be able to do that

Is it really possible the fear instilled in us by a government bereft of a plan beyond a closed border is really going to let the world get back to life and keep us locked up? . . 

As each day passes it becomes clearer where this story is heading. Vaccines work, the quicker you complete your programme, the more normal you can become, the world is clearly more than happy to drop restrictions lower borders and get life on a new track.

We sit here unvaccinated, borders closed, and no decision around what is next how and when.

It seems odd and increasingly criminal we can be recognised for a solid Covid response but because of our own fear and lack of planning cut ourselves out of the joining the rest of the world.

When do we start demanding better?

There’s no doubt the government was good at stopping Covid-19 causing the devastation it did in many other countries.

But repeated mistakes and repeated breaches at the border show that at least some of the success was due more to luck than management.

It will take a lot more good management than luck to make a success of the roll-out and trusting us with the truth, rather than trying to make us believe what was meant wasn’t what was said would be a good start.


Abject incompetence

14/04/2021

The NZ Herald opines that unvaccinated border staff are our Achilles heel:

The red-letter issue in the Millennium Hotel chain of cases, however, is the lack of vaccination and testing which was exposed. Despite working in a managed isolation and quarantine facility, neither Case B nor C had been vaccinated.

Today’s Health Select Committee has discovered another vulnerability:

A security worker at Auckland’s Grand Millennium managed isolation facility, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, had not been previously tested since November.

Carolyn Tremain, chief executive of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – which oversees managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) – made the revelation on Wednesday at a parliamentary committee.

Tremain said the worker was tested on April 7, which is when he tested positive for COVID-19. Prior to that, she said records show he was last tested in November, despite the law stating he should be tested fortnightly.

Fortnightly? why not saliva tests every day?

“What we have identified through the case investigation process… is that there are some inconsistencies in the recording of when testing occurs,” Tremain told the Health Select Committee.

“We don’t have evidence that testing has been conducted from our systems on the frequency that we would prefer it to be.” . . 

Prefer it to be?

That’s as weak as Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield saying he would have hoped the latest case would have been vaccinated by now.

Preferred and hoped are simply not good enough when the consequences of workers contracting Covid-19 are so bad not just for their own health but for the risk of community transmission with all the health, social and economic costs that come from that.

What makes this worse is the game-playing by Labour MPs in the Select Committee:

. . .But the committee hearing – a key opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of officials – soon descended into a squabble between Labour MPs and National Party Covid-19 Response spokesman Chris Bishop, as his attempts to question officials on the shortcomings were railroaded by the Labour MPs interested in more anodyne matters. . . 

Despite the pressing issues, the health select committee, steered by Invercargill-based Labour list MP Dr Liz Craig, instead asked the officials to talk about the “basic science” behind how the managed isolation system had been set up.

For more 20 minutes during the opening of the session, Bloomfield canvassed the increased understanding that “airborne transmission” of the virus was a risk, and what was known about the spread of the more infectious B117 Covid-19 variant in India.

MBIE deputy chief executive Megan Main detailed the “customer journey” that returnees have, from learning about the MIQ system, to entering a hotel and subsequently leaving.

“That’s really, really useful,” Craig said, offering up a few more minutes for the speakers to talk about this widely accessible information. 

Bishop’s attempts to ask questions were frustrated by Labour MPs on the committee. A one stage, he was visibly frustrated, holding his head in his hands. . . 

“Government MPs need to reflect very seriously on the way in which they are treating the Opposition on select committees and shielding officials from scrutiny,” Bishop told reporters afterwards.

He said it was “quite staggering” that the security guard had not been tested for six months. 

And if that wasn’t bad enough it got worse:

How hard is it to keep a record of who the workers are, who’s been tested, when they’re tested and which ones are vaccinated?

This is basic record keeping. That it’s not happening shows the system needs far more checks and balances than preferences and hopes.

That workers aren’t tested as they ought to be and that not all are vaccinated yet is bad enough. That records are so poor no-one knows who is tested and vaccinated is abject incompetence.

This information came out in spite of attempts to silence the Opposition. I wonder if there was anything else that we need to know that would have come out had the Labour MPs not been playing silly games?


Does this give you confidence?

08/04/2021

The ODT reports that setting up the southern Covid-19 vaccination system has taken staff away from other immunisation programmes and is using people who might otherwise be contact-tracing.

Covid-19 vaccination centres in Dunedin’s Meridian Mall and in Invercargill began injecting frontline health workers last week, and have also been delivering second doses of the vaccine to port workers.

Public Health nursing and immunisation vaccinators and administration staff were doing much of the work at present, southern vaccine rollout incident controller Hamish Brown said.

This was affecting the Southern District Health Board’s MMR vaccination catch-up campaign, B4 schools check, HPV vaccinations and other school-based programmes.

“This is also using staff who would also support contact-tracing work for Covid-19 cases.” . . 

Does this give you confidence that any of these programmes are being, or will be, done well?

“There have been a few teething problems, as you can imagine with an operation of this scale, but our teams have been able to resolve issues as they have cropped up, and on the whole the clinics have run very smoothly,” Mr Brown said.

However, in a report to be considered by the Southern District Health Board on Thursday, Mr Brown said a national Covid-19 vaccination booking system was at least a month away and southern health officials were relying on electronic diary Outlook calendar in the interim.

“There is currently no robust booking system in place, and the existing hospital booking system does not meet the requirements for the programme.

“An interim booking system…has been put in place to manage the immediate need to book in household contacts for the next few weeks.”

Southern and other DHBs had worked together to find a suitable booking system and discussions were ongoing with a possible provider, Mr Brown said. . . 

We were told months ago that we’d be at the front of the queue for Covid-19 vaccinations. We aren’t, and that has given more time to get the logistics sorted so that the programme runs smoothly.

If there are all these problems this early, when a relatively small number of people are being vaccinated, how confident can we be that they will be solved when mass vaccination is under way, and that other programmes, including annual ‘flu vaccinations, won’t be compromised?

Chris McDowall’s report on the Ministry of Health’s opaque and messy handling of public health data on Covid-19 vaccination progress.

. . .  Without published statistics, media briefings are our only source of truth about how the rollout is progressing.

Slip-ups and an absence of detail detract from public confidence, potentially creating space for anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theories.

We will continue to request data about the vaccine rollout from the Government and follow up outstanding questions. We hope the Government will start making this data freely available.

And then there’s this:

Not only is New Zealand second bottom in the OECD for the number of Covid-19 vaccinations but in information leaked to National we are nowhere near where the Government planned for us to be back in January, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Leaked data shows that at this point in the vaccine roll out, a cumulative total of 390,413 vaccine should have been administered, but only 90,286 have been so far, a pathetic 23 per cent.

“After promising New Zealanders we were at the front of the queue for Covid-19 vaccines, nearly every other country in the OECD is now ahead of us, with just Japan behind New Zealand.

“We aren’t at the front of the queue – we are at the back.”

As of yesterday, New Zealand has administered just 1.9 doses per 100 people in our population.

The countries ahead of us include Australia (3.31 per 100 people), Singapore (25.95), the United Kingdom (54.52) and the United States (50).

“Australia has recently been criticised for the slow pace of its vaccine roll out, but New Zealand is even worse and there’s no sign we’re picking up the pace,” Mr Bishop says.

“National is deeply concerned about the vaccine roll out.

“Three of the four necessary IT systems for our roll out aren’t ready, DHBs are contracting their own booking system solutions with disastrous results, the Government refuses to set a target for the percentage of the population to be vaccinated, and we’re still unclear who will be vaccinated when.

“The Government hasn’t even begun a proper communications campaign to educate New Zealanders about the vaccine. New Zealand’s economic and social future is relying on a successful vaccine roll.

“The public should have daily access to how we are progressing in our Covid vaccine roll out, they shouldn’t have to rely on leaked information to Opposition parties.

“As more countries vaccinate their populations New Zealand risks being left behind. They will start opening up trade and travel to each other while we, a country where our prosperity depends on international connections, will lag behind.

“The elimination of Covid-19 in New Zealand should have been an opportunity for us to recover more quickly than the rest of the world. We are at risk of wasting this through a slow and ineffective roll out.”

The government, ministry and DHBs need to urgently improve the logistics of the vaccine roll out, and data releases, to ensure we can all have confidence in what’s being done, that it will be done well, and to provide no space for anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists.


Is the ‘flu vaccine late?

31/03/2021

Last week I went searching for news on the ‘flu vaccine programme and came across a page with the Ministry of Health policy:

From 2019 the Annual Influenza Immunisation Programme (the Programme) will start from 1 April each year.

This start date differs from previous years when the Programme started as soon as the influenza vaccine became available, generally by early March. The Ministry has considered a range of factors in making this decision including: emerging evidence on the effectiveness of influenza vaccines, influenza surveillance data, the impact of the start date on service delivery and feedback from the sector.

The start date from 1 April will be subject to the vaccine being available for distribution across New Zealand by then. Changes to vaccine strains can result in longer manufacturing lead time and the arrival of vaccines in late rather than early March.

Duration of influenza vaccine protection

New evidence shows that vaccine effectiveness begins to decline after influenza vaccination. Maximum protection from influenza is observed around two weeks after vaccination and starts to decline by about 7 percent every month. . . .

Influenza activity may occur throughout the year with the peak incidence during the winter months. New Zealand’s surveillance data shows that the peak has moved to August in recent years. Influenza surveillance data and the shift in peak influenza activity, in conjunction with declining vaccine effectiveness supports a change in the start date. The programme start date from 1 April ensures better protection against influenza during the peak incidence particularly for our most vulnerable populations.  . .

That all seems reasonable but yesterday I checked the MOH website and found this:

The 2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme will commence on 14 April 2021, with a two-week priority period for people eligible for a free influenza vaccination. These dates are dependent on approval by the regulator. 

We ask vaccinators to focus on immunising those who are eligible for a funded vaccination for the first two weeks of the programme to protect as many of those who are at greatest risk first, well ahead of the influenza season.

The first week of the prioritisation period is only for adults aged 65 and over and there is an additional vaccine this year that is specifically intended for this population.

The second week of the prioritisation period, from 21 April, extends to all those eligible for a funded vaccination.

Vaccination can then be extended to include the general population from 28 April 2021. . . 

April 14 is two weeks later and April 21 three weeks later, than the policy to start the programme on April 1.

That probably won’t matter for the people on the priority list.

But if the general population doesn’t start to get their vaccinations until 28th of April and the vaccine doesn’t reach maximum effectiveness for two weeks, are most people going to be at risk of contracting the disease before they’re protected?

Perhaps I’m being paranoid when there are so few people coming into the country, the risk of ‘flu might be much less than it would have been pre-Covid.

But this is the Ministry that bungled the measles vaccination. It’s also the Ministry that swore black and blue that there was plenty of stock for last year’s ‘flu vaccination rollout while those on the ground who were supposed to be administering them were saying there wasn’t, and they were eventually proved right.

It’s also the Ministry that’s in charge of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, for which we haven’t been told a plan, and for which there is no target:

National is calling on the Government to make a statement of intent about protecting New Zealanders from Covid-19 by setting a target of having at least 70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“New Zealand is one of only a few countries in the OECD that doesn’t have a target for how many adults should be vaccinated. The others are Colombia and Mexico.

“Almost all countries are setting a vaccination target – usually 70 per cent of the adult population – and a date for achieving that target. New Zealand isn’t doing this either.

“The best the Government can say is that it wants all New Zealanders to be offered a vaccine by the end of the year. This isn’t good enough.

“We should be setting an ambitious target and going for it. A target will make sure the health system is focused, and means vaccination progress can be meaningfully tracked.

“Targets exist for the measles and flu vaccines. Not having one for Covid-19 suggests the Government doesn’t want to be held to account on this.

“If KiwiBuild taught us anything, it’s that the Labour Government isn’t great at hitting targets. But that shouldn’t matter. Our Covid-19 vaccine rollout is too important not to have one.

Mr Bishop also criticised the slow pace of the Government’s vaccine rollout to date, and the lack of transparency about how many vaccines are being administered in New Zealand.

“Most countries are doing daily, or near-daily, updates on how many people are being vaccinated. New Zealand has to settle for sporadic updates, randomly announced by Chris Hipkins or Ashley Bloomfield.

“New Zealanders should be getting near-daily announcements, published by the Ministry of Health, so everyone can see how our vaccine rollout is going. This isn’t rocket science – it already happens with testing and tracing.

“New Zealand started slow on vaccinations and we’re falling further behind the rest of the world. The latest available public information shows we have administered just 0.56 vaccines per 100 people, while Australia has administered 1.21 vaccines per 100 people.

“We weren’t at the front of the queue for receiving vaccines, like the Government said we were, and our vaccine rollout started slow because of this. It needs to gather pace.”

Call me cynical if you like, but the government is always keen to tell us the good news.

That it has made no mention of this year’s ‘flu vaccination programme, is being quiet about how many people have received the Covid-19 vaccine, has given only vague details about its roll-out to the general population, and appears to have no plan to set targets feeds the suspicion that it doesn’t have any good news about any of this.

 


Anything but kind

25/03/2021

Court documents have provided National with fuel to renew calls for Speaker Trevor Mallard to resign:

The legal threats used by Trevor Mallard to silence a Parliamentary staffer who he falsely accused of rape make him unfit to continue as Parliament’s Speaker, Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bishop says.

National has received the statement of claim by the plaintiff, lodged in the High Court as part of defamation proceedings, which alleges Mr Mallard repeated his false allegation against the staffer in public even after he was told by Parliamentary Service that it was incorrect.

The document also shows Mr Mallard, who has admitted he knew within 24 hours of making the initial claim that he made a mistake, informed the staffer, through lawyers, that he would not apologise, would not pay damages, did not accept the staffer had been defamed, would prove what he said about the staffer was true, and would defend any claim “vigorously”.

Mr Mallard, via his lawyers, said that should the staffer pursue litigation, “the question of his reputation, and his conduct, will be very much the centrepiece of any public proceeding”.

It took about 18 months before Mr Mallard finally settled with the staffer and apologised for “distress and humiliation”. The matter cost taxpayers $333,641.70 in the form of a $158,000 ex-gratia payment to settle the legal claim, $171,000 in fees to Dentons Kensington Swan and $4641.70 to Crown Law for advice to the former Deputy Speaker.

Trevor Mallard has lost the confidence of the Opposition over his handling of this matter and should not continue as Speaker of the House, Mr Bishop says.

“Trevor Mallard behaved in a threatening and bullying way. This wasn’t just a ‘mistake’, as he tried to portray it. His behaviour is unbecoming of someone whose job it is to uphold the standards and integrity of Parliament.

“He is in a position of immense power and has used this power to try and silence a former employee. The irony is that he has exhibited the exact behaviour the Francis review was commissioned to stamp out: bullying.”

National has sought the leave of Parliament to debate a motion of no confidence in Mr Mallard on several occasions this term, but they have been continually blocked by Labour.

Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins wrote to the Prime Minister on March 16 to inform her of this latest information regarding Mr Mallard.

“The Prime Minister and her Labour MPs need to ask themselves whether this is the sort of behaviour they’re prepared to keep defending,” Mr Bishop says.

“In any other workplace in New Zealand, Trevor Mallard would be sacked. What’s good for any other workplace should be good for Parliament as well.”

Making the accusation without proof was wrong.

Failing to apologise as soon as he knew he was wrong made it worse.

Allowing the legal process to continue when he knew he was wrong compounded the wrongdoing.

That the legal process included threats should the accused man pursue litigation is unacceptable behaviour from anyone let alone the Speaker.

This could all have been avoided had Mallard apologised as soon as he knew his accusation was groundless.

It could have been avoided had PM Jacinda Ardern done the right thing by seeking his resignation months ago.

Allowing the matter to fester is anything but kind to the man who was wrongly accused and who lost his job as a result of that.

It is also anything but kind to the taxpayer who has already had to pick up the bill for legal costs and could well face even heavier payments for more legal fees and compensation.

The PM says she always reads letters from children. She should not only read but act on this one:

The transcript of Bishop’s speech is after the break.

Read the rest of this entry »


Who’s responsible?

05/03/2021

Another day and yet more evidence of confusion over Covid-19 information:

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) says posts on a Government website saying a KFC worker did nothing wrong were made in “on the understanding it was accurate” as the information came from the Health Ministry. 

If it wasn’t accurate, what was it doing on the website?

Multiple posts were made on the Unite Against COVID-19 website, which is run by the DPMC, on February 26. The posts were responding to questions from the public and stated that the KFC worker, known as Case L, didn’t need to isolate and her and her family “complied with advice they were given at the time”. 

The Prime Minister said on the same day she was “frustrated” with Case L for not isolating and being at work. . . 

COVID-response Minister Chris Hipkins said today the information was “out of context.” 

But National’s COVID-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop said the situation showed even Government departments are confused. 

“This is just baffling and bewildering. The Unite Against COVID-19 Facebook page is posting the Ministry’s own advice while Ministers dissemble and play the blame game. It is deeply unedifying.”

A spokesperson for the DPMC said the posts were “made in good faith” on the understanding that the information was correct, but “recognises the use of the word complied in the reply made it more definitive than it should have been.” . . .

On the understanding that the information was correct? More definitive that it should have been? Surely all communication on an official website should be correct and definitive.

It should also be clear, easily understood and not open to varying interpretations.

Who’s responsible for ensuring that it is? It’s not the members of the public that the politicians are criticising.

It’s the same people who are responsible for all the other mistakes and shortcomings in the Covid-19 response – the government and the Ministry of Health.

It is less than edifying to have different government agencies bickering publicly about who was right. It wouldn’t be happening if there was a single Covid recovery agency responsible for all policy and communication.


Quotes of the month

01/03/2021

In olden times, journalists were like children – seen but not heard. Now if the public had three wishes it would probably be for us to please shut up, shut up, shut up about ourselves. – Jane Bowron

Climate policy is incredibly complex. Yes, science sits at its core – but there are also economic, social and political implications to be considered,”  – Tim Mackle

Any new outbreak will have major health, economic and social costs. But there will also be another significant casualty. Until now, politicians and public health officials have been able to draw on their social capital, the trust they have earned. But that trust is conditional. If leaders are seen as failing to act and letting foreseeable failures happen, that has the potential to seriously weaken the collective support and compliance that is absolutely pivotal for current public health measures.The ConversationBernard Walker

It is not necessary for anyone actually to have been offended for an utterance to be considered offensive; on the other hand, if someone has taken offence at it, this too proves that it was offensive. That the person who took offence was a paranoiac whose  outrage was completely unreasonable, or expressed in the hope of compensation or some other advantage, is no defence, for one of the criteria of offensiveness is simply that someone says that he has taken offence, the other criterion being somewhat more Platonic, namely that someone might take offence.  – Theodore Dalrymple

But playing our part to best effect, doing the most good that New Zealand can do, means finding the most cost-effective ways of abating greenhouse gas emissions – regardless of where they are. It turned out that the best way of getting cars wasn’t by building them in Petone, but by growing them in other parts of the country. It could easily turn out that the best way for New Zealand to sequester carbon is not to plant trees here, but to fund replanting efforts elsewhere.

If we could achieve twice as much or more by helping to fund mitigation efforts abroad, the climate would not thank us for pursuing less effective measures here at home instead – Eric Crampton

Western civilisation is built on the sovereignty of the individual, sovereignty derived in large part from the Christian concept of man being created in the image of God and being equal in His sight, be we king or commoner, free or slave, white or black.  . . As sovereign individuals we have agency, but with agency comes personal responsibility.  By adopting a group approach, personal responsibility can be avoided and politically correct faux virtue-signalling used to cover the real aim – the pursuit of power. Thus when the principles of government are based on classifications or groups rather than individuals, the results are almost invariably bad.  Examples include Communism, Fascism, Nazism, apartheid, the Indian cast system and, more recently, gender identity and ‘woke’ prescriptions generally. In short, the currently fashionable emphasis on group rights rather than individual rights must be rejected. – Anthony Carr

Progress requires bad practices to be replaced by good, not justified as part of a culture frozen in aspic. – Anthony Carr

Our society’s success depends on people making themselves useful, taking education seriously, working hard and conducting themselves properly with respect to their families and society as a whole. If taking personal responsibility for one’s life is avoided, no amount of aid or intervention from any source will ever succeed. We are sovereign individuals and avoiding responsibility only ensures that one is neither granted nor actually deserves any genuine respect. – Anthony Carr

The backlash against wokeism will be made much more aggressive by the difficulties its opponents encounter in making their voices heard. The mainstream news media – and especially the state-owned media – have become increasingly intolerant of ideas and opinions which directly, or indirectly, challenge the wokeists’ view of the world. Stuff, the largest newspaper publisher in the country has embraced wokeism wholeheartedly and set its face resolutely against the errors of “racist” New Zealanders. Even more significantly, citizens determined to spread “unacceptable” ideas can no longer rely upon the major social media platforms for their dissemination. Increasingly, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are “de-platforming” individuals and groups (including a former President of the United States!) whose beliefs have been anathematised by the woke. – Chris Trotter

Imagine you are an idealistic young Labour MP. Let’s call you, say, Grant, or Chris, or Jacinda. You realise you’ve just overseen the greatest transfer of wealth from those who work to those who own in the history of our country. David Seymour

We have a country that’s practically uninhabited, but somehow it has a shortage of land you’re allowed to build on. Only governments can manufacture famine from plenty … they’re like a reverse Jesus – David Seymour

It goes without saying that the justice with which the iconoclasts and vandals are obsessed is always of a very peculiar sort (it continues to surprise me how little protest there is against the very expression racial justice, than which few expressions could be more racist); but at any rate they are always judging the past, as they judge the present, against an impossible standard of perfection—perfection, that is, according to their own conception of that the world ought to be.Theodore Dalrymple

The gap between people’s impression of Ardern and her actual performance as a leader has widened to a gulf. So long as enough modern Tacituses write gushing Ardern portraits, her superstar status will not change. – Oliver Hartwich

So, let’s make Waitangi not just about airing grievances. There is much to celebrate in the advances Māori have made. Surely it is time to drop the victimhood and inspire younger generations to build? –  Fran O’Sullivan

It’s quite a skill, really, making announcements about a policy without any sort of plan to achieve it, and then have the country believe that what you’ve just said is significant, transformative or, as we heard this week, foundational. National was criticised for this all the time and often quite fairly. Under this government, however, such expediency has almost become a form of art.  – Monique Poirier

The good thing about debt is it can mask a lot of stuff and buy you time. But it never stops being debt and it never stops needing to be paid back. And $100 billion and counting is a lot to pay back.Mike Hosking

Every culture must treat women as equal to men, and afford them the same rights in every aspect as they afford men. – Heather du Plessis-Allan

The middle path needs to be actively promoted and defended. We need to shrug off the image of being spineless fence-sitters who get bullied into sell-out compromises by those at the extremes. Being a middle-pathster does not mean having no firm principles. We have our bottom lines too which we will not surrender to either the extreme left or the extreme right. The political spectrum is best represented not as a straight line but as a circle in which extreme left and extreme right meet. The middle path is diametrically opposed to both – and for much the same reason: their erosion of liberty. It is liberty that defines our bottom line. – Barend Vlaardingerbroek

If the New Zealand news media persists in the folly of “cancelling” all those listeners, viewers and readers who fail to pass ideological muster, then we will see the emergence of our own version of Fox News – with all that entails for the health of our country and its democratic institutions. Who would lead it? Do we have a Hannity, or a Tucker Carlson, waiting out there in the wings? Where to start looking for a talented right-wing contrarian, boasting years of professional broadcasting experience, who is currently between jobs? – Chris Trotter

It’s just the same broken system with a new letterhead. Karen Chhour

I had people that helped me to believe in myself just enough that I could see my way out. – Karen Chhour

. . .ethnicity and culture should not be how we decide what is in the best interests of children. Oranga Tamariki should be colour-blind and open to whatever will ensure a child’s wellbeing and safety. – Karen Chhour

As someone who has experienced three elements of placement – non family who wanted me, family who didn’t and extended family who did – I can tell you, as a young person you’ll take love, compassion and stability wherever you can find it. – Karen Chhour

I think we spend far too much time on the (isms) in this country, racism, sexism, and classism. I firmly believe these can be used as a weapon to distract us from the important issues instead of focusing on what needs to be done in these areas. – Karen Chhour

The consequence of constantly putting labels on things seems to be that we have created an environment where expectations are lowered and personal responsibility is no longer a requirement. I want to focus on people being the best that they can be and celebrate their successes in these areas, instead of constantly focusing on the negatives that give these people the platform they desire. – Karen Chhour

We’re in urgency today on a local democracy bill making fundamental change. Am I the only one who sees the ridiculous irony of that? There’s an anti-democratic local democracy bill. That’s literally what we’ve got here, because the other side is putting this through—it’s ramming it through—in urgency.Simon Bridges

In relation to the wards themselves, personally, I find it hard when we come to special separate representation for Māori. As a Māori man, it says I’m not good enough, because of my whakapapa, because of the colour of my skin. . . This bill, to me, says that I’m not good enough to win a vote of a non-Māori. Well, I am good enough. I am good enough. – Simon Bridges

Central planning fails not just because we cannot predict the future but because the Climate Commission can never know enough to make better decisions about you, your family or your business than you can. The commission says its decisions will be based not just on science but “equity”. What the commission thinks is fair. As an example the commission says the rules for Māori should be different. “Māori collectives” should get “free allocation.” 

Politics will decide what is fair. It will be a lobbyist paradise. Some firms will get privileged allocations and get their competitors’ products banned. It will be like the days when some firms got import licenses and grew rich while others were refused. Bureaucrats will decide which businesses to reward and which to ruin. A central plan cannot even guarantee the result will be net zero emissions. – Richard Prebble

Attacks on freedom of expression are coming from multiple directions: from a government that proposes to place new limits (conveniently vague at this stage, so as not to cause too much alarm) around what people may say on subjects such as race and religion; from woke vigilantes in mainstream and social media who campaign for the defenestration of non-woke broadcasters; and from cowed media bosses and corporate advertisers who show no commitment or loyalty to the values of the free, capitalist society in which they operate, and for whom defence of democratic values is less important than winning brownie points on left-leaning social media platforms.   – Karl du Fresne

Companies operating in the field of news and current affairs have a responsibility not shared by purveyors of other commodities. As shapers of public opinion and providers of information of vital public interest, the news media perform a role central to the functioning of democracy.  This imposes obligations of fairness, accuracy and balance; but as long as we profess to be a free and open society, it also requires them to reflect the full spectrum of public opinion. Karl du Fresne

The people we have most to fear from are not shoot-from-the-lip provocateurs like Banks, but the authoritarian zealots who insist that they be silenced. The threat these censorious prigs pose to a democratic society is potentially far greater and more far-reaching than anything a bigoted talkback host might say to his limited band of followers. As the British columnist Bernard Levin once put it: “Any legally permissible view, however repugnant, is less dangerous promulgated than banned.” Karl du Fresne

Trust; that’s a crucial factor here. The Left has always had a problem with trust. Leftist apparatchiks fret that people who are left to make up their own minds will make the wrong choices, so seek to lead them by limiting the range of ideas and opinions they are exposed to – which is why freedom of expression is such a crucial battleground in the so-called culture wars. Karl du Fresne

Here’s another canard: the reason voters have rejected Maori wards whenever the issue has been put to a referendum is that voters are racist. But I don’t believe for a moment that people vote against Maori wards because they don’t want Maori councillors. They do it because they intuitively understand that democracy is supposed to be colour-blind, and that candidates should get elected on the basis of merit rather skin colour. Voters get that, even if the Year Zero cultists in the government don’t. Karl du Fresne

It’s unclear whether, following this flip-flop, Speaker Mallard will now acquire the nickname of ‘The Jandal’. – James Elliott

While an MP bridles against neckties, voters who oppose Maori wards are being told to get knotted – Point of Order

I made a great choice when I got married. You’re very lucky if you get that one right. –Sir Eion Edgar

We spent a lot of time bringing up our children, and they’ve turned out well because we put the time and effort into them. – Sir Eion Edgar

Plunket was hectoring, abrasive, shallow, belligerent and generally obnoxious. In other words exactly what you want in a populist talkback jock pandering to a certain market segment. He is a cultural warrior on the side of the deplorables.

Talkback is not a counselling session where every caller is taught to be reasonable and sensitive. It is not a barber shop or a hairdressing salon where the attendant listens politely and asks a few friendly questions. I imagine that most callers are ill-informed cranks who a talkback host must tolerate and perhaps egg on in the hope the next caller has a coherent view, but clearly a lot of people do enjoy it. –  Martin van Beynen

Like a lot of people, I’m struggling with the rapid change in the new moral and political climate. The silencing of Plunket suggests mainstream broadcasters are so concerned about toeing the politically correct line that someone who echoes a sceptical and possibly prejudiced public cannot be tolerated. This appears to be on the basis that if we get rid of everyone who disagrees with current trends, the audience will just go away and reform. – Martin van Beynen

Sometimes media organisations just have to tell advertisers to get lost in the interests of higher principles like the value of the fourth estate and free speech. – Martin van Beynen

We need to remember we are not a powder keg nation. An off remark will not set off riots in the streets and see shops burnt down. We can take it and should not expect all debate to be sensitive, respectful and totally reasonable. Surely we are not so fragile that a controversial talkback host who challenges the new orthodoxy, even if he is a reactionary, cannot be tolerated. – Martin van Beynen

The beautiful thing about Valentine’s Day is that unlike a lot of other more prescriptive annual celebrations, it’s incredibly flexible. While films and advertisers might have told us otherwise, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a day for dramatic grand gestures featuring diamond bracelets and white tablecloth dinners. It’s a lot more enjoyable if you instead set it aside as a day for sweetness and tenderness. It’s about “e iti noa ana nā te aroha” – a small thing given with love.Charlotte Muru-Lanning

It certainly has its faults, but amid the routine of everyday life, Valentine’s Day is a much-needed reminder to celebrate the sweet things that make your heart flutter. Just like any relationship, it’s worth loving, in spite of its faults. – Charlotte Muru-Lanning

 It is entirely reasonable to aspire for personal responsibility while acknowledging that compassion will always be required – and that sometimes this has to take the form of government intervention.Monique Poirier

If we aspire to live in a society where reliance on the state is all but non-existent, we have to break the cycle of poverty. If parents are unable or unwilling to do this, it cannot be left up to the children to do it themselves. – Monique Poirier

The government is quite happy to throw $55m at the media, rush constitutional law changes through urgency, debate supplements, and snipe at the opposition. But child poverty? All we hear is some statistics on supposed measures improving, while conveniently forgetting to mention that the very one that matters – material deprivation – is not. – Monique Poirier

What is the answer? I don’t know. What I do know, however, is this shouldn’t be a partisan monopoly for the left. It is nothing short of reprehensible that New Zealand still has so many children living in poverty, and our politicians and leaders should be ashamed.  – Monique Poirier

Every serious moral philosophy, every decent legal system and every ethical organization cares deeply about intention.  It is the difference between murder and manslaughter. It is an aggravating or extenuating factor in judicial settings. It is a cardinal consideration in pardons (or at least it was until Donald Trump got in on the act). It’s an elementary aspect of parenting, friendship, courtship and marriage. A hallmark of injustice is indifference to intention. Most of what is cruel, intolerant, stupid and misjudged in life stems from that indifference.Bret Stephens

Should intent be the only thing that counts in judgment? Obviously not. Can people do painful, harmful, stupid or objectionable things regardless of intent? Obviously.  Do any of us want to live in a world, or work in a field, where intent is categorically ruled out as a mitigating factor? I hope not.

That ought to go in journalism as much as, if not more than, in any other profession. What is it that journalists do, except try to perceive intent, examine motive, furnish context, explore nuance, explain varying shades of meaning, forgive fallibility, make allowances for irony and humor, slow the rush to judgment (and therefore outrage), and preserve vital intellectual distinctions?

Journalism as a humanistic enterprise — as opposed to hack work or propaganda — does these things in order to teach both its practitioners and consumers to be thoughtful. There is an elementary difference between citing a word for the purpose of knowledge and understanding and using the same word for the purpose of insult and harm. Lose this distinction, and you also lose the ability to understand the things you are supposed to be educated to oppose. – Bret Stephens

A journalism that turns words into totems — and totems into fears — is an impediment to clear thinking and proper understanding. So too is a journalism that attempts to proscribe entire fields of expression. “Racist language” is not just about a single infamous word. It’s a broad, changing, contestable category.Bret Stephens

We are living in a period of competing moral certitudes, of people who are awfully sure they’re right and fully prepared to be awful about it. Hence the culture of cancellations, firings, public humiliations and increasingly unforgiving judgments. The role of good journalism should be to lead us out of this dark defile. Last week, we went deeper into it.Bret Stephens

Climate change is a real, manmade problem. But its impacts are much lower than breathless climate reporting would suggest. The UN Climate Panel finds that if we do nothing, the total impact of climate in the 2070s will be equivalent to reducing incomes by 0.2-2 percent. Given that by then, each person is expected to be 363 percent as rich as today, climate change means we will “only” be 356 percent as rich. Not the end of the world.

Climate policies could end up hurting much more by dramatically cutting growth. For rich countries, lower growth means higher risks of protests and political breakdown. This isn’t surprising. If you live in a burgeoning economy, you know that you and your children will be much better off in the coming years. Hence, you are more forgiving of the present. If growth is almost absent, the world turns to a zero-sum experience. Better conditions for others likely mean worse conditions for you, resulting in a loss of social cohesion and trust in a worthwhile future. – Bjorn Lomborg

 If all the rich countries in the world were to cut their carbon emissions to zero tomorrow and for the rest of the century, the effort would make an almost unnoticeable reduction in temperatures by 2100. – Bjorn Lomborg

The last 30 years of climate policy have delivered high costs and rising emissions. The only reliable ways to cut emissions have been recessions and the COVID-19 lockdowns, both of which are unpalatable. Expecting nations to stop using cheap energy won’t succeed. We need innovation. – Bjorn Lomborg

We should spend tens of billions to innovate the price of green energy below fossil fuels. Spending trillions on enormous and premature emissions cuts is an unsustainable and ineffective First World approach. Bjorn Lomborg

Here, though, is the detail that haunts me. For every patient who dies from Covid-19 in hospital, from the moment they encounter that first masked paramedic, they will never see a human face again. Not one smile, nor pair of cheeks, nor lips, nor chin. Not a single human being without barricades of plastic. Sometimes, my stomach twists at the thought that to the patients whose faces I can never unsee – contorting and buckling with the effort of breathing – I am no more than a pair of eyes, a thin strip of flesh between mask and visor, a muffled voice that strains and cracks behind plastic.

Of all Covid’s cruelties, surely the greatest is this? That it cleaves us from each other at precisely those times when we need human contact the most. That it spreads through speech and touch – the very means through which we share our love, tenderness and basic humanity. That it transforms us unwittingly into vectors of fatality. And that those we love most – and with whom we are most intimate – are the ones we endanger above all others. –  Dr Rachel Clarke

 For however bleak the times, however grim our prospects seem, human kindness finds a shape and form: it will not be locked down. –  Dr Rachel Clarke

Any straight person who uses a pronoun is definitely tattooing themselves as one thing – a bit of a wanker. Any gay person using the same, yeah still. – Cactus Kate

Pigeon holing people into the LGBTQIA community for quirks in their behaviour or preferences that are not stereotypical to society, is something social engineers have been trying to do to swell the numbers in those minority communities.  Not only is it an insult to people who genuinely belong to those communities, it is in itself creating the sort of division and anxiety the engineers are claiming to now use six figure government department jobs to remove. Do not be a wanker. Refuse to become a pronoun.  – Cactus Kate

My working hypothesis has been that MoH is just a wall of “Computer Says No” because the whole system’s held together with bailer wire and they know they can’t trust themselves to try to adjust anything. But some moves reduce the riskiness of the whole shambles. Daily testing in MIQ makes the whole thing less risky. – Eric Crampton

We do not have to inhabit a fantastical dystopian universe to imagine that one day, not so far away, Amazon will be pressured by customers or staff to eradicate Rowling’s spawn for the greater good. We can only hope that these platforms eschew the snivelling self-abasement that we have seen recently and uphold individual autonomy, but an oxymoronic Union of Individualists may have to join forces with brave small independent distributors to defeat the moronic mob. – Juliet Moses

The whole point of our parliamentary democracy is that the actions of Government and the policies of government and the statements of government are scrutinised, and the reason they’re scrutinised is because without scrutiny, governments can do what they like. Chris Bishop

The UK is not New Zealand. So everybody says ‘ah, New Zealand, New Zealand, it’s all terrific’, but as I’ve pointed out before on the media, they’ve got quite a lot of sheep in New Zealand, and they are a million miles from anywhere and it’s a lot easier if you want to put up border controls for New Zealand than it is here. – Professor Sir John Bell 

Publishers must realise they rely on readership and advertising. Treat these two groups with respect by giving them news and a platform for their views and they will succeed.Nick Smith

However, given that Tauwhiro means to tend or care for as a verb in Māori, or social worker if it’s a noun, putting the fear of God into gangstas is probably not what this police initiative is about. Bloody hell. Give me a Strike Force Raptor any day over an Operation Tend and Nurture when it comes to the gangs. . . The Government will proclaim it a huge success and the Police Commissioner will praise his task force. And during that six months, the gangs will have survived and thrived and laughed all the way to the bank. You want to try being kind with the new breed of gang members? Let’s just see how that works out, shall we? – Kerre McIvor

More generally, RNZ’s “product” reflects the network’s reckless abandonment of the middle way. The sensible notion that, as a public broadcaster, RNZ should do its best to reflect the public, has been set aside, and in its place a regime of extreme cultural didacticism has arisen. National Radio is no longer a station where the broadest possible range of New Zealanders’ ideas and opinions is broadcast for their fellow citizens to hear and judge. The views of those who remain unconvinced by the new orthodoxies of identity politics have been rigorously filtered out, and those espousing them “de-platformed” with extreme prejudice.- Chris Trotter

Breathlessly inoffensive, punctiliously politically correct, “The Panel” has made the penitential journey from seditious to soporific – and kept on going. – Chris Trotter

Not every New Zealander born between 1966 and 1986 subscribes to the extreme “wokeism” that is currently masquerading as the default ideology of RNZ’s listeners. Most of them would, however, be glad to hear its contentious propositions debated.Chris Trotter

An RNZ which refuses to acknowledge the full diversity of belief and aspiration in New Zealand runs a terrible risk. When the mood of the nation inevitably shifts, the worst possible position in which the public broadcaster could find itself is so far out on an ideological limb that its enemies feel completely safe in sawing off the branch altogether. An RNZ so bereft of friends and allies that no effective defence is any longer possible. There is a very good reason why the public broadcaster should do everything within its power to be the citizens’ friend and comforter. It’s so those same citizens will always have a reason to be the friends and comforters of public broadcasting – when its enemies come a-calling. – Chris Trotter

The utterly disgraceful reality is that local governments have conspired to drive up housing costs to absurd levels – among the highest in the English-speaking world relative to incomes – by tightly constraining the availability of land (in a country among the least populated in the world) and by imposing long and expensive delays on the construction of houses. Damien Grant

Nobody should take Jacinda seriously when she says she is concerned about child poverty. Until she is willing to face the reality that child poverty is going to continue to get worse as long as house prices continue to rise faster than incomes, she’s crying crocodile tears. – Damien Grant

The costs of confusing public health messaging are suffered more by some groups than by others, but this can all too easily be forgotten by progressive elites in the rush to signal inclusiveness. . . The elaborate dance involved in avoiding using words such as “mother” and “breast” offers those at the cutting edge of political discourse the opportunity to demonstrate their status at no cost to themselves. That does not, however, mean there is no cost to be borne by anyone else. – Louise Perry

The public’s best interest lies in full transparency and two extra weeks to digest the commission’s work and make thoughtful submissions. The hurdles are only manufactured deadlines on the road to an objective some 30 years hence. – Kate MacNamara

The most offensive use of urgency is when it is done for political convenience.Nick Smith

How could anyone of his intelligence fail to realise that, though as ever there was much wrong with the world, attempts to put everything right at once by the implementation of petty intellectual schemes are fraught with danger, and have a history of mass slaughter behind them?- Theodore Dalrymple

No transgression of sensitivities is so trivial that it will not invite a moralizing rebuke on social media. No cultural tradition is so innocuous that it needn’t be protected from the slightest criticism, at least if the critic has the wrong ethnic pedigree. – Bret Stephens

But in the humorless world of Woke, the satire is never funny, the statute of limitations never expires. . . In the game of Woke, the goal posts can be moved at any moment, the penalties will apply retroactively and claims of fairness will always lose out to the perpetual right to claim offense.  Bret Stephens

Since the 1990s, there is now about 36% less land farmed for sheep and beef. Yet the sector is in a very strong position and remains one of the fundamental engines that drive our economy. – Rob Davison

Whoever controls the dissemination of information controls the culture. And whoever controls culture controls thought. This was true in Nazi Germany, it was true during my childhood in Catholic-nationalist Ireland, it was true in communist-controlled eastern Europe, and it’s true now in the public sphere dominated by the left-wing woke ideologues of Big Tech. The problem will get worse before it gets better. – Declan Mansfield

We live in a postmodern world where truth is conditional on holding the right opinions, which are, conveniently, the beliefs of the most educated generation in history – at least in relation to computers and social media – and the most uneducated in, literally, everything else. They know nothing except what they are feeling, and they’ve been told what to feel, which is that someone evil or something intangible is responsible for the ills of the world – or, in a new iteration of an old rhetorical fallacy, that their anxiety or the ache in their toe is the reason why free speech should be curtailed. It’s solipsism, narcissism and anti-reason manifesting on a global scale. And it’s all done with smiley emojis, conspicuous compassion, virtue signalling and socially sanctioned empathy.

The name of this intellectual disease is wokeness, or identity politics, and it is an assault on logic, common sense, kindness and decency. It’s also, most importantly, a philosophy with no notion of forgiveness. Once you have sinned against its ever-changing tenets, you will be cast out of society. Ritual displays of contrition, repentance and obsequiousness will have no effect on your humiliation. Redemption is absent from the woke catechism. And, after destroying someone’s life, the modern-day Jacobins who champion this ideology congratulate each other, paradoxically, on their morality.Declan Mansfield

Every local authority is the servant of the people. The powers given to Local Government are to increase the local authority’s ability to serve all the people and to increase its capacity for such service. It is not, nor should it ever be about named selective service. – Gerry Eckhoff

Here in New Zealand some 57 years later our Government legislates that people are indeed to be judged but only by the colour of their skin. Sometimes we really do need to protect our country from our Government. – Gerry Eckhoff

You do not defend free speech by demanding it for yourself but by demanding it for others, especially when you reprehend the use to which they put it or what they say. Freedom to agree with yourself is no freedom at all and inevitably ends in tyranny.

But increasingly a tyranny of self-proclaimed virtue seems to be the aim of university-trained intellectuals who, in the name of their own beneficence, seek to silence those whose opinions they find objectionable. It is the very class that one might have supposed had most to fear from censorship, both legal and extra-legal, that most strongly advocates it. – Theodore Dalrymple

What seems to me clear is that central governments and the managers of lesser or subordinate institutions, such as the police and universities, increasingly think of themselves in the way that Stalin thought, or said that he thought, of writers: namely as the engineers of souls.

This they deem to be necessary because, left to themselves, people are inclined to think the wrong thoughts, and wrong thoughts are very dangerous, especially to those who invariably have the right thoughts.

Indeed, so dangerous are wrong ideas that their expression should either be criminalized or those who express them socially marginalized, preferably ostracized; but since prevention is better than cure, children, adolescents and young adults should be immunised against them by indoctrination. – Theodore Dalrymple

The simple act of self-compassion can lift a whole lot of stress and pressure off your shoulders. And it makes it easier to find compassion for others: to recognise they stuff up, get it wrong or aren’t as helpful as they should be. – Dougal Sutherland

In a high-trust, low-enforcement environment, which we’ve been working under, people must comply or we have to change the way we do things. The “Be Kind” mantra needs to become a “Be Responsible or You’ll Suffer the Consequences” edict. – Kerre McIvor

An organisation confident in its recommendations should not fear transparency about its modelling. – Oliver Hartwich

While the gas BBQ is becoming a distant memory, I for one, miss them. It is still BBQ weather after all, probably because the rest of the world hasn’t bothered to cut its emissions. – Steen Videbeck

The roughly $1080 paid to a full-time worker in South Auckland forced to stay home for 14 days leaves barely $100 in the bank after rent. – Jo Moir

Getting the country to play ball for the next six days and once again nip Covid in the bud is the biggest test the country’s faced in quite some time. – Jo Moir


There is a better way

01/03/2021

You’ve got to feel sorry for Aucklanders.

Level 2 is bad enough for the rest of us with the impact on businesses and the uncertainty about public events and private functions.

How much worse if must be for Aucklanders at Level 3 – again.

It’s easy to say with hindsight, shifting the city out of Level 3 after only three days was a mistake.

There’s no point looking back to cast blame but we must learn from what’s gone wrong and look forward to how to do much better.

And National has a plan for that:

National is urging the Government to get on top of the latest Covid-19 outbreak in Auckland by adopting a five-point plan for managing community cases, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti say.

National’s five-point plan for managing community outbreaks:

  1. Introduce rapid antigen testing – nasal swab tests that return results in 15 minutes.
  2. Roll out high intensity, well-staffed testing stations across Papatoetoe and at every single location of interest
  3. Conduct higher intensity wastewater testing at suburb and sub-suburb levels in Papatoetoe
  4. Set aside enough vaccines for all border and port workers, then priority vaccinate South Auckland
  5. Increase monitoring of people who are required to self-isolate, including spot checks

Mr Bishop says New Zealand should follow the example of Taiwan where managed isolation at home comes with strict protocols, such as random phone calls and requests to confirm their location through a video call or supplying an image.

“The high trust approach we take to self-isolation in this country comes with risks, as we’ve seen over the past few days.

“New Zealanders have largely done a great job of following self-isolation advice but it’s unlikely we’ll ever have 100 per cent compliance, and it’s extremely frustrating when a small number of people don’t follow the rules.

“Monitoring of self-isolators should be ramped up to guarantee compliance. This means regular spot checks, and if no contact is made within 24 hours then police are involved.”

The Government also needs to roll out more staff across more testing sites to cut down waiting times and make it easier for people to visit a testing station, Mr Bishop says.

“Long queues and wait times will discourage people from getting tested. We need to fix this.”

Dr Reti says the Government should also introduce rapid antigen testing in New Zealand. These nasal swab tests provide results in 15 minutes and are common overseas.

“Rapid antigen testing would allow us to test large numbers of New Zealanders, quickly. Those who test positive would then have their results confirmed by a standard PCR test.

“These tests are common in other countries like the United States where there are FDA-approved home test kits for less than $15.

“They are especially good for giving quick answers and peace of mind to people who are showing symptoms of illness and want to know if they have Covid-19.”

Rapid antigen tests would be an added layer of testing alongside the standard nasal PCR tests already being done here. Our Government already considers them reliable enough to accept them as a pre-departure test for arrival into New Zealand.

Dr Reti says there should be daily wastewater inspection at ports, and at a more granular level in Papatoetoe than just the main interceptors.

The Government should also set aside enough vaccines for all border and port workers, then priority vaccinate South Auckland, starting with Papatoetoe High school followed by wider Papatoetoe in parallel with border and health workers.

“South Auckland presents an increased risk of transmission due to the density of its population and the number of border workers who reside there,” Dr Reti says.

We understand the need to prioritise other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, for vaccination but stopping outbreaks at the source is also a form of protection of these groups.”

That we’ve been able to enjoy a summer as near to normal as it could be with the border closed looks more and more as if it was due to good luck than good management.

We can’t keep relying on luck.

None of the suggested improvements National is suggesting look difficult and whatever the cost it would be less expensive than shutting down Auckland and restricting what the rest of us can do, again.

 


Oh dear

24/02/2021

Anyone with a heart would have sympathy for someone who flew to Mexico to visit family members with terminal illnesses even if official advice on the government’s SafeTravel website urges all New Zealanders to remain in the country.

But Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March opened himself up to criticism when he tried to get early entry to MIQ on his return and the case for criticism has got stronger:

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March tried not once, but twice, to get an emergency spot in managed isolation, the first time as a “critical health service” and the second time as “required for national security”. 

In a written parliamentary response to National MP Chris Bishop, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed that both applications for an emergency spot in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) were declined.  . . 

As they should have been.

The written response from Hipkins shows Menéndez March first applied for an emergency spot in MIQ on January 13 under category 2b. 

It’s reserved for people whose entry to New Zealand is time-critical for the purpose of delivering specialist health services required to prevent serious illness, injury or death; or the maintenance of essential health infrastructure. 

He then applied for a second time on January 15, under category 2d, for New Zealand and non-New Zealand citizens, where urgent travel is required for national security, national interest or law enforcement reasons. 

“It is extraordinary chutzpah for a new MP to claim they are critical to delivering public health services, or critical for national security. It just beggars belief,” Bishop told Newshub. “The emergency MIQ allocation is not meant to be for MPs trying it on to come home.”

Menéndez March told Newshub he applied for the category thinking he would qualify as a public servant. . . 

Oh dear, that doesn’t say much about his understanding of his lack of importance.

A Minister wouldn’t qualify under either of those categories, a back bencher who thought he might needs some very clear lessons about his role and its lowly status when it comes to critical health services, national security, national interest and law enforcement.


Partisanship trumps right for right and left

15/02/2021

Partisanship from Republicans allowed former USA President Donald Trump to escape impeachment.

. . .The final vote, 57-43, fell 10 short of the two-thirds majority needed to convict Trump on a charge of incitement of insurrection. . . 

In the vote, seven of the 50 Senate Republicans joined the chamber’s unified Democrats to convict Trump, but it was not enough to find him guilty. . . 

Those seven let right overrule the partisanship that led the rest of their colleagues to vote against impeachment.

At least there were seven with the courage to vote against their party.

No-one at all in Labour stood up for what was right when Chris Bishop moved a vote of no confidence in the Speaker Trevor Mallard    which Barry Soper says shows their hypocrisy:

Jacinda Ardern preaches about it time and again: How we should all be kind to each other and to look after our wellbeing.

Well, the Prime Minister’s just lost all moral authority to preach to us about niceness, because on that score she’s failed miserably – and so have her Labour sheep in Parliament.

You just had to hear them bleating in Parliament’s debating chamber as National’s Chris Bishop attempted against all odds to move a vote of no confidence in Speaker Trevor Mallard. . . 

If they were an open and transparent Government, if they were democratic and prepared to have the country listen to why National’s lost confidence in Mallard, they could have remained silent and the debate could proceed, even if at the end of it Mallard would remain in his job.

Perhaps they felt the argument for removing him would have been so overwhelming – and it would have been – that their defence of him would have burned their political capital in bucket loads.

So in reality they are now telling us it’s okay to call a man a rapist, to ruin his life leaving him bereft and jobless? Well, that would seem to be the case.

For Ardern to simply say Mallard made a mistake and he’s atoned with an apology for it is simply not good enough.

Within 24 hours of labelling the man a rapist, Mallard says he realised he was wrong. But he waited for 18 months, leaving the taxpayer with a $330,000 legal bill, before he admitted it. He waited for the last day Parliament was sitting to make public his dreadful mistake and issue an apology, on the same day that the Royal Commission into the mosque shootings delivered its report and knowing Ardern had finished her round for media interviews for the year.

This was simply his attempt to bury it, to hope no one noticed.

Mallard may be safe in his job but is now without any moral authority.

Not only has he no moral authority his inability to do the right thing after besmirching a man’s reputation with an unwarranted slur that cost him his job and his health, his colleagues in standing with him have lost some of theirs too.


Wrong & dishonourable

10/02/2021

Trevor Mallard is entitled to be could the Right Honourable.

His allegations that a parliamentary staffer was a rapist, allowing the saga to drag on and only making a very belated apology months later, after litigation and a payment of more than $300,000 for his own and the staffer’s legal costs were wrong and dishonourable.

National moved a vote of no confidence in him yesterday.

Shadow leader of the House Chris Bishop said the attempt to out Mallard was “a matter of principle”.

“We’re very clear that his behaviour is not up to the job of the Speaker.

“It’s just simply not appropriate to have the Speaker of the House besmirching the dignity of Parliament in the way that he has and failing to uphold the standards of the House that he himself is in charge of enforcing,” said Bishop. . . .

The vote wasn’t allowed.

National will try again today but are very unlikely to win.

That might not be all bad for the opposition because it will ensure the matter continues to fester and provide them with opportunities to point out that in opposing the motion Mallard’s Labour colleagues are neither honourable nor right too.


Front to back

20/01/2021

Last year Chris Hipkins said New Zealand would be at the front of the queue for vaccinations:

. . . Hipkins told TVNZ1’s Breakfast this morning New Zealand was “very well placed” to get its hands on successful vaccines for the virus, which has so far killed more than 1.3 million people worldwide.

“Without going into detail I think we’re in a very good place to ensure that as vaccines start to come to market New Zealand will be at the front of the queue to be getting vaccines,” he said. . . 

If that’s the case, why is the government scrambling to get vaccines for border staff?

It’s disappointing the Government is only now trying to get a batch of vaccines for our frontline workers when this should have been a priority in the first place, National’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Three months ago COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand was at the front of the queue for a vaccine. Now we are begging providers to give us a small batch to vaccinate frontline staff.

“This is a Government failure, pure and simple.

“Why has it taken pressure from National to kick the Government into action and source vaccines for our border workers?

“If the contracts the Government originally signed with vaccine manufacturers included a contingency for vaccinating frontline workers, we wouldn’t be in this position. The fact that we are is due to negligence from the Government.

“If Singapore and other countries, many without COVID-19, are able to vaccinate their border workers immediately, why can’t we?

“So much for going hard and going early.”

While we have no community transmission there is validity in the argument that other countries have priority for mass vaccinations.

But that doesn’t weaken the case for offering vaccines to workers at the border and in Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities.

Their health is at risk all the time they are near incoming travellers and if they contract the disease there is a very real risk that we will have community transmission.

Once again the mantra hard and early is contradicted by actions that are lax and late.


Bubble babble

14/12/2020

When a joint media release from two Prime Ministers is headlined next steps towards quarantine-free travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand you’d expect it to be about progress. Instead we get this:

. . . Both Prime Ministers and their Cabinets have instructed officials to continue working together to put in place all measures required to safely recommence two-way quarantine-free travel in the first quarter of 2021. . . 

This bubble babble is sadly typical of the PM and her government who so often mistake media releases for action.

It means no more than a continuation of what’s been happening and progress towards opening the borders is far too slow:

The Cook Islands bubble is taking far too long to set up, there is no reason why it shouldn’t already be in place, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Today’s announcement of ‘next steps’ in travel between the Cook Islands and New Zealand is an utterly meaningless statement that does no more than repeat that officials are still working on the issue.

“The Prime Minister must explain the delay when a month ago she said there was ‘progress’ and that it would only take ‘a couple of weeks’ before a bubble would be up and running once both sides were happy. . .

“New Zealand officials have been and returned from the Cook Islands, although even that trip was delayed and far later than it should have been.

“The Cooks are heavily dependent on tourism, from New Zealand in particular. Pre-Covid, tourism made up 85 per cent of GDP. Getting the bubble up and running should be a high priority as it will help save jobs and livelihoods in our Pacific neighbour.

“New Zealanders and the Cook Islands need answers from the Government as to why it’s taking so long. A tepid statement that officials are working towards quarter one next year is meaningless given statements in the past.

“‘Quarter one’ could easily mean late March, which even assuming nothing goes wrong, is months away. In the meantime we’re going to see businesses fall under and both Kiwis and Cook Islanders lose their jobs. The Government needs to get on with the job immediately.

“The Government should release a copy of the ‘arrangement to facilitate quarantine-free between the Cook Islands and New Zealand’ so that all parties know what the requirements are.”

The Cooks are Covid-free and there is no community transmission in New Zealand. Why the glacial pace for opening the borders?

The bubble babble about opening the border to travellers from Australia is even worse. Steven Joyce dissects them:

. . . The Prime Minister’s reasons for further delay, as reported in the Herald yesterday, are ridiculously weak. There were basically three of them. Let’s take them in turn.

The PM is reportedly concerned that Australia could have a looser definition of a Covid flare-up than New Zealand. It seems like there is an easy solution to this. New Zealand retains sovereign control over its borders and the Government could reinstate a quarantine requirement at any time. Having a bubble doesn’t mean always agreeing with Australia’s definition of risk.

The second problem is apparently that having fewer Australians in quarantine facilities would allow more people from other countries at greater risk to come into our quarantine facilities. This would increase the numbers of people in quarantine that could have Covid.

Let’s think about that for a second. Are we really keeping people arriving from Australia in isolation, even though it’s not necessary, in order to reduce the number of people from other countries in quarantine who could have Covid? Seriously?

A lot of those people are New Zealanders who are being forced to queue for MIQ places in order to get back to family, friends and/or work.

An alternative view is that freeing up nearly half of the quarantine facilities currently taken up by travellers from Australia would allow faster processing of critical workers and Kiwis from elsewhere who are currently queuing on the other side of the border. Which would surely be a good thing.

Our biggest risk is people coming in from countries other than Australia who are in MIQ. Putting people from Australia, many of whom would be Kiwis, in MIQ increases the risk they will contract the disease from people in the same hotel.

The third problem identified is what happens to Kiwis already in Australia if we have to close the bubble again. Well, I’m thinking they would then have to use quarantine to come back. Which seems a no-brainer. And if this is an argument for not opening a bubble we will never open one.

That’s pretty much it. The Prime Minister is suggesting that we need to postpone our end of a transtasman bubble till at least February to deal with these supposedly intractable issues, which a competent set of people could solve in roughly five minutes. . . 

Requiring MIQ for Trans-Tasman travellers is splitting families and friends, keeping people from visiting the dying and attending funerals, adding costs and imposing restrictions on businesses. It’s also withholding a lifeline from the beleaguered tourism industry.

Restricting freedom of movement is one of the most serious restraints a government can impose on its people.

Australia has opened its border to travellers from here. The reasons the PM has given for not reciprocating are spurious and the government should address any real issues and open the border from Australia before it goes on holiday.

 


Two reports and an apology

09/12/2020

It is natural to seek to determine who is responsible when an atrocity has occurred and to find someone to blame.

That is not always possible.

The report from the Royal Commission on the Christchurch Mosque murders found several government agencies could have done better but did not point the finger at any individuals.

However, Judith Collins is correct to point out who was responsible:

. . .“The atrocities committed on March 15, 2019 were the actions of an evil terrorist designed to spread fear and silence those who did not share his world view. But the actions of New Zealanders since then in denouncing him and what he stood for is proof that he failed. . . 

“The Opposition stands ready to work constructively with the Government to ensure sure we learn from this event and make New Zealand a safer place for all five million of us.

“Ultimately, the person responsible is the one serving a life sentence without parole. But it appears certain systems within Government could have, and should have, performed better.

Brenton Tarrant admitted committing the crimes. We will never know who the individuals in the government agencies were whose work fell short of what should have been required.

But we need to know that the required changes to fix the shortcomings are made.

“In principle, we support strengthening the role of our security and intelligence agencies but we must tread carefully to safeguard New Zealanders’ rights and liberties.

“We cannot end up sacrificing our liberal democracy, otherwise we will end up with the sort of New Zealand this terrorist was trying to create.

Among those rights and liberties are freedom of speech which must be protected.

“It is clear this terrorist should never have had a gun license and we support moves by the police to improve training and firearms licence vetting.

“But more needs to be done to get guns out of the hands of criminals, and National’s proposed Firearms Prohibition Orders are a crucial tool that we need in this fight.

“We have shown that, as a nation, we are not prepared to give into fear, we are not prepared to tolerate extreme hate, and we are not prepared to let anything like the wickedness that took place on March 15 ever happen in New Zealand again.”

No laws can ever make a country and its population 100% safe.

In addressing the shortcomings that enabled the March 15 attacks to happen the government must make sure it doesn’t over react and mistake excessive restrictions for safety.

The Royal Commission report was released yesterday. Another report has yet to be made public:

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins must immediately release the Roche/Simpson review report into our border testing systems, National’s Covid-19 Recovery spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

The Government commissioned this report under urgency in late August after its border testing systems failed spectacularly, and Chris Hipkins told Parliament today a copy of the report was sent to him on 30 September.

“The report should have been released before the election – but as we learned today in Parliament, the Government has simply sat on the report since then. The Minister would not even commit today in Parliament to releasing the report before Christmas,” Mr Bishop says.

“This is simply unacceptable. As the Minister himself said when announcing the report, ‘the Group’s formation represents another key step in our ongoing battle against Covid-19. As has been our approach from the start, we are continuously reviewing our systems and finding ways to improve. That approach will continue’.

“Getting our border response right is critical for the future of this country. With businesses closing down and Kiwis losing their jobs, we can’t afford to waste time not considering this report.”

It was also revealed in Parliament today that the Ministry of Health disagrees with elements of the report.

“The suspicion must be that the Ministry has spent the time since 30 September fighting to stop the report being released and trying to change the findings of the independent panel.

“There is now even more reason for the report to be released without any changes that may be insisted on by the Ministry of Health. The Government appointed these independent reviewers and the public deserves to see their findings.”

The mosque murders were atrocious but another terror attack is a remote possibility. Community transmission of Covid-19 owing to holes in the border is much more likely.

Whether or not the MoH agrees with the report, the review was done by independent people and not only do we have a right to know what their findings are, we need to know so we can be be sure that any issues it highlights are addressed.

While we await the release of the report, we have had an apology:

Parliament’s Speaker Trevor Mallard has apologised for comments he made last year claiming a rapist was working on the premises.

He made the remarks on RNZ shortly after the release of a report which revealed frequent bullying and harassment at Parliament.

Mallard later told reporters a staffer had been stood down and a “threat to the safety of women” removed.

In a statement released today, Mallard said it was “incorrect” of him to give the impression the man had been accused of rape “as that term is defined in the Crimes Act 1961”.

Mallard had provided a personal apology to the man for the “distress and humiliation” caused to the worker and his family, the statement said.

“Both parties consider this matter is now closed and no further comment will be made.” . . 

There is no mention of compensation for the worker who lost his job and we’re very unlikely to find out how much he received.

It will have been made by Parliamentary Services which is not subject to Official Information Act requirements.

One report has been released, another has not and we’ll almost certainly never know how much Mallard’s loose lips have cost us. And quelle surprise, his apology was announced when all attention was on the Royal Commission’s report. Given this is an open and transparent government, that would just be an unfortunate coincidence, wouldn’t it?


Rural round-up

29/11/2020

RSE deal too little too late:

The Government’s announcement it’s allowing 2000 horticultural workers enter New Zealand through the RSE scheme is better than nothing, but it’s still just a drop in the bucket of what is actually needed, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Overall this is a poor deal for New Zealand’s horticulture industry, for New Zealand, and for the RSE workers themselves. Firstly, 2000 workers is not enough, it’s less than one seventh of quota (which is more than 14,000) of RSE workers the sector would normally have available to pick these key export products.

“Secondly, it’s far too little and far too late. Spring and early summer crops have already missed out on these workers, but the Government has known about these problems for months, and is only acting at the eleventh hour.

“The time has come to allow RSE workers from Pacific countries to isolate in bubbles in RSE accommodation, like sports teams, provided by the industry. The countries where these RSE workers come from are Covid-free so there is little to no risk of transmission in transit as workers will come direct to New Zealand. . . 

Government’s seasonal workers move ‘not enough, but a good start’ – Charlotte Cook:

An influx of seasonal workers is a relief for the horticulture and wine industries with the government giving a border exemption to 2000 seasonal workers.

The experienced workers will begin arriving from the Pacific in January and will spend two weeks in isolation before starting the harvest.

So after months of angst, the horticulture and wine sector will get some of the seasonal workers they are desperate for.

But they come with a cost. Employers must first pay for managed isolation – currently estimated at $4722 per person and pay at least $22.10 an hour – the living wage. . .

Farrow crate use ‘saves piglets’ lives’ – Sally Rae:

Former New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter is saddened by a High Court ruling that the use of farrowing crates is unlawful, saying they save “millions” of piglets globally every year.

Animal welfare groups Safe and the New Zealand Animal Law Association took the Attorney-general, the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) to court in June saying the use of farrowing and mating crates breached the Animal Welfare Act 1999, RNZ reported.

In its decision, the court said the agriculture minister must consider new regulations phasing out the use of farrowing crates and mating stalls, and improve minimum standards.

Mr Carter, who farms in North Otago, said no other system got close to meeting the needs of farmed pigs. He estimated farrowing crates could save more than 200 piglets a day in New Zealand if they were universally used. . . 

Dairying family reaps rewards from robots :

Manawatū dairy farmers Amy and Greg Gemmell are enjoying more family time these days, thanks to three shiny machines in their dairy shed.

No longer does Greg need to be out of the house before dawn to milk the herd as they have installed robots to do that chore 24/7.

The cows come to the dairy shed whenever they feel like it to be milked.

“They come in when they’re ready,” Amy says. . . 

A swing to sheep milk:

Switching from milking goats and cows to milking sheep has been likened to swimming three lengths underwater by Te Aroha dairy goat and cow farmer Paul Schuler.

He is one of four Waikato based farmers that this season have taken on milking sheep for Maui Milk.

Come June, as his new sheep were about to arrive on the former cow farm, he was still completing  a milking shed and fixing fences.

Covid slowed developement down, but Schuler says the ram didn’t know that. His lambs were going to arrive on time. . . 

Researchers make wheat genome breakthrough – Gregor Heard:

Just two years after the bread wheat genome was finally mapped for the first time, a crack team of international scientists, including researchers from the University of Western Australia, have sequenced and analysed the genomes of 16 key wheat varieties from around the globe.

The research, including varieties that represent different breeding programs from around the world, provides the most comprehensive atlas of wheat genome sequences reported to date.

The genomic study, published in Nature Journal by the University of Saskatchewan, involved an international effort by more than 90 scientists from universities and institutes in Australia, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, the U.K., Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Israel, and the U.S. . . 

 

 


Twyford touch derails another promise

24/06/2020

Another broken promise:

Auckland’s light rail project is officially an election issue after the Government gave up on trying to reach an agreement on which plan to back.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the Auckland Light Rail process had “ended” this morning.

“Despite extensive cross-party consultation, Government parties were unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal,” Twyford said.

“The future of the project will now be decided by the government following September’s general election.” . . 

That’s another reason to ensure this government isn’t the next one.

National’s transport spokesman Chris Bishop described the issue as an “epic fail” of a similar scale to Kiwibuild, saying it was one of Labour’s first promises during the 2017 election.

“They said it would be built to Mount Roskill, not just started, but built from the Auckland CBD to Mount Roskill by 2021, which is just next year,” Bishop told RNZ.

“After three years of work, millions of dollars to consultants and lawyers and policy advice, back and forth, we have no route, no consent, no business case, we have no plan, we have no estimate of the cost.

“Light rail’s actually gone backwards compared to what it was three years ago.” . . .

Three years and millions of dollars have been squandered on another project that has fallen victim to the Twyford touch.

Like KiwiBuild, this is another expensive failure of a policy that should never have been promised in the first place.


More questions on slush fund

21/01/2020

The Provincial Growth Fund is in the news for the wrong reason again:

A forestry company with close links to New Zealand First says it gave a presentation to Shanne Jones about a project it was seeking a $15 million government loan for – months before Jones says he first heard of it.

When NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) applied for Provincial Growth Fund money on 8 April, 2019, the company was asked whether the project had been “previously discussed” with the government.

The application form shows NZFFP ticked the ‘yes’ box and said it had made a “presentation to the Minister” about its forestry and wood processing plans “including descriptions of the applicant”.

Jones, a New Zealand First MP who is forestry minister and the minister responsible for the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, has consistently claimed he first heard about the NZFFP bid on 14 October last year. . . 

Jones refused to be interviewed over the latest revelation but in a statement said the presentation never happened. “There was no presentation as described by the applicants,” he said.

The statement said Jones “did not have any Ministerial meetings to discuss the application”.

After being asked if he had any meetings at all with any NZFFP representatives in 2019, he responded in a statement “no”. He went on to say he was “not involved in PGF-related conversations with the Henrys under the guise of NZFFP”.

But in an interview with RNZ, David Henry, who is Brian Henry’s son and the NZFFP director who signed the application form, said the presentation was a 15-minute meeting he and Jones had in Wellington.

“We had a discussion with Shane. I think it was about a 15-minute chat. Whether you want to call it a briefing or a presentation – it was a short discussion generally about the New Zealand wood supply chain and what we personally believed.” . . 

The application was turned down, but National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says that still leaves questions to be answered:

“While no money changed hands, the process is even more important than the substantive outcome because of the close links between those involved and the historical murkiness of Shane Jones’ $3 billion slush fund.”

That is the nub of the problem – the PGF is a slush fund with few if any of the checks and balances in the allocation process which ought to precede any spending of taxpayers’ funds.


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