Feeding on fear no substitute for policy

16/07/2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called a press conference yesterday morning.

A quick look at main New Zealand news websites had several, by and large positive, stories about Judith Collins the new leader of the Opposition but I had to look hard to find anything about the PM’s speech.

That was a good thing because if you go to the Beehive website and read the speech you’ll find it was a cynical attempt to feed fear about Covid-19.

It speaks about the risk of the disease spreading in the community and what will be done should that happen.

That didn’t tell us anything new.

Anyone who follows international news doesn’t have to look far to understand that in spite of more than 70 days with no cases of community spread, it could still happen when New Zealanders who are infected are coming home and what the response would have to be.

So why make that speech and why yesterday?

It was a cynical and deliberately timed attempt to take media attention away from new National leader Judith Collins, feed the fear many still have of an outbreak of Covid-19 and distract from Labour’s lack of policy.

Then Ardern had the gall to pretend she wasn’t politicking:

After a speech setting out how New Zealand would respond if another Covid-19 outbreak was to occur, the Prime Minister was asked about the front-page news of the day: Judith Collins.

Jacinda Ardern demurred, offering neither congratulations nor commiserations for the National Party and its new leader.

“I’m spending more time about New Zealand’s response and economic recovery from Covid-19,” Ardern said.

“I accept there will be politicking this year. I accept we have an election. But if I’m being brutally honest, my mind hasn’t been focused on that to date.”

Honest? That is anything but.

“I absolutely accept that there is an election this year – and there is no avoiding that – but at the moment it’s taking up a bare minimum of my attention.”

Is this an admission that she can deal with only one thing at a time?

It’s also quite an odd way of putting it. Ardern doesn’t have the choice to “accept” whether there is an election this year. Elections are the means by which the Government has legitimacy and power; not minor inconveniences on the path to Covid-19 recovery.

This kind of language plays into a wider strategy that is emerging from Ardern and Labour to basically pretend there isn’t an election. With the global pandemic continuing to dominate the news cycle it makes total sense to stick to governing, or at least look like you are. “Politicking” is something other parties who are in trouble do, what with their leadership changes and leaking drama, you just get to govern. After all, people like Prime Minister Ardern much more than Labour leader Ardern, and the best campaign is a well-governed country. . . 

The response to the pandemic, particularly the claim about going hard and early, can be debated but the result that allows most of us to live life as normal, bar international travel, can not. However, government’s success in many other areas, in particular Labour flagship policies such as KiwiBuild and reducing child poverty, are open to attack.

That’s why Ardern wants to keep the attention on Covid-19 and away from other issues which she and her largely lacklustre team are ill-equipped to handle.

Thus far Labour has released a single election policy, which deals with afforestation of farmland and seems mostly engineered to give Kieran McAnulty a good shot in Wairarapa. When you ask about other policy areas, MPs either say “maybe soon” or point to wider government policy on an issue. But the Government is not the Labour Party, it is a set of compromises between Labour and two parties with wildly different views. Kiwis can’t vote for “the Government” – much like they can’t vote for Ardern herself. They can vote for a party, and they deserve a coherent set of values and promises to make that decision on. . .

A coherent set of values and promises to make a decision on would only remind voters that three years ago Labour campaigned on let’s do this and has been much better at speeches and media releases than actually doing anything.

Collins promised to not underestimate Ardern as a foe. Ardern is unlikely to be underestimating Collins in return. But she can only float above the partisan fray for so long. At some point she will need to dig in and fight a real ideological battle with the National Party – especially as its leader is now making promises to “take our country back”. That’s what elections are for.

They are, and National’s chances of winning have been greatly enhanced by the leadership change. Heather du Plessis-Allan says Collins nailed her first day as leader:

You can see the strategy. Collins is going to try to show Ardern how the job should be done.

And if she pulls it off, it could well look like the grownups have finally arrived.

That would be grown ups who understand there’s a lot more to governing than good communication, it takes a lot more than three or four people to run a country and feeding fear of a pandemic is no substitute for robust policy and the ability to deliver it.


Rural round-up

18/03/2018

Camp manager returns to roots – Philip Chandler:

Managing Camp Glenorchy, which officially opened on Tuesday, is like coming full circle for Peter Kerr.

The 58-year-old’s stellar hotel career had its humble beginnings in Queenstown.

Dunedin-raised, he got to know the resort because his parents had a holiday home in Hallenstein St.

He had plans to go farming after leaving school, but a car accident – not his worst, as it turned out – put paid to that.

After two months in hospital he shifted to Queenstown and to subsidise his skiing, which he had fallen in love with, started working at the Frankton Motor Hotel as a trainee manager. . . 

$160m Kiwi cannabis export deal to US – Madison Reidy:

New Zealand’s only large scale medicinal cannabis grower has inked a $160 million conditional deal to supply a United States manufacturer. 

Under the deal Ruatoria-based Hikurangi Cannabis will send three tonnes of cannabidiol extracts, THC extracts and whole cannabis flowers to Seattle-based cannabis brokerage company Rhizo Sciences next year and up to 12 tonnes by 2021.

Hikurangi has a crop of 5000 plants. Rhizo also has suppliers in Africa, Europe, Australia and North America. . . 

Rabbit hunt postponed due to rabbit virus release

Alexandra’s annual Great Easter Bunny Hunt has been postponed so the newly released K5 rabbit virus has time to work.

The first batches of the virus were released in Central Otago this week at two sites monitored by Landcare Research.

Hunt convener Dave Ramsay, of the Alexandra Lions’ Club, said because there were so many rabbits in the district, the organising committee decided it was necessary to support the introduction of the virus by not holding the hunt, which attracts hundreds of people from across the country.

“We made the decision to see this thing [the virus] work,” Mr Ramsay said.. . 

Old season wool overflow is selling well – Alan Williams:

Large volumes of last season’s crossbred wool are coming out of storage as farmers decide it’s time to meet the market.

That wind-change in sentiment has put pressure on auction values in February and March, but prices, while still low, have crept up slightly at some of the Napier and Christchurch sales, PGG Wrightson South Island sales manager Dave Burridge said.

The older wool has been coming to market along with the latest wool shorn over the same two months and volumes have been about 15% to 20% higher than usual for this time of year and well ahead of the levels forecast by brokers, forcing meetings to work out how to cope with the extra.” . . 

Farm tick coming – Stephen Bell:

An assurance programme to guarantee New Zealand farm products’ environmental and sustainability credentials to the world is being developed by the Ministry of Primary Industries, Labour MP Kieran McAnulty told the Future Farming conference in Palmerston North.

And from now on all Government decisions, no matter what portfolios they relate to, will have to pass a rural-proofing test to assess their impact on provincial people and their communites, McAnulty, speaking of behalf of Agriculture, Biosecurity and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor, said.

The Government is also reviewing the Biosecuruity Act and plans to enhance the protection of the primary sector by allocating enough resources to protect the country from future incursions. . . 

Manawatū farmer unveils gumboot cleaning device at Central Districts Field Days – Sam Kilmister:

There’s a famous New Zealand folk song that asks “if it weren’t for your gumboots, where would ya be?”. 

It’s a question that Manawatū farmer Ivan Wildbore could put his own spin on as punters stopped by his site at the Central Districts Field Days in Feilding on Friday – if it weren’t for clean gumboots, where would you be? 

The Feilding entrepeneur unveiled the Yuk-Off at the agricultural expo this week, a boot washer he designed that even Fred Dagg would be proud of.  . . 


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