Quotes of the month

01/10/2021

Our Parliament has never before been unilaterally shut by the Speaker. Open Democracy reports that 31 authoritarian governments have used Covid to shut or limit parliaments. Now the list is 32 countries.  –  Richard Prebble

There seems to be a strange alliance developing between the urban environmentalists on the one hand and huge financial interests on the other. The environmentalists want “green” technology not so much to preserve the environment, for whose aesthetic aspects they care little, but as evidence that they “care.” A 600-foot white windmill in a beauty spot does not offend them, on the contrary, they rejoice at it; they see not a bird-slaying eyesore, but an almost religious symbol of salvation, much as crosses used to be placed in the countryside in once-Christian countries. As to the actual effect on the environment, whether the windmill saves or expends energy overall is something that very few of them would be able to compute, but is beside the point, which is to demonstrate compassion toward the biosphere. Meanwhile, subsidies make millionaires. No subsidies, no windmills.Theodore Dalrymple

Intention these days is nine-tenths of virtue, and intention is measured mainly by what people say that their intentions are. After all, each of us is expert on his own intentions, perhaps the only subject on which he is really expert; and therefore if I say I want more 600-feet windmills because that is the only by which the planet be saved, who can gainsay it? – Theodore Dalrymple

I concede, however, that many people feel differently, and regard their car as a symbol of their freedom to be mobile. Voluntary servitude is a well-known condition, but let it not be electrified into the bargain.Theodore Dalrymple

Indeed, looking backwards is a big part of New Zealand’s current predicament. The puttering start to the vaccine rollout while other countries sped ahead. The obvious shortcomings with our managed isolation and quarantine facilities. The Ministry of Health’s failure to stress-test its contact tracing capabilities or even develop workable Bluetooth tracing capability. And the constant repetition of tired slogans from 2020. All this smacks of excessive satisfaction with past success. – Roger Partridge

Looking backwards, elimination has served us well. And New Zealand’s low vaccination rates means the country has no feasible alternative but to use strict lockdowns to try to stamp out the current incursion.

But how sustainable is this strategy going forwards? –  Roger Partridge

The economic costs of lockdowns are not measured by the cost to the taxpayer alone. The real financial costs are to people’s livelihoods. Economist Michael Reddell calculates that last year’s lockdowns wiped $12b from GDP last year. The current lockdown will add billions more to that. Once again, business opportunities will disappear, firms will fail, and jobs will be lost. –  Roger Partridge

Just as the financial costs of lockdown are cumulative, so too are the human costs. Curtailing freedoms comes at a high price. Medical appointments missed. Education foregone. Friends and families cut off from each other, even at times of acute emotional stress during births and bereavements. Even the loss of everyday recreational activities like a day at the beach or in the mountains takes a heavy toll. – Roger Partridge

There are no good options with Covid. But an elimination strategy that was undoubtedly optimal for the first part of the Covid journey, looks much harder to justify for the journey ahead.

A change of course would bring significant benefits. Families separated by the closed borders would have an opportunity to be reunited. Kiwis stranded overseas would have a better chance of returning. Businesses would be able to meet offshore customers and suppliers. – Roger Partridge

More than that, a new course would mark an end of an authoritarian state that at times has seemed more willing to limit our liberty than to learn from its own mistakes. – Roger Partridge

Looking back, few Kiwis would have swapped their experience during the first year-and-a-bit of the pandemic with anyone else’s around the world.

But whether the road ahead requires the same approach is another matter. There are plenty of reasons for Kiwis to question both the driving and the direction of travel. – – Roger Partridge

Anyone who accidentally creates discomfort—whether through their teaching methods, their editorial standards, their opinions, or their personality—may suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of not just a student or a colleague but an entire bureaucracy, one dedicated to weeding out people who make other people uncomfortable. And these bureaucracies are illiberal. They do not necessarily follow rules of fact-based investigation, rational argument, or due process. Instead, the formal and informal administrative bodies that judge the fate of people who have broken social codes are very much part of a swirling, emotive public conversation, one governed not by the rules of the courtroom or logic or the Enlightenment but by social-media algorithms that encourage anger and emotion, and by the economy of likes and shares that pushes people to feel—and to perform—outrage. The interaction between the angry mob and the illiberal bureaucracy engenders a thirst for blood, for sacrifices to be offered up to the pious and unforgiving gods of outrage—a story we see in other eras of history, from the Inquisition to the more recent past.  – Anne Applebaum

There’s another thesis to be written on the contrasting Covid-19 strategies adopted in Australia and New Zealand, and their strikingly different outcomes. Whoever writes it might like to consider, among other things, why New Zealand appears more amenable to lockdowns. Setting aside contrasting political structures, I think it’s another reminder that despite all our superficial similarities, the two countries are culturally and socially quite distinct. Some might say it’s the difference between a larrikin country with lawlessness in its DNA (that would be Australia, in case you’re wondering) and one whose people are meeker and more compliant – or if you prefer, more inclined to pull together in pursuit of a common goal. But I won’t stick my neck out by going any further than that.Karl du Fresne

I’m valuable enough to work in healthcare, but not valuable enough to be a resident. – Yvette du Plessis-Uys

We migrants are not burdens to this country. We are contributing to the country … but are treated like, even less than second class citizens.Thao Joy 

Lack of clarity of goals is a recipe both for inefficiency and an opportunity for bureaucratic overgrowth. Practically nothing goes uncontested; all is confusion. The police are unsure whether their job is to keep public order, prevent and detect crime, or engage in social engineering, by, say, eliminating expressions of hatred or joining in local carnivals by dancing in them. Are teachers supposed to impart certain basic skills and knowledge to children, or turn them into right-thinking mental clones, incapable of bad thoughts? Absurdities proliferate, generating heat but no light. – Theodore Dalrymple

The secret of success, it seems, is an intellectually modest, but very clear, goal in the national interest. In such circumstances, organizational complexity can be managed. It is ideological confusion of purpose that conduces to incompetence.Theodore Dalrymple

Chief Human Rights Commissioners, however, are supposed to uphold the secular character of the New Zealand state. As public servants, they are not entitled to talk like Archbishops. They may tell us what is lawful and unlawful. They may even reiterate the purposes of the Act of Parliament which created their office. But they have no mandate whatsoever to instruct New Zealanders on what is “Right” and what is “Wrong”. – Chris Trotter

Criticism of Ardern is not that she again locked down the country on August 17. Everyone accepts she had no choice, given the circumstances. The criticism is why those circumstances prevailed.Matthew Hooton

Being angry about the Ardern Government’s operational failures is not the same as opposing her objective, strategy or individual decisions. In fact, it is essential those failures be highlighted and those responsible be held to account — in real time by the media, promptly by the Auditor-General and Brian Roche’s continuous monitoring committee, and ultimately by the inevitable Royal Commission into New Zealand’s Covid response and — if necessary — by the judiciary. – Matthew Hooton

Most importantly, academics, the media, the Opposition and the public have a responsibility to continually put the blowtorch on Ardern to ensure her Government prepares for the end of the elimination era a hell of a lot better than it did the arrival of Delta. Cheerleading any government is the most likely way to make it lazy and sloppy.

With Covid, that risks costing people their lives.Matthew Hooton

Current legislation is based on a false interpretation of the original Treaty documents signed by an overwhelming majority of Iwi leaders that clearly stated the terms of the deal reached between the Crown and Maori.

The fact that parts of that agreement were, in subsequent years ignored by the Crown – although reprehensible, does not in itself justify the creation of a separatist society in compensation for the “sins of our Pakeha forebears.” – Clive Bibby

This lockdown feels different. Taking the temperature of friends and colleagues, there seems less stoicism and more grumpiness. There is a weariness about people’s responses when you ask how they are going. Part of it is the novelty wearing off. Making your own bread might have been fun the first time around, but the third or fourth time, not so much. Another part is the sense that we shouldn’t be here.

No matter how much the Government spins, people know it is the low and slow vaccination rate which has meant there is no other option besides lockdown, just as it has been in the eastern states of Australia. Then there is the loss of control over your own life. That sense of frustration and powerlessness and an inability to make plans. For many, that loss of personal agency is debilitating.Steven Joyce

It doesn’t help anyone that there is no sense of direction about what comes next. The Government is playing its cards too close to its chest. Whether they haven’t thought things through or have a fear of subsequently being proven wrong, ministers aren’t saying anything substantive about the future. – Steven Joyce

People need hope. They need to know what is coming next. They need a sense of positive momentum.

And they also need to see a change in approach. There has been too much bumbling around, too much dissembling, and too much poor delivery for things to continue the way they have been.

The Government needs to start by setting a clear vaccination target and a date. It is surely now apparent people are willing to get their vaccinations. Notwithstanding the PM’s comment, the problem is supply, not demand. The Government should set a target for the country to achieve by the end of the year, and go all out to achieve it. That would give everyone something to work towards.Steven Joyce

The game-playing at 1pm also needs to stop. The Government’s management of the message risks insulting the intelligence of voters. The Ministry of Health should provide the data earlier in the day, and ministers should call press conferences when they have something significant to say. – Steven Joyce

Whether it’s a bunker mentality or ideology, it is ridiculous how many talented people who don’t work on the public payroll have been excluded from the pandemic response.

Whether it’s vaccine procurement, provision of MIQ facilities, saliva and antigen testing, contact tracing, hospital preparedness, or dragging the chain on letting pharmacies and GPs give the jabs, two-thirds of the country’s capability has been left on the bench. That has to change. Doing so would visibly give the public confidence that the Government is open to new ideas and new directions.Steven Joyce

And finally, ministers should halt their health reforms. These were designed for another time. It is ludicrous they have continued to trundle along during the pandemic, and each passing month makes it more so. It is generally a bad idea to reorganise an army while it is fighting a war, and that surely applies here.

There is no evidence from the pandemic that greater top-down centralisation of the health sector will achieve better results, and in fact the reverse. From clipboard Charlies preventing pharmacies from providing vaccines to opaque dissembling with information, there is nothing in the ministry’s recent performance that gives confidence that a national health service would do a better job than a local one.

The health sector does need reform in the future but not this reform and not now. Rip it up and let’s start again later. Put the money into the front line. – Steven Joyce

 I just hope this is another time in our country’s history where we come together to show that love is stronger than any hate.Kerre McIvor

Yet the state’s failures in other areas has been shocking. It appears no provision has been made to increase ICU capacity, despite 18 months to prepare. There is no Plan B and Plan A is failing.

Perhaps Delta has been a gift in accelerating the rate of vaccines as well as driving home the message that, in this pandemic, as in mate selection, demanding purity is an unobtainable standard that leads only to disappointment and isolation. – Damien Grant

Violence in the name of ideology is the polar opposite of free speech. It is the ultimate attempt to silence those who do not share your worldview.

Differences of political and religious opinion must be navigated with reason and dialogue. Never through violence. Never through fear.

Those who refuse to resolve ideological differences with words are the ones who turn to violence. Those who refuse to respectfully engage in civil dialogue with those they disagree with are the ones who become hateful extremists in the first place.

Freedom of speech — the fundamental human right to peacefully express one’s opinion — is an inherently non-violent principle. This is why we seek to protect it. –  Free Speech Union

But this act of terrorism is also unthinkable because it was utterly predictable.

Yet it happened anyway. No amount of finger pointing will change that.

But we deserve to know why it went so wrong. – Tracy Watkins

The same people who won’t take a vaccine that has been given to billions to people around the world – an extraordinarily safe vaccine – are willing to take a cow medicine and a cow dose, but their argument against the vaccine is that it’s not safe?Kurt Krause

As things stand, an unvaccinated employee has greater rights than her vulnerable co-worker. It is like banning non-smoking workplaces while prohibiting workers from complaining about the smoker at the next desk. – Eric Crampton

Leadership is about doing not talking. 

There are almost three million Australians directly benefiting from the doing and not a single New Zealander benefiting from the talking. – Mike Hosking

Awareness without access to mental health support is kind of like noticing you’re thirsty but having no water. Noticing the thirst may help you seek out the water, but if you are in a situation where there is literally no water, then you are probably better off trying to forget about the thirst. I’m not sure I can stomach another Mental Health Awareness Week where people are encouraged to reach out, get into nature, but absolutely nothing is done to help those people who have been desperately trying to do that, those people who have been coming up against closed doors. For some people in New Zealand, awareness is still valuable (and there are many appropriate resources available for people facing less severe mental health challenges), but there are many people who are well past awareness and what we actually need is some help.  – Lucy McLean

Twelve months later, it is no longer heretical to question the Ministry of Health’s pandemic management. Indeed, it is mainstream. The litany of the ministry’s failings is too long for questions about its fitness for purpose to be decried. The delayed start of the vaccine rollout. Ongoing border testing bungles. The inexplicable delays with saliva testing. The failure to scale up ICU capacity. The constant refrains about failures being “frustrating” or “not what we expected”. The list goes on and on. Roger Partridge

Gorman and Horn observe that the proverbial “Man from Mars” would puzzle at biosecurity in New Zealand and Australia. Both countries have sophisticated and proactive biosecurity agencies to protect against pests and diseases that threaten their agricultural sectors. Yet, when it comes to biosecurity arrangements that protect their populations from pandemics, both have been found wanting.

They have a point. Indeed, the Martian visitor might also wonder why the Government ever tasked the Ministry of Health with operating managed isolation and quarantine facilities. The ministry’s areas of expertise are in policy, procurement and regulation. It is not expert in complex logistical operations. Little wonder the Government eventually concluded the ministry was not up to the MIQ task and enlisted the army’s assistance.

Yet the Government repeated the mistake when entrusting the ministry with managing the national vaccine rollout. Is anyone surprised the rollout got off to such a poor start? – Roger Partridge

It used to be that each village had an idiot, but now those village idiots can converge online in communities, which create echo chambers that reinforce those beliefs. But if social media provides the oxygen, what about the initial spark?Jarrod Gilbert

Among the prime minister’s significant political skills is the ability to appear to answer a question without really answering it at all.  – Luke Malpass

However, it’s all very well laughing at this nonsensical verbosity, but the implications are serious. What it reveals is an inability to be honest and admit a cock-up, as the Australian PM did and apologised to the nation for, but worse, screaming incompetence and abysmally poor judgement.Bob Jones

The single greatest thing any New Zealander can do right now is go and get vaccinated; I cannot stress how important that is. The vaccines are the single greatest investment this Government, or indeed any government, will make in the economy. – Chris Bishop

The Government doesn’t believe that argument on its own rhetoric. They’re saying other countries needed it more than we did so it’s fine to be last in the world while simultaneously saying the vaccine rollout is going really well.’’

“If it’s true that the moral thing to do is for New Zealand to be second to last in the OECD, then why not give away all our vaccines now and hand them over to the developing world? There’s plenty of African countries not rolling out the vaccine, on their own rhetoric that would be the moral thing to do but we’re not doing that. Chris Bishop

I think they’ve done a pretty good job overall with Covid, but they’ve slipped into complacency and self-congratulation mode at the expense of preparation. We sat back and said, ‘We’re the best in the world, we’ve got freedoms that nobody else has, Six60 is playing at Eden Park and it’s so amazing’ (if you like Six60, which apparently people do). – Chris Bishop

The PM likes to say, ‘We were last to get Delta so we could be prepared’, but where’s the evidence that New Zealand actually spent the time being the last to get Delta, looking overseas and saying, ‘You know what, maybe we need to change up our approach here’. Chris Bishop

The two most powerful emotions a government can engage the public with are fear and hope. This Government has been superb on fear. – Mike Hosking

The messaging has been so effective, a few still think that the 26 who originally died pre-vaccine is a stat worth re-quoting ad nauseum, almost as though the world hasn’t moved on, hasn’t got a vaccine, and hasn’t worked out how to live with Covid.

It’s been so effective some still think this lockdown, although brought about solely through ineptitude in terms of failing to prepare for the inevitable outbreak by not hiring enough contact tracers, not expanding health capacity and not getting enough vaccine at a time we actually need it, is to be defended.

Yes the lockdown this time was the right thing to do, only because it was the only thing to do.  But it was the only thing to do because preparation, foresight, planning and delivery fail this government in a way I have not seen in the modern political era. – Mike Hosking

My fear about the fear is this government doesn’t like hope because it involves aspiration and promising stuff it might not be able to deliver.

Delivering fear is easy, we’ve lived it for 18 months.

If you look at the world now versus 18 months ago and look at us now versus 18 months ago, one is dramatically different and yet one isn’t.

And the one that isn’t is the one crippled by fear, not driven by hope. – Mike Hosking

When a government decides to stop citizens saying what they think, it never ends well for democracy.  – Matt McCarten

The proposed solution is far worse than the problem. Do we really feel we have to be protected from someone espousing nonsense or even venom?

When the state thinks it needs to decide what ideas can be said or heard, it’s inevitably used to suppress voices that the powerful don’t want us to hear. – Matt McCarten

So when my mates on the left say we need legislation to stop hate, my response is: we don’t. The current changes will stop people from saying what they think. Frankly, that’s worse.

Ideas we don’t like can make us uncomfortable. Every change in society requires debate. People say stupid things. Only through discussion can we win the hearts and minds of others, and then, eventually, society adopts these new ideas as a new norm. Do people really believe we should have censors determining what we can say and hear?

Suppressing voices is always worse than having a few idiots mouthing off. Matt McCarten

Anyone with knowledge of history knows that suppression laws will eventually be used by the powerful against the weak. Free speech is not a left versus right debate. It’s about protecting democracy and civil society.  – Matt McCarten

The Ministry of Alphabetical Truth seems to like creating the illusion of men not needing women in order to produce children. Motherhood is erased, and perhaps we are to believe that it is replaced by obliging rainbow storks. Not a woman in sight. – Gary Powell

The white heat of domestic politics can be quick to defeat high-minded virtue. – Claire Trevett

When I joined the Department, I was a committed protectionist, believing that controlling imports the way we were was the right thing for New Zealand. But after a few months of seeing the system at work and having on an almost weekly basis visits from senior business leaders begging the likes of this fresh-faced official for import licences so they could carry on or expand their businesses, I realised its folly and became the ardent supporter of free trade and open markets I remain today.  – Peter Dunne 

The thought that major building and construction industry players are having to go cap in hand to junior officials in MBIE to plead their case to be allowed to resume business seems like import licensing all over again. The sole concern here should be whether it is safe for a business to reopen in a Covid19 environment. There should be nothing more to it than that.

It is most certainly not for MBIE to decide whether this product or that is necessary or desirable. Junior government officials, often with little life experience, making major decisions about when and how significant businesses can operate seems just as ludicrous now as it was when I was doing import licensing. And it will surely prove to be just as an inept and uneven approach. The best people to understand business conditions and the demand for specialist goods and services are those involved in the businesses themselves, not an official with no direct business experience sitting behind a desk in Wellington, or, now more likely, working comfortably from home. – Peter Dunne 

One of the major reasons for import licensing’s ultimate failure was that the assumption and practices which underpinned its administration fell out of step and way behind current business practice of the day. Yesterday’s solutions were no longer fit for purpose for dealing with today’s challenges. Yet setting up a business continuity licensing regime, which is effectively what is occurring at present, run by faceless officials with no practical experience is the modern equivalent of the failed import licensing system.

MBIE’s approach, endorsed by Ministers, amounts to subtle re-regulation of the business sector in a way not seen since Muldoonism of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In line with the axiom, “history repeats itself”, it is likely to be just as spectacular a failure and will have eventually to be unwound and balance restored. But given that the current government seems to think that anything that happened before it came to office in 2017 is ancient history and therefore not worth taking any notice of, that is likely to be some time away. – Peter Dunne 

There are intangible reasons to justify say a year or two at university as a bridging experience between childhood and adult status. But otherwise, unless studying for a traditional career such as medicine or law, to a very large degree trusting and unworldly kids attending university today are victims of a gigantic fraud. –  Bob Jones

The modern university is today largely a scam, exploiting the vulnerable with its ever expanding range of non-intellectual bullshit degrees.Bob Jones

Nothing good comes from the politics of fear and hate.  – Matthew Hooton

The only real way to get out of the debt position New Zealand will find itself in “is to grow the economy like billy-o – Andrew Bayley

If suffering confers moral authority, greater suffering confers greater moral authority; and everyone wants, and believes he has, moral authority, the more of it the better. Hence it is necessary to claim to have suffered enormously, in short to be a survivor. Suffering must be magnified and lengthened: it is no good having suffered if you have merely got over it by, for example, pushing it to the back of your mind and getting on with life. And such is the nature of the human mind, that wonderfully flexible instrument, that you can magnify and lengthen your suffering at will, as much and as long as you wish, or as much and as long as necessary to obtain the desired kudos. At the same time you can disguise from yourself that fact that this is what you are doing.

Moreover, you can be a hereditary sufferer, so to speak. It is not necessary for you to have suffered anything personally to obtain the moral authority of suffering and sufferers. It is only necessary that you should belong to a group that, historically, has been wronged and suffered as a result. The glory of this is that you can claim to have suffered enormously while having, in fact, led a very privileged existence. Your membership of the group that has suffered, or suffers still, turns you into an honorary victim; and as we know, amateurs are often better than professionals. They have a more genuine attachment to their role. – Theodore Dalrymple

If 2021, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put it, is the year of the vaccine, then 2020 was the year of the vaccine purchase agreement. And it bears remembering that the former has been delivered in accordance with the terms of the latter. – Kate MacNamara

But it’s important to note that Medsafe’s approval was later than other countries’ regulatory agencies in large measure because New Zealand’s original vaccine purchase was late. Initial data was submitted to Medsafe by Pfizer for the vaccine approval on October 21, only after the first purchase agreement was in place. Kate MacNamara

So the late timing of Pfizer doses was in train much earlier than the Government likes to imply. In addition, scope for reopening deals and paying more for early vaccine delivery certainly existed, though perhaps that window of opportunity was not open as late as February-March of this year. Kate MacNamara

It wouldn’t matter much except vaccination, the Government promises, will restore some normalcy, save billions of dollars, and free us from the blight of lockdowns. Kate MacNamara

Yes, our government stuffed it up big time. It moved too slow due to sluggish administrative, regulatory & bureaucratic processes in Wellington. That’s why we’re all locked down today. It was a $10 billion mistake – and counting – by the Ministry of Health. And the economic costs of moving oh-so-slow amount to half of this country’s entire annual health budget. – Robert MacCulloch

 If there is any risk that the media is skewing their representation of the performance of government, then we are indeed on shaky ground. In fact I suggest that there is nothing quite as dangerous in any democracy as a media that is beholden to the Government.

And there is no doubt in my mind that this Government, as it lurches from clumsy mistakes to avoidable crises, is currently getting an easy ride from the majority of the media operators. – Bruce Cotterill

A free and independent press is a critically important foundation to any democracy. Without it, governments can go unchecked and the rule of law will suffer. – Bruce Cotterill

Sadly, our media does not appear to be as independent and free as we should prefer. We seem to show a lot of photos of the Prime Minister smiling and the opposition leader frowning. – Bruce Cotterill

But reporting what you see and hear is not journalism. Journalism involves questioning what you see and hear. Is it true? Is it right? Who did it? Who said it? Why do you think that? Where is the supporting information and evidence? 

That’s what we’re missing. – Bruce Cotterill

I recently spoke to a senior journalist based in Wellington. He is someone whose opinions and writing I respect. I asked why the questions from the press gallery didn’t seek to dig deeper into what are often flippant answers from our government ministers. He simply said the following; “If you are too tough, you don’t get invited back”. – Bruce Cotterill

Some call this censorship of the press. I call it a denial of access. If the media is threatened with a lack of access, or in other words, if access is used as a negotiating tool or a bargaining chip, then we have a challenge to our democracy that is greater than anything we have had to previously consider.Bruce Cotterill

The media must be free. Free to ask, question, challenge and investigate. Free to publish its findings. Free to hold governments to account. And not just governments.

Businesses, sporting organisations, and high profile personalities, all by virtue of their position in society, need to be held to an appropriate level of conduct and behaviour. – Bruce Cotterill

In a democracy it is very important that a government and indeed members across the political spectrum are able to get their messages out to the people in a way that provides a fair representation of their policies and their activities.

However, it is also equally important that the media question those policies and activities in a way that seeks greater clarity about what those policies are meant to achieve, and greater accountability in regard to their execution and effectiveness. Bruce Cotterill

There is a message in all this. The media who have put out their hands and cheerfully pocketed taxpayer funds they don’t need have only themselves to blame if the public smells a rat and begins to doubt their message. – Michael Bassett

It is possible to build applications that serve our needs, and save lives by providing evidence of vaccinations while also protecting personal privacy.

But it is vital activists, civil society, Parliament and the courts are allowed to carefully scrutinise new measures to ensure that even in the midst of a health panic, we aren’t giving up what we can’t take back. – Andrea Vance

We’ll never know the true cost of 9/11, the cost of the lost of the thousands of lives, what they might have created, what their children might have created, and how much richer humanity would have been for it.  It was an attack not just on them, but on an idea.  The idea that free people can choose how they live, to work, to trade, to enjoy life, and to not have their lives owned by others, by self-serving authority bowing to an ideology that shackles them to the literal interpretation of some aged religious tracts. The idea that Government should be to subordinate people to the will of theocratic bigots, rather than exist to protect their rights and established by the people to protect them from those who wish to take away those rights.  – Liberty Scott

I never once believed —  nor do I now —  that the purpose of instruction was to lead my students to a particular conclusion. Rather, I sought to create the conditions for rigorous thought; to help them gain the tools to hunt and furrow for their own conclusions. This is why I became a teacher and why I love teaching.

But brick by brick, the university has made this kind of intellectual exploration impossible. It has transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a Social Justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender, and victimhood and whose only outputs were grievance and division.

Students at Portland State are not being taught to think. Rather, they are being trained to mimic the moral certainty of ideologues. Faculty and administrators have abdicated the university’s truth-seeking mission and instead drive intolerance of divergent beliefs and opinions. This has created a culture of offense where students are now afraid to speak openly and honestly. Peter Boghossian

This isn’t about me. This is about the kind of institutions we want and the values we choose. Every idea that has advanced human freedom has always, and without fail, been initially condemned. As individuals, we often seem incapable of remembering this lesson, but that is exactly what our institutions are for: to remind us that the freedom to question is our fundamental right. Educational institutions should remind us that that right is also our duty.  – Peter Boghossian

Ovarian cancer is the most deadly gynaecological cancer, and kills more women than New Zealand’s annual road toll and more than melanoma. Yet it remains underfunded and largely ignored. Jane Ludemann

Women need to advocate for themselves, to not be afraid to stand up and say ‘No, I’m not happy with that diagnosis, I want further investigation’. For this to happen, we need to make women aware that these cancers exist, and show them what to look out for. If they don’t have this information, they can’t connect the dots. – Sara Ingram

Having a cancer diagnosis changes everything. Now I do the things that make me happy. It’s about always looking forward, not having regrets and accepting mistakes. Everybody has to deal with tough stuff. It’s about taking that stuff and seeing that something great can be born out of it.Sara Ingram

My point is that even though the decision was wrong, it was made for the right reasons. Our immigration authorities might appear to be incompetent, but they are neither bad, corrupt nor venal. – Damien Grant

This is a law that needs to be changed but a person cannot be deprived of their liberty because what did they should be illegal, if what they did wasn’t illegal. Damien Grant

By upholding the rights of the worst amongst us, we protect the rights of us all. Rights apply to all residents of these islands and are not subject to removal by executive whim. – Damien Grant

These rights are enjoyed by all of us only because they are enjoyed by the least of us. The trade-off between liberty and safety is necessarily high.

It is tempting to consider that less violence would have occurred had we given the state a freer hand, but if you want to understand what the state does with a free hand ask the Waikato Māori. Ultimately, our civil liberties are to protect us from the Crown, who has, unfortunately, a nasty history of abusing its subjects.Damien Grant

The war on terror has eroded our liberties in many small ways, but we have retained a bedrock of institutional restrictions that limit the arbitrary power of the state.

We should remember this as we navigate our way in the months, and possibly years, ahead. The principles that were applied to this terrorist’s rights were developed over 800 years; first laid down in the Magna Carta and refined, expanded and fought for over many centuries.

We should not give them up lightly, or cheaply. We should not give them up at all. – Damien Grant

This is only one event that got across the border and look at the mayhem, one month lockdown, a billion dollars a week that’s just not sustainable in the long term and all the pressure that people are under … the family issues, the schools, the devastation to the economy and the extra health issues.

People aren’t getting their colonoscopys, getting their skin checked for melanoma, heart checks up, all those things are really important health issues.Graham Le Gros

I think that’s where the economic, the other health issues and the social pressures really start to come into play and I think that if you’ve got 70-80 percent vaccinated even with the one jab you’re in a pretty good situation to be able to withstand the major effects of this virus.

I’m not throwing elimination out just yet … but you’ve also just got to face facts if the virus has got away and it’s just staying underground until it pops up again then let’s just focus on vaccination and learning to live with the virus. – Graham Le Gros

The Government’s been caught short again – this time, lacking a clear strategy to get us out of dodge. 

On the one hand, they’re saving Kiwis’ lives. On the other, they’re eliminating businesses and harming mental health. 

Like sunbathers on the beach watching a tsunami roll in, we have not yet – 18 months on from the first outbreak – left the comfort of our beach towels on the sand to build a single managed isolation and quarantine facility outside of Auckland. Ryan Bridge

Jacinda Ardern’s Year of the Vaccination became her year of vacillation, that is until her mate ScoMo across the ditch scouted around his buddies abroad and got some additional vials of the stuff. –  Barry Soper

To use the word corruption is unchallengeable, when any government pays media outlets to propagandise the public — with the same outlets untruthfully claiming to be independent and trustworthy — while basically being bribed to follow a far-Left agenda. That this should happen in not (quite yet) a totalitarian régime, but in what was once thought of as a democracy, with a free press, is quite staggering.  

Ardern’s government is blatantly taking over the media, an important part of any plan to destroy a democracy. It is more than shameful for those at the top of media management to be accepting these bribes, with the inevitable resulting pressure on all journalists to conform. It is to the great credit of those few who are increasingly reluctant to do so –- but who are now at risk of losing their livelihoods.  – Amy Brooke

Xenophobia is, regrettably, not a new strain in the national psyche, more an endemic seasonal virus that has circulated since time immemorial. However, the prevailing attitude, expressed through policy and the rhetoric of our leaders, to New Zealanders outside the border – ranging from frosty indifference to outright hostility – is very much a new development.Ben Thomas

However, since Covid, New Zealanders’ circle of empathy seems to have been pulled tight, like a knot, around the territorial boundaries of the country.

New Zealanders caught outside, or the families of foreign visa holders here doing often essential work including nursing and teaching, feel very much like they are looking in. In some respects, the pandemic has made the country smaller. Our families, our co-workers’ families, our friends, now show up in the public discourse mainly as risks to be managed or, more likely, excluded. – Ben Thomas

In order for values to count as character, they have to endure in good times and bad. Is the New Zealand national identity we treasure a reflection of who we really are, or of the benign times we have lived through until now? With the imminent effects of climate change and the movement of mass refugees from the hell of Afghanistan under the Taliban, these are questions we may be answering soon. – Ben Thomas

Well, you can’t fight a war by hiding under your bed. Deluding itself about a low covid death count the government ignores the soaring suicide numbers, the numerous deaths through inability to access hospitals, the widespread depression as any GP or pharmacist will confirm and the huge toll in families split by the idiotic closed borders.

We look with envy at Europe and North American nations run by grown-ups who are getting on with life. Their covid death tolls are almost totally half-wits who for diverse reasons refuse to be vaccinated. Future historians will record the current government in scathing terms. They remind me of the last 3 years of the Muldoon government, denying reality and lacking the courage to confront a necessary new world order. – Bob Jones

So far, the Wellbeing Budgets have promised many things but I fail to see what they achieved. The Government’s obsession with “wellbeing” comes at the cost of abandoning economic growth and a relatively poor economic performance. – Dennis Wesselbaum

Looking back, the Wellbeing Budgets have never been anything other than a successful public relations exercise.

Sadly, they all fall short of effectively supporting important areas like education (from kindergarten to universities), health, research, housing, and infrastructure and they abandon fostering economic growth.

There is nothing left from the initial worldwide hype around the Wellbeing Budgets. The Ardern-led governments have wasted the chances they had to make New Zealand stronger in the future and missed their election and budget targets.

It would be much better if the Government would stop looking beyond GDP and instead look at developing a proper economic growth strategy. After all, jobs earning decent wages are the foundation of wellbeing. – Dennis Wesselbaum

As time drags on, more and more travel begins to look essential. Cancelling an annual trip home from Oz or the UK is one thing, but a whole generation of overseas Kiwis now face a future disconnected from their friends and families, never knowing their nieces and nephews. After a few years of being grounded, holidays to visit family become essential travel too.

All of this is to say that the Government will fast run out of excuses for why its ministers and officials should travel, while the rest of the country is more or less grounded.Thomas Coughlan

There’s no vaccine against stupidity. James Rifi

It is the way you conduct yourself and if there is a lie, you speak against it. If you see injustice, you try and stop it. If you can’t do it by your action, you do it by your words. This is my life, that’s the way I do thingsJames Rifi

And I want to thank – that fellow Down Under. Thank you, Mr Prime Minister. Appreciate it, pal. – Joe Biden

The costs of Covid-19 extend well beyond the illness itself to continuing impacts of both the virus and our response to it on the rest of the health system, mental health and well-being, and family ties. Sadly, such impacts extend to family violence and economic insecurity as well as ongoing and negative effects on our economy, education, innovation opportunities, international business relationships, and our diplomatic footprint.Sir Peter Gluckman

When will such high vaccination rates allow the balance to tilt from efforts to exclude the virus to a different management strategy?  This cannot be far away. But it too has costs and risks, especially for those who are not vaccinated. Are incentives now needed to get as many as possible of the hesitant and resistant vaccinated? What else needs to be in place? Do we need both internal and external vaccine passports (with strong legal protections on how they would be used)? Should widespread use of rapid self-testing – now well used in Europe – be adopted? Should employers be able to require masks and/or vaccines, and does that need legislative protection?  These questions, which all have ethical and “social licence” dimensions, go hand in hand with the more obvious ones of border triage, rapid testing at the border, modified entry management, ensuring adequate health facilities, and location of quarantine facilities.

Neither science nor politics alone can answer such equations. Whatever choices Government makes will involve trade-offs and time-sensitive decisions. These will necessarily be made in the face of incomplete knowledge and contestable perspectives and values from different elements of our community. “Social licence” and trust will be necessary for whichever choices are made. – Sir Peter Gluckman

 Fear can undermine democracy. Parliament’s 2020 Epidemic Response Committee – a truly democratic innovation receiving much international interest – played a major role through its transparency, contributing to broad public acceptance of trade-offs required in following the elimination route. Similar levels of truth and transparency will be key for future choices. The Government’s challenge is to ensure trust in the pragmatic decisions it must soon make.Sir Peter Gluckman

It is much more challenging to ‘open up’ than ‘close down’. In crisis and risk management, the concept of the ‘Red Team’ has emerged. Comprising a group of experienced and skilled people who have no responsibility for managing the crisis but have access to the same data as those who are, it can ask tough questions of the decision-makers, in real time. Given the complexities and the need to get beyond political point-scoring, trust could be enhanced for our ‘team of five million’ through using such a process. After all, we want our Government to continue to do the best job possible on all our behalf. – Sir Peter Gluckman

In a world of fully vaccinated people, the virus would still cause harm, but at a much lower level. By then, it would have become one of many other dangers such as drowning, falling from ladders, or getting injured in a traffic accident.

Society accepts such risks, even when they can theoretically be avoided, not least because a “zero-harm” approach would be prohibitively expensive. For example, the idea of lighting all country roads, imposing a general 30 km/h speed limit, and only allowing five-star rated cars is absurd. Sure, it would reduce the road toll. But it would also defeat the purpose of promoting mobility. –  Oliver Hartwich 

If we had never gone down the path of Covid elimination, we would regard the virus in just the way as we think of road accidents. Sure, nobody likes accidents, but we would not go to extremes to avoid them. Similarly, while no one wants to get sick or die from Covid, we would not surrender our lives to achieve that aim.

However, this is where our “sunk-cost fallacy”kicks in. Having spent billions on elimination, for many people, the calculus looks different. Even minor health hazards associated with Covid now appear to be unbearable. After all the sacrifices we have made, why should we accept any illness or death in our community? Can’t we just stay with “Zero Covid” forever?   –  Oliver Hartwich 

New Zealanders may view the phrase “learn to live with the virus” as cynical since some will die from it.

But to the English and the Danes, such a connotation does not exist. Because the virus was never eradicated in either country, people have always died from it.

Neither had England and Denmark invested vast amounts and efforts into the goal of elimination. There are no “sunk costs” they now believe they need to protect. As a result, both the English and the Danes can treat the virus as an everyday health risk.Oliver Hartwich 

New Zealand will hopefully reach the same immunisation rates as England and Denmark in time. Perhaps we will get even higher since our compliant population may yield higher vaccination participation than other countries.

And (here is hoping), we will soon realise that our hospital system requires an upgrade (not just to deal with Covid). Having more capacity will also enable us to cope with outbreaks.  –  Oliver Hartwich 

How has the Talibanization of Western mentalities happened? How is it that so many young people have now adapted Henry Ford’s great dictum (to change briefly the source of inspiration of young intellectuals), that you can have any color you like so long as it’s black, to matters of opinion, such that none other than the sanctioned one may get a hearing? How is it that the Taliban’s example in destroying the statues in Bamiyan was so soon copied by the students in those madrassas of the West known as universities? 

The most obvious explanation is the expansion of tertiary education beyond the capacity of those who receive it to derive any mental, spiritual, or even vocational benefit from it. Far from increasing their mental sophistication, this education severely limits it. The numbers following courses in the so-called humanities and social sciences exploded since the 1960s, with the inevitable hollowing out of what a university education meant. All that they are left with is a distorting lens through which to view the world and focus their anger.Theodore Dalrymple

It is true that a deception has been practiced on them: In large part, they have been tricked into indebting themselves to pay for their own unemployment. Politicians whose brains are composed of a combination of those nerve centers that exist in lizards’ nervous systems and tinsel encouraged ever-increasing proportions of young people to attend university in the way that the Soviet Union in its propaganda used to boast about ever-increasing production of pig iron. In a world in which procedural outcomes is much more important than real outcomes, where governments set targets and bureaucrats arrange to meet them, usually by legerdemain, it matters not that the students left university worse educated than when they entered. – Theodore Dalrymple

It is impossible to put a precise date on a social process such as the degradation of our educational system (other than, of course, the day Eve gave the apple to Adam), but it has now continued for so long that many of the university teachers themselves are just as indoctrinated as the students they indoctrinate. In art schools there cannot be a return to teaching such skills as drawing because the teachers themselves were never taught them and therefore cannot teach them in their turn. The best they can do is denigrate them as retrograde or reactionary. 

The Taliban have a ministry for the suppression of vice and the promotion (or imposition) of virtue. I think that they could find many suitable civil servants—and no doubt executioners—in our universities. We produce them, in fact, by the thousands. Of course, there are some slight differences: The Taliban want women to have as many children as possible, while our students are so anxious about the fate of the planet that they think it immoral to bring children into the world.Theodore Dalrymple

People who take risks and are prepared to have a go have made this country what it is, and their energy and courage will take it further still.

Which is one reason why the impacts of these lockdowns trouble me so much. The impact on the people who own so many businesses prevented from operating, who are Kiwis just like you and me, is more immense than it is for most.

If you are in a government job, work for a big corporate that shuffles data for a living, or in the professions, lockdown has been a pain and it has certainly cramped your style, but your income keeps coming in the door. For these people it doesn’t.  – Steven Joyce

Maybe it is hard to imagine if you have never been there. Taking responsibility for paying the rent, the power bill, and all your suppliers, whether or not you have customers or revenue coming through the door.

To feel personally responsible for the incomes of your staff, and for their families’ wellbeing. To have to call the bank to ask for a bigger loan or overdraft, or a bigger mortgage because your house is the only collateral the bank will take.

To postpone your dreams five years or abandon them completely after years of hard work, because that’s how far these lockdowns have set you back.Steven Joyce

The powers that be have reactivated the Covid wage subsidy and that’s good, as far as it goes. But it was always intended as a Band-Aid to keep workers attached to their place of employment.

It doesn’t cover the rent, the rates, the electricity, the HP on the equipment, the vehicle lease, or the spoilt food. And if that wasn’t enough there are new headaches.

The doubling of paid sick leave in July this year, the big annual hikes in the minimum wage you must pay for your newest workers, and the post-Covid prospect of your wage bill and conditions being set in far off Wellington by people that have never set foot in a shop in Dargaville, Palmerston North, or Timaru. – Steven Joyce

The arbitrary pettiness of the lockdown rules drive some business owners bonkers. The small food shops that can’t open while supermarkets can, ostensibly because their public health systems won’t be robust enough.

Of course we trust them to sell perishable food at other times. Or the arbitrary restrictions on the number of people in your cafe in towns that haven’t had Covid for months and months.

One extraordinary example of bureaucratic silliness this week was the news seasonal fruit-pickers from Covid-free countries (note that bit) will no longer be allowed to enter New Zealand without quarantine as had been planned, ostensibly because of Delta.  – Steven Joyce

It is ironic for a country that has been trying to diversify its exports for 30 years that the only exporters able to operate their businesses over lockdown are our primary industries.

The rest of us sail serenely along in our bubbles. We’ve inflated our economy so much with debt and printed money the people in economic pain are almost completely invisible to us.

We have a zero tolerance for Covid health casualties, but not so much for the economic casualties.  – Steven Joyce

The small businesses, the tiny businesses, and the niche exporters, are all carrying a massive share of the cost of this pandemic. That needs to be acknowledged and responded to more by everyone else, from the Beehive down.

We all didn’t choose to have the pandemic disrupt our lives. But these people are paying in a far more brutal and long-lasting way than most.  – Steven Joyce

We’ve had our moments … but negativity just feeds negativity. We’re in a position it’s not going to wipe us out and it’s not going to be our worst year. We’ve got to remain positive and carry on. – Ian Riddell

You genuinely want people to be blessed by your flowers. People buy them for themselves to cheer them up, they give flowers away to cheer up other people. All that cheer got left here.Ian Riddell

Although she is not a daughter by blood, she is a daughter of my heart now. – Mr “Smith”

Oranga Tamariki is broken. You can’t fix an organisation that has fallen into such depravity that Judge Peter Callinicos exposed. It won’t be, of course. It will continue to damage families for many decades to come; driven by ideology and unchastised by this rebuke.

But for the moment, we should take a moment to appreciate that we have decent, bold and courageous people such as these successful caregivers who were prepared to make a stand for the daughter of their heart. They are the heroes of this story. I wish them and Moana all the best. Damien Grant

Murder is carried out by uneducated thugs with a lump of wood or an illegal firearm (weren’t they all handed in?). It’s carried out by psychotically violent men over perceived wrongs or a botched drug deal. It’s messy and nasty and leaves families shattered. Dead bodies don’t lie peacefully on a deep pile carpet in a perfectly manicured room; they bleed out on the front lawn, or into the gutter near a smashed bottle while other drunks continue fighting around them.

That’s where real murder lives; the gutter. There’s nothing fancy about it. Children get killed by those who should be protecting them. It’s gutting and mind-boggling and never seems to stop. – Angus McLean

It is not surprising, then, that one’s opinion on matters social and political has become for a considerable part of the population the measure of virtue. If you have the right opinions you are good; if you have the wrong ones you are bad. Nuance itself becomes suspect, as it is in a tabloid newspaper, for doubt is treachery and nuance is the means by which bad opinions make their comeback. In this atmosphere, people of differing opinions find it difficult to tolerate each other’s presence in a room: the only way to avoid open conflict is either to avoid certain persons or certain subjects. Where opinion is virtue, disagreement amounts to accusation of vice. – Anthony Daniels

The extreme importance now given to opinion (by contrast with conduct) in the estimation of a person’s character has certain consequences. This is not to say that in the past a person’s opinions played no part in such an assessment, and no doubt there are some opinions so extreme or vicious, for example that some whole population should be mercilessly wiped out, that in any day and age one would hesitate to associate with someone who held them. But before, even when someone held an opinion that we considered very bad, we still also assessed the degree of seriousness with which he held it, the degree to which it was purely theoretical, the importance it played in his overall mental life. The holding of such an opinion would not redound to his credit, but if lightly held and with no likely effect on his actual behavior, it would detract only slightly from our view of him. He might still be a good man, albeit one with a quirk, a mental blind spot. – Anthony Daniels

For one thing, the elevation of the moral importance of opinion changes the locus of a person’s moral concern from that over which he has most control, namely how he behaves himself, to that over which he has almost no personal control. He becomes a Mrs. Jellyby who, it will be remembered, was extremely concerned about the fate of children thousands of miles away in Africa but completely neglected her own children right under her own eyes, in her house in London. –Anthony Daniels

The overemphasis on opinion as the main or only determinant of a person’s moral character thus has the effect of promoting irrationalism, and all argument becomes in effect ad hominem. If a person holds one opinion, he is good; if another, he is bad. Everything is decided in advance by means of moral dichotomy. Nuance disappears. –Anthony Daniels

There is a positive-feedback mechanism built into opinion as the measure of virtue, for if it is virtuous to espouse a particular opinion, it is even more virtuous to espouse a more extreme or generalized version of it. It then becomes morally impermissible for a person to hold the relatively moderate opinion; he is denounced with the peculiar venom that the orthodox reserve for heretics. When J. K. Rowling, a feminist once in good odor with the morally self-anointed, delivered herself of an opinion couched in moderate terms stating something so obvious that it will one day (I hope) astonish future social or cultural historians that it needed saying at all, namely that a transsexual woman is not a woman simpliciter, she was turned upon viciously, including by those who owed their great fortunes to her—or at least to her work. She had committed the cardinal sin in a world of opinion as the criterion of virtue of not having realized that the moral caravan had moved on. How easily sheep become goats! Anthony Daniels

 

Taking opinion as the hallmark of virtue has other effects besides provoking dichotomization, bad temper, and the exertion of a ratchet effect in the direction of ever more extreme and absurd ideas. It tends to limit the imagination, moral and otherwise. For example, once something tangible is declared to be a human right, which no decent person can thenceforth question or deny on pain of excommunication by the virtuous, the good procured by the exercise of that right ceases to be a good for any other reason than that it is a right. The recipient has no reason to feel grateful for what he receives, because it was his right to receive it, though he may, of course, feel rightfully aggrieved if he does not receive it. A United Nations rapporteur recently condemned New Zealand for its breach of human rights because it did not provide decent housing for all its citizens (and other inhabitants); rents were expensive and there was overcrowding as well as some homelessness. The New Zealand government, which had committed itself to the view that there was a human right to decent housing, meekly promised to try to do better. It had not promised to treat housing as if it were a human right, but to treat it as a right itself; it was therefore skewered by its own supposed virtue. –Anthony Daniels

The supposed moral quality of the objector trumps the possible validity of his objections, which therefore do not have to be considered. Far from the objector lacking imagination, however, it is the proponent of the human right who lacks it: he fails even to try to imagine what the consequences of what he advocates might be. Words are the money of fools, no doubt, but also of people who desire unlimited powers of interference in the lives of others. Anthony Daniels

The importance accorded to opinion—correct opinion, of course—as the criterion of virtue has another strange effect, besides increasing intolerance and limiting imagination, for it conduces both to a new dictatorial puritanism and a new libertinism whose equilibrium is forever unstable. –Anthony Daniels

Even in my childhood, we used frequently to recite the old proverb in response to an intended insult, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” No more: in a world in which opinion is the measure of Man, words are poison, dagger, Kalashnikov, hand grenade, and atomic bomb, and no one now gains a reputation for moral uprightness who does not sift the words of others for the wickedness they may contain.

No one could possibly deny the great importance of words and opinions in human life, of course, or their power to give offense and even to provoke violence. Words and opinions may inspire people either to the best or the worst acts, but we do not usually absolve people of their responsibility, or fail to praise or blame them, on the grounds that they were inspired or influenced by the words of others. –Anthony Daniels

Where opinion is virtue, the strength of offense taken is a sign of commitment to virtue, which then sets up a type of arms race of moral exhibitionism, in which my offense taken at something must be greater than yours because only thus can I prove my moral superiority over you. Shrillness then becomes a token of depth of feeling, and no one can feel anything who does not parade his outrage in public. – Anthony Daniels

The danger comes when the most dubious, even fatuous, social theories and reforms in the name of virtue become the cynosure of the moral life of a large and influential sector of society, namely the intelligentsia that is ultimately the determinant of a modern society’s history. This is so even, or perhaps especially, when the intelligentsia in question is ignorant, foolish, grasping, power-hungry, and unrealistic.

The effect, if not the purpose, of the overemphasis on opinion as the whole of virtue is both to liberate and to control. The liberation—from restraint on personal conduct—is for the persons with the right opinions; the control is for, and over, the rest of society. The intelligentsia is thus like an aristocracy, but without the noblesse obligeor the good taste that to some extent justified the aristocracy. – Anthony Daniels

That so many Aucklanders have been going to work over the last month underlines that lockdown is largely a middle-class phenomenon. While white collar workers get to work from home or pretend to, those in healthcare, social services, agriculture, forestry, fishing, manufacturing, distribution and retail have been showing up at their workplaces right through. Across the country, over 500,000 essential workers kept the real economy going through the 2020 and 2021 national lockdowns. We should applaud them. – Matthew Hooton 

One thing is inarguable: the vaccine works. It may not stop all Covid transmission, but it stops it from killing you or your loved ones, or you or them getting very sick. According to the Ministry of Health, of the 1071 people who tested positive for Covid, 83 per cent were entirely unvaccinated and just 3 per cent fully vaccinated more than two weeks earlier. Any political pollster or health researcher will tell you that legitimate conclusions can be drawn from a sample size of over 1000.Matthew Hooton 

The data shows that not a single person who had had even their first jab more than two weeks earlier wound up in an intensive care unit (ICU). Not a single person who was fully vaccinated more than two weeks earlier even ended up in hospital, and just one whose second dose had been administered in the previous two weeks had to be admitted to an ordinary ward.

In contrast, if you are unvaccinated and over age 11, the data from the outbreak suggests you have a 13 per cent chance of being hospitalised, and nearly a 3 per cent chance of dying or ending up in ICU. – Matthew Hooton

It’s official. The Government’s impossible Covid elimination strategy has been scrapped, although don’t expect it to admit to that. Just like it would never accept the alert level 4 lockdown in Auckland hasn’t been anything but a raging success. – Barry Soper 

This lockdown isn’t working.  It never was.  We’ve had 8 people turn up at Middlemore with no idea where they got covid, it’s cropped up in the mongrel mob who aren’t known for obedience to the law, it’s been exported over the Auckland border.

One of the strictest lockdowns in the world, couldn’t’ get us back to zero.  – Heather du Plessis-Allan

It is awful having to constantly tell the Government what they’ve done wrong, but then again someone has to do it, that’s why it’s called leader of the opposition, not leader of the cheerleaders. – Judith Collins

The Government don’t want a points system it seems for the simple reason, or excuse, that’s it too complicated. As in too complicated for them to work out how to do it.

Obviously, there is queue from the tech sector who would solve it by Thursday. So, the system is held hostage to a degree by a government that hasn’t got the slightest aspirational gene in its makeup. Nor, tragically, do they have the wherewithal to recognise that and ask for help.

So, for the foreseeable, tens of thousands of New Zealanders are stuck, business is hamstrung, funerals are missed, and sports people can’t make a living. There’s a massive queue of misery and desperation.

Of all the cock ups of this pandemic, behind the abject failure of an urgent vaccine rollout, MIQ would be the biggest. Their fix? A foe lobby followed by a numerical conformation of how screwed you are when you enter. – Mike Hosking

But here it would appear that while New Zealanders are renown for their “can do” approach, our bureaucracy’s response is “can’t”. – Fran O’Sullivan

 The only urgency we’ve seen for months is an enthusiasm to lock down our country, lock up our people and lock out our citizens who are overseas. – John Key

Some people might like to continue the North Korean option. I am not one of them. Public health experts and politicians have done a good job of making the public fearful, and therefore willing to accept multiple restrictions on their civil liberties which are disproportionate to the risk of them contracting Covid.

Another problem with the hermit kingdom model is that you have to believe the Government can go on borrowing a billion dollars every week to disguise that we are no longer making our way in the world. – John Key

A lottery is not a public policy. It’s a national embarrassment. Whether you get to see your grandchild, or your dying mother, or your sister’s wedding, depends on whether or not your number comes up. This is a lottery that is gambling with people’s families and futures. John Key

Meanwhile, those brave New Zealanders who have started or bought a small business are sleepless with worry – as are their workers – because lockdowns are an indiscriminate tool that stops commerce as effectively as it stops Covid. The true harm is being concealed by an economy propped up by borrowing. – John Key

For those who say it’s too hard, or too risky I ask this: one day, when the largest part of the Minister of Finance’s Budget pays only the interest on the debt we are racking up now, and you can’t have the latest cancer drugs, or more police, because New Zealand can’t afford them, what will you think?

Will you wish that in 2021 the Government had acted with the urgency and creativity that Nasa showed when suddenly having to rethink its approach to the Apollo 13 mission? Nasa succeeded. It proved that to get a different outcome, you need a different strategy. John Key

The current setting is to vaccinate as many people as we can while keeping the virus at bay. If we succeed, by this time next year we will have a population with minimal exposure to Covid and with declining vaccine effectiveness.

Why would we do that?

Isn’t this like putting on a raincoat and then staying indoors in case it rains? There isn’t much point in teaching celibacy whilst handing out prophylactics. If we are aiming for 90 per cent vaccine coverage, the latest ad hoc policy in 18 months of ad hoc policy, perhaps the state would care to explain what is going to change if we get there. – Damien Grant

 In an endless series of good bureaucratic intentions creating bad outcomes, we vaccinated the elderly and vulnerable first. They are now the most exposed to breakthrough infections, while the young and healthy have fresh protein spikes coursing through their bloodstreams.Damien Grant

At this point I don’t really care what the plan is, so long as I know what it is. I have a life I want to lead. I have a business that needs direction. I have a family that wants to enjoy the pleasures and joy that are still permitted. – Damien Grant

Behavioural experts say the pandemic has brought about a rise in xenophobia and nationalism, and could mean expat and domestic communities struggle to coalesce beyond the pandemic. The messaging around the “team of five million” could be to blame. –  Ashleigh Stewart

The anti-expat rhetoric started when the government pushed every expat out of the ‘team of five million. Messaging like that has fed the mob online to hurl insults shamelessly towards us. It feels like this resentment has been simmering away for a long time, and now it’s acceptable to scream to ‘close the borders’. Clint Heine

It’s not just that it’s a cruel and inhumane lottery that keeps families and friends and loved ones apart while the Wiggles are waved through; or that it’s cut us off from the rest of the world – or even that it has become a convenient excuse for kicking the can down the road on critical economic decisions.

No, the worst thing is that it seems to have fundamentally changed who we are.

We’ve gone from a nation of travellers and adventurers, to an inward looking and angry mob, cut off and isolated from the rest of the world, and fearful of “strangers” at the border, whether they’re foreigners, or fellow Kiwis rendered stateless by a pandemic that was none of their doing.

We pat ourselves on the back for getting through the first lockdown by being kind – then close our hearts when a dying man pleads for permission to die at home.

We tear down high-flyers who dared to pursue their dreams overseas, and tell them they’re no longer welcome in the country where they found their wings.

And we spit bile at people who want to come home for Christmas with their family, cheered on by the government, who it suits to paint expats as gadabouts and summer holidaymakers. As though wanting to be with family, or ageing parents, over Christmas is not a fundamental human desire.Tracy Watkins

But our success at keeping Covid out for so long has bred complacency.

Hospital ICUs are still critically understaffed and in no shape to cope with a wave of sick Covid patients; we’ve failed to implement rapid advances from overseas, like saliva testing or self-testing, and MIQ is still a hastily knocked-up system of modified hotels, the bulk of them in our most populous city, all but guaranteeing that any breach will have the worst possible outcome.

But questioning it has become akin to heresy – even though no-one is seriously advocating we abandon quarantine and testing as the cornerstone of any new system, especially not with the parlous state of our ICU system, and low rates of vaccination. – Tracy Watkins

There has been no shortage of ideas from New Zealand’s most innovative thinkers on how to improve the system, while still keeping people safe.

But those ideas all go seem to go nowhere. Why? They keep hitting the same wall of bureaucratic and government inertia. There is no political will to make MIQ work better – and that’s because there is no public appetite to open the tap, even with safeguards.

Whenever change is proposed, or the Government’s models questioned, an angry mob steps in to shout it down as treason.

Whatever happened to the number 8 wire Kiwi? Or are they all stranded overseas? – Tracy Watkins

Our world is about to be split into two very definitive tribes; those who have the vaccine and those who don’t. Those who have the jab won’t enjoy the freedoms of the past, but they will be able to travel, while those who don’t have it won’t be able to. That may well become the ultimate decider for the vaccine-hesitant. It may be “my body, my choice” when it comes to vaccination, but only if you can enjoy the freedom that everyone else does. – Janet Wilson

What’s really alarming with this is, there has been millions of dollars spent on consultants and what have we really got? We’ve basically shown Government doesn’t understand how local councils operate. Sam MacDonald

Nonetheless, New Zealanders continued to excel at home and globally in disproportionately large numbers. . . So how is it we have become willing lapdogs, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome? Hovering around daily briefings in the hope our captors will throw us a bone?- Paul Henry

Regardless of whether the news is good or bad, we feel comforted that those who know what’s best for us keep us from harm’s way. Protecting us from the violation that freedom would otherwise bring. We listen for the responses to banal questions that all but the most ignorant citizen would already be able to answer.

In short, we have for the most part surrendered our lives through fear. We accept that our own citizens should be forced into lotteries in order to come home from their adventures and that we may well be refused a seat next to a dying parent. – Paul Henry

What the world did not know then – but has since found out – is New Zealand had moved into phase two of its unofficial Covid strategy, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. We went hard and fast on borrowing. And borrowing is fine as long as you borrow to invest. But not us.

Did we use our hard-won, Covid-free months – almost a year – to invest in health infrastructure, both hardware and staffing? No.

Did we vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate? No.

Did we invest in money-making initiatives that exploited our Covid-free status? No.  – Paul Henry

We have squandered our leading edge for the lack of a plan. And having lost the lead we undoubtedly had, we are now racing to the back of the pack.

Our economic policy is akin to a reverse mortgage, as we live quite well whilst building debt. Unfortunately, in order to be sound, reverse mortgages require that you die quite soon.

Maybe that’s the third phase of our strategy. Paul Henry

The government has an ideology-driven desire for centralised bureaucratic control. They do not care if it divorces providers from the communities they are supposed to serve and reduces accountability. In doing so they are taking the opportunity to indulge a sectional political constituency at the expense of the principles of democracy and the community. – Gray Judd

Bloody Friday tragically saw 1500 sheep sacrificed in protest. Forty-three years on, and the boot is on the other foot. It’s the farmers themselves who don’t want to be sacrificial lambs on the altar of Ministers David Parker and James Shaw. Jamie Mackay

So add this voice of reason to that of Sir John Key’s, to Sir Ian Taylor’s, to Rob Fyfe’s – these are not people who are mad granny killers, who want to throw New Zealanders to the wolf of Covid.

They just see a government who does not seem to be able to pivot the way it has asked businesses to do, a government that is bereft of ideas, that is anything but transparent and that only knows one simplistic way to manage a crisis.

And that’s to shut everything down.   – Kerre McIvor

But Aucklanders, on the whole, don’t feel better about things.

I think many of us resented the latest lengthy lockdown and blamed the government for it.

We’ve more than done our bit as citizens and businesses and we’d come to the conclusion, by the end of this latest lockdown level 4, that it was pointless and dragging on. As is this level 3 we’re in right now. Why? And why was the South Island at an alert level at all?

Why restrict businesses now with such petty but costly barriers when privately the government has abandoned the Covid elimination strategy and has instead settled on managing the pandemic and keeping hospitalisation numbers down. They won’t admit this, of course, but look at their actions for confirmation. – Duncan Garner

Truth is, this government has to keep hospitalisation numbers down because our hospitals wouldn’t cope with a mass outbreak.

It’s this scenario that mostly keeps those running our pandemic response awake at night.

And it’s been made worse by the huge holes in staffing numbers and a lack of specialist staff. We never had enough ICU beds and when we went all those months Covid free last year, the government failed to build any meaningful increase in capacity in ICU. Just six new beds were created.

How was that ever acceptable to senior ministers and the prime minister? Did they push it? Did they ask questions? Did they even know? The best ministers keep their departments accountable and on task. If that’s happening regularly with this government, it’s not immediately obvious.- Duncan Garner

But, clearly, ‘being kind’ has waned as a phrase. We are rightly furious with the government’s vaccine debacle, which has left us vulnerable. It put cynical political spin ahead of telling the truth about its failure to secure enough vaccinations.

What’s worse is they positioned us as being at the front of a queue that it appears we were never in. It meant we relaxed and we all became complacent – led by a government who appeared to think the job was done. Celebrating daily zero cases was put before long-term planning.  Duncan Garner

The Covid cushion is losing its stuffing, lockdowns usually sees the party getting a sympathetic bump in the polls from a frightened, insecure public. But with one death in 1185 cases in the current outbreak it isn’t creating the climate of fear that they’ve relied on.  – Barry Soper

But neither the new nor the old system were sophisticated enough to prioritise those whose needs were greater or who had waited the longest. The emergency allocations are for a very limited group of people. For everybody else, the sorter doing the prioritising is Lady Luck. – Claire Trevett

Difficulty securing a spot in MIQ may indeed be “reasonably foreseeable” – but it should not be – or at least not beyond the Christmas rush – and not anymore.

It is a government created system and they are government created rules. The system does not allow people to book MIQ rooms months and months in advance, so long-term trip planning is impossible.

People have been forced to take a chance by the system itself – they should not be blamed when that system fails to deliver.

It has also been “reasonably foreseeable” that MIQ was not catering for the numbers it needed to for some time. –   Claire Trevett

The issue is not last year, or those who made it back. It is now, and those who cannot get back. –   Claire Trevett

Thus far, the Government and officials have always been able to muster up a lot of excuses for saying no: usually a shortage of the required health and security staff needed for MIQ facilities, or the inadequacy of ventilation or the space required.

But it did not find the same energy to find solutions for those problems or to work on refining ideas to make them workable.  –   Claire Trevett

Ardern said, when explaining why only businesspeople were being used for a trial of home isolation, it was because they had “skin in the game” so were less likely to try to sneak around the rules.

Businesspeople are not the only ones with skin in the game, Prime Minister. All of us do.

Fix it.  Claire Trevett

It’s a pretty sad day when you sit inside reading an article in a popular farming paper and it’s talking about carbon farming.

Who would have ever thought we could get paid for air? – Mike Firth

Picking and choosing when you listen to science is no way to treat people or their livelihoods, and hopefully people will see the charade for what it is. 

The elimination strategy they’ve fancifully been chasing will suddenly not be so important anymore; they’ll spin us a yarn about how it’s worked out just as they wanted it to, but the numbers will tell the real story. Kate Hawkesby

Labour governments typically have two standard responses to a political problem, or even the mere perception of one. They either throw vast amounts of money at it, or they create an unwieldy, centralised bureaucracy to give the impression something is being done. Sometimes it’s both, since these solutions often overlap. – Karl du Fresne

Once again a centralised, opaque governance structure will be created that will give grossly disproportionate power to unelected Maori, sweep away local representation and discard generations of local knowledge, investment and experience.

Arguably the most offensive aspect of Three Waters is its audacious dishonesty. Rather than solving a problem, the government has invented one. – Karl du Fresne

All this is all intended to create the illusion of decisive, meaningful action, but it’s merely the announcement of a plan that has yet to be formulated. It contains nothing substantive or concrete – not even any goals or targets (they’ll come later, presumably).  It will provide work for lots of highly paid consultants and hangers-on but do nothing in the short term to help people suffering from mental illness. In short, it’s a disgrace and a travesty. – Karl du Fresne

Responsible governments decide what needs to be done then work out what it’s likely to cost. But this one appears to work backwards, plucking a sum out of the air then wondering what to do with it. – Karl du Fresne

 


Quotes of the month

01/07/2021

The cult of celebrity, as a quality in itself irrespective of the value of what it attaches to, is likewise mysterious to me. Many are those who seek celebrity detached from anything else of discernible worth. Fame for its own sake is sufficient for them. But what does it mean that people can be famous for being famous? – Theodore Dalrymple

The celebrity must be such that, fundamentally, he is one of us, the great mass of mediocrities. In fact, a celebrity could have been me if things had been only a little different. Modern celebrity is thus the screen on which mass daydreams are projected. Theodore Dalrymple

Where celebrity is both more desired and more prevalent, it will attach to people of less and less accomplishment. To be completely unknown becomes a wound, a humiliation, a sign of failure; celebrity is the sole guarantor of personal worth. To be known for nothing of any importance is infinitely better than not being known at all. – Theodore Dalrymple

There should be term limits of about 15 years and then you should have a compulsory sabbatical. If you want to come back, it’s over to you, but you’d be pretty stupid to. – Chris Finlayson

 Patel evokes such insensate fury in her opponents not because of her actual practical politics, which could be opposed or disagreed with in a normal way, but because she represents a threat to a worldview. She is the child of refugees, and she experienced racial insult and abuse as a child; therefore, it was her duty to play the professional victim for the rest of her life. Instead, she says that her heroine was Margaret Thatcher, who inspired her to go into politics. By not claiming to be a victim, and by climbing up the greasy pole through sheer determination, she has proved herself a traitor to her class and her race.

Worse still, Patel is a threat to all those who aspire to climb that same greasy pole by denouncing elitism, privilege, and racism as the principal sources of all evil. And there is a growing danger that a substantial proportion of various ethnic minorities will come to think like her. – Theodore Dalrymple

Labour’s record is going to be blowing 30 years of fiscal prudence and creating $100,000 of debt per household. Plus closing down the country and avoiding a mass outbreak of Covid, but how hard was that?Richard Prebble

What if making people dependent is a cause of poverty? What if Labour’s benefit increase traps more people in dependency? Bill English’s Better Public Services programme that provided wrap around services to assist beneficiaries off dependency achieved better results. – Richard Prebble

Spending $486 million restructuring health to a centralised system won’t provide a single extra operation. Andrew Little achieved nothing in three years in justice except expensive hui. He has yet to learn about project optimism. It is the rule that says projects cost twice as much and take four times longer than estimated. The unexpected always happens. – Richard Prebble

The evidence of the last thirty years is that, given the choice, workers prefer not to be represented in their wage negotiations by unions. Unsurprisingly, they choose to have a direct relationship with their employer. This may be bad news for unions, but it is not a systemic weakness in the labour market.

And that is the real reason why the claims in Minister Wood’s Cabinet paper don’t stack up. New Zealand’s labour markets are working well for both firms and workers. But they have not been working well for unions. That is the only “entrenched weakness” of the current framework. And it is only a weakness if you are a union official. For anyone else, the case for FPAs does not compute. – Roger Partridge

Of the services classed as essential during the Covid lockdowns last year, it is important to remember that the only ones supporting income for the country were those to do with food and fibre. The other essential services were … essential, but most, including the public servants now on a wage “pause”, were supported by the Government. 

Farmers and growers working through were not.

Just as the primary sector was vital to maintain the economy during Covid, it is now vital to contribute to debt repayment. It therefore makes little sense to shut down any part of it without considering the full implications and alternatives. – Jacqueline Rowarth

Organic, regenerative production systems do not and cannot yield as well as conventional systems. Globally, depending on crop and season, about 60 per cent of conventional is average.

Occasionally the yields are similar, but generally only on individual harvests – not on a five- or 10-year calculation. And most of the calculations overlook the need to bring in animal manure as nutrient replacement. Green-laundering refers to the fact that this manure has often been created by animals being given conventionally grown food. – Jacqueline Rowarth

The National Science Challenge Our Land and Water has funded research on organic versus conventional yields and people’s willingness to pay. The report indicated that a premium of 38 per cent would be required to offset yield decrease. People were apparently willing to pay an extra 36 per cent, though reality suggests that most people don’t.

It is also important to remember that a premium is paid for something that is not the norm. If everybody is organic or regenerative or whatever, there will be no premium. – Jacqueline Rowarth

Regulation cannot create excellence in anything but compliance, and compliance with regulations set in urban environments, where context is not understood, cannot assist with debt reduction for the country. – – Jacqueline Rowarth

In the four minutes it took to read this column, the national debt increased by $353,333.

Who will pay off this debt if the farmers and growers are out of business? – – Jacqueline Rowarth

Putting New Zealanders first when it comes to local employment is all very well. But it has to be based on more than wishful thinking. It needs to be properly evidence-based that the goal can be achieved. Despite the government’s optimistic rhetoric, there is no substantive evidence of a large number of New Zealanders showing any interest in doing the necessary work that migrants currently carry out. – Peter Dunne

The faster we get that jab into arms up and down this country, the faster we’ll be reconnecting with the world. Heather du Plessis-Allan

 So, her visit was disappointing. Confirming that dogma dictates decisions, while reason runs for cover. Grass doesn’t need water. Tractors don’t need drivers. Regenerative farming makes Lincoln redundant. Maori wards will make gangs evaporate. Pine forests make air travel harmless. Nevertheless, we pray that rain and sanity may one day return to us here in drought land. – Tim Gilbertson

Labour’s problem with the Bill is that it offers choice, when they believe there should only be one choice for the second language – te reo.

“One minute Labour MPs are celebrating Samoan language week in Parliament, next minute they are killing a piece of legislation that would better equip schools to teach Samoan – or Hindi, or Mandarin, or Tongan, or Punjabi or any number of languages widely spoken in communities around New Zealand.Paul Goldsmith

 Confirmed, yet again, is the unhealthily large number of “suck-up, kick-down” personalities currently at large in New Zealand’s Fourth Estate.

So many contemporary journalists appear to be in the job for trophies. Not the sort of trophies one displays on the mantelpiece (although they like them too) but the sort of trophies big-game hunters hang on their walls. The current Press Gallery’s definition of a good political journalist would appear to be based on how many politician’s they have “bagged”. As if stuffing someone’s career is something to be proud of. – Chris Trotter

There is already enough ego and ambition in Parliament to go around – we certainly don’t need to be stoking either in a person before they have even been selected or elected. Monique Poirier 

The victim is the modern hero and also the highest moral authority: for who would dare to question, let alone oppose, the opinion of a victim on the subject of whatever has made him or her a victim? Thus, we listen to victims with a kind of awed and uncritical, but also terrified, reverence even when they speak of abstractions. If they say something which we suspect or even know to be untrue, we fear to let on to others our derogation from the holy word. To disagree publicly with a victim, to question the undiluted veracity of their story, is to increase the harm they have suffered, and in effect to victimise them a second time. – Theodore Dalrymple

 It is small wonder, then, that in a cultural climate such as this, some people are willing and able to claim the status of victim even when what they suffered is only one of the inevitable inconveniences of having been born human. It is as if were prayed not for the Lord to make us strong but to make us fragile. Psychological fragility, of course, is romantic in a way in which strength of mind is not: it is the moral equivalent of the blood that romantic poets coughed up prior to dying early. Apart from anything else, psychological fragility gives one the standing from which to discourse at length upon one’s favourite subject, the subject on which one is a world authority, namely oneself. – Theodore Dalrymple

If you’re ugly, old or badly-dressed, don’t expect crying to work; if you’re male, it’s a gamble; and if you’re not in the in-group, you can forget it. But if your face fits (and you don’t ugly-cry) then you can do what you like. And as long as you sob in public now and then, you’ll be considered a paragon of compassion. – Mary Harrington

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.Andrea Vance

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. – Andrea Vance

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. At every level, the Government manipulates the flow of information. – Andrea Vance

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. Andrea Vance

Our current monetary regulatory regime works to protect the vested interests of those with capital at the exclusion of those seeking to acquire it. This applies to people wishing to purchase a house, obtain capital for a business or in some cases even open a bank account. This harms the poor and entrenches the wealthy. For historical reasons Māori are over-represented in our lower economic demographics. The Reserve Bank is not doing anything to improve their lot, and in many ways is making their lives harder. – Damien Grant

We’re losing a lot of the satire and the greater comment about what is going on, because people are afraid of what the reaction is going to be. – Matt Elliott 

It’s quite hard to navigate comedy, particularly if you want to do social satire, in these conditions… you really have to twist yourself in knots to not offend. – Ginette McDonald

Some people still continue to have the sense that comedy is the ability to say whatever you want, and that that has always been the case. That’s never always been the case. There’s always been lines and the audience will tell you where that line is, by reacting against it – Te Radar

The only reason we get away with that irreverence and edgy stuff is because on the flipside is heart. – Oscar Knightley

I don’t have rules but ‘stay in your storytelling lane’ is one anyone can trust. Everything (especially the painful stuff) should have an autobiographical pebble in it, because then it resonates. In my experience that’s how marginalised audiences feel seen, which is why I got into comedy writing in the first place. – Jessicoco Hansell 

But comedy’s not like ice skating. You don’t get points for degree of difficulty.” Sometimes, crossing the line can be thought-provoking. Laughter is a physical reaction. It’s honest and instant, and it’s interesting for the audience to laugh and sometimes wonder if it was OK to laugh.

The list of forbidden topics is always changing, and comedy evolves, like society, and it’s the job of the comic to feel where the line is. Sometimes you only find out by tripping over it. I’m sure if you’re the guest speaker at a KKK rally, the line is in a different place than for my audience. – Raybon Kan

The only rule in stand-up comedy from my perspective is tell jokes that you want to tell. Don’t tiptoe around other people because they might get offended. As a comedian, you have to stay true to your craft. – Dave Batten

There are some things that you can try and do something about. And if you want to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, then you’d damn well better do something about them. – Arif Ahmed

Material living standards aren’t everything by any means. But they do seem to count for quite a lot.Michael Reddell

The conversations around the sustainability of red meat – which is often dominated by issues and matters prevalent in the northern hemisphere – means it is important to contribute a New Zealand-centric explanation of how we produce our meat.

The fact is, our system is the ‘EV car model’ of farming. Very efficient at raising animals on pasture and converting inedible grass into high quality, nutrient-dense food.Derek Moot

Kiwis must realise there’s no us and them – farmers are part of New Zealand; an integral part of our country’s welfare. A cursory glance at the rest of the world and we’d recognise how lucky we are here in Aotearoa.

New Zealand is the only OECD country with its economy based on agricultural production. It’s something that we do really, really, well. New Zealand farmers are good at agriculture and Kiwis can be proud of it. – Derek Moot

I’m reminded of the old Soviet Union, where word would spread like wildfire when a fresh delivery of bread or potatoes arrived at the supermarket and people would run to join the queue. Perhaps the government has chosen the same the mode of delivery for the Pfizer rollout. – Karl du Fresne

I don’t know who’s making these calls but I have to say, if you’ve got middle level bureaucrats sitting at their desk in Wellington, they do need to remember that their decisions will affect real people. – Dr Tim Mackle

New Zealanders, on the whole, are a tolerant, decent people, of many cultural and ethnic backgrounds. who abhor racism and inequality and indeed any other “ism” which purports to establish some sort of domination or superiority. “Jack is as good as his master” is a colloquialism long espoused in New Zealand to describe our egalitarian approach to life. There is no doubt whatsoever that any person in New Zealand today, if they have the ability, can aspire to and achieve whatever they want. The opportunity is undoubtedly there. In recent times, the highest offices of the land have been held by distinguished New Zealanders of multiple ethnicities – Maori, Fijian Indian, and yes, those of European or Asian descent. Ethnicity, gender or religion, amongst other political identities, has been no barrier to New Zealanders achieving their goals and dreams. We, all of us – Maori, Pakeha, Pasifika, Asian, African – attended school together, have worked together, played sport together, served and died for our country New Zealand together, and have intermarried to the extent that virtually every person of Maori descent today has a European or Asian ancestor. Few other countries around the world can claim such egalitarian, inter-cultural and relatively peaceful outcomes. – Henry Armstrong

This is not to say we should not be indifferent to the cultural identification, beliefs, needs and practices of cultural minorities, including our Pasifika, Asian and Maori communities – we should of course acknowledge and respect those cultural differences where appropriate. But equally, the same attributes pertaining to the current ethnic majority also need to be acknowledged. Terms like “white privilege” and “white supremacy” are racist insults which have NO PLACE in New Zealand. – Henry Armstrong

Racism goes both ways and is equally hurtful, no matter what a person’s ethnic or cultural identity. My Irish and Polish ancestors, as well as our Pasifika and Chinese brothers and sisters, have all experienced racism in New Zealand. Let’s unite and stamp this out-wherever it comes from, including from Maori! . . .

There is no excuse for justifying and supporting insulting accusations of racism of any type in New Zealand, be it by Pakeha or by Maori, or indeed by anybody else who uses ethnicity as a point of difference. Let us condemn ALL racism, overt, covert or inverse. – Henry Armstrong

If it’s true that a new form of overt racial antagonism is emerging in New Zealand, then its origins are almost certainly domestic. I’d go further and say that the primary provocation is coming not from shadowy white supremacists, as the Dominion Post story speculates, but from the opposite direction – from proponents of critical race theory, the Marxist view that societies such as New Zealand are built on oppressive, systemic racism.

To put it another way, the divisive, polarising race rhetoric that we are bombarded with daily is coming overwhelmingly from one side, and it’s not from Pakeha. If we really to want to identify what’s destabilising race relations in New Zealand, we should point the finger at those who relentlessly promote an ideology of apartness – conveniently denying, as I’ve pointed out in this blog, that even the most strident activists carry the supposed curse of European blood. – Karl du Fresne

The problem for these part-Maori agitators (should we call them Maokeha?) is that if they acknowledged their European descent, the ideological narrative that we are two races, immutably divided into exploiters and exploited, would be deprived of much of its force. But as long as they continue to identify exclusively with their Maori heritage, they lay themselves open to the accusation that they do it because it enables them to exercise power and influence that would otherwise not be available to them.

These are the people who are dialling up the heat in the race debate, and no one should be surprised if a redneck backlash develops. Nothing is more likely to give oxygen to the small minority of true racists in New Zealand – people like the woman Tukaki encountered – than the perception that New Zealand is being reshaped along race-based lines that would advantage those of part-Maori descent. The danger is that the vast majority of New Zealanders who are liberally minded and racially tolerant are likely to get caught in the middle of an unlovely clash between extremes. Karl du Fresne

In reality, the world seems every more filled with what the French call “langue de bois,” that wooden language in which apparatchiks of various apparats, governmental, academic, and commercial, put words to their lack of thoughts. – Theodore Dalrymple

Sentences, which are no more meaningful in the negative than in the affirmative, and whose negative indeed confers nothing to the mind different from the affirmative, are uttered with a gravity intended to suggest that something important is being said.

But it would be a mistake to suppose that, just because the words and sentences uttered have no clear meaning, that they have no purpose. On the contrary, they have a very important purpose. The mastery of this kind of language is the managerial equivalent of freemasons’ ceremonies: it distinguishes the managers from the managed.Theodore Dalrymple

Again, if I may be allowed a paradox, meaninglessness is not without meaning. To talk in verbiage is to commit yourself to nothing, to promise nothing, and therefore to prevent yourself from being held to anything. It therefore excludes nothing.

It facilitates, or is a disguise or smokescreen, for complete ruthlessness: for having uttered something without meaning, without any tether to concrete reality, you may do anything you like without breaking your word.

Where such language is used, there can be no trust, only suspicion, for no one utters anything to which he can be held. All that is left is a struggle for power, the achievement of which has come, ever since Nietzsche and his death of God, to seem the highest, even the only, good. – Theodore Dalrymple

In an age where we are surrounded with everybody’s best version of themselves presented on social media, confidence is king. On reality TV, all shyness and self-consciousness is discarded for 15 minutes of fame. Contestants readily make fools of themselves to gain some notoriety. These incredible levels of confidence shouldn’t be our norm, nor considered healthy.

Before diagnosing yourself with imposter syndrome and chanting affirmations in the mornings, consider that being a little bit self-aware and self-critical is not, in fact, a problem, and perhaps a society which values confidence over self-reflection is.Rachel Peters

The mantra of ‘They Are Us’ repeated over and over like a prayer soon began to lose its meaning. After March 15, many of us felt more isolated than ever before. We looked over our shoulders when we walked through a crowd. We felt our chests tightening while walking into a mosque. Some of us stopped taking our children to Friday prayers.

Others questioned whether or not to abandon wearing the hijab in search of safety. We were all waiting for more attacks to come, and we did not know where they would come from, or when. – Mohamed Hassan

All of us were grateful for the beauty we witnessed in the days that followed, the empathy and warmth and shared grief we were able to experience as a country. It was a moment that shaped us, gave us a path forward through the darkness. But that process has not ended. We are not healed. We are not ready to move on, and the road is long and difficult. –

There were times when ‘They Are Us’ felt hollow. A promise made but not kept. A pat on the back for a job not yet done. – Mohamed Hassan

In its essence, it is a story about an act of white supremacy that is centered around white voices, white feelings and white heroism. The irony is nauseating. The lack of self-awareness is profound. – Mohamed Hassan

But this is not an inspiring story. It is a tragedy, one that must always be centered around the Muslim victims and their families. No one else.

And when they are ready to speak again, the rest of us must sit down and listen. – Mohamed Hassan

At every such juncture, we’ve been admonished to “believe the science.” But this is not science; it’s politics. Science demands a reflexive posture of skepticism toward received wisdom, tempered by trust in empirical evidence. Bowing habitually to expert authority on the strength of titles and credentials is the antithesis of the scientific mindset. Leighton Akira Woodhouse

The scientific establishment, like the political establishment, is a human institution. It’s not an impartial supercomputer, or a transcendent consciousness. It’s a bunch of people subject to the same incentives and disincentives the rest of us are subject to: economic self-interest, careerism, pride and vanity, the thirst for power, fame and influence, embarrassment at admitting mistakes, intellectual laziness, inertia, and ad-hoc ethical rationalization, as well as altruism, moral purpose, and heroic inspiration. Scientific experts deserve the respect due to them by dint of their education and experience, and they deserve the skepticism due to them by dint of their existence as imperfect actors functioning in complicated and deeply flawed human networks and organizations. If you “believe in science,” you don’t bow to their authority. You don’t transform them into living legends and teach your children to follow the example of their lives. You don’t light votive candles to them and castigate anyone who dares doubt their infinite wisdom.

Instead, you demand the best proof they can offer. You consider their motivations, their ideological biases and their conflicts of interest. You interrogate their advice, and weigh it against that of their critics. You exercise diligence. You ask questions. You trust in evidence, not in people. You think for yourself. – Leighton Akira Woodhouse

Never forget that if it was easy to be in business then everybody would be in business. –  Pita Alexander

Honestly, that whole ‘They Are Us’ phrase really bothers me. I know many disagree with me and I’m not gonna’ fight the fight again, but if we really meant ‘They Are Us,’ the Crusaders would have changed their name. If we really meant ‘They Are Us,’ then we might not have planned massacre anniversary commemorations, knowing that most Muslims don’t mark anniversaries.

If they were us then we wouldn’t us the word ‘They’ at all.    – Jack Tame

How is it acceptable that the cycleway is a velvety smooth carpet of asphalt, while the general roadway remains a rutted, dishevelled patchwork quilt of rough and ready repairs? Motorists feel like they’re being contemptuously treated by a rabidly anti-car council.Mike Yardley

 Up to now, this new “age of enlightenment”, as woke followers would call it, is largely constrained to traditional wealthy democracies found in Europe, North America and Australasia. In other words, most of the world, by population, is yet to feel the woke wave or has decided it’s just not for them. Poor ignorant souls, still able to give their misplaced opinions on issues which have been ruled on by our woke leaders as unfit for public debate. – Derek Mackie

 It’s hard to tell how many people are secretly unwoke but I suspect it is a very large number indeed. Why don’t they speak out? If there’s one thing the woke brigade does well, it’s bully and intimidate. This is an age-old human tactic for getting your own way but what makes it particularly hypocritical in this case is the endless woke calls for fairness, kindness and freedom of expression. Like most movements born out of an urge for radical change and revolution, these laudable aims only apply to their own supporters. Anyone who dares to disagree or argue an alternative viewpoint is shouted down, vilified and verbally beaten into submission. –  Derek Mackie

In the last 70 – 100 years the great unwashed, that’s you and me by the way, have gained enormous freedoms and opportunities, not least regular baths and showers, which were denied to our ancestors. I don’t believe we will give these rights up easily. Like all radical movements, Woke will degenerate to more extreme and intolerant ideas, continuing to divide us by race, colour, gender and sexual orientation. These policies will become irreconcilable with preaching the same facade of understanding and fairness.

I hope that, despite the indoctrination planned for future schoolchildren, many will rebel and challenge the woke elite. However, this is likely another generation away, at least. In the meantime, the Great Unwoke need to band together, as best they can, and speak out at every opportunity to encourage others to follow suit. To stay silent and live a quiet life is no longer an option. Let’s bring on a new great age where we can discuss all issues in public life without fear of being branded something repugnant. –  Derek Mackie

I hope the greenies are still enjoying their gas ban and the fact we don’t mine much coal nowadays.

Because both of things mean we’re hurting the planet more than we otherwise would’ve done. Heather du Plessis Allan

That the CCC and the Government have got this far without encountering very much in the way of pushback from the public (farmers don’t count as the public) is because New Zealanders have no idea how much their day-to-day lives will be affected if Carr’s masterplan becomes Government policy. Everybody pays lip service to fighting global warming, but beyond occasionally catching a bus, or walking – instead of driving – to the chippie, it’s business as usual. Hardly anyone is prepared for the radical change of lifestyle which Carr’s recommendations would require. So, when the climate change penny finally drops, all hell is going to break loose. – Chris Trotter

Carr’s plans are typically elitist in their lofty disregard for the lives of ordinary New Zealanders. Indeed, the burden of this plan of his will fall most heavily upon those Kiwis least able to bear it. Is the cleaner living in South Auckland, who travels miles each day by car to reach her workplace, seriously being asked to buy an electric vehicle? And even if the government finances her into one, how is she supposed to power it up? – Chris Trotter

The fact that Labour is surprised at our outrage tells me they don’t understand Middle New Zealand voters.

They badly misjudged how much we would object to this spend and how much we would hate the pay freeze just a few weeks ago. They don’t know what we prioritise.

After years of living in a Wellington politics bubble or a university bubble or a union bubble they’ve stopped bumping into normal people. They are relying on focus groups to try to understand us, but focus groups have limits. Focus groups measure people through a series of questions. People are more complicated than that.

To Labour, Middle New Zealanders are a curiosity they occasionally venture out to study like a zoologist heading out to watch a pack of passing giraffes. –  Heather du Plessis-Allan

The crime committed around the harbour crossing is now two-fold. The ruinous waste of money for a whole new structure, the only positive aspect being it most likely will never happen. The government, by the way, might want to reflect on that widespread type of reaction.

Why are so many people sceptical? Because their delivery record is abysmal, and it’s now haunting them. Governments should make announcements like this and have support, what they get through their own ineptitude is scepticism. – Mike Hosking

In a country crying out for infrastructural reform, not to mention no money and a shortage of skills and materials, the best they can do is a massive cross water cycle lane.

If you don’t see that as the sheer insanity that it is, you’re either employed at a university, in the Green Party, or you’ve lost your marbles. Roads build economies, cycles don’t. – Mike Hosking

Sometimes you get so bogged down with the day-to-day graft that it is hard to see where small improvements can make a big difference. If we stop seeing health and safety as compliance and look at it as productive farming with thriving staff, we might see an improvement in our pretty miserable track record of injuries and deaths on farm.Jake Jarman

Pandemics require two things: The efficient administering of effective vaccines, and truth.

I need reassurance that the country is receiving both. – Gavin Ellis

An army of spin doctors in the ministry and an elite force of them in the Beehive may be responsible for narratives which, if not conflicting, are not perfectly aligned. Either way, information is being manipulated and we would be näive to think otherwise. It’s the way politics and government works.

Nonetheless, it has no place in a pandemic.

When “Can I believe it?” passes the public’s lips in these hazardous times, it’s a signal to reset the strategy. – Gavin Ellis

The truth has a wonderful habit of revealing itself but, with a deadly virus waiting for an opportunity to thrive, we can’t wait a year to hear it. – Gavin Ellis

We need to hear leaders condemn all support for terrorism and all terrorism equally whatever the source, target, and circumstances, and even when it is not politically expedient to do so. – Juliet Moses

The Commission concedes that it is not possible to model the future but then bases its report on modelling.

A Shaman examining the entrails of a goat could make a forecast of GDP in 30 years’ time that would be just as valid. – Richard Prebble

The Commission is using climate change to advance an agenda for a transition to a “fair, inclusive and equitable” society, the eternal justification for socialism.

The report’s recommendations will make reaching zero emissions more costly while making New Zealand less fair, more divided and poorer. – Richard Prebble

If the term “the Establishment” means those who hold power in society and whose ideas dominate the public conversation, then what we thought of as the conservative Establishment in the latter part of the 20th century has long been extinct. We’ve done a 180-degree flip, to the point where what was then considered radical has become mainstream. But just like the old Establishment, the new one is oppressively conformist, authoritarian and intolerant of different ideas and different ways of doing things. That’s the nature of Establishments. – Karl du Fresne

When a major event occurs or a policy proposal announced, your first thought in today’s news feed culture is not your own original idea but almost inevitably a headline or commenter appealing to your worse biases.

Playing to the rawest elements of human nature, today’s social media-driven outrage machine has done great damage to intellectual life, destroying our ability to think independently, and discuss productively across lines of difference.   – Matthew Nisbet

When TV news does report on climate change, portrayals tend to exaggerate the threats, without providing information about what audiences might be able to do to protect against them, a style of fear mongering that can result in feelings of powerlessness or forms of denial. – Matthew Nisbet

In the quest for climate progress, the goal is not to broker cross-alliances between the center-right, center-left, and left wing, drawing on the best ideas that those factions can offer, but rather to build progressive power.

In doing so, the vast complexity of climate politics is reduced to a Manichean storyline that features a battle between the forces of “good and light” and “evil and darkness.” 

Progressives not only see climate change as an epic battle to stave off catastrophe, but also an opportunity to transform the world into their vision of an ideal society. – Matthew Nisbet

Absent the ability to read deeply, reason analytically, or argue effectively, generations of college students are at of risk of missing out on the most essential skills needed to sustain a liberal democracy. – Matthew Nisbet

I applaud and congratulate people who question the official line on any matter, even if sometimes they are in error. There is a freedom to err, a right to be wrong. – John Bishop

Those who say on any matter that the debate is over are propagating their ideology and advertising their power to squelch opposition. They are the enemies of free speech, freedom and democracy, even if they cloak themselves as being on the right side of history. – John Bishop

Today, if left unchallenged, cancel culture, de-platforming speakers, or decrying anyone who strays from the “correct” ideological line will lead inevitably to a denial of free speech rights. People will become afraid to exercise those rights. How can that ever be good?John Bishop

The Government’s announcement on Sunday of subsidies for electric vehicles did not make any case that the benefits to the public would plausibly exceed the costs. To fail to demonstrate positive net benefits is to fail to make a public wellbeing case for the measure.

The puzzle is why a Government that prides itself on having a wellbeing focus seems to have so little regard for it in this and other cases. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

The Government’s press release covered the absence of a wellbeing benefit case with specious spin. For a start, its claimed environmental benefits are spurious. The ETS caps net emissions. If there are fewer emissions in transport, there will be more emissions elsewhere unless the cap is reduced. The same is true for other “chest-beating” policies such as decarbonising public transport and ‘revitalising rail’. Reducing the cap without subsidising electric vehicles could achieve more while costing less. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

On the Climate Change Commission’s analysis, the ETS could come close to achieving the government’s net zero goal at a cost of only $50 a tonne of CO2. Why then did the Commission propose a raft of choice-reducing measures that would cost up to and possibly beyond $250 a tonne?

The Commission’s answer in essence is that we, the public, would cut net emissions in the wrong ways. We would not inflict enough pain on ourselves. We would plant too many pine trees. We would also fail to walk and cycle enough. We would drive cars too much. Government needs to change our behaviour in specific ways.

In so doing, the Commission explicitly abandons achieving net zero carbon by 2050 at least cost, as perceived by those incurring the costs. It seeks to force on New Zealanders an unchanged net emissions result at a higher cost. That harms the public’s wellbeing, as perceived by those affected. It does so for no environmental gain. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

The branch of economics that has studied how best to assess whether a policy might improve people’s experienced wellbeing is welfare economics. People’s own assessment of their wellbeing is at the heart of that analysis. That makes it inherently non-elitist.

The contrast is with paternalistic policies that treat people’s preferences as the problem rather than something to be respected. People who have choices will make the “wrong” choices. Instinctively, paternalists wish to reduce the public’s scope for choice. They may want to prohibit what is not mandated. The Commission comes close to both on petrol versus electric cars. The Government may have the same instincts. – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

The Government’s press release on Sunday is a masterclass in the use of a false comparison. None of the claimed benefits are benefits relative to the ETS.

To cap it all, a tweet a few days ago by a former senior Labour adviser decried heavy imports of SUVs. With supreme elitism it ended: “It’s surprising we allow this at all.” Well, whose country is it? – Dr Bryce Wilkinson

But if the goal of the rollout was to safely vaccinate New Zealanders in the fastest possible time, the government and our health ministry have surely failed. We can’t look back at the initial response to Covid-19 and toot our horns, comparing ourselves favourably with almost every other country on Earth, whilst conveniently ignoring the fact that we are making the amongst the slowest progress with vaccinations in the developed World. – Jack Tame

It seems to me we’re in a funny middle ground. We haven’t done the noble thing. And for whatever reason, we haven’t done the fast thing, either. – Jack Tame

The whole thing has at times felt a bit ramshackle and inconsistent.
I’ve heard politicians say it’s not where we start but where we finish. It’s true that we won’t be entirely safe until our full population is vaccinated. Even then, we face a risk. But the speed of the rollout does matter. Every day someone in our community isn’t vaccinated, we face an increased risk of a community outbreak. The more people are unvaccinated at any one time, the greater the risk. – Jack Tame

The hypocrisy from the political left to conveniently ignore facts which do not suit their political agenda appears to have no shame.

Politicians constantly advertise what they claim are the sparkling clean, green credentials of EVs. I believe these politically driven, so called “noble” assertions are badly misleading and dangerous for the New Zealand public to blindly accept without debating the environmental credibility of EVs and fully understanding the downstream costs to taxpayers. – Troy Bowker

The point being missed, ignored, or not properly debated, is the total cost on the environment from the manufacture, use, and disposal of EVs versus petrol or diesel cars.

There is plenty of research to suggest EVs are actually worse for the environment overall than fossil fuel cars, just as there is research they are better.

None of that research properly deals with the CO2 emissions from the disposal and recycling of batteries. The EV industry lobby groups all tell us to not to be concerned and to “hope” that technology catches up so that the production and disposal of EV batteries will at some stage have a much lower carbon footprint. Surely this is putting the cart before the horse . Why can’t they address the elephant in the room regarding disposing of millions of EV batteries in a climate friendly manner and provide hard facts to support this? They can’t and they won’t because they simply don’t know. – Troy Bowker

A $6000 subsidy on a $60,000 EV is hardly relevant when all of your disposable income is paid in rent, food and heating your home.

I believe that when these issues are fully understood by the public, and the inconclusive message of how clean and green EVs are is replaced with reliable facts and sensible debate, Labour’s car tax will be seen for what is, political left ideology and hypocrisy at its worst. – Troy Bowker

To allow EVs to drive up to 500km in a single charge, these batteries weigh over 350kg and are made out of lithium, cobalt, copper, graphite, and nickel – mined in some of the world’s poorest countries.

The manufacture of these batteries does not come without an environmental cost. Once CO2 emissions from the production of batteries are taken into account, Germany’s Institute of Economic Research argued EVs do more harm to the environment than a modern Diesel engine. – Troy Bowker

Manufacturing is only the start of the problem. After an EV battery loses its ability to hold its charge, the metals and chemicals inside them contain toxic substances that are currently very difficult and expensive to dispose of cleanly. Technology hasn’t developed enough globally to come up with a way to either dispose of them safely, or recycle them in the volumes required.

If Labour wants all of New Zealand’s approximately four million vehicles to be EVs, then before they tax us even more can they please outline the plan to dispose of millions of toxic used EV batteries generally driven by the urban elite? This is not an unreasonable request. – Troy Bowker

Huge areas of land would need to be converted to graveyards for toxic used EV batteries. Suddenly the clean, green future with EVs that Labour advocates looks extremely dirty.

Used EV batteries are prone to spontaneous combustion, emitting poisonous gases into our air. The gases from the fires would travel large distances and be a huge risk to animals and humans. – Troy Bowker

Compared with normal fires, EV fires will be very difficult to put out. Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) national manager Paul Turner recently warned of the risk to human life from EV battery fires.

He reports EV battery fires trigger an irreversible chain reaction called “thermal runaway”, with fires burning at 1000C. FENZ is currently warning of the risks with the influx of a few thousand more EVs, let alone the four million that Labour want to bring into New Zealand. – Troy Bowker

Even more horrifying are the human rights violations in the production of EV batteries in the Congo, where over 50 per cent of the world’s cobalt is mined. A CNN investigation tracked the cobalt used for the production of luxury EVs to mass Congolese child-labour camps, involving children as young as 7. Adult supervisors were filmed assaulting children for not following instructions. – Troy Bowker

Proponents of identity politics and critical race theory, its ideological stablemate, hold that all people of Pasifika or Maori descent have experienced subjugation and have needs and interests that are at odds with those of the white oppressors. The aim is to secure political advantage to atone for their mistreatment, but unfortunately this can only come at the expense of social cohesion that benefits us all. – Karl du Fresne

Denial of one’s European heritage is a necessary starting point, because otherwise those claiming to be descendants of the oppressed must confront the fact that they are also descendants of the oppressors. The proponents of identity politics don’t seem to have yet worked out a way to reconcile this dichotomy without weakening their claims, so they ignore it.

Do they, at the same time as they cry out for justice on behalf of their dark-skinned forebears, also experience paroxysms of self-reproach for the behaviour of their pale ones? Karl du Fresne

It’s a sad reflection of the times we live in that there is an industry of fact-checkers. These usually come in the form of online services that you can access to check the facts surrounding something you’ve seen or heard.

In a world where documentaries, the current affairs reading material we choose, and even the words of our elected officials, don’t always present an accurate view of the facts, fact-checking has become a necessary service. – Bruce Cotterill

We live in a environment where anyone with a mobile phone and an ability to write can be a publisher. And there are many mechanisms to distribute one’s opinions, most of which rely on some form of social media.

As a result there is more information out there than ever before, none of which has been subject to the normal safeguards around checking what is true and what is false. And unlike the news-gatherers of old, there is no obligation on the new age publisher to be accurate. Or honest. 

In my opinion, this puts an even greater onus on the traditional media to call out the inaccuracies. Now, more than ever before, they should be our unchallengeable source of the truth.

In fact, while the old media companies are busy trying to find ways to remain relevant, I suggest that there is an obvious path for them: honest, accurate journalism that can be relied on by readers, viewers and listeners. – Bruce Cotterill

For most of us, when we make promises we should at least have an understanding of how we are going to deliver on them. For our current crop of political leaders, that doesn’t appear to be a consideration. In fact, they appear to see the ill-informed landscape not as a chance to put things right, but an opportunity to further confuse and mislead.

That’s a great shame. I don’t want much from our politicians. But I do want them to be people who tell us the truth, who give us the best information they can give us, and who make good decisions on behalf of the electorate, without hidden agendas, dishonesty or bias.

The problem with misleading people is this: the more you get away with it, the more likely it is to continue. At its worst, we must prepare for a Government that deliberately and frequently lies to us in order to hold on to power. Such behaviour, left unchecked, would put us into irreversible decline. – Bruce Cotterill

Can you credibly believe any policy that says plant your food productive land in exotic trees so you don’t have to change your behaviour? 50 Shades of Green

In normal times, fiscal profligacy is, at base, an act of selfishness at the expense of future generations. It is the same attitude that has seen us pollute our rivers, overfish our seas, use up non-renewable resources, plunder our forests and generally behave in a fashion without thought for our own grandchildren and their grandchildren…My fiscal policies were, as far as possible, about looking to the long term, not spending up to the hilt in the good times. Rainy days do come, and are more likely in New Zealand than in many other countries. – Sir Michael Cullen

Whanau is at the core of humanity. Let’s stop pretending we are ‘kind’. It’s a buzz word that no longer applies to the way we handle those suffering the most for the rest of us. – Sir Ian Taylor

Everybody needs a bit of luck, but luck isn’t a strategy. We need to have a system that holds up, – Sir Brian Roche

The unbelievably insane proposed $800 million ‘cycle bridge’ attached to the Auckland harbour bridge, WILL NOT HAPPEN. Why? Because the understandable uproar across the country has been such, no government could survive such craziness and all governments principal motivation is survival. – Sir Bob Jones

The second reason I suspect a conspiracy behind the $800 million cycle-bridge announcement is because no government is that dumb. It amounted to a plainly ludicrous straw man for the government to earn public points by subsequently cancelling it. Sir Bob Jones

I expected that I was paying this fortune, all this time and energy, to learn how to think. But they are forcing you to think the way they want you to think. – Yeonmi Park

Voluntarily, these people are censoring each other, silencing each other, no force behind it. Other times (in history) there’s a military coup d’etat, like a force comes in taking your rights away and silencing you. But this country is choosing to be silenced, choosing to give their rights away. Yeonmi Park

There is a problem and it needs to be fixed. It is one of short-sightedness in understanding that jobs defined by officials as low skilled, low paid and low priority are actually vital links in keeping a longer and deeper interconnected supply and delivery chain ticking all the way into the market to ensure we can sell the products and services we supply and in return contribute to our national, regional and local economies. – Michael Barnett

We classify our sports in order to pitch like against like and to keep people safe. Heavyweight boxers never fight flyweights. From puberty, the sexes compete separately in most sports most of the time. These are long accepted norms. Or were. – Tanya Aldred

By conflating gender and sex, I would argue we fudge the very reason we have sex categories in sport: the male performance advantage. Without a separate category for females, there would be no women in Olympic finals. – Tanya Aldred

The science is young. Stop. Breathe. Trans women should be able to live their sporting lives to the fullest so if research can find a way for them to participate in female sports without advantage, brilliant. Until then, remove the idea of gender altogether and revert to sex-based categories – a female category and an open category that can cater for trans men who have taken testosterone, trans women and men.

But above all, there needs to be a realisation that you can’t always have it all. Just as women and trans men can’t dominate in men’s sports; and men can’t enter women’s sport; trans women shouldn’t be able to push open a door that was locked for a reason. It isn’t fair. –  Tanya Aldred

Lowering of testosterone is almost completely ineffective in taking away the biological differences between males and females. – Ross Tucker

You take the best part of you, the thing you love and enjoy the most, and you take it away. It’s probably the cruellest thing you could do to somebody.Gray Todd

The so-called low skilled workers were essential and frontline workers through lockdowns. Prioritising visa relaxations based on workers’ skills or the capacity to generate wealth is not only against basic human rights, but is not aligned with brand New Zealand as known internationally. –  Anu Kaloti

Migrants here are left in no doubt whatsoever that this government does not want them and does not value them. – Alastair McClymont

As well as superior height and bone density, males gain a far larger amount of muscle and strength during puberty than females, and multiple studies show this is largely maintained even after an extensive period of testosterone suppression in adulthood. – Dr Emma Hilton

Too many today think that acknowledging the biological differences between the sexes is sexism. This is nonsense. Of course, cultural norms exacerbate biological differences, but there is no escaping the reality that most men are considerably stronger than most women.Jo Bartosch

It is no more offensive to admit that, on average, men outperform women in sport than it is to acknowledge that men can’t give birth. It is, however, offensive to reduce the biological reality of womanhood to a testosterone marker. With training and dedication there was a possibility that Hubbard could have become a champion male weightlifter. But what is certain is that Hubbard will never be a woman. – Jo Bartosch

It’s over-ambitious, under-endowed with talent and too impatient to re-invent the wheel. The bureaucracy is struggling to keep up, and it’s showing. A popular leader isn’t enough to compensate for (or disguise) incompetence, fatigue and hubris. – Karl du Fresne

Roads that keep farms supplied and enable crops and livestock to be transported for processing will be neglected so that affluent Aucklanders can cycle over the harbour on a summer’s day for a leisurely Saturday morning latte. – Karl du Fresne

A government that was rewarded only last year for its empathy and sensitivity is rapidly turning into one that looks arrogant, incompetent and defensive. – Karl du Fresne

Two years on, can we conclude the much-vaunted 2019 Wellbeing Budget was really just a feel-good budget? – Ben Thomas

We’re journalists, we’re not criminals. The fact that the Crown is treating the media like this when we have exposed bad practice in a government department is incredibly disappointing and very heavy-handed. 

If that’s the way Crown Law is going to treat the media then we should be afraid because that’s not the Aotearoa New Zealand that we believe that we’re living in.

Our job is to hold power to account. That’s what we did, that’s what we do and that is what we will continue to do. The Crown being so heavy-handed and ridiculous in taking this case is certainly not going to stop that. – Melanie Reid

Labour’s and the Greens’ sharp swing to the left, in cultural terms, may be acceptable to New Zealanders in the professions, the public service, the universities and the communications industries. After all, these are the highly-educated elites who, in practically all the advanced economies of the West, are the most comfortable, temperamentally, with the politics of race and personal identity. It is not acceptable, however, to the culturally conservative 7-15 percent of the electorate which “switched sides” in 2017 and 2020. They are becoming increasingly alarmed and confused by the Labour Government’s unheralded direction of travel. – Chris Trotter

What Labour would like us to believe is that they are skating on a solid sheet of ideological ice, more that capable of carrying the weight of their cultural revolution. In reality, the ice now bearing their electoral weight is wafer thin. Sadly, Labour’s leaders remain utterly oblivious to the currents surging just below their party’s fragile crust of support. They have no idea how very strong they are, nor how deathly cold.Chris Trotter

We live in a society that abhors discrimination on the basis of many traits. And yet one of the major forms of discrimination is lookism, prejudice against the unattractive. And this gets almost no attention and sparks little outrage. Why?

Lookism starts, like every form of bigotry, with prejudice and stereotypes. – David Brooks

The language of Critical Race Theory is designed to obfuscate, not to enlighten, and its use of language is key. Critical Race Theory has used English to hide within plain sight an entirely new dialect where nothing means what we think it means; where words may not be pronounced differently, but where they have different meanings to the initiated, and these meanings are deeply interlinked with one another, and referential to one another.  – Effi Lincoln

Western civilization has succeeded as much as it has because we have adopted the concepts of liberty, universal human rights, democracy, free enterprise and equality before the law.  We believe that there is an objective truth that is accessible through reason, and we believe in the concept of the reasonable person.

Importantly we recognise the imperfections of our society, but we know that through reason, through scientific method, and through the application of the law, we can continue to improve. –  Effi Lincoln

Liberalism seeks to understand where we are now, and how we arrived here, and to use reason to take people forward to a better future

And the breath of life for Liberalism; its oxygen, is free speech. –Effi Lincoln

To Critical Race Theorists and thus to the Woke, all inequity, no matter how random, is an expression of racism.

For them, any outcome gap between two identity groups must be due to racism – Effi Lincoln

Leftist ideology exists on a continuous downward slope to absurdity because it has no external arbiter of truth. In leftist thought there is no objective truth, no reasonable person standard.  There is only your truth and my truth. And these truths, which emanate from Lived Experiences, are ranked by identity grouping with the most oppressed identity always being bestowed the status of Most Truthful.

In Woke, even the way we speak is seen as part of the power matrix to be dismantled – Effi Lincoln

The aim of the Woke movement (and, integral to it, the Critical Race Theorists) is to enact a social and cultural revolution with the goal of seizing the means of cultural production and flipping society over in such a way that the cultural capital that holds our society together is destroyed;  destroyed in such a way that turns the perceived oppressors into the oppressed and makes those oppressors pay, in perpetuity, for the sins of themselves, in upholding systemic racism, and of their forbears, who first created the systemically racist institutions and then stole from the ancestors of the Critical Race Theorists, their utopian world. – Effi Lincoln

The fact that we have human rights, and a Human Rights Commissioner to uphold those rights is a direct result of Liberalism. 

Critical Race Theorists however see human rights as subservient to the group rights of the identity politics they practice instead. – Effi Lincoln

It’s not hard to see why wokeness is so frequently compared to a religion. The metaphors are everywhere: the washing of feet, the prostrations, the proclamations of faith, the sacraments, the martyrs, the confessions, the heretics, the hallowed ground, the Original Sin, the evangelism. Last summer’s protests for racial justice often had the look of a religious movement. Many of its practitioners saw it explicitly in thoseterms. Even the snarky phrase for this moment of mass political enlightenment, “The Great Awokening”, is derived from the name of an early American religious revival. – Leighton Woodhouse

If religion gives meaning to the lives of the faithful, there are a lot more Americans now who lack that meaning than there used to be, and they’re concentrated on the left side of the political spectrum. It’s not difficult to imagine these people seeking the kind of meaning that religion would otherwise have provided them  — a sense of belonging to a larger community; a feeling of collective purpose; an affiliation with a temporal reality that transcends the duration of a single human lifespan — in other things. In their politics, for example.

The problem is that politics is, in important ways, the very antithesis of religion, and in a democratic society, the more politics takes on the shape of faith, the more intractable and dysfunctional it becomes. That’s because politics, when put to its proper use, is the search for what disparate groups share in common, and the bargaining over their differences. Religion is practically its inverse; at its root, it’s tribal. And so as our politics have taken on the character of religion, they have become tribal, too. – Leighton Woodhouse

Once upon a time, politics served the purpose of weaving together livable compromises out of divergent interests and values. We didn’t rely on political identities to give our lives meaning. Political parties, factions, and institutions were merely the instrumental means through which we brokered a relatively peaceful co-existence with those who didn’t see eye-to-eye with us. Occasionally, and often heroically, it was the basis upon which we mobilized opinion to annihilate those with truly anti-social agendas. But ultimately, it was the toolset with which we built a practical working peace.

Today, politics is a competition for tribal allegiance, the means by which we proudly declare our intractable differences with others. Like religion, it is an instrument we use to forge communities of kinship with one another, but only by declaring war on those who lie outside of them. It is no longer the basis for co-existence in a pluralist society, but the stick with which we draw our battle lines. It is the domain of sectarian holy war. In a democratic society, it will be the vehicle for our undoing. – Leighton Woodhouse

While these reforms are often referred to, quite accurately, as free-market reforms, another way of looking at them is as the removal of an incalculable number of privileges that each benefited the few at the expense of the many. These privileges meant fewer opportunities for New Zealanders to reach their full potential. Once these shackles came off, innovative and entrepreneurial Kiwis started countless new companies and even created new industries. – Nicholas Kerr

While New Zealand has avoided large numbers of COVID-19 deaths or infections, it’s wrong to suggest that this is due to astute policy choices or excellence in their execution. Rather, it had few choices and got lucky. – Nicholas Kerr

New Zealand was able to prevent a major COVID-19 outbreak for two main reasons. First, it’s fortunate to be a remote island nation, so it was feasible to shut down the country’s borders. Second, it has a unicameral legislature and no constitution. – Nicholas Kerr

Once again, New Zealanders will have more limited employment choices. While they might like to trade off salaries or conditions with their preferred employer, that will no longer be possible as the entire sector they are seeking work in will have those locked in place. The least skilled will be priced out of jobs altogether. – Nicholas Kerr

If you value liberty and free markets, you need to continually make the case for them.  – Nicholas Kerr

Free markets allow everyone to reach their full potential and deliver morally sound outcomes. Most of us who understand this would prefer to use our time producing and innovating. But if we truly care for the thing that allows us to be productive—the free market—we need to devote some of our energy to defending it. – Nicholas Kerr

At a business summit earlier this week, the subject of the Prime Minister’s occasional tendency to argue black is white came up. A particularly acute observation was that Ardern was really speaking to her base and giving them the message she wanted them to hear. When it comes to the OECD and Covid, a higher level of truth is required. Fran O’Sullivan

Throughout this pandemic, the burden of a slow government response has been borne by the general population. Excessive personal restrictions have become the go-to tool, in preference to officials having their feet held to the fire by impatient politicians. – Steven Joyce

When there is no clear and present danger, most people can’t be bothered pulling out their phone to scan a barcode every time they go into a shop or cafe.

Unfortunately it looks a lot like the government has the same attitude, shrugging its shoulders and wombling along with a slow vaccination rollout. It fills in its time instead writing policy papers on the utopia that awaits us once they have completely re-organised our previously successful economy some years after the pandemic has passed. – Steven Joyce

The difference between an overly relaxed population and a sleepy government is that we are paying them to look out for our interests. It is their job, and they should be working much harder and with more urgency at getting the place back to normal so people have the freedom to live their lives. – Steven Joyce

Great Britain, the US, Europe are all doing everything in their power to return to normality as quickly as possible. Certainly, they have had it tougher.

But they are also much more realistic that free money and constant government borrowing can’t work forever as a substitute for a vibrant, connected economy. And to them the freedom of their citizens and the ability to go about their lives is important. – Steven Joyce

Beyond the vaccines, the Prime Minister should show some leadership by declaring her intention to get our border back to normal and allow reasonable freedom of movement as soon as is safely possible. She needs to put the boffins and the Fabian Society theorists back in their boxes, and declare that our post-pandemic problem is a shortage of labour, not a surplus. – Steven Joyce

Most importantly, the government needs to grow a backbone when dealing with the public service. They’ve stuffed it full of money and people. It is not Ministers’ job to justify a lacklustre performance. It is their job to demand more on our behalf. – Steven Joyce

Winston Peters’ reappearance in public last weekend was a reminder of the damage he has done to our democracy. When he put the Labour Party into office after the 2017 election, he did not just disappoint the winning party and its voters, he distorted the election’s reflection of public opinion. – John Roughan

Supporters of the winning party assert their views with new confidence thinking most people now agree with them. People who do not share those views become less confident to say so, more likely to keep their concerns quiet for the time being.

This is what has happened since the 2017 election. Ever since Peters put Labour in power its supporters have believed they won that election, despite the fact National had received 44.4 per cent of the vote to Labour’s 36.9 per cent. Even when Labour and Green voters were added together they did not outnumber National’s supporters that year. – John Roughan 

Last year Labour was re-elected with a majority in its own right, the first time any party has won an absolute majority since 1951. It attracted a swag of National votes thanks entirely to Jacinda Ardern’s appeal in a pandemic. But the result has reinforced the confidence of progressive folk that New Zealand has radically changed. They think it might even be Aotearoa.

They are mistaken. You don’t have to be very clever to know there is a subterranean rumbling in the land about a suspected agenda of Māori empowerment. You need only move beyond the bubbles of media, academia and public relations to hear it. – John Roughan

New Zealand has been blessed with very stable government on the whole, because voters normally give plenty of notice when most of them want a change of government. Polls turn against the incumbent a good year or two before the next election, plenty of time for the alternative party to drop or dilute positions it has taken for opposition purposes. – John Roughan

We got a Government unprepared for power and we know how. It need never happen again – John Roughan

Over the last 20 years, the Treaty has been wrenched out of its 1840s context and become the plaything of those who would divide New Zealanders from one another, not unite us. – Don Brash

I love the punctuality and the cleanliness of Pākehā funerals, but I do think they lack a bit of time in terms of spending time with their loved one, with families and just being able to cry and talk and sing and laugh together, instead of having all turn up on the final hour on the day of the funeral and doing it all then. That’s a bit tough to be honest. – Francis Tipene

Among the positive things about journalism are creative listening and humanity, and the voice the media can give to the overlooked and marginalised, and to raise ideas whose time has come. – John GIbb

Twitter is the new Colosseum and its inhabitants are the new mob, deciding what opinions, statements and beliefs can be expressed publicly and what cannot. – Schreibmaschiner

Now it is true that the character of a person wrongfully killed is not germane to the wrongfulness of his death. The law does not distinguish between saints and sinners as victims of murder. It is no defence to a charge of murder that the victim was a swine. . . .a man does not become good by being wrongfully killed. A mother loves her son because he is her son, not because he is good, and therefore the grief of his family is understandable and easily sympathised with; but for others to turn him into what he was not, a martyr to a cause, is to display at once a moral and an intellectual defect. – Theodore Dalrymple

Hate speech laws are always confusing because the concept is subjective. There is no objective test. What makes you feel unsafe is totally subjective. Some people feel unsafe in the dark. Hate speech will be whatever the authorities decide. – Richard Prebble

The government wants to add groups that should be exempt from ridicule and has suggested “religion, gender, sexuality, and disability”. The paper does not explain why these groups. We can easily think of others. Why not the vertically challenged? Height matters. Most US presidents have been over 6 foot tall.

Then what about the most misunderstood? Old white men, a group with which I feel some affinity. There are university courses on “white privilege” that seem designed to make old white men feel “unsafe and unwelcomed”.

Once we are protecting people’s feelings the list of groups is infinite.  – Richard Prebble

Cancel culture is sweeping the West. It is identity politics. Persuading voters that they are victims who need protecting. – Richard Prebble

Why is free speech important? Free speech is the building block on which democracy is constructed. Out of discussion and debate we test ideas. Only by allowing the advancement of false propositions can we prove they are wrong. – Richard Prebble

It is important that the state protects religious freedom including the right to hold no religious belief.

Religious freedom does not extend to the state giving special protection to religious opinions. – Richard Prebble

In a democracy, it is not the role of the government to protect us from having our beliefs challenged no matter how “unsafe and unwelcome” that may make us feel. The risk of being offended is the cost we must pay for having the right to say what we think. Once we empower the state to protect us from being offended we are no longer a free society.

Free speech is our defence against tyranny. It is our ability to say that the government is wrong. – Richard Prebble


The other curve

06/04/2020

In ordering a lockdown and putting New Zealand into a state of emergency, the government is firmly fixed on reducing the spread of Covid-19 to save lives and, ultimately, eliminate the disease.

That’s the health side of the equation. Roger Partridge argues a coherent Covid-19 strategy would also taken into account the economic one:

Professor Sir David Skegg raised the 64-thousand-dollar (or perhaps 64 billion-dollar) question in his testimony before Parliament’s Epidemic Response Committee this week. He asked whether the government had a clear the strategic objective for its unprecedented level-four lockdown.

Since the subtitle of Alert Level 4 is “Eliminate”, Sir David’s question might seem unfair. And Director General of Health, Dr Ashly Bloomfield, quickly clarified to media that elimination is indeed the goal.

But if elimination is the objective, it is troubling that Minister of Health David Clark referred to a goal of reducing the epidemic’s effect to successive “waves” of infection in his testimony before the Committee. There will be no waves of infection if elimination is successful.

Lack of consistency in messaging about the Government’s strategic objective is worrying. But there is a more fundamental concern with the elimination objective: the absence of a clear timeframe. Of course, we can eliminate the disease. If the four-week lockdown does not work, the government simply forces us into lockdown for longer. But at what cost?

A cost-benefit assessment sounds heartless when the goal of the lockdown policy is to save lives. But the country-wide pause has already triggered a domino-effect of business failures and job losses. Just as the coronavirus spreads exponentially, so does harm from the lockdown. For firms and workers, each day of lockdown causes more business failures and job losses.

It is easy to count the deaths of, or at least with, Covid-19. It will be harder to count the social costs, including lives lost, from both later treatment of other health conditions and the economic devastation, but they will be real.

These economic effects have health and wellbeing implications too. And at some point, the harm to the wellbeing of Kiwis from the lockdown may become greater than the benefit to the wellbeing of New Zealanders from continuing with it.

This will include more suicides, more domestic violence, more alcohol and drug abuse and delayed treatment for health conditions including cancer which could make a life or death difference.

Most estimates show unemployment soon running into double figures. Overseas estimates suggest if Governments are not careful unemployment could exceed 20% or even 30% – levels not seen since the Great Depression.

The hardship caused to hundreds of thousands of Kiwi families from widespread unemployment, the evaporation of job opportunities for the new generation of school leavers and the losses to the productive side of the economy which funds our social services and most of the population’s livelihoods, must all be factored into the Government’s strategic choices.

The business failures and job losses have both and economic and social cost that will feed off each other.

They will also result in less tax paid while demands on the public purse will increase.

Until it addresses this complicated equation, the Government’s Covid-19 strategy is at best only half complete. A well-informed strategy must consider both curves – the epidemiological curve and the economic curve.

In the meantime, Professor Skegg had some clear advice for the Government on the areas it must lift its game to give us the best chance of achieving the goal of elimination. The Government must fix the shortcomings with Covid-19 testing. It must enforce strict quarantining at the border. And it must improve contact tracing.

If the Government gets these tactics right, perhaps it can sidestep the bigger strategic decision. But it is fast bearing down on us.

In the meantime, the Government must be more transparent with New Zealanders on the difficult strategic choices the country is facing. If it isn’t, we risk drifting in a direction that may do more harm than good.

This response form the Prime Minister suggests she doesn’t understand that:

“A strategy that sacrifices people in favour of, supposedly, a better economic outcome is a false dichotomy and has been shown to produce the worst of both worlds: loss of life and prolonged economic pain,” Ardern said. . .

She is saying there would be fewer lives lost and less economic pain if the lockdown continues as it is which is not necessarily so. A better economic one would be a better social and health one too with fewer deaths from other causes.

The economic and social costs wouldn’t be so high if the government was to opt for safety rather than essential as the guide for which businesses can operate.

National on Sunday called for more businesses to be allowed to open up if they could prove they could operate safely.

“Our economy has already faced unprecedented devastation since the Government closed it down, we should be doing all we can help revive it and protect businesses and jobs,” economic development spokesman Todd McClay said.

“To date the decision making has been too arbitrary and there are too many inconsistencies. For instance, allowing dairies to open but not local butchers or greengrocers, agriculture to continue but not forestry, cigarettes to be manufactured but community newspapers cannot be printed.”

“If a business proves it can operate safely, provide contactless selling and ensure physical distancing then they should be able to operate.”

What’s the difference between butcheries, greengrocers and fishmongers following practices that keep their staff and customers safe, and supermarkets operating as they are now?

What’s the risk in greens keepers working by themselves on a golf course?

Why can’t  more businesses that sell online be able to do so? If it’s safe to sell a heater or a winter jumper why not a scanner or a shirt?

Why couldn’t some road works be done safely while there’s so little traffic? Why can’t some building continue as long as the tradies work alone or at safe distances from each other and without sharing tools? If an urgent repair to a vehicle can be done safely, why not a warrant of fitness?

All the arbitrary emphasis on essential rather than safe is doing is allow overseas online businesses to compete with domestic ones which might not survive the shutdown.

While Baur might have pulled out of New Zealand anyway, the government’s declaration that only daily media was essential has killed some of our best magazines.

The latest update on Covid-19 cases does show that the lockdown appears to have stopped the steep spike in cases seen elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean we can relax, but it ought to allow the government to take a broader look at its strategy and its social and economic costs.

The lockdown does appear to be achieving its aim of flattening the epidemiological curve, but the government is not doing nearly enough to consider the economic curve and the social costs that will result from that.

Flattening the Covid-19 curve is good but not at the cost of flattening the economy more than is necessary.


Is inequality really the problem?

10/06/2014

Forget inequality, it’s not the real problem. This is the view of Roger Partridge, chair of the New Zealand Initiative:

Since the publication of The Spirit Level in 2009, and its ‘devastating critique’, The Spirit Level Delusion, in 2010, debates in the media and among politicians have been gripped by wealth inequality fever. The latest instalment is French economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century – a book which is at the centre of its own maelstrom over the accuracy of its analysis.

But is inequality a worthy cause célèbre? All other things being equal, few people on either the left or right would disagree that less inequality is better than more. And any parent will know that equality will lead to a more civil, stable, state of affairs within the family – and this is no doubt also true for society as a whole. But the factors that drive inequality in economic outcomes in a free market economy also produce great benefits. China may now have greater extremes of wealth than it did before Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, but the Chinese live 25 years longer and are 50 times richer than they were 25 years ago. . .

This reinforces the view that we can be equally poor or unequally rich.

Focussing on inequality – and looking to redistributive policies to solve it – risks throwing the baby out with the bath water. We would not restrain our more talented child just to make her less successful, younger brother feel better, so why should we levy our most talented, productive citizens?

The easiest way to reduce inequality is to bring the top down but that won’t improve matters for anyone.

What is needed is a focus on the real problem: that not everyone in our society has the skills needed to take advantage of the opportunities that should be available to all. Among them are the 20 per cent of New Zealand’s school-leavers who, year after year, do not achieve NCEA level 2. It requires a suspension of belief to conclude they are failing because the rich are getter richer. The problem is more complex, but we will not solve it if we look in the wrong place.

If Piketty’s thesis is correct, and inequality in the West has increased in the last 50 years, then it has coincided with a great social experiment, the welfare state, which has seen an unprecedented rise in just the sort of redistributive policies Picketty believes are needed to solve the inequality problem. But as the Welfare Working Group reported in 2011, the welfare state in New Zealand has led to long-term welfare dependency, deprivation, financial stress, low living standards, and poor health and housing. It just might be that Piketty’s solution is the real problem.

In spite of what the opposition and their supporters think, inequality isn’t getting worse:

. . . Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : The evidence shows that inequality in New Zealand has been flat or slightly declining since the mid-2000s. We also believe that a number of the measures the Government took through the recession certainly prevented inequality from worsening at a time when the Government was very short of revenue. But I welcome the member’s interest in the IMF’s view, because among its recent comments on New Zealand, the IMF emphasised the importance of ongoing fiscal discipline to a sustainable economic recovery. Nowhere in the statement does the IMF refer to inequality, and that is for a very good reason in respect of New Zealand—that inequality in New Zealand has not increased over the last 10 years. . . .

That inequality isn’t getting worse doesn’t mean it couldn’t – and shouldn’t – improve.

Education is one of the keys to improvement:

The interesting thing about the OECD work is that it shows that economic inequality in New Zealand has among the lowest levels of impact because of our education system. Part of the reason for having public education—in fact, the main reason—is to overcome the inequalities of birth and inequalities of opportunity. That is why this Government is so strongly focused on helping our system be more effective in overcoming economic inequality. Another reason there is high transience in those schools is that the State housing system does not meet the needs of those with serious housing need. That is why the Government is changing that policy next week.

Hon David Parker: Why can the Minister not see that rising inequality under National goes against the egalitarian values that New Zealanders hold dear, is making educational outcomes worse, and is holding back economic growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is a very simple reason we do not believe those things, despite the fact that the member does, and that is that the measures of inequality in New Zealand and the facts demonstrate that it has not got worse. That is not a political assertion or an ideological conviction; it is the facts as laid out in the annual report from the Ministry of Social Development, which was set in place by the previous Government. On “Planet Labour” I know facts have very little impact, but on Planet Earth and in New Zealand the facts matter. . .

The opposition has leapt on the inequality band wagon but have fought every initiative National has introduced to move people from welfare to work.

Welfare dependency is the cause of a great deal of inequality and helping those who can work to do so is one of the most effective way to improve not only financial outcomes but social ones like health and education too.


Australian honour for Roger Kerr

02/08/2011

Sir Roger Kerr, executive director of the Business Roundtable has received an Alan McGregor Fellowship from Michael Darling, chair of the Centre for Independent Studies:

Business Roundtable chairman Roger Partridge said the awards are given to honour individuals who have made a significant contribution to the advancement of the principles of free markets, a liberal society, and personal responsibility.

“This is a great honour for Roger Kerr and the Business Roundtable and it’s great to see the work he and the organisation have done over the years recognised in this way. . .

Mr Darling noted in his citation that Roger Kerr “has personally commissioned, overseen and made extensive editorial contributions to all of the work produced by the Business Roundtable, totalling more than 200 books and reports and well over a thousand articles, op-eds, submissions, media releases, speeches and policy backgrounders.”

Mr Darling also quoted New Zealand Institute of Economic Research chairman Michael Walls who, in awarding Mr Kerr the 2001 NZEIR Qantas Economics Award, said: “No single individual has done more over the past 15 years to persuade important parts of the business sector to support economic policies which, though often contrary to the interests of individual firms, were in the interest of the country as a whole.”

That last sentence bears repeating: “No single individual has done more over the past 15 years to persuade important parts of the business sector to support economic policies which, though often contrary to the interests of individual firms, were in the interest of the country as a whole.”

People who promote economic liberalisation and personal responsibility are often criticised for being selfish. But it’s protection which helps individual businesses at the expense of other businesses, consuemrs and the country.

 Former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, was the only other award recipient.


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