A pop of positivity

April 9, 2020

We passed the halfway point of the four-week lockdown last night.

There is very little chance we will get out of lockdown earlier and it is too soon to know whether it might extend beyond four weeks.

The decline, slow as it is,  in the number of new cases of Covid-19 gives reason for hope that four weeks might be enough to eliminate the disease, or at least get the spread so low it can be contained and the likelihood of that would be increased if all new arrivals are quarantined.

National launched a petition on Monday  calling for mandatory quarantining at the border and it had an unprecedented response:

. . .With the large number of cases overseas, experts, like epidemiologist Professor Sir David Skegg, say a blanket quarantine is needed to ensure Kiwis with the virus don’t return to the country and nullify any success our domestic lockdown measures have had. 

Likewise, the National Party leader told The AM Show that implementing a mandatory quarantine was about making sure the four-week lockdown wasn’t in vain.

“As we make sacrifices as New Zealanders, as dads can’t see their babies in hospital, as people can’t go to their loved ones’ funerals, let’s do some of the things that really matter,” he said.

“We know where COVID-19 is coming in from, it is offshore, that is where most of the cases are. This is urgent.” . . 

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield also appeared supportive of tighter border control on Tuesday.

“I agree with what Professor Skegg was saying, that, actually, if we’re going to go for the elimination approach, which is our extended keep it out, stamp it out, and for when we move down out into Alert Level 3, we need to be very confident we are not letting new cases into the country at the border,” he said. . . 

In the meantime, business not as usual goes on.

The regular newsletter from my MP, Jacqui Dean is usually full of what she’s been doing around the electorate.

The latest one is different as she is working from her lock down base.

She, like other electorate MPs, has been busy helping people in need of support, information  and advice.

She has also had time to notice the good things people and businesses have been doing:

A pop of positivity

Cardona Distillery

I visited Desiree and the team at Cardrona Distillery last year. It’s a wonderful family run business and I was impressed (but not surprised) by their offer of free hand sanitizer to locals who need it.

Prince Albert

We humans are social creatures and The Prince Albert in Wanaka has come up with a clever idea to keep their regulars connected. They’ve moved their weekly quiz night online, something I suspect could be a highlight on many social calendars in the coming weeks.

Bringing out the books

Geraldine’s new bookshop The Page and Post Booksellers has been offering a daily story time session through its Facebook page. Cromwell Community Board Chair and Goldfields School Principal Anna Harrison has done something similar by reading children’s books and posting the videos on YouTube.

Whitestone Taxis

Whitestone Taxis have offered to deliver Meals on Wheels to people in Oamaru without taking payment from Waitaki District Health Services. This news left me in no doubt that there are some absolute gems in this electorate. What a kind and generous offer.

Supermarket superstars

Frontline supermarket staff all deserve a round of applause at the moment but I’d like to give a special mention the owner-operators of supermarkets in our small towns who are going above and beyond in taking orders and delivering groceries to those who need it. I started to compile a list of the towns where this is happening and it just got too long – a wonderful reflection of community spirit.

Digital Libraries

Here’s a quote from the Waitaki District Libraries website that couldn’t be more appropriate in times like these:

“Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” ~ Anne Herbert

Their buildings may be closed but libraries are still there for you either on the phone, via email or social media, and you get your good reads using the digital platform.

Visit: https://library.waitaki.govt.nz/

https://codc-qldc.govt.nz/

#codclibraries #digitallibraryopen

When so much in the media is bad news, it was refreshing to read this pop of positivity and there’s plenty more.

Riverstone Kitchen chef Bevan Smith is live streaming cooking demonstrations.

Cucina chef Pablo Tacchini is live streaming cooking demonstrations too.

Netball NZ is offering free online fitness classes – Netfit.

Otago Museum has a range of activities including online jigsaw puzzles and Te Papa has online jigsaw puzzles too.

If you can add to th epop of positivity, pleaes do.


Confusion and disconnection undermine confidence

April 3, 2020

There’s general agreement on the need for wider testing to determine how widespread community transmission of Covid-19 is but confusion on whether it can be done:

Healthcare workers say coronavirus tests are being withheld because of limited supply, despite the prime minister’s insistence clinicians have both the resources and permission to test.

A new coronavirus testing criteria was released late on Wednesday, permitting the testing of patients with Covid-19 symptoms but no connection to overseas travel or another coronavirus case.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who announced the expansion of the criteria the day prior, again said there was ample testing capacity at a Wednesday press conference — it just hadn’t been used by clinicians.

But a Wellington GP, who spoke to Stuff on the condition of anonymity, said there were not enough testing swabs for the number of patients presenting Covid-19 symptoms. His clinic had ordered 30, but received five as the laboratory was trying to preserve supplies.  

And some swabs of patients were not run by the laboratory for failing to strictly meet the prior testing criteria.

Staff from two Wellington clinics told Stuff on Wednesday morning they had not received any information from the ministry regarding the expanding criteria, and their clinics would go ahead and test people with possible Covid-19 symptoms until further guidance was issued. 

But at a Canterbury GP clinic, a nurse said her practice had been told to continue using the former, stricter criteria in the absence of an update from the ministry. 

The nurse, who similarly spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the ministry had told clinical leaders there were not enough swabs and the labs did not have enough reagents to test everyone with symptoms.

“We are seeing many people with coronavirus symptoms who we cannot test.”

She said GPs at her practice had used their discretion – as the prime minister and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield had repeatedly recommended – and swabbed people with symptoms, only to have the labs refuse to test them.  . . 

If clinicians think people should be tested, and put them through the discomfort of the swabbing process, how can labs not test them?

Either the PM is right and there are enough swabs but there’s a problem with the distribution and also with communication between the Ministry, clinicians and labs;  or the doctors and nurses are right and there aren’t enough swabs and labs aren’t testing all they’re sent.

Whoever is right, the issue must be sorted and sorted urgently.

Compliance with the draconian loss of liberty to which we’re all being subjected and the costs imposed by it requires community buy-in, and that requires confidence in what’s being done and how it’s being done.

These mixed messages over testing undermine confidence.

It doesn’t help when the Minister of Health drives 2km to go mountain biking when the police have told us we have to exercise close to home, not drive then exercise.

And the disconnection between key agencies doesn’t help either:

Today’s meeting of the Epidemic Response Committee has shown how disconnected the three key agencies, Health, Customs and Police, are in enforcing the self-isolation of New Zealanders and shows why a quarantine is needed immediately, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“The Director-General of Health has been clear that all returning New Zealanders should be visited by a Police Officer within the first three days of them returning home.

“Today outgoing Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted while they would like to visit all returning New Zealanders, they’ve failed to do so, confirming officers have been unable to visit all of the more than 4000 people who’ve come back to New Zealand within three days.

Police would like to visit all returnees but have failed to do so. That doesn’t inspire confidence that the lockdown will work.

“Following that admission, Customs Minister Jenny Salesa was asked about how Customs saw self-isolation being enforced, and she said Police were not expected to check up on all returning New Zealanders, instead they could do spot checks. That isn’t good enough.

“There shouldn’t be this much confusion. These agencies need to be a cohesive team. Instead New Zealanders are just seeing more and more mixed messages.

“It is clear from today’s questioning that New Zealand needs an enforced quarantine for those entering New Zealand at the border. For weeks our borders have been porous, with no thermal testing being undertaken and the self-isolation of New Zealanders not being policed well enough. That has to stop.

“Effective quarantining has been the foundation of other countries’ successful responses. Here in New Zealand we’ve been waving people through and trusting them to self-isolate.

“Today’s questioning has raised serious concerns about how well this lockdown is being policed and shows exactly why we need to be quarantining at the border. New Zealanders are sacrificing a lot right now, the key agencies involved in the response need to ensure they aren’t leaving the barn door wide open.”

Never before have New Zealanders been asked to give up so much and at such a horrific economic and social cost.

The government and its agencies can’t expect us to do all we can to comply if they aren’t demonstrating they are doing everything they can, and should, be doing to ensure the lockdown achieves its aim of eliminating COvid-19.


Quotes of the month

April 1, 2020

NZ is the Possible. We care equally about our environment, our consumers, our people, our animals and hope to make enough profit to keep going again next year. We are genuinely world leading in our approach. – Trish Rankin

So one way to think about Covid-19 is as a test of various systems around the world — political, medical and economic. Markets believe those systems are failing that test. – Tyler Cowen

A coalition government that struggles to implement meaningful policies. A prime minister at ease schmoozing with other leaders amid the glitz and glamour of the world stage. A second-in-charge who clearly sees himself as a co-prime minister. – Liam Hehir

There are far fewer people out there celebrating the real, powerful stories of Indian migrants. Like my sister-in-law, who moved to South Auckland from India as a kid, won top of the year at Auckland Uni, won a full PhD scholarship to Cambridge University, was awarded a Leader of Tomorrow at the Gellen Symposium of Switzerland, and is currently lecturing at Harvard while running a start-up. She’s probably the best poster girl you could possibly find for everything New Zealanders want to be known as: smart, determined, ballsy … and proudly Kiwi. – Verity Johnson

We were focused on being statistically safe, rather than being actually safe, which is a trap we are all guilty of falling into. . . They all said we put far too much focus on paperwork and forms and controls and not enough on engagement with people.  Jono Brent

After three years, we have books of inquiries and less than a pamphlet of implementation. Richard Prebble

But the epidemic might well have effects far beyond any that its death rate could account for. The world has suddenly woken up to the dangers of allowing China to be the workshop of the world and of relying on it as the ultimate source for supply chains for almost everything, from cars to medicines, from computers to telephones. No doubt normal service will soon resume once the epidemic is over, even if at a lower level, but at the very least supply chains should be diversified politically and perhaps geographically; dependence on a single country is to industry what dependence on monoculture is to agriculture. And just as the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of, so countries may have strategic reasons that economic reasons know not of.

The danger is that the epidemic will be used as a justification for beggar-my-neighbour protectionism, and for zero-sum game economics, to the great impoverishment of the world. Judgment, that mysterious faculty that is so difficult to define or quantify, but which undoubtedly exists, will be needed to adjudicate the claims of strategic security and economic efficiency. Even in situations in which there is hard scientific evidence to guide us, such as the present epidemic, judgment is still required. The present highly-charged political atmosphere, in which opponents can hardly bear the sight of one another, or conceded any value to their ideas, is not conducive to its exercise.- Theodore Dalrymple

Remember what they’ve suffered and don’t make other people suffer the way some of them have been suffering because they are no different, while they may look different and they may sound different but we’re all the same. – John Sato

Donald Trump takes comfort from the fact that it has killed only a handful of Americans so far. He forgets that the chart of an epidemic is exponential, as each person infects several people, and the power of such compound interest is, as Albert Einstein supposedly said, the eighth wonder of the world. The economist Tyler Cowan points out that it’s hard to beat an exponential process once a certain point has passed.

Last week Greta Thunberg was still telling the European Parliament that climate change is the greatest threat humanity faces. This week Extinction Rebellion’s upper-class twits were baring their breasts on Waterloo bridge in protest at the billions of people who they wrongly think may die from global warming in the next decade. These people are demonstrating their insensitivity. They are spooked by a spaniel when there’s a wolf on the loose. – Matt Ridley

Dairying was an economic sword for New Zealand against the GFC. Now we will be looking to exporter Fonterra and the dairy industry it leads to wield that sword again against a pandemic scourge.Andrea Fox

Clearly,  however  much  New Zealanders  might  believe  there is  much to gain  from a united  front  in this  time of  crisis,  the  role of a  vigilant   Opposition   is  perhaps  just  as  vital. – tutere44

He waka eke noa – the canoe which we are all in without exception. We are all in this together. – Simon Bridges

Farming has been unloved and beaten up by the Government for the last two or three years but the Government is going to need farmers for the next few years. Cameron Bagrie

The world has not “completely changed.” What was good economics last month is good economic policy today. To come out of this recession we need to reform the Resource Management Act, have more flexible and less onerous employment laws. We need a welfare system that discourages dependence and an education system that does not turn out one in five functionally illiterate. We desperately need a health system that is not crippled with deficits. Richard Prebble

I also expect to see increasing but at times grudging acknowledgement over the next six months that agriculture and food are the fundamentals of the economy that provide the funds for most of the items we have to import. Further, within agriculture, it is our pastoral products that are the products with most reliable international demand. Unfortunately, there will still be some who remain unwilling to acknowledge that reality. – Keith Woodford

The size of a bureaucracy is not necessarily a sign of its strength or efficiency, any more than the swelling of an oedematous leg is a sign of its strength and efficiency; rather the reverse. A small bureaucracy concentrates intelligence, while a large one disperses it. Theodore Dalrymple

Farmers are an optimistic bunch. We’re used to things going in cycles: weather patterns, commodity prices, market demand … but we also know that sometimes the wheel doesn’t turn the whole way round, sometimes the change is permanent.Philip Todhunter

We who are adults need to be exactly that: adults. Not spread panic or rumours. No one is alone in this crisis, but each person has a heavy responsibility. – Stefan Löfven

I have long thought that if it were not for complaint, we should have very little to talk about. Complaint is like crime in the theories of the first real sociologist, Émile Durkheim: It is the glue of society. Without opposition to crime, society would fall apart. Without complaint, most of us would remain silent and have no relations with others at all. – Theodore Dalrymple

But the fact is that writing helps one to endure what might otherwise be unendurable. I suppose I should know exactly why, but I don’t, except to say that the knowledge that you are going to write about something unpleasant puts a screen between yourself and your own experience.Theodore Dalrymple

Laughing together is as close as you can get without touching. – Gina Barreca

Humour rewards originality, offers diversion, enhances intellectual functioning, encourages emotional endurance, promotes a sense of alliance and releases tension without dismissing the seriousness of the situation.

Out of emotional chaos, humour devises a form and crafts a meaningful sense of control.

Humour insists on the most significant forms of freedom of assembly: the assembly of souls and minds, the community of the anxious and the brave (all of us at different moments), the gathering of storytellers, truth-tellers and eager listeners. – Gina Barreca

  Do you really need to drown those people in red tape and bureaucracy? I think we’re going t ave to look to lighten the load on them and let business start to flourish a bit. These aren’t normal times – John Key


Do as I say . . .

March 7, 2020

Jacinda Ardern has issued a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do instruction to voters:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delivered her strongest rebuking of NZ First MP and Minister Shane Jones yet, suggesting that if he was a Labour MP, he would face demotion. . .

How strong is that strongest rebuke?:

“If I had a member within my own party making statements like that, I would have a very obvious ability and course of action that I could take,” she said.

“I could demote, I could reprimand; [there is] a range of things that I could do.”

But all those things were off the table because – although Jones is one of her ministers – he is in a different political party. . .

That is weak and it’s tosh.

She is the Prime Minister and has the power to discipline, which could include sacking, any members of her cabinet.

At least that’s what the Cabinet Manual says, but could it be that the secret collation agreement between Labour and New Zealand First holds a clause that takes that power from her?

We can’t know while the agreement remains secret and in the absence of that knowledge this looks hypocritical:

“My message to voters is this: In election year, the power now sits with you. You determine who is able to form Governments and you have it within your power to decide what you make of those remarks, as well,” she said.

“What is within other’s powers is to join in the condemnation of statements, like those we have seen made by Shane Jones.

“I asked of voters to act on their values when it comes to election time.”

She’s expecting voters to act on their values when she isn’t acting on her own.

She could, as Simon Bridges has done, and as Cat MacLennan writes she should , rule out New Zealand First as a partner in a future government.

She’s failing to discipline Jones and rule out his party next time herself but asking voters to do it for her.,

That’s very much do as she says, not as she does.

In doing that she’s sending a message  to not only not vote for NZ First but to not vote for National because only with that party leading the next government can voters be sure it won’t include NZ First.

 


Quotes of the month

February 29, 2020

Hallelujah! A victory for sanity and the reasonable belief of most New Zealanders that personal mobility in the form of cars, trucks and motorbikes will continue to be the norm well into the future, even as the fuel that drives those vehicles radically changes for the better. – Steven Joyce

When they’re older, Anahera and Māia can look at that image knowing they are descendants of the Māori chief in it and the English-born photographer who took it. However, I hope they will recognise the multifaceted aspects of their whakapapa and understand they are first and foremost themselves – individuals who have the freedom to determine their own paths in life without being constrained by historical events that occurred before they were born.

That’s right, none of us was there when the treaty was signed, nor were we there when some of our ancestors stole land from some of our other ancestors, and I’m talking about my Māori ancestors – don’t get me started on the Pākehā ones. Complicated isn’t it? And, no, I’m not proposing “we are one people”, aka Hobson’s Pledge. How about “we are individuals”?Steve Elers

It’s customary these days to criticise politics as too tribal but, the case of the New Zealand Labour Party, at least, it’s the wrong analogy: in practice, it’s less tribe than sect.

Whereas tribes tend to protect their own, and forgive individual sins in service of the collective good, a sect is unforgiving of perceived heretics. Shane Te Pou

Children in arts-rich schools do significantly better at the basics than schools which focus on measuring literacy and numeracy outcomes. The arts build the key skills that employers value most highly: risk taking, collaboration, curiosity and an ability to think across rather than in disciplinary silos.

The arts train the imagination. The imagination is vital for individual and social well-being because we can only make our own and others’ lives better if we can imagine a different, a better world. The arts are carriers of hope, and young people need hope like a fish needs unpolluted water.

When schools deny children the arts, they deny them their imagination. We know the arts train us to think critically, to see things in different and multiple ways, that creativity is part of the puzzle of making democracy work. Education systems that train children how to answer questions rather than question answers leads us into the traps of demagogues and their easy recipes. –  Peter O’Connor

But the point is most Kiwis – most humans – want to earn what they own, not take it from those who already have it. – Kerre McIvor

We’ve become so consumed by climate change, we’ve lost the ability to think rationally. Which is why everyone is running around panicking about Huawei and no one is wondering about a much bigger problem: where their next sandwich is coming from. – Jeremy Clarkson

I’ve said many times before I’m proud of my whakapapa, I’m proud of my English, my British heritage. Ultimately… I’m a New Zealander first and foremost … if I think about Waitangi Day, what I see is a day that yes, that is historic in its significance but is ultimately, at its most basic, about good relations between New Zealanders. – Simon Bridges

For whereas the Left generally prefers to discharge its moral obligation to others through the transformation of society, the Right — sceptical of the grand plan — prefers to discharge it through particular acts of individual kindness and practical generosity.  Though not ever believing that such acts will totally change the world, the Right fights back against the darkness nonetheless, little by little and at local level. Without the showy drama of the revolutionary, the Conservative responds on the human scale, organically.Giles Fraser

Which is all a long and convoluted way of saying that lamenting Waitangi Day for not being a day of national unity misses the point. There are many great things about our country’s history that we can celebrate in an unadulterated way, but the events and subsequent history of Waitangi do not lend themselves to that. They are occasions for introspection, discussion and – yes – argument.

And there’s nothing wrong with having one day in the year for that.  – Liam Hehir

In fact, it’s a stretch to call the arts a “community”. In politics, a community tends to be defined, however broadly, in terms of its interests. Those interests could be based on geography, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, or economic imperatives. The arts are a community more in the sense of the Balkans after the fall of communism – an intractable, internecine turf war based on ancient and obscure grudges. – Ben Thomas

We need people to see that this is not Paharakeke (Flaxmere) , this is not what we do behind closed doors. And to bring the mana back, the aroha back, because unfortunately, from what’s happened to that baby, it’s just gone and broken. – Lynsey Abbott

If there is a solution, it cannot be legislated. If there is a solution you won’t find it in Wellington. If there is a solution, you won’t find it in council … we need to take a look in the mirror.Henare O’Keefe

Paharakeke deserves better, Flaxmere families deserve better. Each and every one of us deserves better. . . Whānau isn’t harden up, it isn’t hide. It’s open up, share. It’s where you be vulnerable. If we can change our family unit, we change our community.  – Michael Ngahuka

The city of sails? Sadly no, the city of fails . . . in a world of work-life balance, it’s all work, little balance.Mike Hosking

In a zinger that already sounds dated the ascendant John Key described Clark and Cullen’s administration as “a Walkman government in an iPod world.” As Ardern and Robertson consider the influence of their former employers and political forebears, they may think Key was being too kind: the ghosts of the fifth Labour government are still firmly tuned in to the wireless. – Ben Thomas

I don’t think New Zealand as a whole has particularly valued research in science and therefore things like opportunities and funding and chances to grow are really quite limited in this country. – Professor Jane Harding

Kids will do better when the adults and the country they live in does better. – Lindsay Mitchell

You can recover from an economic recession, but you can’t recover from a President who thinks the job of the Justice Department is to only apply the law to his political opponents.David Farrar

I am no right-winger, but I find myself unusually in the space occupied by the right – that is, I cannot fathom how property rights can be trampled on in this way, nor how Labour and the Greens can tolerate it. – Sue Bradford

The Washington Post observed after Ardern hobnobbed with the wealthy worthy in Davos that, while many were enthralled, ­others saw the NZ PM as being cut from the same poseur cloth as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, only less annoying and with an easier country to run. – Graham Lloyd

But let me be really clear: we cannot afford to panic. When we panic, we actively harm our ability to respond to difficult situations. So, let’s stay calm and start preparing. What happens in the months to come is going to depend on how we all behave. Siouxsie Wiles


Rural round-up

February 28, 2020

Farming needs policy certainty – SImon Bridges:

Our reputation as a producer of quality agricultural products is well known around the world and the sector contributes close to $48 billion in export revenue to our economy. The primary sector provides an economic shot in the arm to New Zealand, and we want to see it continue to grow.

If there’s one thing I’ve picked up from the many farmers I’ve spoken to over the past couple of years, it’s that they want certainty. Farmers and growers already have enough variables to deal with such as the weather, interest rates, disease and international markets. There needs to be a clearly sign-posted direction of travel from the Government that allows everyone to get on board without adverse effects. . .

Former National MP Shane Ardern builds New Zealand’s ‘fastest’ cow shed – Catherine

A former politician has built what could be New Zealand’s fastest dairy shed – able to milk 600 cows an hour.

Two 40-bail rotary platforms turn like giant clockwork dials side by side, and the cows choose the one they prefer to be milked on.

Shane Ardern, who farms at Te Kiri, South Taranaki, with his wife Cathy, is still remembered for driving a tractor named Myrtle up the steps of Parliament in 2003 to protest the Labour Government’s plans to impose a ‘fart tax’ on farmers.

Ardern returned to farming in 2014 after 16 years as National’s Taranaki King Country MP. . .

Southern peas please big producers  :

The Maw family, of Mid Canterbury, has been been farming at Barrhill for four generations, dating back to 1925.

They rotate a broad range of crops including cereals, grass and clovers for grazing and seed production, vegetable seed crops and peas, which are currently being harvested for produce giant, Wattie’s.

Colin Maw has been supplying Wattie’s for over 20 years.

Wattie’s farmers had vast experience in growing the very best peas with knowledge handed down and nurtured between generations, he said. . .

 

The importance of the humble blueberry – Dr David Chagné:

New Zealand is involved in a US$12.8 million USDA grant to improve the quality of blueberry and cranberry.

The four-year project, led by North Carolina State University, is part of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative, which funds multi-year, multi-institutional collaborative projects.

Genomics Aotearoa and Plant and Food Research Ltd have just become part of this project, and we’re very excited about what that offers – for blueberry producers here, for the New Zealand economy, the consumer and for other genomics researchers.

But what does this actually mean for us? . .

Robotics Plus a THRIVE Top 50 agtech company:

Robotics Plus, a world-leading robotics and automation company developing innovation to unlock new levels of productivity in agriculture, has been named in the THRIVE Top 50, an annual ranking of leading global AgTech companies exemplifying the best in agriculture innovation. Robotics Plus, the only New Zealand company to make the 2020 Top 50 ranking, was just one of five companies featured in the Robotics & Automation category.

Robotics Plus CEO Dr Matt Glenn says it’s a huge honour to receive a coveted spot on THRIVE’s Top 50 global list. “We’re thrilled to be showcased in such a prestigious list alongside exceptional AgTech companies from around the world who are pushing the boundaries of technology and innovation. . . 

Don’t mess with farmers – Peter Burke:

Policymakers in Ireland have learned the lesson about demonising farmers – just don’t do it.

That’s the word from a leading Irish scientist, Dr Karl Richards from Teagasc, that country’s semi-state organisation that is responsible for R&D, training and advisory services to farmers.

Richards told Rural News, at recent seminar at Massey University, that policy makers in Ireland have realised that farmers will react badly to being constantly demonised and are less likely to react positively to improving the environment. . .

 


Politics of appeasement

February 17, 2020

When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Wondering what Labour and the Green Party think about New Zealand First and its leader?  Are they staying true to their values and promises, or have they adopted the standards and values of New Zealand First and its leader Winston Peters?

Keep wondering because, as Henry Cooke writes,  their silence is deafening:

. . .  there’s a difference between leeway for jokes and leeway for seriously unbecoming behaviour. And the prime minister has slipped this week from the usual kind of space people give Winston to be Winston into plain supplicancy.

Jacinda Ardern is yet to say anything at all about the fact the Electoral Commission made absolutely clear on Monday that the way NZ First was treating donations to its foundations was wrong. . .

Instead of properly taking this on, Ardern has hidden, as politicians often do, behind the perceived inappropriateness of commenting while some process is still active.

Sometimes this waiting game is both useful and sensible – politicians shouldn’t talk too much about murder trials before they finish.

But in this case it makes no sense. . . .

. . .there are ways of commenting on things without alleging criminal conduct. It is the lifeblood of adversarial politics.

Following the Electoral Commission’s finding, Ardern would have been totally within her rights to say, at the very least, that she thought these donations should have been declared to the commission. She could have said she was disappointed that a coalition partner appeared not to have been as fulsome as it could have been with informing the authorities – all without alleging any kind of crime. . .

Later last week it wasn’t just the donations saga on which she wasn’t commenting.

This silence got even louder on Thursday when it became clear that NZ First had some kind of involvement in two covertly taken photographs of journalists reporting on the Foundation story, which found their way onto a right-wing blog. Peters told Magic Talk on Tuesday that “we took the photographs just to prove that’s the behaviour going on”, but later backtracked to say a supporter just happened to see the journalists and thought he or she should snap a photo.

Because of this shifting story, there is a muddle over exactly how involved NZ First and Peters are, a muddle that would best be sorted out by Ardern demanding a fuller explanation from Peters. Any level of involvement in this kind of tactic – clearly designed to intimidate journalists – is worth condemning, and you can bet that, if Ardern was in Opposition, she would manage it.

Instead she’s not commenting, saying it is a “matter for NZ First”, while her office notes that she speaks about ministerial decisions and comments, not about things said as party leader. 

The thing is, the Cabinet Manual does have a section about ministers upholding and being seen to uphold “the highest ethical standards” at all times, not just when doing ministerial business. Ardern has all the ammo she needs to give Peters a dressing-down over this, but instead she defers. Things don’t have to be illegal to be wrong.

And it’s not just Labour which is staying silent.

Worse, this rot of silence has also infected the Green Party, which, as a confidence and supply partner, has plenty of legitimate room to criticise such tactics. You don’t need to tear the Government up or demand that Peters is fired – you can just say what the journalists’ union said on Friday, that Peters needs to explain himself and apologise.

Instead the Greens just talk about how the law needs to be changed – which most people agree with, but isn’t the point. The topic at hand isn’t underhanded but lawful behaviour, it’s stuff that is potentially illegal – hence the police referral. The party should grow back its spine. . .

John Armstrong has a similar view:

Rarely has the current prime minister looked quite so feeble as was evident during yet another turbulent week for her pockmarked, patchwork Administration.

It was another week which witnessed Winston Peters at his frustrating, selfish, perfidious and domineering worst.

In a perfect world, it would have been a week which ended with him having been relieved of the title of Deputy Prime Minister, if only temporarily.

So damning was the verdict of the Electoral Commission on the propriety of the activities of the highly-secretive New Zealand First Foundation that any other minister finding themselves on the receiving end of such a judgement would have been stood down forthwith.

That verdict on its own is a damning indictment. Once it it became public that the commission’s findings had been passed to the Serious Fraud Office, Peters’ relinquishing of his status of Deputy Prime Minister ought to have been a mere formality, if only a temporary measure while the SFO determined whether everything was above board or whether prosecutions should follow its investigation.

Peters, however, has clearly concluded that he is somehow exempt from the rules covering the disclosure of the source of political donations.

The arrogance is breathtaking — especially from someone who has previously suffered the ignominy of being censured by his parliamentary colleagues. . . 

Given that track record, Peters is beyond being shamed.

He might be beyond being shamed, has that rubbed off on the other parties in government?

Just witness the outrageousness of the New Zealand First Foundation, the leaked records of which have revealed its purpose had been to accept donations in the tens of thousands of dollars from some of the country’s wealthiest individuals without having to disclose their names.

Ardern’s problem is that Peters is Deputy Prime Minister. She cannot wash her hands of him no matter how embarrassing his statements and actions might be for her or the wider Labour Party they might be. Neither can she sit blithely to one side and pretend that Peters’ very obvious agenda to undermine the Electoral Commission is not happening.

Ardern needs to read the Riot Act to Peters — and not just to remind him of his constitutional obligations.

Failure to do so makes her look weak. In dragging her down, he is dragging Labour down too.

She’s letting the party be dragged down lest Peters brings the whole government down, even though Simon Bridges’ announcement National own’t work with NZ First should it be in a position to do so after the next election leaves it, like the Greens, the choice of going with Labour or sitting or sitting on the cross benches.

He hasn’t got a lot of options. It would seem to be an opportune time to remind him of that. He is hardly in a position to pull down the Government.

That makes Ardern’s failure to talk tough appear even more pathetic. . . 

And not for the first time. remember Clare Cullen and Iain Lees-Galloway?

The bizarre chain of events which unfolded on Thursday only reinforced the case for Peters losing the title of Deputy Prime Minister.

The revelation that he was party to the covert photographing and filming of journalists whose investigations of the New Zealand First Foundation have uncovered much to embarrass him and his party is a clear breach of the provisions in the Cabinet Manual covering the conduct expected of ministers of the crown.

To quote that handbook: “At all times, ministers are expected to act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards. This includes exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional”. . .

Andrea Vance has more to say about snooping on  journalists:

No doubt Peters’ supporters are enjoying the irony of publishing paparazzi-style photographs of the reporters digging dirt on their party

For reasons that are unfathomable to me, New Zealand tends to minimise Peters more outrageous behaviour. But he is no lovable rogue – and this is straight-up intimidation.

Protecting the identity of journalists’ sources is an essential part of media freedom.

The threat of surveillance is chilling. It can have an intimidating and traumatising effect. . .

We might be a troublesome and unlovable bunch, but good journalism and a free press is an essential part of a functioning democracy.  

This attack on Shand and Espiner’s privacy is an attack on the public’s right to know about who is secretly funding their Government partner. 

Both Labour and the Greens must acknowledge that and condemn it, if we are to believe their exhortations New Zealand politics should be transparent and fair.

Both Labour and the Greens are forced into silence or at best mealy-mouthed muttering over New Zealand Firsts and Peters because they daren’t face up to him lest he pulls the pin that blows up the government.

Ever since the coalition was formed they’ve pandered to him, exercising politics of appeasement, having to make material concessions, several of which have been contrary to their principles and values.

They’ve swallowed so many dead rats they must suffer from permanent indigestion.

One of MMP’s big weaknesses is that it allows the tail to wag the dog. Peters and his party aren’t just wagging the other two parties they have forced them to roll over and accept not just policies that are contrary to their principles and they’re now, by refusing to condemn it,  accepting behaviour that is too.

Many commentators have questioned the values and standards of NZ First and its leader. Labour and Greens are day by day being more tainted by association and exposing their own values and standards to questions too.


%d bloggers like this: