Bridges & Reti up, Clark down

July 2, 2020

National leader Todd Muller has announced two promotions in the wake of Paula Bennett’s decision to retire from politics:

Dr Shane Reti will be ranked number 13 and will take on Associate Drug Reform. Shane has demonstrated a huge intellect and capacity for work, supporting Michael Woodhouse in our Covid-19 response, as well as achieving much in the Tertiary Education portfolio.

Simon Bridges will be picking up the Foreign Affairs portfolio and will be ranked at number 17. Simon has been leader and a minister for a number of years in the last National Government. He expressed a desire for this portfolio and his experience will be valuable in this important role.

Deputy Leader Nikki Kaye will pick up the portfolio of Women and will make several announcements associated with this portfolio in the coming months.

Amy Adams will take the portfolio of Drug Reform. She will work with Shane Reti in this area. . . 

These are all good moves, I am especially pleased that Simon’s experience and skill will be put to good use.

Gerry Brownlee did have the Foreign Affairs portfolio. I have no idea what negotiations went on, but Gerry stepped aside to allow Bill English to be John Key’s deputy when John became leader for the good of the caucus and party. It looks like he has done so again which shows commendable loyalty and grace.

Meanwhile, a mess has been tidied up for the government.

David Clark has resigned as Health Minister:

The embattled MP for Dunedin North said he had become a “distraction” and that the “time is right” for someone else to fill the role, but he will stand as an MP in the upcoming election. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Dr Clark contacted her on Wednesday to “confirm his wish to resign as a minister” and that she had accepted his resignation. 

The Prime Minister has appointed Labour MP Chris Hipkins as Health Minister until the election. Hipkins is currently the Minister of Education.  . . 

Clark is the third of Ardern’s Ministers to lose his warrant – Clare Curran resigned, and Meka Whaitiri who was sacked.

It has taken a while, had Ardern had more steel the resignation would have been accepted weeks ago when Clark first offered it.


Damned either way

July 1, 2020

Paula Bennett’s retirement announcement has left Todd Muller with a choice.

He can move everyone up a place in caucus rankings or he can do a reshuffle that brings someone who is Maori up several places to appease those focused on identity politics.

He will be damned either way.

But there is a solution.

Simon Bridges who is currently languishing among the MPs who will retire at the election, could be brought up to the shadow cabinet.

He has the experience and ability caucus needs. He also happens to be Maori, not that that seemed to matter to those focused on identity politics when he was leader because to them, it’s not good enough to be in a particular group, you also have to be of the left.

This will require give and take from both men but they, caucus and the party will be stronger for it.


Quotes of the month

June 1, 2020

Our primary industries are the ones that have propped it [the economy] up. We can’t keep borrowing money. Money doesn’t come from out of thin air and if there are jobs there, let us work.

“Don’t give us job centres for queues of people lining up for jobs that aren’t there. We have these jobs sitting under our noses. – Tania Gibson

We need you to accept that there is a problem, see what the problem is, and fix the problem and make sure that the problem never happens again. – Dr Jan White

Vaccine shortages have dogged previous flu and measles campaigns, and doctors have called this year’s flu campaign a “complete debacle”.

It has become abundantly clear that despite the Government’s rejection of such an assertion, a debacle is exactly what it is.  Michael Morrah

The stakes are higher than any election since 1984 because a second-term Ardern Government will have a mandate and an appetite for the largest expansion of the state since Robert Muldoon’s Think Big schemes and endless tinkering beggared the country.  – Damien Grant

The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion. – Jenée Tibshraeny

The calamitous way in which Parliament turned Inland Revenue into a small business lender , without a single MP realising they were doing so, is a sign that the time is well past for greater scrutiny to return.

The Government’s refusal to release the advice it used as the basis of its decision to place New Zealand into a highly restrictive lockdown is coming close to an abuse of the extraordinary trust the public has granted it.Hamish Rutherford

No policy decision is costless. Advocates of a longer extension expound the benefits of the approach they advocate; they often are less forthcoming on the costs. The costs of our lockdown could well be slower coming through than the corona virus itself, they are costs that we as the citizens will sooner or later have to bear. – Wyatt Creech

He turns being artless into an art form; he is a Picasso of pettiness; a Shakespeare of shit. His faults are fractal: even his flaws have flaws, and so on ad infinitum. Nate White

One of the worst effects of a lack of understanding of risk management is the precautionary principle. This is the belief that unless you have complete knowledge about the likelihood and impact of the risk, either you shouldn’t take any action at all (e.g. not allowing the trial of a new drug) or you should go all-out to prevent the risk eventuating (e.g. locking down the population in a pandemic). – Kiwiwit

We’ve elected politicians without enough prior life tests and career leadership experience  to exercise democratic control. Without authoritative experienced oversight, some official cultures will inevitably become immune to their own convenient cruelty. “Be kind” means nothing without the leadership diligence that makes it practical, everyday, and integrated among all the other demands of hard decision-making.  Stephen Franks

People talk a big game about moving away from eating meat, and no doubt tell researchers they are vegetarian when asked – but when they get home they are tucking into a big porterhouse. – Trent Thorne

We are very good at managing weeds and pests. Had the Department of Conservation taken it over I don’t know that the same standard of management would have been there to look after it. They don’t have the budget.

“And it would be devastating to watch it fill up with wildings and be overrun by rabbits again.

“They’re very complex places to run and if all of the high country farmers stopped farming it would be a huge burden on the taxpayer to actually manage that land.Andrew Simpson

A lot of farmers, particularly our young farmers, have found themselves in a very lonely place in the last five years.

“I like to think the understanding might shift as people get to understand where their food comes from.

“And it’s our interests to tell our story so that people do understand. We still grow food, and we love the land. The two can coexist. – Andrew Simpson

A human life, it will be said, is of incalculable value, and in some metaphysical sense this is so. Usually we do not value people’s lives in dollars and cents, and we would regard anyone who did so with horror or disgust. But at the same time, we know that in practice we do place a value on people’s lives. We would think it right to spend more on saving a child’s life at the age of 3 than to spend it on prolonging the life of a 95-year-old by five minutes. The relative values of human lives may not be calculable in any precise sense, but where choices have to be made and resources are scarce (as they always are), we make them.

Sacrificing life to maintain normal life may not therefore be a monstrous policy, though the question of how much life can be sacrificed for how much normality is very difficult to answer, because neither the quantity of life sacrificed nor the amount of normality preserved can be known, certainly not in advance, and perhaps not even in retrospect, for there are so many variables that might account for differences. Besides, the two—life lost and economic collapse—are incommensurable. – Theodore Dalrymple

The shackles should be discarded and ministers should be open to scrutiny. If they can’t be trusted to answer questions about their portfolios, they shouldn’t be ministers. – Derek Cheng

Fundamentally, this is a story of two governments and their differing response to the crisis. The Australian Government has committed to preserving jobs by keeping the economy going, no doubt aware that creating a job is so much harder than preserving one. On the other hand, the New Zealand Government chose instead to shut down the economy. As a result, I believe thousands of businesses will close or drastically shrink, and unemployment will grow significantly.

The initial focus by Governments in both countries was quite rightly the health and well-being of the citizens. Australia and New Zealand have achieved admirable results compared to many other countries, particularly the comparatively low number and rate of deaths from COVID-19. The number of deaths per 100,000 population in both countries is much the same. However, the big difference is that Australia will emerge with their economy virtually intact, while we have done serious damage to ours. There is significant business failure happening now in New Zealand that could have been avoided, and still can be in my opinion. –  Lee Short

I see a stark difference between the wealth creators and those untouched and shielded from the impact on the business world. They are not having their pay slashed and are not suffering unemployment or the threat of it. Business owners and employees provide the wealth that funds those in the public service. They take risks, many borrowing substantial sums, some making sacrifices for years. The result is companies that pay tax and employ staff who pay tax. These taxes keep those in public service in employment.Lee Short

Those of us whose adult lives have largely played out over the last four decades should be grateful that we have lived through the best of times, but we owe it to our children and grandchildren to give them at least the same opportunities that we have had to enjoy happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. How we handle the recovery from Covid-19 will determine whether we do so.Kiwiwit

There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.  A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is. Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. – Paul Henry

No opinion is worth expressing that is not also worth contradicting (except, perhaps, this one); nevertheless, clichés have their attraction. They are the teddy-bears of the mind, or, to change the metaphor slightly, the mental lifebuoys we cling to in times of stormy intellectual or political weather. They are the sovereign remedy for thought, which is always a rather painful activity. –  Theodore Dalrymple

 Is mastery of this kind of meaningless verbalisation, eloquently empty and passionately delivered, the key to political success? And if so what does it say of us, the citizens of democracies? – Theodore Dalrymple

As is quite often the case, hiding in the great mound of high-sounding bilge are quite nasty sentiments that would, if taken seriously (which thankfully they will not be), lead straight to a totalitarian society. . . It has long been my opinion that inside every sentimentalist there is a despot trying to get out. – Theodore Dalrymple

Except that people will remember the sectors that helped them get through – agriculture and horticulture. They might also remember that the air became cleaner during the pandemic, and that the rivers ran clear. The environmental impact of reduction in transport has been noticed globally. The clarity of waterways has featured on RNZ with commentators noting bird song and clear water… because building and roadworks had stopped. No mention was made of the fact that agriculture and horticulture continued, nor that there had been no reduction in animals. – Jacqueline Rowarth

I would go so far as to compare the Prime Minister to Rob Muldoon. She is Rob Muldoon with slogans and kindness. Michael Woodhouse

How have we got to a stage where we think this is fine. Where we accept rules that say only 10 people are allowed at funerals but 100 people can go to a pub? Where families can’t get out of quarantine to say goodbye to dying family members and people in hospitals die without any loved ones holding their hands? – Heather du Plessis-Allan

You can’t spend your way back to surplus. You can’t tax your back to surplus (without decreasing economic growth). You need to grow your way back to surplus. So most important of all we need policies that will not just get us through the recession but lead to a strong growing economy for the decade that follows. – David Farrar

The budget was heavy in numbers. A few hundred million here, a few billion here – there were big spending initiatives for everything.

But it was light on demonstrating how these programmes will help repair the country. As KiwiBuild showed, good intentions plus government money do not automatically equate to success. But that lesson appears to have been forgotten and Budget 2020 is just KiwiBuild on steroids. – Oliver Hartwich

It’s easy to get lost in all of the big numbers today. The four-year projections of spending, the extra of billions in debt, the debt-to-GDP ratio.

We forget that each of those numbers, all of the numbers in fact, represents a bigger challenge. The burden we place on New Zealanders and the responsibility we have to them.

We forget that a decade of deficits and debt means fewer choices for our kids down the road.

The obligation we as Parliamentarians have to make sure the next generation is better off than we were. That they have more choices, more opportunities, and more ability to succeed in the world because we back them, not burden them with debt.Simon Bridges

Next time, with substantial administrative improvement and a whole lot more political honesty (surely an oxymoron if ever there was one!), there may be some justification in claiming the government’s responses and directives as a  “masterclass of communication” – but definitely not this time. – Henry Armstrong

Whether the virus is quelled or not, in four months’ time the wreckage of New Zealand’s economy will be visible from space. Last week, leaked documents showed the Ministry of Social Development is preparing for an extra 300,000 benefit applications in response to mass unemployment generated by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be a seer to guess that material concerns and a desire for economic and logistical competence will likely trump all other considerations — including abstract notions of “wellbeing” and admonitions to “be kind” — in choosing the next government.Graham Adams

You have had the five million locked up in Cindy’s Kindy with a daily political party broadcast with an incredibly compliant media who have been in her bubble. – Michelle Boag

Our Prime Minister is daily lauded for her leadership in times of crisis.  In the immediate glare of publicity, kindness and empathy are endearing qualities.  The cold reality is that those qualities will not pay the bills.  Gestures of 20% pay cuts are welcomed but 20% of a heck of a lot is no real sacrifice.  Real leadership involves more than optics and safeguarding political gains. It requires tough and hurtful decisions.Owen Jennings

If ‘helicopter’ cash and ‘shovel ready’ projects are the best you can come up with, think again.  If dressing up green initiatives and sneaking through climate change penalties are on the menu, forget it.  If asking us to pay new taxes is in the budget, pull it out again.  Our burden is already too heavy.  Focus on what might hold back private sector initiatives, frustrate investors, limit progress and delay the recovery.  Prune such fearlessly.  Waiting seven years for a consent to increase a water take when your city is running dry isn’t helping anything – the environment, the economy, thirsty businesses or my vegetable garden. –  Owen Jennings

I would like to change the way we treated our farmers and our primary industries for the last while. ‘They are the heroes of our economy and I think they are being treated as though they were the villains.  It is really important to show how valuable the agriculture and primary industries are to New Zealand. They are the basis of our economy, and valuing that is really important to me.  – Penny Simmonds 

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these. – Heather Roy

Australia is currently co-optimising the wellbeing of the Covid outbreak and the wellbeing consequences of the economy better than New Zealand.  If we don’t martial the best possible team for both recovery and reform, we will exacerbate the slide against our greatest comparator and lose even more of our most precious asset, our people.That risks a younger generation not only inheriting greater debt, but also makes Aotearoa a less desirable place to live with substantially less wellbeing. Fraser Whineray

I trust the prime minister a lot more than her critics do. But I also believe that a lot of her cabinet ministers are incompetent, and others are highly unscrupulous, and that this government makes operational and policy blunders on a scale we haven’t seen in our last few decades of technocratic centrism (as I was writing this the news broke that the entire lockdown may have been illegal). And they’re currently making huge decisions based on incomplete information because there is no expert consensus or reliable data available. – Danyl Mclauchlan

So I think there’s value to disrespectful questions and politicised critiques, and even some of the contrarianism, even if a lot of it is misguided or in bad faith, or simply wrong. And I think we need a space for those critiques in our mainstream politics and media instead of shouting it down and leaving it to circulate on the shadowy fringes of the internet. Because the experts are not always right and the government is not always trustworthy. If contrarians warn about the danger to our freedom in this moment, and it makes us more vigilant and we remain free, does it mean the contrarians were wrong? – Danyl Mclauchlan

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team; This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.  This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand. Todd Muller

The problem with this government is they’ve two or three strong performers and 17 empty seats in CabinetTodd Muller

Poker machines are a de facto tax on the brain-dead. As a taxpayer I resent having to support no-hopers when in the case of these addictions, their problems are self-inflicted. – Bob Jones

A modern democracy, we should not forget, is a people of the government, by the government, and for the government.Theodore Dalrymple

What the “employed and unemployed workers” of 1935 would be scandalised by is being forced to support other people’s children whose father’s pay nothing. They would be outraged that someone who has committed a crime can come out of a prison and get immediate recourse to welfare – repeatedly! They would be angry that  entire isolated rural communities could turn their local economies on welfare. – Lindsay Mitchell

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects. Alfred

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.Adam Creighton

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures. – Adam Creighton

The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent. – Adam Creighton

The real problem with the Ardern government is they have no idea whatsoever apart from how to throw money at things, – Roger Douglas

In any case, it wasn’t outsized compassion that drove the lockdown sledgehammer but the ­brutal reality of an underfunded health system. With about 140 intensive care unit beds and few ventilators — far fewer than Australia per capita — it was woefully underprepared. Ardern is more popular than ever, and by all accounts is a good person and a great communicator. But if a COVID-19 vaccine remains elusive, New Zealanders may come to question her wisdom as they fall further down the global pecking order. Without economic growth, there won’t be money for more ICU beds. – Adam Creighton

The world doesn’t need more examples of the progressive social direction of NZ so we can learn from their utter failure sad as it is. She’s all hat and no cattle, just a charismatic executioner of her country’s future prospects.  – Alfred

They’ll make excuses for her, that’s what left supporters and the media do to prop up failed politicians. It’s not about results, it’s about virtuous ideas and statements. The voters least affected – the latte sipping urbanites will keep supporting her, while the poorer people, whom she has vowed are the ones she’s trying to help, will suffer.Melanie

If you, as small business owners, give just one of your newly unemployed neighbours a job before Christmas, you will be the heroes of the economic crisis, the way that our nurses and doctors and all five million of us who stayed at home and washed our hands were the heroes of the health crisis, –  Todd Muller

National does not start by saying everything should be closed unless the Government says it can be open. Instead, our guiding principle is that everything should be open unless there is good reason for it to be closed.Todd Muller

Ethnic communities don’t want tokenism or special treatment; we simply want to be treated as equals and live in an inclusive society. We don’t wish to question or demonise anybody’s “whiteness”. We should all be able to celebrate who we are without fear or favour. – Gregory Fortuin

Muller is still an unknown quantity and has taken over National at the worst possible time for a prime ministerial aspirant. His best hope is that by the election on September 19, unemployment has rocketed, the cult of Winston has shattered, the economy has tanked and voters are starting to worry about how the country will ever pay the billions back.

Then voters might start to think empathy is all very well, but we need a leader capable of some hard- headed decisions that look beyond the lens of political correctness.Martin van Beynen

Don’t be fooled, Winston Peters declarations are not about principle. His game is political expediency. . . Will Winston Peters last the distance or are we seeing the tactic that’s been so successful in the past being reeled out for a third time? Peters shows yet again he will call the shots and for a party polling well below the 5 percent threshold he has nothing to lose. – Heather Roy

Months of monotony, with nothing to look forward to and nothing to distinguish one day from another, is an experience which fundamentally conflicts with most of the ways societies throughout history have found to give structure to the passage of time. Most religions recognise the importance of marking time: celebrating rites of passage, appointing seasons for feasting and fasting, getting together at set times to celebrate, pray, or mourn. As religious holidays die away, secular society invents its own alternatives.

Over the past few months, we’ve been stripped of all that. Those keeping Easter, Passover, Ramadan or other commemorations have had to do so at home and online, for many a very imperfect substitute, and non-believers have lost their rituals too: no birthday parties, no graduations, not even the weekly trip to a favourite coffee shop. We’ve been deprived of almost every conceivable form of public, shared experience — perhaps most painfully of all, with restrictions on funerals, the rituals of grieving. These are anchors, and without them we drift.Eleanor Parker

We’re all hypocrites. Outrage is selective. Personally I’m much more concerned with the fact we’re staring down mass unemployment and a generation-defining economic crisis than the fact Todd Muller has a Trump hat. – Jack Tame

In the face of soaring unemployment and plummeting house prices, middle voters may pause for thought. People who care passionately about inequality, over-tourism and climate change in the good times, tend to be less progressive when their personal economic circumstances are shaken.Andrea Vance


National’s refreshed responsibilities

May 25, 2020

Todd Muller has announced the refreshed responsibilities for his MPs:

He has taken Small Business and National Security.

His deputy Nikki Kaye has Education and Sports and Recreation.

Amy Adams, who had announced her retirement, is staying on with responsibility for Covid-19 Recovery.

Judith Collins:  Economic Development, Regional Development, is Shadow Attorney-General and takes on Pike River Re-entry.

Paul Goldsmith keeps Finance and has responsibility for the Earthquake Commission.

Gerry Brownlee: Foreign Affairs, Disarmament; GCSB; NZSIS and Shadow Leader of House.

Michael Woodhouse keeps Health, is  Deputy Shadow Leader of the House and Associate Finance

Louise Upston: Social Development and Social Investment.

Mark Mitchell: Justice and Defence

Scott Simpson:  Environment, Climate Change and Planning (RMA reform)

Todd McCLay:Trade and Tourism

Chris Bishop has Infrastructure and Transport

Paula Bennett: Drug Reform and Women

Nicola Willis: Housing and Urban Development and Early Childhood Education

Jacqui Dean: Conservation

David Bennett: Agriculture

Shane Reti: Tertiary Skills and Employment,  Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Associate Health

Melissa Lee: Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media and Data and Cybersecurity

Andrew Bayly:  Revenue, Commerce, State Owned Enterprises and Associate Finance

Alfred Ngaro: Pacific Peoples, Community and Voluntary, and Children and Disability Issues

Barbara Kuriger: Senior Whip, Food Safety, Rural Communities

Jonathan Young:

Nick Smith:

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi:

Matt Doocey:

Jian Yang:

Stuart Smith:

Simon O’Connor:

Lawrence Yule: Local Government

Denise Lee:  Local Government (Auckland)

Anne Tolley: Deputy Speaker

Parmjeet Parmar:  Research, Science and Innovation

Brett Hudson:  Police, Government Digital Services

Stuart Smith: Immigration, Viticulture

Simeon Brown: Corrections, Youth, Associate Education

Ian McKelvie: Racing, Fisheries

Jo Hayes:  Whānau Ora, Māori Development

Andrew Falloon: Biosecurity, Associate Agriculture, Associate Transport

Harete Hipango: Crown Māori Relations, Māori Tourism

Matt King: Regional Development (North Island), Associate Transport

Chris Penk: Courts, Veterans

Hamish Walker Land Information, Forestry, Associate Tourism

Erica Stanford: Internal Affairs, Associate Environment, Associate Conservation

Tim van de Molen: Third Whip, Building and Construction

Maureen Pugh: Consumer Affairs, Regional Development (South Island), West Coast Issues

Dan Bidois: Workplace Relations and Safety

Agnes Loheni:  Associate Small Business, Associate Pacific Peoples

Paulo Garcia: Associate Justice

At the time of the announcement SImon Bridges was considering his future, he nas subsequently announced he will stay on in parliament and contest the Tauranga seat again.


Is it Muller?

May 22, 2020

Newshub reports  :

12:40pm – Sources have told Newshub Simon Bridges has lost the vote. Newshub understands the vote has been won by Todd Muller.

Update: – Nikki Kaye is now deputy.

My loyalty is to National and to its leadership, I congratulate Todd and Nikki.

My sympathy is with Simon Bridges and Paula Bennett who have worked very hard in what proved to be an impossible task.


Leader must be gracious, caucus must be united

May 22, 2020

If Simon Bridges wins today’s leadership challenge he must be gracious.

Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye are both suited to their respective roles as spokespeople for agriculture and education.

Demoting them would be understandable. But leaving them their would demonstrate statesmanship and mean no valuable time would be wasted as their replacements came up to speed with new portfolios.

If the challenge succeeds the new leader must also be gracious.

Opposition leader is never an easy job and the last couple of years have been particularly difficult.

Circumstances have given the Prime Minister opportunities to shine which has left Simon in the shade. On top of this he’s faced sabotage from within and almost unrelenting negative media exposure.

There is no worse example of that then the totally unprofessional and vindictive word cloud which featured in the news a few days (and to which I’m not going to link). That crossed the line from political commentary to personal abuse, even bullying.

But time and time again he’s defied predictions of his political death and should he not do a Lazarus today, he deserves respect for tenacity and focus.

Should he make it one more time he deserves more than respect, he deserves loyalty and unity from his caucus, for his sake and the party’s.

Neither Simon nor Todd is going to out-popular the Prime Minister in the short term, but as Liam Hehir writes, personal unpopularity can be overcome by a policy platform that resonates, and a sound strategy for getting it out there.

There is, however, a big problem. Inter-party divisions do not generally affect the voting intentions of party stalwarts. There is evidence that voters who aren’t partisans, however, will use internal disagreement as a shorthand for evaluating a party’s policy chops. 

So, the path forward is clear. The first thing that must happen is settlement of the leadership question. The next thing is an end to public dissension. 

That means the winner is going to have to strike a careful balance of utu and clemency. Not enough of the former, and he (or she) will have no chance of being anything other than a lame duck. Not enough of the latter and the risk is that disagreements will be intensified. 

Any time National is talking about anything other than the economy it will be bleeding votes to Labour. If it drags on much longer, it will also start bleeding votes to NZ First. It’s the second of those which could turn a tough election into a 2002-level bloodbath. 

MPs who leak and gossip with hostile media should be called to account for risking the jobs of their compadres. Talented MPs should be brought into the fold even if they supported the unsuccessful candidate. Those who would rather reign in hell should be encouraged to explore other options. 

The shenanigans of late are a slap in the face to every unpaid volunteer who has ever stuffed mailboxes or sat through boring committee meetings or parted with their hard-earned cash to support the party’s activities. 

Those people may not abandon the party, but its parliamentary section should not be so careless about letting them down. 

I was an electorate chair when National lost the 2001 election so badly. The following year I was stuffing hundreds of envelopes asking members to pay their subs when the radio news informed me someone was publicly undermining the leader.

I fired off an email to the underminer which started with “bloody hell” and went on to say very, very clearly, how members felt about disunity.

Leaders and MPs come and go, some members do too but the base stays and if there’s one thing that upsets those who remain loyal to the party through good times and bad, it’s MPs who don’t.

New Zealand is facing dire economic times. Job losses already number in the thousands and the social consequences will soon be apparent.

The country needs an opposition focused on holding the government to account.

It needs an opposition able to show it has a plan for a better way to deal with the crisis than the current one which is focused on the quantity of its spend rather than the quality.

And it needs an opposition that shows it has the people to implement the plan who are united and working with their leader

If there’s anyone in National’s caucus who isn’t prepared to get behind whoever wins the leadership vote today s/he should get out and let those who are get on with what must be done for the sake of the party, and the country.


Rural round-up

May 21, 2020

“Geen tape’ policies should be put on hold – Simon Bridges :

National leader Simon Bridges wants the government to put off “green tape” policies in the farming and primary sector.

The comments were in response to a question asked during a presentation to the Otago Chamber of Commerce, on whether the government needed to change some of its policies it wanted to introduce in the primary sector.

Bridges said it was one thing to have certain policies in good times and another during a time of deep recession or depression.

“Some of the policies around climate change, water, a variety of other areas of green tape I think are going to be unhelpful at this time.

“I’m not suggesting these issues aren’t important, they are, but the facts have changed and we need to change what we do.” . . 

Prices drop for sheep and beef farmers:

Prices paid to sheep and beef cattle farmers and meat manufacturers both fell sharply in the March 2020 quarter, Stats NZ said today.

Sheep, beef, and grain farmers received 11.5 percent less for their products in the March quarter, reversing rises over most of 2019. In turn, prices paid to meat manufacturers were down 4.4 percent in the March quarter.

“The sharp fall in prices for sheep and beef farming in the first three months of 2020 coincided with dry conditions in many parts of New Zealand, with sheep and beef prices falling,” business prices acting manager Geoffrey Wong said. . . 

How to export your way out of a financial crisis – a 10 point plan for New Zealand – Charles Finny:

The hugely successful coronavirus response means New Zealand is well-placed for an export-led recovery, writes Charles Finny in this paper for the SSANSE Commission for a Post-Covid Future at the University of Canterbury.

New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 has come at an enormous economic cost. If we don’t move very fast that cost will increase greatly, and if we are not careful we will be left with a really perverse result. We will be even more dependent on one market, China, and on one sector, agriculture, than we were before going into this crisis.

Of course, China will continue to be an important market for New Zealand for many years to come and agriculture is critical to our future – but we don’t want all our eggs in a couple of baskets, particularly as China has in recent years shown a propensity to use trade dependency as a political lever.

In 2019 China took: . . 

Nine Van Leeuwen Group farms offered for sale :

Nine Van Leeuwen Group farms are up for sale, close to three years after cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis was discovered on more than a dozen properties owned by the South Canterbury-based company.

Sixteen properties belonging to the group had restricted place notices imposed on them by the Ministry for Primary Industries in July 2017 after the outbreak of the bacterial cattle disease, in an effort to control the movement of stock.

At the time two dozen cows on one of the group’s farms tested positive for the disease, the first identified in New Zealand. . . 

Rain brings relief to Hawke’s Bay farmers over weekend – but the drought isn’t over yet – Bonnie Flaws:

For the first time since the drought began, Hawke’s Bay has had double digit rainfall over the weekend, bringing much needed relief to farmers in the region.

Farmers have been under extraordinary pressure in recent months as coronavirus compounded the issues brought about by the drought.

Rain fell all weekend on the farms of Hawke’s Bay, which saw sample measurements of rainfall for the week reach approximately 30 millimetres in the Southern Ranges, south coast and Tangoio as well as some northern coastal areas and ranges. . . 

Taranaki accounting specialist urges farmers to be proactive about their future finances :

The $500,000 government funding for drought recovery has been welcomed by the dairy industry. However, with the current global uncertainty limiting the ability to predict where the milk price will land and the negative implications of COVID-19 affecting contractors’ and farmers’ income, Dairy NZ and Baker Tilly Staples Rodway have teamed up to highlight the need for farmers to understand their finances.

Taranaki farm accounting specialist, Amanda Burling, of Baker Tilly Staples Rodway said: “It’s been a challenging time for the Dairy Industry. The drought, along with the impacts of Covid-19 are providing a lot of uncertainty. The sale yards in lockdown along with the works slowing down due to social distancing rules has had an impact on cashflow. Now we must work together to prepare for next spring.” . . 


If it were done

May 21, 2020

Macbeth was talking about murder when he said, If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly.

That also applies to leadership tussles and National leader Simon Bridges has made the right call in summoning his caucus to settle the matter on Friday.

Every day’s delay is a day more when the issue festers with all the negative media attention that accompanies it leaving little clear air left to hold the government to account.

I am not going to give my opinion on who should be leader.

I support the party and whoever leads it and will continue to do so whether that is Simon with Paula Bennett as his deputy or Todd Muller and Nikki Kaye.

But I will say that whatever the outcome of the caucus vote, all MPs must be loyal to the leader and the party.

The leaking, the criticism and any show of disunity and disloyalty must stop.

Just a few months ago National was polling higher than Labour.

What changed was Covid-19 and the response to it.

The government’s abysmal record of doing very little it said it would until then has not changed.

KiwiBuild, child poverty, climate change  . . . it’s been lots of talk and very, very little action.

What has also changed is the economy.

The lockdown flattened the Covid curve and in the process has flattened the economy.

The government has voted itself so much money in response most of us can’t comprehend the amount. But worse, it doesn’t have a clear plan on how to spend it and at least as important, it doesn’t have a plan on how to repay it.

As Heather Roy explains in a letter to her children:

. . .By way of explanation, this is why I am sorry about your inheritance. Debt is what you have to look forward to and growth will take some time to return. In the short-term, New Zealand is facing a large rise in unemployment, predicted to peak at nearly 10 percent before falling back to 4.6% in 2022 (optimistic I suspect). Government debt will explode to more than 53 percent of GDP, up from 19% now. . . 

Not all debt is bad of course. It often allows you (and countries) to invest wisely in areas that will be of benefit later, but I fear the lack of vision and planning associated with the government borrowing an additional $160 billion means ‘wisely’ isn’t part of this equation. Vision and hope are important for people. We need to know where we are going – what the end game looks like and that the pain is worth bearing because a better life awaits. Hope too, is important. People will endure a lot if they have hope. I’m afraid I saw neither in the Budget last week. There was lots of talk of jobs, and lots of picking winners but not much in the offing for those already struggling and those who will inevitably lose their jobs when businesses go under.

Figures are tricky things. If you say them quickly, especially the billions, they don’t sound so bad. Most people can imagine what they could spend a million dollars on. Billions are a different kettle of fish. Many of us have to stop and think, how many 0’s in a billion? When figures are inconceivable, people give up trying to work out what they mean. After all, the politicians will look after the money side of things, won’t they? I hope you realise that is very dangerous thinking. To start with it’s not the government’s money – it’s yours and mine, hard earned and handed over to the government for custodial purposes.  We hope it will be spent wisely on health, education, social welfare, but after we’ve voted every three years, we don’t have any say on where it goes.

Beware of those saying we can afford to borrow this much money. Just as when we borrow from the bank to buy a car or house, when government’s borrow, repayments must be made and this limits the amount in the pot for spending in extra areas. The state of our economy is your inheritance: to contribute to your tertiary education, to educate your future children, to provide medicines and hospital treatments when you are sick, to help those who for whatever reason have no income. A mountain of debt places the prosperity of your children in peril.

Picking winners is dangerous too. Government’s love picking winners, especially in an election year. Election year budgets often resemble a lolly scramble with media reporting the “winners and losers”.  The simple fact is when you confer advantage on one group everyone else is automatically disadvantaged. Giving to the vulnerable is understandable but private industry winners are not. As an example, those who had been promised Keytruda (last year) to treat their lung cancer only to have that rug whipped out from underneath them now must be devastated to see the racing industry handed $74 million to build/rebuild horse racing tracks around the country. Flogging a dead horse instead of funding up to date medical treatments is folly and unfair in a humane society. 

I know fairness and equity are important to you all. Your generation has a more egalitarian outlook on life. Partly I think this is because you have not experienced real poverty and why New Zealand’s debt doesn’t bother you as much as it does me.

I have recently read two excellent writings by people I respect and I want to share them with you. The first is a report written by Sir Roger Douglas and two colleagues called “The March towards Poverty”. . . 

The report concludes “ For too long, we have lived with the fiction that we are doing well, lulled by successive governments into believing we truly do have a ‘rock star’ economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. Starting with Grant Robertson’s post-Covid budget, we must admit to the problems facing our economy and begin to deal with them. Otherwise, current inequalities will remain entrenched, we will continue to fall further behind our OECD partners, and the prosperity of our younger generations will be placed at peril”.

While I’m on the topic of legacies, the second article I want to share is by Chris Finlayson, Attorney General in the Key/English Governments for 9 years starting when I was also a Minister. I’ve been worried about the legality of many of the impositions we have experienced since the country was plunged into lockdown. I know you sometimes think all this theoretical  stuff isn’t that important, but in a well functioning democracy how the law is made and enforced is central to an orderly society we can have faith in. Chris has eloquently described these matters much better than I can in his opinion piece  on the rule of law:

“Some readers will no doubt respond that this rule of law stuff is all very interesting for the legal profession and retired politicians but is hardly of any practical impact given what New Zealand has just avoided.

I disagree. The former Chief Justice, Sian Elias, once said that if only judges and lawyers concern themselves with the rule of law, New Zealand is in trouble. She was right. Adherence to the concept of the rule of law would have helped avoid some of the basic failures of the past eight weeks – failures that should give all New Zealanders pause for thought.”

I’m afraid it’s too late to put Ardern’s debt genie back in the bottle. I apologise on behalf of my generation and older that you and your kids will carry this debt for all of us. My advice to you is to do what this government should have done. Cut costs and minimise your liabilities. Spend only on the essentials and invest in assets that will produce a safe dividend. Perhaps most important of all, stay engaged in our democracy and encourage your friends to do the same. If COVID-19 has taught the world anything it is this: politicians need to be closely scrutinised at all times but especially in crises like these.

The government’s arrogance was exposed a couple of weeks ago when ministers were ordered not to speak in the wake of the Covid document dump. It’s carried on this week when Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis refused to attend the Epidemic response Committee because, doing a Facebook Live session instead.

The country needs an opposition focussed on the government’s mistakes and formulating a plan to do much, much better, not on itself and a leadership struggle.

Whatever happens at Friday’s caucus meeting, this is what National must be doing, and doing it together in step with the leader.

And whether or not there’s a change of leader, one thing must not change – and that’s the decision to rule out any deal with New Zealand First.


Taxing times

May 19, 2020

This is a very taxing time which is not the right time to increase tax:

National is calling on the Government to defer the 4c hike to petrol excise duty and road user charges scheduled for July 1 while its light rail project is on hold, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“Given the unprecedented economic pain this country is feeling because of Covid-19, the Government should give motorists a break rather than hitting them in the back pocket.

“The Government introduced three years of annual tax increases to pay for its beleaguered Auckland light rail pet project that has gone absolutely nowhere since Jacinda Ardern promised it on the 2017 campaign trail.

“Now that the Government has confirmed light rail is on hold while the Government deals with Covid-19, the tax grab scheduled for July 1 shouldn’t happen either.

We have been paying the extra tax for three years in which there has been no progress at all on the light rail project which was used as the reason for the extra tax..

“Kiwi motorists have already suffered enough under this Government. The tax hikes it has passed into law amount to a $1.7 billion tax grab, with Aucklanders the hardest hit because of their regional fuel tax.

“If the Government does not defer the July 1 petrol tax increase then it will be a clear signal that Labour’s plan to repay the massive debt it’s taking on is more tax.

“New Zealanders need to keep more of what they earn to cushion the blow of Covid-19. A National Government will repeal the Auckland Regional Fuel Tax and won’t increase fuel taxes in our first term.”

I filled my car with petrol on March 25th, a few hours before the lockdown was imposed. I didn’t have to fill it again until last Thursday and wondered as I did how big a hit the government had taken from less fuel used and therefore less fuel tax and GST.

Given the amount of tax levied on each litre it would have been significant.

The government will also be anticipating a lot less company tax and the most optimistic of forecasts are for big increases in unemployment which will result in less PAYE coming in and more benefit payments going out.

None of that is an excuse for another increase in fuel tax.

Almost all goods and services have a fuel cost component so an increase in fuel tax is an increase in production costs for just about everything. That is the last thing any business needs when so many are faced with the need to retrench at best.

An increase in fuel tax is also not what people need with recession a certainty and depression a probability.

It’s definitely not what the poor who will be hit hardest need.

Last week’s Budget had to feature a lot of borrowing but not nearly as much as it did.

It didn’t have a plan for helping the country out of the economic damage wrought by the lockdown and the government has given absolutely no indication it plans to be going through every single cent it spends to weed out the nice-to-haves nor does it appear to be asking any of its departments or ministries to make savings.

The alternative to that is more tax, a lot more tax.

The increase in fuel tax will just be the start.

 

 


What would change change?

May 19, 2020

Last night’s Newshub Reid Research poll has produced the inevitable proclamations of the political death of Simon Bridges.

But what would changing National’s leader change?

It wouldn’t change the circumstances that have led to the high support for Labour and its leader and the corresponding fall in support for National and its leader.

David Farrar pointed out yesterday that polls during a crisis almost always result in high support for whoever is in charge as patriotism trumps politics.

In Australia Scott Morrison has gone from a -20% net approval rating in the February Newspoll to a +26% rating in the April Newspoll.

In the UK Boris Johnson has gone from a +6% rating in March Opinium to a +29% in April.

Even in the US, Donald Trump is seeing his approval rating increase, despite a pretty terrible actual response to the crisis. Gallup had him at -9% in January and at +4% in March. . . 

The poll also showed that  91.6 percent of respondents backed the decision to go into lockdown.

What the raw number doesn’t show is whether or not that many backed the details.

I backed the lockdown but not the way decisions on which businesses could operate were based on the debatable criteria of essential instead of safety.

Sticking to the former has wrought much greater economic devastation than was necessary and day by day the impact of that on businesses, jobs and lives will be get worse.

And day by day the difference in the ability of National team and the Labour one to repair the damage will become evident.

In spite of the overexcited claims of commentators, changing leaders wouldn’t make much difference to the polls.

What will make a difference is a plan that clearly shows a better way forward for New Zealand, a better future for New Zealanders and a competent and united team to deliver it.

Labour has the unity but it doesn’t have the plan or the competence.

National has a plan and the competence. If caucus keeps its collective head and stays united it will have a much better chance of regaining popularity than if it panics and starts showing disunity because changing leaders won’t change the circumstances that fed the poll results and voters don’t vote for disunity.


Inconsistencies and control freakery

May 18, 2020

From the start of lockdown we’ve been plagued with inconsistencies in which businesses can or cannot operate and what we can or cannot do.

Using essential rather than safe as the rule for whether or not businesses could open was the cause of most of the inconsistency under Level 4.

Control freakery seems to be the reason for some of the inconsistencies under Level 2.

We can go to brothels and strip clubs now and will be able to go to bars later this week but still won’t be able to go to church.

This has prompted Simon Bridges to write an open letter to the Prime Minister:

I write to you on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who practice many different faiths and religions, who continue to be unable to gather in any meaningful way for worship this weekend because the Covid-19 restrictions your Government has chosen to keep in place limit the number of people who can attend religious services to 10.

New Zealanders of faith have understood the need to sacrifice their freedom of religion to gather for worship to support our fight against Covid-19.

People of all faiths have done their part, however they are now being told that despite our alert level being reduced they are still no longer able to meet for worship.

New Zealanders find it inconsistent that you allow large numbers of people at bars, restaurants or sporting events but continue to deny more than 10 people gathering for religious services.

It was right to increase the number of people who can attend funerals and tangi – it is right to do the same for our faith communities.

Religious institutions are in a better place than almost any other organisation that is allowed to host larger crowds, and are therefore able to ensure appropriate physical distancing and health precautions are taking place.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this limit so New Zealanders of faith can gather and worship this weekend and participate in what is one of the most defining aspects of their lives: expressing their faith through worship. 

Yours sincerely

SImon Bridges

The answer Health Minister David Clark gave to Simon O’Connor’s question on this shows the control freakery:

O’Connor put the question to Dr David Clark in Parliament on Wednesday, claiming the Government failed to consider New Zealanders’ rights to freedom of religion when it drafted the COVID-19 Public Health Response Bill.

“Is the Minister aware that strip clubs are allowed to open during alert level 2 but churches are not, and if so, why is one deemed so much safer than the other?” he asked.

“Speaker, I think the Member will understand – both he and I are people that have interacted with churches, that I know – that people often attend services of worship for fellowship reasons,” Dr Clark responded.

“They are there to worship, but they are also there to mix and mingle with others. The purpose of having rules around gatherings – places people gather to intermingle – is precisely to ensure we are keeping the space for people, the appropriate social distance, and keeping the virus out.”

Dr Clark went on to explain that commercial premises such as strip clubs had their own requirements to ensure people did not intermingle. . .

Fellowship is part of church attendance but if bars and strip clubs can be trusted to ensure their patrons don’t intermingle, why can’t churches be trusted to ensure their congregations do the same?

An appeal from more than 75 church leaders asks government to have faith in them:

Whilst we understand the reasoning of having public groups of no more than 10 (50 now at funerals) we believe and would argue that our church people are generally highly responsible and hopefully better behaved on the whole compared to some behaviour at late night bars etc. It is far easier for us to track and trace, because we already know our church families.

We are not asking to be open seven days a week until all hours. Church gatherings mainly take place on one day of the week.

We would like you to consider that churches be able to resume services with the same restrictions and safety measures in place that other sectors of society are operating under. As bars are allowed to reopen, surely the church, as a place of nurturing, stability and support in the community should be able to open as well.

If you have faith in business owners, we request you also have faith in us. . . 

The nearest church to us seats about 120 people but it’s unusual to have more than about 20 people at a service.

It would be possible to require people to register their intention to attend, limit numbers to ensure social distance could be maintained, have no singing, and control entry and exit to ensure no-one breached the distancing.

It’s a Presbyterian Church, the parishioners will be sober which is more than can be said for at least some of the patrons at bars and strip clubs and they can definitely be trusted to keep far further away from each other than prostitutes will be to their customers.


No plan, wrong people

May 15, 2020

If you were looking for a Budget with a coherent plan for recovery, you wouldn’t have found it in yesterday’s:

Today’s Budget doesn’t have the plan we need to get New Zealand working again, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

Kiwis have sacrificed so much through the restrictions of the lockdown, our collective efforts have so far worked well, now we need to get our economy cranking again.

“With a thousand people a day joining the dole queue we needed a proper plan. Spending money is the easy part. But investing billions where it will make the most difference was what we needed.

“Today we are seeing an extra $140 billion of debt. That’s $80,000 per household and it’s our children and grandchildren who will be paying for it. That’s equivalent to a second mortgage on every house.

“We will have $100 billion in deficits for the next four years.

“The Government will spend more than $50 billion, more than any Government has ever spent in any one Budget.

“It needed to be spent in a responsible and disciplined way. What this Budget lacks is any detail and accountability of how it will be spent and what it will achieve. . . 

This Budget had to be a big spending one, but did it have to be this big?

Today’s Budget reveals the sheer scale of the economic challenge New Zealand is facing, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“We’ve just been through a dramatic health crisis, now New Zealanders can see the scale of the economic challenge and just how serious is.

“Unemployment is set to skyrocket to 9.8 per cent highlighting why the first priority must be to save jobs.

“With an extra $140 billion in debt, we’re facing debt levels not seen in decades, that’s nearly $80,000 per household.

“The Treasury predictions of future Government tax revenue and economic growth appear highly optimistic. New Zealanders should brace themselves for worse if this Government carries on.

“We welcome the limited extension of the wage subsidy however the $50 billion slush fund is totally unacceptable. The Government has cynically set aside more than $20 billion that it can spend before the election.

“There is very little in the way of a growth plan in this budget, beyond $230 million to encourage entrepreneurship and some announcements in infrastructure that we all know they will struggle to deliver.

While we agree that Government support is necessary to save jobs, we must be mindful that every dollar spent in today’s Budget will need to be paid back.

“What we need now is a genuine growth plan and careful economic management to pay down debt and get us back to growth without the need for higher taxes. . .

The lack of a plan is a point Paul Henry made:

“I think there is a good chance we [New Zealand] will miss the opportunity. I was hoping that there could be a bounce forward not a bounce back. It’s the human way – a life of least resistance. I’m not depressed, I’m disappointed.” . .

“I haven’t seen a long-term plan yet. I think the last six weeks I’ve seen us fighting a fire and trying to get back on our feet. We need a long-term plan. The world’s changed, and it’s changed for many years to come.” . . 

“There is not one person in the Government that has a plan or can articulate a plan.

“A plan has a start, a process and a goal….not one Minister can articulate what that plan is.

“Instead, it’s panic and continue to employ as many people as possible. That is not a plan’s arsehole. . .

David Farrar scored the Budget against 13 principles and found it wanting.

Grant White, owner of Logitech, is disappointed in the Budget too:

. . .Covid-19 package estimated to save 140,000 jobs over two years, and create more than 370,000 new jobs. I can’t see it and I await the detail of just how that will be done.

What I do know is what the government clearly doesn’t understand. There is only one thing the economy needs right now – confidence. And this budget is not going to generate it, indeed its failure to stop short and medium term redundancies is going to lead to an even greater reduction in confidence.

Bryce Edwards calls it a Budget with big numbers but little vision:

. . The problem for the government is that it has already been struggling to keep to its promise of being transformative. Previous budgets have shown Robertson and his colleagues have been unable to break free from their cautious instincts.

With the Coronavirus crisis, the opportunity was handed to the government to reset the economy and society, and deal with some long-term problems. Robertson even spoke about this during the leadup to the Budget, saying that now was the time to address intractable problems of economic dysfunction, inequality, and environmental decline. He talked of not wanting to “squander the opportunity”. And yet, many will look at today’s big-spending Budget and ask: “Is that it?

The problem isn’t just there’s no real plan to repair the economic damage inflicted by the COvid-19 response, the government has the wrong people to lead the recovery too.

Empathy and communication are valuable commodities in politics but they’re nothing without the ability to make a good plan and make it happen.

Does anyone who remembers the many and gradually less ambitious Kiwibuild promises really believe that Labour will build the 8,000 houses promised yesterday?

How much faith can we have in a Cabinet with Phil Twyford, Minister for the Kiwibuild fiasco and now Minister for the failed Auckland light rail project?

Or Labour deputy and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis who after being notably absent while his sector faced the sector’s equivalent of foot and mouth disease, only popped up to do a possum in the headlights cameo with Paul Henry?

Does Minister of Health, David Clark, who was sidelined during the worst health crisis the country has ever faced give you confidence? Or what about his deputy Julie Anne Genter whose responsibilities include vaccinations? Remember the measles epidemic and the on-going flu vaccination debacle?

This government doesn’t have a plan and it does have the wrong people.


Nat’s launch petition vs inhumane funeral & tangi rules

May 13, 2020

Which is the party of compassion?

The National Party has today launched a petition to allow up to a hundred people at funerals, weddings and places of worship, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“It’s not fair that you can have 30 people on a rugby field playing close contact sport but you can’t have more than ten people at a funeral so they can grieve together.

“Our team has been inundated with heart-breaking messages from people who are grieving. Most extended families have more than ten people and that’s before you get to friends and other loved ones.

“Some people held off having funerals during Level 3 because Jacinda Ardern led them to believe they would be able to have more loved ones around them from tomorrow. They feel hurt and let down.

“As well as funerals and tangi, we want people to be able to attend religious services with the appropriate social distancing. If you can have a hundred people in a restaurant, why can’t you have a hundred a people in a church, mosque, temple or synagogue? 

“It’s not too late for Jacinda Ardern and her Government to be compassionate.”

The government went from too much trust of people to self isolate after arriving from overseas to too little trust of businesses that could operate safely under Level 4 to do so.

And now it has far too little trust in the bereaved and the funeral directors and/or celebrants in charge or proceedings to safely farewell their dead.

The petition is here.


That’s no way to say goodbye

May 13, 2020

National is threatening to fight Level 2 enforcement law if the rule on tangi and funerals isn’t changed:

Under level 2, only 10 people can attend a tangi or church service at any given time. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she, like other world leaders, struggled with the decision, but had to play it safe. . . 

But what’s safe and what’s not doesn’t seem to be consistent.

National Leader Simon Bridges said the public had been writing to him raising the point that people could still go to a restaurant or movies with 100 people at the venue.

Yet at one of the most tragic defining points of life, at a funeral, direct family members cannot attend them under those rules. That’s not just unkind, it’s inhumane, and I think we can do better than that,” he said.

One of the doctors who looked after our son and was there when when he died told us that it was very important to say goodbye properly.

We didn’t know much about funerals and others said it would be best to keep it private.

Tom was only 20 weeks old, had spent almost a third of his life in hospital and few outside the family and hospital staff had met him so we followed that advice.

It was a mistake. We had afternoon tea after the service then our parents and siblings went home leaving us alone with our young daughter and our grief.

We learned from that and when our second son died we had a public service.

It was so much better. Some people left after the service, others stayed to talk, to listen, to comfort us.

That’s how saying goodbye  should be, a service about the one who has died to for the ones who are left, and for most that needs more than 10 people.

Anger and upset over this is made worse by inconsistencies:

Grieving families are distraught over inconsistencies with the COVID-19 alert level 2 rules, baffled that the Government will trust people to go to the movies, gyms and malls but not to farewell friends and whānau. 

Kiwis will be privy to a whole lot of new freedoms on Thursday when the level 2 rules come into play, but it won’t bring satisfaction to the family of Southland man Maurice Skinner, who passed away last week, three months before his 90th birthday. 

A former jockey and racing trainer, Maurice Skinner was a well-known Southland figure, and a funeral could’ve drawn hundreds. But his family just wanted a small private service – 21 people – so they delayed until alert level 2. 

But holding off has left them disappointed because the level 2 rules don’t allow it. 

“We can’t even do that now, so we’re absolutely devastated,” his daughter told Newshub. “One of the worst things you can stop people doing is being able to farewell their loved ones.”

Under level 2 there’s a cap on gatherings – no more than 10 people. And yet, up to 100 people could be in a gym, a restaurant or the movies, as long as they’re socially-distanced. 

In the normal course of events, people would be much closer than two metres and part of comforting the bereaved would be hongi and hugs. But funeral directors and celebrants, as required under health and safety legislation, could make sure that social distancing was maintained.

We know this is causing pain but we equally have tried to be really consistent,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. 

But it doesn’t feel consistent for grieving families. 

“The Government is telling us we need to be kind but where on earth is the kindness in that? It’s actually inhumane,” Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker told Newshub.  . .

Those in mourning want the Government to trust them. 

The woman Newshub spoke to anonymously is from a family of medical professionals including a COVID-19 nurse, and they know full-well how to manage the risks. 

“We can be responsible with our loved ones and the people that are around us – just give us the benefit of the doubt,” she said.  . . 

Ten is a very small number for most families. We had 11 adults and six children at Tom’s private service.

It is possible for far more than 10 to join via electronic communication but that is a very poor second to being there, with the people you care about, albeit two metres apart.

If there was widespread community transmission of Covid-19 the insistence on no more than 10 people at a funeral would be more easily understood.

But there is not.

Yesterday’s ODT reported no new cases of the disease in the Southern District Health Board area for 16 days and the Waitaki District, like several others has recorded no cases at all.

It defies logic that the government trusts casinos, bars and movie theatres to have up to 100 people but no more than 10 at a funeral.

Preventing people from saying goodbye properly is the antithesis of the kindness we’re all exhorted to show.

It’s inhumane and the rule must be relaxed to allow families and whanau to farewell the dead and comfort the living.


Level 2ish

May 12, 2020

New Zealand is being permitted to go to Level 2ish at midnight on Wednesday.

Much of the economy will open including restaurants, malls, cinemas, shops, health services, and hairdressers. People will be able to socialise with others and travel around the country, as well as playing team sports.

The following Monday – May 18 – schools and early childhood centres will open.

Finally on Thursday May 21 bars will be allowed to reopen. . .

While gatherings would be allowed they would be limited to ten people, Ardern said – even for weddings or funerals. This has been changed from a limit of 100 last week.

Bookings for restaurants and the like will not be allowed for groups larger than 10.

A time limit of two hours for gatherings is mentioned on the Covid-19 website, but a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister’s Office said this was not intended to cover private gatherings.

These rules would be reviewed in another two weeks time on May 25. . .

This still won’t be business as usual, or what usual used to be and National leader Simon Bridges says the focus must now be on economic recovery:

“We need to focus on the other wave coming on us: having dealt with the Covid-19 wave, we now have got to be thinking about the real suffering that comes from 1000 people a day going on the dole and growing,” he said.

“We’ve flattened the curve, we’ve got to make sure we don’t flatten the economy in the process and we get it and jobs up and running.”

As the country faced a looming, deep recession, Bridges said he wanted to ensure that the economic hole gouged out by the pandemic wasn’t deeper than necessary.

“We’ve got some banks and economists saying this could be $100bn in debt – that takes it to over 50 per cent of GDP and we want to make sure that whilst there’s investment going into jobs, there’s not a bunch of other low-priority, untargeted things.

“Because ultimately if there is, that’s $50,000 a household that has to be paid back at $100bn dollars, that’s inevitably more taxes and that’s a legacy of debt on our children and grandchildren.”

Despite hospitality businesses getting the green light to reopen – with restrictions – from Thursday, Bridges acknowledged that many won’t make it through the next month.

“Whether it’s retail or hospitality, from restaurants and cafes through to bars, the costs have risen with the rules and requirements and in fact their revenue may be down, so it is tough for them.” . .

Murray Sherwin, Productivity Commission chair, is also worried about the economic outlook:

The die is cast. We won’t see the official numbers for quite a while, but it is already apparent that New Zealand is headed into the sharpest and deepest recession in 100 years.

We know we will experience unemployment at, and perhaps above, levels not seen since the late 1980s, company failures and large income losses across the economy. Amongst the bits we don’t know are just how deep the emerging recession will prove to be and how long it will last. . .

The policy choices we make and how well we execute them can cushion the downturn, accelerate the recovery and shape the nation that we eventually emerge as.

What we learn from previous recessions is that they carry lasting impacts on firms and employees. The Productivity Commission’s recent inquiry into technology and the future of work showed that workers who lose their jobs can be subject to significant “scarring” even when they get back into work – meaning that they may experience a loss of future earnings over an extended period of time – especially if they are young and with lower skills.

In high-performing economies, a major source of productivity growth comes from workers shifting from low productivity firms to high productivity/high growth firms. For that to happen, and to reduce the risk of long-term disadvantage, workers need easy access to training and upskilling.1 Alongside that, firms need a policy environment that encourages them onto a high productivity path that can support high productivity and high-income jobs.

But the impact of recession is not felt just by workers. We should expect some proportion of firms that are closed during the lockdown phase will not re-open in the future – another form of scarring. With firms, as with workers, a dynamic environment that encourages the movement of labour, capital and other resources from low to high productivity entities is an essential element in a successful future. . . 

That environment is one which reduces regulations that add costs and complexity to business; one that makes it easier to employ the right people and let the wrong ones go; one that values the private sector and encourages it to invest and innovate.

It is not an accident that since 1991 Australia has been riding the longest unbroken phase of economic growth recorded amongst OECD economies – a growth cycle only now being broken as Australia slips into recession like the rest of us. When we review that 30 year growth cycle alongside New Zealand’s experience we see that New Zealand is more vulnerable to economic downturns. Where Australia has ridden though shocks such as the 1997 Asian economic crisis, the GFC and others, suffering a growth slowdown, but avoiding recessions, New Zealand has dropped into recessions. On each occasion, NZ slips perhaps 2% or 3%. And while we may quite quickly get back to a growth path matching (and at times exceeding) Australia’s, we never do well enough, for long enough, to close the gap.

The lesson to take from this is that how well we manage our way through shocks has real and lasting effects. And right now we are hitting the biggest shock in a century. The quality of the policy response – over the next decade or more – will determine the living standards of New Zealanders for at least the next couple of generations. It will determine our capacity to make real choices about income distribution, environmental standards, housing quality, income distribution, the capacity and capability of our health and education systems and our progress towards climate change goals.

Nothing will undermine our capacity to achieve high standards on those fronts more than an underperforming, low productivity economy.

Productivity is the key.

Increasing that will reduce the harm and repair the damage faster.

That will take a government that understands its role is to get the policy environment right, keeps its role to the areas best left to government and allows the private sector to get on with the work that is needed to rebuild the economy.

 


More generous, better targeted

May 7, 2020

National has come up with a more generous and better targeted plan for small businesses hit by the Covid-19 lockdown:

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today announced the first part of National’s plan for getting New Zealand working again.

“New Zealand has flattened the curve. Our first priority now must be to lift the restrictions that are flattening the economy.

“We need to get cash flowing to the thousands of small businesses that were forced to close in the national interest, and left shouldering a disproportionate amount of the economic burden.

Businesses, and the jobs they support, come and go at the best of times.

But these are the worst of times owing to circumstances beyond their control and as a direct result of government directive.

The directive was made with the best of intentions and for the public good but that in no way softens the blow to businesses nor reduces their need for help.

“To reduce the damage and to save jobs, National would offer a GST cash refund of up to $100,000 – based off the GST they paid in the 6 months to 1 January 2020 – to the small businesses most affected. They would need to demonstrate a revenue drop of more than 50 per cent across two successive months due to the lockdown rules.

“We estimate this could benefit up to 160,000 businesses and save countless jobs.

“If the business paid more than $100,000 in GST over that period, then they would be able to claim up to an additional $250,000 as a repayable loan over 5 years.

“National understands the key to growing the economy is to encourage and incentivise business investment.

“That’s why we would temporarily lift the threshold to expense new capital investment for firms. The Government lifted the threshold from $500 to $5000 as part of its Covid response. We’d go much further and lift it to $150,000 for two years.

For example, if a company spends $145,000 on a new machine to improve its productivity, rather than depreciating that asset over many years, it will be able to expense the full $145,000 in this tax year.

“What we do in the next few months is critical to help businesses survive and save jobs.

“The Government took the right steps to contain the virus but already it’s stalling on what to do next.

“National will work alongside New Zealanders to achieve jobs, sustainable growth and boundless opportunities for New Zealanders and their families.

“Kiwis have done a great job self-isolating and social distancing to save lives. But with 1000 people a day joining the dole queue, we now need to turn our attention to saving jobs.

“National will get New Zealand working again.”

Business NZ approves:

BusinessNZ says National’s proposals for business support would help build investment and confidence.

Chief Executive Kirk Hope says National’s proposals for cash grants, low-interest loans and a higher cap on depreciation are sensible options. . . 

Luke Malpass says Bridges has hit the right note:

. . .For a start he has been positive: although all the usual political point-scoring applied, he has announced a new policy that, were it to be enacted, would greatly assist many small businesses which are currently being nursed through the continued lockdown. It is new, it has been roughly costed (at a cool $8 billion it is not chump change) and it is specifically designed to support small businesses which will struggle to make payroll once they can start operating again.

The second policy announced — a temporary instant asset write-off for investments of up to $150,000 (supercharging the Government’s $5000, which was increased only in March) is also good policy given the circumstances. It is designed to provide an extra incentive for firms to invest as the lockdown continues to wind down. 

Importantly, the policies are both forward-looking and recognise that as the economy loosens, the next wave of Government support is going to be needed. This will clearly be the focus of Grant Robertson’s Budget next Thursday.

The entire basis of the lockdown was that the Government was prepared to induce a sharp recession in order to avoid a surge of Covid cases  resulting in deaths, which would in turn lead to an elongated downturn, driven by fear and uncertainty.

Yet as the will-they-won’t-they nature of the Covid alert levels rolls along the Government risks having both the sharp and deep recession, followed by a drawn-out period of uncertainty which it sold the New Zealand public on hopefully being able to avoid.

It is this risk that Bridges is seizing on, pushing the Government to move to level 2 quickly, and it is not unreasonable. . .

The Prime Minister was praised for her announcement explaining the alert system levels but they no longer mean what she said, and what the Ministry of Health’s website, say they mean.

A couple of weeks with new cases in single figures, two days with no new cases and then just one confirmed and one probable case yesterday should mean the risk of community transmission is low.

People are losing patience with the constraints under which we’re working and the lack of information on what will happen next, and when it will happen.

We’ll learn today what will and what will be permitted at Level 2 but won’t know until Monday when we’ll get there.

Clutha Southland MP Hamish Walker writes of the need for certainty:

. . .The Government needs to be giving details of the conditions that will enable an easing of the alert levels, and when Southland will be able to function normally again. If normal functioning is not possible, the Government needs to tell us what restrictions will be put in place and what support there will be for businesses?

The Government needs to be providing details to us now so businesses can plan.

Sir Bill English once said to me “Hamish, it’s uncertainty which kills business and the economy. People can live with negative decisions that affect them, but you need to tell them so they can plan.” . . 

The government isn’t following this advice and National has stepped into the vacuum with a policy that would provide certainty and enable businesses to plan.  Unfortunately it’s in opposition and therefore not in a position to implement it.

That leaves us with uncertainty until the government deigns to provide us with the information we need and the assistance businesses require.

The full speech is here.


Covid Cttee summonses re legality

May 6, 2020

Repeated refusals by the government to release the legal advice on the lockdown has prompted action:

The Epidemic Response Committee has today summonsed all legal advice provided to the Attorney General, Solicitor General and Police Commissioner to be released, Opposition Leader and Committee Chair Simon Bridges says.

“The people of New Zealand have given up their freedoms for this lockdown. We all deserve to know what legal basis was for the lockdown.

“The legality of the lockdown is highly questionable, that’s what academics, lawyers and the law society have said to myself and the Epidemic Response Committee.

“There have been many questions about the way the Police have operated under lockdown. National has been calling for the legal advice to be released but this was refused.

“New Zealanders have a right to know what the rule of law is.

“The Government tried to block to the release of this information but we have fought for it to be made public.

“The Police Commissioner, the Attorney General and the Solicitor General have five days to comply with the summons from the committee.

“New Zealanders should be proud of the efforts they’ve made during this lockdown but they also deserve to know whether the lockdown was legal.”

The more draconian the restrictions imposed on us, the greater the need for openness and transparency.

This isn’t North Korea where good communication is telling the public what the leader wants the people to know.

This is New Zealand where good communication should be giving the media, opposition and the public answers to questions we all have the right to ask.

 


Straining social licence

May 5, 2020

Yesterday we got the welcome news that no new cases of Covid-19 had been detected.

That follows several days of new cases in single digits.

To most of us that looks like it would be safe to drop to Level 2 or may even Level 1:

At Level 2:

The disease is contained, but the risk of community transmission remains.

Risk assessment

    • Household transmission could be occurring.
    • Single or isolated cluster outbreaks. . . 

At Level 1:

The disease is contained in New Zealand.

Risk assessment

    • COVID-19 is uncontrolled overseas.
    • Isolated household transmission could be occurring in New Zealand. . .

So why aren’t we moving down at least one level, or at least knowing when we will?

The government has explained that elimination doesn’t mean no cases. That means that at whatever level we’re at there will almost certainly be some new ones.

But the health risk now appears to be less serious than the risk to the economy:

National Party leader Simon Bridges admits moving to pandemic alert level 2 could result in more COVID-19 cases, but says this could happen under any level and the lockdown has to end for the sake of the economy. . .

While the unprecedented restrictions have been successful in dramatically reducing the number of new infections of the virus – which has killed hundreds of thousands of people overseas – they’ve also taken a toll on the economy.

Bridges says there are 1000 jobs being lost every day under level 3, based on new applications for the Jobseeker benefit. This is similar to the rate of new applications under level 4, when far fewer businesses were able to operate – there were 30,000 applications in the month to April 17, despite the Government’s wage subsidy being paid out to organisations employing 1.6 million people.

“This has gone on too long,” he told Newshub. “We need to get New Zealand working again. Quite simply we’ve got to end lockdown because it’s so much easier to keep someone in a job.”

He said officials “from Ashley Bloomfield down” have said COVID-19 is “eliminated”.

“Having flattened the curve, let’s not flatten the economy as well. We have to come out at some point. We can’t just wait until there’s a vaccine.”   . . 

A thousand jobs lost a day is 1,000 people a day at risk financially and at risk of poorer physical and mental health as a consequence of that.

It’s not just jobs but whole businesses that have been lost and the longer we’re stuck at Level 3 the greater the risk and the greater the economic and social costs which also have health costs.

Compounding the frustration is the continuing dearth of information on what will happen and when it will happen.

We were initially told we’d be at Level 4 for four weeks. That turned into nearly five.

We were then told we’d be at Level 3 for at least two weeks. Given we’re not going to know until next Monday if there’s going to be a drop in levels, it’s likely that we’ll be stuck at Level 3 for at least a few more days longer.

Uncertainty about the legality of police action isn’t helping:

New Zealand Police’s decision to arrest Kiwis during alert level 4 despite being advised they had little legal basis to do so “undermines the rule of law” in New Zealand, the former Attorney-General believes.

The comment from Chris Finlayson comes just hours after leaked emails to NZ Herald revealed that police were told by Crown Law that they had little to no power to enforce lockdown rules.

Finlayson, a former National MP who served as Attorney-General for nine years between 2008 and 2017, says it’s clear the police have acted beyond their powers during the coronavirus crisis.  . . 

The refusal to release Crown Law advice makes it even worse.

Incumbent Attorney-General David Parker has thus far refused to make public the advice, despite mounting pressure from the Epidemic Response Committee and MPs to do so.

Finlayson believes Parker’s refusal means there are parts of the advice “he may not like” – but says that shouldn’t change whether it’s released or not.

“There’s an overwhelming public interest, for people whose freedoms have been curtailed over the last few months, to know exactly the legal basis upon which certain decisions were made,” he said. . . 

Last week the government accidently passed legislation that differed from the Bill MPs had seen. That undermines confidence, but Jenée Tibshraeny writes:

. . .The public is putting an immense amount of trust in the Government as it circumvents the usual checks and balances to get us through this crisis. But trust is earned. It’s also key to maintaining social cohesion.

Oddly, I can dismiss Thursday’s passing of the wrong legislation as an extraordinary genuine mistake.

But the lack of transparency around decision-making and incoherent way of announcing a billion-dollar policy change, are inexcusable.

The government has imposed unprecedented restrictions on us at an enormous economic and social cost.

The willingness of most of us to abide by the lockdown requires a social licence which must be based on trust.

The government’s refusal to give us all the information we need, and to which we are entitled, is undermining trust and straining that social licence, and that is putting strict compliance at risk.


Quotes of the month

May 1, 2020

The most galling aspect of the current lock down is that we could’ve prevented it. If we had introduced strict quarantine at the border and made provision for widespread testing much earlier, like South Korea and others, we probably wouldn’t be in the situation we now find ourselves. We all have to pay a high price to bring this disease under control and that cost is now as much in our liberty as our wallets. I don’t think there is anything to be gained at this time in castigating the Government for their earlier inaction, but let’s not give them undue credit either. Hopefully there will be a reckoning after all this is over. – Kiwiwit

One should never underestimate the power of amnesia in human affairs. Even catastrophes on a vast scale are often soon forgotten, at least by those who were not directly affected by them. The young in Eastern Europe, it is said, know nothing of the ravages of communism, though they lasted decades and still exert an influence, and quite a lot think that socialism might be a good thing to try, as if it had never been tried before. Moreover, no memory exerts a salutary effect by itself unaided by thought and reflection: memory (even where accurate) has to be interpreted, and where there is interpretation there is the possibility of error and disagreement. – Theodore Dalrymple

With a full belly, everyone knows better than farmers how to manage land, and how to care for the countryside. – James Rebanks

This is our wake-up call to respect farming once more — not uncritically: we have an absolute right to want more nature on farmland, high welfare standards for farm animals, and safe and healthy food. –James Rebanks

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column in the Listener in which I was too dismissive of the health risks of the Covid-19 threat. The reaction was furious and often vituperative – which is another thing we have all become accustomed to these days. My column that would normally be spinning off the printing press right now, said, “I got it wrong”.

I did get it wrong, but our job is to scrutinise, and I remain more afraid of the economic fallout of New Zealand’s response to Covid-19 than I am of the virus itself. – Joanne Black

I don’t jeer at smokers, though. Nicotine is a drug, you get hooked on it, and it takes a lot of effort to stop – I had someone doing it with me and we could console and help each other when it got too hard. It was also a time when I didn’t have any money worries, but really, in the end I kept it up because I was determined I wasn’t going through withdrawal symptoms ever again. I hated that I couldn’t just stop without enduring what seemed like punishment instead of the congratulations I deserved. Renée

That cast iron aversion to enforcing personal responsibility is baked in to our law in numerous areas. . . Shame (whakaama) is the mechanism at the cultural heart of nearly all successful systems for control of anti-social behaviour.  – Stephen Franks

It is as if the government is afraid of confronting and dealing with real hard choices –  and being honest on what they value, what they don’t –  and just prefers now to deal in simplistic rhetorical absolutes, when not much is very absolute at all.Michael Reddell

 Bauer’s exit is further evidence that foreign control of New Zealand media is generally ruinous. Australian ownership did grave – some would say irreparable – damage to both our major print media companies and it seems the Germans are no better. Overseas owners have no emotional stake in the country and no long-term commitment to our wellbeing. They don’t understand our culture and ethos and are largely indifferent to New Zealand affairs. They are interested in us only for as long as they can make a profit, and when that ceases, they cut and run. – Karl du Fresne

Many politicians and voters don’t seem to appreciate the reality that every dollar spent by the government needs to come from taxpayers, who need to earn that dollar in order for the government to take and spend it. Even when the government borrows money to fund its splurge, it is just postponing the bill to future taxpayers. Kiwiwit

We will decide to end social isolation and take to the cafes (those that have survived) with gusto. It will be our duty to support what is left of the economy and keep people employed. We will rush to businesses that the COVID-19 Czars deemed non-essential and hope we have the cash to spend and hope they survived. – Judith Collins

Consistency, at least in matters of public policy, is no doubt the hobgoblin of little minds, and not every argument has to be followed to its logical conclusion. Philosophical abstractions cannot be the sole guide to our political actions, though neither can they be entirely disregarded. The man with no principles is a scoundrel; the man with only principles is a fanatic.Theodore Dalrymple

The feminization of society isn’t  the overlay of feminist values. No. It’s the overlay of natural feminine tendencies. Don’t tell me they don’t exist. Most females become mothers. They are biologically designed to nurture. To bond through touch and soft murmurs. To provide their bodies to their babies (and lovers) as cushions and warmth. They placate, they adjudicate. They practice kindness with reasonable ease because that is at the core of the jigsaw puzzle piece they are.

Mine is a traditional but organic view of what a women is. She is not less than a man. And she is not more. – Lindsay Mitchell

When the New Zealand public looks back on the response to Covid-19 they won’t be judging success by whether we went ‘faster’ or ‘harder’ than other governments. Instead, we will want to know whether the Government’s response was balanced and proportionate.

Specifically, was the response proportionate to the risks posed to the citizenry from the virus? Were the short-term and long-term consequences to health and wellbeing appropriately balanced? Were the impacts on younger members of society who bear the brunt of the financial consequences appropriately weighed against the interests of the elderly members who carry the highest health risks? And were the impacts on low-paid wage earners and disadvantaged communities who will fall deeper into poverty appropriately considered and compensated?

Certainly, extending the lockdown beyond four weeks and prolonging border closures would be the right thing to do only if it saves more lives than it costs. Grant Guilford

 I get home and just try to catch up on all the news I missed while I was writing it. As with March 15, I find filtering the horrible events through the filter of a news story that I am writing the best way to numb myself to their power. If you have to sit back and think about the world shutting all its borders for years to come, of a recession deeper than any we’ve felt in a century, of needless deaths if we don’t resist all the things that make us feel alive, then it all gets a bit much. When you get to write it out as a news story its just data to feed into a well-worn formula, a coping mechanism that also happens to be your job. – Henry Cooke

 The best battery of all is a lake. Water management allows more investment in plant based proteins, better management of waterways, and more green industry. If we want this renewable future then as a country we need to have a mature discussion about water storage which must be, and will be, a net positive for the environment. – Rod Drury

One of the lessons from the animal world, is that every disease has its unique characteristics that determine the specific strategy. But every time, one way or another, it requires a track and trace that is carried out with speed and rigour. – Keith Woodford

I write my way into a story, a poem, a play and I write my way out. One thing I know for sure – there’ll be sticking points, hurdles. Writing that flows like it was effortless and easy to write comes only after hard work. Renée

There must be many other people in these strange times who find that having the time, no longer trying to stuff too many duties and activities into their day, they can now discover the world of small things around them, and find it utterly loveable. Birds singing, leaves unfolding, spiders spinning their miraculous webs – all these things can be food for the soul and can remind us of the goodness of life even in ‘these interesting times’, in the words of the Chinese proverb. –  Valerie Davies

What other industry is allowed to steal the product of another industry’s endeavour and pay nothing for it, while at the same time steal their livelihood through advertising? Because that’s what social media does. They pay absolutely nothing for the product that is the lifeblood of their operation and that is the news content made and paid for by news media organisations.

“I know of no other industry where you can steal something and not only get paid for it through advertising but get the government’s backing for it as well. – Gavin Ellis

So let’s use every nuanced tool we have available to us. Let’s protect the vulnerable, require businesses to prove they can operate safely before reopening, seriously consider regional alert levels, and continue with our physical distancing and virus hygiene protocols. But let’s also move quickly to staunch the bleeding of our troubled economy. Otherwise, we may need to start including suicide statistics, domestic violence call-outs and bankruptcy numbers in our daily briefings. – Lizzie Marvelly

My mum has probably never shown up in the GDP. Men can be pretty shit with a tape measure when it comes to women. No offence. But she could help you with that. Run it down your arm. Around the cuff. Calculate costs in an instant. Show you where you went wrong. Pins askew in her mouth. Glen Colquhoun

We’ve been bemoaning the fact that no one wants to listen to the good stories for years. Who would have thought it would take a global pandemic to give us a window to be able to have that voice again? It seems bad taste to be observing silver linings and opportunities whilst so many are suffering however, an opportunity to connect and support our country can only be a positive for everyone in my books. The primary sector’s social licence and our economy depends on it.  – Penny Clark-Hall

The people that we are talking about now are not the sports stars, not the celebrities, they are the people at the front line -the health workers – the Jenny’s from Invercargill, they are the special people. – Sean Fitzpatrick

One of the problems with Government money is that it always feels like other people’s money, doesn’t it? At the end of the day it’s ours or at least future generations’, who will have to pay it back in some way. We ought to be just as cautious with that money as we would be in our own businesses.

If you give cheap or free Government money to enable businesses to continue, in doing so you may be destroying the very thing that is valuable in business, which is the ability to evaluate risks and to take risk where the benefits that flow are greater than the costs. – Rob Campbell

Not all deaths have the same social cost. The death of a 90 year old can be sad, but the death of a child or young adult is almost always a tragedy. Burden of disease estimates often adjust for the number of life years lost and this adjustment should be made in assessments of the benefits of intervention options.Ian Harrison

Is there any rail network in a sparsely populated narrow and skinny country like ours that has ever paid its way? Perhaps the Greens can enlighten us if there is. The Greens will probably say that there is a financial cost to an economy where climate change is front and centre, but we already know what a carbon-free economy in the year 2020 is like – we just have to reflect on the economic destruction that has taken place during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Rail is not an asset – it’s a liability. And it’s not a stimulus package, any more than spending money on people digging holes in the ground is. Stimulus money should be spent on work that will facilitate commerce and enhance the economy in the long-term, not destroy it, which is what the Greens are proposing. – Frank Newman

If the government wants to build on its success so far and continue running an effective public health campaign against Covid-19 at minimal cost to the economy, it needs a robust decision-making framework that will allow rapid response to changing circumstances and reflect a broad range of health, social and economic considerations. – Sarah Hogan

The more the government can show it is learning and carefully considering the complex sectoral, health, social and economic trade-offs at each alert level – most likely by comparison with a ‘no intervention’ alternative – the more likely it is that decisions will prove durable.

Without more structure, rigour and intense communication effort, the gains won so far against the virus risk unravelling if public scepticism and weariness combine to thwart the battle in the months ahead. – Pattrick Smellie

We shouldn’t take our culture and heritage for granted because it has helped us to strengthen our resolve and courage in such an uncertain time.

I have found that looking out for each other and valuing our culture makes us stronger and although it has been tough we will come out stronger as a community. – Hana Halalele

It does stick in my craw that even the most self-reliant of us have all become dependent on the state. I can’t help thinking that this is seen by those in power as a useful by-product of their Covid-19 response. The metaphysical basis of almost all political belief today is social, cultural and economic collectivism. We are all just part of one big, global village, and, as in any village, every person should be concerned with everyone else’s business. Self-reliance is seen as selfishness and is not to be tolerated, and if you think you know what is best for your own life, you simply don’t know what is good for you. – Kiwiwit

As leader of the nation, Ardern is unparalleled. But her performance as leader of the government is less flash. – Matthew Hooton

Amid the coronavirus implosion I’m guessing productivity failures won’t even get much attention this election.  But they should, and any serious recovery plan should go hand in hand with a strategy that has some credible chance of finally beginning to reverse decades of failure.  Turning inwards and looking more heavily to the state is most unlikely to be such an answer. – Michael Reddell

Any one country trying them will quickly find that tariffs meant to protect domestic steel producers, for example, ruin domestic industries that use steel. And when everyone turns protectionist, the complex international supply networks that deliver us everything from cars to phones seize up. –Eric Crampton

Given that a supply chain these days can take in the entire globe, how is the official to know whose making “essential” parts and who’s not? How, even, are manufacturer’s to know, if the screws they’re making are just the ones that are needed to hold together this machine that when running properly makes thatmachine, and that machine is the one that makes ventilators, say. – Peter Cresswell

Here’s what politicians don’t understand: The economy isn’t a lightswitch that can be turned off quickly, then turned back on without consequence. Economic freedom isn’t just an integral part of the American dream, it’s a prerequisite for prosperity.

Most importantly right now? Everyone’s livelihood is essential to them.

Economic activity is, at its heart, a human activity. To disregard some as non-essential is a mistake with heavy consequences. – Amanda Snell

I find myself wondering if people can identify with what I have written about how it feels to be diagnosed with cancer and whether they have found themselves glimpsing the world I live in. In some strange way it could be possible that people are experiencing to one degree or another, what it feels like to have the rug abruptly pulled from under their feet and to wonder if they are going to die. Right now, people are facing one of the greatest challenges in life that they could ever imagine, just as I and many like me faced when we were given our cancer diagnosis. No words can ever describe what it’s like living with cancer but maybe an experience such as what we’re currently living through might provide a glimpse. Like with a cancer diagnosis, this pandemic will change lives and for many life will never return to what they have always known. It will change the way they view their lives and the world, perhaps even their priorities so post-pandemic life becomes a new normal for them. That phrase is one that everyone who has experienced cancer will have heard at some point because life post-cancer is never the same again, it actually does become a “new normal”.  – Diane Evans-Wood

You know, the theatre has kept going through the plague in the 1600s and it has a 2000 year-old history. Performers are part of that whakapapa and there will always be a need for human beings to connect…and, of course, that is what the arts does for us. – Jennifer Ward-Lealand

We need to balance the ability to be financially sustainable while being environmentally sustainable, not be expected to reach lofty targets set when the world was burning more fossil fuels and living beyond its means before the pandemic.

For NZ those targets need to be readdressed as soon as possible. We must lift the lid on the pressure cooker the primary industries have been under as we look to the future. – Craig Wiggins

One thing I do know is that what has become important now has always been important – food, shelter and good company – Craig Wiggins

Everyone who has a job in this economy is an essential worker. Every single job that is being done in our economy with these severe restrictions that are taking place is essential. . . People stacking shelves, that is essential. People earning money in their family when another member of their family may have lost their job and can no longer earn, that’s an essential job. Jobs are essential – Scott Morrison

Merit of action should be based on decisions made (or not made), the application of reason and science, and of course, the final results. Merit and accolade should never be given simply because of person’s age, gender, belief system, or political leanings. Sadly, we are seeing a commentariat very willing to continue its pursuit of identity politics where the ‘who’ is more important than the ‘what’ and ‘how’.  Simon O’Connor

Whether a farmer, café owner or self-employed plumber, the driving force behind most small businesses is the dignity of self-employment. For some people (me for starters) that’s a huge factor overwhelming any other consideration. – Sir Bob Jones

And yet, if there are any two countries that could pull off a clear if hermetically sealed victory — offering a model of recovery that elevates competence over ego and restores some confidence in democratic government — it may be these two Pacific neighbors with their sparsely populated islands, history of pragmatism and underdogs’ craving for recognition.Damien Cave

You are going to be part of a team facing tradeoffs.  Will we cancel the upgrading of the Tauranga to Katikati highway where there are too many road deaths so we can plant trees on good farm land to suck up CO2?  Will we delay buying equipment for an isolation strategy in a probable flu epidemic or build a cycleway on the Auckland harbour bridge?  Should we introduce tough new water quality measures while farmers are struggling and suiciding?  Will Pharmac get more money for new drugs to save five to ten lives or will we build a tramline to the airport?  Can we afford to close maternity hospitals in Southland risking mothers and babies lives so we can shift the Port of Auckland to Whangarei? – Owen Jennings

I have been alarmed to see that disdain for the mainstream media has spread to the mainstream media itself. Recently I was contacted by people who should know better, asking me to send them a copy of my column because they refused to fork out the readies to breach this paper’s paywall. The total required at the time was $1 a week. This much they would not sacrifice because of their aversion to one columnist. They would forgo the fine work produced by many excellent writers who did not have that columnist’s attention-grabbing profile and gift for alienating readers. . . .

Now more than ever, mainstream media which, for all its flaws, continues to uphold basic journalistic standards has a vital role to play in society.

As I explained at the time, refusing to share my column with my stingy friends, if you think life without magazines is bad, wait until you live in a world without newspapers.Paul Little

We must never again allow a situation where the law allows a young woman with much charm and little real world experience, to legally take such dictatorial powers.

The current legislation needs to be reconsidered in Parliament. While it’s conceivable such situations could arise in the future requiring such a heavy-handed approach, the supporting legislation should require say a 75% Parliamentary vote. Sir Bob Jones

There are two clear dangers for New Zealand.

The first is the virus – or more specifically, the prime minister’s strategy of eliminating the virus; how many lockdowns can we endure?

And the second is our prime minister, who fundamentally believes in state control, and is being given a free rein to embed her agenda deep into the heart of our democracy.  – Muriel Newman

Instead of adding to the deficit by throwing expensive shovels at projects, and thereby taking the public sector’s share of total spending up even further than its current, very high, level of 40 per cent of GDP, let’s hold the line on spending and cut tax revenues for a while, and let the households and the business sector sort out the shovelling for themselves. – Tim Hazeldine

For a Government, public confidence is the most precious of commodities. In ordinary times, it allows businesspeople to take more risks, invest in plant and technology, open new markets, start new ventures, employ more staff. It allows householders to decide yes, we will buy the new fridge, take a bigger holiday, eat out more often. Confidence turns the wheels of the economy. Simon Wilson

We are right to take a strong stand to value life and be against premature death. What we should now ask of our leaders is that they be consistent and place equal value on the risks, both physical and mental, for all people. One of the important roles of teachers in a crisis situation is to hear students’ questions and concerns with an open mind and allow them to work their way through things. Suppressing this process can only lead to conformity for the sake of it and a deep sense of helplessness. – Alwyn Poole

We’ve flattened the curve; we don’t need to flatten our country. Indeed, we now need another curve, an upward growth curve – growth, jobs, and a track back to normality.Simon Bridges

 The instinct of the Labour/ New Zealand First government will be to assume that a committee of Wellington politicians and officials, with a couple of business folk, a union rep and two iwi leaders should steer our path into the new economy. The likes of Shane Jones and Phil Twyford will implement it. . .

But the core engine of growth will always be private sector investment – men, women and their businesses taking on new ventures, rebuilding their businesses, expanding, hiring people – taking mad risks. No committee would have thought Kiwis should get into rockets, or into online accounting systems.

The recipe hasn’t changed. Successful economies make it easy for the investment to flow to more productive activities – they welcome investment, they don’t over regulate or over tax, they provide clear and consistent rules, properly enforced, and don’t go changing them all the time. – Paul Goldsmith

This is not a time to panic or point fingers. It is time for us to reveal our true character. Sir Don McKinnon

We need to speak very plainly about this: these three career politicians have absolutely no idea what sectors of the economy are doomed, which have a future, and whether any particular commercial proposal makes sense. Add Economic Development Phil Twyford to the mix, and it risks the appearance of a circus run by clowns. . .

Free-market capitalism works not because it is individualistic — although it is — but because it collectivises everyone’s best guesses and analysis. In contrast, collectivist economic systems reply on the brilliance of individuals or, worse, committees. Again, we should speak plainly: central planners are not just often wrong, but invariably wrong, just like most of us. – Matthew Hooton 

If you have one tenth the number of intensive care beds per capita that Germany does, if you don’t have contact tracing in place, then if you don’t have that level of resourcing available, you’ve got to focus very hard on the keep-it-out strategy. The fact that we’ve had to work so hard to stamp it out can only mean we’ve failed to keep it out. – Des Gorman


Beware derangement syndrome

April 27, 2020

When Winston Peters put Labour in power I was determined that I wasn’t going to get Ardern Derangement Syndrome.

I’d seen far too much stupidity from people who suffered from Key Derangement Syndrome and was determined not to follow their silly example of making politics personal in this way.

It hasn’t always been easy, but so far I have been able to resist developing ADS.

I accept the PM is a warm and intelligent woman and I’d probably enjoy her company.

However, retaining resistance to ADS doesn’t extend to echoing the adulation that has been heaped on her from many quarters.

That is, as Andrea Vance points out, unhealthy:

Politicians should not have fans. By placing our leaders on a pedestal, it creates an unhealthy and polarising dynamic. 

There is evidence of it already in our online political discourse. Any criticism of the Government’s policies and measures is met with a wave of venom.

Even gentle questioning – by opponents, interest groups or the media – is seen as a personal attack on Ardern. 

It’s also often seen as sexism which is tiresome.

That’s because when people blindly align themselves to one party and their leader, they tend to overlook the negative effects of their decisions.

Those who seek to hold Ardern to account over flu vaccines, personal protective equipment in the health system, or confusion about restrictions, are villainised or strafed with ‘whataboutism.’ . . 

When Ardern is fronting the government that has imposed unprecedented and draconian restrictions on what we can do, at a huge personal, social and economic cost, she must be questioned and questioned hard.

That doesn’t mean personal criticism of her but nor does it  mean uncritically repeating her lines such as going early, going hard.

The initial response to Covid-19 was neither.

Then there are legitimate questions over the arbitrary decisions over what businesses and which goods and services have been considered essential under level four lockdown and the economic and social costs of all that.

Candidates will always be judged on their likeability. But infusing politics with an over-the-top “stan culture” turns elections to a sports game, where we are invested in only who wins, not policy or ideology.

And it upends what the political system should be. Prime Ministers are our civil servants, beholden and accountable to us. It should not be a one-sided relationship.

Hero worship eventually reduces our complex, and occasionally flawed, political figures to one-dimensional icons.

Just because Ardern is remarkable, does not mean she is always right.

Over at Croaking Cassandra, Ian Harrison explains six times she has been factually wrong.

He’s found factual errors in what she’s said on transmission rates, the number of cases per 10,000, the number of deaths, containing the pandemic, mortality rates and testing rate.

Steve Elers also says the PM must be held to account over her claims:

During the Covid-19 daily briefings I’ve found myself yelling at the TV screen and sometimes even throwing things at it. Why? Because our journalists seem far too chummy with the prime minister instead of fulfilling their role as the watchdog for society.

A healthy democracy requires the news media to hold power to account, regardless of who is in power, and to question government decisions, just like when the prime minister says: “Elimination doesn’t mean zero cases, it means zero tolerance for cases.” . . 

For the health and wellbeing of my TV, I hope the news media will start holding power to account. If journalists can’t find the motivation within themselves to ask critical questions of the prime minister, perhaps they should imagine she is Simon Bridges.

Or perhaps not.

At least some seem to have Bridges Derangement Syndrome where it’s not what he says but that it’s he who says it or the way he says it that becomes the focus of criticism.

Just as putting a politician on a pedestal is wrong, so too is unfairly pulling one back and the media does us a disservice if it lets derangement syndrome get in the way of reasoned reporting and analysis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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