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Bloomfield and the empire strikes back

Written By: - Date published: 12:06 pm, May 12th, 2020 - 41 comments
Categories: health, health and safety, national, same old national, Simon Bridges - Tags:

Poor Simon cannot buy a trick right now.

Last week he chose the very unwise tactic of attacking Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

From Anna Whyte at Television New Zealand:

A fiery select committee meeting today saw National leader Simon Bridges accuse Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield of attempting to control information flow. 

It was an assertion Dr Bloomfield rejected, saying communications with the public around Covid-19 had been “absolutely fundamental”.

During the meeting, Dr Bloomfield was questioned by Mr Bridges over communications from the Ministry of Health.

“Here’s the point, the Government suspended the OIA (Official Information Act) and we’ve been waiting over two weeks for your department to answer written questions,” Mr Bridges said.

“Why don’t you answer simple health questions to the one parliamentary committee on this remarkably significant issue?

“I’ll be quite frank with you: I don’t think it’s a resourcing issue.

“I think it comes down to one simple thing. You don’t want to answer because you want to control the information flow and do this in a time and a way convenient to you and the Government,” Mr Bridges said. 

Dr Bloomfield said he rejected that assertion.

“Part of my role as a public servant, and I’ve been one for many years, is to ensure there is good information and right from the start of this response we’ve been very open and communicating very regularly with the public.

“However, if there is an issue I will personally take that up with the clerk of the committee, with what is the questions still outstanding and I will work with my team to get those responses as soon as possible.

“Communications with the public have been absolutely fundamental and I made myself available on almost a daily basis to media because I felt that was an incredibly important part of ensuring all New Zealanders knew what was going on.”

Dr Bloomfield did go and check. And he has taken the unusual step of issuing a public response, which given the personal nature of the attack is nevertheless perfectly appropriate.

The text of the letter follows:

On 6 May 2020, following your questions at the Epidemic Response Committee (ERC), I undertook to check the timeliness of responses provided by the Ministry of Health to questions from the Committee.

Requests come to both the Ministry and the Minister. In both situations the Ministry endeavours to provide timely, factual and accurate responses. Sometimes the turnaround time expected by the committee is very tight.

I have been advised that when I most recently appeared in front of the Epidemic Response Committee there were no outstanding responses.

During the hearing, it was suggested that the government has suspended the Official Information Act and the ERC has made multiple requests for information from the Ministry that it is waiting for.

I can assure the Committee that the Ministry of Health has not received any direction that the Official Information Act 1982 has been suspended and we continue to respond to OIA requests based on the Official Information Act 1982.

Every effort is being made to ensure people receive information as soon as it can be reasonably provided, which includes the large amount of information that the Ministry is proactively placing online.

If any Committee Member has a concern about a specific request made to the Ministry, please let me know.

Please note that given the importance of, and public interest in, this matter, I will make this response available on the Ministry of Health website.

Bridges should be pleased that there is a cap of 10 people meeting socially in Covid level 2. If the National Party Caucus was in a room together I suspect that its collective frustration would boil over.

https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/media/erc-letter-7may2020.pdf

[Name corrected, doh – MS]

41 comments on “Bloomfield and the empire strikes back ”

  1. Wensleydale 1

    Bridges wins at losing. Again. At least he's consistently useless and the government couldn't ask for a more inept Leader of the Opposition. Collins and friends must be inwardly seething.

  2. Dennis Frank 2

    Simple Simon: "the Government suspended the OIA (Official Information Act)”. Fact check: that didn't happen. He told a lie. It's okay to tell a lie in parliament, apparently, because it's a privileged system. It's his privilege to demonstrate that the role of the Leader of the Opposition is to be a liar. Officially.

    Okay, I could be wrong. Now that the DGH has explained: "I can assure the Committee that the Ministry of Health has not received any direction that the Official Information Act 1982 has been suspended". That could actually mean the govt did suspend the OIA but a junior staffer forgot to tell the ministry.

    • weka 2.1

      If the government suspended the OIA, wouldn't we know about that? Wouldn't it require a legislative change?

    • Mark 2.2

      Pretty sure that privilege only applies within the Chamber during debate, not within the House in general. I know JLR had to tread carefully when he did a presser on the tiles in the lobby about the Chinese money.

      • Dennis Frank 2.2.1

        Thanks, that's an intriguing and crucial technical point. If you're right, Simon could therefore be guilty of misrepresenting the law (not just misrepresenting the govt).

        I trust a top legal authority will be sufficiently on the ball to spot this and deliver a swift rap over Simon's knuckles!

    • Incognito 2.3

      A lie is knowingly making a false statement.

      • Dennis Frank 2.3.1

        But if he were to plead "I honestly believe(d) that "the Government suspended the OIA (Official Information Act)", which is why I declared that they did", who would believe him? The Nat caucus??

        I appreciate that you are making a moral point. If he was not lying, the only viable alternative explanation is that he is delusional – in which case he becomes a candidate for referral to a psychiatrist.

        And I can't see any likelihood of a delusional person qualifying as a crown prosecutor. Perhaps that's naive of me? Someone may argue that to take law seriously one must be delusional because it goes with the territory…

        • Incognito 2.3.1.1

          Perhaps he was projecting his experience and perception that, in his eyes, the OIA had effectively been suspended, more or less, not formally or officially in a literal sense. The word “suspended” can have so many meanings that ever so slightly and subtly differ.

  3. Bridges is trying to build a conspiracy narrative around the government's extraordinary powers in a state of emergency, but can't keep his story straight.

    Wasn't he a practising lawyer? Would've been an easy ride in Court for his opponents

  4. Peter 4

    Bridges pleased that there is a cap of 10 people meeting socially in Covid level 2?

    Do you underestimate at the same time you overestimate?

    If it's the National Party Caucus surely they'll be able to have up to 20 in the room seeing as they're a pack of halfwits!

    • mac1 4.1

      And the rest can join by Twitter, as that's where twits witter on.

      I can imagine the National Party caucus BBQ on Friday, 6 groups of up to ten. There would be Mitchell's Musketeers, Bennett's Corner, Coleman's Muster, Smith's Dream, Goldsmith's Standardiers and Adams' Artificers. Waiting in the shadows Luxon's Factors and of course Bridges' nowhere to be seen.

      The gas has been lit and the hot plate is sizzling….

  5. Reality 5

    Well done Dr Bloomfield in your Clear response to Bridges’ rant and also making it public.

  6. Gabby 6

    Now Slick will have a go at him for publicising his response and thus trampling on his freedims and pryvacies.

  7. Incognito 7

    I thought there were only three people in the National Caucus: Simon, Paula, and David!?

  8. Ffloyd 8

    Except that Simon would probably call it his 'privates"

  9. aj 9

    I think this exchange between Bridge and Bloomfield was interesting too – and would have added to Bloomfield's frustration. He had already addressed this very issue in the previous question…

    Bridges But you really, unless I’m sort of listening wrong, haven’t given me a concrete health basis for why, on 6 May, we’re still at level 3 rather than a greater degree of openness, which is obviously so much better economically, but also in terms of wider health and social impacts.

    Bloomfield So just go back to my earlier answer about that 14-day incubation period, which we use, for example, for our self-isolation period, our quarantine, or our managed self-isolation at the airport. So 11 May will be 14 days following that step-down when we did loosen up with the step-down into alert level 3, and that is a very important period of time. It will be only later this week that it will become obvious whether or not that loosening has led to us identifying or there being any ongoing community transmission—

    Bridges Rather than your say-so, where can I find some science and some health evidence about a 14-day incubation period? I’m not aware of any.

    (That question resulted in a very short WTF look from Bloomfield…)

    Bloomfield Well, I’m very happy to provide the literature—which has been there right from early on in this outbreak, before it was even declared a pandemic—that the outer limit of when someone who might have been infected starts to display symptoms is 14 days. Most people display symptoms within the first—the average is five to six days, but there is a long tail, and that is what we are watching for, and that’s why the 14-day period is used right around the world for that period of isolation.

  10. aj 10

    And good on Michael Wood towards the end…

    Wood Thank you, Mr Chair. Touching on a couple of areas, the first I want to come to is the issue that was canvassed at the beginning of the session around public health communications. And I want to start out, actually, by putting this on record: that I regard, and I think many people regard, the suggestions in the earlier line of questioning—that you have been obstructive in this regard or that you’re acting as some kind of a front for political masters—to be a baseless slur on the work that you’ve done.

    Bridges I don’t think anyone said that—

    Wood Mr Bridges, you had your say, and I’m just putting my views on record about that line of questioning. What I want to come to in terms of the public health communications is that clearly has been one of the success stories of our management of COVID, and there’s been international recognition of that this week. We are now about six weeks into pretty serious restrictions. There’s potentially a decision next week which moves us further down the chain.

  11. aj 11

    And finally, addressing the largely mythical belief that Australian is much more open…

    Bloomfield I think we traversed this two or three weeks ago, and I think, actually, the Australian position is much more similar to the New Zealand position than perhaps is the perception. And it will be very interesting to see, because they’re in the same position, in parallel with us, as looking at how to loosen up safely. And I know that my counterparts in Australia are at the same time as us developing advice for their Government about how to do that in a whole range of settings, and to do so safely—

    Bridges How can you possibly say that it is remarkably similar, when mining, construction, retail, all manner of activity has stayed in place the entire time? It has been palpably different in its economic approach to COVID-19 to New Zealand. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.

    Bloomfield Well, I think there’s a difference between those industries being open—and particularly, say, retail—and the extent to which that has actually been supported by the restrictions on people’s movement. And in fact, some of the restrictions there has been on people’s movement there have been even more constraining than our own. So groups of no more than two people, for example, has had the equivalent effect of the bubble. I mean, it’s another way of describing the bubble approach that we’ve taken in New Zealand.

  12. Barfly 12

    Oh ffs

    Bridges Rather than your say-so, where can I find some science and some health evidence about a 14-day incubation period? I’m not aware of any.

    (That question resulted in a very short WTF look from Bloomfield…)

    Who the fuk is this cretin?

    Does he not read?

    Does his uber important weekly travel drain whatever brain cells he had?

    FFS

    I say again FFS

    • Chris 12.1

      If Bridges ends up PM we'll be right up there with the same calibre of leader as US, UK and Australia.

    • I Feel Love 12.2

      Very Trumpian, suspicious of science, and to paraphrase Key "you may say that, but I could find another scientist who disagrees".

      & comparing NZ & Aus is like apples & oranges, yet it's what Bridges is doing.

  13. aj 13

    He is either as thick as pigshit, or he pretending to be that thick, a dog whistle to his base,and it does no credit to his party and it's support base.

  14. That_guy 14

    See that's why I'm here, first example of an actual link to the letter.

    Primary sources FTW.

  15. Observer Tokoroa 16

    Deliberate negligence – Simon

    Is Simon Bridges really a competent lawyer ? and a truly competent human being ?

    Further, does Simon have the right to insult and verbally attack Dr Bloomfield every time he attempts to open his national mouth.

    Whilst living comfortably in Parliament, Simon Bridges has aided and abetted the appalling attack on the life of most New Zealanders, by providing:

    no Housing, Inadequate Food, Shocking Cruelty committed by those impossible national friends – the Land Lords, and by endorsing venomous low wages.

    Simon has gone through a door marked "Complete Failure"

    • aj 16.1

      Rather than your say-so….

      Translation – 'I don't trust you'.

      Bloomfield's answer was restrained under the circumstances.

  16. mike 17

    When in hell are they going to can this committee?
    It's been run like a bloody circus.

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