web analytics

Covid-19 and a digital democracy

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 pm, March 15th, 2020 - 20 comments
Categories: community democracy, democracy under attack, democratic participation, health, Parliament, Politics, uncategorized - Tags:

Government has for the last decade been pushing for as many government services as possible to be primarily accessed digitally rather than face-to face. Funnily enough, the one public service they forgot to push to digital is themselves.

Now’s the time Trevor.

Since Parliament is one of the most intensive, sustained and necessary mass people-gatherings in the country, when is it time to tell Parliament to take a break and for M.P.s other than Cabinet Ministers to self-isolate?

C’mon Mr Speaker, I’m sure you’ve rehearsed an earthquake to Wellington that requires a temporary shift of premises. Isn’t it time to shift MP debate online? After all, that’s where 99% of public political debate is already.

There’s no need to be physically near all that hot air, all that flying phlegm, is there team? It’s not as if you like each other anyway.

They’ve stopped all kinds of other massed gatherings – so it’s time for Parliament to consider doing the same.

And there’s really good historical reasons to do so.

In the 1918 Influenza epidemic, the House kept sitting, but Prime Minister Massey was forced to adjourn twice and close the public galleries. Two Members of Parliament died of it: Alfred Hindmarsh the leader of the Labour Party, and the Reform Party’s David Buick. That’s how Harry Holland got to lead the Labour Party.

At least 18 MP’s got sick from it.

Dr Maui Pomare was the MP for Western Maori and Minister for Native Affairs. He got really sick, and also had a relapse after trying to go back to work too soon. He was also a powerhouse of medical help to Maori from the Manuwatu and up through to Thames. I’d love to see more M.P’s from across the House show courage like he did.

The Health Act that emerged at the end of that national crisis was a really strong reflection of the work that the whole House put in, and its structure and powers permanently shaped public health policy. Historian Geoffrey Rice has described the Health Act 1920 as “the most useful legacy of the 1918 influenza pandemic”.

It was with these powers that the Government of 1948 was able to deal with the polio outbreak of 1948.

Polio was a disease that really got to children, so it didn’t carry the risk of hitting parliament directly. The Government shut all schools down from January through to Easter. My father-in-law recalled to me that Dunedin was stopped to all traffic with armed guards at the entrance to all entry points.

You get a good sense of its social history here.

Now sure, once the virus goes through Wellington it will of course hit Parliamentarians and staff. Thankfully their average age is not as old as that of the U.S. Congress, which makes the functioning of the United States Congress particularly vulnerable to this virus.

But what all Departments are doing is dusting off their Business Continuity scenarios, which have assigned names and positions of those who really need to keep going, and those who aren’t (all major businesses are doing the same). Plans for continuity of the Courts, the Police, Customs, the Armed Forces, the health services, all come through the New Zealand Influenza Pandemic Plan. It’s worth a good read here.

With all those B.C. plans rolling out, it’s time for Parliament itself to do the same and lead by example.

There is no reason the need for necessary parliamentary scrutiny of Cabinet decisions can’t be achieved without a massed gathering of our Members of Parliament. Minister Robertson could certainly try something more creative than last time when presenting his 2020-2021 Budget.

Hey Parliament, never waste a crisis: go digital!

20 comments on “Covid-19 and a digital democracy ”

  1. Andre 1

    If Trevor's got anything to do with it, it won't happen. He's an aficionado of one of the rituals that requires a physical presence.

    I refer, of course, to the parliamentary punchup.

  2. RedBaronCV 2

    i'd have thought teleconferencing as a substitute would be relatively easy to implement. either individually or on a small group basis or a mixture – say groups for urban MP's and individual for outliers, interjections by typed messaging, feed for parliamentary tv. Save the risks of internal travelling with the high rate of casual contact. Even if it was used to include any MP in isolation as a test – why not?

  3. The SARs epidemic in China is credited with really kicking off the rise in online shopping there; this time round it's going to be remote education.

    My brother in law is stuck in an apartment in Shanghai teaching his classes via Skype and reports that it's taken a few weeks to get used to it, but now it's becoming the new normal.

    Just one new rule, the kids are not allowed to wear their pyjamas.laugh

    • David Mac 3.1

      I think your brother is dabbling with the future Red.

      Bruno Mars pointing out the differences between Nouns and Verbs.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        lol … He teaches math, so it's more likely the difference between differentials and integrals. But that's a detail. laugh

        • David Mac 3.1.1.1

          I'm not sure how old you are Red, or where your taste lies but if a hologram of Jim Morrison was going to do a few numbers and have a word to us about common denominators that's a class I'd make and the chances are good I'd retain much of what Jim had to say. I'd wear leather jeans.

          • RedLogix 3.1.1.1.1

            It shouldn't surprise you when I confess that my tastes are more Mark Knopfler (especially his post DS era). Middle of the road maybe, but immensely competent.

  4. A 4

    There are still too many people without internet access. For the charity I am associated with last year we had 30 out of around 320 service users without internet access. That’s shocking even considering most are beneficiaries.

    What we need is to solve this first…and no, paying $3 for 30 harried minutes at a public library is not working. Neither are free Wifi because of limitations and often security. Some cannot afford a phone and while YOU can figure out the cheapest option some of us are so strapped for cash it is stressful to think they might do something that results in the waste of even $5.

    Seriously, if the public needs instructions on how to wash their hands why is it assumed they will just know how to access everything digitally? Digital communications are a must have in our modern society and we aren't there yet.

    Hope they close the damn border off and then focus on resolving this ^^ for any future events.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      I'd like to see regulation in this space that required say the first 10GB per month provided free.

      • mikesh 4.1.1

        It's probably not a good time, though, to introduce free public transport. That could come later.

    • RedBaronCV 4.2

      Spot on . I've been looking at affordable options for cellphone broadband home phone. Quite an education. Devices alone cost $ either a phone /laptop or both – way beyond benefit levels.

      The taxpayer has contributed towards fibre broadband cost but it doesn't seem to be reflected in line charges and fees.

      One of my biggest gripes is the bundling. If you want broadband and home phone then either you go with the one provider or pay excessively. Home phones (pots over copper) is $55 a month and pots over fibre is $50. then broadband is on top of this A large local telco can't even put these prices on the internet. 20 years ago Pots over copper was around $25 a month. Want to reserve your home phone number- about $23 a month – used to be $3. Can't say that the copper investment has doubled over 20 years.

      Spark no longer puts contact phone numbers on its home phone invoices- must be a challenge for those with no broadband.

      The major telco's seem to be buying the competition when they get to a certain size .

      Cellphones aren't a lot better- If you have a no data cellphone model it's still possible to get by on the "pay as you use" vouchers but the unit prices for minutes or texts is pretty solid. What is called prepay is now a monthly rental fee to access various limited bundles of data, minutes, texts but if you don't pay each month then carry overs vanish. Kinda wonder if this is allowed as truth in advertising.

      Regardless of how anything is configured the annual household rentals are north of $1200 for a reasonable service package.

      So expecting low income or beneficiary's to have anything more than very limited access is utterly unrealistic. Doesn't stop all those government departments from demanding everyone uses websites and online banking. Plus the cops seem to be notified of cellphone holders details for their database. Supposedly for emergencies.

  5. A fresh point along a theme I've often touched on. This event is a global problem and demands a solution at this same scale.

    I remain deeply disappointed in the initial response of the WHO, but they have staged something of a recovery in the past week. Sadly they have burned a lot of moral authority at a time when they needed all of it to impose global standards and consistent responses across the whole planet.

    The current fragmented and often contradictory responses from different nations is going to prolong this crisis and expand the death toll way beyond what it could have been. It's starkly exposing the limits of the sovereign nation to deal with global challenges.

    • tc 5.1

      "responses from different nations is going to prolong this crisis…" Like Europe and the UK allowing crowds to gather at football games and horse racing (Cheltenham) when it was well known at that point the dangers.

      What else can we honestly expect with the likes of Blojo/macron etc in charge across the globe waiting for their strings to be pulled.

  6. Ad 6

    MPs in isolation now or overseas so will be shortly:

    – Mahuta

    – Bishop

    – Martin

    – Swarbrick

    – Bakshi

    This will hit parliament faster than we might imagine

  7. Ad 7

    We are now odds-on for the New Zealand and U.S. elections being put off until 2021.

    • weka 7.1

      Based on what?

      Under section 17 of the Constitution Act 1986, parliament expires three years "from the day fixed for the return of the writs issued for the last preceding general election of members of the House of Representatives, and no longer." The writs for the 2017 election were returned on 12 October 2017. As a result, the 52nd Parliament must dissolve no later than 12 October 2020. Consequently, the last day for issuance of writs of election is 19 October 2020. The writs must be returned within 50 days of their issuance (save for any judicial recount or death of a candidate), which would be 7 December 2020.[12] Because polling day must be on a Saturday,[12] and two weeks is generally required for the counting of special votes, the last possible date for the next general election is 21 November 2020.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_New_Zealand_general_election#Election_date

      Is there a work around for that?

    • Andre 7.3

      The current presidential term ends at noon on January 20, 2021. Article 2, Section 1, Clause 1 of the constitution says " He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years" and there is no mechanism for modifying the term nor has there ever been any attempted amendments to modify the term.

      The Election Day is chosen by Congress, and it has been set by law since 1845 as the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. While Congress could change the day, it would require legislation to be passed in both the House and the Senate.

      The more realistic way to change or cancel the election (but still highly improbable) is if the states with Repug legislatures decided to just not bother with elections and pick a bunch of toadies to act as Electors and tell them to vote for Genghis Don. There's 28 states adding up to 294 Electoral College votes with Repug legislatures. Yes, they have the power to do that, in theory.

      https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/03/trump-cancel-election-day-constitution-state-electors-coronavirus.html

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Twenty highlights of 2020
    As we welcome in the new year, our focus is on continuing to keep New Zealanders safe and moving forward with our economic recovery. There’s a lot to get on with, but before we say a final goodbye to 2020, here’s a quick look back at some of the milestones ...
    3 weeks ago

  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    17 hours ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    7 days ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Better care for babies with tongue-tie
    Babies born with tongue-tie will be assessed and treated consistently under new guidelines released by the Ministry of Health, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall announced today. Around 5% to 10% of babies are born with a tongue-tie, or ankyloglossia, in New Zealand each year. At least half can ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison over
    The prisoner disorder event at Waikeria Prison is over, with all remaining prisoners now safely and securely detained, Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis says. The majority of those involved in the event are members of the Mongols and Comancheros. Five of the men are deportees from Australia, with three subject to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Pre-departure COVID-19 test for travellers from the UK and the US from 15 January
    Travellers from the United Kingdom or the United States bound for New Zealand will be required to get a negative test result for COVID-19 before departing, and work is underway to extend the requirement to other long haul flights to New Zealand, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed today. “The new PCR test requirement, foreshadowed last ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • PM congratulates New Year Honour recipients
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has added her warm congratulations to the New Zealanders recognised for their contributions to their communities and the country in the New Year 2021 Honours List. “The past year has been one that few of us could have imagined. In spite of all the things that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • David Parker congratulates New Year 2021 Honours recipients
    Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment David Parker has congratulated two retired judges who have had their contributions to the country and their communities recognised in the New Year 2021 Honours list. The Hon Tony Randerson QC has been appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Year’s Honours highlights outstanding Pacific leadership through challenging year
    Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio says the New Year’s Honours List 2021 highlights again the outstanding contribution made by Pacific people across Aotearoa. “We are acknowledging the work of 13 Pacific leaders in the New Year’s Honours, representing a number of sectors including health, education, community, sports, the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Supporting seniors to embrace technology
    The Government’s investment in digital literacy training for seniors has led to more than 250 people participating so far, helping them stay connected. “COVID-19 has meant older New Zealanders are showing more interest in learning how to use technology like Zoom and Skype so they can to keep in touch ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago