- Date published:
9:39 am, August 22nd, 2020 - 28 comments
Categories: covid-19, Donald Trump, Gerry Brownlee, health, immigration, International, jacinda ardern, Judith Collins, labour, national, same old national, uncategorized, us politics - Tags:
It has been an interesting week in Aotearoean politics.
Instead of smashing through a political advantage Jacinda Ardern chose to delay the election for a month. Judith Collins and the National Party were given a breather to actually come out with some policy and to make sure that they had candidates in each seat. Although time will tell if they have succeeded.
And the President of the United States chose to diss Aotearoa’s Covid response and suggested that there was some sort of similarity in the respective countries’ performances.
There was one basic problem with his comments. He was wrong.
Being wrong has not stopped Trump from saying or doing stupid things in the past. But there is this problem otherwise known as regular elections which could present him with problems.
What is interesting is what New Zealand’s right wing parties are doing. When you look at National it is essentially saying similar things to Trump. Dissing the country’s Covid response, even though compared to every nation in the world apart from Taiwan it has been phenomenal, is pretty strange. And the relentless negativity dished up by the Herald, by Newstalk ZB and by National MPs still on the country’s payroll appearing on guest slots on Magic Radio is pretty galling.
Perspective is important. The country’s quarantine system is performing pretty well, remarkably well compared to almost every other advanced nation. Analysis of the breaches bears this out.
One of the community transmission cases is a poor maintenance worker who apparently pressed an elevator button shortly after it had been pressed by a returning resident who had covid. Experts all agree that it is exceedingly unlikely that the virus would be transmitted this way but you can bet that after this the hygiene standards in the Covid hotels were just wound up a few notches more.
The second case, which has spread parts of the Auckland community, is still being investigated. Genome analysis suggests that it did not come from anyone in quarantine. Although the scientific consensus is skeptical to the idea the best explanation still is that it came in through imported food.
Jacinda Ardern is right. This is a really tricky virus. Responses have to be quick and decisive. And defensive systems have to be multilayered and ever evolving as we learn more about the virus’s capabilities. Now is not the time for retrospective naval gazing unless and only if it improves our defensive systems.
This week National announced its border policy. The two headlines from the policy was a new organisation, the NZ Border Protection Agency, to “provide comprehensive oversight and management of COVID-19 at the border”. Just what we need. Six months of uncertainty, getting people to apply for new jobs and have existing leadership put into a caretaker role as they wonder what will happen to their positions.
There are examples in our recent past of setting up new entities to handle national disasters. For instance there was the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Agency, an organisation that Gerry Brownlee was instrumental in creating. In 2016 Treasury gave CERA’s Christchurch Central rebuild project the worst possible rating project the worst possible rating, confirmation that the project was failing to meet schedule, budget, or quality targets.
The second major proposal was to require a clean Covid test before a person bordered a plane to return to Aotearoa. This proposal would be complex and difficult. What about a person who was in a country where these tests could not be obtained? How do we account for fraud? What about their rights as a citizen and New Zealand passport holder? What about whanau wanting their loved one to be returned?
And it would not necessarily make us safer. Air terminals appear to be breeding grounds for the disease and a person with a clean test three days before a flight could still be infected with the disease overseas and then return with it.
Would either of these policies have made a difference? I doubt it. While public health officials were writing job applications, clearing out their desks, moving premises and meeting their new leaders they would not be doing the work that was actually important.
And the testing policy would not have made any difference in the current two spreads. The poor maintenance worker who apparently contracted the virus from a woman who had recently flew in from the states may have still been infected depending on when the woman’s symptoms appeared. And the cause of the major cluster still has not been identified although transmission from someone in quarantine has been ruled out.
National also wants to “[p]repare a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur, allowing lockdowns to be more targeted and shorter in duration”. Who could disagree with this? But how would they achieve this? From the looks of it by doing the same sorts of things the Government is doing anyway but reinforced by the raising of Judith Collins’ eyebrow.
National’s policy is a combination of simplistic snake oil solutions to what is a really complex problem that has defeated countries better resourced than ours.
The Herald is really starting to show its bias, if ever confirmation was needed. It gave prominent space (in premium) to Steven Joyce, he who cannot operate a spreadsheet, and let him pontificate on how disastrous the Government’s handling of Covid was.
He notes that it is almost certain that the virus came through the border. Apart from the possibility that it magically materialised out of nowhere this would appear to be a likely explanation.
He said that Ardern has repeatedly said that the border was safe. It would be good if he could point out where because Ardern and Bloomfield have repeatedly, repeatedly told us that we have to prepare for the possibility of a second outbreak.
He echos the talking points that all right wing commentators are talking about and talks about a “repeated comprehensive failure”. With what appears like two incursions by the virus after the return of 40,000 kiwis from overseas this is overly dramatic hype. We have to aim for Perfection and we are not quite there yet but we are still not seeing the unrestricted community spreads of the disease so evident throughout the world.
He also says that we should forget the party politics! At the same time that Judith and Gerry are undermining trust in the response as a political tactic!
His thinkings are being reinforced by others. The writers of any column that contains variations of “comprehensive failure” can be added to the cabal of right wing commentators determined to see National back in power.
National is happy to sap at our confidence and at our pride for political advantage. This is their only chance to return to power. But at a time where collective effort and support for the Government’s actions is more important than ever it should consider going easy on the politics.