I’m reasonably happy with where the government wound up on the quarantine cost recovery. It sends a clear economic signal to businesses and the fools who want to travel during a global pandemic. That will make the cost / benefit calculation for businesses clearer. It will discourage some of the stupidity of the travel addicted that I keep hearing.
About the only thing that is wrong with it is that it is a compromise. That means that all of the the ideologically rigid will be unhappy with it. And that is what the news reports I read this morning. Frankly I couldn’t give a damn about them. So far I haven’t heard any of them come up with anything better balanced.
For instance Luke Malpass at Stuff has a good whine about it in an opinion piece, and doesn’t manage to either make his own position clear now suggest anything better.
It is rare to get a policy so pointless, and so brazenly designed to appeal to people’s prejudices as the Government’s quarantine and managed isolation charging policy.
The good news is that the Government has basically backed down on where it appeared to be heading and decided that charging most citizens for returning was illegal, unjustified and unfair. This is in contrast to the National Party which says it will charge citizens $3000 each. That is also NZ First’s position.
Instead, the Government will now introduce legislation that will charge New Zealanders who live overseas and come back to the country for less than 90 days a $3100 fee for their time in quarantine.
It will also charge people who live in New Zealand the same amount when they return to the country, if they leave after the legislation is passed. Kiwis coming home permanently will not be charged.Stuff: “Election 2020: Labour’s pandering quarantine charges“
He then proceeds to waffle throughout the whole piece about how little it would raise and how much it would cost to implement. Clearly he missed the point of the legislation.
There is a global exponential pandemic running that is potentially dangerous to all people inside NZ. This is unlikely to be resolved globally either this year or even next year. We currently don’t appear to have any local transmission, and as a nation we’re pretty clear that we’d like to keep it that way. We also don’t have the medical capacity to contain wide outbreaks inside the country. The existing evidence from overseas with the phase outs of lock downs makes that abundantly clear.
That means that our borders are the best place to protect the majority of our citizens and residents – and we do that with a quite expensive quarantine procedure. The capacity of any quarantine procedure will be limited if we want to actually make it work properly.
The breaches of the overseas traveller quarantine in Melbourne make that quite clear. The breaches of quarantine here have made it just as clear that we need effective security to protect people inside NZ for the selfish few who view their needs as overriding those of everyone else (and I hope that the courts just give them maximum prison time to deter others).
There is a pent up demand for overseas travel, both from business, from people wanting to get to family for funerals/weddings/company, and then the travel addicted who want to find a warm beach in the middle of winter. These are the voluntary travellers.
There are also a pile of our citizens in countries where they aren’t able to stay for one reason or another and who want to just get home. This is especially the case in Australia where the majority of our many citizens there are unable to access benefits from the Australian government with any degree of certainty. Many of our citizens there and in other countries around the world will not be able afford the flight costs, let alone a quarantine cost on top of it.
We also have a Bill of Rights Act that is pretty explicit (my italics).
18 Freedom of movement
(1) Everyone lawfully in New Zealand has the right to freedom of movement and residence in New Zealand.
(2) Every New Zealand citizen has the right to enter New Zealand.
(3) Everyone has the right to leave New Zealand.
(4) No one who is not a New Zealand citizen and who is lawfully in New Zealand shall be required to leave New Zealand except under a decision taken on grounds prescribed by law.NZ Bill of Rights Act 1990
We have absolutely no requirement to allow in non-citizens into the country. We mostly shouldn’t until the pandemic has subsided.
We must allow our destitute citizens to arrive if they can find transport here. The Peters and Crusher solution about charging everyone will run straight into court battles and massive amounts of expensive bureaucracy. After all people who left NZ last year or thirty years ago had absolutely no idea that they’d be hit with a massive accommodation bill to reenter their country of citizenship.
The solution of charging NZ citizens would wind up like ‘Crusher’ Collins cars – they never got crushed because the law was a complete fiasco of pointless dick waving rather than intelligence. See “Just three cars destroyed under ‘Crusher’ Collins’ law“. The fad of illegal racing faded long before the legislation got passed which is why the article quoted stats from 2001 – 8 years before
There is a balancing act for government between citizens who leave now and then return. Which is where this legislation is targeted.
We will need non-citizens to arrive with specialised skills who fix machinery and systems that we do not have skills or capacity ourselves. Mainframes, large engineering, specialised installations. Plus there are diplomats. A few other edge cases. We really don’t want to waste quarantine capacity on any other non-citizens.
Plus there are citizens who will really need to travel and come back. Mostly for really essential and specialised business. I’m in a engineering business where I would normally do that several times a year. Having a defined cost signal rather than a some kind of amorphous bureaucratic nonsense is very useful. It allows projects to have a clear cost / benefit. Same for citizens who have a compelling personal reason as well. Like a life threatening disease that they can source effective treatment for offshore.
Reading Luke Malpass opine (actually more like a petulant whine) and others this morning was a exercise in listening to critics. They could see the problems and the compromise. They didn’t offer anything useful to the debate.
I don’t particularly like the government compromise. I simply can’t think of anything better that would balance the competing needs. I also now have a certainty of the direct costs to balance direct needs when looking at possible project work offshore. As well as the couple of weeks in a hotel room programming for work, work will have to pay about $3k. I can add that on to the risks of a 61yo heading out into a covid-19 pandemic.