Winston Peters wants Level 1 now – Not so fast Winston


It has been revealed that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants New Zealand to go to Level 1 now. Mr Peters, who believes we have been at Level 2 for too long, said that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted at a Cabinet Meeting that she thought we need to get to Level 1 as quickly as possible.

Not so fast Mr Peters. Whilst it is true that at the time of sending this to publish, there had been no new cases for 5 consecutive days, New Zealand needs to 28 consecutive days of no new cases to completely break all transmission. After 28 days with no new cases, two full incubation cycles will have passed. After 28 days if the current run continues, there should also be no active cases left in New Zealand.

Then we can move to Level 1. And I would fully expect to do so at that point. I understand the desire to get out of Level 1 quickly, but COVID19’s tail is still thrashing around. There are still 22 live cases that need to be fully recovered before we can move along from running at 2/3 speed.

At Level 1 COVID19 will be like a bad storm disappearing into the distance, and people can get on with cleaning up the mess it left behind – all the while hoping that when the borders reopen a second storm does not come marching in and put all the hard done recovery work back to square one. New Zealand will need to have a much more robust quarantine system in place than the one currently in use to protect the country from those who are coming from jurisdictions where COVID19 has not been so well managed.

We will need to work closely with Australia and our Pasifika neighbours whose weak health systems cannot sustain the level of care that COVID19 hospital patients require. So it was welcome news yesterday to hear that $37 million has been allocated to supporting research for a vaccine and to help ensure that our Pasifika neighbours do not miss out because of nationalist politics in larger countries.

For myself personally, Level 2 still seems like Level 2.5 despite the easing of restrictions. My work requires cars to be sanitized before they are handed over to customers. Our staff room still observes social distancing and higher level sanitization requirements. We bring our own cutlery and glasses. I still observe the distancing where possible in public.

At Level 1, with COVID19 hopefully permanently consigned to the history books, we can overhaul hygiene legislation with the hindsight gained from from nine weeks of lock down. Among the changes I want to see are:

  • Requiring all people entering bars, restaurants, cafes and eateries to sanitize their hands
  • Require inspectors to check the availability of sanitizer stations as part of their (re)licencing of premises
  • Suspend licences for any premises that are non-compliant; cancel licences for any premises that do not meet requirements when the second check happens

 

The challenge facing a Todd Muller led National


On Monday 18 May 2020 a poll was released which sounded the death knell of Simon Bridges time at the helm of the National Party. It had National on an abysmal 30.6%, which would have given it only 37 seats in a House of 120 Members of Parliament. The same poll had Labour on a whopping 59%, which would have given it a majority not seen in Parliament since Mixed Member Proportional voting was established in New Zealand.

By the end of the week, Mr Bridges was gone. No one knows how comfortably the previously almost completely unknown Todd Michael Muller rolled Mr Bridges in the leadership vote, but the latter was gracious in defeat. Mr Muller was equally magnanimous in victory.

When he had his post-coup press conference, Mr Muller presented the most senior members of his new line up. Gone was Paula Bennett, who had been Deputy Leader. Shadow Treasurer Paul Goldsmith had kept hold of the Treasury, whilst the machiavellian Judith Collins is likely to hold a significant post such as Justice. Gerry Brownlee, Member for Ilam had

Mr Muller faces several challenges, and he has just under four months to address them.

Probably the most important is New Zealanders want their economy moving again, without a doubt, but they also want to know that National will pay due attention to environmental, housing, social welfare and crime. They want to know that the old “get rid of the R.M.A.” will not be core environmental policy; that housing will become affordable again for the average Jim and Jane; that the crime and the poverty often behind it will be addressed. The COVID19 pandemic might have been a black time for the New Zealand economy and there is no doubt that a lot of people have been hurt by it, but New Zealand has an unprecedented chance to shape the post-COVID economy in a way that will be beneficial for generations to come.

The second one is his team. There are Members of Parliament in National that have been around a long time, like David Carter, Gerry Brownlee, Nick Smith, in addition to a bunch of M.P.’s who were Ministers under former Prime Minister John Key and Bill English. They are showing their age now. Former National Party President Michelle Boag once suggested a term that has become synonomous with M.P.’s who are past their best, but not wanting to leave Parliament: dead wood and in this category, one could include Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett. With a team of 55 other Members of Parliament to work with, Mr Muller has significant options, such as Chris Bishop

The third is New Zealand. With an immensely popular Prime Minister in charge and – despite the likes of David Clark and Phil Twyford putting their incompetence on display – several competent Ministers such as Andrew Little (Education), Ron Mark (Defence), Grant Robertson (Treasurer), and James Shaw (Climate Change), only a monumental mistake is likely to prevent Jacinda Ardern from being a two-term Prime leader of New Zealand.

It is the early days of Mr Muller’s leadership of the National Party and no doubt he has ideas of his own about what New Zealand should look like. But before then he needs to establish himself as leader, make peace with or send to the back bench those that are not on board. That is a lot to do in four months.

 

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 49


Yesterday was DAY 49 of New Zealand in lock down as we fought the COVID19 pandemic. It was also the end of LEVEL 3 lock down. It ended at 2359 hours last night. The LEVEL 2 transition to the post COVID19 future began at 0000 hours 14 May 2020.

The last couple of days in Parliament have been a massive bun fight over the legality of the new COVID19 legislation ensuring that the Government management of it under LEVEL and LEVEL 1 is legal. Without this legislation it would be nearly impossible for the Government to successfully wind up the war on COVID19.

It is legislation with some critical flaws. Some have been repealed to avoid potential legal challenges or because public compliance was going to become an issue. Some are still there:

  1. Initially the Government wanted a 2 year sunset clause that would see the legislation expire at the end of a two year period – National succeeded in getting this amended to a Parliamentary vote every 90 days or so
  2. An enforcement officer may enter, without a warrant, any land, building, craft, vehicle, place, or thing if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is failing to comply with any aspect of a section 11 order (S. 20)
  3. The speed with which this has had to go through Parliament means there is no way it can possibly be solidly constructed legislation – in order for the legal basis of LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 1 to exist, the legislation had to pass by 2359 hours, which meant no public input and no select committee stage
  4. Section 11 orders appear to be a watered down version of the provisions of Section 70(1)(m) of the Health Act 1956
  5. Section 24(4) appears to void any legal appeal

The opposition has come from all parts of the spectrum N.G.O.’s such as Amnesty International talked about the concerns that they have for the . Human rights activists have registered their dismay as well, whilst people like Lizzie Marvelly expressed concern that it would unfairly target Maori.

The right have also expressed criticism. National, despite winning some concessions opposes the bill and will not be voting for it in Parliament. Nor will its traditional ally A.C.T. As I cannot recall any other time when legislation was crafted like this and with such haste – the passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Act was not attempted until late March, 2011, some several weeks after the Christchurch earthquake – I have noted the short time frames that have been provided in the advent of Section 11 orders. These can be made with 48 hours written notice; can if the Director General believes a COVID19 outbreak to be in progress be made in shorter time frames. Notably – and alarmingly – any appeal appears to be effectively void by Section 24(4).

As some kind of legal basis needs to exist to enable LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 1 to have any legal basis, this legislation will invariably pass since the Greens and New Zealand First are voting for it in addition to Labour. However that does not mean it is good legislation – it is crap and when you have both sides of the House attacking it and look at why this was not drafted earlier in the COVID19 emergency, it becomes clear that the Government did not do due diligence.

The only thing that we can hope for is that New Zealanders start to wake up to the fact that our constitutional framework is not adequate for keeping Government in check; that we need to strengthen the checks and balances. And soon. We also need to introduce civics in schools quickly because the longer we do not teach students about how the New Zealand legal system, Government and so forth work, the greater the number that do know understand their rights and responsibilities, will be when we need them the most.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 42


Yesterday was DAY 42 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

This is a short article. For several days now A.C.T. Leader David Seymour has been pressuring the Government to release its legal advice on the legality of the lock down. Chair of the Epidemic Response Committee Simon Bridges has summonsed the Inspector General to appear before the Committee, something that has never been done by a N.Z. Parliament before.

Whilst the Government for reasons of transparency SHOULD release the legal advice unless advised not to, I do not think Mr Seymour is going to get the answer he was looking for. I now explain why.

The Government issued an Epidemic Notice on 25 March 2020 under Section 5(1) of the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006. This cleared the way for a State of Emergency to be declared on the grounds of an epidemic. On the same day at 1221 hours a State of Emergency was put into force across New Zealand. The description of emergency in Section 4 of the C.D.E.M. Act 2002 includes epidemic.

Dr Ashley Bloomfield was exercising powers that were accorded under Section 70(1)(m) of the Health Act 1956, which was triggered by the declaration of the State of Emergency at 1221 hours 25 March 2020. I have seen notices published per 70(1)(m) in my local newspaper regarding the Civil Defence emergency. Others said they heard about it through radio and/or saw it on television.

The measures permitted under the above, include shutting down premises/locations/regions as required.

In other words I do not see anything in the legislation that Dr Bloomfield or anyone else may have exceeded.

 

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 35


Yesterday was DAY 35 of New Zealand in lock down as we fight the COVID19 pandemic.

Human behaviour must at times to an alien seem completely confounding. Here we are at LEVEL 3, which for most New Zealanders is basically LEVEL 3.5 – aside from a few changes, lock down continues like it has for the past five weeks. Because of that New Zealanders should still be observing two metres distance and maintaining a bubble. They should

Yet, on Tuesday morning, having seemingly completely forgotten or deliberately ignoring the rules, there were about 40 people outside a Burger Fuel store in Auckland. Heaven forbid anyone of them was meant to be in isolation, because potentially if one person was infected and passed it on to 6-10 people, suddenly 60-100 people might be infected and then 600-1,000. Given that New Zealand has so far lost 19 people to COVID19 and had 1470 or so cases, 600-1,000 new infections would put dozens in hospital and kill maybe another 10-13 people based on current numbers.

Suddenly we are back on LEVEL 4 lock down. Suddenly we have been made to watch weeks of collective hard work get vapourized just like that – all because a bunch of idiots could not or would not follow the rules. Yet, the vast majority of others who went out to get their first fast foods in weeks or coffees from their favourite barista, had no trouble being compliant.

It is not just random bunches of people who have forgotten. Politicians have too: A.C.T. Leader David Seymour wants to reopen the New Zealand border as soon as possible to international travel. All this in a week where – with the exception of our Polynesian neighbours and Australia – most of the countries nearest and dearest to New Zealand are by no means in control of their respective COVID19 outbreaks.

Now, I really should not be surprised Mr Seymour wants to reopen the border again. As the leader of a party that espouses small government and liberty it is totally in his political remit to be doing this. What seems to be missing though in Mr Seymour’s case, is a reading of the general sentiment around why we have been having lock down and what we hope to get out of it. Or maybe he simply thinks he knows better than the vast majority of New Zealanders who want COVID19 dead and gone once and for all – myself and my family included.

And then there are people like Dr Simon Thornley, an epidemiologist at University of Auckland. Dr Thornley believes that the entire lock down is unnecessary and that we should be coming out of it much faster than we are. Dr Thornley appears to intone that its okay if people with complications from other medical issues die, because they “were going to die anyway”.

I suspect Dr Thornley’s academic reputation has probably taken a bit of a hit with such an attitude. Very probably no one in the medical profession wants to see avoidable deaths happening. It also completely misses why New Zealand went into lock down in the first place: in the worst case scenario, 80,000 New Zealanders were potentially going to die and entire communities were going to be potentially devastated by COVID19. The 0.1% or so that might die might seem like a very low statistic. But that would still be 80 people. Potentially 80 separate families losing a loved one.

You cannot ever tell the family of a deceased loved one that their loved one fell within some sort of statistical margin that was somehow acceptable. Dr Thornley and others proposing a rapid reopening of New Zealand would do well to remember that.