Comparing conservative government and social government responses to COVID19


This is the first of two part series examining the response of conservative governments to the COVID19 pandemic. The second part will examine the response of socialist governments. The politicization of the pandemic world wide has seen a diverse range of responses arise. It is also in part a reaction to some of the commentary I am getting from friends in America at the moment about the failures of the Donald Trump administration.

In Brazil, despite statistical analysis of the known cases suggesting a massive upwards curve in numbers of people infected and potential deaths, President Jair Bolsanaro appears to be playing down COVID19. Brazil’s internal reaction has been slow compared to other countries, in light of how many countries now have cases. An estimated 2 million people could die in Brazil in the worst case scenario if adequate measures are not taken to protect people. Just on Monday Mr Bolsanaro again suggested COVID19 was some sort of trick.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have gone into lock down without waiting for instruction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian Government, so heavily criticized during the recent bush fire emergency has now come under further attack for lacking a co-ordination strategy. Schools have not closed and restaurants and cafes may continue to do takeaway’s. Nightclubs, casino’s and places of worship. The international borders closed in conjunction with New Zealand’s. Although Australia’s rate of new cases is falling, only a comprehensive response will ensure it continues to fall.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

In India, where millions of people lack basic sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has shut the inter-state borders as well as India’s international borders. Restrictions on all but essential activities include a largely nation wide lock down until 31 March. Concern exists about the readiness of India’s health system for an influx of tens of millions of cases, of which 4-8 million may be severe. Testing has only been done on about 22,000 people.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

In the United States, despite a U.S.$1.2 trillion bill making its way through to Mr Trump’s desk, there is no clear strategy for a nation wide response, despite U.S. COVID19 cases sky rocketing. Some schools have closed, but some are still open. A couple of states are in lockdown, but a couple are not. Some businesses are closed, but many are not. No clear testing regime exists and many younger Americans seem to lack appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some think that America might now face a similar trajectory to Italy, where thousands have died.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

In Britain, the centre-right Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be the best performing of those American allies with a conservative government. Mr Johnson has realized what New Zealand realized several days ago, that only a complete shut down for several weeks is going to get the country through without a huge casualty list. But Mr Johnson’s move was not before substantial controversy erupted when it was announced that a policy of letting the virus spread and developing “herd immunity” was suggested. It would have meant letting the elderly citizens get ill and potentially die in huge numbers, whilst the survivors develop immunity.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

Of the countries with centre-right Opposition’s, perhaps we need to look no further than National right here in New Zealand. After weeks of attacking Ms Ardern’s leadership, National leader Simon Bridges has realized that attacking leadership that is drawing praise from both left and right, is not going to help his election chances. To his credit, but also for his survival, he has wisely decided to back the Government and show bi-partisanship support at a time when it is most needed.

The potential death toll for New Zealand is in the thousands. So far no New Zealanders have died.

*Brazil’s media and Government are known for not publishing accurate figures. Based on the size of the population and its poor health services, this is possibly a conservative guess on my part.


This is the first of two part series examining the response of conservative governments to the COVID19 pandemic. The second part will examine the response of socialist governments. The politicization of the pandemic world wide has seen a diverse range of responses arise. It is also in part a reaction to some of the commentary I am getting from friends in America at the moment about the failures of the Donald Trump administration.

In Brazil, despite statistical analysis of the known cases suggesting a massive upwards curve in numbers of people infected and potential deaths, President Jair Bolsanaro appears to be playing down COVID19. Brazil’s internal reaction has been slow compared to other countries, in light of how many countries now have cases. An estimated 2 million people could die in Brazil in the worst case scenario if adequate measures are not taken to protect people. Just on Monday Mr Bolsanaro again suggested COVID19 was some sort of trick.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 34*

In Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have gone into lock down without waiting for instruction from Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The Australian Government, so heavily criticized during the recent bush fire emergency has now come under further attack for lacking a co-ordination strategy. Schools have not closed and restaurants and cafes may continue to do takeaway’s. Nightclubs, casino’s and places of worship. The international borders closed in conjunction with New Zealand’s.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 8

In India, where millions of people lack basic sanitation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government has shut the inter-state borders as well as India’s international borders. Restrictions on all but essential activities include a largely nation wide lock down until 31 March. Concern exists about the readiness of India’s health system for an influx of tens of millions of cases, of which 4-8 million may be severe. Testing has only been done on about 22,000 people.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 500; ACTUAL DEATHS: 9

In the United States, despite a U.S.$1.2 trillion bill making its way through to Mr Trump’s desk, there is no clear strategy for a nation wide response, despite U.S. COVID19 cases sky rocketing. Some schools have closed, but some are still open. A couple of states are in lockdown, but a couple are not. Some businesses are closed, but many are not. No clear testing regime exists and many younger Americans seem to lack appreciation of the gravity of the situation. Some think that America might now face a similar trajectory to Italy, where thousands have died.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: 2.2 MILLION; ACTUAL DEATHS: 582

In Britain, the centre-right Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson appears to be the best performing of those American allies with a conservative government. Mr Johnson has realized what New Zealand realized several days ago, that only a complete shut down for several weeks is going to get the country through without a huge casualty list. But Mr Johnson’s move was not before substantial controversy erupted when it was announced that a policy of letting the virus spread and developing “herd immunity” was suggested. It would have meant letting the elderly citizens get ill and potentially die in huge numbers, whilst the survivors develop immunity.

POTENTIAL DEATHS: TENS OF THOUSANDS; ACTUAL DEATHS: 335

Of the countries with centre-right Opposition’s, perhaps we need to look no further than National right here in New Zealand. After weeks of attacking Ms Ardern’s leadership, National leader Simon Bridges has realized that attacking leadership that is drawing praise from both left and right, is not going to help his election chances. To his credit, but also for his survival, he has wisely decided to back the Government and show bi-partisanship support at a time when it is most needed.

The potential death toll for New Zealand is in the thousands. So far no New Zealanders have died.

*Brazil’s media and Government are known for not publishing accurate figures. Based on the size of the population and its poor health services, this is possibly a conservative guess on my part.

New Zealand’s hypocrisy on the burning of the Amazon


I find it hypocritical that we blast Brazil for clearing land to develop agriculture when our record over the last 800 years, and particularly since European settlement has been no better.

Hundreds of years ago Maori cleared vast swathes of Aotearoa to clear land for their agriculture. Back then they had no way of controlling the fires and they could often burn for days or weeks depending on rain and soil conditions. Landcare research estimates that about 50% of New Zealand’s known forest was cleared around 750-800 years ago.

And then starting in the 1800s still more was cleared by European settlers to make way for sheep, crop and dairy farming. If one maps the land that was covered in vegetation in 1850 and compare it with an equivalent map from 2000, they will see that in those 150 years massive vegetation loss occurred.

I understand that times have changed and that our knowledge of our environmental desecration and the impacts it is having is much better than it used to be. I know that the Amazon rainforests provide 17% of our oxygen but does this not seem rather rich for a country that has had its own share of land clearance to be telling Brazil what it can do? Shouldn’t we really be asking how we can help Brazil develop its agriculture without tearing up the Amazon?

My biggest problem with the West is we moralize about how other countries behave and we tell them to do this/that. But when it comes to leading by example the West is an abysmal failure. When it could be helping with education programmes and developing new farming methods, it is instead lecturing from a distance. We do nothing to help them on their way and when they start making progress, we take the credit for having got them to make the change.

I also note that large scale clearing is going on in other countries as well, but I do not hear a rush to criticize Indonesia, or equatorial African nations. I do not see anyone rushing to criticize Papua New Guinea for the loss of forest there even though its proximity as a neighbouring country in the southwest Pacific makes it more immediately relevant than Brazil. The former is causing another air pollution crisis in Malaysia, where smoke from burning fires in Indonesia has become a medical hazard. Indonesia’s vast 13,000 island archipelago is difficult to police even if Indonesia had the best police force in the world.

Or is our outrage going to be selective?

Latin America: the continent unknown to New Zealanders


In a world where New Zealand’s closest neighbours are a large continental nation to the west of us, and a host of small island nations to the north and northeast, it is easy to forget a large land mass 11,000 kilometres to our east. The dozen or so countries that make up South America are little exposed to New Zealanders by the media and not often referred to by politicians.

So, what is Latin America to New Zealand, in terms of trading, culture and politics? What can we offer them and what can we learn from these countries?

Whilst at University my international horizon was broadened hugely by meeting an array of people, many of whom I am still good friends with today. They include a Colombian Masters of Science student and her sister who is well known cellist, a Peruvian couple who were married shortly before I met them. She was doing a Masters in Law and he a PhD in seismic engineering and who now live in Los Angeles as well as a Uruguayan couple.

Much of my still very limited knowledge about Latin America was gained from them. I suspect I am not the only New Zealander who considers their knowledge of this amazing and diverse continent to be badly lacking.

But I think there is much that New Zealand can both learn and give to Latin American nations. We share some commonalities with Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, being on the boundary of two tectonic plates and thus prone to active volcanism and large earthquakes. Football is a growing sport here and a dominant sport among their peoples as well.

In terms of what we can actually trade with them, Chile’s market liberalization enabled a greater range of goods and services to flow in and out of the country. Whilst marked by the scars of the Pinochet regime which New Zealand did not sever links with, Chile and New Zealand have concluded a trade agreement for a range of goods. The two countries have holiday working visas so that peoples of both countries can work in the other whilst travelling.

Another country marked by violence is Colombia. New Zealand’s relationship with Colombia is somewhat limited, but improving. A New Zealand embassy opened in Bogota in 2018. New Zealand helped Colombia realise the agreement between the country and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (F.A.R.C.) to end their involvement in the armed conflict that killed hundreds of thousands of people and upended many communities. There is also limited, but growing trade between the two nations.

Until New Zealand opened an embassy in Argentina in 1977, relations between the two countries was very limited. New Zealand cancelled its diplomatic relationship with Argentina during the Falklands War. It restored the relationship in 1984. Since then Argentina has become a significant Latin American trading partner. Argentinian and New Zealand rugby teams play each other on an annual basis and both countries are working together for preservation of the Southern Ocean.

New Zealand and Latin American countries generally collaborate on subject matter such as education – New Zealand universities are being encouraged to develop links with their counter parts in several countries – and law. In the case of the latter international law including human rights, the non proliferation treaties for weapons and peace keeping are the key focus points.

I see promise in this relationship. Latin America and New Zealand have a common responsibility to look after the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic. Working to preserve fish species from over fishing, the prevention of mining on the frozen continent and the improving of human rights on board trawlers are all things those countries and New Zealand can collaborate on.