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Peter Dunne says we must address the new outbreak thoroughly, calmly and rationally, without letting either petty points-scoring or excessive emotionalism get in the way  

Peter Dunne says we must address the new outbreak thoroughly, calmly and rationally, without letting either petty points-scoring or excessive emotionalism get in the way  

By Peter Dunne*

The return to lockdowns is devastating news, on a variety of fronts.

From the health perspective there must now be the deep worry that despite all the steps taken during the earlier lockdowns and the border restrictions and quarantines, there is community transmission of the Covid-19 virus in New Zealand after all.

Just a few days ago we were celebrating the achievement of 100 days without any community transmission here and basking a little in the envy of the world for our achievements.

How quickly our national mood has shifted from that to anxiety about how widespread and established the virus may have become here, and whether it can be effectively contained. The strategy which has served us so well to date of suppressing the virus until such time as a vaccine becomes readily available now faces fresh challenges and questions.

Yet our resilience remains such that we know we are up to whatever lies ahead, and that we will face up to it, with determination and commitment, albeit with perhaps not the same naïve enthusiasm we saw at the start of the earlier lockdowns.

The hardest thing to take may be that, despite the steady, but soft, warnings from the government and the health authorities that a fresh outbreak in the community at some stage could not be ruled out and was indeed inevitable, we had succumbed to a level of community complacency that Covid-19 was a problem for other countries but no longer New Zealand. Now, after 64 days of comparative normality and no real restrictions, other than at the border, we face the brutal shock of maybe having to start all over again.

Families, having just seen things return to a familiar model, now face the prospect of having to keep children home from school or pre-school once more. Students anticipating either senior school or university exams later in the year face new uncertainty about their course prospects for the balance of the year. Businesses that just hung on through the earlier lockdowns now contemplate losing customers and clients and working out how to make do all over again. There will be a number for whom the struggle will too great this time, especially if the new lockdowns are prolonged, meaning the numbers of closed shops and offices already looking obvious on the high streets of towns and cities up and down the country will continue to grow.

Complicating matters is that the wage subsidy scheme which has helped many businesses to survive so far expires at the start of September. The recovery funding announced in the Budget is already mostly committed, with only some of the special Covid19 contingency fund still available for allocation. While the state of the balance sheet allows the government some scope for further borrowing to fund the recovery, that capacity is not unlimited, and the government may find it a little more difficult to respond as generously as it has previously.

The final quarter of 2020 was already shaping up as a challenge for the economy as the full impact of the slowdown brought on by the earlier lockdowns hit home, and businesses find they can no longer afford to keep staff once the wage subsidies end. A return of Covid19 in the community just makes that future picture all that much bleaker.

Our present predicament is perhaps best summed up by words uttered by President Kennedy around the time of the Cuban missile crisis: “We sometimes chafe at the burden of our obligations, the complexity of our decisions, the agony of our choices. But there is no comfort or security for us in evasion, no solution in abdication, no relief in irresponsibility … for it is the fate of this generation to live with the struggle we did not start, in a world we did not make. But the pressures of life are not always distributed by choice.”

Frustrated or angry as we might feel that we have not yet tamed Covid19 after all, we have no credible option but to continue the struggle. That is the burden of our current obligation which we cannot ignore.

But it is no excuse for unquestioning compliance. While we should have the confidence to assume our leaders know what they are doing, and are acting in our best interests, we should not flinch from asking questions to which we should expect proper answers. Of course, we should be seeking reassurance while holding those responsible to proper account for their commitments and actions. That, after all, is the essence of the implicit compact between leaders in a democratic society and the general populace.

Above all this looms the scheduled 2020 election.

The political parties will, on an equal footing, need to determine collectively whether that should proceed as scheduled, or be deferred for a few months.

Postponing elections in a free society is a massive step that should only be contemplated in the most extreme of cases, and only then with political support across the spectrum, not just the whim of the government of the day.

Such a momentous decision should be founded on what is best for the country, not what suits any particular party’s political convenience. In the meantime, it behoves all political parties not to seek to make any form of political capital out of the country’s new plight, but to work together fully and constructively to address the challenge.

2020 has so far been a year of shattered dreams and previously unimagined harsh new realities for many New Zealanders.

We do not yet know whether the current outbreak of Covid-19 is but an inconvenient short-term blip, that will soon pass, or something far more serious and substantial.

All we know is we must address it – thoroughly, calmly and rationally, without letting either petty points-scoring or excessive emotionalism get in the way.  


*Peter Dunne is the former leader of UnitedFuture, an ex-Labour Party MP, and a former cabinet minister. This article first ran here and is used with permission.

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35 Comments

16
up

I don't need any more road trips and rah rah to make a decision - the best thing for this election would be for all the politicians to be quarantined and forced to lay out their positions/policies in writing, rather than rhetoric. Quite happy for the others to be given equal time in front of the cameras/free-to-air TV as Jacinda.

All they need to do is dissolve Parliament and put all COVID briefings and election-time briefings on Parliament TV.

Visibility issue fixed.

This is not the time for a kissing babies and pressing-the-flesh campaign - but we do need the certainty of having a Government and an Executive.

" Quite happy for the others to be given equal time in front of the cameras/free-to-air TV as Jacinda."

Simply not possible given her access to up-to-date medical information and ( naturally ) using this advantage to keep the attention on herself.
The incumbency advantage ( already build into the system ) is amplified 10- fold in an emergency situation.
Fair election is not possible under current conditions.

With all the Jacinda exposure in the press Labour polls at 54%. That is concerning for Labour and they are freaking.
The election needs to be postponed but the longer it is the more cracks in Jacindas armour will appear.

Carn't see that happening Kezza. She put English on the rubbish heap three years ago and she is a far more diverse and confident PM now, not only in NZ but around the globe. The Nats got rid of English quickly after the election result was established. Collins may have the same outcome with Luxton in the "wings". Collins and Brownlee are too Old School. Collins looks like Muldoon's sister if he ever had one. She has exactly the same mannerisms as him. Brownlee comes over as if he is in the Mafia. They are both a step back in time with too much baggage.

"Another One Bites The Dust"----Has Roger Bridge or Merv been sacked yet by the National President. What he did in the Auckland Central electorate was outright disgusting.
Collins wants nothing to do with it, she really gave Tova the big nudge. She should look after her own stones and not throw them at Labour Minsters.
Not a Good Look At All.

I have a suspicion Judith Collins was on her way out prior to seeing a chance to grab the leadership. Releasing her memoirs, readying the retirement soirée, and dispatching word to spin up the revolving doors.

But the chance to grasp power was too tempting, and here we now are. However, if they fail they'll probably be heading for the revolving doors anyway.

I still carn't believe she released her book prior to the election - to stab John Key (National's most famous Prime Minister) in the chest is just absolute madness, timing wise.
It's as if she gave up on the election before campaigning, not that that is going so well, either.
I still just carn't figure her out.

Logicthinker - your memory is extremely short. Labour and Ardern DID NOT WIN THE LAST ELECTION. Jacinda did not know that she was going to be PM until Winston announced his preference. Since then she has been his glove puppet.

WWW- Thats our form of politics - MMP. The thing is she won on that basis knowing the Greens and NZF were always going to support Labour. Winston was never going to support National after the superannuation issue during the election.You better ask Crusher who she admires the most in the house. A little SECRET, Its the later. GOOD OLD NATIONAL- English polled so well in that election so he was thinking he was going to be endorsed but they sacked him for Burning Bridges. English shook his head in absolute amazement. National has never recovered in the polls since.

Great comment.
Of course, the Nats in particular, will argue that this would be prejudicial. Of course, it wouldn't be in reality.

Thanks Peter.
I read your book in the early 2000's and it resonated with me that politics should be about the middle of the road average Joe and Sara Blogs. It is logical that we look after the middle ground that would have a by far better advantages for all than what seems to be looking after either end at present. A shame that the outer lying spectrums have a major effect on the political vote.
Your tax idea about splitting a families income to both partners was brilliant, a shame it wasn't implemented.
Hope all is good with you and family.

The real 'complacency' has been of the Border Control (Colander, more like) wallahs. Given that meat-packing plants, coolstores and the like were early on implicated in WuFlu clusters in the US, it's just nuts that imported reefers and their logistics staff were not considered a potential infection source and worthy of checking.

The porous 'quarantine' has by now had more than enough time to sharpen up the overall act, get Q facilities up and running away from major population centres, and thus Distance 'em from the toilers that we all need to keep - er - Toiling to keep the rest of the show running. Having haphazard total shutdowns just destroys the base confidence we all need in the core systems of civilisation. It doesn't help that the definition of 'essential services' seemed, early on, to exclude some fairly obvious and nicely Local enterprises.

There's not a lot of evidence that much Gubmint Learning has gone on between March and August, frankly. The same old chasm between the soothing announcements of 'tests for all who need 'em' and the stark reality of wait times, turn-aways and deflections at the pointy end, exists. And it isn't the immediate strain on the 'stood up at pace and scale' facilities that's the issue: it's the Confidence that the 'We Know Best' crew actually Do know best that has eroded and continues to go lower.......and that has consequences far beyond Health.

Like all nations, NZ has its fair percentage of imbeciles and transgressors and therein lies a root cause of the examples of quarantine breaks that have occurred. So a big net is cast for the sake of those particular fish. But alongside this it has to be recognised that in our society there are some who have no malicious or selfish intent at all to break the rules, it is just that they do not understand the rules, or their purpose let alone the potential damage should the rules not be obeyed. Identifying and managing those elements nationwide is no easy task.

$30+bio spent and we still have Covid and not the slightest shred of immunity on the horizon. Despite our natural tendency to point the finger, you can't blame the politicians, they've done the best they can given the advice and horror overseas, but one has to start to ask their plan for the end game is and whether they have contingency planning in place should we have to learn to live with it ... after all they've had 102days to think about it.

They have done far worse than their best.
100 plus days is largely due to Kiwis following the rules and luck, Labours implementation has a lot to be desired.
What we should be seeing at present is a massive mobilization of testing, what we got is testing stations closing at 4.00 pm.
This Govt is reactionary, little to no proactive forward thinking going on.

I observed plenty of testing stations sitting idol and not being used by the public over the past few months.

100 days, where have I heard that before?

11
up

My mother is Labour through and through, thought first lockdown was the absolutely right approach, backed it 100%. Her place has shut and she has been told there will not be a job after this lockdown. She is now furious, and is certain it was because of the fiasco at the isolation facilities. She is not certain if she vote for them this time now.

I love the smell of propaganda in the morning

:)

Too transparent, FCM.

Yep, I agree.
The country simply can't afford more full lockdowns.
It needs to be mitigation from here. But I'm sure it won't be - it will be avoidance / elimination, despite the huge social and economic costs.
And the government can take the higher moral ground, which will be difficult for the Nats to argue against.
What do ACT have to say on this? Intuitively I would have thought they would be supportive of mitigation rather than full lockdown.

I'm not sure. I think a targetted lockdown is probably worth it, last 3 carefree months have been good. Auckland and Rotorua for 2-3 weeks to ferret out cases from this cluster then taper off at lower levels and hopefully return to wuflu free over next 6 weeks with lots of testing. But keep as many businesses open as possible with mask wearing.

Judith complains she won't get a fair crack at campaigning.
Won't make an iota of difference as electorate not interested in National, except for 30% who would vote for them instinctually, no matter who is Leader.
Postponing election would be a ridiculous over reaction anyway.
People could vote by post , as many do.
Plus, 65% of NZ has no community transmission.
National wants it postponed to try to get a respectable 35% of vote, but knows it is already lost

Reality is that pop of world is 7.8 billion and at most (allowing for under reporting) so far about a million have died of CV19. That is an infinitesimal % and is not rising v quickly.
Plus of those under 60, the death rate is even smaller %, as is risk of getting it seriously enough to be hindered as to recovery
The media however, likes a drama and will swallow anything government tells them if it is labelled "public safety"
CV19 is serious. But it is not anywhere near as serious as media like to portray.
And, having had one L4 lockdown, it is extremely improbable that pop is going to comply and consent to another, at the expense of wrecking the NZ (and world) economies til we get a vaccine that (a) might not be widely available til end of 2021 and (b) might not work for all strains of virus
Really, it is about time now that a few alternative viewpoints got a bit of airtime instead of being dismissed out of hand as outside the acceptable "narrative"

For electioneering to be on hold by all parties it is unfair for Jacinda to get 52 minutes airtime yesterday at 4pm plus news coverage. This is the sort of thing you get in a single party state.

52 mins airtime. She was not speaking for 52 mins. Bloomfield was a lot of the time.
Also, what earthly difference would Judith be?
Also, when there is proper "campaigning " how many people change their mind in last 6 weeks. Uk evidence shows it is minimal.
Last 8 polls have seen Labour at 52% or higher, over last 4 months.
When we do have an election, as in 2017, I am afraid media give no space to parties to discuss policies, except for a few mins at a time on discussion programmes where they shout over each other.
The middle ground floating vote (about 15-25% of electorate, and esp those female aged 40-55, have shifted from National to Labour.
That is not going to change whilst CV19 is prevalent in world.
So postponing election will not save you Judith.

The middle ground floating vote (about 15-25% of electorate, and esp those female aged 40-55, have shifted from National to Labour.

Spot on. Clark to Key to Ardern. It's a fairly simple equation to win an election. Put up a personable leader with the self confidence to lead.

Kim Hill ripped Judith a new one this morning - it was a thing of aural beauty.

Kim Hill is our smartest journalist, and by some margin. And yes, she gave the Leader of the Opposition what she deserved.

But not even Kim Hill is addressing the compounding issued overhanging us.

:)

There would not be all these queues for testing if people listened to what they were told:
"get a test if you are symptomatic"
Those who are symptomatic have to wait with all those (about 98%) who are not.
That is reason they have to wait so long.
This panic rush for a test is solely due to media over stating CV19 risk to 80% of pop, which is minimal.

It's just the usual sheep-like behaviour of humans, the vast majority of whom are not very smart...

Assuming the situation gets worse before it gets better there are two options - either postpone the election until a level playing field is available, or if Jacinda won't play ball bring out the attack dogs and make the quarantine failure a full blown election issue.

With 13 new cases found today Alk is most likely going to lvl 4.
When one party hogs the limelight, there is little to no chance for the other Parties.
Labour and Greens will want to carry on.
All the others including NZF will want it postponed.
The lawyers will be flat out looking for an angle to seek court action to call it off.

Now let Judith shows how she can crush the virus.. Just like what she promised to do to the boy racers.

It would be nice if instead of smirking and bitching on sidelines, Judith and Gerry could suggest what they would do differently and why their watch over CV19 would be so much better?? Like their prev suggestion and sniping about opening border with Aus and letting in lots more Chinese students and having the Universities do the isolation for them. Yes, that sounds airtight. Pathetic

Anyone ask the PM lately about how well she's doing in eradicating mycoplasma bovis after culling about 140,000 cows and now a few years down the track. Let's do this! ....... still a few more to cull!

Another case of folk deliberately escaping from isolation only to disavow responsibility and blame the politicians?

Forget about whether National could do any better - could they do any worse?

Days to the General Election: 24
See Party Policies here. Party Lists here.