The electorate’s love for the Ardern-led government seems undiminished in Covid’s second time around, Chris Trotter says

The electorate’s love for the Ardern-led government seems undiminished in Covid’s second time around, Chris Trotter says

By Chris Trotter*

The evidence for massive public buy-in to the Government’s fight against Covid-19 is overwhelming. Reputable public polling agencies have measured support for the Government’s handling of the Covid Crisis at roughly two-thirds of adult New Zealanders.

Given the nation is in the midst of a one-in-a-hundred-year event, and that the government has secured the support of so many citizens, the voicing of criticism needs to be handled with considerable care and sensitivity. Serious failings need to be exposed, but not in ways that lead large numbers of people to the conclusion that those responsible are being unduly or unfairly critical.

Accepting the catastrophic consequences of a general loss of public trust in the state and/or the mainstream news media, the burden of restraint imposed upon New Zealand’s politicians and journalists, as they navigate this crisis, is a heavy one.

Let us begin with the Government. It has been forced to acknowledge (thanks to the sterling investigative effort of journalist Michael Morah) that the regular Covid-19 testing of the personnel protecting our borders has been manifestly and inexplicably inadequate. The response of the Health Minister, Chris Hipkins, has so far been to outline the difficulties in determining whether or not there has been adequate compliance with the state’s previously given undertakings.

Not good enough.

It is very clear from the content and tone of Hipkins’ explanations – and, indeed, of the Director-General of Health’s, Dr Ashley Bloomfield’s – that something very disturbing is at work in the Ministry of Health. Viewed from the outside, it would appear that the orders of both the Minister and the D-G are either being resisted, or bungled in their execution, by those further down the chain-of-command. Even more seriously, it also appears that these inadequacies have, at best, been deliberately obfuscated, or, at worst, concealed from Hipkins and Bloomfield.

Hipkins has said that the time for looking back and identifying failures is not now: that there will be time for such reviews when the crisis has passed. But, since no one can say when the global Covid-19 pandemic will be over, this is not a realistic course for the Government to follow.

If what we are witnessing is evidence of an entrenched culture of incompetence, risk-aversion and butt-covering in the Ministry of Health, then a comprehensive culture-change is needed right now – not at some indeterminate point in the future. Hipkins and Bloomfield, assisted by the State Services Commission, must identify any weak links in the chain-of-command immediately. It is also important that they then publicly acknowledge and apologise for the failings of their subordinates.

Public faith in the effectiveness and security of New Zealand’s border defences is absolutely crucial to the maintenance of the population’s trust and confidence in the capacity of state agencies to resist the virus. What’s needed now is swift and decisive action – not philosophical debates about the proper limits of official coercion.

Sadly, the response of many in the news media has been to conflate the failings of the Ministry of Health with the performance of the Minister and the Director-General. There is a rising suspicion among members of the public that journalists are not in pursuit of a significantly improved performance at the border, but of the scalps of Hipkins, Bloomfield and even the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. If this suspicion is well-founded, then the media are playing a very dangerous game.

The Fourth Estate, like the parliamentary Opposition itself, is expected to demonstrate its loyalty to the nation as a whole. That obligation, to act as “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition” is hardly reconcilable with a perception that opposition parties, either alone or in active collusion with the news media, are out to sabotage the Government’s eradication campaign. The Fourth Estate is not a political party. It is not subject to the judgement of the electorate. It should not, therefore, have any other agenda beyond communicating responsibly as much of the truth as it is able to confirm.

Over the course of the past week, however, the truth and the National Party have not been marching in step. A person I have known for decades: mild-mannered, slow to anger, and not in any way a political obsessive; called me a few days ago in a rare state of indignation bordering on rage. He had witnessed the media conference called by the Leader of the National Party Opposition, Judith Collins and her deputy, Gerry Brownlee, to discuss the Government’s response to the second community outbreak of Covid-19.

To say the performance of these two National politicians, replete as it was with insinuations, raised eyebrows and knowing smirks, had disgusted this voter understates his reaction by a wide margin. It wasn’t simply a matter of what was said – or at least hinted at – that appalled him, but what was left unsaid. Nowhere in that media conference was there any evidence that National included itself in the “Whanau of Five Million”. On display, instead, was a political movement whose only objective seemed to be power – along with an unsettling confirmation that it was willing to embrace any means necessary to reclaim the fruits of office.

If the rest of the country was even half as angry as my mild-mannered caller, then the speed with which Collins and Brownlee walked-back their statements is readily explained. Moreover, there is every reason to suppose that a great many of the responses communicated to the Leader of the Opposition’s Office came from members and supporters of the National Party itself. Conservative voters have clearly struggled to reconcile the party of Holyoake, Bolger and Key with the entity on display in Parliament’s Legislative Chamber on Wednesday afternoon (12/8/20).

Much of the subsequent discussion about this media conference has focussed on the witting or unwitting licence it gave to conspiracy theorists, and to anti-government extremists of every hue, to ramp-up their own paranoid disinformation campaigns. In much the same way as Don Brash’s in/famous Orewa Speech normalised anti-Maori feeling among a distressingly large number of Pakeha New Zealanders, Brownlee’s conspiratorial dot-joining clearly reassured the politically unhinged that they were on the right track. His subsequent back-peddling will have done little to give these people pause. Many of them will treat his apology as a statement extracted from him under duress by the “woke establishment”

Among the roughly two-thirds of New Zealanders who continue to believe in the Prime Minister and her Whanau of Five Million, however, that Wednesday media conference will be offered as justification for Ardern “going hard and going early” into the scheduled General Election. In the words of at least one member of the Twitterati: “Time to put the National Party out of its misery!”

It is, however, doubtful whether the Prime Minister will heed them. The level of paranoia among the third of New Zealanders who do not admire Jacinda Ardern is already so elevated that a decision by the PM to reaffirm the 19 September election date might drive the utter nutters completely over the edge. More likely, she will advance polling day by a month, to Saturday, 17 October, leaving any further postponement at the discretion of the Electoral Commission.

A different Opposition might have appealed to the Government and the mainstream news media to join with it in responding to the unprecedented circumstances in which the country finds itself by working together as a team to equip New Zealanders with the information they require to make an informed decision about the policies and personalities on offer on 19 September. A different mainstream news media might have led the way.

That New Zealand is blessed with neither, explains, perhaps, why so many of its citizens continue to repose their trust in the Prime Minister and her Labour-led government.


*Chris Trotter has been writing and commenting professionally about New Zealand politics for more than 30 years. He writes a weekly column for interest.co.nz. His work may also be found at http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com.

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99 Comments

Media has always been biased - nothing new But now with social media hard to manipulated as much as possible earlier.

Spot on. Not sure about including Key with Holyoake and Bolger. Bill English, instead perhaps. National needs to purge itself and rebuild, the sooner the better.

Oh I think Newshub -TV3 - have changed their mindset to attack National holding their politcal commentators to account for the very first time, even to Collins. Its more of a balanced agenda now. Very interesting. The AM show hasn't changed its allegiance, I guess Duncan and Mark hope they can do the show in Rarotonga.

How though? There is a dearth of organisational talent in NZ. With the exception of Chloe Swarbrick and David Seymour. It's also the reason why this government has been so ineffective. The talent layer goes about two ministers deep from JA and a good PR team.

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Disappointing, Chris.

Why are you so keen to exculpate Ardern and Hipkins, and throw the opposition and officials under the bus instead?

Responsibility for failing lies with people at the top of the chain of command.

Ardern and Hipkins talk a lot, say nothing of substance, and achieve even less.

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The Opposition threw themselves under a bus.
As for the officials, I hope we find out in the fullness of time whether Hipkins' prevaricating is covering the arse of MoH employees (which would be laudable, in a way) or of his own Cabinet.

There is also another Labour minister missing in action. Meghan Woods is supposed to be Minister in charge of Border Security, is she not? The media and the Opposition have no common interest other than to expose government under performance. Both for their own reasons will go for the jugular if the government is silly enough to expose it. Covid is a problem for sure, but Covid and an inept government are a calamity. The electorate may not yet have come to think that a National government couldn't be any worse than the present cluster....., but given time and a few more stuff ups they likely will. Labour can rightly claim credit for managing the response to the first Covid outbreak, but they can hardly claim any credit for managing the response to an outbreak that one way or another they are responsible for.

No, it was Iian Lees - Galloway. We all know about his demise. Cindy should have someone in that role. Not a Good Look.

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Voting for ACT this time anything else is a wasted vote. They are going to cross the line and get plenty of MPs hopefully taking out NZF in the process.

If ACT came out against lockdowns, or at least against some of the more authoritarian measures, they would double their vote and more overnight. There are a large minority of NZers who are really chafing under this illogical "Health Directorate" form of government that has been installed on us without real public debate, and against our western liberal tradition of human rights.

Either way, Seymour has already de facto become Leader of the Opposition and offers the only credible alternative while National flounders.

Are you saying you believe your human rights are being breached by government imposed restrictions?

Well, they won't be able to go and have a latte for a few weeks in Auckland. This is a pretty big sacrifice to make when you think about it. Lest we forget...

I have seen a few of them complaining on Facebook that a recommendation to wear a mask is the equivalent draconian inconvenience to having numbers tattooed on one's wrist in a death camp.

Please don't minimize them!

It's bad enough that our economy was completed destroyed by the lock-down which rendered all inhabitants of this country jobless and hungry. Wearing a mask makes storming Gallipoli look like a walk in the park in comparison. What happens if the mask rubs on there face and causes some minor discomfort? That's a pretty serious risk.

Problem for National is that Act cannibalises their vote. Ok in the 1-3%, starts to be a problem after. And Act’s paymaster has an agenda which won’t sit well with National’s moderates. Saw Seymour speak last week, very polished. Was almost converted until I looked at the party list. Oh dear!

Seymour is the happy holographic face on a bunch of terrible policies.

His association with Rimmer is hilarious.

Voted for ACT many years ago. Just a vote for National really. If you thought the Nats immigration policy was bad I won't even contemplate ACTs. They would open not just one flood gate. Housing - Their developer mates would be pleased even more so than National. 250m2 mansions would be the norm. Every person for them self and the devil take the hindmost.

You can bet they retain some socialist wealth distribution untouched: landlord subsidies and pensions.

Thought provoking piece, Chris. I don't think the mainstream media are largely at fault. They do have a role in holding governments to account and asking challenging questions. Where I think the bigger issue lies is an increasing proportion of the population choosing to be informed by social media.

For many of the population there is very limited ability to think critically about issues and consider different opinions. When it is an issue that involves politics this gets even worse as those "dyed in the wool" voters will simply take a position that is being expoused by their party because that's who they've always backed. The silliest thing about that is the two main political parties are in recent years almost identical in ideology and policy.

Of real concern to me is observing some of the rhetoric on social media in the last week with a lot of it not to dissimilar to what we see in the US. We can have different opinions but to be openly suggesting widespread conspiracies and cover ups is not helpful nor useful to those in the population that can't sensibly critique such views.

If our MSM were better at (or actually put some effort into) the role holding government to account, we might see more reposting of MSM articles on social media. I have never actually seen a conspiracy theory on social media but I'll accept the narrative that this is wide spread.
It's difficult to criticize the MSM as the are unappointed private companies with no real mandate or responsibilities, their real job is make money off ads. They can do whatever they want with whatever editorial bias they like but no one should be forced to consume their content either.

Their can be a social contract between the media and the public: The media serves the public by reporting the news the public is interested in for the benefit of the public, understanding the world enough to know what's important, and the public continue to view the news.
If the media is more interesting in their own celebrity status and creating their own lightweight technocracy this all falls over and they end up with little more credibility than a social media feed. They do produce some good journalism but you have to go looking for it amongst the crap.

Agree with your thoughts @Tim and a valid point on the existence of a social contract. I hear you on the struggle to seek out the good journalism vs the click bait - hence we find ourselves here on interest.co.nz I would suggest!

So on that Basil - doesn't the int.co model expose the fallacy that media is locked into an unavoidable downwards spiral of increasingly dumbed down advocacy journalism because of the commercial imperative to make a profit? Markedly left and right wing low cost news outlets/blogs also similarly succeed ( for those who enjoy snarling polarisation and thuggish snuffing out of reasoned and civilised debate). I believe the future of good journalism lies with proliferation of nimble operations such as this site.

And the willingness of the public to support such outlets via subscriptions/pledges.

It's difficult to criticize the MSM as the are unappointed private companies with no real mandate or responsibilities

Actually they do get some special protections under law, such as not being forced to reveal their sources. They have to qualify as legitimate news services to get those special protections, which requires some form of judgement about whether they operating as news services. This is one of the things that Cameron Slater argued for his blog Whale Oil, that those protections applied to him because he was a news service.

Being a member of the parliamentary press gallery also has particular requirements, etc.

Have you listened to a number of the 1pm briefings? A significant proportion of the public has.
None of these requirement appear to prevent journalist from asking stupid, pointless questions the public has no interest in and pushing agendas like forcing a contract tracing app on us before its ready.
Obviously, me saying journalist can do what ever they want was a little hyperbolic but journalists can report meaningless things and ignore things the public would find important and still meet all these requirements.
I overheard someone last week still annoyed about the media forcing the Crusaders to rebrand. I would think the majority of the public are frustrated by our media becoming activists. The media should serve the public, they have no mandate if they fail that task.

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Jebus. In the first part of this article you discuss how the media should not target the scalps of those in power. In the second part you imply we should target the scalps of those not in power, and that all those in opposition to Ardern are nutters. Realistically Ardern is just the celebrity face of an incompetent caucus. A brilliant politician working a broken system to her advantage. She's a political accessory dressed up to make labour look good. The overwhelming support for a celebrity leader of a hopelessly incompetent Government is an indictment of how politics and people work. The same could have been said for JK who was somewhat celebrity in his time yet he had a stronger team to support him. If we were to have a political participation voting system (people vote policy rather than celebrities) underpinned by a epistocratic framework, and governance voted on the basis of competence (the theoretical democratic system that would be most fair and sensible) we may have a different picture in New Zealand. Bottom line though - if people don't agree with you, don't label them nutters. That's just childish.

Great post.

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There are a lot of nutters around though, arguing that lockdown is a Soros/Clinton/Gates/Ardern globalist plot to enslave the population through forced vaccination, et cetera. It's astonishingly widespread. Chris' point is that Brownlee gave those people a sly nod and wink, encouraging their paranoia, with his 'just asking questions'. It's a slimy way of stirring the waters with plausible deniability.

Perhaps if it is so unacceptable then the Deputy PM could, for once, be rebuked for doing the same thing in foreign media.

KOTARE, I think Adern has, generally, got a great team around her. They are not all incompetent. Conversley National has had big problems with ministers from Jamie Lee Ross to Roger Bridge or Clive, take your pick . Key was really just an entrepreneur while in power. He did instruct his ministers to carry out the nasty deeds to gain more investments to the government while producing chewing gum budgets, otherwise it was plain sailing and not so much happening for nine years except for the Christchurch Earthquake rebuild that Brownlee completely stuffed up and he hasn't leaned anything as he is performing that same old dumb act today.

Can you expand on who is good in JAs team?

Grant Robertson and perhaps Winston and in third fourth and fifth place is daylight.

Jonny_Utah. Here is six Labour ministers I believe have done quite well - Andrew Little, David Parker, Megan Woods, Carmel Sepulini, Chris Hipkins and Damien O'Connor.
Can you name me six National members who have done well in opposition or have they resigned , been sanctioned or got sacked.

Andrew Little - minister in charge of throwing $36m down a hole in the ground
David Parker - minister in charge of putting fish ahead of people
Megan Woods - minister in charge of border security, except there isn't any
Carmel Sepulini and Chris Hipkins= pass
Damien O'Connor - minister in charge of standing by while agriculture is screwed by David Parker

WWW. We all have our view on the landscape - sometimes its straight ahead other times its upside down.
You haven't named six of the best on National's bench - is it because six don't exist.

not much happened except inheriting an empty treasury, a huge structural deficit and oh yes the GFC three months later - the one where NZ performed best of 22 OECD countries - or did you miss that -- where national did not print 50 billion to manage it - and just as well as thats the reason that jacinda can wave a blank cheque at every single issue

Know why NZ was relatively unaffected by the GFC? Because it was an Atlantic Financial Crisis in reality, and our banks were not deeply involved. And contrary to your notions, National did borrow heavily during their term and did rely on a massive increase in private debt that they perpetuated and exacerbated to maintain a pretense of economic growth.

Enlighten us on the ministries held by Jamie, Roger and Clive.

Strongly advise you keep your eyes skinned when out driving, surely it's not going to be too long before they figure out they are actually forced to drive only on the left hand side of the road.

What was "infamous" about Brash's Orewa speech?

Keep reading the rest of the sentence.

It also saw National's polling go from about 30% to 45% practically over night.

Vile racism, dog whistling to rednecks.

Define 'redneck' you vile racist!

From what I recall it was basically one law for all and not kow towing to Maori as has been want with most politicians. If you say anything about Maori it's racism. Fortunately there is one politician who calls out Maori from time to time and he can't be labelled as a racist because he is a Maori. Winston Peters is his name.

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Pleeeeease Mr Trotter. I am not in "Ms Ardern's whanau" of five million. So make that 4,999,999. Maybe it's fewer
But I am a citizen of New Zealand, and proud to meet my responsibilities in that respect.

KH. Thank you ! Cringe inducing puerility.

30 years ago a mentor was telling me "the real purpose of the public health service was to reassure the public" .
Especially - "especially" - when we were really in trouble.
I think he nailed it.

What a vague statement. Care to elaborate?

Actually it's quite precise. The role is to fool the people that things are ok, that things can be done, that they are in good hands. Particularly important when we are doomed.

Are you suggesting that 'things' can not be done? If a patient needs: a hip replacement; cancer resected; fracture surgery (the list goes on), then they will get that. If they have a community cardiac arrest or stroke, then they may have their life saved by the public health service... So how exactly is this fooling the public? That's how precise your statement is.

Don't be obtruse Crispy. "Public Health" is a small section of the health service that deals with things like, surprise, pandemics. Sometimes called population health.
Noticed the lectures we have had recently like "don't panic" and "we got this"
My mentor was wise.

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Excellent article. Media want a drama and National want power. Stuff the health of people

Why are you suggesting National would stuff the health of people? They are strongly in support of elimination and actually have a COVID border policy, unlike Labour. You may also want to talk to the 1032 cases of cancer that went undiagnosed in April and ask whether they think Labour cares about their health. And on the point of power- last week Jacinda used the words (in response to lack of transparency around lockdown) "we have the right to govern". Actually Jacinda, no you don't- you have the privelege of governing. Saying she had the right to govern was an interesting insight into her megalomaniac tendencies.

Never bother arguing with a Tory

Rubber-Stamp,that. Gone way too far to the right and so have become blinded by the light.

That's right- National did have a covid policy: Ask Judith, Mark Richardson and Mike Hoskings.. Throw open the doors- let tourists in, sell NZ off to the foreign buyer/donors. Maybe sell off a candidacy or two. We'd be well and truly stuffed if National were at the helm of this covid plight. And you know it.

Cool story bro.

Its exactly what they wanted to do, especially "Burning Bridges". Too attracted to the Mighty Yen.

The arms of the State are broken. This happened in the 1980s and has deteriorated since. New public management is a miserable useless appendage for a public health crisis. Ministerial "responsibility" is a joke when Ministers are continually referring in parliament to "operational jurisdiction" of the people supposed to be carrying out a democratic mandate. National and its supporters I am afraid want it both ways: they don't believe in government intervention and want to cut the State. Then, when State is needed and does not work, they try to reinstate Ministerial responsibility. DoH is an amateurish mess and 40 years out of date. Needs gutting

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It's an open secret at senior bureaucrat level and known by all media that management of the C19 crisis was operationally incompetent. Ego driven departmental factionalism stoked by poorly defined lines of accountability left NZ exposed to disaster for weeks. The party spin machine has sold to the public a story of outstanding senior leadership when the truth is incompetent planning and execution with the country avoiding a wide scale outbreak largely through dumb luck. Trotter seeks to divert blame from Ardern and Hipkins onto the MoH but in doing so demonstrates his ignorance of operational management where failure is almost always caused by dysfunction at the top. Ardern appointed the incompetent Clark, left him in nominally in place while performing some of his roles as the crisis rapidly escalated and continues to do the same to Hipkins, especially when there are PR opportunities. Show pony CEOs without real world experience are always a menace; fractured operational management, blurred lines of command and poor execution always the result.

Operational Management - Yeah - Unfortunately Darryn (Digby) Webb has dis-appeared. He was the heavy NZDF expert expected to bring operational systems expertise to the problem. Softly. Softly.

The spin is unbelievably clever. On friday Jacinda spent 10 minutes belting on about how amazing they were to quickly revert and rush through the statement that they were keeping Auckland locked down and they haven't a clue why - but that not knowing why doesn't matter. No admission of failure or vulnerability. Just a well doctored compliment sandwich to feed the politically bewildered

Sheepiles eh... drunk with lippy on a pig. Fear is biggest captivator of populace convincing them to give up rational minds and let those that hold government guide you in ‘what’s best’.

Blaming the messenger — ie the media — is an extraordinary position to take when it is the media (and most notably Michael Morrah) that has exposed the many deficiencies of our current regime. We would never have known how slack to the point of non-existence testing was at the border without persistent media digging.
The govt and MoH weren't going to fess up. Derek Cheng at the Herald was trying to get the info from them for two weeks and Morrah only worked it out by cobbling together evidence from different sources.
I'm sure Chris won't like the comparison but the person who has made the most mileage out of blaming the media in recent times has been Donald Trump. I'm astonished anyone would think the media is to blame for undermining a political strategy (whether or not it is seen by some as a noble cause to "save lives"). The media's job in a democracy is to poke and prod.

Graham. Morrah and Cheng have done good work - but only what journalists are paid to do and what they so often fail at. They and their colleagues knew many weeks ago about the shambles at the top of the C19 response yet there was largely silence. It is unsurprising that Hipkins and Ardern are trying to push examination of the chronic leadership failures to some opaque post election enquiry. Bloomfield has been elevated to superstar status by the same media who are well aware that he is responsible for a substandard C19 response. Meantime the Christchurch DHB debacle also under his watch, continues to spiral into a black hole. 'Poking and prodding' ? Nah, with a few exceptions, very little.

Middleman... I agree. There hasn't been nearly enough "poking and prodding".
I have been shocked by the attitude of many journalists that their role is to support the govt "in a time of crisis". This was expounded early on by no less than Dr Gavin Ellis, former editor and editor-in-chief of the NZ Herald. He recommended the media practise "disaster journalism" — in which the media rallies around officials and the govt to promote unity and cohesion.
Despite this, journalists like Morrah and Cheng have done their job assiduously. I am very grateful for their efforts.

I think we've all done pretty well in the fight to keep coronavirus away from our shores and suppressed, you only need look at the rest of the world to see that. Here's a few comparisons:-

NZ total covid-19 deaths so far: 22
US total covid-19 deaths so far: 173,072
India total covid-19 deaths so far: 51,045
UK total covid-19 deaths so far: 41,366
Sweden total covid-19 deaths so far: 5,783
China total covid-19 deaths so far: 4,634
Australia total covid-19 deaths so far: 396

Yes, what was that saying - A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country. Ardern and co have done a pretty good job. Let’s keep it all in perspective and not use a global crisis to score petty political points. Collins and Brownlee were pretty desperate with their behaviour last week. I don’t think people want a ‘Crusher’ any more. They want fairness, inclusiveness, empathy and knowing someone’s got their back. Bill English was a great loss in that respect.

If BE hadn't buried his head in the sand re housing and had indicated a modifying of immigration he would be PM to-day. The two main reasons I switched at the last general election.

Pietro. An arch-conservative and rut-bound leader like Bill English may be sufferable when everything is going swimmingly. But come an international crisis and the country needs a leader capable of a different response; for a conspicuous example one only has to look at the unforeseen advent of Franklin D Roosevelt to take the USA into WW2.......with the result that today we aren't Japanese serfs and those in Western Europe are not serfs under a Fascist empire.

Covid-19 Deaths per person
Singapore - 216,896
NZ - 227,368
China - 310,601
Taiwan - 3,403,196
Vietnam - 4,060,391
Yes we have done well but by no means are we the international leaders. Do these figures prove that success in reducing Covid-19 deaths correlates with traditional distrust of the Chinese government?

That's a lot of deaths per person. We must have collectively turned Buddhist.

It would be interesting to see how we compare with other countries that are surrounded by a 2,000 km-wide moat, and have only one main functioning international airport.

Iceland 34,153

You forgot ho add in the Third World countries - ???

Iceland is less than 2,000 km from the UK, Norway and Denmark.

While people would have you believe that this Government are completely incompetent and dysfunctional, you need to remember that containing a virus like this while also letting back citizens is a huge undertaking. It only takes the incompetence/negligence of ONE person for it to worm its way through the cracks. Remember we have had months COVID free, which in my eyes was a huge success (I was always expecting it to eventually get through and was surprised it didn't come sooner). Also, bear in mind it's also illegal to force testing (a medical procedure) on anyone under NZ law, making testing very difficult to enforce. Just like our Army has no way of stoping you at an Auckland border, they don't have the legal basis to enforce anything (just the same as a normal citizen). People need to cut this Govt some slack- it's been a huge undertaking and learning curve for everyone. Judging by the response so far I'm sure they are doing all they can.

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The clear majority of the people I talk to are really pissed off that we sacrificed so much to deal to the Virus and it is back because of slackness at the border. More they are saying if it comes back a third time we need to learn to live with it. Even the retired people I talk to are thinking that. JA better get on top of the current outbreak soon otherwise her credibility will be eroded in some measure. It has been obvious for some time that the press are biased in favour of the left wing parties in New Zealand. You only had to see the attacks on Muller because he came from a conservative background. He had no chance to succeed from the outset of his elevation to the leader of the National Party. Can we ever have a fair election when the press are so biased towards the Greens and Labour?

Where's your evidence that the re-infection has come from slackness at the border? Genome testing indicates otherwise.

Genome testing indicates it is not of the same strain from the first outbreak, therefore must be from border slackness.

Yeah, my mates Mike and Leighton have had a gut's full. A GUT'S FULL, I tell you!

EA, must be the company you keep. There is certainly a small but vocal group who like to stick the boot into the government for their handling of the Covid response but my experience is that people overwhelmingly thing the government has done a good job so far. The same people who love to hate this government were the same ones exalting Australia's response and why we could be more like them.

Unfortunately there are many here who are blinded by political ideology and couldn't bring themselves to praise a government from the other side of their political spectrum and also find fault with a government from a party they have always voted for regardless of performance / decisions.

Compulsory testing could be taken care of under state of emergency laws. Similarly for NZDF. The politicians ie CoL didn't legislate for it so normal time laws apply. Going on a temporary "war" footing require extra ordinary measures. Pussy footing around doesn't help.

But can you imagine the reaction? There's already so much bleating about JA being a dictator, et cetera, and it would only feed into the paranoiac/martyr-complexes of the Facebook conspiracy hordes and Hosking-esque Labourphobes. There are too many big tough men out there who are also, somehow, giant babies who wail when they're asked to take responsibility and do something they don't want to do. It's a thrilling paradox.

What is the thrust of this article ?
That Media is remiss, National is remiss or Arden & Team is remiss ?
These are extraordinary circumstances, there is no play book of the past in handling this crisis amidst an uncoming election.
Mistakes will be there, the question is how soon are they discoverd, acknowledged and corrected. On that count the governing team seems to be okay.
National has its own confusion to clear away before mounting an effective opposition and election campaign.
Media is the only who is blundering around, in my view. Not knowing or realising what is important for the country, in the bigger scheme of things and focussing on that. Better up your game, Media.

I do wonder at our media, NZME gives full rein to right wing writers and radio presenters. Any bias is well to the right, in my view.

What does "up your game" mean for the media? That they should report fewer of the bungles being made by the govt and MoH? Thanks to the media holding the govt's feet to the fire, we have learned about mismanagement of PPE gear, flu vaccines, failures of border testing... while the govt and MoH have blithely assured us all is well.
I really think it is the responsibility of the govt to "up its game".

What does "up your game" mean for the media? That they should report fewer of the bungles being made by the govt and MoH? Thanks to the media holding the govt's feet to the fire, we have learned about mismanagement of PPE gear, flu vaccines, failures of border testing... while the govt and MoH have blithely assured us all is well.
I really think it is the responsibility of the govt to "up its game".

Firstly, Ill agree with Chris that National's approach of late has been well of the mark and is right to be called out.

However, to then suggest Ardern, Hipkins and Bloomfield are not to blame cos the ministry arent following orders is sadly typical of your left-leaning bias as well as the rest of the media.

I,,like so many other NZers sat frustrated thru the press conference on Friday where Jacinda said the genome is new to NZ, but we neednt panic about finding the source as long as we control the cluster. Not one member of the media at the press conference pressed her on this.... the only conclusion being we have had a failure at the border or quarantine.

This government was put on notice but the terrible flaws in the Victorian quarantine bungle of the potential effects of controls not being adhered to. The minister and D-G should have ensured that all controls are being rigidly adhered to... and it would appear they have not. But you want to give them a free pass... I can tell you noone in the media is giving Daniel Andrews (the Victorian Premier) a free pass... so where does the buck stop Chris?

You cite the work from Michael Morrah who highlights this government has not put in place anything to ensure those working at the border or in high risk areas are regularly tested. Is that the ministries fault... or the media... perhaps its National's fault. Come on, Chris.... they have been caught asleep at the wheel .... Hipkins, Ardern and Bloomfield have badly let down the team of 5 million by not ensuring the most obvious at risk category of essential workers was being tested regularly.

A few choices here.
The wheels are falling off the Cindy and Grant trolley.
Or the MOH is resisting and hiding stuff from their minister. Is it because they see him as incompetent and able to be tricked easily? Or is it in spite of him not being like that?
Or the wheels are not falling off, and our lax border controls are an easily fixed hiccup.
Living in tourist dependent South Island, I personally am quite irritated by the level 3 absence of our Auckland friends hanging out here. The quicker that situation is reversed the better for us.

My wife and I have planned a holiday in Wanaka from this weekend sit23. We do not live in Auckland. Will we be made welcome or should we stay home until Level 1 returns.

You will be made very welcome. Any portion of the $9 billion spent overseas last year is always most welcome. Don't forget that you can't fly in at Tarras just yet!

Why would you travel when our economy is completed destroyed? All you'll find in Wanaka are homeless and hungry people. Clearly there'll also be no accommodation anyway, and no attractions or shops are open. I suggest you stay put.

Be careful when you're down there. Ever since the economy was wrecked it's a bit dangerous. Check this recent footage.

I have one more brilliant idea. What about the news reporting what happens in NZ and the rest of the world, and we make our own decisions on what it all means? Revolutionary, I know, but it might just work.

Interest.co.nz exists to service the preoccupations and concerns of the business community. As such it is unsurprising that many of the comments reflect the views of those immersed in business. However some of the views expressed here reflect an obsessive desire to criticise the current government’s actions no matter what. Chris Trotter provides a valuable alternative perspective for business people who are all too prone to a type of tunnel vision whereby their business interests preclude them from considering the interests of other, less fortunate, groups in our society. One particular conceit is that business people make better leaders than those from other sectors of society. One only needs to look at the state of some other nations to see that fallacy of that thinking.

I agree about businessmen not being good political leaders. Not as bad as religious leaders but certainly not as good as writers or union leaders.
You may be right about interest.co.nz attempting to serve the business community but the commentators are a mixed bunch - certainly businessmen would generally be thankful for our semi-open door immigration policy which makes business growth and low wages easier but most comments are ore skeptical. Maybe true business men are too busy working to make comments whereas commenters are retired or semi-employed.

Yet we are to accept that someone who has worked in a fish and chip shop and chaired a UN Youth council is suitably qualified to lead?

There is no doubt not all business leaders are suited for politics.... but surely its better than having no experience at all... which largely sums up the whole of the Labour and Greens.

National ranks are extremely thin in terms of credible leaders too... but taking a default anti -business attitude hardly promotes the conversation.

You're right.
It's hard to blame politicians when they have proven their willingness to bend-over-backwards for the health authorities (like it or not), only for those working within the health system to fail them. The fact that the Govt was willing to put us in lock-down initially for 7 weeks, and stop the entire country, means they relied on and were willing to give the health authorities a massive amount of scope and trust. Frankly, if we can face criminal penalties for defying epidemic notices or Covid laws, then people within MoH must face criminal penalties for negligence. If we can be criminally punished even if we may not even have the virus, then they must be criminal penalized for their failures in containing the virus.
The Govt did it's job in following health authorities, the populous did it's job by isolating, but MoH staff dropped the ball with testing. I will always be critical of authorities and politicians, but they aren't the ones to blame in this instance.