Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Barry Soper: Government may need to consider being cruel to be kind


There's an old saying, you've got to be cruel to be kind, and perhaps it's time for the powers that be to consider it.

For starters, take those deliberate rule breakers to task. Prosecute them under the law, and show kindness for most people in this country who do abide by the rules.

But consider these reflections.

We can get to the other side when people do dumb things but we're not going to get through this if every time someone does something dumb, we pillory them to the point that people are fearful and they don't tell us the truth - the truth is gold for us (just like the "gold standard" Covid tracing was that they crowed about so much last year).

Well, they were the thoughts espoused by the Prime Minister on the AM Show.  Jacinda Ardern agreed there had been multiple what she called "mistakes" during the last, eye-blink, Covid lockdown in Auckland and went on to list them: Not staying at home when you're sick, not staying at home after taking a test and waiting for a negative result. and not giving full information during contact tracing interviews.

The family of three who were the first to test positive made the first "mistake" with the mother going for a walk with a friend during the first, brief Level 3 lockdown, and infecting her. It seems she forgot to tell the interviewers about that lockdown stroll.

Her friend infected her 21-year-old son who made the "mistake" of going to the gym after taking a test and heading off to the Manukau Institute of Technology on three days while he was infectious.

The family who made the original mistake have now recovered and have been released from enforced isolation to watch the havoc they have unleashed.

No-one wants to be in this situation, Ardern opined. Least of all those whose cash registers are again emptying out, particularly in Auckland.

But the leader of our nation says it's not her job to take the rule breakers to task, it's the police's.  But if you listen to National's Simon Bridges, they'll kindly turn the other cheek.  

There's one thing Ardern does have power over though and that's the tens of thousands of pen pushers who make up the public service.

Several Wellington business owners turned up at the IRD yesterday to pay their GST bills but a notice had been slapped on the door telling them the offices had been closed because of the Alert Levels. It's true, IRD offices nationwide have been closed because apparently they can't guarantee social distancing!

Downtown businesses in the capital have been doing a starve over the past year because the bureaucratic suits have been allowed to work from home. The taxpayer funded office blocks are now sparsely occupied.

If this Government is serious about helping business, get the public servants off their butts and back to work.

But consider this reflection, delivered dramatically by Ardern to the media in the Beehive yesterday.

"For now, today in this week, we need to push on, do what we have done so well, squash this outbreak, get back to normal life, with zero complacency, kindness and teamwork."


Barry Soper is a New Zealand political journalist, and has been featured regularly on radio and television since the 1970s. Currently, Soper's main role is political editor at Newstalk ZB, a radio network in New Zealand.

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