Sunday, August 22, 2021

Peter Dunne: Mismanaging Covid

Last week, all the talk was of the proposed roadmap out of Covid19 – this week we are back into a Level 4 lockdown. I am not opposed to this short, sharp lockdown caused by the outbreak in Auckland of the Delta variant of Covid19. It was necessary and the right thing to do, especially given our embarrassingly low rates of vaccination.

But what I am opposed to is all the sickening hype that has accompanied it. Especially since everything has been so predictable. From the first signs of the emergence of the Delta variant the government should have been fully aware of the inevitable risk to New Zealand, given its capacity for rapid spread and our abysmal approach to rapid community vaccination. When Covid19 Response Minister Hipkins first threatened a “short, sharp lockdown” last week, the government’s planning for such an event should have been in full swing.

Then, when the case was detected on Tuesday, the lockdown button should have been pushed immediately. It did not require the staged drama of the Prime Minister, her deputy, and others rushing back to Wellington for an emergency Cabinet meeting to decide what to do. The plan should have been in place and able to be activated at literally a moment’s notice.

Indeed, it is unimaginable that any responsible government would not have a contingency plan well in place for such an emergency, suggesting that the real point of the contrived urgency was more about showing the government was bold, decisive and in control. If, as the Prime Minister has implied, they were awaiting further information before reaching a decision, then that suggests the government and the Ministry of Health were hopelessly ill-prepared for such eventualities, something the public should be extremely concerned about. It must be hoped that the Prime Minister’s hints were yet more spin, not an accurate reflection of the real state of play.

Nor did the lockdown decision require the false concern of how the decision would be conveyed to the public. It should have been announced immediately it was decided upon. But, instead, as is customary with this government, there was the predictable silly pre-announcement that there would be an announcement a few hours later.

And when the announcement was eventually made, the sanctimony and arrogance were palpable. All New Zealanders wanted to know was when we would be going into lockdown and for how long. Even then, they were kept in suspense when it was announced that the Prime Minister was running ten minutes late – a deliberate ploy to attract attention if ever there was one. Worse, when she eventually deigned to appear it was to be a further twelve minutes of generalities and slogans before she eventually got to the point we had all been waiting to hear.

All the appeals to live in your bubble, remember you are part of the team of five million, and to be kind are so much humbug. All they do is raise the hairs on the back of the neck more rigidly. Just as bad is the obsequious way the Director-General of Health begins all his waffling presentations thanking the country’s health workers, for just doing the job they are paid to. Nurses and midwives threatening strike action over unresolved pay claims might prefer he demonstrated his support for them in a more tangible way. And when the announcements were eventually made I would have liked some critical analysis from TVNZ’s political editor, not the drooling sycophancy about how good the Prime Minister is in such situations that was dished up instead.

The government’s primary focus once it became aware of the case should have been on giving people and businesses as much time as possible to adjust to what was being imposed on them. Delaying the announcement several hours until the 6:00 pm television news and then not even turning up on time to deliver it suggests the process was more about keeping the focus on the government, than meeting the public’s concerns.

Moreover, if we really are a team of five million all playing our part, then the government should have shown its trust in us by releasing in unredacted form all the advice available to it so that we can see for ourselves the extent of the risk we faced, the government’s pre-planning to deal with such an event and the basis for its decisions. Now, of course, that will never happen, confirming the cant of the government’s approach that we are in all this together.

I would prefer the government when dealing with complex but not unexpected situations like this week’s outbreak to keep its focus solely on the facts, without the extraneous, embellishing drama. People simply need to know what is happening, how it affects them, and what they need to do. They can work the rest out for themselves without the saccharine laced platitudes masquerading as announcements that have become so much a part of the process.

We will get through the current situation for no other reason than people’s focus on their own and their families’ wellbeing. It has nothing to do with being kind, staying in bubbles, or being part of some mythical team of five million. That is all just so much unctuous poppycock. People will respond because they appreciate it is in their best personal interests to do so. Anything else is just puffery. Therefore, we deserve to be respected as mature and responsible beings, capable of sound decision-making, not errant children to be given morality lectures at our leaders’ convenience.

The greatest absurdity of this week’s announcements, in response to a situation brought on almost entirely by our poor vaccination rates, was the abrupt decision to suspend vaccinations, only to be just as abruptly overturned less than 24 hours later. It suggested a complete lack of forethought, planning and organisation. Or, as the ever-curmudgeonly Eeyore of Winnie-the-Pooh fame would say, “They haven’t got Brains any of them, only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake, and they don’t Think.”

Peter Dunne, a retired Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister, who represented Labour and United Future for over 30 years, blogs here: 


Tinman said...

"It did not require the staged drama of the Prime Minister, her deputy, and others rushing back to Wellington for an emergency Cabinet meeting to decide what to do"

But it did!

How else was the Government going to address the ~20% drop in support showing up in recent polls?

Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious that we will be in lockdown for a while. It is also obvious that we would not need to be in a level 4 lockdown if the vaccination roll-out had not been so slow. Why so slow? Because the government either had not secured enough supply or they did not have the capacity or skill to initiate a more rapid vaccination programme. The reality is in stark contrast to the PR spin coming out of Wellington and reproduced verbatim in our compliant media.

DeeM said...

This reflects how the government manages all other areas of the economy - abysmally!
Why would Covid be any different. JA is only any good at talking...principally down to us like we're all Year 1 schoolkids being told to hold hands on our way to assembly!
All the departments are run the same way. Communication and spin is the number one, and probably only, priority. Policy and practical application is largely forgotten or more likely beyond the capability of those in charge.
Andrew Little and Kris Faafoi being two excellent examples, although there are many more. Little who shakes his head and is disappointed by the lack of any actual improvement in Health, after pouring billions of dollars at it, when he fails to see that he is ultimately responsible.
Faafoi who promotes hate speech legislation but doesn't know how it will work.

I wouldn't be surprised if some more lockdowns come our way, despite a high vaccination rate, in the lead-up to the next election. That's what got Ardern elected last time and it's the only thing she can fall back on this time.

Unknown said...

Well Peter, you have really cooked your goose with such analysis this time. No longer will you be invited onto Wally Chapman's r er r afternoon panel if wokester Radio NZ National ad nauseam's Paul Thompson has anything to do with it. Its likely to be a loss to us New Zealander's here in New Zealand.

Doug Longmire said...

This is manna from heaven for the P.M.
It gives her a golden opportunity to take media and public attention away from the other plans (Te Puapua etc.) under way to destroy the democracy of our country.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately we, the citizens of NZ have been hood winked!
The PM is solely interested in self aggrandisement ,and certainly not the health and welfare of said citizens.
The 1pm. Puppet show is a prime example of this.
Always late.
Ten to fifteen mins of meaningless froth and bubble
All the hand gestures that make one wonder if she is trying to distract from the Sign Language persons.
For goodness sake Jacinda. If you want to sign like them for Gods sake go and learn how to do it.


Bigal said...

LOAD of dribble from JA and her gaggle of geese, she needs to be removed ASAP, She and this rabble have half way stuffed this country .

John Baumfield said...

At least Scott Morrison had the grace yesterday to apologise to the Australian public for their poor vaccination rate while our Government patted themselves on the back for reaching 1 million fully vaccinated citizens (just 4 million to go.....)

Ross said...

Great to see Peter giving the Government a really good kicking. But like most political commentators and politicians worldwide Peter believes the "vaccines" are the pathway out of the mess. They aren't because they do not work or at least they do not work on the so called Delta variant. ( if you believe in the vaccine effectiveness then the current vaccines are OK for last year's virus).

Looking at the data for highly vaccinated countries such as Gibraltar, Iceland and Israel on what is happening now clearly shows this.
If they work, why are they pushing boosters now? The CDC is now saying the effectiveness appears to drop dramatically after 3-6 months.
Pfizer is rapidly developing a Ivermectin "look alike" drug. (this is not rumour, they have announced it themselves.)
All this suggests the vaccines do not work or are very ineffective, and those directly involved know it.

The other area of policy the Government has been wrong on from the very start is this elimination strategy. The only way the virus can be removed from NZ is if the international borders are totally closed FOREVER. Obviously that is not a possibility. So we have to learn to live with the virus as it is very unlikely to go away.

The sooner politicians start thinking about other ways of controlling the health of NZers from this virus via the use of antivirals especially with early intervention, the better because there is no way lockdowns, mask wearing etc. will achieve anything long term.

Note: I am not an anti-vaxer. I have had most of the other vaccines but I seriously question this "vaccine"

DeeM said...

I tend to agree with you. Especially after looking at Cam Slater's article on The BFD a few days ago. It featured an ACTUAL report from Public Health England with ACTUAL statistics covering about 300,000 Delta variant cases over the past 6 months.
What it showed, was that vaccines with the Delta variant appear to be no more effective at reducing fatalities in the under 50's than being unvaccinated. In fact there was a very slightly higher fatality rate with the vaccine, but I'm not suggesting that having the vaccine makes you more susceptible.
There was a clearer case for vaccination in the over 50's.
Now it may be the vaccine helps reduce symptoms and hospitalisations and that is reason enough to get it. I've had my first dose and am a believer in vaccination.

I hope I'm wrong, but the actual data - something that this government hates to deal in - is not looking overly promising. I suspect that our current vaccines are not going to be what the public are expecting. What we can expect is that Ardern and Co will try to cover it up at all costs.

jOHN said...

Jacinda will do anything to remain in power. Even sell her soul to achieve this. GOD HELP US OR WE ARE ALL DOOMED.

terry handcock said...

well written peter but i guess we won't see it published in the main media.