Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Barry Soper: It's time the labels of essential business and workers were redefined


The decision taken around the Cabinet table on the 10th floor of the Beehive yesterday wasn't just as simple as unlocking Auckland.

For this Government which has never admitted to any wrongdoing, it was a nightmare. To come down from Alert Level 4 would have been an acknowledgement that the lockdown wasn't working and that its Covid elimination strategy, now ditched by most of the world as being unworkable, was in fact just that.

So the lock's been kept in place for just over another week which is simply delaying the inevitable.

This will be the longest Level 4 lockdown the country's seen which has sadly claimed just one death, a woman in her 90s with underlying health issues. That's not because we have become better at handling the virus. The Delta virus is simply more infectious but not as deadly.

And at least the Beehive has finally recognised that the main tool in the kit is to vaccinate - it was as though a light bulb went off in the Ministerial offices and the rollout became vitally important.
But it was always important, they were told time and time again that Delta was on its way.

Jacinda Ardern's Year of the Vaccination became her year of vacillation, that is until her mate Scomo across the ditch scouted around his buddies abroad and got some additional viles of the stuff. At the current rate they were coming into this country we were going to run out this month with the growing number of people who had decided it was a good idea to get the jab immediately.

Now the Government's job is to ensure the jabs are put into arms in the right place, the epicentre of the outbreak South Auckland, something they were told long before this outbreak but chose, for whatever reason, to ignore. There has to be a concerted campaign in the south of the city, to not only vaccinate but to randomly test and to educate.

In the meantime, businesses will continue to struggle to make ends meet, not just in the country's biggest city but in areas that depend on it, like the tourist centres.

The Government might like to turn their attention to an area that's woefully lacking around this Cabinet table, business experience, the listen to those who know infinitely more about it than they do.

Imagine the frustration of the man who brought us the animated visuals for the Americas Cup and for cricket and the likes, Sir Ian Taylor who's domiciled in Dunedin. Three of his animators are flatmates in the city and they were in the middle of a project servicing Europe and applied for an exemption to go into an empty office.    They were declined by some bureaucrat behind a desk in Wellington. So, they decided to make their office their home and got the job done, saving the multi-million dollar contract.

Point made by Taylor is that business is innovative and will find ways of operating in bubbles without contact, it's in their best interests to do so, and the Government should acknowledge that.

It's time the labels essential business and workers were redefined. All business is essential to the economy and workers are essential to their success.

Taylor's offered his services to the Government, along with other like-minded business people who want the country to survive. The phone's on the hook, he's waiting for the call.

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.


Anonymous said...

Totally agree with this column. It’s high time we dropped the “essential” worker designation and talked instead about what work can be done safely (which is most work, if necessary with some modifications), because all workers are essential. And who is best to decide how to do things safely? Well it’s certainly not Wellington bureaucrats - who have become amazingly emboldened with an elevated sense of their own importance under this overbearing govt - instead it should be industry practitioners and business owners, with advice from epidemic experts.

DeeM said...

Who would you choose?
Experienced business people who actually create wealth and real jobs or......
- a PR and Communications graduate
- a public health bureaucrat
- an "expert" with pink hair who clearly believes lockdown rules only apply to everyone except herself and close mates
- and sundry individuals with experience only in the public sector (schoolteachers, academics, trade unionists etc) aka the Labour Cabinet.

It's a close call but I'll go with the first option!

Janine said...

I don't watch New Zealand TV but the other half occassionally watches "Tipping Point". Imagine my surprise when an advert came on promoting a local Game Show. A few recognizable faces, H Barry, C Gayford, P Bennett and Simon Bridges just a few. These people seem to be intertwined somehow. Politicians, Media and some of our celebrity medical experts.
Wouldn't it be great if our politicians and media " talking heads" were just self-effacing, intelligent people, looking out for their fellow citizens. They seem to be all clamouring for the limelight. Meantime, businesses and tax payers are struggling. The tourist industry is floundering. There appears to be something seriously wrong with New Zealand society.