Free Press, 1 August 2022

Mon, 01 Aug, 2022

The Haps 

The return of Parliament saw the Prime Minister get very angry at David Seymour’s questions. The Government told the reserve Bank to control inflation over the medium term, but the Prime Minister could not define ‘medium.’ If you wonder why we have an inflation problem, just remember that the Prime Minister can’t say what her Government’s official instructions to the Reserve Bank mean.

False Idols 

Tina Turner said we don’t need another hero, but New Zealand is desperately short of them. The vacuum has been filled by second rate Flash Harries who let us down but are worshipped nonetheless.

Exhibit A could only be Ashley Bloomfield. When Labour’s hapless Health Minister David Clark decided to stay out of the capital and instead go mountain biking during a pandemic, he accidentally created the cult of St Ashley.

For two years the cringe couldn’t stop. A whole country, or at least a large part of it, turned one of its most incompetent bureaucrats into a folk hero. Every failing was met with more adulation as scared people always believed the guy with nice hair probably saved them from even worse.

Media, for their part, were afraid of their inboxes getting filled with abuse if they questioned the grand illusion, let alone its beloved architect.

The warning signs were there when poor vaccination led to an outbreak of measles in 1999. It turned out to be the worst measles outbreak since 1938. 

Come 2020 and the failures just kept coming. The macro decisions, close the border and lockdown to buy time, those were right, at least initially. The failures were in implementation, i.e. the stuff that the Ministry of Health was responsible for (regular Free Press can probably skip the next four paragraphs).

It started with PPE, Ashley said there was plenty, but doctor after doctor said they couldn’t find any at the hospital they were in. Then there was testing. 

Saliva made a lot more sense than Nasopharyngeal, but instead of working with business, the Ministry of Health went to war with it. Once a real outbreak came, testing crumbled.

Tracing was no better, it’s not clear that the NZ-COVID tracer app ever actually traced a case. Like testing, tracing became collapsed at the first sign of a real outbreak.

The vaccine roll out was the worst. The Ministry of Health was not directly involved in the procurement -that was MBIE- but the fact that industry, iwi, even GP clinics were not involved in the roll out from day one is certainly the fault of the Ministry of Health.

Exhibit B is the Reserve Bank Governor. While he’s no Saint Ashley, Adrian Orr has achieved a level of celebrity that’s well above what a central bank Governor deserves.

Orr has his own brand of muscular bonhomie, but in a kind of nerdy finance guy way. His screw ups are arguably larger.

The Reserve Bank’s conduct and culture review into the banking sector cost a fortune but found no serious issues, perhaps because it didn’t look inwards. With 50 per cent staff turnover at the top, and former senior staff now speaking out, the Reserve Bank itself has problems.

Then there’s the bizarre metaphor that the financial system is a forest and Adrian’s outfit is, of course, Tane Mahuta. That’s tiresome, but not the real issue.

Pumping the economy full with cash, slashing interest rates then going further by printing money through the Large Scale Asset Purchase program and the Funding for Lending Program was clearly a massive overreach. 

The behaviour of these false idols stands in stark contrast with the character and achievements of a real hero. Perhaps the greatest New Zealander ever to live was Sir Edmund Hillary.

Sir Ed was certainly a world class achiever, unlike Orr or Bloomfield. He was extraordinary in his reluctance to personally profit or seek the limelight, also unlike our current lot. 

When the American department store Sears took Sir Ed on as a promoter of their outdoor products, he directed the funds earned to help the Sherpas who helped him conquer the Himalayas.

Maybe we do need another hero, but it needs to be more Hillary and less Bloomfield. Neither inflation nor the virus would not stand a chance against a man like him.