Free Press, 21 March 2022

Mon, 21 Mar, 2022

THE HAPS

Jacinda makes us wait for all Ardernity to announce decisions that Cabinet made today. New Zealand will collide with reality on April 13, when tourists arrive, because rest of the world has moved on. Tourists won’t download the NZ COVID Tracer App, show vaccine passes that may or may not be compatible with their home country’s system, or have their luggage searched in case their Rapid Antigen Tests aren’t approved by the New Zealand Ministry of Health. This morning Andrew Little admitted those restrictions are making no difference to hospitalisation, so why do we have to wait until the visitors come before the special treats come out?

WE KNOW WHY 

We’re all waiting because the Government is terrified of business as usual. When Labour were first elected, ACT told them in Parliament that ‘Government is a service industry,’ people will judge you by your results. If it weren’t for the two year suspension of reality that has been the COVID-19 pandemic, we would most likely have an ACT-National Government with Prime Minister Simon Bridges now. That’s what the last TV poll before 2020’s first lockdown predicted.

Even the COVID response is a service, it depends on delivering the right services at the right time to achieve an outcome. Who would have bet on the Government that gave us Kiwibuild doing a good job. There are now two factors in the New Zealand COVID-19 response, things the Government can’t control, and things it did control.

David Seymour has asked both Chris Hipkins and Jacinda Ardern in Parliament, can they name a country with a better combination of isolation, a spread out, young, and cohesive population, and first world living standards? It’s easy to think of countries that have some of those advantages but they couldn’t name one with all of them.

Our isolation and population density have given us a two month warning for each development in the pandemic and would be outbreaks fizzled again and again. Our willingness to follow the Government’s rules gave the Government options that other countries just didn’t have. Those are the things that were out of the Government’s control.

On the other hand, there are the things the Government could control. Vaccination was key, but our mysterious slide from the front of the queue to last in the world has never been explained. It didn’t help that GPs weren’t initially part of the roll out.

Testing has been abysmal thanks to an obsession with one provider. The treatment of Rako Science and the Luddite approach to Rapid Antigen Testing have been a disaster.

Contact tracing never met the ‘gold standard’ of tracing 80 per cent of contacts in four days, that was really not golden at all. The provider of the NZ COVID Tracer App ended up working for the NHS on the other side of the world because our Government didn’t understand that software development is a continuous process.

The rules of the game were often absurd, for example driving past your butcher going broke so you could buy meat in a supermarket. At the same time larger gatherings were banned.

Despite all these failings, the Government can point to low death rates and say it did a good job. It can muddy the waters between things it could control (and failed at), and things it couldn’t control (but were all very helpful).

People actually figured it out a long time ago. On election night there was a 25 point gap between left and right. Within a year the gap had closed to to two points. In the past four months the lines have finally crossed, but politics is about to get harder for the Government.

The return to normal politics means there will be no more COVID waters to muddy. Labour will have to explain its performance in isolation from events that have cushioned it. You can understand why Jacinda is so keen to keep COVID going.

This was a Government elected to make housing affordable, help those less well off, reduce child poverty, and give us a kinder, more united society. On every front, it could not have failed more profoundly.

We’re grateful to Free Press readers who have always been the core of ACT’s support.

We’re looking forward to resuming normal transmission, and making sure the next Government is the first in a generation to deliver real change for those who want to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them.