The reverential aura enveloping the Ardern government is beginning to fade and ministerial fallibilities are emerging. Just as suddenly, the media are offering some space to critics of the government.
Richard Prebble is calling for a Royal Commission into the government’s handling of the pandemic response. ACT’s David Seymour sees the government’s rollout of the vaccination programme as an “insulting lottery”.
The Prime Minister’s famed kindness and compassion did not extend to “Case L” in Papatoetoe who, she said, ignored instruction in going to work at a local KFC. But the PM’s anger was misplaced: “Case L” had been told she was free to go to work. “Case L” is said to have been distressed by the vilification she suffered in social media.
And now it is becoming apparent how the pandemic and the government’s response to it are wreaking havoc among businesses. News media have reported this week how businesses which have held on for months of Covid-19 disruption are starting to fold as pressure mounts with no clear end in sight.
That throws into the spotlight what some believe is the tardy rollout of the vaccination programme . Even though the government was quick to declare it had been active in placing orders for vaccine, they have been slow to arrive, at least in comparison with other countries now well advanced with their programmes.
On Monday the Prime Minister said who would get vaccines and when there would be a ‘rolling decision-making programme.’ Subsequently Chris Hipkins described it as more like ‘a rolling maul.’
David Seymour says:
“I’ve always been of the view that if the government has a plan, we deserve to know it, and if they don’t have a plan, we deserve to know that too. Now we have proof that Cabinet is making our vaccination programme up as it goes along, signing off different tiers of the population at every Monday Cabinet meeting and then holding a big reveal later in the week.”.
While the government may feel it will maximise the gratitude of NZers as the vaccination programme is rolled out, the fact is other countries are doing it much better. In the UK 20 million have already received their vaccinations. In Israel more than 50% of the population have been vaccinated. Two months ago Australians were given the priority order in which 17 different population and occupation groups would receive the vaccine. They were then given access to an online tool that allowed them enter their ages and occupations. This process revealed whether vaccination for their cohort had begun (and if so how to book in for a jab) and if it hadn’t begun when it was likely to begin, based on a coherent national rollout plan.
Seymour says New Zealanders know from the revealing comments of Dr Ashley Bloomfield that Cabinet has updated Ministry of Health advice on the order vaccines should be delivered, but Chris Hipkins says the government is preferring to make the announcements tier by tier.
Seymour calls on the government to be “honest” on the rollout and give people the ability to plan their lives and businesses
The government is probably thankful the focus on Covid-19 is obscuring the other worsening problems in the country, not least the hardships being experienced in many communities.
This week the tourist resorts in Westland found their cries for help falling on deaf ears during visits by Ministers Stuart Nash and Damien O’Connor visited.
O’Connor, in finding himself offside with his constituents, is in a familiar place: he didn’t earn any credit when he told Australia it should be more “respectful” to China.
That remark, along with some by Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, upset Canberra and forced Ardern to tick off her ministers as she scrambled to get back onside with Australia’s Scott Morrison.
The cack-handed undiplomatic comments strengthened China and have given Beijing the opportunity to drive a wedge between NZ and its allies.
NZ is being closely watched by Canberra, Washington and London as they see us sailing in dangerous waters because of our heavy dependence on our China trade. They are wondering if Wellington has absorbed how much China has changed, particularly in its treatment of Hong Kong, the Uighurs, and human rights.
If NZ somehow misses the call, it could find itself in even more dangerous waters than with the pandemic.