The Minister in charge of the country’s Covid-19 response, Chris Hipkins, was wrong to say former PM John Key’s description of New Zealand as a “smug hermit kingdom” is an insult to New Zealanders.
The Point of Order team – for starters – are much more inclined to weigh the merits of what Key said in a newspaper column than feel insulted, take offence, or complain about racism, as too many people do nowadays rather than engage in a robust discussion.
Key’s column set out five suggested strategies to get vaccination rates up and end a reliance on managed isolation at the border.
Hipkins said these are generally already being enacted or looked at.
But he bridled at being reminded about our closed borders:
Hipkins was asked about the column on current affairs show Q+A, and said it was mostly a “good bit of politics” – but he took offence to the “hermit kingdom” line.
“I really don’t agree with him describing New Zealand as a ‘smug hermit kingdom’. And I think that’s an insult to New Zealanders who have actually achieved some of the highest rates of freedom in the world, by going hard and early when we’ve needed to,” Hipkins said.
“I think it’s a great piece of politics. Obviously sometimes if you construct an argument about something that’s not happening and say why it should happen, then it makes for compelling reading – but actually many of the things John Key’s arguing for are already happening now.
“We’re already looking at greater movement at the border and how we can facilitate moving past having level 3 and level 4 escalations as our default when there are cases in the community – these things are already happening.”
Hipkins said Key’s suggestion that vaccination providers themselves were incentivised to jab Māori and Pasifika was already in place as vaccine providers were paid based on how many jabs they doled out.
As for wider incentives for people to get vaccinated, Hipkins said the Government hadn’t ruled that out – and was totally happy for local areas to create incentives if they wished to.
On The Beehive website, before Key’s column whipped up a political fuss, Hipkins had announced Upper Hauraki would move to Alert Level 2 from 11:59pm on Saturday.
The website also included the speech by the Prime Minister to the United Nations General Assembly.
And the way we read it, she gave some credence to Key‘s claim we have become hermits by mentioning our tight borders:
“I have often described New Zealand as being remote, but connected. The COVID-19 pandemic has made both parts of this statement truer than ever. In some ways, we now feel that remoteness more keenly. The vast ocean surrounding our islands have taken on an even greater significance in a time when our border controls are our first line of defence against a highly contagious, global virus.”
Mind you, it might be argued that a real hermit wouldn’t be wanting to address a UN General Assembly audience – even via Zoom.
A video of the Prime Minister’s statement can be viewed here https://youtu.be/32bn8mhIX40]
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