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2020: The History That Was – Part 4

21 February 2021 Leave a comment

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2020 to 2021

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As the rest of the world  was perceived to be “going to hell in a handbasket with an out-of-control pandemic; ructions in Europe as Britain copes with “Brexit” chaos; Trumpism in the United States climaxing with the 6 January mob-led coup attempt in Washington’s Capitol; a deadly resurgent covid19 outbreak in Victoria, Australia (at time of writing); Russia continuing to harass and murder political dissidents with impunity; China  cracking down brutally on Hong Kong and it’s Uighur minority; and global temperatures continuing to rise as Humans blithely pump CO2 into the atmosphere – New Zealanders were spectators to our own issues, dramas, and problems…

Media (1 – Clickbait) 

We all coped with the Level 4 and 3 lockdowns in our own personal way. Some better than others, with varying degrees of stress.

According to the Ministry of Health website (last updated 25 August 2020), they were fully cognisant of the psychological impact that the threat of covid19;  lockdowns; restricted movement and social contact, might have upon the general population;

“We want people to know it is normal to not feel all right all the time – it’s understandable to feel sad, distressed, worried, confused, anxious or angry during this crisis. Everyone reacts differently to difficult events, and some may find this time more challenging than others. The ways people think, feel and behave are likely to change over time – we all have good days and bad days.”

Psychological stress was soon picked up by medical professionals.

In October last year, writing for the NZ Medical Journal, Meisha Nicolson and Jayde  Flett reported;

“Although fewer people reported severe experiences of depression and anxiety post-lockdown (5% compared to 8% during lockdown), this reduction mostly occurred in non-Māori/non-Pasifika people. Of those who completed both during and post-lockdown surveys, over half reported no experiences at both time points, while 22% had improved experiences and 13% had worsening experiences post-lockdown.

Experiences of depression and anxiety were common for young people both during and post-lockdown. Almost 60% of young people had some experience of depression or anxiety post-lockdown (57%), 10% being severe.”

In November,  Clinical Psychologist for Victoria University of Wellington and Umbrella Health, Dr Dougal Sutherland, commented;

“The data confirms in many ways what was expected: that many Kiwis were distressed and anxious in the midst of the lockdown. However, the study also shows a few interesting twists: about a third of New Zealanders reported significant distress, and rates in younger people (18-34 years) were higher than for older people. Interestingly, rates of distress amongst women and men were quite similar, which is unusual as often women report higher levels of distress.

Although the study couldn’t tell us exactly what about the lockdown people found stressful, it is likely that a combination of health anxiety and worry about the potential economic consequences of COVID-19 played a role. Sadly, more people reported feeling suicidal and there were higher rates of family violence during lockdown too.

Whilst the focus of our response to COVID-19 has now shifted onto the economy and ongoing containment on the virus, this study is a timely reminder that the virus has not only biological, but also psychological consequences. These psychological effects are likely to have a ‘long tail’ and be with us long after the virus has been contained or eliminated. The new Minister of Health will want to pay close attention to studies like this and continue investing in training of mental health professionals to inoculate the country against a future wave of mental health difficulties.”

The mainstream media not only failed to ameliorate the psychological impact of lockdowns (and post lockdowns) – but exacerbated anxiety with a constant, non-stop, daily diet of “human interest” stories. These were almost always focused on expat New Zealanders struggling to get home – often for tragic reasons such as terminal illness;

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NZ families overseas - stranded - covid19

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The stories were relentless. Day after day, almost always personalised with photos of couples or entire families, they were tragic, heart-breaking, and intensely intimate.

Even Radio NZ was not immune, with “human interest” stories – often with interviews – on “Morning Report” as well as “Checkpoint“.

Even when Returnees has succeeded in coming home, the “human interest” value continued to be exploited; milked of every hint of pathos and frustration;

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exp;loiting human interest stories - clickbait

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It is hard to ascertain how deeply these “human interest” stories impacted on audiences, creating unnecessary anxiety, but it is worth noting this warning on the Covid-19 website;

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You may find it useful to limit your time online. Check media and social media at specific times once or twice a day.”

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The website for Depression NZ was even more dire with it’s warning to limit media intake;

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Find a healthy balance in relation to media coverage

      • Being exposed to repeated negative information can be upsetting. While it’s important to stay informed, you may find it useful to limit your media intake if it is upsetting you or your family.
      • Try to stick to the facts and verified and government sources Unite against COVID-19.
      • Reassure your child or teen that it is OK to feel worried. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
      • When others share information with you, their facts may not always be accurate – keep this in mind when you hear something about COVID-19 that is not endorsed by trusted sources such as Unite against COVID-19 or the World Health Organization.

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This blogger acknowledges that it is a delicate balancing act when presenting accurate information to media audiences.

But the personalisation of “human interest” (aka, “sob stories”) was counter-productive and ultimately, harmful. They were “clickbait” to sell advertising (or increase audience share in RNZ’s case), at the expense of our mental well-being and sensationalised at a time when many of us were vulnerable to heightened levels of stress and anxiety.

This blogger at one point last year switched off all devices and instituted a self-imposed, 48 hour, black-out on all media – including RNZ.  When I switch off RNZ, you know things are getting bad.

This blogger maintains that there is a vast difference between presenting the public with hard news that make us more informed citizens – and flooding us with a non-stop, unrelenting diet of tragedy that serves no purpose and only heightens peoples’ anxiety.

Contrast the stories above with the measured reporting by TVNZ journalist, Jack Tame, upon his return and quarantine.  His reporting was a mix of “human interest” and factual details, but without “ambulance chasing” exploitation of people’s circumstances and/or  “First World” complaints;

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returnees complaining

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Some wit at the Otago Daily Times, noting the preponderence of teeth-gnashing and wailing, had their own ‘take’ on the #nzhellhole stories with this subtle ‘dig’;

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#nzhellhole.

(April fools story or real? Hard to tell the difference!)

And when even the vacuous Kate Hawkesby pens a story that puts things into perspective;

“Yes this week has shown up some potentially glaring issues at the Pullman, but it doesn’t mean all Hotels are doing a bad job. It doesn’t mean the returnees are at fault or doing anything wrong either. Most people are grateful to be here, appreciative of what NZ has achieved, and want to do the right thing.”

– you just know that some Returnees need to get their priorities in order, and the media should look closely at how it amplifies (and exploits) peoples’ frustrations and fears.

Meanwhile, the real stories we need to know are barely covered;

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nurses - cleaners - MIQ facilities

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Underpaid and over-worked MIQ workers apparently don’t attract the eyeballs and/or clicks, as much as families in tragic circumstances.

(Note: The so-called “human interest” stories continue to present day.)

Media (2 – Or, “The RNZ Holiday Silly Season”)

Speaking of RNZ, former producer for RNZ’s “Saturday Morning” for Kim Hill,  Mark Cubey on Twitter last December pointed out one of my personal pet peeves when it comes to Aotearoa’s mainstream media;

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RNZ - summer stop

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Every year, for about a month, RNZ closes down ‘Morning Report‘, ‘Nine to Noon‘, ‘Checkpoint‘, and loses a whole bunch of well known hosts. The end-of-year winding-down of NZ’s flagship programmes began the week before Christmas. After Christmas, main programming is put on hiatus until the third week of January.

First to go is ‘Morning Report‘, which in the week leading up to Christmas is reduced from three to two hours in length. The last three hour episode is on Tuesday 22 December, and the following day, the programme is whittled down to two hours.

From Tuesday, 29 December 2020, the programme is reduced to one hour and in the New Year re-branded ‘Summer Report‘.  Episode lengths are one hour (or two, when it was forced to increase it’s duration on 8 January to cover the Washington coup d’état attempt). Programme lengths increased to two hours from Monday, 18 January 2021 to Friday, 22 January 2021.

There was a further special three hour edition of ‘Summer Report’ on Thursday, 21 January 2021 to cover President Biden’s Inuguration.

Summer Report‘ remains in-situ until ‘Morning Report‘ resumes, at its normal three hour duration, on Monday, 25 January 2021.

Nine to Noon‘ is replaced with ‘Summer Times‘,  hosted by Emile Donovan. The show is a more chat-show-like version of the regular ‘Nine to Noon‘ programme. ‘Summer Times‘ runs from 29 December to 22 January this year.

Checkpoint‘ – usually hosted by the tenacious and talented Lisa Owen – was missing altogether for a solid month. Only a five minute news report replaced the usual one and a half hour in-depth reporting. On 7 January, RNZ was forced to broadcast a one-hour long “RNZ Checkpoint Special” following the Washing riots and failed coup.

Checkpoint’s‘ month-long hiatus is inexplicable. As Mark Cubey pointed out, RNZ effectively “pretends news stops for the NZ summer“.

To the contrary, the world did not close down for the Christmas/New Year period. A pandemic continued to rage around the globe; Brexit was happening and the failure of a UK-Europe agreement came perilously close; and post-Presidential election events in the United States were causing ructions that reverberated around the planet.

At a time when events escalated, RNZ was missing in action.

And not just the state-owned broadcaster. The final episode (end-of-year Christmas party segment notwithstanding) of TV3’s “The Nation” aired on 28 November, and TV1’s “Q+A” on 6 December. Both then closed down, going into summer-hibernation for several months. (Q+A‘s first episode this year aired on 13 February.)

At a time when we most needed in-depth reporting of global events, we were – and remain – poorly served by our three main  broadcasters.

It is understandable that producing programmes like ‘Morning Report’ and ‘Checkpoint‘ place high demands on RNZ staff. They all deserve well-earned breaks from the stresses of their work. But it should not be beyond the wit and abilities of RNZ management (with consultation with staff) to create a holiday roster that allows programming to continue as normal. If necessary, RNZ could employ journalism students (on a living wage) as paid interns, on short-term contracts.

It is not acceptable that, for a month, we are denied current affairs programmes by our main broadcasters.

RNZ has a strong, dedicated following of loyal listeners who expect high standards from our public broadcaster. Those expectations do not lessen from late December through to late January. The world does not stop on 24 December and resume at some arbitrary point in time in the new year.

National

National was thrashed at last year’s election.

Overall, they crashed from 1,152,075 Party Votes in 2017, to 738,275 last year, losing 23 MPs in the process.

The causes of their defeat has been well canvassed. Reasons range from in-fighting; three leadership changes; leaks; inconsistent policy-making and fiscal ineptitude; and a current Leader who is – frankly speaking – just downright unlikeable.

All of the above is true.

But there is a more basic reason: National got hit by a virus called covid19 – at least metaphorically speaking.

National fought last year’s election as if it were 2017.  They were wedded to their mantra that “National are better economic managers”.

Unfortunately (for National supporters) the economy was only secondary to people’s concerns. For the majority, the main issue of concern – unsurprisingly – was health. More specifically, our health and safety as humanity faced a global pandemic sweeping almost every nation, and which has hospitalised and killed millions.

Almost daily, we were witnessing an out-of-control pandemic raging through Europe, UK, South America, and even the United States – the most advanced and wealthiest nation on the planet. We saw hospitals over-run by covid cases and mass graves being dug in Brazil and elsewhere in South America. In New York, trucks filled with rotting corpses seemed like something out of a post-apocalypse horror/science fiction  movie.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the then-Labour-NZ First- Green coalition moved reasonably quickly (some might argue they should have acted earlier – but hindsight is always 20/20). At one minute to midnight on 23 March 2020, the country moved to Alert Level 3. Two days later, we went to near total lockdown to Level 4. On 29 March, the inevitable happened: we had our first covid death.

As we listened and watched our Prime Minister address the nation on those first evenings, and subsequently thereafter, we must have felt like five million “extras” in the Will Smith movie, “I Am Legend“, or the 1970s British sf tv series, “The Survivors“.

It was unprecedented. We were practically at war. And we were called upon to do our bit: stay home; watch TV. (How difficult could that be?)

It was against this backdrop that National contested the election.

But National was fighting a pre-Covid campaign based on “economic management” and – at one point – a  promise of “temporary” tax cuts. Worse still was Paul Goldsmith’s startling explanation that the tax cuts would be paid out of the $14 billion Covid Recovery fund set aside in the event of a second wave hitting the country!

New Zealanders got the message perfectly: National’s priority was the economy.

Voters would have been uneasy. That was not our collective priority. Our main concern was fighting a virus and keeping it out of the community.

Could National be trusted to make that their Number One Focus? At least 1,670,300 New Zealanders thought not.

National has always touted itself to be a pro-business, small-government Party. It’s policies on its own website is unequivocal in that respect. Even their Covid19 policy page was heavility tilted toward the economy;

A National Government will inject some steel into our first line of defence against COVID-19 by delivering robust border systems that will keep the virus at bay and allow our economy to thrive, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

“The threat of COVID-19 will be with us for years to come and National is committed to safeguarding the health of all New Zealanders, as well as the wider economy.”

And their reference to limiting lockdowns to preserve economic activity also left no room for doubt where their priorities lay;

Preparing a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur, allowing lockdowns to be more targeted and shorter in duration.

[…]

Reducing the need for lockdowns could not be more crucial. The first lockdown saw 212,000 Kiwis end up on unemployment benefits with another 450,000 jobs kept alive by wage subsidies. The current lockdown is estimated to be costing Auckland 250 jobs and up to $75 million a day in economic activity.

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“Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy.”

(See also “Wally of the Year” Award below.)

On 22 September, it was reported that National would relax border controls for economic reasons. Couched in terms of pseudo-safety rhetoric, National’s intentions were plain for all to see;

National have announced that, if elected, they will ramp up the private provision of quarantine to allow workers and long-term tourists into the country.

At an event in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said Covid-19 would be with us for a long time and the country had to establish safe conditions for skilled and essential workers to re-enter the country. 

Allowing workers in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme to return is at the top of that agenda, but the kind of measures the National Party is interested in exploring would extend to a number of industries with the costs of quarantine paid by industry or by individuals who wanted to enter New Zealand.

“Our horticultural industry, for example, is desperate to fill the worker shortage created by border restrictions that is putting $9.5 billion of the country’s economy at risk,” Brownlee said.

The party would implement a booking system for managed isolation facilities and explore “streamlined” travel arrangements for low-risk countries like Covid-free nations in the Pacific. 

And private quarantine facilities were also mooted;

Brownlee said National would work with accommodation providers to create private quarantine arrangements that met or exceeded levels of safety, security, reporting, transporting, training and testing. 

But in Victoria private security guards proved to be utterly disastrous;

The failures in Victoria’s “hastily assembled” hotel quarantine are “responsible” for the state’s 768 deaths and 18,418 cases since the end of May, the inquiry heard on Monday.

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“One only needs to pause and to reflect on those figures to appreciate the full scope of devastation and despair occasioned as a result of the outbreak,” counsel assisting Ben Ihle said.

“It was a program which failed to meet its primary objective to keep us safe from the virus.”

[…]

Throughout the course of the inquiry, none of the witnesses, including the premier, Daniel Andrews, said they made the decision to use private security guards for guarding returned travellers.

This was the clear message New Zealanders got from National: they were more focused on economic activity than on keeping the virus out of the country.

On 27 August last year, National issued a press statement outlining it’s small business policy. Covid19 and border controls were not mentioned once.

The UK has had “targetted lockdowns” – half-hearted measures that has resulted (at time of writing) 3,929,835 cases and 112,092 deaths.

This was National’s offering to New Zealanders and we wanted no part of it. Quite simply, most people did not trust National to prioritise our health over someone elses’ wealth.

NZ First

For the second time in it’s twentyseven year long history, NZ First has been thrown out of Parliament by voters. It’s share of the Party vote dropped from 7.2% in 2017 to 2.6% last year. 111,685 voters deserted the Party.

Again, the reasons are varied, but this blogger submits that one specific factor was the cause of it’s Parliamentary demise.

In October 2019, a survey found that 44.5% of NZ First voters would have preferred  National as a coalition partner after the 2017 General Election. Only 34.1% opted for Labour.

So the majority of NZ First supporters leaned toward National, not Labour.

Winston Peters and his party chose Labour instead, alienating nearly half their voter-base.

This is the only possible outcome when a political party refuses to disclose it’s preferred coalition intentions to voters so that they can cast their ballots accordingly.

In effect, by not making such a disclosure; by leaving that decision until after the election, NZ First supporters were handing Mr Peters & Co a “blank cheque”.

The remaining 34.1% who supported coalition with Labour were also alienated when NZ First made it clear it was a “hand brake” on their coalition partners.

A prime example was Labour’s attempt to implement a capital gains tax to slow investor speculation in the steadily worsening housing price-bubble. NZ First MP Shane Jones made it crystal clear who was responsible for “killing” the tax;

“The reality is you already had that announcement and none of you rung to thank me for NZ First killing off the capital gains tax.” 

NZ First managed to anger both National and Labour-leaning supporters. Quite a feat when you think about it.

It’s demise was inevitable.

Wally of the Year Award

There were several contenders:

  • Simon Bridges for his non-stop negativity and failing to read-the-room when the nation was focused solely on keeping covid out and saving lives.
  • Judith Collins, for her sheer, barely-contained malice.
  • This idiot.
  • Minister David Clark, who should have known better.
  • Jami-Lee Ross for unmitigated colossal cheek for naked political opportunism and (alleged) harassment of staff.
  • Billy Te Kahika, for achieving the dubious distinction as Aotearoa New Zealand’s go-too man for every conspiracy fantasy under the sun.
  • Former National Party President, Michelle Boag, for being so blindingly wrong on just about everything, especially why covid19 has the number ’19’ followings it’s name. (Clue; no, it’s not because there were 18 strains preceding this one.) And for leaking private covid19 patient names.
  • Former National MP, Hamish Walker, also for leaking private Covid19 patient details.
  • National MP Michael Woodhouse, for his bizarre (and untrue) “homeless man” story.
  • Plan B “sciencey poster boy”, Simon Thornley, who despite all the evidence, apparently wants Aotearoa New Zealand to follow Sweden’s model in dealing with covid19. Because, y’know, our 25 dead compared to Sweden’s 12,428 death toll is somehow a “failure” in his eyes?

But heads above the candidates listed, this blogger nominates Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO, Michael Barnett.

Mr Barnett’s non-stop carping against lock-downs or calling for watered-down lock-downs, or exemptions for every business and Uncle Tom Cobbly, were in a league of their own;

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In a blogpost on 23 August last year, activist John Minto detailed Mr Barnett’s non-stop carping and misguided attempts to undermine Aotearoa New Zealand’s strategy to eliminate covid19. Had National been in power there is every chance they would have capitulated to Mr Barnett’s increasingly strident demands to weaken lockdowns and allow businesses to operate “as normal”.

The consequences, as shown by other countries, would have been horrific. Hospitals flooded with infected people; ICU wards over-flowing; rising death toll; cemetaries filling up; and Long Covid leaving people suffering debilitating after-effects for months later, perhaps for years to come.

As an agent speaking on behalf of business, he earned his salary. As an agent agitating on behalf of covid19, he excelled.

2020 – But wait, there’s more!

There was more – so much more! – to 2020. But let’s leave something for future (and present) historians to mull over, shall we?

And now, 2021…

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The concluding fourth chapter of 2020: The History That Was.

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References

The Wall Street Journal: The Covid-19 Death Toll Is Even Worse Than It Looks

Al Jazeera: In post-Brexit UK, quiet ports hide mounting transport chaos

The Atlantic: This is a coup

The Guardian: Victoria hotel quarantine failures ‘responsible’ for Covid second wave and 768 deaths, inquiry told

CNN: Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny dupes spy into revealing how he was poisoned

CNBC: Hundreds arrested in Hong Kong protests, as analysts weigh in on national security law’s impact

BBC: The Uighurs and the Chinese state – A long history of discord

Reuters: Global temperatures reached record highs in 2020, say EU scientists

Ministry of Health: Covid-19 – Mental health and wellbeing resources

NZ Medical Journal: The mental wellbeing of New Zealanders during and post-lockdown (pdf version)

Scoop Sci-Tech: Mental Health Impacts Of NZ’s Lockdown Revealed – Expert Reaction

RNZ: Plea to help Kiwis still stranded in Peru

Stuff media: Covid-19: Grieving Kiwi stranded in UK as cancelled flight means she misses out on MIQ spot

RNZ: New Zealanders abroad struggling to get home

Stuff media: Coronavirus – families split by Covid-19 border restrictionsNZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Family can’t get to NZ to see dying grandfather

RNZ: Covid-19: -Teenager waits in isolation in Auckland, family in Christchurch

Covid19.govt.nz: Looking after your mental wellbeing

Depression.org.nz: Feeling anxious and stressed about COVID-19 is normal

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Jack Tame on life in Hamilton managed isolation facilityNZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Managed isolation guest complains about breakfast – would you complain?

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Quarantine food so bad guest forks out for Uber Eats every night

Stuff media: Coronavirus – ‘Tantrum’ as level 1 quarantine walks denied

ODT: Travellers angry over Rotorua quarantine

ODT: Family trapped in luxury Auckland hotel for quarantine

Newstalk ZB: Kate Hawkesby – My brother’s having the time of his life in quarantine

RNZ: MIQ nurses speak out – ‘We’re going to get sloppy … we’re tired and stressed’

RNZ: Risky work – MIQ cleaners underpaid and undervalued, union says

RNZ: Covid-19 – Plea for those assessing managed isolation applications to be medically qualified

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – 17 days in MIQ, five Covid tests for Wellington father turned back from airport

RNZ: Mark Cubey (profile)

Twitter: Mark Cubey – RNZ stopping for summer – 21.12.2020

RNZ: Morning Report – Tuesday 22 December 2020

RNZ: Morning Report – Wednesday 23 December 2020

RNZ: Morning Report – Tuesday 29 December 2020

RNZ: Summer Report

RNZ: Summer Report – Friday 8 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Report – Monday 18 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Report – Friday 22 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Report – Friday 21 January 2021

RNZ: Morning Report – Monday 25 January 2021

RNZ: Summer Times

RNZ: Summer Times – All episodes

Stuff media: Election 2020 – ‘Covid-19 election’ confirmed in new poll of voters’ concerns

New York Times: Covid Overload – U.S. Hospitals Are Running Out of Beds for Patients

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Mass graves dug as Brazil hits grim new toll

Reuters: Bodies found in unrefrigerated trucks in New York during COVID-19 pandemic

RNZ: Recap – Coronavirus updates in NZ and around the world on 23 March

RNZ: Coronavirus – Covid-19 updates in NZ and around the world on 25 March

RNZ: Coronavirus – First death in New Zealand from Covid-19

RNZ: Coronavirus – First death in New Zealand from Covid-19

Wikipedia: I Am Legend

Wikipedia: The Survivors

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National a better manager of economy, says Goldsmith

RNZ: National promises $4.7bn in tax cuts in economic and tax policy

National Party: Economic Recovery

Newsroom: National’s plan to let workers and tourists in

The Guardian: Victoria hotel quarantine failures ‘responsible’ for Covid second wave and 768 deaths, inquiry told

Scoop media: National Will Back New Zealand’s Small Businesses

Worldometer: United Kingdom Coronavirus Cases

Stuff media: NZ First voters preferred National to Labour at 2017 election by wide margin

NZ Herald: ‘A handbrake for silly ideas:’ Peters to discuss coalition disagreements in conference speech

Stuff media: NZ First put an end to capital gains tax, Shane Jones claims in post-Budget speech

NZ Herald: Covid-19 coronavirus – National MP Hamish Walker, Michelle Boag admit leaking patient details

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Michael Woodhouse’s isolation homeless mystery man claim debunked

Newshub: Coronavirus – ‘Take me out of God’s waiting room and put me back to work’, business leader begs

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Michael Barnett calls for Auckland to move to level 1.5

National Geographic: Pandemic victims are filling graves on New York’s Hart Island. It isn’t the first time.

Mayo Clinic: COVID-19 (coronavirus) – Long-term effects

Additional

Greenpeace:  Five ways NZ will be much better if Jacinda makes good on her promise to Build Back Better

Other Blogposts

The Paepae: The juxtaposition in this screen shot of the ‘NZ Taxpayers Union Inc’ astroturf lobby group receiving a government-funded subsidy makes me chortle

The Daily Blog: When will Michael Barnett stop whinging, whining and bleating? – John Minto

Previous related blogposts

Observations on the 2017 Election campaign thus far… (rima)

Life in Level 2: Two Tier Welfare; A Green School; Right Rage, Wrong Reason

2020: Post-mortem or Prologue?

2020: The History That Was – Part 1

2020: The History That Was – Part 2

2020: The History That Was – Part 3

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lets kill 2020

Acknowledgement: Jeff Bell

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 February 2021.

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= fs =

 

 

 

 

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

18 July 2020 7 comments

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Two things happened this weekend that added to the scandal swirling around the leaked list, of eighteen covid19-positive Returnees.

The National Party scandal has claimed the ‘scalps’ of one MP – Hamish Walker – and operative and former President, Michelle Boag. It has also drawn in Todd Muller, who has been shown to be “loose with the truth”, and Michael Woodhouse, who also recieved emails from Ms Boag – and promptly deleted them.

The Walker-Boag whirlpool is slowly dragging others down into it’s swirling, murky maw.

The first thing that should have raised eyebrows was TV3’s “Newshub Nation” on 11 July. If the viewer was expecting wall-to-wall coverage of the Leaked List scandal, they were to be sorely disappointed. The episode, hosted by Simon Shepherd made a brief mention of Hamish Walker resigning, and the panel briefly discussed the issue.

Otherwise, the focus was on Shane Jones and his bid for the Northland electorate; ACT Party leader, David Seymour; the fringe nutter’s “New Conservative Party”; pandemic management discussion with epidemiologist, Michael Baker; and “Back Story” featuring Green MP, Julie-Anne Genter.

All very interesting, but…

Other than that, there were no interviews with any of the main actors or other political commentators or past National Party apparatchiks… it was a Leaked List-free zone.

Not so TVNZ’s “Q+A” today (12 July).

Though Todd Muller, Michelle Boag, Michael Woodhouse, and Hamish Walker were all invited to attend – none took up the offer.

Instead, it was left up to National’s Deputy Leader, Nikki Kaye, to front. Host, Jack Tame, grilled her mercilessly with rapid-fire questions and naked disbelief to Ms Kaye’s insistence that Michelle Boag did not confide in her about the Leaked List. This despite Ms Kaye acknowledging the closeness between the two – including Ms Boag being (until her recent resignation from the position) Nikki Kaye’s electorate campaign manager.

Ms Kaye was also left to explain and defend not just her conversation with Michelle Boag – but also Michael Woodhouse’s dubious actions and Todd Muller’s inconsistant (outright lies?) responses to what he knew and when did he know it.

She defended to her utmost Michael Woodhouse and Todd Muller. She defended her Party. She stood her ground.

This is what Leaders do.

They defend their team.

At no point did Ms Kaye deflect hard questions relating to two of her colleagues with the oft-repeated mantra, “Oh, you’d have to ask them”.

She took responsibility for answering on their behalf. To defend her Team.

Because that is an essential quality to leadership.

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Contrast Ms Kaye’s courage to the disturbing fact that Todd Muller refused to front for the interview.

Think about that for a moment.

The worst scandal to hit the National Party since Nicki Hager’s “Dirty Politics” – and Todd Muller was in hiding leaving his Deputy in the firing line.

Whatever one may think of Nikki Kaye’s responses to Jack Tame’s relentless questioning – she had the courage and determination to front.

Muller was nowhere to be seen.

As we both watched the spectacle, and noted Muller’s absence, my partner turned and pointed out to me;

“She’s doing a fine job as Leader of National.”

The date 12 July is the turning point for Todd Muller’s faux leadership of the National Party. Quite simply, it beggars belief that he failed to front for the interview. It was his responsibility to represent his Party in difficult times. And it doesn’t get any more difficult when one of his MPs is forced to stand down at the next election after admitting to releasing confidential medical details; a past-President was responsible for the leak; another MP wilfully deletes potential evidence; and Muller himself has been caught out being flexible with the truth.

When the so-called Leader of a political party fails to carry out his most basic responsibility and shoves his Deputy into the firing line, it calls into question his fitness to hold that position.

New Zealanders take note. Todd Muller hid away in safety whilst his Deputy took the hits.

There’s a word for that.

Cowardice.

#MullerUnfitToLead

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References

TVNZ: Public can continue to trust National amid Covid-19 patient details leak saga – deputy leader Nikki Kaye

Twitter: Laura Beattie – 8 July 2020

Previous related blogposts

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 July 2020.

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Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

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The last 24 hours in Aotearoa’s New Zealand’s politics has provided more drama than a week’s worth of “Shortie Street” episodes combined and binge-watched.

It began approximately around 5.30  last night (7 July) with a disclosure by Clutha-Southland MP, Hamish Walker  that he had leaked a list of eighteen covid19-infected Returnees names and details to three media outlets. (None of the three media companies, to their credit, released a single piece of personal info from the list.)

As an explanation, Mr Walker said he released the names, ages, and other details of the eighteen infected Returnees to reject accusations of racism and to prove his assertion ;

“These people are possibly heading for Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown from India, Pakistan and Korea.”

However, it was stated on RNZ’s Morning Report (8 July) that the List proved no such thing (@4.33).

Mr Walker then offered another explanation;

“I did this to expose the government’s shortcomings so they would be rectified.

The information that I received was not password protected by the government. It was not stored on a secure system where authorised people needed to log on. There was no redaction to protect patient details, and no confidentiality statement on the document.

I made serious allegations against the government’s Covid-19 response and passed on this information to prove those allegations.”

So the first explanation was to save himself from being tarred as a jingoistic racist. The subsequent  explanation was framed to sound more “noble”.

Moreover, National’s former President, Michelle Boag, gave her “explanation” that;

“I very much regret my actions and did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets but I am grateful that the media involved have chosen not to publish the 18 names that were contained within it.”

Ms Boag also (partially) revealed how she had come into possession of the list;

“The information was made available to me in my position as then Acting CEO of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, although it was sent to my private email address.”

Many questions remain unanswered and a full picture remains unclear:

Q1: Who sent the email to Ms Boag? Why? What other personal, confidential details has this person sent to Ms Boag or others? What access does this person have?

Q2: Is this person an employee of Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust?

Considering that ARHT has stated categorically that Ms Boag would not have had direct access to patient data, the only other possibility is a person or persons unknown supplied it to her.

Q3: Will QC Mike Heron question Ms Boag?

Q4: Will QC Mike Heron attempt to find the identity of who sent the email to Ms Boag?

Q5: Will QC Mike Heron question Hamish Walker?

Q6: Will QC Mike Heron question Todd Muller?

Q7: Will QC Mike Heron have full access to all electronic devices belonging to Mr Walker, Ms Boag, Todd Muller, and anyone else who becomes implicated in this leak? Will forensic investigation be allowed on their devices?

Q8: What (if any) was Matthew Hooton’s involvement? What did Matthew Hooton know and when?

Q9: Will QC Mike Heron investigate Mr Hooton’s electronic devices?

Q10: When did Todd Muller find out? He claimed it was Monday (6 July) “lunch time“. What did he do in the intervening 30 hours that followed, before Mr Walker went public?

Q11: Mr Muller says he does not know Mr Walker’s motivation to release the List. Why did Mr Muller not ask Mr Walker’s motivation when he spoke directly with Mr Walker on Monday?

Q12:  Was it really a “rogue operation” involving just two people? Who else knew about Ms Boag and Mr Walker’s use of the List?

Q13: What was the purpose of Ms Boag passing the list to Mr Walker? Why did she choose him? What discussion did the two have?

Ms Boag said to Stuff;

“It would be inappropriate for me to do that because I would be disclosing more details.”

So. There are “more details” she has not disclosed. What are those “details”?

Q14: If Ms Boag “did not anticipate that Hamish would choose to send it on to some media outlets” – what did she anticipate he would do with the List?

Q15: What other personal details has Ms Boag passed on in her role as acting CEO of Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust?

Q16: Why will Ms Boag and Mr Walker not front to media interviews? What do they know that remains unsaid?

Q17: What did Nikki Kaye know and when?

Q18: What prompted Mr Walker and Ms Boag to go public on 7 July? What factor(s) forced them to abandon their secrecy? Were they about to be “outed”?

There is more to this abuse of power than we have been told. The National Party damage control machine has swung into full mode and has successfully contained this outbreak of scandal.

They may be hopeless at containing viral outbreaks – but masters par excellence at managing scandals. (Perhaps because of considerable past experience.)

This is the party that thinks it is fit to govern.

ADDENDUM

According to a late evening news story on RNZ, Michelle Boag revealed the source for the List of eighteen covid19 positive Returnees. She claimed the information came from the Ministry of Health by way of emails that were regular updates sent to emergency medical services;

When she announced her involvement in the leak, Boag said she had access to the private information as the acting chief executive of the Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

She added the personal information was sent to her private email, but did not disclose who sent it – until now.

Boag told RNZ the Ministry of Health had sent daily emails to her private email, which included the sensitive details of the country’s Covid-19 cases.

Boag couldn’t explain why it was sent to her private email, but suspected it was because she was only temporarily in the role of chief executive.

The government has already confirmed emergency services were regularly sent the details of the country’s active cases, so they could take the proper precautions if responding to a call-out where someone with Covid-19 was present.

If this is true, then this makes her role in this scandal even worse.

The information would have been sent to her in good faith by the Ministry of Health. She was in a position of trust and privilege.

The information would have been intended to be used by emergency services in case their personnel ever had to attend an incident involving covid19-positive patients.

Sending helicopter medics blindly to a situation where covid19 was present would have endangered their lives and those around them.

For Ms Boag to wilfully mis-use this information for nefarious political purposes will destroy her career forever.

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References

RNZ:  How the Hamish Walker Covid-19 patient detail leak played out

Stuff media: National MP Hamish Walker admits passing on leaked Covid-19 patient info from former party president Michelle Boag

Scoop:  Press Statement From Michelle Boag – 7 July 2020

Mediaworks/Newshub: Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust says Michelle Boag ‘never’ had access to COVID-19 data

RNZ: Todd Muller ‘hugely angry’ after Walker/Boag leak   (alt.link)

RNZ: National Party board to meet about Hamish Walker (alt.link)

Stuff: National MP Hamish Walker admits passing on leaked Covid-19 patient info from former party president Michelle Boag

RNZ: Covid-19 privacy breach info came from Health Ministry, Michelle Boag says

Twitter: Colin Jackson – 7 July 2020

Additional

RNZ:  National’s attacks not what we need right now

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 July 2020.

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