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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Barnett’

Open letter to Michael Barnett, Julie White, et al

8 October 2021 1 comment

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Congratulations,  Mr Barnett, Ms White, and your business colleagues. It appears that we will end up having to “live” (ie, get sick, end up in hospital, perhaps in ICU, intubated on ventilators, and possibly dying as our lungs fail) with covid19.

But at least businesses will open up. Business will finally have *CERTAINTY*.

The Delta Strain on covid19 will run rampant. It is so highly infectious that it appears nigh on impossible to eradicate,  contain, or avoid. Especially as so many people refuse to take simple precautions; wearing masks, staying home if unwell, or getting vaccinated.

Our hospitals will quickly fill up with covid cases. It has happened overseas, I see no reason why we should be exempt in Aotearoa New Zealand.

So if you present at your local hospital with a broken limb, some other infection, heart attack, stroke, etc, well, be prepared to stand – or rather lie down – in line. Don’t expect treatment any time soon. Our fabulous nurses and doctors, the ones not yet worked to exhaustion and burned out, will get to you. Eventually. Maybe five or six hours? Or next morning?

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You know what else you can have 100% certainty about? The mainstream  media will report story after story after story of hospitals near collapse and grieving families. The click-bating headlines, radio and TV interviews, will be an hourly, daily, weekly event. Wait till the first toddler dies from covid – can you see the headlines? I can. That’s a certainty you can take to the bank.

If you thought media milked ‘heart string’ stories of New Zealanders trapped overseas – desperate for limited MIQ slots – you ain’t see nothing yet. You can be very, very certain of how media will feast – gorge themselves – on tragedies to come.

In turn, those relentless stories will feed public fear.

The media – your “unwitting allies” to push your agenda – will turn on you.

But at least restaurants, cafes, bars, theatres, conventions, etc, etc, etc, etc, can all open up.

Yes, you have certainty in that.

But you know what else you can be certain of?

A whole bunch of workers who will get sick. Expect your businesses to lose staff to many more sick days off. After last year’s lockdown, influenza and other viral diseases fell so low we’ve probably never been healthier.

That will change. And it will cost your businesses dearly.

As sure as evolution made li’l green apples, you can have certainty of that.

Oh, and you know what else will probably happen? A terrified population. Even vaccinated people like me will be even more constantly hyper-vigilant; more wary of crowded spaces, less willing to take risks.

So once covid reaches Wellington, no more restaurants, cafes, bars, theatres, conventions, etc, etc, etc, etc, for me or my partner. Though we’re both double vaccinated, we both still have underlying  conditions.

And I work in the wider health sector with vulnerable clients. Two of whom would not survive covid. It would be their death sentence. So no going out for me, even if I wanted to. (Which I won’t.)

But I digress.

So once covid reaches Wellington, it’ll be more quiet nights in. Perhaps a few contactless takeaways. Thank the gods for online entertainment; streaming means no more going out to movies.

And thank goodness for online shopping. Christmas prezzy shopping will be done from the safety of my computer screen. Hello, Amazon!

There may be many, many more people like us. The aging, propertied, cashed-up, baby-boomer generation  – the demographic your businesses rely on so much – may well share our reluctance to sally forth out on the town.

You can have certainty there.

So your businesses will be open. But maybe a little  – or lot! – less crowded.

So enjoy your open businesses.  Enjoy your certainty. You got what you wanted.

How does it feel?

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References

Reuters: Some U.S. hospitals forced to ration care amid staffing shortages, COVID-19 surge

NPR: A COVID Surge Is Overwhelming U.S. Hospitals, Raising Fears Of Rationed Care

Vox: Americans are dying because no hospital will take them

New York Times: Idaho allows overwhelmed hospitals across the state to ration care if necessary.

Forbes: In Idaho And Other States, The Delta Covid-19 Surge Is Forcing Hospitals To Ration ICU Beds

CNN: As Covid-19 hospitalizations spike, some overwhelmed hospitals are rationing care

Previous related blogposts

One thousand dead New Zealanders per year?

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Acknowledment: Anthony Ellison

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Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 7 & 8

25 August 2021 9 comments

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24 August: Day 7 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 107

Cases in ICU: –

Number of deaths: –

A cool,  grey, overcast, morning. This is a good start. Unpleasant weather deters people from taking strolls along crowded, popular walkways such as Oriental Bay Parade. As mentioned in previous diary entries, most do not wear facemasks and joggers run past pedestrians, breathing hard all about them.

The possibility that one of these is carrying Delta, running through unmasked strollers puffing virus with each laboured breath, does not bear thinking about. The inescapable irony; a healthy activity that could land many people in hospital…

At my local urban park n ride railway station there are three cars parked. Yesterday there were four.

It is deathly quiet. No wind, very little traffic around my streets.

But noticeable on the main roads are plenty of commercial vehicles. Just some spotted; “Intergroup” street-sweeping truck; “Bidfoods” truck parked by a Dairy; “Wellington SCL” van; “Newshub” stationwagon parked on SH2 roadside; “Greater Wellington Regional Council” ute; a gravel-haulage truck; “Noel Leeming” truck; “Drain Doctor” van; “Arb Innovations” ute; “Global Welding Supplies” hatchback; red “NZ Courier” van; “Waste Management” soft-sided truck; a glaziers van; “Bidfresh” soft-sided light truck; a ute marked “Filtec”; “Crown Lift” truck; “PBT” courier van; “Coca Cola” soft-sided truck; a firewood light truck; “Mainfreight” double tandem heavy truck; a large heavy flat-deck truck, empty; an “Owens” truck bearing a container; a “Downer” van; “Waste Management” truck; green “Toll” van; two green gravel-haulage trucks; “Pacific” fuel tanker truck; “Morepork” truck carrying a light ‘bobcat’ digger; “NZ Couriers” heavy truck; van marked “Proflow Plumbing and Gas Solutions”; “PBT” courier van; “Mainstream” soft-sided truck; “Jets” soft-sided truck; white van marked “High Rise”; black SUV marked “One News”; van marked “Plumbing World”; light truck, “Service Foods”; ute marked “kiwirail”; black ute, “Chill”; black hatchback, “Spark”; soft-sided truck, “Booths Transport Ltd”; ute, “Jennian”; van, “Wasabe Group”; van, “Chorus; two “Coundown” food delivery trucks; et al.

There were many other commercial vehicles whose markings could not be easily determined. The list above is perhaps a quarter  of commercial vehicles sighted.

The two heavy diggers spotted over the last few days, and reported on yesterday were operating:

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Their support vehicles parked nearby:

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Despite considerable commercial vehicles present, traffic volumes on SH2 was light, around three to four vehicles at any one time. Traffic density increased approaching Melling Interchange, with around a dozen vehicles present at Belmont/Kelson.

By Petone, the over-cast skies had become a light drizzle with temperature cooling.

At the automated BP Fuel station on SH2, workmen and heavy commercial vehicles were again operating today.

Around the northern suburbs, it began to rain heavily by mid-morning and the weather had become colder. This would hopefully motivate people to stay home and not cluster at popular walkways.

In the late evening, there were roadworks just south of the automated BP Fuel station on SH2, in the northbound lane. A crew comprising of three light-arrow trucks; some other heavy vehicles, and workmen on-site. Nothing quite says banal normality during a deadly pandemic crisis than roadworks.

The day finished on a jarring note.

Not the pandemic. Not the grim news that there were 41 new covid cases today.

Not that our cuzzies in New South Wales had another terrible day of increased covid numbers.

These were indeed bad news stories.  But the thing that was depressing came from our own media.

Mainstream media had finally ramped up it’s stories from carping quarters.

Radio NZ’s “Checkpoint” led off with an interview with serial-whinger and business-at-any-cost lobbyist, Auckland Chamber of Commerce CEO, Michael Barnett.

Unchallenged by host, Lisa Owen, the two carried on a five-minute long moan as to why supermarkets were allowed to operate but butchers, greengrocers, bottlestores, et al, were forced to close. It was a frustrating example of child-like entitlement and neither understood the crisis that New South Wales was now in because retailers were allowed to open at will.

For Barnett, it was a simplistic situation where he suggested:

“I think that’s to hard to define… I think what you should do is give me the conditions under which I can operate. And if I can operate a butchery, or bakery, or a supermarket under those conditions then I should be able to do it. If I can do it, I can do it one on one and contactless, and if that’s the rule, that’s what I should be able to do.”

When Ms Owen asked Barnett to define safety parameters, he replied glibly:

“Absolutely, It’s health and safety. We’ve got to comply with that. Set those parameters, set the conditions which I can operate, should operate, and let me comply with that. Business is very good at doing that.”

He continued his rant:

“That’s the stupidity of the system that they’ve [government] got.”

At no point did either of them bring up the dire situation that New South Wales was in. The Australian state has failed to contain covid and the numbers of new cases each day are staggering:

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In case anyone was wondering what the differences was between New Zealand and New South Wales, these are the retailers allowed to be open during respective lockdowns:

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So New South Wales has followed Michael Barnett’s demands. Almost every retailer is open to trade. Their covid cases have exploded as well.

To date, the death toll for New South Wales is 128. For Victoria, the death toll is 820. For Australia, the combined death toll is:

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984

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Ours remains at 26.

Remember Barnett’s assertion:

“If I can do it, I can do it one on one and contactless, and if that’s the rule, that’s what I should be able to do… Set those parameters, set the conditions which I can operate, should operate, and let me comply with that. Business is very good at doing that.”

Retail Meat New Zealand spokesperson, Kit Arkwright, also echoed Barnett’s demands to open up retailing:

“If we could provide click and collect at our front door on the high street like most butchers are placed, I think that would be a pretty practical step in the right direction.

An eftpos machine at the front door and an open environment on the high street I can’t see to many risks there.”

But other businesses have disclosed they cannot ensure public safety. On compulsory QR scanning, Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) spokesperson Alan McDonald was explicit:

“If you make it compulsory then that implies somebody has go to enforce this thing and if you’re looking at particularly small businesses … that’s putting a lot of onus on the owner or people running the store to perhaps front somebody who doesn’t necessarily want to scan in.”

And Retail NZ chief executive, Greg Harford was equally clear:

“It’s not a retailer’s job to be enforcing the rules, whether it’s contact tracing or mask use – it’s just really not what we’re there for, and I think you get pretty good levels of compliance from the public on these sorts of things anyway.”

So much for Barnett’s glib and meaningless assurances that “business is very good at doing that.”

To be clear, Barnett is advocating nothing more than “all-care-but-no-responsibility”. And no responsibility for inevitable deaths should we follow his lunatic demands.

The man’s sole motive is money, not keeping people alive.

And shame on RNZ, “Checkpoint“, and other mainstream media for platforming him without robustly challenging him and exploring the consequences of his demands.

There was more whinging and demands for “certainty” and “clarity” from the South Island – again helpfully platformed and amplified by a mainstream media eager for clicks.

Sadly, the juvenile whingefest on RNZ was not alone. TV1 News today led with not one; not; two, but three noisy critics with their own agendas. Let us be crystal clear: those agendas are not focused on our well-being.

The constant flow of carping is not a matter of “free speech”. Aotearoa New Zealand is facing a deadly pandemic that, to date, has killed 4.44 million people world-wide (certainly an under-reported figure); flooded hospitals with covid patients; created a syndrome of on-going suffering called “Long Covid”; and dragged away resources from other healthcare priorities.

To defeat covid, all New Zealanders must work collectively.  The alternative is clear for us to see in India, Brazil, United States, Britain, Fiji, and closer to home, Australia.

The discordant voices from business lobbyists concerned with their profit-taking or Opposition party-leaders (yes, Ms Collins and Mr Seymour, I’m referring to you both) vying for votes, distracts us from what should be our collective responsibilities to help one another.

We should all be pulling in the same direction. But when noisy business people and ambitious, irresponsible, political leaders appear to be pulling in opposing directions, it becomes apparent that the virus has allies – or “useful idiots” –  in our midst.

For the rest of the week, I will be reducing watching or listening to mainstream media.  Yes, that includes RNZ’s “Checkpoint” and possibly “Morning Report“. Too much amplified crazy bleating during a global disaster just does one’s head in.

And as a community worker, I want my head clear to focus on my clients. Not with the clamourings of business-sotted death-merchants and those aspiring to be the next Prime Minister.

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By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 148

Cases in ICU: –

Number of deaths: –

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25 August: Day 8 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 148

Cases in ICU: –

Number of deaths: –

Another fine day, cool, breezy, but sunny. Just when we needed it the most, the stormy weather that battered the country the last couple of months seems to have subsided.

Four cars only at the local park n ride railway station.

Road traffic seemed decidedly heavier than the last few days. Noticed on the roads; a “Driving Miss Daisy” hatchback; a ute towing a trailer filled with cut firewood; ute marked “Plimmer Plumbing; white van marked “KPC Laundry Hire Services”; “Downer”; “X Couriers”; a high-sided open truck carrying a full load of cut firewood; “Fliway” truck; gray van, “Patch and Paint”; “Eurofins” marked SUV; gravel-hauling truck, “Downer”; gray ute, “Gemco”; white van marked “Bottle-O – Stokes Valley”; a police car racing north with flashing lights; another firewood-laden truck; “KAMS” large soft-sided truck; white van, “Initial”; “K&M” truck carrying a container; glass-glazing truck; “Fliway” truck; “Kiwirail” ute; “Envirowaste” truck; gray “Poste Haste” van; a truck carrying gas cylinders; a ute at the side of the road, “John Everiss”; a container-laden truck, “PBT”; a soft-sided truck, “Owens”; heavy truck, “Big Chill Distributors”; heavy truck, “Goodman Fielder”; a rental van, “Budget”; a van, “Jones Services”; a soft-sided, double-tandem truck, “Mainstream”; a rental van, “Hirepool”; double-tandem truck, “Toll”; yellow van, “Abe’s Bagels”; white van, “AEL Electrical”; truck, “Fliway”; “Downer” roadworks truck, laden with ubiquitous orange road cones; “Newshub” ute; two black cars, “Recon Security”; ute marked “Treescape”; police car parked-up by Jville “McDonalds”, on the round-a-bout; truck, “Ablaze Landscaping”; dumpster truck, “Downer”; truck, “WheelieBin”; truck, “New World”; car-transporter laden with three cars; truck, “K&M”; another police car with flashing lights; soft-sided truck truck, “Pak N Save”;  van, “Chorus”; van, “A to Z Flooring”; “Bidfood” truck; “Rinnai Service” van; “New World” truck; “Apparel Line” truck; police car, flashing lights, heading south on SH2; empty stock-truck; “L.G. Anderson” truck; another “L.G. Anderson” truck, laden with a container; flat-deck ute, “Aurora”; a suction-tanker truck marked “Southey’s Hydro Excavation”; an ambulance; another police car; another ambulance; a “Poste Haste” van; flat-deck truck, “Zoo”; truck, “Groundworks”; “K&M” truck; trucked marked “Firewood” (in very large letters!) with a large, full load; van, “JMAC”; van marked “Tungsten Electrical”; green van, “Toll”; truck carrying a digger, “Treescape”; black van, “Blackwell Plumbing”; van marked “Bottle-O”; car, “SCL Wellington”; van, “Chorus”; van, “Battery Service”; van marked “ABS”; truck, “Bidfood”; truck, “Jets”; double tandem truck, “Mainfreight”; truck laden with orange roadcones, marked “Hirepool”; van, “Postehaste”; van bearing “Streets” ice cream advertising; an ambulance; flat-deck truck marked “AA Vehicle Recovery”; tanker truck, “Northfuels”; et al.

As mentioned previously, there were many other commercial vehicles whose markings could not be easily determined. The list above is indicative only.

Commercial and residential traffic this late-morning was decidedly heavier than at any time since lockdown began. Without knowing that Delta was currently present in Aotearoa New Zealand, the level of commercial traffic on the roads certainly did not reflect our current emergency.

This blogger counted at least a dozen vehicles visible in the vicinity of SH58 interchange.

Riverbed work on the Hutt River was continuing unabated;

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Stopped at Melling red traffic lights, there were four vehicle in front and adjacent to me: all commercial.

Work had ceased at the automated BP service station south of Petone; all vehicles and workers had gone.

Two businesses appeared to be open to the public and trading:

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After some navigating around government ministeries and a phone call to a very helpful (and delightful!) operator, I was directed to the appropriate covid19 website to lodge a query/compliance compaint to investigate these two businesses.

It’s not a lockdown if people and businesses aren’t complying. Delta covid appreciates helpful people who take the piss.

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 210

Cases in ICU: –

Number of deaths: –

So ended the seventh and eighth day of our journey to beat this thing.

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Meanwhile, in an unfortunate juxtaposition of names, the singer vs the virus…

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References

RNZ: Live – Covid-19 updates on day 6 of lockdown

Newshub: New South Wales records staggering 478 local COVID-19 cases, eight deaths

RNZ: Covid-19 in NSW – State records 830 new cases

Newshub: COVID-19 – New South Wales records 818 new local community cases, three deaths

9News: NSW records 753 cases

9News: NSW records 919 new COVID-19 cases as state awaits incentives reveal

RNZ: Michael Barnett criticises essential business criteria

Stuff media: How New Zealand’s level 4 compares to NSW’s ‘strict’ Covid-19 lockdown

RNZ: Retail Meat NZ fears some butchers won’t survive extended lockdown

Stuff media: Covid-19 – QR code scanning too difficult for businesses to enforce if mandated – EMA

RNZ: South Island businesses want clarity over lockdown duration

Newsroom: The complexities of a ‘mask mandate’

RNZ:  As it happened – Covid-19 updates on day 7 of lockdown – everything you need to know

Newshub: Coronavirus – Judith Collins won’t say how many COVID-19 deaths would be ‘acceptable’ number to live with

TVNZ: Extended lockdown hurting struggling events industry

Twitter: Neale Jones – state of New Zealand’s media – 25/8/21

Covid19.govt.nz: COVID-19 compliance

TVNZ: Covid community cases reach 210, most in Auckland

Additional

TVNZ: New Covid modelling reveals grim prospects if vaccination rate is not 90%

TVNZ: Michael Baker – Covid elimination strategy allows NZ to ‘choose our future’

Other Blogs

Pundit: The Lucky Lockdown? Is This The Kick In The Butt NZ Needs?

Previous related blogposts

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 1

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 2

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 3

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 5 & 6

For Reference

Covid19.govt.nz: COVID-19 compliance

 

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Acknowledgement: Peter Bromhead

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Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment. (Trolls need not bother.)

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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.

[…]

“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.

[…]

“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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