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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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= fs =

 

 

 

 

2020: The History That Was – Part 3

20 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…

ACT

The not-so-surpising winner from last year’s general election, ACT increased it’s Party Vote from 13,075 in 2017 to 219,030 and adding nine more MPs to David Seymour’s up-to-now-One-Man-Band operation.

But before ACT supporters and other sundry right-wingers and free-marketeers rejoice with little Happy Dances, it bears remembering that their resurgence came – for the most part – from a dysfunctional National Party.

ACT’s success came from cannibalising it’s larger counterpart, much like the Green Party’s support (11.06% Party Vote) in the 2014 general election came at ther expense of their Labour cousin (27.48% Party Vote).

Oh, and gun-nuts who – like children throwing a temper tantrum at having to surrender their lethal toys – went looking for a sympathetic, slightly-bonkers, “uncle” who would pander to their sense of spoiled entitlement.

The combined right wing vote for National and ACT collapsed from 44.9% in 2017 and 47.15% in 2014,  to 33.2% last year. Hardly cause for celebration for ACT Party strategists.

There was no resurgent right. Only a sloshing-around of disaffected National supporters, gun nuts, and assorted climate change denying numpties.

Unless Mr Seymour is blinded by his (temporary) electoral gains, he and his colleagues must be nervously aware that his fortunes are possible only while National is a lame-duck party in turmoil, with an unelectable Leader.

Election 2020

MMP was designed primarily for two purposes:

  1. To make representation fairer (“coat-tailing” notwithstanding), especially for smaller parties that, until 1996, had been locked-out of Parliament (Social Credit being an aberation for FPP),
  2. To deny either of the two main parties unbridled power without checks and balances to deter wild policy swings (eg; 1984 neo-liberal “reforms”).

Last year, voters in Aotearoa New Zealand had other ideas as covid19 changed the rules by which our economy; tourist industry; international travel, and even social patterns operated.

As will be explored under the heading “National”, approximately two thirds of voters not only supported the current goverrnment’s action to protect Fortress Aotearoa – but seemed determined to keep Judith Collins and the National Party well away from anything resembling power.

Housing

  • RMA

Aotearoa New Zealand has had housing problems since colonisation became a ‘thing’ in this country. Reading an account of housing shortages in the late 1930s/40s could be taken almost word-for-word for our current housing situation;

Meanwhile, full employment with higher wages and overtime meant increased demand for existing houses. In 1942 the shortage was officially estimated as 20 000. Workers came to the cities for war jobs, wives came to be near their husbands in camps. With prices rising and expected to rise still further, house buying was both a sound investment and a tempting speculation, though rent controls curbed quick fortune-making to some extent. At Wellington, where sites were limited, building costs high and where government employees had multiplied rapidly during the past few years, the demand was particularly strong. As early as February 1941, a Wellington land agent stated that flats had come to stay, that but for the Fair Rents Act land agents could sell 70 per cent more houses than they were selling and that low deposits of £200 or £300 were becoming scarce. In November 1941, an agent declared, ‘We are not facing a first-class housing crisis. We are past that stage’; another spoke of an avalanche of buyers and of house dealers buying for cash, renovating cheaply and making £400 to £500 on each deal.

In July 1942, another agent said that if he had them, he could let 30 houses or flats in two or three hours, a state of affairs which he feared was going to be chronic. Already, those concerned with the rehabilitation of servicemen were troubled by the gap of several hundred pounds between the value of a house and its inflated ‘scarcity value’.

At Auckland in May 1942 there was talk of a boom; land agents for several weeks had been exceptionally busy and house values were rising. A suburban home, which 12 months earlier would have changed hands at £1,300, sold for £1,525 within 24 hours of being placed on the market; a house sold by the builder for £1,750 was sold again six weeks later for £2,500. There were many cash sales and otherwise the minimum deposit was often one-third of the purchase price. In Dunedin sales were brisk, with houses long regarded as unsaleable changing hands. At New Plymouth, prices which 12 months earlier would have been far too high were paid without hesitation; 60 persons had applied to rent one house; 46 wanted a small house at £1 5s a week, 16 applied for another at £2 2s a week.

It can  reasonably be argued that the housing crisis in the late 30s/40s was due in large part to a post-Depression economic lag, and shortage of raw materials and labour as we faced the onslaught of Nazi German and Imperial Japanese war machines.

But it then follows that there is little reason why – in an age of plenty and 21st century automation – we are eighty years later faced with a similar crisis.

Whatever the reasons – and we are well versed with most of them – housing remains one of the top three priorities for the Labour government.

One of the alleged reasons for our housing shortage has been the RMA which has been blamed for slowing down or stifling permitting and construction of new housing. 

We should be wary of throwing out, wholesale,  the Act. It has protections that deter inappropriate urban “development” that we may come to regret, as instanced by one particular block of flats on Mt Victoria, Wellington

Urban sprawl is also an unintended consequence to uncontained development. By 2019, around 200 horticulture growers in Auckland had ceased to operate as their fertile land was re-zoned “Residential”. This included some of the best volcanic arable land in and around Pukekohe.

As grower David Clark pointed out in June 2019;

“I used to farm that block. That was a very highly productive bit of soil, that.

The previous National government passed it all off as a special housing area and we lost all of that [land]. That’s a shame. That should never have happened.

It was good productive elite soil, but it’s not now. You can never get it back once all that infrastructure and housing’s gone on there. It’s gone forever.”

Horticulture New Zealand CEO, Mike Chapman, warned;

“It makes sense to protect growing hubs close to our main population centres. They not only provide food that contributes to the physical health of New Zealanders, but also jobs, and vibrant businesses and communities. 

Food and housing are competing for land and water. We need both, so now is a good time to be smart about long-term planning for food security and domestic supply.

We will not always be able to source food from other countries. Look at the extremely hot summer the northern part of the world is having and the impact it is having on food production because of drought.” 

The result of losing arable land to urban sprawl would inevitably result in rising food prices, advised Deloitte New Zealand in a report commissioned by HortNZ.

Environment Minister David Parker took note of a problem that could rapidly spiral into a potential food-crisis;

“I was particularly troubled by how much of our urban growth is occurring in our irreplaceable highly productive land. Even in a country as lucky as New Zealand we only have limited quantities of these high-class soils.

We have to ensure we have enough land to build the houses people need, but we must protect our most productive areas too.”

As with all human activities, we should cautiously wary of unintended consequences.

  • Interest Rates

Ballooning housing prices are forcing first home owners to pay ever-increasing amounts to get a roof over their heads.

Whereas the median house price in Aotearoa New Zealand for a property was $495,000 in 2017, by 2020 the median price had risen to $725,000.

In Auckland, media houses prices surged from 800,000 in 2017 to $1,000,000 last year.

For first home owners these stratospheric prices are barely manageable because of historically low interest rates.

This constitutes a silent time-bomb that will detonate when/if interest rates start to rise again. It will result in forced mortgagee sales the likes of which we have not seen since the housing market collapse in the USA in the 2007/08 Global Financial Crisis;

Simultaneously, the US government of the day under President Bill Clinton elected to begin running budget surpluses. This had the effect of reducing the stock of US government-issued “safe assets” as the state began to pay down its debt. This created an incentive — though not the obligation — for the private sector to meet this demand for “safe assets” by creating some of its own. Thus we come back to mortgage securities.

The authors’ of the latest paper write that “the boom in securitisation contributed to channel into mortgages a large pool of savings that had previously been directed towards other safe assets, such as government bonds”. As Frances Coppola points out, this misstates what was actually going on. The inflow of capital was not “channelled” into the US mortgage market but, rather, it created the demand that gave banks a reason to continue extending mortgage loans into the system.

And here’s where the story gets really interesting. The more credit the banks provided through the mortgage market, the more money consumers had available to pay for goods and services (including, for example, clothes and toys produced in China). This spending then fed the current account surpluses in emerging markets, which flooded back into the US in search of safe assets that would provide a steady stream of income.

So the credit market created what looked like a self-fulfilling cycle where banks issued mortgages, that money was spent on goods and services in the US, which provided the cash for emerging economies to buy the mortgage-backed securities that were then created. Glad that’s clear.

And this is what happened — real home prices increasing by roughly 40% to 70% between 2000 and 2006…

[…]

…the scale of the housing boom had already increased the system’s vulnerabilities, and had been exacerbated by the Clinton administration’s decision to run budget surplus. In the end as borrowers were maxing themselves out, a hit to future incomes was almost inevitable and with it a correction in the housing market.

The full article above by Tomas Hirst is worth reading because there are ominous similarities between the late 2000s and what is happening now in our own housing market: too much money sloshing around, looking for safe investments, and a bubble that must ultimately burst.

Fast forward to last year;

Housing unaffordability is on the rise again, with implications for wealth inequality and deprivation. This is compounded further by the cascading economic effects of the global pandemic and unconventional manoeuvres in monetary policy that are pushing house prices higher.

If/when interest rates begin to rise, the time bomb will detonate and the housing “market correction” will be harsh. 

The government-of-the-day will be forced to intervene directly, taking over debt. Otherwise the alternative will be too terrible to contemplate: images of families forced out of their homes to live in – ?

Greens

The Green Party increased its share of the Party Vote from 2017 to 2020, from 6.3 to 7.9%, increasing its Parliamentary seats from eight to ten. Unlike ACT’s cannibalising the centre-right vote from National, the Greens actually grew the centre-left vote overall.

It could be said that this was achieved by riding on the “coat tails” of a popular Prime Minister.

This blogger rejects that.

The Greens are the conscience of Parliament, if not the whole country. They are deadly serious on the critical challenges that confront us as a nation, whether it be global – apocalyptic changes caused by rising CO2 and methane levels and all its dire consequences – or social problems of a spiralling-out-of-control housing crisis and social inequality.

As our climate warms; weather patterns become more energetic; ocean acidification worsens; and ice continues to melt, more and more people are understanding that this crisis can no longer be ignored or put off to another day.

With Labour’s commanding majority in the House, it is a curious contradiction that the government needs the Green Party more than ever to maintain a solid, unwavering focus on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Without the Greens, Labour risks relaxing into a cruising “business-as-usual” mode.

And we are well past anything resembling “business-as-usual”.

Labour

There is a reason for Labour’s stunning election victory last year…

It would be fair to say that the Labour-led coalition govt was tested in more ways than most governments have been in the past. The  Whakaari/White Island eruption; the 15 March terrorist atrocity in Christchurch; and then covid19 hit the world.

For most people, the lockdown on 25 March was the only possible response. With no vaccine, the virus required a sledgehammer to fight it and – except for essential workers – we were told to stay home.

This blogger has documented his own personal experiences through the “Life in Lockdown” daily diary.

Not since the 1918 influenza epidemic has Aotearoa New Zealand been confronted with such an event. There was no Instruction Manual; we were learning as we went along.

Essential services stayed open; supermarkets (food); service stations (fuel); and chemists (medication). Some, like hardware stores operated a restricted service for tradespeople only, for emergencies (burst water pipes, electrical problems, etc).

Some were obviously taking the mick;

Weight-loss company Jenny Craig is defending its decision to continue operating during the lockdown, following public criticism from one of its own regional managers.

Several of the company’s employees have been touch with E Tu Union to express their frustration at the company for continuing to operate and claiming it is an essential service.

The company has since sent a statement to RNZ, saying it strongly believes it is an essential service.

Others were treating it casually, like an extended holiday. And for a tiny minority,  their sense of bloated entitlement seemed to outweigh the potentially lethal nature of the crisis;

Police have become involved in a stand-off between irate residents on Great Barrier Island / Aotea and boaties anchored up in their waters for the lockdown.

The chair of the Great Barrier / Aotea Local Board, Izzy Fordham, said an estimated 50 boats were anchored in one harbour alone.

She said they were a burden on limited resources and police were investigating.

“Us locals were all trying to do the right thing, stay home, live within our bubble because if we get to the stage where we have community transmission of this disease and this sickness, goodness knows what it will do to our island.”

Fordham said the boaties were being “totally irresponsible” because they could spread coronavirus.

Even a Minister of the Crown was caught out in a class act of entitlement and plain stupidity.

But for the most part, we did as the Prime Minister cajoled us: stay home (unless an essential worker or buying essential needs); exercise locally; stay in our own bubbles.

There were “hic-cups” of course. 

New Zealanders were astounded to learn that, for a long time, flight crews were exempted from quarantine after returning from international destinations

The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver. 

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule. 

Then we gobsmacked to learn that MIQ front-line workers were not being tested regularly (or at all!) for covid transmission from Returnees, despite being on the pandemic battlefield frontline, and despite assurances from Ministry officials that this was a priority;

So, did the Ministry of Health ever attempt to implement a plan to test all asymptomatic border-facing workers? That remains unclear – ministry officials on Thursday refused to answer Newsroom’s detailed questions on the subject.

And MIQ staff in critical – and dangerous positions – were left without the most basic of protective equipment for their wellbeing;

Nurses at managed isolation and quarantine facilities are threatening to stop work if the government does not ensure they have access to appropriate safety equipment.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial services manager Glenda Alexander said some but not all MIQ sites had a good supply and distribution of the high-quality N95 masks, and used the test fit process to ensure the masks were properly fitted.

“In other facilities they are still using the surgical masks and we are saying ‘no, that is not appropriate given the growing body of evidence that says that the virus can be transmitted through airborne contact’.”

But we muddled through. 

With an equal mix of dedication from heroic front-line workers; good science from epidemiologists and other scientists; a strong collective effort by most Kiwis to “do the right thing”; and a truckload of good luck, we dodged the viral bullet on numerous occassions.

Though, as Dr Siouxsie Wiles has pointed out recently, some of our behaviour could be more cautionary. Sadly, as is the New Zealand way of doing things, something has to go wrong before we will act to remedy a critical gap in our defences.

On the non-pandemic battlefront Labour has had its wins and losses.

  • Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

Touted as making the tax system fairer, the CGT proposal by the Tax Working Group (TWG) was dumped when coalition partner, NZ First, pulled the hand brake on the suggested reforms (see “NZ First” below), skidding 180 degrees to a full stop. As the TWG stated in it’s Final Report;

Group Chair Sir Michael Cullen says our system has many strengths but there is a clear weakness caused by our inconsistent treatment of capital gains.

“New Zealanders earning just salary and wages are taxed on their full income but we have several situations where you can earn income from gains on assets and not be taxed at all.

“All members of the Group agree that more income from capital gains should be taxed from the sale of residential rental properties. The majority of us on the Group, by a margin of 8-3, support going further and broadening that approach to include all land and buildings, business assets, intangible property and shares.

“We have judged that the increase in compliance and efficiency costs is worth it if we can reduce the biases towards certain types of investments and improve the fairness, integrity and fiscal sustainability of the tax system.”

A CGT would also have been one further “bullet in the arsenal” to contain skyrocketing housing prices.

But with NZ First actively opposing meaningful tax reforms, PM Ardern was forced to dump the proposal. 

Curiously, the Prime Minister not only rejected CGT during the term of the coalition government – but for the entire duration of her leadership;

“Under my leadership, we will no longer campaign for, or implement a capital gains tax – not because I don’t believe in it, but because I don’t believe New Zealand does.”

Not only has she locked her party, and any future Labour-led government while she is PM, but she has played well and truly into the hands of National and their property-owning base, as journalist Henry Cooke pointed out with grim, relentless logic;

Yet Ardern wanted the issue off the table for upcoming elections and staked her career on the promise – much like Key when he said he would resign before raising the super eligibility age.

But National are never going to stop attacking Labour on tax. Ruling out CGT just opens the door for National to ask Ardern to rule out every possible other tax in existence, and when the Prime Minister is smart enough not to handcuff herself forever, National will tell voters that the party is keen to fish into your pockets.

Labour’s second greatest achievement (after successfully leading us through the Covid Crisis) has been to out-do National as a sound steward of the economy. Three successive polls last year (here, here, and here) snatched the crown for economic management from National and placed it firmly on Labour.

However, in dumping the CGT, it has allowed itself to be out-manouvered by the Tories and their whining, asset-bloated, propertied-class backers. It has also shown that it is willing to allow unfairness in the tax system that, as the TWG estimated, could have raised roughly $8 billion over the first five years. 

A missed opportunity Labour will regret for a long time.

  • 2 Tier Welfare System

Part of Labour’s plan to assist the economy through all stages of the covid lock-down was to implement a special COVID-19 Income Relief Payment. As this blogger reported on  3 September last year (re-published here from a previous blogpost);

On the 26 of May, Welfare Minister Carmel Sepuloni introduced the Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill. As RNZ reported;

The government is introducing a new relief payment for those who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19, while they find new employment or retrain.

The payment would be available for 12 weeks from 8 June for New Zealand citizens or residents who had lost their job as a impact of the virus since 1 March.

Those who apply would be required to actively seek suitable work, and take steps towards employment, including making use of redeployment or training.

It will pay $490 a week for those who lost full-time work and $250 for part time workers – including students.

The payments will be untaxed.

People with working partners may also be eligible, as long as their partner is earning under $2000 per week.

The new “income relief payment” was essentially a beefed-up unemployed benefit for workers losing their jobs due to the covid19 epidemic. It would be administered by the Ministry for Social Development.

It was passed in the House, through all three readings, in one day.  Six days later, it was given Royal Assent.

The “income relief payment” differs from the usual unemployment benefit in two major areas:

  1. The amount of the “income relief payment” is $490 per week (tax free) – almost twice that of the regular, maximum  unemployment benefit of $250.74
  2. Partners of post-covid unemployed receiving the “income relief payment” can still be in paid work (up to $2,000 per week!) and this does not affect the IRP. Partners of pre-covid beneficiaries earning the original, lesser unemployment benefit (net, $250.74 p/w) cannot be in paid work, or else it will affect their payments. It also attracts unwanted attention from MSD/WINZ who constantly pry into beneficiaries private lives.

The Covid Unemployed are apparently an elite, special group of beneficiaries for whom the regular payment of $250.74 – without the hassle of employed partners – was beneath their dignity.

This blatant discrimination did not go un-noticed by beneficiaries support groups and other former Green Party MPs.

[…]

As an RNZ story reported, pointing out the blinding obvious;

[University of Auckland sociologist Louise] Humpage said the early findings suggested that benefit levels need to rise.

“I think there is general consensus that benefits are too low at present and I think this Covid-19 payment is a reflection that it’s actually too low for most people.”

What an eye-rolling, unsurprising conclusion.

The two-tier benefit system – primarily benefitting middle-New Zealand – was something we might have expected from the previous National-led government. It would have been a “cunning plan” that former Social Welfare minister, Paula Bennett, might have concocted to protect  middle class workers who lost their jobs and who had little inkling what surviving on welfare was really like.

The last thing National would have wanted is the middle class developing an empathetic understanding of the misery of surviving on unemployment welfare,

For Labour to promote such a scheme can only be described – at best – as misguided. At worst, it was a betrayal.

  • State Houses

According to Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing NZ) 2016/17 Annual Report, the organisation owned (or “managed”) approximately 63,000 properties.

By 2020, that number had increased to 66,253, according to Kāinga Ora’s 2019/20 Annual Report

The number is still far short of the  69,173 properties owned or managed by that organisation, according to their 2008/09 Annual Report.

But it is moving in the right direction, albeit at a unacceptably slow pace. The new build of state houses is certainly not keeping pace with the high numbers on the waiting list, as many families are forced out of the housing market with astronomical house prices leading to equally astronomical rents.

Labour is gradually undoing the mass sell-off of state houses wrought by the previous National government. (National, meanwhile, admitted it was wrong to sell off state housing, has promised no further sale of properties should it regain power – “except to state house tenants“.)

In this area, Labour can and must do better. State housing is their “bread and butter” for existence, as National’s is to support their mates in the business community.

If Labour cannot build the state houses we need, the inevitable question then arises: what good are they?

  • Unemployment & the wages subsidy

Alongside closing our borders and the lockdowns, the other weapon in our arsenal to fight the pandemic was the Covid-19 Wage Subsidy. Basically it paid up to 80% of employee’s wages during the lockdowns (the subsidy is no longer being offered).

It meant that while most of the economy was frozen, businesses could still pay their staff. It relied heavily on borrowed money by the government, but one way or another, there would be a cost as the pandemic impacted on our country.

It seemed to have worked.

Prior to covid19, our unemployment stood at 4.2%. for the March 2020 Quarter.

By the September Quarter, that figure had reached 5.3%.

(Note: the June 2020 Quarter reported a fall in unemployment to 4.0%. These results are misleading, caused by the way Statistics NZ calculates unemployment. During lockdown, the data was badly skewed.)

Many businesses have since re-paid the subsidy as their accounts are better than expected following the lockdowns. One, in particular, The Warehouse, suffered bad publicity when it took the wage subsidy and then made hundreds of staff redundant whilst posting a $44.5 million profit. After considerable public and political pressure, The Warehouse announced it would repay the subsidy.

The most high-profile recipient of the wage subsidy was the so-called “Taxpayers Union“. Ostensibly a group opposed to government subsidies and “profligacy”, the TU applied for, and recieved, $60,000 in taxpayer-funded subsidy;

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Source acknowledgement: The Paepae.

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Predictably, the “Union” became the subject of considerable on-line derision and merciless mocking on various social media platforms. It was one of the few funny moments in the tragedy that is covid19.

Aside from saving jobs and businesses, the Wages Subsidy reminded us that far from keeping the State “out of our lives” as neo-liberals have been calling for since the 1980s – the State was our united defence against the forces of nature – in this case a deadly viral pandemic. Only the State could marshal the expertise; the financial resources; the human power; and co-ordination necessary to save lives. Only the State, through our elected representatives, could motivate and encourage people to act together and do the right thing for the greater good.

Collectivism suddenly became desirable; the neo-liberal vision of small government, not so much.

Contrast our success with that of the United States which has glorified small government and the cult of the individual. Or Sweden, which adopted a hands-off approach. Their death rates are currently 496,033 and 12,428 respectively.

New Zealands death rate still stands at 25.

Now we begin to understand the deep, under-lying reason for Labour’s stunning election results last year. For all our criticisms (of which there are plenty and well-justified), they damn well earned it.

  • What comes next?

As Senior Researcher in Politics at Auckland University of Technology, David Hall, wrote for “The Conversationin October last year;

“In times of upset, people yearn for normality — and Ardern’s Labour Party was awarded a landslide for achieving something close to this.

[…]

This leaves us with the longstanding conundrum of what the Labour Party is and what it really stands for these days. Ardern and her colleagues are not ideologues, but no politics is without ideology — a system of ideas, values and beliefs that orients its efforts.”

If the primary priority of the current Labour-only government is to be “responsible managers” of the economy then they will be jostling for that position with their Tory counterparts. It will be a precarious position to occupy, as National’s fall-from-grace after Steven Joyce’s and Paul Goldsmith’s stuff-ups during the 2017 and 2020 election campaigns proved with dramatic effect.

Whilst being “responsible managers” is a good reputation to hold, in itself that is not Labour’s raison d’etre. Their existence, like the Green Party and ACT, is to effect change.

Labour is the party that initiated State housing; implemented unemployment and domestic purposes benefits; removed homosexuality and sex work from the Crimes Act; cut diplomatic ties with apartheid South Africa; moved Aotearoa New Zealand to be nuclear free; brought in equal pay for women legislation; and many other progressive social and economic reforms.

For the current Labour government to squander their majority in Parliament is to turn their backs on their 105 years of proud history and waste the mandate they have been given.

If Labour is too timid to act on climate change; unaffordable housing and homelessness; rampant inequality and discrimination against minorities; child poverty and low income for welfare beneficiaries; as well as guard the country against covid and act as sound stewards of the economy, then the legitimate question must arise in voter’s mind; why vote for them?

Re-election for the sole purpose of re-election is not reason enough.

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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

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2020 General Election – Official Results

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2017 General Election – Official Results

Wikipedia: 2014 New Zealand General Election

The Spinoff: Future Act MP held ‘climate hysteria skeptics’ meetings at high school

Victoria University: The Home Front Volume  II Chapter 17 — More Shortages

RNZ: New Zealand’s most fertile land dug up for housing

Stuff media: $5.50 lettuces if fertile Pukekohe land turned into houses

Canstar: NZ property trends emerging in 2017

Scoop media: Auckland Median House Price Hits $1m Mark In October; 9 Other Regions & 28 Districts Hit Record Median Prices

Business Insider: How A US Housing Boom Became A Global Financial Crisis

The Conversation: With a mandate to govern New Zealand alone, Labour must now decide what it really stands for

Electoral Commission: New Zealand 2017 General Election – Official Results

The Guardian: Climate crisis – 2020 was joint hottest year ever recorded

Stanford News: Stanford researcher reveals influence of global warming on extreme weather events has been frequently underestimated

NIWA: Ocean acidification—what is it?

Carbon Brief: New climate models suggest faster melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Geonet: Whakaari/White Island

Wikipedia: Christchurch mosque shootings

RNZ: Jenny Craig defends stance as essential service

RNZ: What it means to break Covid-19 lockdown rules

RNZ: New Zealand lockdown – Great Barrier-Aotea residents irritated by boaties on shores

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown – Health Minister David Clark demoted after driving 20km to beach, breaking lockdown rules

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

Stuff media: Coronavirus – How the Government botched border testing for Covid-19

RNZ: Covid-19 – MIQ nurses threaten to stop work if N95 masks not supplied

RNZ: ‘Dumb good luck’ no outbreak after Covid-19 community case – health expert

Newshub: Siouxsie Wiles slams Air NZ for still serving food

Tax Working Group: Tax Working Group delivers Final Report

NZ Herald: PM Jacinda Ardern has ruled out implementing a Capital Gains Tax while she is at the helm of Labour

Stuff media: Capital gains tax – Jacinda Ardern took a lifeboat off a ship she could have saved

Newshub: Newshub-Reid Research poll shows Kiwis trust Labour over National to run economy as Paul Goldsmith dodges blame over fiscal hole

Newshub: Newshub-Reid Research Poll: Kiwis trust Labour more than National to run the economy

TVNZ: Kiwis now trust Labour more than National to repair the economy, poll suggests

Parliament:  Social Security (COVID-19 Income Relief Payment to be Income) Amendment Bill

RNZ: Relief payments for people who lost jobs due to Covid-19 announced

MSD: Jobseeker Support cut-out points (current)

RNZ: Covid income relief payment recipients fare better than those on the dole, survey finds

Kāinga Ora: 2016/17 Annual Report

Kāinga Ora: 2019/20 Annual Report

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Stuff media: Public housing waitlist cracks 20,000 with over 2000 new households in a single month

Stuff media: National Party admits it sold too many state houses

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National promises to sell state houses, but this time only to tenants

Work and Income: Covid-19 Wage Subsidy

Statistics NZ: Unemployment rate at 4.2 percent in March quarter

Stuff media: Record jump in jobless rate to 5.3%, but NZ set to avoid unemployment disaster

The Spin-off: Why the hell has New Zealand’s unemployment rate just gone down?

RNZ: Ryman to repay $14.2m for wage subsidy

RNZ: The Warehouse Group wage subsidy repayment – Taxpayers pleased

Newshub: Coronavirus – Taxpayers’ Union gives up ‘ideological purity’, accepts $60,000 in taxpayer wage subsidies

Worldometer: Covid 19 – USA

Worldometer: Covid 19 – Sweden

National party: Restoring New Zealand’s Prosperity – Responsible Economic Management

ODT: Opinion – Joyce’s ‘fake news’ fiscal hole backfires

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National’s fiscal hole appears to double to $8 billion as Paul Goldsmith denies double count mistake

NZ History: State housing – The first state house

Te Ara: Family welfare

Stuff media: Homosexual Law Reform 30 years on – what was life like for the gay community pre-1986?

Parliament: Prostitution law reform in New Zealand

Te Ara: Political leaders – David Lange’s tour of Africa

MFAT: Taking a nuclear-free policy to the world

MSD: New Zealand Conference on Pay and Employment Equity for Women

Additional

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

Other blogspots

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

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sharon murdoch

Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 15 February 2021.
 

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= fs =

State Media Bans Dissident!

10 October 2011 13 comments


Left-wing critic; blogger; and media commentator, Martyn “Bomber” Bradbury, 36,  is a semi-regular guest on Radio New Zealand’s “Afternoons with Jim Mora”  Panel – a segment hosted between 4pm to 5pm, each weekday. “Bomber” Bradbury  is invited to participate once a month or thereabouts.

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During the course of this hour, the host – Jim Mora – features topics of interest and often contains a degree of controversy.  Panellists range in political belief from the right wing such as Mathew Hooton and David Farrar, to the left, such as Martyn Bradbury and Dr Brian Edwards.

During this hour, Jim Mora always asks panellists, “What’s been on your mind?”. His guests are invited to share any pressing particular issue that they might feel merits consideration. It can literally be on any issue dear to each Guest.

On 5 October, a 54 year old man sitting in the public gallery at Parliament attempted to jump over the Public Gallery balustrade and into the debating chamber. He was restrained by members of the public and security guards, before the man could complete his jump, thereby averting serious injury to himself and to anyone below him. More here.

During this incident, the Prime Minister was heard making several comments directed at the Labour Party MPs seated across the Debating Chamber from him.

He was also seen to make a peculiar motion across his throat, which has been described by many as a “throat slitting gesture”,

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[Click image for video]

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By coincidence, “Bomber” Bradbury was scheduled to be a guest panellist on Jim Mora’s show the following day. When asked “What’s been on your mind?” by Jim Mora, “Bomber” gave his critical opinion of John Key’s (alleged) “throat slitting gesture”.

The 4pm-5pm Panellist comments are normally presented on RNZ’s websites in two parts, split in two to account for the 4.30pm News Update.

As an example, note the  “Audio from Wednesday 5 October 2011”. Click here for webpage.

However, the “Audio from Thursday 6 October 2011” contains only Part 1. Part 2 has been removed. Click here for webpage.

However, “Bombers” comments were discussed on Mediawatch for 9 October. (Relevant commentary begins at 26.05)

Bradbury’s comments are highly critical of the Prime Minister’s actions on the day of the “Balcony Jumper”, and describes Key in unflattering terms.

So because Bradbury has criticised John Key’s actions,  CEO Peter Cavanaugh has banned him from participating in Radio NZ again, and has removed Part Two of the Panellists Hour.

Martyn Bradbury explains the situation here.

If this doesn’t smack of Big Brother, then what does? In effect, Cavanaugh accepts right wing critical comments – often directed at the Greens or the Labour Party – but balks at criticism of the Prime Minister?!

Since when has it been a bannable offense to criticise the Prime Minister?

If you find Peter Cavanaugh’s actions reprehensible, then here are the appropriate email addresses to write to:

Peter Cavanagh <rnz@radionz.co.nz>

feedback@radionz.co.nz

RNZ’s Facebook page:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/RadioNewZealand

Other email addresses that might be useful:

Jim Mora <afternoons@radionz.co.nz>

The Press <letters@press.co.nz>

Dominion Post <letters@dompost.co.nz>

Sunday Star Times <letters@star-times.co.nz>

The Listener <letters@listener.co.nz>

NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>

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Boycott!

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Email!

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Make Noise!

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An attack on one is an attack on all.

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Email correspondence on this issue

On Monday, soon after learning of Radio NZ’s bizarre decision to “Ban the ‘Bomber’ B”, I fired of three emails to various email addresses for the SOE. This is the one email I recieved a response to,

from:    [email]
to:    feedback@radionz.co.nz
date:    Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 2:35 PM
subject:    Recent Events…

Sir/Madam,

Your recent banning of Martyn Bradbury reeks of  muzzling freedom of expression.  Will you also be banning right wing commentators David Farrar and Mathew Hooten? I heard Bradbury’s so-called “offending comments”  and found nothing offensive or defamatory amongst them.

I sincerely hope that saner heads prevail at RNZ and this crazy decision is rescinded. Or have we reached a stage here in NZ that criticising the Dear Leader (formerly known as the Prime Minister) is no longer permitted?

Shame on you, RNZ – you are capable of much more than this kind of pettiness.

-Frank Macskasy

Today (Tuesday, 11 October), I received this response, from their Communications Manager, John Barr,

from:    Feedback feedback@radionz.co.nz
to:    [email]
date:    Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 1:40 PM
subject:    RE: Recent Events…

Hi Frank,

Thanks for taking the time to contact Radio New Zealand. We appreciate feedback from our regular listeners and I can assure you that your comments about Martyn Bradbury have been noted and passed on to the relevant people at Radio New Zealand National.

Radio New Zealand has monitored and noted the on-line, email, and blog discussions over recent days relating to The Panel and Martyn Bradbury’s performance last week. There are several points that need to be made.  

Mr Bradbury has not been banned from Radio New Zealand. He was told that his invitation to appear as a future panellist on Afternoons had been withdrawn but there was no suggestion that it applied to other programmes.  

Radio New Zealand received many complaints from listeners regarding Mr. Bradbury’s comments on The Panel during Afternoons with Jim Mora last Thursday.

The decision to withdraw Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to take part in future editions of The Panel was made by the programme’s Executive Producer immediately after the programme.  That decision was supported by the senior manager responsible for the programme and subsequently by the Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief.   

Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to participate on The Panel was withdrawn because his personal comments about the Prime Minister were deemed to be in breach of Radio New Zealand’s editorial requirements for fairness and balance.  One of his comments was regarded as being potentially defamatory. The segment in question was removed from the Radio New Zealand website because it was considered to be potentially defamatory and Radio New Zealand has a duty to protect the organization against defamation proceedings.

Participants on The Panel on Afternoons with Jim Mora are given plenty of latitude to express personal opinions but it is expected that these will be presented for engagement and discussion and that panellists will conform to Radio New Zealand’s editorial policies and broadcast standards.   A relationship of trust and confidence between the programme presenter, producers, and panellists is essential for the programme to be effective.

Mr Bradbury’s comments on The Panel on Afternoons last Thursday were inconsistent with information he had provided to programme producers before going on air and Mr Bradbury later apologised to the programme’s Executive Producer.

It was made clear to him that while his invitation to appear as an occasional guest on The Panel was being withdrawn, it was not a ‘lifelong ban’.

I hope this information clarifies some of the issues that have been raised over the last few days.

Thanks again for your email.

John Barr
Communications Manager

This is a Standard Response, sent to several people who have also taken time to voice their concerns to Radio NZ. It is also – according to ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, more or less  utter BS. (Read ‘Bomber’s’ response here.)

It astounds me that someone of Mr Barr’s education (I assume) could think to send out such comments and not realise that with the internet, his claims could be dissected and countered as rapidly as it takes to write a response and post it on-line. It makes Radio NZ appear to be panicking and desperate as they try to cover their arses.

Obviously government funding cut-backs have impacted severely on the quality of Radio NZ’s  PR department.

Perhaps the strangest of Mr Barr’s comments was this,

“Mr. Bradbury’s invitation to participate on The Panel was withdrawn because his personal comments about the Prime Minister were deemed to be in breach of Radio New Zealand’s editorial requirements for fairness and balance.”

That is absurd rubbish. There is no such requirement for Guest political commentators to be “fair and balanced” – just as there is no requirement for politicians guesting on Radio NZ to be “fair and balanced”. Can you imagine this scene taking place in Radio NZ’s studio,

Host: “Welcome, Mr Prime Minister.”

John Key: “You’re welcome, it’s good to be here.” [smiles on-microphone]

Host: “Now before we begin, Mr Prime Minister, I just have to remind you that you have to be fair and balanced in what you say today. That means explaining Labour’s taxation and welfare policies, in an unbiased, non-partisan way.

John Key: “Sure. No problem” [waves to studio technicians]

Host: “So can you tell the listeners, Mr Prime Minister, which taxation policy is the fairest for all New Zealanders, and not just the top ten percent?”

John Key: “No problem. Obviously Labour’s taxation policies are vastly fairer in that their system is progressive, and their Capital Gain Tax captures those who up till now have escaped paying their fair share. By contrast, my government’s policies have impacted unfairly on the poorest in our society, and our opposition to  a Capital Gains Tax simply perpetuates inequities.” [smiles and waves at people outside studio, looking in]

Ridiculous, eh?

It is not up to invited guests to be “fair and balanced”. Guests present their own individual, particular, viewpoints.

Instead, it is Radio NZ’s responsibility to invite guests from various, differing, viewpoints.  This, then presents a “fair and balanced” debate.

No doubt Mr Barr and Radio NZ’s hierarchy is well aware of this salient point.  I am guessing that Radio NZ’s management have simply hoped that the public are thick enough to swallow their line that  “guests have to be fair and balanced”.

Do they really think so poorly of their listening audience?

It’s definitely “Amateur Hour” at Radio NZ at the moment.

Postscript: Tuesday

Right-wing blogger and National Party activist, David Farrar, was today one of the two guests on Jim Mora’s  Panel today (11 October).

Was Farrar instructed that he was “required to be  fair and balanced” in his comments?

I truly suspect he was not.

Postscript: Wednesday

Received today, a second response from Radio NZ. This time from the Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief, Peter Cavanagh,

from:    Peter Cavanagh Peter.Cavanagh@radionz.co.nz
to:         [email]
date:    Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 11:08 AM
subject:    RE: Recent events

Dear Mr. Macskasy,

Thank you for your recent email.

I understand that you also contacted other staff at Radio New Zealand and have subsequently received a detailed response from our Communications Manager, John Barr.

I hope this information has clarified the issues raised.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Cavanagh
Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief

Has  John Barr’s “detailed response” to me “clarified the issues”?

No, Mr Cavanagh, it has not.

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***

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Related Blog Stories

Defusing The Bomber
– Chris Trotter, Bowalley Road.blogspot.com

Banned from Radio NZ for criticizing the Government
– Martyn ‘Bomber’ Bradbury, Tumeke

Radio New Zealand needs to clarify position on Bomber ban
– Phoebe Fletcher, Tumeke

Dropping the Bomber
– Russell Brown, Publicaddress.net

On RNZ’s banning of Bomber Bradbury
– Gordonb Campbell, gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz

Censoring criticism of Key
– Anthony R0bins, The Standard

Let the courts decide
– the sprout, The Standard

Bomber Bradbury – a gutless reaction by Radio New Zealand that smacks of political hypersensitivity.
– brianedwardsmedia.co.nz

You have the right to free speech as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it
– Andrew Geddis, Pundit

And from the “Champions of Free Speech” *cough*

Radio NZ and Bradbury
– David Farrar, Kiwiblog

On The Bradbury Ban
– imperatorfish.com

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TVNZ7, Radio New Zealand, and distracting trinkets.

A neo-liberal is one who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. In this case, this National government are slowly strangling good, quality broadcasters like RNZ and TVNZ7 – whilst  feeding us a daily diet of brain-cell deadening, pseudo-news on TV1 and TV3 and apalling programming that consists mostly of American sitcoms, cooking programmes, and bleak crime shows.

If only New Zealanders were as passionate about the lack of governmental support for quality broadcasting as we were about stranded penguins; “Wellywood” signs; and books by Ian Wishart.

Oh, but that would mean thinking about complex issues, wouldn’t it? Jerking the knee with superficial,  emotion-tugging,  issues is much easier:  no effort required.

The state-owned broadcaster registered itself as the Radio New Zealand Charitable Trust with the Charities Commission last month.

Some of its charitable purposes, which were listed on the commission’s website, included education, research, fundraising and providing grants to a number of individuals and groups.

A spokesperson for Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said the broadcaster still received $34 million a year but couldn’t say how long it had been receiving that amount.

A financial review of Radio NZ for the 2009/10 financial year showed it had a net deficit of $498,000 after tax, compared to a surplus of $13,000 the year before.

The review said RNZ had been too cash-strapped to participate in the 2010 New Zealand Radio Awards or put in a bid for the Rugby World Cup 2011 coverage.

Kedgley said she first thought the charity registration was a joke.

“I am appalled to discover that it is serious proposition and that the Board of Radio New Zealand has been forced by the Government’s funding freeze on Radio New Zealand to set up a trust so that it can go out with a begging bowl to the public,” she said.

“The move suggests there is quiet desperation at Radio New Zealand. The broadcaster simply cannot make ends meet under the Government’s funding freeze.”

Curran said the move raised some “serious questions”.

“Not the least of which is why the whole of RNZ has been registered as a charity, and what the long-term intention is,” she said.

“Radio NZ’s survival should not be dependent on it having to solicit donations. It is our state radio broadcaster and holds a special place in New Zealand.”

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman couldn’t be reached for comment and neither could RNZ chairman Richard Griffin.

Griffin told Fairfax earlier this year that RNZ could only survive a funding freeze for another two years.

He said the current freeze put the public broadcaster in a “more than difficult” financial position.

“If we’re left in a position where every year costs increase and funding remains static, we’re going to wither.”

It was believed that the charity was mainly to fund its concert station.

It is an unbelievable, bizarre state-of -affairs when a public service such as Radio New Zealand , has to register itself as a charity. If this doesn’t ring alarm bells with us, then we are truly asleep.

It should also give us cause for concern that National  will be closing down TVNZ7. This free-to-air; advertising free; public network is a wealth of news, documentaries, and offers an un-commercialised look at ourselves and the world around us.

TVNZ7  treats the viewer with intelligence and respect.  It is television as it should be – and not the mindless rubbish that we are now served up every day on other channels. (Parliament TV excepted – that contains very mature, erudite debate from our Honourable Members of Parliament.)

It is a great shame that two quality public services – TVNZ7 and Radio New Zealand – can be put in jeopardy through the lack of political support from the government-of-the-day, and because of public apathy.  If New Zealanders were as passionate about their own  public broadcasting system, as they were about wayward penguins, oh what a much more mature society we would be.

But we are like children, it seems, and easily enthralled by the latest distracting trinket.

New Zealand has often been described as a “young country”.

That is truer than we realised.