Ardern sounding defensive and looking rattled over Level 1 pressure

Jacinda Ardern has generally handled the Covid-19 crisis with aplomb, aided by a largely sympathetic media. But yesterday she looked rattled and sounded defensive after pressure increased over staying at Alert Level 2 for at least another week, despite protests in the weekend largely ignoring the Level 2 social distancing rules.

There have been no new Covid cases in New Zealand for over a week and there is just one remaining active case.

Stuff: Prime Minister says Cabinet will decide on Covid-19 Alert Level 1on Monday, June 8

Ardern, concerned about the long “tail” of the virus’ spread, has previously said June 22 was the latest a decision to lessen remaining social distancing restrictions would come, and on June 8 the Government would reconsider the “settings” of alert level 2.

But after speaking with director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield over the week, Ardern said the country was “exceeding” expectations and could be in level 1 as early as June 10, “as long as we keep seeing the results we’re seeing now”.

There has been mounting pressure for New Zealand, which has counted 10 days without a new case of Covid-19, to lessen restrictions and move to alert level 1. Imagery of protests held in Auckland and Wellington on Monday has frustrated critics of the remaining restrictions.

Businesses in particular are limited in how they can operate under level 2.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who last week broke Cabinet conventions by calling for Covid-19 Alert Level 1, on Tuesday morning took to Newstalk ZB to question why the protesters hadn’t been prosecuted.

“If you’re going to have a protest like we saw both in Auckland and Wellington, where they don’t observe the distancing rules, then the question’s going to be asked, and it’ll be asked rapidly why aren’t we in level 1, or why aren’t we prosecuting these people who organised those protests?”

Asked whether he wanted the protest organisers prosecuted, or the rules to be loosened, Peters said he wanted “both, frankly”.

“We can’t have one law for one group of people and a different law for everybody else.”

He said Cabinet would not be discussing a move to level 1 at Tuesday’s meeting.

That seems to be because last week Ardern said Cabinet would not review Level 2 until next week.

RNZ: NZ Black Lives Matter march distancing breaches ‘irresponsible’ – Police Minister

Minister of Police Stuart Nash is describing the weekend’s Black Lives Matter protests as “irresponsible”, but any prosecutions appear unlikely.

Nash said while he sympathised with the cause and the right to protest, these gatherings were “disappointing” considering the pain other New Zealanders had gone through under Covid-19 restrictions.

“I think they were probably irresponsible in what they did … we are where we are because people have been very, very good about obeying the rules, for some at great cost to themselves, so this was disappointing,” he said.

However, Nash said that was an independent operational matter for police.

“I don’t have a personal opinion when it comes to this. It is the police’s [decision], they will determine whether anyone is prosecuted or not, I understand they’re not going to. They have taken a graduated response to anyone in any situation throughout alert level 4, 3, 2,” he said.

National Party police spokesperson Brett Hudson said to see thousands breaching level 2 rules in this way was “regrettable to say the least”.

National leader Todd Muller pushed her on this in Question Time yesterday and I think Ardern looked unusually tetchy.

NZ:  PM Jacinda Ardern rejects Todd Muller claim government ‘fractured’ over level 1

National leader Todd Muller said today that it was “completely unacceptable” that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters were not publicly on the same page.

“What’s happening right now is a shambles. For the Prime Minister to be standing and communicating to New Zealand the importance of level 2, the importance of social distancing and the importance of following the rules, but her own deputy is taking a completely counter view – not only subtly, but very overtly – holding the view that actually we should already be back to where we were,” he said.

Ardern told reporters following today’s Cabinet meeting she did not think Peters’ comments were causing confusion.

“He does have a different view, and he has been open about that view, he is however not advocating that anyone break the rules that are currently in place,” she said.

Ardern downplayed any tensions between the coalition partners, saying she was aware and not concerned about Peters’ decision to speak out against the government’s decision.

Another sign of a more critical media: Our compassionate PM’s mean policies

Our Prime Minister is lauded overseas for her compassion, but her Cabinet is refusing to properly support tens of thousands of jobless migrants and beneficiaries struggling through the Covid-19 crisis, Bernard Hickey argues.

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37 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  3rd June 2020

    Asked whether he wanted the protest organisers prosecuted, or the rules to be loosened, Peters said he wanted “both, frankly”.

    Typical Peters bs. He knows perfectly well no court would ever convict a “protest organiser” for the behaviour of thousands of individuals who know the rules & individually all chose to ignore them.

    The Crown Prosecution Service would refuse to take the cases to Court & waste its time.

    Reply
  2. Corky

     /  3rd June 2020

    Good stuff by Muller. But it’s like watching a Fox Terrier nip at the heels of someone. What was needed was a growling Pitbull ripping flesh to the bone. Something that won’t be forgotten. Dare I say it…Simon would have done a better job..even if it was just question time.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd June 2020

      Hmm. Yes. Bridges could occasionally have Ardern floundering & in need of urgent rescue & protection by the Speaker.

      Muller she is running rings around. He’s definitely not the sharpest knife in the block.

      Reply
      • I think he did well; she was obviously fluffing and waffling and not answering the questions which he wisely put reasonably and not aggressively. He kept his cool, she was losing hers.

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  3rd June 2020

          She has no defence. She would fluff if a monkey asked the same questions. How Muller asked the questions was the important point. Jacinda slipped by Muller. What happens when they hit the election trail and Muller has to apply the hurt?

          Reply
  3. NOEL

     /  3rd June 2020

    We put on flights for stranded Kiwis overseas.
    Why have those immigrants not been repatriated?

    Reply
  4. Patricia

     /  3rd June 2020

    “We can’t have one law for one group of people and a different law for everybody else.” Unless it’s the Prime Minister or the Director of Health.
    https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12336504

    Reply
    • NOEL

       /  3rd June 2020

      Paywalled Patricia

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd June 2020

      Paywalled. But the photo & the intro say it all.


      Photographs have emerged of the Prime Minister and director general of health posed for pictures close to wellwishers, prompting accusations of hypocrisy from a National Party MP warned by police for doing the same.

      Credibility of both goes to zero. Wonder why Stuff hasn’t picked up on it?

      Reply
      • lurcher1948

         /  3rd June 2020

        Gezza,just like to point out NO ONE wants a selfie with Muller or any other rightwinger, most people have standards and positivity,not the negativity coming from the right…On Magic radio with Peter Williams the poor righties wail call after call(that horrible Cindy), BUT its only old sounding white males….not one female rang in in 3 hours…50% of all voters are females who dislike old rightwing males abusing another female….just saying

        Reply
        • If women want equality, Lurch, they must be equal in bad things as well as good.

          Doesn’t it worry you that Dear Leader is telling us all to keep our distance, no hugs or even handshakes, keep 2m from strangers (in case they are the 1 person who has covid) and so on and so on, but she does the opposite herself ? Is she above the law?

          She even made it illegal to visit old people who live alone and for fathers to be with their wives when they had or lost babies.

          Reply
      • NOEL

         /  3rd June 2020

        “..prompting accusations of hypocrisy from a National Party MP warned by police for doing the same.”
        Who was the MP?…oh yeah behind paywall.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  3rd June 2020

          Matt King.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  3rd June 2020

            Mark Mitchell mentioned it when he & Stuart Nash had their regular joint interview slot on Hosking’s breakfast radio show this morning.

            Reply
  5. Patricia

     /  3rd June 2020

    Behind the paywall is a collage showing five separate incidents of the PM breaching social distancing rules during the weekend. Apparently people wanted ‘handshakes and hugs’. Makes ya sick.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  3rd June 2020

      Phil Twyford will have to give her a stern talking to.

      Reply
    • oldlaker

       /  3rd June 2020

      Ardern’s excuse was that she has so many requests for handshakes and hugs! I guess Jesus had the same problem with the hem of his garment… so many hands reaching out….

      Reply
      • Pink David

         /  3rd June 2020

        Her People demand it of her!

        Reply
        • And the election is in September !!!

          It’s odd that she feels obliged to do this because so many ask it of her but didn’t feel obliged to let a mother see her dying son or a father be with his wife when she lost their baby or people see their dying parents…..

          Reply
    • Pass the bucket, Patricia.

      Reply
    • oldlaker

       /  3rd June 2020

      I noticed the Hickey article… I think the media gloves may be coming off. About time!

      Reply
    • Pink David

       /  3rd June 2020

      Arden’s legacy will be the greatest increase in child poverty in NZ history.

      Reply
  6. lurcher1948

     /  3rd June 2020

    Reply
  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  3rd June 2020

    Bizarre. Writer fired for threatening to defend his property against looters. PC posturing at its finest:
    https://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/300026446/tv-writer-for-law–order-spinoff-fired-for-threatening-posts-over-social-unrest-in-us

    Reply
  8. Gezza

     /  3rd June 2020

    Muller did better today, I thought.

    Question No. 2—Prime Minister

    2. TODD MULLER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Why isn’t New Zealand already in alert level 1?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): While ongoing zero-case days have given us confidence to move forward consideration of a move to alert level 1 to 8 June, earlier than that would not have given sufficient confidence that transmission was not occurring that has not yet been detected. The incubation period of the virus is up to 14 days; it’s only been 13 days since bars reopened and five days since gathering sizes were lifted to 100. We also have to bear in mind that it is worse for our economy if we move backwards and forwards between alert levels rather than making the right decision the first time. It is also important to note that we began our staggered approach to alert level 2 less than three weeks ago, and New Zealand already has some of the most liberal restrictions in the world because of the effectiveness of our strategy to date. We need to ensure that as a team of 5 million we do not lose the gains we’ve made to date and go backwards.

    Todd Muller: Why is she so reticent to move to alert level 1, when Dr Ashley Bloomfield has said there is—and I quote—”no evidence of community transmission in New Zealand”?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m acting on the advice of director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield. He is the one giving us the guidance to remain where we are. He has expressed comfort with us making that consideration on 8 June, but that is not an accurate reflection of his views.

    Todd Muller: Is it correct that—and I quote—”from a public health perspective alert level 1 means there has been a period of more than 28 days with no new cases of COVID-19 caused by community transmission and there is an extremely low public health risk from the virus”, as is says in the paper I have here in her name titled COVID-19 Alert Level 1 Controls, which I understand was discussed at Cabinet yesterday?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows that we have made fully and widely available the settings of alert level 1, 2, 3, and 4, and in the criteria for decision making it does say, “trends in the transmission of the virus, with the threshold varying by alert level, including the director-general’s confidence in the data.” So, yes, we’ve included a period where we haven’t had cases—keeping in mind we’re only up to 12 days presently—but also the number of days where we haven’t had a case from community transmission, which was roughly about a month ago now. But that is not the only criteria. The director-general has to be confident in the data. We know there is asymptomatic transmission. We know there is a long tail. I would rather move once, do it right, and not continue to risk our economy.

    Todd Muller: When was New Zealand’s last case of community transmission?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I just said, it was at the beginning of May. However, that was not the last case that we had, which was, from memory, 12 days ago. I have to say I am alarmed at the suggestion from the member that, even with some of the loosest restrictions in the world, the member would still be willing to act against the advice of the Director-General of Health, open up before he has advised that we do so, and put at risk the huge effort and sacrifice of New Zealanders. I would rather do it once and do it right.

    Todd Muller: Why did you say that it was—

    SPEAKER: Order! Order! “She”, thank you.

    Todd Muller: To the Prime Minister: how can you match that answer with the fact that on 20 May you said—and I quote—”the last case of community transmission where the source was unknown was early April.”? That means we’ve had now three full cycles of transmission with no community transmission cases in New Zealand—60 days since—

    SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order!

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We had a case that was linked to overseas travel but the overseas travel was outside the period of infection. So the view was that it could either have been community transmission or overseas travel. Again, the member forgets that that is but one of many criteria that we take into consideration, and we must listen to the advice not only of the scientists and epidemiologists but also the Director-General of Health. If the member thinks he knows more than all of them combined, I congratulate him, but I would rather listen to the advice, get it right, and not risk our economy.

    Hon Chris Hipkins: Has the Prime Minister been advised that as recently as yesterday Australian states were reporting new cases of community transmission, and will the Government take that into consideration when considering the Opposition’s urging to reopen the border with Australia with urgency?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. We of course are mindful of the impacts of every restriction on our economy, on our businesses, but I equally will not jeopardise the gains and sacrifices made by those businesses by either opening us before we’re ready or moving alert levels before we’re ready. I reflect on the comments made by a small-business owner that they would rather live with the restrictions now than risk going back later on.

    Todd Muller: Prime Minister, isn’t it time for a captain’s call on level 1 so that a team of 5 million New Zealanders can get back to rebuilding this country and recovering their jobs?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have proudly made captain’s calls all the way through and it is one of the reasons that, alongside our team of 5 million, we are the envy of the world in terms of our position right now. I stand by every call I’ve made and that’s why we are waiting until 8 June.

    Hon Chris Hipkins: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.

    SPEAKER: I can’t tell if it’s a point of order or a question, because of the yelling that is going on. I can’t quite work out the reason for it today, but there seems to have been something in the water at lunchtime on my left, and I would like the volume to be turned down, and I would like the provocation to be turned off by the people who are not called to answer questions.

    Hon Chris Hipkins: Will she accept the urging from the Leader of the Opposition to make a captain’s call to reopen the border with China with urgency?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. And I do reflect on the fact that yesterday the member did say that he didn’t have all of the information in front of him to make a decision around moving to alert level 1, and I would just reflect on that. I actually support the position the member took at that time. There are a number of things that have to be considered. Cabinet makes those decisions alongside the advice of the director-general and the best scientific advice we have. It has to be about moving as quickly as we can but as safely as we can.

    Todd Muller: Why is it that your vice-captain doesn’t actually have—

    SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, look, I warned the member once and he sort of half corrected it, he did it again, and he’s done it wrong again. My vice-captain is over there. Ask the question again.

    Todd Muller: To the Prime Minister—

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: Sir, to you!

    SPEAKER: Oh, for goodness’ sake! I heard a very wise kaumātua on the radio this morning, talking about breaches of rules and the consequences of them. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

    Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.

    Todd Muller: To the Prime Minister, why wait till midnight Wednesday, when the whole country needs us to be in level 1 today?

    Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because the whole country needs us to not go backwards. The whole country needs us to move once and to do it right, and the whole country wants to move with confidence. The member does a disservice when he explains that the decision-making process is as simplistic as he describes—it is not. We factor in a range of issues, including economic impact, including compliance, including transmission, and our unknowns. And I stand by every decision we have made to date.

    Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well done, captain!

    SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, I think people will describe people correctly in the House from now on. We’re not going to have a big argument about it now.

    Reply
    • The Speaker’s rambling and talking nonsense. It was obvious that Todd Muller wasn’t calling the PM ‘it’ but was asking about something that was an it. Calling an object ‘she’ would be absurd.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  3rd June 2020

      Finally starting to get an act together but he needs to apply much more sarcasm and ridicule.

      Reply

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