Media start to question Government handling of Covid

The Government has been given fairly favourable by the media over their handling of the Covid pandemic (apart from sideshows like David Clark), but now seems to have changed to take on a more questioning role.

Gezza has noted:

1News at 6 tonite was interesting. They focussed most, I thought, for the first time on the various complaints & issues that are now coming to the fore, & in particular were critical of Jacinda’s response to a question at her briefing today when she told reporters that there are plenty of stocks of flu vaccinations, now widely available, & earlier this year than usual.

After being told that numerous GPs & patients are saying they cannot get enuf flu shots for their areas, 1News showed a 1-2 second clip of Jacinda dismissing those reports as untrue, saying simply that she “did not accept the premise of the question”.

In typical lamestream tv media fashion, we didn’t get to hear the reporter’s question or anything else but that one sentence, so we don’tbknow the full context. But they took a negative angle, the implication being that she was untruthful, spinning, or just wrong.”

They also reported on the government’s failure to cough up GP funding. And on the economic strife Sounds Air is (Phil Twyford said, however, that Cabinet is working on an assistance package for them).

This is the first time I’ve seen TV1 take a critical & negative slant to their reporting on Covid-19 & Jacinda. So it was quite noticeable I thought.

Stuff: Contact tracing system blamed for New Zealand remaining in Covid-19 lockdown

An under-resourced contact tracing system blamed for keeping New Zealand in lockdown has the capacity to investigate fewer than 200 coronavirus cases each day.

An audit of the system released on Monday showed that health officials tasked with interviewing and tracking the close contacts of people with Covid-19 had been swamped by fewer than 100 daily cases of the virus prior to New Zealand entering lockdown.

Stuff: Doctors say Government not coughing up ‘promised’ Covid-19 funding

The professional body for doctors has vowed to keep fighting the government for refusing to cough up “promised” Covid-19 funds.

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) insists it was told GPs would receive an extra $22m in government funding on top of $45m already allocated, to help ease the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared to rule out this payment – or that it even existed.

NZMA’s General Practitioner Council’s chairwoman Jan White told Stuff she wouldn’t accept that the funds were not coming and the association will keep trying to push its case for help.

Newsroom: Will pharmacies, GPs and dentists survive Covid-19?

Representatives of pharmacies, GPs, rest homes, dentists and disability support workers fronted the Epidemic Response Select Committee on Wednesday to warn they aren’t receiving the support they need from the Government. With decreased patronage and in increase in costs related to Covid-19 prevention, many healthcare businesses are worried they may go under.

Kate Baddock, chair of the New Zealand Medical Association, which represents all doctors, said that while medical students and hospital doctors had been affected by Covid-19, “very importantly, the greatest impact has been on general practice”.

Baddock said people had stopped going to the GP for fear of getting Covid-19 or because they didn’t want to burden their doctors. That has led to a serious gap in revenue for many practices, which supplement the capitation payments they receive from the Government with copayments from patients.

“For community pharmacies to continue performing their vital role for patients, it is critical to ensure that the sector has ongoing stability and financial sustainability during these extraordinary times and into the future,” Andrew Gaudin, CEO of the Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, told the select committee.

“Our community pharmacies have incurred significant costs to make their pharmacies safe for their staff and the public while also seeing their sales and prescriptions fall significantly,” Gaudin said.

“The disability sector entered the pandemic already in the midst of well-documented and longstanding funding shortfalls. In the current circumstances, the cost of ensuring that an essential service such as these continues to provide safe and quality support for disabled people is significant. Now we have a significant proportion of providers who are financially exposed,” New Zealand Disability Support Network chief executive Garth Bennie told the committee.

Dential practices are forbidden from engaging in non-essential work and must often secure their own PPE because they are generally not government-funded, New Zealand Dental Association president Katie Ayers told the select committee.

“The cost to purchase the PPE to treat just one patient is approximately $80. It’s not fair to expect patients to pay this surcharge on top of the fee for the emergency – ie, unplanned – treatment they require. Yet, dental practices cannot sustain this process either,” she said.

Some of these criticisms have come out of the Epidemic response Committee hearings (so the committee has been a worthwhile check on Government actions).

The Government and the Ministry of Health have been operating in a very challenging and rapidly evolving situation, but require scrutiny and where justified, criticism.

Tough times for many businesses and health care providers, and tough for the Government to deal with all of their problems, but they need to try to help as much as possible.

Allegation of funding threat, Minister says comments ‘misconstrued’

In a select committee submission,Steve Glassey, founder of Animal Evac NZ, alleged that a Minister said that criticisms could threaten funding. The Minister, Damien O’Connor, says that his comments were misconstrued.

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): Threat allegation – PM did not expect minsters’ behaviour

The threat allegation centres on last month’s fires in the Nelson district and it was made in a Parliamentary select committee by Steve Glassy.

The article repeatedly misspells Glassey’s name.

After initially being rejected Glassy and his team were invited back by MPI to do their stuff as things got worse.

As it is, his organisation wanted to work on the National Disaster Resilience Strategy to put in place a better system in the future.

MPI Minister Damien O’Connor had a word in his ear, in the presence of a volunteer, that he should be more positive about how the system was working and in the same breath is alleged to have talked about future funding.

As he was driving away, Glassy’s insistent O’Connor leaned out a passenger window and told him that “you can’t go riding us and then come to us for funding.”

O’Connor was quite up front about his conversation with Glassy but seemed to dig himself deeper into the hole he was trying to extract himself from.

He told the animal rescuer it’s really important to be positive “when we’re trying to negotiate a better deal with him.”

Jacinda Ardern said it was “absolutely not” the behaviour she’d expect of a minister and if evidence was provided she’d be open to seeing it.

The Country (NZH): Animal Evac NZ head Steve Glassey says MPI had no plan to look after animals during Nelson fire

The head of an animal evacuation charity which helped rescue pets and stock during the recent Nelson fires says a Government Minister threatened to pull its funding if he didn’t “play the game”.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor confirmed it was he who had spoken to Animal Evac NZ founder Steve Glassey but said the conversation was misconstrued.

Glassey today criticised the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its response to the plight of animals stranded as people evacuated fire-hit areas during the Nelson fires earlier this year.

Glassey was making a submission to a committee of MPs today about the National Disaster Resilience Strategy.

“The Nelson fires repeated many of the major mistakes made in previous responses.

Despite the legal mandate for MPI to co-ordinate animal emergency plans, there was no animal management approved under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act in effect at the time of the fire,” Glassey told the governance and administration committee.

That may the more important aspect of this story, but the threat accusation has attracted more attention to it.

“We have had veiled threats from officials and even a Minister that if we continue to draw attention to such deficiencies, our chances of getting funding will be affected,” Glassey told the committee.

“Yet, this Government repeatedly says it’s prepared to be held to account.”

Asked by MPs what had been conveyed, Glassey said “basically, if we don’t play the game we won’t get funding”.

O’Connor confirmed to reporters he and Glassey had spoken but he made no such threat.

“Steve will always extrapolate things out. I said it’s really important to be positive when we’re trying to negotiate a better deal with him. I think Steve going around criticising MPI staff at every single opportunity when everyone is doing their best is not a very productive way forward.”

O’Connor said Glassey would misunderstand anything regardless of what was said.

That sounds like there could be some history in the relationship between O’Connor and Glassey.

He said Nelson was an emergency situation, Glassey had gone behind the cordon.

“He had created some chaos and some challenges for the police and for MPI. It wasn’t a very productive situation.”

So it seems to be more than aa bit of criticism that is causing friction.

MPI’s director of animal health and welfare Chris Rodwell said Animal Evac NZ was one of several agencies invited to help with the response to the fires, along with the SPCA, the Helping You Help Animals charity and Massey University’s veterinary emergency response team.

“Animal Evac does not receive funding from MPI, so there are no plans to cut funding. We look to find funding to support services in every response we are involved in, including this one,” Rodwell said in a statement.

Supporting agencies were advised that travel and accommodation costs would be picked up by the Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Management group.

“It is up to them to seek reimbursement and we can facilitate this. In addition, charities involved are also able to apply to the mayoral fund,” Rodwell said.

Perhaps further clarification will be forthcoming.

Glassey had been closely involved with the SPCA for 30 years, but ‘stepped away’ in 2017 after two years heading the Wellington branch. See Research beckons Wellington SPCA chief as new structure rolled out

“The criticism of migration will be a criminal offense”

The European Parliament wants to extend the definition of ‘hate speech’ to include criticism of immigration, making it illegal. Media that publishes criticism of migration could be shut down.

From the video clip:

…one basic element of this new agreement is the extension of the definition of hate speech.

The agreement want to criminalise migration speech.

Criticism of migration will become a criminal offence, and media outlets…that give room to criticism of migration can be shut down.

The compacts for migration is legalisation of mass migration.

I can imagine that being quite controversial.

If it becomes law it would depend a lot on what the legal definition of “criticism of migration” is, but on the surface this is an alarming move towards legal limitation of speech.


Q&A – Catriona MacLennan facing Law Society inquiry

This should be interesting, but with a Law Society inquiry into Catriona MacLennan’s criticism of a judge’s decision (that was subsequently overturned on appeal) it may limit what she can say about that.

Some background from Newsroom – Lawyer: I will not be silenced

Under inquiry by the Law Society for criticising a male judge’s comments on a domestic violence case, Catriona MacLennan wonders when the targeting of women in the law will ever stop.

Last December, The New Zealand Herald asked me to comment on a Queenstown case in which a judge had granted a discharge without conviction to a man who had assaulted his wife, a male friend and his daughter.

The judge said that “Really, this is a situation that does your wife no credit and does the [male] no credit” and “There would be many people who would have done exactly what you did, even though it may be against the law to do so.”

The judge’s comments and sentence in my experience are almost unprecedented.

The nearest analogy I can think of is the public criticism following the exculpatory remarks made by the sentencing judge in the case of David Minnitt, who killed his wife Leigh in 1980 and said afterwards he had been provoked by her criticism of his sexual prowess.

I told the Herald that I thought the Queenstown judge’s comments and sentence displayed a complete lack of understanding of domestic violence, victim blamed, and minimised assaults on three people.

I said that it was inappropriate that a discharge without conviction had been granted, and the result in the case was out of line with other decisions.

I also said that it was the role of the judiciary to uphold the law and foster respect for the law. Stating that “many people would have done exactly what you did” condones and excuses domestic violence. I do not consider it appropriate for a judge publicly to condone breaking the law.

I said I did not believe that the judge should continue sitting on the Bench.

This is the first time I have said that in 21 years of commentary on domestic violence.

The Police subsequently reviewed the judge’s decision and referred the matter to the Crown to consider an appeal against the discharge without conviction.
That appeal was granted by the High Court in March 2018.

The Chief District Court Judge, the Police, the Crown and the High Court accordingly all agreed that the Queenstown judge’s comments and/or sentence were inappropriate.

On March 7, I received a letter from the National Standards Committee of the Law Society, advising me that the committee had commenced an investigation against me in relation to the comments I made to the Herald.

Whether I failed to comply with a lawyer’s fundamental obligation to uphold the rule of law and facilitate the administration of justice in New Zealand?

The National Standards Committee asked me to provide a response to its questions. The committee has decided to deal with the matter on the papers, rather than holding a hearing. It can decide to make a finding of unsatisfactory conduct and impose a penalty; or escalate the matter to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal by laying a charge against me.

The penalties the committee can impose include censuring me; ordering me to apologise; fining me up to $15,000; and ordering me to pay the costs of the committee’s investigation.

My comments to the Herald were based on my 21 years’ experience relating to domestic violence: both as a lawyer in the Family and Criminal Courts, and as a researcher and anti-domestic violence advocate.

I made my remarks based on this experience and I still believe my comments.

Domestic violence victims, in particular, are almost never in a position to speak out about their experiences. As has been widely reported, Aotearoa has the highest reported rate of intimate partner violence in the developed world.

Neither the law society nor anyone else will ever silence me about domestic violence – or about any of my other causes.

If I have to choose between being a lawyer and freedom of speech, I will not hesitate to choose my freedom of speech.

She has chosen to make a stand. Time will tell how the Law Society deals with this, but in the meantime her interview should be interesting.