Pressure mounts on leadership of Simon Bridges

Simon Bridges has struggled to get things right as National leader and as a result has struggled to make a mark in ‘preferred Prime Minister polls. And despite some fairly mild criticism last week of Government actions in dealing with Covid-19, Bridges was hammered in social media and media.

His hold on the leadership was questioned – Richard Harman (Politik) last Thursday: Those who could depose Bridges

There are many rumours but few tangible signs that anybody in National is about to try and depose Leader, Simon Bridges.

The problem is not so much whether he should go but rather when and who should replace him.

POLITIK is aware of other MPs who have been told not to respond to media inquiries and not to issue press releases The impression is of a very strong centralisation of control within the party.

There are also concerns that Bridges’ list of close advisors leaves out some of the party’s better brains like Gerry Brownlee, Nikki Kaye, Judith Collins and Todd Muller.

Last Friday on RNZ Simon Bridges’ leadership questioned after missteps

The phones are running hot in the National Party caucus as MPs frantically try to figure out whether to replace Simon Bridges as leader after this week’s massive backlash.

MPs spoken to by RNZ were both dismayed and alarmed by the tsunami of negative public reaction.

That’s catapulted him into a place where once again his leadership is under threat. We’ve seen this before though; he’s seen off challenges in the toughest of times and will fight hard to do so again.

John Armstrong (1 News): Simon Bridges has to go, but is there another leader in National’s ranks?

Simon Bridges has to go. The moment has surely arrived to call time on his leadership of the National Party.

But will he go? And will he do so willingly? If not willingly, is there anyone in National’s parliamentary ranks in possession of both the qualities and qualifications required of a leader? Who in addition has the gumption to force the issue and the guts to do battle with the incumbent?

The answer to that latter question has to be an emphatic and unqualified “no”. Were there an MP in National’s caucus who fitted that bill, Bridges would have been looking for a career switch many months ago.

This is a problem for any Opposition Party with a malfunctioning leadership and a very popular Prime Minister – finding someone capable of stepping up, and finding someone willing to try when a loss this election looks quite likely.

Caucus dissatisfaction when public last night via Newshub: Senior National MP Nick Smith lashes Simon Bridges’ decision-making in a caucus-wide letter

Newshub has learned that one of his veteran MPs Nick Smith, an MP for 24 years, has written a letter to Bridges and copied in his entire caucus.

The letter expresses disappointment – or as one of his colleagues put it to Newshub, “he’s pretty pissed” – about Bridges setting up a new COVID-19 policy team.

When contacted about the letter, Smith wouldn’t discuss any private communications but said there was no offer of resignation. Several other National MPs have also leaked details to Newshub about the letter.

All of this has played out on the eve of a National Party caucus meeting on Tuesday where Bridges’ leadership and some of his COVID-related judgement calls are expected to come up.

The only thing that may save Bridges – for now- is a lack of takers for the top job at a time that would make any traction very difficult.

It looks unlikely Bridges will lift himself or the party, but he may be left as a fall guy for this year’s election. However that’s a big political risk, as it could lead to the decimation or worse of the National caucus.

Simon Bridges responds to criticism of his criticism

Simon Bridges has copped a lot of flack this week, largely over a Facebook post. The response to his in some ways critical assessment of Government actions over Covid were far more than what some have claimed, biased media and left wing stirrers. Polls showing 87% of people support or strongly support Government actions suggest a strong tide to swim against for Bridges and National.

Bridges has responded to social media and mainstream media with an explanation emailed to presumably National supporters.

From Homepaddock: Someone has to ask the questions

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have left no part of New Zealand untouched.

We see it in our communities, our streets, and our homes. The reality of our situation is present, real and personal to us all, and we are reminded of it on a daily basis.

I’m proud of the way … all Kiwis, have united together in our country’s time of need, by everyone doing their bit in helping to eliminate the virus.

As a team, we are all too aware that we are only as strong as the most vulnerable and at-risk in our communities. We have a duty to be united in our effort for the greater good, but we also have a duty to ensure those that need a strong voice to speak for them have that opportunity.

Every day we receive hundreds of emails and calls from Kiwis in distress. Frustrated at the lack of clarity in the ever-changing information for them, their families, their kids, their friends, their businesses. And chances are you’ll know some of them personally too. They want us to find them answers.

When we ask questions about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), we’re thinking of the many frontline staff who have written to us going to work every morning, sacrificing their safety, and in desperate need of that PPE to keep themselves and others safe. So, we want answers for them.

When we ask questions about testing capacity, we’re thinking about the many hundreds who’ve contacted us who live in fear that they’re going to infect the ones they love or care about and couldn’t get a test to allay that fear. So, we want answers for them.

When we ask questions about better contact tracing, we think about the unbelievable sacrifice every Kiwi has made over the past four weeks, and if we don’t have full confidence from where or whom the virus is coming, we risk returning to a higher state of lockdown and greater hardship. We want answers for you.

When we ask questions about the effects on the economy and jobs, we think about the hundreds of thousands of Kiwis employed by small and medium sized businesses which may close, and ultimately lose their jobs, if we don’t get this right. They are the backbone of our economy and they need certainty too.

We’ve got through this well together so far, showing true resilience, grit and determination in the face of great difficulty. However, the fact remains we will still have to ask hard questions about the future health, social, and economic costs of this pandemic.

Some may not like the questions we ask. Some may not like the way we ask them. But we will keep asking them until we get the answers people need and deserve.

I will never forget the personal sacrifice and hardship Kiwis have faced to eliminate COVID-19 from our communities. Everything we say or do will be focused on how we continue to protect our most vulnerable and get New Zealand back on track. You are part of our strength and we welcome your input.

We have faith that with the right approach, New Zealanders and our economy can rebuild successfully after this crisis. We’ve done it before and together we will do it again.

Simon Bridges, Leader of the Opposition.

Posted in full to give Bridges a chance to respond amongst the media noise.

Man charged over death threat against Bridges and family

Very sad to see this sort of threat against any politician, and more so when also made against family.

NZ Herald: Kawerau man appears in Whakatāne District Court and charged with social media threat to kill Simon Bridges and family

A Kawerau man has been arrested after allegedly posting a social media threat against National Party leader Simon Bridges.

He appeared in the Whakatāne District Court today charged with threatening to kill, or cause grievous bodily harm, to Bridges and his family. He was released on bail, with conditions that he not use social media and not enter Tauranga where Bridges lives, and will reappear in court next month.

The Herald understands the alleged threat was made in a Facebook post or message to the MP for Tauranga (and his family).

It’s very easy for people to make threats online, but it’s a very serious matter no matter who the target of the threat.

I think the arrested man is lucky not to be under a greater degree of lockdown, more commonly referred to as lockup.

Politicians and evolving New Zild

There’s been a bit of discussion about pronunciation of the English language in New Zealand.

Pronunciation of any language keeps evolving, and English varies enormously around the world, and in New Zealand regionally and over time.

Quite a bit of attention is paid to the pronunciation of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who seems to use a lot of lazy language, and also Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges who seems to be more of a mangler. The two pronounce things quite differently to each other and to many others here.

What about the other leaders? James Shaw is different again, and Green co-leader Marama Davidson is a bit different again. Like them ACT leader David Seymour seems to escape criticism of his accent.

Winston Peters sounds different again, and so does Shane Jones for that matter.

Our accents all sound quite different to New Zealanders in video or audio clips from 50 years ago, and 70 years ago.

There’s southern variations, and rural North Island variations, and South Auckland variations, and other parts of Auckland variations depending on concentrations and origins of immigrants.

The only think fixed about language pronunciation is that it will always keep changing, and these days in New Zealand  the variations can be quite noticeable across generations.

Because we here politicians speaking more than most people outside our normal lives we notice their nuances and mangles and variations more than most.

There’s no correct way to pronounce anything. Few people actually speak ‘the Queen’s English’, which is quaint and dated and to me sounds more unnatural than Ardern or Bridges.

But it gives us something to talk about other than the weather.

Bridges misjudged Facebook, media and public lockdown sentiments

Yesterday morning I referred to a statement by Simon Bridges on the National Party website, also posted on Bridges’ Facebook page where  there were a lot of critical comments  – see Bridges mildly criticises Level 4 lockdown extension and other things.

Bridges seems to have badly misjudged public sentiment about the Level 4 lockdowm, it’s extension by a few days, and the lowering next week to level 3 that still largely restricts social movements in public, as well as businesses that involve social contact.

Through the day most media covered this.

Stuff: Simon Bridges receives huge backlash to Facebook post criticising lockdown extension

National leader Simon Bridges has defended himself after receiving an avalanche of negativity on a Facebook post criticising the Government’s Covid-19 response.

The post received over 24,000 comments, far more than the hundreds Bridges’ posts typically receive.

The tone of the comments seen by Stuff was overwhelmingly but not uniformly negative, with many people who described themselves as National voters saying they disagreed.

One comment with close to 6000 likes from Monique Wilson said “I did not Vote Labour but what I am proud of is the way Jacinda [Ardern] has lead us through this unprecedented time. Thank goodness Simon your not leading us through this because I’d put my hand on my heart and believe we would be in a worse situation.”

Another with close to 2000 likes from Debbie Kelliher said “Simon, I’m a national supporter but don’t support what you’ve just said at all.”

Over 7500 people gave an “angry” reaction to the post while 5700 did a “laughing” reaction – compared to 2800 likes.

Some comments were supportive, with Darren Mills writing he agreed with Bridges as “Not enough time spent on the economic side of this.”

Bridges defended himself when asked by media about the post today, saying the negativity was balanced out by the many supportive messages he received.

“There will be a bunch of different views, I know there are views online,” Bridges said.

NZ Herald: Simon Bridges’ Facebook post criticising lockdown extension slammed
Also via NewstalkZB: ‘Tone-deaf’: Bridges faces online fury over Facebook post

National Leader Simon Bridges has been forced to defend himself after facing a flurry of online fury over a social media post about the Government’s decision to extend the level 4 lockdown.

The Facebook post has attracted more than 16,000 reactions – many of them negative.

But speaking to media this afternoon, Bridges was quick to defend the post, saying there are “a bunch of different views” online.

When pressed on the negative reactions, he said people are entitled to have their own views.

Newshub: National supporters threaten to abandon Simon Bridges after Facebook post criticising COVID-19 lockdown extension

Opposition leader Simon Bridges is defending a Facebook post he published criticising the extended COVID-19 lockdown after it received a flood of negative comments from National supporters.

Newshub looked through the comments on Bridges’ Facebook post and found that people who appear to be legitimate National Party supporters are backing the Government en masse and its decision to extend the lockdown for a week.

Out of the 100 most recent comments on the post at the time of viewing it, Newshub found that four were in favour of the Opposition leader’s remarks while 96 were opposed.

“My National vote is quickly turning because of your attitude Simon Bridges. You are acting like a child,” a Christchurch man wrote in the comment section. “Your days are numbered as leader. Every time you open your mouth you are losing voters.”

An Auckland woman who works at a dental centre wrote: “I’m a National supporter but think the PM has made the right decision. I’m in a high risk industry that won’t be able to operate fully until we are in level 1.

Out of the 100 most recent comments on the post at the time of viewing it, Newshub found that four were in favour of the Opposition leader’s remarks while 96 were opposed.

“My National vote is quickly turning because of your attitude Simon Bridges. You are acting like a child,” a Christchurch man wrote in the comment section. “Your days are numbered as leader. Every time you open your mouth you are losing voters.”

An Auckland woman who works at a dental centre wrote: “I’m a National supporter but think the PM has made the right decision. I’m in a high risk industry that won’t be able to operate fully until we are in level 1.

Bridges said the negative views online are “more than matched by over 50,000 people who contacted me in relation to our quarantining petition” – an idea that was adopted by the Government.

“Of the many thousands who’ve emailed me as small business people, some of them bring me to tears the way they beg for help in this instance when they do feel like sacrificial lambs,” Bridges said.

The quarantine of people arriving in the country would have happened regardless of the petition, and that was a couple of weeks ago. This week Bridges appears to have badly misjudged public sentiment on the lockdown plans.

1 News:  Simon Bridges defends his stance on bringing alert level down sooner after being ‘obliterated’ online (video)

It’s never easy being Leader of the Opposition, but this is a big balls up if Bridges thought he would tap into popular support.

Martyn Bradbury at The Daily Blog: Simon Bridges horrifically misreads the mood of the Nation – he may as well urinate on an ANZAC grave

Wow.

There is tone deaf and then there is Simon Bridges.

MickySavage at The Standard: When Bridges’ social media goes wrong

Simon Bridges’s Facebook post criticising the extension of lockdown level 4 has been met with overwhelming opposition, including from people who are clearly National Party supporters.

Left wing blogs would pile in against Bridges.

Maybe he should just try a guest post at Kiwiblog, but yesterday even there Bridges wasn’t exactly a raging success – see from here.

This comment has been a common claim against Bridges:

Bridges is when he complains, which is the job of opposition, it sounds like whining.

Another says:

Bridges is universally disliked across all media, he will never get any traction, they just don’t like who he is and what he stands for.

Apart from the nonsense of this, it wasn’t ‘the media’ that protested against Bridges on Facebook.

RNZ Power Play: A war footing from Ardern and misstep from Bridges

As the Opposition leader and chair of Parliament’s Epidemic Committee, National Party’s Simon Bridges has been their voice. Unfortunately for him, the current climate means many New Zealanders don’t want to hear direct criticism of the government as it offends that sense of patriotism.

He hit the wrong note in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis with a combative approach even many of his own MPs saw as tone deaf. Bridges has been at his best leading the committee, providing the de facto scrutiny of the debating chamber while Parliament is adjourned.

Shortly after the announcement of the extra week before moving to level 3, Bridges abandoned his constructive pose of recent weeks and accused the government of failing to do the groundwork on testing, contract tracing and making PPE properly available, forcing an extended and damaging lockdown.

Valid points, and ones National has persistently pursued in past weeks, but if the backlash on his own Facebook page was anything to go by, he misjudged the tone. He had risked becoming irrelevant as the government machine drove the response – Bridges has played a valuable role but his natural instinct to go on the attack has done him few favours once again.

Bridges (and presumably his advisers) is not good at judging public sentiment, and nor is he good at expressing his own sentiments.

This backlash against his critical post also suggests that the Government measures over lockdowns and protecting people from the Covid-19 virus have generally widespread public support.

And this should have been easy to read.

The Spinoff (8 April): Almost 90% of New Zealanders back Ardern government on Covid-19 – poll

The (Colmar Brunton )poll found that 83% of respondents have “trust in the government to deal successfully with national problems”, while 88% “trust the government to make the right decisions on Covid-19”.

NZ Herald (12 April) – Covid 19 coronavirus survey: Most New Zealanders willing to extend lockdown

Almost two-thirds of New Zealanders are willing to have the lockdown extended so Covid-19 can be eradicated, a new (Research New Zealand ) survey has found.

Stuff (18 April):  60 per cent of Stuff poll respondents want to stay in lockdown

Newshub (19 April) – Coronavirus poll results: Should New Zealand leave COVID-19 lockdown this week?

On Saturday, Newshub asked readers if they thought New Zealand should leave lockdown next week. Of the 44,768 responses, 28,716 voters – just over 64 percent – said no. The other 16,052 said yes. (The poll is not scientific and shouldn’t necessarily be considered an accurate reflection of the views of the wider New Zealand population).

 

Bridges mildly criticises Level 4 lockdown extension and other things

Simon Bridges has criticised what he claims is a lack of groundwork that has meant the level 4 lockdown needed to be extended. The Leader of the Opposition is supposed to hold the Government to account and criticise them when appropriate, but this looks like a risky play by Bridges.

From the National Party website: Groundwork not done to lift lockdown

The decision for New Zealand to stay locked down in Level 4 shows the Government hasn’t done the groundwork required to have us ready, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.

“The public has done a great job of self-isolating and social distancing. The entire country has made huge sacrifices to ensure the four week lockdown was effective.

“Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric. New Zealand is being held back because the Government has not used this time to ensure best practice of testing and tracing and the availability of PPE hasn’t been at the standard it should have been.

One can always claim the Government ‘hasn’t done enough’ in dealing with a problem, they will never have done enough in some people’s eyes. But I think many people will see things differently.

“The rate of testing for the first half of lockdown was low, work has only just begun on surveillance testing to confirm whether community transmission is occurring. Tracing is the biggest challenge and experts have identified major shortcomings in the methods being used by the Government.

“This is a real shame as businesses will suffer further damage and that will lead to poor health outcomes as a result of the huge stress this will cause for a lot of people.

“Rapid and easily accessible testing for workers with symptoms will be essential to give small businesses the confidence needed to get back to work.

“I’m sure many Kiwis feel frustration that we still can’t do many things Australians have done through the entire lockdown period, at great cost in terms of jobs and livelihoods, with similar health outcomes.

“I now worry that the harm of staying in lockdown will be greater than if we were to come out. We will no doubt see a rise in mental health problems and stress related illnesses.

“I also have real concerns about the delay in healthcare for some people, like cancer treatment, screening and thousands of operations across the country.

“New Zealanders can be proud of the sacrifices they have made during this difficult time. The Government must now move as fast as it can to sort out the issues with tracing, testing and PPE so we can get our country moving again.”

The lockdown has been extended by just 5 days, and only two of those days are normal business days. That’s not going to make much difference after a 4 week lockdown.

Last week David Farrar was complaining at Kiwiblog that two days was not long enough notice for businesses: We need more than 48 hours notice

I think this shows the lack of understanding of business.

Many businesses will need more than 48 hours notice to properly re-open. There are shifts and rosters to be organised, materials and supplies to be ordered etc etc.

The more notice you can give, the quicker the economy can start to recover.

So businesses have now been given a week notice, but I presume at that stage Farrar wanted earlier notice rather than a later lockdown lifting.

Those who didn’t want the lockdown as it was (some of them may have complained about not doing enough soon enough) might feel vindicated by Bridges’ criticisms, but it’s likely to make little difference to most public opinion. There are a lot of people who want the lockdowns to protect themselves and their families – for example some school principles, teachers and early childhood workers have expressed concerns about reopening too soon and object to being used as baby sitters to allow businesses to restart more easily.

The statement from Bridges was also posted on his Facebook page. There have been 17K comments. I’m not going to go through all of them, but the ‘most relevant’ comments were critical of Bridges, like:

 I’m not holding my breath for Simon/Nats to come up with a positive, sensible and workable answer to anything

I think that’s unfair, some of Bridges criticisms are fair enough to question, like the early rate of testing and ability to trace contacts, but that’s unlikely to change any minds. And most of the criticism has blown back on Bridges. This one got 3K likes:

Sorry Simon, you sound like you are scraping the bottom of the barrel. It’s been a pretty good display of leadership by the government. If your aim is to display leadership then that may require you giving credit where it is due.

4.3K likes:

I did not Vote Labour but what I am proud of is the way Jacinda has lead us through this unprecedented time. Thank goodness Simon your not leading us through this because I’d put my hand on my heart and believe we would be in a worse situation. Jacinda Thankyou for showing leadership , strength , guidance and persistence on what and still is a challenge for us all.

Leader of the Opposition is a difficult enough job in normal times, particularly during a crisis, so it’s difficult for Bridges to be seen to supporting the Government generally but criticising them where appropriate. It’s hard enough picking battles wisely, and even harder to not to sound like you are opposing for the sake of opposing.

This is a fairly mild rebuke from bridges anyway and is unlikely to change any minds, nor change the actions of the Government  – they can’t change how things were being done a month ago anyway, so that’s a lame target.

Questions on “safe economic activity” at lowered Covid-19 alert levels

Questions were asked at today’s Epidemic Response Committee about what different alert levels will mean to businesses wanting to restart. There seems to be a focus on “what constitutes safe economic activity”.

From Stuff Live:

Simon Bridges probing the “levels” in relation to the economy. Treasury’s modeling shows the lower the level, the better the economy. He said businesses are telling him they want to go to level 2. “Level 3 is a bit of a no man’s land”.

Grant Robertson is saying the detail of the lockdown coming this week will give business some clear guidance of what’s permitted. He’s saying it will show us “what constitutes safe economic activity”.

“I don’t share your view around level 3,” Robertson says level 3 will allow us to increase economic activity.

He says he’s been working with the construction sector to work out what safe economic activity looks like.

Robertson is saying the enthusiasm for coming out of lockdown early can actually mean yo-yo-ing between levels, which isn’t good for economic activity either.

Paul Goldsmith asking about “what sort of pragmatism” will be brought to the health regulations that will determine how businesses work under levels 2 and 3.

Robertson said work is underway on those issues, so there would be real clarity.

Contact tracing will be important too. “Knowing who is in your workplace, knowing where they are and what they’re doing”. This will help us manage flare ups as they come.

Responding to Marama Davidson, “the best economic response is a strong public health response”.

Sounds like a patsy.

University of Otago epidemiologist, Professor David Skegg, said countries that had not succeeded in controlling this disease, their economies were not going to flourish.

“I’m not an economist, but I would be very surprised if we’re going to do worse economically because of the measures we’re taking in the medium term.”

He stressed that the country should get to level 2.

“We need some careful planning this week on what level 3 or level 3.5 would look like.

“It’s not just a health issue and it’s not just an economic issue,” Skegg said.

From RNZ Live:

Simon Bridges said level 3 was akin to no man’s land with the downsides of level 4.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said when deciding on moving to level 2 and 3, his focus was on “what constitutes safe economic activity?”

“Level 4 is doing exactly what we wanted it to do for New Zealand and New Zealanders. The last thing we want is to come out level 4 and create a situation where we have to yo-yo between levels.”

Meanwhile, Paul Goldsmith said businesses needed clarity on returning to work and how social distancing would look like in the working environment.

“There’s a shared desire among industry workers, government to get people back to work as soon as possible. Health and safety is a very important part of the workplace,” Robertson said.

“The best economic response is a strong public health response and that has to be underpinned by an investment in our health system.”

Stuff:

Michael Woodhouse asking whether the “principles approach” is sector based or risk based.

The question is really whether or not the businesses that open will be determined by the kind of business they are (for example cafes) or the kind of measures that are put in place by any business, so cafes that follow those guidelines could reopen, whereas the one’s that don’t implement the guidelines don’t reopen.

Robertson said it will be mainly the latter (so not sector-based) BUT you can’t completely detach sectors from the guidelines.

Bridges asking whether level 3 is therefore significantly more permissive than level 4.

No response given.

Robertson saying that in the case of the media, “the patient had pre-existing conditions”.

Media just about had comorbidity.

 

 

 

Constructive Simon Bridges interview on NZ Q+A

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges cam across surprisingly well in an interview on NZ Q+A this morning. He was supportive of many Government actions in dealing with Covid-19, and his criticisms were reasonable and constructive on quarantining people arriving in New Zealand and Covid testing.

He also pushed for more businesses to be able to open.

1 News: Bridges calls for more businesses to safely operate during lockdown

A “constructive conversation” is needed on whether contactless businesses should be able to run safely during lockdown, National leader Simon Bridges says.

“When you think about our economy, the longer we see the devastation, the job losses, the businesses going under, it’s heart attacks, it’s mental health issues, it’s fatalities in its own way,” Mr Bridges told TVNZ1’s Q+A with Jack Tame.

“Let’s try and deal with some of the randomness where one is an essential service and one isn’t, let’s be agile and potentially we can move to a more risk-based system.”

Mr Bridges said the country needed to be “quite agile about those questions now and certainly if lockdown goes longer”.

“The Government needs to do everything it can to have the most effective lockdown so we can get out of this as soon as we can.

“We’re devastating our economy, we’re curtailing freedoms, so the sooner we can get out the better.”

Mr Bridges also called for an increase to testing, pushing the daily tests into the “tens of thousands”.

As of yesterday, a total of 33,116 Covid-19 tests had been done, with the country at a capacity to do over 6000 tests per day.

“If you dealt with everyone who had symptoms, close contact, overseas, you would be testing more,” Mr Bridges said.

Full interview via https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/bridges-calls-more-businesses-safely-operate-during-lockdown

Cross-party committee to scrutinise Government as Parliament adjourns

Parliament was in recess this week but has been recalled today to deal with urgent business related to Covid-19 and the country lockdown, but will then be suspended for 5 weeks. This means the usual scrutiny of Government through Question Time won’t be possible, so  special committee is being set up.

RNZ: Special committee set-up as Parliament is adjourned

The opposition leader Simon Bridges will chair a cross-party committee, that will scrutinise the Government’s response to Covid-19.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said all of the Government’s regular legislative programme was now on hold.

Hipkins said tomorrow the house will be focusing on receiving the epidemic notice from the Prime Minister and pass an Imprest Supply Bill, which will allow Government funding to continue to flow as normal.

The epidemic notice would enact the Epidemic Preparedness Act, allowing for actions to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, without having to comply with the usual statuary requirements.

Like last week, Parliamentary business tomorrow will begin with a debate, this time focusing on the epidemic notice and other documents tabled by the Government.

The adjournment will last until April 28, meaning two sitting weeks will be missed.

To enable the politicians to still hold the Government to account, speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard said the cross-party Business Select Committee has put forward a motion to set-up a special Select Committee, which will run for at least the next four-to-five weeks.

He said the committee will meet remotely, be chaired by Opposition leader Simon Bridges with the majority of the sitting MPs being from opposition parties.

The committee will have powers that usually reside with privileges committee, such as the ability to send for people and papers.

“What we think we have got here is a balance of accountability because of a very powerful committee, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, who can make arrangements to effectively interrogate ministers or public servants on their actions around the pandemic,” he said.

Bridges said it would be a valuable chance for constructive scrutiny of the government, that will make the nation’s response to Covid-19 better and stronger.

Bridges said the committee would be sitting two or three times a week, from next week, to ask the questions New Zealanders want answered.

He said overall, he supported the direction the government has taken, but there are things that can be improved.

However, ACT leader David Seymour called the decision to adjourn Parliament as ‘misguided’.

“We accept that the government has a difficult task ahead, all New Zealanders stand ready to support it, but this is no reason to partially suspend democracy,” he said.

“New Zealanders have just faced the greatest peacetime loss of civil liberties in our history, and it is possible we may not have an election this year.

“ACT believes there should be a Question Time and local electorate offices should remain open,” he said.

From RNZ Live covering an interview of Bridges this morning:

Bridges on the special cross-party committee of scrutiny during the lockdown – says he will have a lot of his front benchers on the committee, National will have a majority in the committee.

He says ultimately he thinks rents need to be paid during this time, says landlords should definitely not be putting up rent at the moment.

He says he’s spoken to some big businesses and what he’s hearing is that the government hasn’t quite hit the mark with the business schemes they’ve introduced.

That’s not surprising. Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and many will be fighting for survival. The Government is doing what it thinks will help but it must be a work in progress. And they will never be able to ‘hit the mark’ for all businesses.

He doesn’t think benefits should be doubled, like in Australia. Asked whether it would be a good way to pump more money into the economy, Mr Bridges said he didn’t believe NZ’s issue at the moment is an issue of stimulus.

Over the last couple of days Bridges has changed his approach noticeably towards being mostly supportive of Government actions dealing with Covid-19 but with generally sensible sounding questions of some of what is being done. I think this is a good change from him.

Interview with bridges on RNZ: Coronavirus: Simon Bridges to chair scrutiny committee

 

Ardern and Government deserve praise for handling of Covid-19

We, New Zealand and the World, are facing unprecedented health and financial crises. There will be valid criticisms of the way things are handled in a rapidly changing situation, with over 10,000 deaths so far but potentially millions of fatalities from the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Leaders and Governments are having to do their best in a very challenging environment.

People are uncertain and uneasy, understandably. There are valid fears for lives, for livelihoods, for life savings and for ways of life. Some New Zealanders will die, many will lose jobs lose earnings, lose part or all of their life savings. All of us will have to change the way we live, for months at least and probably for years.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can be a very good communicator when she is well informed and not doing politics, and as she did dealing with last year’s mosque massacre and the Whakaari/White Island eruption, she has again risen to the occasion and I think is doing a very good job keeping us informed in an assuring manner. She excels at fronting crises.

It is hugely challenging getting the balance right between timely and appropriate actions, and over-reactions. I think the Government is largely getting things about right with it’s response to the virus, with the initial financial package, and with it’s messaging.

There were one or two communication missteps early on but they seem to have been resolved.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has done ok in a support role.

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has managed finances prudently to date and seems well advised and is acting appropriately in the evolving crisis.

Minister of Health David Clark is not as good a communicator, seems to lack confidence (in a very difficult role) and can seem out of his depth a bit, but he is being covered by others.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield is doing an extraordinary job with daily media conferences, calmly keeping us well informed. He is a huge asset.

I think if National were in Government they would be doing much the same things as our Labour-led Government are.  New Zealand is taking very similar measures to the right wing Australian Government. Times like this need expert advice and common sense, not political idealism.

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has tried to get holding to account balanced with support of the Government in a crisis, but his communication skills and manner aren’t great (unfortunately grate would be closer to the mark). He has been overshadowed by finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith, who yesterday backed the Ait New Zealand support package announced by the Government, and also to an extent health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse.

Greens are doing their thing but are more working with their own constituencies and from the sidelines, publicly at least.

There are some in media and social media who haven’t been able to put politics and prejudices aside, and there are some who seem to think they have better information than the Government and are giving advice and demanding different actions. I trust our Government to be largely on top of things, and have confidence we are being well enough informed. I am resisting criticising and naming the petty and the pissy.

The Government won’t get everything exactly right (in retrospect at least), but I have confidence we have our Government and MPs are doing everything they can to deal with the huge challenges currently facing us. There is scope for valid and reasonable criticisms, but petty politics should be set aside.

We should trust our Prime Minister and our Government and our Opposition to inform us and do what they can for us. I think we have to.

I’m doing quite a bit of research and am following things closely, and I am confident we are being well informed and reasonably warned about what is likely to happen. There are many unknowns, but we have to trust our leaders and Government on this, while doing things for ourselves as well.

We have to work together in families and communities to support each other through this. More on that in the next post.