A Covid farce

The Covid-19 restrictions in New Zealand have become a farce.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is now looking foolish after thousands of people took to the streets in protest action on Monday, thumbing their nose at her Level 2 lockdown rules, while the Police watched on doing nothing. Nor was there any talk of prosecutions, despite the event being heavily broadcast on social media.

Penalties for breaching the Level 2 rules, which restrict public gatherings to 100 and private gatherings to 10, include six months in jail or a fine of up to $4,000.

The official non-response is typical of our politicians and their agencies, talking tough but when confronted, their authority often dissolving into nothing.

What the protesters have done is highlight the farcical nature of the current lockdown restrictions. Everyone knows it – apart from government politicians. The country needs to immediately go into level 1. Next week is another week too long. It’s another week of businesses bleeding money and laying off staff as they follow ridiculous rules. The restrictions killing small businesses are the same ones the protesters totally ignored and suffered no consequences whatsoever for doing so.

This double standard has been evident throughout the lockdown – especially when it has anything to do with Maori. The roadblocks run by tribal separatists were a glaring example of law breaking that was allowed to continue throughout the whole period.

Tangi too appear to have been exempt. According to documents released to the Otago Daily Times under the Official Information Act, Police allowed 50 people to gather for the tangi of a Black Power member in Dunedin during the level 3 lockdown. Many travelled from outside the area, even though inter-regional travel was banned and gatherings for tangi were limited to 10.

An internal email from the Police said that trying to stop the tangi would “only create a worse situation for all”, but when asked by reporters what they were concerned would happen if they had broken up the gathering to enforce the lockdown rules, the Police refused to answer.

The question we need to ask is whether the lack of lockdown enforcement action is more about avoiding conflict with Maori than maintaining law and order? Is that now the new standard – and if so, are the Police acting under government direction?

Is that the real reason why the Police turned a blind eye to the protesters last Monday?

And what were the protests really about? It seems unusual that an incident in the United States would lead to such large-scale demonstrations here.   

On the face of it the local protesters were acting in solidarity with Americans rallying against the killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd. While some were advocating that cause, the reality is many, perhaps most, were protesting other causes. There were vigils for victims of racial injustice, condemnations of institutional racism, protests against police violence, and opposition to the arming of police – the so-called ‘militarisation’ of the New Zealand police force.

Others claimed to be marching against ‘white supremacy’: “The same white supremacy which has led to disproportionate killings of black people in the US exists here in New Zealand.”

While the protests themselves were peaceful, the messages that many were conveying about New Zealand are alarming and show there is a rising tide of resentment, principally from young Maori conditioned into believing they are victims of white supremacy.

This is the narrative of Maori separatists, whose agenda has inexplicably been embedded within the state sector and our educational institutions. As a result, while every adverse statistic is now blamed on colonial oppression and institutional racism, the real reasons for Maori deprivation, namely poor education, single parenthood, and intergenerational welfare dependency, rarely ever get a mention.

Those fostering Maori sovereignty are even proposing to extend their race-based indoctrination to new immigrants. The Green Party MP Jan Logie has drafted a law change to force Treaty propaganda and the Maori sovereignty agenda onto all new citizens.

While her private members bill, the Citizenship (Acknowledgement of Te Tiriti o Waitangi) Amendment Bill, has not been drawn from the ballot and so is not presently being considered by Parliament, it is nevertheless indicative of the divisive intent of the Green Party, since members bills can only be submitted with the approval of the whole party. 

Jan Logie’s bill would amend the Citizenship Act 1977, so that after swearing the oath of allegiance to the Queen, new New Zealanders would be informed: “In becoming new citizens of New Zealand, you are joining a nation whose foundation is a Treaty between the indigenous tangata whenua (people of the land) and the Crown. This Treaty, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, offers citizens the opportunity to participate in the ongoing journey towards honourable relationships that are founded on the articles of Te Tiriti agreed to in 1840”.

They would then be given the details of local tribes, to no doubt facilitate their on-going ‘education’. 

The reality is that radicalism in all of its forms is extremely dangerous. Not only does it detract from a cohesive society that looks to a progressive future, but it fuels the anti-establishment subversion that was on display at the “Black lives matter” march.

It requires courage to stand up to this destructive influence.  

The former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark understood this. In 2004, when a hikoi opposing foreshore and seabed law changes arrived at Parliament, she not only refused to meet the protesters, but labelled some as “haters and wreckers”.

When in Parliament it was claimed that by not meeting the marchers she had created ripples, Helen Clark responded that meeting them would have caused “a great deal more distress to most people who want to see the issue moved on. We hear the concern being expressed but my method is that we must govern in the interests of all New Zealanders to get a fair balance which is what we are striving for.”

In other words, Prime Minister Clark had the national interest at heart. Her desire to retain the electoral support of Maoridom was a secondary consideration. We do not see that sort of courage in the current Prime Minister.

The gross flouting of the law on Monday and the inaction of Police have exposed the travesty of the lockdown. It was enacted by a Prime Minister who panicked, spooked by now-discredited computer models that grossly over-exaggerated the estimated number of deaths. As a result, the balanced approach that was being taken to manage the pandemic, which also considered the social and economic impact of regulations, was abandoned. The outcome, which involved the loss of life – including of mothers and babies – has been devastating for New Zealand.

For many businesses, the consequences are catastrophic. Tens of thousands of former workers, face a bleak future. However, the design of the wage subsidy schemes and other support measures that have been put in place by the Government through the $50 billion worth of borrowing announced in Budget 2020 – including an unprecedented $20 billion slush fund of unallocated spending devised to keep everyone happy until after the election – means that the real economic impact of the lockdown is unlikely to be felt for some time.

Now that we are on the verge of ending the lockdown it’s time that Jacinda Ardern stopped trying to appear decisive and started to use some common sense. Her two recent ideas to boost the economy – namely another public holiday and a four-day working week – show just how much out of her depth she really is.

The Prime Minister’s focus should be on repairing the damage her lockdown has caused by returning the country to level 1 without delay.

So, what would a level 1 lockdown look like?

Essentially life would return to normal under alert level 1 except for international travel and border controls, which would still be tightly restricted with quarantine and testing requirements.

All limits on gatherings would be removed, as would social distancing requirements. Sports and domestic travel would resume, and hospitals would aim to clear the backlog in services caused by the suspension of treatment over the lockdown.

The special powers of the police which allow them to enter your home without a warrant would end, and the new positions of ‘enforcement officers’, recently created to help the police, would presumably be disestablished.

The Prime Minister has indicated that the decision on whether to go into lockdown 1 will be made on Monday with 48 hours’ notice given for the changeover. However, those 48 hours would not be needed for a transition down a level – it should be immediate.

Once we reach level 1, that would be a good opportunity for the Prime Minister to announce a full inquiry into the way the Covid-19 pandemic has been handled.

A key question will be whether the government breached their legal requirement to protect us all from the actions of heavy handed and incompetent politicians?

The point is that in just over three months, New Zealand was transformed from a thriving and free society into a totalitarian State. Our constitutional rights were trashed and our economic future remains in tatters as the Government seized control of virtually every aspect of our lives.

It now appears likely, however, that what was possibly the harshest lockdown in the world, had no proper legal foundation. Jacinda Ardern’s “go hard, go early” response to the Covid-19 pandemic may have been unlawful.

The legislation used to detain us all in our homes and close down our businesses, included the Epidemic Preparedness Act 2006, the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002, and the Health Act 1956. But it turns out that they may not have allowed for such a widespread curtailment of civil liberties by the Director General of Health after all.

Essentially the concerns of those questioning the legality of the lockdown includes whether Parliament intended the single-sentence quarantine powers in the Health Act, that enables public officials to order individuals to isolate to avoid infecting others, can be applied to an entire nation. If not, then by using those provisions to order a lockdown, the Government most certainly over-stepped the law.

These matters are now being considered by the High Court in the form of a judicial review. This move has the support of Justice Stephen Kós, the president of the Court of Appeal, who believes that since the lockdown reached so deeply “into the liberties and pockets of the New Zealand public”, its legality should be examined.

This week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, former Judge and Law Lecturer Anthony Willy has also expressed grave concerns over the government’s lockdown, describing it as “an unprecedented assault on our civil liberties and personal freedoms, conferring power on faceless bureaucrats backed by the police, to invade our privacy without a warrant and effect arbitrary arrests for breaches not of the criminal law but a set of arbitrary rules dreamed up by the Director General of Health and his political masters.”

His informative article then goes on to discusses the important role that Judges play in upholding the Rule of Law: “What this highlights is that when a government acts outside of the law during the term of a Parliament only the courts can hold them to account. Only they are the custodians of the Rule of Law. But this will only be possible if the Judges pay strict adherence Rule of Law and the common law on which it is based, setting aside personal beliefs and political or social fancies.”

Some would ask, why does all of this matter? It matters because the government must act within its own legal framework. That is what protects citizens against dictatorial or reckless administrations. It appears that by acting hastily and going beyond its mandated authority, our government has caused significant economic and social damage.

Let’s not forget this will not be the last “national emergency” our country faces. It’s important that the way governments respond to these crises are properly scrutinised so that they can make better decisions in the future.

 

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