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The Unenviable Time to be Finance Minister

Government performance in the red

by Trevor Rogers

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This year has been quite frankly one out of a box of nightmares.

Most New Zealanders have been dealt financial disasters large and small, with no apparent end yet in sight. Trips planned then discarded, special celebrations and family bereavements. A decided lack of enthusiasm to fly, if you could, anywhere in the world. A new word with a chilling name Covid 19 became something out of a horror movie, a daily conversation subject. February dawned and the world started to take notice of a bad Flu type sickness that seemingly started in China and was getting undivided attention throughout the world. Life in New Zealand carried on, after all we are approx. 1200 miles from anywhere, Australia, Fiji, Samoa and Tahiti.

Well, you get the picture.

Then it started: daily TV coverage of this growing disaster around the world and sleepy New Zealand finally understood we aren’t safe. I have been thinking about how the coalition Government is performing and tackling this life threatening problem. Our Prime Minister seems a nice person, she speaks well and is reassuring, as she should with her communication qualification skills, or does she? Perhaps the problem is the lack of business knowledge in her government, with only three people who have ever run or owned a business.

So what, you might ask?

Well it’s easy to jointly allocate huge sums from a distance in Committee if it’s not your money. Doing the same in your own business with your hard earned funds is a very different situation. Let’s call in the bureaucrats; they will have the answers the Prime Minister thought. In fact after 22 years of political life, I have found them to be generally a totally unimaginative lot. Add this to a hopeless indecisive Government and it’s a recipe for a shambles. Close the borders they suggested, but wait, we need to allow our citizens to get back home. Ok then let them in and we quarantine them at an army camp. This is overkill on returning New Zealanders, far too tough. Ok let’s put them in empty Auckland hotels; have them guarded by private security guards with no arrest authority, just toothless security personnel. Why? We have the NZ Army with plenty of soldiers, give them arrest authority, put all returning people in army camps under guard whether citizen or not. If they don’t like it, then stay away. We already employ and pay the Army, they have the manpower, the training and are cost effective.

Border security is still the major problem. Only now has the Government put a few soldiers into border security, with howls of indignation from private security companies making a fortune from the long suffering taxpayer. The government dithered about and as the first outbreak cleared, border controls and hotel security slackened accordingly and then Covid returned. The Prime Minister adopted tried overseas options but still didn’t demand masks be worn by everyone, didn’t demand everyone regardless be tested. Testing was a total shambles. Numbers tested were miniscule with press statements contradicted by the Health Department bureaucrats on TV. It was however a wonderful opportunity for the PM to give warm fuzzies on TV advising us to be kind to each other. Borders and hotels leaked Covid cases, and with an election nearing the Prime Minister opted for personal daily live TV Covid reports to the nation alongside her own Health official, who often said the complete opposite to the Minister of Health. But what a wonderful publicity opportunity not available to other political parties. If it wasn’t good news the PM wasn’t available but used her communication skills to the fullest. The rest of the Government were invisible, (apart from ministers doing trips to the beach during lockdown.)

We know there are approximately 80 million sheep in NZ; what we don’t seem to comprehend is, we can be sheep-like as a nation. Go home and stay home and we did, with very few exceptions. I note, after the long first NZ wide lockdown, a shorter level 3 lockdown and the latest 2.5 level lockdown of greater Auckland, public mood has changed. We are now advised to wear masks but a large proportion of New Zealanders don’t. New Zealand is definitely over this, public mood is gaining a degree of scepticism as to whether Government actually knows what they are doing.

Protestors are appearing, but think of this. If they had been in London during the Second World War Blitz, I could imagine them saying, “I’m not blacking out my windows – I’ll turn my light off when I want to”. History could well have been very different.

The Government has spent Billions and counting. Repayment will be a legacy for generations, forget any surpluses, a sobering thought. This coalition has spent like a drunken sailor and whilst appreciating an impossible situation, the Minister of Finance has had an unenviable job. Our two biggest economic industries are Tourism and Agriculture. Tourism is all but destroyed. Thousands of jobs and many businesses have gone broke. Agriculture has an enormous problem getting produce to market with little shipping world-wide and no seasonal workers allowed work visas. Pukekohe is seeing businesses closing all over and it’s just started. October will see leases up for renewal, businesses paying Queen Street rentals will close. Rapacious Auckland Council took over Franklin /Pukekohe when the Super city was formed and dumped the business rates which encouraged Franklin to grow. They standardised rates to Auckland city levels, now unsustainable. The worst is yet to come, businesses and jobs will continue to go. I am not an ardent rugby fan but like to watch occasionally. I cannot believe the PM and the Minister of Finance didn’t see the Aussie manoeuver to take the Rugby series from New Zealand, the PM fiddled around about reducing the lock down for players all too late. So we lost valuable income to Australia, even though they have a Covid shambles in Victoria. Government concentrated on Covid but dropped the ball on other matters, accountability went out the door. $30m for the software for the Covid tracing app? Frankly unbelievable, who signed this off? The app only works on the very latest phones, a typical example of just throwing money at a project.

Looking at the overall performance of this Government, notwithstanding the humanitarian effort, the incredible waste of money almost in desperation puts their report card well and truly in the red.

Trevor Rogers is a former Member of Parliament, serving two terms from 1990 to 1996.

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elocal Digital Edition – October 2020 (#235)

elocal Digital Edition
October 2020 (#235)

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