The Only Way Through This Crisis Is Together


THE COALITION GOVERNMENT’S greatest political challenge over the next 6-12 months will be keeping up morale. If it fails to hold the nation together, then it will be swept out of office on a tsunami of fear, anger and recrimination.

Only a very small number of New Zealanders can draw upon historical experience to help them through the unfolding Covid-19 crisis. Assuming people’s coherent memories kick in from around the age of 7, to recall the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 you would need to have been born in 1922 – making you 98! To have clear memories of the outbreak of the World War II, in September 1939, you would need to be 88. Most of us have never experienced anything like the present crisis. If our morale is not to crumble in the face of mass illness, a rising death toll, and something pretty close to economic collapse, then the Government will have to box very clever indeed.

It is, therefore, to be hoped that Jacinda and her colleagues, in addition to being briefed by scientists, physicians and senior civil-servants, call upon the services of New Zealand’s historians – especially those with knowledge of “The Home Front” during World War II. The Government needs to know how this country kept up its morale during six long years of war. Especially important to understand, is how we coped with the first three years of the war – when nearly all the news was bad. What prevented us from falling to pieces when the Germans and the Japanese were winning on just about every front?

Critical to the maintenance of public morale was the near complete control exercised by the wartime government over information and the means of communicating it. The daily newspapers, radio broadcasts, cinema newsreels – even private letters – were strictly censored. The Government’s key objective was to ensure that every citizen received the same information about the war.

While no government can prevent people spreading rumours and speculation, the state does have the power to punish those responsible. During World War II, persons found guilty of spreading “alarm and despondency” faced harsh penalties. To be convicted of attempting to undermine the government and/or the war effort, or, even worse, give “aid and comfort to the enemy” – i.e. commit treason – could mean execution.

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There can be little doubt that had the Internet existed in 1940, one of the first things the Labour Party leader and wartime prime minister, Peter Fraser, would have done is bring it under strict state control. Inevitably, Jacinda Ardern will have been briefed by the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on the practicalities of controlling the Internet, should the situation deteriorate to the point where such action becomes necessary. If that sounds fanciful, just consider the fact that in 2019, governments around the world shut down the Internet on nearly 200 occasions. Given the Internet’s crucial economic role, the NZ Government would be loath to take such a drastic step. But, if fake news was inciting major unrest: rioting in the streets; a run on the banks; or massive and prolonged panic buying; Jacinda and her colleagues would be left with little choice.

Controlling the crisis “narrative”, however, is just the start. Keeping up public morale is best achieved by encouraging all citizens to “do their bit” for victory. In the present circumstances, “doing our bit” might involve joining neighbourhood units dedicated to assisting the elderly and those in “self-isolation” with food and medicine deliveries. Such groups could also serve as the Government’s “eyes and ears”: reporting possible new cases of infection and enforcing the quarantine. “Doing our bit” might also involve working in the “instant factories” set up to manufacture protective masks and clothing, and construct additional ICU facilities. This sort of state-directed production is already underway in the United Kingdom and the United States. If New Zealanders could lead the world in medical equipment innovation; protective gear, and electrical appliance design, then this manufacturing proposition shouldn’t be beyond our powers!

During World War II, the NZ Government gave itself more-or-less unlimited powers to intervene in and control every aspect of the market. Obviously, this included the labour force. Just about anyone could be “manpowered” (sorry, but this was the 1940s!) anywhere. In 2020, with the supply of immigrant farm labour shut off, keeping up agricultural and horticultural production (our principal source of overseas funds now that tourism and education have been taken out of the export mix) may require those without work to accept being “person-powered” to the nation’s orchards and dairy farms.

When World War II came to an end in 1945 the sense of collective achievement was huge. Clearly, the suffering and dangers endured by New Zealand’s soldiers, sailors and airmen in direct conflict with the enemy could not be shared by everyone, but just about everyone contributed something to the war effort. The women who worked in factories, offices and on the land; the kids who collected waste paper and scrap metal; the grandparents who tended “Victory Gardens” and knitted socks for the “boys overseas”. There had been shortages, rationing, deep fear and agonising loss, but New Zealanders had come through their national ordeal, together, and they were enormously proud of their resilience. Moreover, most of them were equally proud of the government that had guided them through – re-electing Fraser’s Labour Party in 1946.

In leading New Zealand through the Covid-19 Pandemic, Jacinda could do a lot worse than allow herself to be guided by the spirit of collective sacrifice and co-operation that animated the New Zealanders of 80 years ago. Most Kiwis alive today have had no opportunity to prove their mettle in the way their parents and grandparents did during the global struggle against fascism. In the weeks and months to come, Jacinda’s Government must do everything it can to ensure that we are given our chance.

A top-down, government-knows-best approach will not secure the public “buy-in” crucial to keeping the people of this country together. If the response to the Covid-19 Pandemic is not crafted and delivered by all of us, working together, for all of us, then the many hardships and wrenching tragedies that lie ahead will not bind our communities more closely together, they will tear them apart. Good leaders do not attempt to carry their people, they allow themselves to be carried by them.

We can be strong, we can be kind, and we will be okay, Jacinda. Count on it.



  1. Well everyone knows I enjoy what Chris Trotter has to say. The world has been an interesting place these last few weeks with Wuhan virus and the world got cancelled and surprisingly the woke didn’t do it. Or so we are told.

    But seriously corona virus is all that’s going on right now and there are millions of people out there claiming expertise and no one has a fucking clue.

    Corona is a very dangerous virus so it is critical that every one gets the information they need to keep themselves safe and while The Director of Public Health in NZ may have his complicated graphs and highly skilled and well payed experts to call on just like The Spin Off may have its fancy opinions and complete lack of self awareness, we have our ridiculous analogies and Chris Trotters analysis which is why I’m going to talk a bit about this blog and how we might learn about how to deal with the corona virus.

    The first lesson is that people should not play with nature incautiously. I would imagine peoples minds would think about humanity inadvertently creating dangerous weapons and things that can kill us but it’s a bit more simplistic when it comes to covid19.

    The Chinese Government was not carful in its regulation of wildlife farming thus Chinese wet markets are infected with dangerous bacteria and viruses that can mutate and infect humans which we saw with the Seafood Market in Wuhan China the most probable geological Genesis for the disease. As it turned out we don’t need white male patriarchy to devastate humanity.

    Human curiosity ingenuity is what makes us special but while such traits are important to society they also at times threaten the survival of the human race and this is true with the Wuhan virus outbreak. The Chinese government knew what science had to say about the dangers of Chinese wet markets after all the 2003 SARS epidemic most likely started in a Chinese wet market. Despite a temporary ban on Chinese wet markets business mostly went back to normal soon after because Chinese wildlife farming industry is very powerful and influential. So these wildlife farmers became incautious with nature and thus covid19 jumped from animals to humans.

    The next lesson we can take away from Chris’s blog is that in times of pandemic human cooperation is vital. Obviously the take away is in times of crises terrible things can happen from miscommunication or lack of communication.

    According to various media outlets being held back important information about the Wuhan virus for months the consequences being the world is much less prepared for the outbreak costing possibly thousands of more lives than necessary and further more America and China is fermenting blame by casting doubt on each other. Trump says China is to blame and Beijing peddles conspiracy theories that the U.S government spread the disease.

    Assigning blame is probably not important amides the virus spiralling out of control what we need to do right now is all play on team human so that nothing worse happens during the course of this viruses spread. Relating to this lesson is that strong leadership is essential to beating this virus.

    Following the outbreak of corona virus the woke mainstream right wingers didn’t think it was real and began running counter narratives that in my opinion it was a poor decision on behalf of Chinese leaders that kept everyone in the dark. Leaders who are more open could have possibly delayed the spread and potentially saved thousands of lives. Just the same in New Zealand we have to hope and pray that our leaders make the right decisions in times of crises.

    So to all those out there showing pride in your Democratic Party of choice I would say choice your leaders carefully because even though all options might seem to suck sometimes in a crises you at least want the best person in charge.

    • Its the Covid-19 virus Sam ,,,,, Only the President of the USA gets to call it slant eyed devil virus ,,, and he has his reasons ,,,,

      Serious or helpful people call it Coronavirus or Covid19 ,,, and there is good information with practical advice out there. Just not so much from our New Zealand MoH and health minister at the moment ….

      • Repeating terms that USA President uses is not helpful to any reasoned discussion of the problem. We know he has been elected because he has no reason, only reaction. We not only have a problem, we have the world’s biggest, richest nation, or was richest, electing someone spectacularly like a showman, Barnum and Bailey type. Could be there is a need for some fun in grim USA and they are desperate for a spectacle. We don’t want to repeat the shyster.

        • At the same time our responses and reactions have to be sustainable. New Zealand is a small trading nation with limited productive capacity particularly through a severe economic down turn and it may very well turn into a financial meltdown according to Damian Grant on today’s Working Group and I agree the nation is over leveraged and we mistook that leverage for genius. So I’m going to keep calling it the Wuhan virus because Iv got an axe to grind against communist China but as I say we should all firstly be on team human.

    • +1 Sam

      Not sure about this tho,
      “The daily newspapers, radio broadcasts, cinema newsreels – even private letters – were strictly censored. The Government’s key objective was to ensure that every citizen received the same information about the war.

      While no government can prevent people spreading rumours and speculation, the state does have the power to punish those responsible. During World War II, persons found guilty of spreading “alarm and despondency” faced harsh penalties. ”

      Isn’t this sounding a bit 1984/Pravda/Chinese propaganda?

      Are they going to ‘disappear” Simon Bridges then for spreading alarm and despondency and not agreeing with the government, aka per Jacindafan’s post?

      • Brian Tamaki puts himself on that list. He’s been quiet the naughty boy about this government, abortion and the Wuhan virus.

    • Good stuff Sam.
      The wet market looks to have helped a group of infected people to spread the virus but it appears the virus did not come from the wet market in the first instance as first guessed by many,
      A lot of intensive research has been done on this early phase of contagion.

      I remember well the WWII food rationing here so food could be sent to Britain.
      Also petrol rationing with coupons issued upon application but restricted to your situation.
      Neighbours used to trade food and petrol coupons.

  2. We should start by putting a gag on the vile Slymon Bridges.

    Yesterday was a huge moment in NZ History. Closing our borders was a first. Jacinda Ardern made the announcement during the 6pm News….but

    There was a buzz around the Beehive yesterday (pardon the pun) that a significant unprecedented announcement was about to be made about closing the borders. The usual leaks would be in play. What does the latrine Rodent Slymon Bwidges do? Not for the first time attempts to steal the Government’s thunder as he did with the 2019 Budget announcement. He went to reporter Henry Cooke just prior to 5pm with his “scoop” saying Ardern needs to shut the borders. This was a cynical move to not only steal some of the spotlight which he craves like a drug addict craves their next fix, but he more importantly wanted to create the impression that he was a genius and extremely insightful. When Ardern made the announcement, it would “appear” she had either taken advice from Bridges or followed his lead.

    This type of disgraceful politics is to be expected from Slymon at exactly the time he should shut his entitled creepy mouth and let the Government govern.

    • Well let me say this if you look at the preferred Prime Minister polling Simon Bridges is only just ahead of Judith Collins so I’m not sure where this criticism from Mr Simon Bridges of Jacinda Ardern’s leadership comes from.

      It’s a funny old thing where Simon Bridges has been put in a privileged position where I personally believe he shouldn’t be in but he’s been put in this position as crises hits the Coalition government Bridges gets more and more brave and you got to recognise that we are dealing with a new generation of voters that don’t perhaps remember all the political history of what’s happened in New Zealand especially what happened with Mr Simon Bridges and illegal spying of oil and gas exploration protesters. But I’m old enough to remember that and lots of people will remember that.

      So in my opinion Mr Bridges should hold a smile for the camera and other than that he should be very very quiet about the corona virus because he’s in a position that’s a privilege for him to be in. For sure business is important to the economy but let’s not get to cocky about our position and I’m not sure if Simon reads The Daily Blog or looks at the preferred Prime Ministers polling but I would be very carful Mr Bridges.

    • You do have a very nasty streak jacindafan.
      I’d bet more people would vote to gag the hatred you vomit so much before they would gag whatshisface.

      • Feverish Brain Peter Barry ?,,,,, Simons been a disgraceful turd for a long time now. Woof Woof 😉

        So Go choke on your own vomit.

        Heres a story about a leader you probably like ….. “Glenn Greenwald: Is Bolsonaro covering up his coronavirus test results?”

      • Peter Barry,

        I call it as I see it. If that results in people like yourself saying I have a nasty steak, then I can very comfortably live with that. Having said that, I would wager my arms and legs you are 100% wrong. The widespread disdain toward Bridges and his conduct grows by the day as his desperation increases.

        Funny how you mention “whatshisface” rather than actually naming him. Simon Bridges. Virtually everyone knows his name, especially all those who comment on political blogs….apparently, all except you. The attempt you make to distance yourself from being a National Party troll was an epic fail.

        National Party trolls attacked Ardern three days out from the 2017 election when her grandmother died. They accused Ardern of being the despicable sort of politician who would use her grandmothers death to attract sympathy votes.

        The same trolls abused her 24/7 describing her routinely in equine terms and butchering her name like no other. These were unprecedented very personal attacks to express their hatred and contempt.

        Same trolls celebrated and laughed when Ardern’s pet cat was run over and killed outside her family home. Who does that?

        Same trolls repeatedly attacked her marital status and routinely described Ardern’s beautiful baby daughter as a “bastard”. Unbelievable and all motivated by their fear that the NZ public would warm to the child.

        Much of the abuse of Ardern is misogynistic. At the heart of it is the hatred, bitterness and anger she is PM when the entitled Nats got more votes than any other single party and according to them, should still be in Government.

        Anyone who has the audacity to see Ardern in a positive light, is quickly attacked, ridiculed and described as being an ignorant Ardern Sycophant.

        What National “spew” as you describe it is divisive arrogance. They set the tone for their army of online trolls who happily follow that lead. Reasoning with such people is futile. I learned that two years ago. Funnily enough, I didn’t notice your name calling out the reprehensible vile attacks on Ardern……but you’re happy to throw your fluff when someone highlights the disgraceful conduct of …..whatshisface.

        • I agree Jacindafan.

          Whilst I do not agree with all this goverment has done/not done, the constant abuse and barrel scraping attacks from National have made one thing very clear in mind.

          I do not want people of that ilk anywhere near the levers of power. Ever.
          Especially given what we’re facing.

        • Jacindafan,

          I really appreciate your posts, especially this one calling out some of the nasty tactics that have gone down.


        • Jacindafan – Don’t forget that Simon Bridge’s own wife boasted that he was a dirty little street fighter. Clearly this is something which his fan Peter may see as some sort of positive, but it is the last thing which NZ’ers need in a time of national crisis – or at any time really.

          Unfortunately, Simon is probably too old to change without intensive therapy – and of course he would have to want to change, and that could require more grey matter than he appears to have. If he is so desperate for attention, then he might be better advised to plaster his family photos in the women’s mags again – pathetic as that may be, it is preferable to being divisive at a time when the country needs to pull together. These boys need to grow up – now.

        • You are so correct Orangemanbad, I felt like a shower after reading those repulsive toxic posts above. They bring shame on us all.

          • I don’t accept you piling shame on me Wiking. Speak for yourself.
            People finding excuses for vicious politicking is the toxic thing that poisons our democratic system. The important thing is for the rest of us to note it, point it out, and try to prevent it recurring, but then turn away and get on with surveying the problems and assisting in alleviating or solving them.

            • I wasnt actually talking to, or about, you Grey. The repellant views expressed that i was referring to are obvious enough.

              • Golly how soon we get away from a main issue into a confused pile of worms like in my compost heap. Yet they are doing something worthwhile. It would be best if you point out exactly what you are talking about Wiking and others and the particular person you are replying to. Otherwise it all goes over the fan.
                And calling another commenter a “chief partisan turd polisher” is too hippo-like for a dedicated political blog where people are trying for clever and smart and satirical. It doesn’t measure up you know.

    • Sorry to disappoint, but the shutdown of the borders common knowledge over 24 hours before hand. I live in Hamilton and it was openly being discussed yesterday morning and resulted in panic buying at several grocery stores which had queues out the door and restrictions of letting people in on a 1:1 basis with those leaving.

      New Zealanders are being very poorly lead during this crisis however I doubt the other lot would be leading any better.

      • I disagree Joe 90. Compared with the way some other countries are struggling to deal with it, I think we are extraordinarily lucky.

      • Joe 90 Are you the joe90 that has been commenting on The Standard for ages? That pseudonym is well-known and has presence amongst the NZ blogs.

    • Great stuff Jacindafan, in the current situation Simon Bridges should be put against a wall and shot for treason. As for you Peter Barry, you should fuck off back to whence you came. Anyway, conspiracy theories are on Facebook which are spreading bullshit and rumour with an anti government message. These might also be stopped before they take hold.

  3. Keeping up Public Moral would rely on our Government departments providing the truth ,,, followed by the practicle steps they / we are taking to overcome our problems.

    The health department has got off to a bad start by

    A: claiming infected people could not spread the virus unless they had symptoms , which is fake info

    B: Restricting tests to those who have returned from overseas ,, or ONLY locals who have been in close contact with a overseas traveler WHO HAS TESTED POSITIVE. Then using these skewered testing results the Govt claims there is no community spread of the virus ,,,, The testing regime CAN NOT detect community spread under their bullshit ‘ worst practice’ criteria for getting tested.

    C: False info and tight arsed testing around airline passengers who have tested positive for the virus ,,,, China has proven tracked cases where the infection has spread 4.5 meters to other passengers on public transport,,, Our health department has tested people only if they were withing 2 meters of infected passengers on a aircraft flight .

    WHO has described western countries response as pretty shit house ,,, and thats where NZ is ,,, somewhere between the UK and the USA ,,,, a few weeks behind Italy.

    New Zealanders can pull together but our Government needs to Get Real and Get Going ,,, otherwise the ugly stories Im hearing first hand ,,, of supermarket psychosis / panic buying ,,,, will bring out the worst in people.

    We should definitely ask / beg China to help with more testing capability ,,,, and note that the usa is not anyones friend or example in all of this.

    The message should be clear ,,, if you do not have public health ,,,, then you will not have a healthy public.

  4. Bad cynical leadership ….” Trump Continues Calling the Coronavirus “Chinese” Despite Reports of Anti-Asian Hate Crimes” ….

    and this shit stains history on the pandemic ,,, the chief red neck and his BS “Trump’s Dumbest Statements On Pandemic” ….

    Fox ‘news’ ,,, about face ,,,, from about 4 mins 30 secs

    And those sicko Democrats “DNC Forces Vote Against CDC Guidelines On COVID-19”

  5. I remember the Asian flu’ epidemic of ’57 (or was it ’58?). That was pretty bad. I was still at school at the time and, at the epidemic’s peak, our class of about 40 was reduced to 6 – though, of course, not all of the absentees may have been sick; some may have been kept home by parents for their own protection – I was one of the six.

  6. Kia ora Chris
    The New Zealand’s way of managing its population through the Second World War is not necessarily a good model for us to follow today.
    A couple of things stand out.
    First, state censorship was unjustified then and is unacceptable to us now.
    Second, the New Zealand government policy of following the British lead which took New Zealand into the Second World War has already cost this country dearly in the effort to contain Covid-19.
    The progress of the disease in China has shown that Covid-19 can be contained and suppressed, and geographically New Zealand is better positioned than most countries to avert an epidemic – if its government can finally come to the realization that it is highly inappropriate to follow every twist and turn in Boris Johnson’s policy for the United Kingdom, and that the state ideology of laissez-faire neo-liberalism must be abandoned if the epidemic is to be cut short and lives saved.
    Lastly, I note that Jacinda seems to have taken your advice that left-wing governments sometimes need to conceal their true agenda from the masses.
    In that I believe that both she and you are very, very wrong.

    • Andrew you can be more helpful than that corny statement.

      Best we all support each other in our time of crisis eh?

  7. During WWII the government encouraged local cinemas e.g some were built in more rural areas. Newsreel footage provided moving images of the war effort and “progress”. In the 1940s, some cinemas advertised programmes as “movies for morale”.

    Mostly Hollywood escapist entertainment. – plus scroll down the linked page for other events for Aucklanders.

    Papers Past is a great resource of local activities during WWII

    Today in the Covid-19 crisis, the Internet is the biggest resource for those doing social distancing or isolation, and can’t be controlled in the same way as cinema, newspapers or radio in the 1930s-40s – radio was just taking off in the 1930s and 1940s. Many rural areas didn’t get electricity laid on til the 1930s.

    Then in the 1940s radio really took off. in 1935, the Labour government created a state radio broadcaster and the government exercised quite a bit of control over it.

    The Internet today means the government can’t exercise the same kind of control. indeed, the current government needs to get ahead of the attitudes of the general population and lead by example, using all the kinds of platforms available.

    But also, people power can have an influence, leading the kinds of entertainment and communications available online. Entertainment, online socialisations, etc are as important as accurate information and news.

  8. We could look at the way we control distribution of resources to all according to need. It is an emergency and we should assess ourselves on what we do fairly with our money.
    Here is a link to the Peoples Budget 2019 meeting with good discussion from prominent thinkers such as Martyn Bradbury and Bryan Bruce and Rod Oram and Sue Bradford and Jane Kelsey.
    Bryan Bruce and his Co-Host Martyn Bradbury put these questions and many more to our panel of experts and community leaders at the Otahuhu Community Centre including:
    Prof.Jane Kelsey • Dr Ganesh Nana • Prof. Lisa Marriot •Rod Oram•Sue Bradford•Russel Norman•Julia Whaipooti•EfesoCollins•Kerri Nuku •Annie Newman• Ricardo Menendez•Chris Trotter

  9. Us together? In the age of the selfie?

    We are all individuals now, with ever more ways to define ourselves then the war generation. I mean, they thought “gay” meant something else entirely.

    But you would hope that this virus could be a chance to think more of an “us”. Unfortunately, we only have to look back to when the government announced a travel ban on China. “Our” universities were quick to look at the financial impact and squeal “racist”.

    PS The beard suits you, Mr Trotter.

  10. While the metaphor of this crisis as a war may be popular–indulging in literary flights of fancies and prescriptions from the past is rather unhelpful–this is obviously a very different situation.

    As for morale; transparency will likely accomplish this by gaining public confidence and ensure the necessary precautions in containing the virus. Any censorship would sure to be suicide for this government and probably make the situation worse.

    As for the idea of conscripting labour for various industries–precautions in preventing the spread of the virus in the workplace is crucial; likely stricter policies will have to take place in many existing jobs. Such a threat was not as great during the war facing human foes. Yesterday I stated a prediction to someone that next week will find twenty cases, only to be proved wrong a few hours later. Next week, probably over a hundred cases and the first community transmissions wouldn’t be far-fetched at this rate.

    Considering an earlier post describing the perils of censorship and the flu pandemic of 1918 and then this, almost the antithesis of the first, is rather bewildering.

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