Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

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Plague town?

There are two things right now in Aotearoa New Zealand that are guaranteed to piss people off.

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Firstly, it’s National playing silly-bugger politics with the covid-19 pandemic. This cost Simon Bridges his job as National’s Leader.

Lately, Michael Woodhouse has been playing fast and loose with revelations that he waited a day before informing the Ministry of Health (MoH) that two sisters had been allowed out of quarantine without testing. The two women later tested positive for covid-19.

Mr Woodhouse chose first to talk over the tip-off from his source with his Party leadership. Later, after some strategy had no doubt been engineered (with Matthew Hooton’s involvement?), Mr Woodhouse went public.

In his interview with RNZ’s Suzie Ferguson, Mr Woodhouse was at pains to point out that it was not his job to inform MoH or the government that two untested returnees were travelling the length of the North Island and who later tested positive for covid-19. Evidently, the risk that the pair could have infected others; put people in hospital; potentially killed someone; and further harmed the fragile state of our economy – was not a matter worthy of consideration for  Mr Woodhouse who has aspirations to one day be a government Minister.

As he put it so eloquently to Ms Ferguson;

“I’m not part of the cheerleading team.”

Mr Woodhouse criticised Health Minister David Clark as being “completely disengaged from his role [as Minister of Health]” and demanded his resignation.

The same charge could equally be levelled at Mr Woodhouse for playing politics with a disease that has destroyed so many lives.

It’s a moot point which is worse; incompetence or politicising a lethal pandemic.

The second thing that has roused the ire of New Zealanders is the constant flow of media stories of a small number of returnees who have whinged at aspects of their quarantine, or expected special treatment to attend family members who are near death, or funerals. (And I write this as someone who understands all too well what it feels like to face the ghastly frustration of seeing a loved one dying and not being able to do a damn thing about it…)

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Or the non-stop media stories of businesspeople who demanded exemptions and wanted to continue trading during Level 4 and Level 3 lockdown .

Nothing quite says “Batshit Crazy” as a weight-loss company  so full of it’s own self-importance that they think they are an essential service during a global pandemic;

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Because if you’re on your death-bed from covid-19 – about to meet your Maker – no doubt losing a few kilos is first and foremost on your mind…

Three months later, and we have a new contender for Self Important Entitlement: Scenic Hotel Group’s managing director, Brendan Taylor.

Mr Taylor was apoplectic that *HIS* town, Rotorua, would be hosting additional quarantine facilities;

“It is a concern to a lot of New Zealanders travelling as to which hotels are being used as isolation hotels and which ones aren’t.

Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so I would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels.”

Yes, Mr Taylor was mightily concerned that “Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so […] would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels”.

So no concerns then about pandemics? Or re-infection if we don’t begin to get our act together with stringest quarantine procedures. Or the lives that could be lost. Or that returnees were our fellow Kiwis.

Mr Taylor’s point-of-view was that hotels were “doing really well with weekend business“.

That’s not all he’s done “really well with“. Interestingly, Mr Taylor has benefitted fairly well accepting the taxpayer’s coin;

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Thus far, Mr Taylor’s company has taken $1,512,379.20 of the taxpayer’s coin for wage subsidies. That’s our taxes going to his company to pay his staff’s wages.

The least he could do is not whinge  and understand that this government is doing what it must to assist New Zealanders to return to this country safely, and in a way that does not bring contagion back into our community.

Because it may have escaped Mr Taylor’s attention that if covid-19 returns and the second wave is even more disastrous for our economy – he may not have much a hotel chain left to be Managing Director of.

Instead of  being self-indulgent, perhaps he could return the generosity of the taxpayer by asking; “what can we do to assist”?

As for Radio NZ which carried the story – this is not the first tale of self-indulgent, woe-is-me, “grief journalism” they’ve engaged in. Or badly mis-represented a story.

In this case, the headline carried the ominous warning;

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Except… there was no reference within the text of the story to any “potential travellers” being “wary”.

Or “weary”, as their Twitter version suggested;

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In fact there was no mention of “potential travellers” full stop. Just the “reckons” of one businessman more concerned  with “doing really well with weekend business” than his fellow countrymen and women.

One could also question RNZ using the phrase;

“As the school holidays approach there is concern people may put off plans to travel to Rotorua where two hotels were commandeered for quarantining returning Kiwis at the weekend.”

This is immature tabloid journalism and not the standard we expect from RNZ.

The commentary after RNZ posted a link to the above story on Twitter was scathing. One could have been forgiven that people were commenting on the latest confused ramblings from Mike Hosking, Kate Hawkesby, or Sean Plunkett, and not this country’s most respected media outlet.

Not good, RNZ:

D Minus. Can do much better if they apply themselves.

Pay-To-Stay?

Today (23 June), the government floated the ‘kite’ of demanding co-payments from returnees to Aotearoa New Zealand. The co-payment would be charged for their 14 day quarantine;

“What we need to consider as a government is the fairness of a potential co-payment system, so we need to factor in a whole range of issues and keep in mind we cannot stop New Zealanders from coming back to the country where they are a citizen, and so that will have to underpin all of our decisions.” – PM Ardern

Human Rights lawyer, Michael Bott, was damning of the suggestion;

“I would say, potentially, it’s in breach of the Bill of Rights Act, because you have a right of entry in terms of your country and to impose a cost on New Zealand citizens who are overseas and wish to come back home… is something which may be considered disproportionate and severe.”

Put in plain english, this is a really terrible idea. It is the sort of money-grubbing we might expect from a National government  prepared to put money ahead of the well-being of our fellow citizens. This would be Labour’s moment equivalent to National raising prescription charges in 2012 from $3 to $5.

This would be the antithesis of the positive message that PM Ardern has steadfastly maintained these last few months;

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Yes, we are all in this together. The quarantining of hundreds – thousands – of returnees is not for their personal benefit. A postcard to Aunt Nellie showing their hotel room doesn’t quite have the same romanticism as a beach at Bali.

This benefits us all, from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island; the entire Team Five Million. We all stand to gain from returnees quarantining.

Just as returnees benefitted from the entire country going into lock down for six weeks.

To expect them to pay – even only a portion – would be like expecting people to pay for their own covid-19 testing. The idea would be ludicrous because when it comes to an infectious micro-organism there is no “Us” and “Them”. There is only “We”. As in, we’re all in this together.

I have no idea who came up with this short-sighted notion. It is quite mad. And I am surprised that it would pass PM Ardern’s “sniff test”.

I hope it is binned. Because there is nothing remotely kind about it.

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As at 23 June 2020:

Confirmed covid19 cases: 1,165

Active cases: 10

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

RNZ:  National Party on managed isolation bungle  (audio)

RNZ:  Travellers ‘shocked’ at last minute transfer to quarantine in Rotorua

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Kiwi in quarantine pleads with Government for right to visit dying mother

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Coronavirus – Kiwi woman desperate to see her dying mother denied isolation exemption

RNZ:  Covid-19 – NZer in quarantine appeals to government compassion to see dying wife

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Kiwi in LA begs for quarantine exemption to see dying dad in Christchurch

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Jenny Craig defends stance as essential service

RNZ: Isolation hotels making potential travellers wary

Work and Income:  Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Employer Search

Twitter: RNZ –  Isolation hotels making potential travellers weary – 23 June 2020

RNZ:  Cabinet to consider co-payment scheme for new arrivals

Stuff: Prescription cost to rise to help pay for Budget

ODT:  ‘We’re all in this together’

Ministry of Health:  Two new cases of COVID-19

Other Blogposts

The Standard:  Responsible politics verses Gotcha politics

The Daily Blog: Snakes and Mirrors – National Sat On Covid-19 Infection Information For Hours Before Dropping Political Bombshell In Parliament

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

 

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost will be re-published in five days on “Frankly Speaking“. Reader’s comments may be left here (The Daily Blog) or there (Frankly Speaking).

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Well said, Frank.

    What the government really needs to do is acknowledge that tourism is pretty much finished for good, and stop pretending it is ever going to be anything other than a very, very minor component of the economy, as the whole globalised system progresses through the collapse phase.

    All the mal-investment that has gone on over recent decades needs to be dealt with, firstly by allowing those who made the mal-investment go broke, and then to convert the hotels, motels and other tourism infrastructure into things that will be of value in the coming years -perhaps accommodation for the homeless or those currently living in squalid conditions. It would make economic sense to abandon a large portion of the vast oversupply of tourism-related infrastructure altogether and get the staff re-employed doing something useful, like depaving concrete and asphalt areas and establishing food gardens.

    The chance of any of that happening is close to zero when we have a government committed to some form of business-as-usual, even though BAU is finished for good.

    I believe the next few weeks will clarify the situation, as the US, Brazil, Mexico, India, etc. ‘fall off the cliff’ under the weight of surging Covid-19 cases and deaths. With stupidity, incompetence and lack of medical facilities the norm, rather than the exception, we can look forward to a complete collapse of pretty much everything that people have taken for granted for decades.

    Whether the financial-economic collapse that is underway can be slowed is open to debate, since the measures implemented by governments and the US Fed simply prop up equity values in the short term and do nothing to address any of the fundamental frauds, inconsistencies and unsustainability of the system. Inflating the existing bubble even bigger and creating new bubbles, as the Fed and other central banks are doing, simply leads to an even bigger crash when all the bubbles burst, as they surely will some time soon.

    Things are moving so quickly even this recent [may 13th] article is a little out of date.

    https://goldswitzerland.com/total-catastrophe-of-the-currency-system/

    And then there is the collapsing environment, of course.

    • ReYCTMe: “What the government really needs to do is acknowledge that tourism is pretty much finished for good, and stop pretending it is ever going to be anything other than a very, very minor component of the economy, as the whole globalised system progresses through the collapse phase. “

      I suspect you’re right, AFKTT. Tourism will be a tough ask if they are first required to be isolated for 14 days. Though no doubt, National will be agitating for some crazy half-baked idea to permit tourists into Aotearoa New Zealand sans quarantining because, y’know, economy, profits, jobs, etc. (Just as Todd Muller recently advocated the asinine notion of allowing up to 10,000 foreign students into this country next month. ref: https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/john-campbell-questions-todd-muller-over-idea-bring-back-10k-international-students)

      Mass tourism was never sustainable and a recent story on TVNZ’s Q+A illustrated that having thousands of foreign visitors traipsing through near-pristine wilderness would damage the very thing that was attracting them. On top of which, DoC was required to divert scarce resources to providing facilities for mass tourism (toilets, tracks, etc) rather than their core mandate: to protect and conserve our natural environment.

      There was also the unpleasant reality that certain tourist destinations were priced out of the reach of many New Zealanders as tourism operators catered for overseas tourists and their wallets.

      At the very least, we can give the environment a ‘break’ until we, as a country, decide how we want to manage this industry. If it’s going to be carefully managed in sustainable way – all well and good. If it’s back to a free-for-all, not so good.

      • I might as well spell it out concisely while I eat my lunch.

        Sustainable tourism is, and has always been, an oxymoron, fabricated by an advertising agency, a fuckwit economist or a self-serving liar (not sure which), since it is composed of two mutually exclusive concepts: that you can consume finite resources (coal, oil, natural gas) to shift people around in metal boxes and generate humungous quantities of waste (particularly CO2), and that you can keep doing it forever.

        So, when tourism was via wooden sailing ships, wooden carriages pulled by horses, when food was produced naturally [by nature], and there was no such thing as plastic, it could be argued that tourism was sustainable -allowing for the fact that only the top echelon of society could participate by keeping the masses extremely poor and working others to death via slavery.

        Few of those conditions prevailed after about 1830 and none of them prevailed after about 1880.

        The very brief aberration that mass tourism is, in the modern sense of the word, commenced when the US began extracting oil from Alaska and Britain and Norway began extracting oil from under the North Sea. The once-only bonanza was squandered as quickly as possible by the lunatic fringe that composed governments from the 1980s on, and the world is now paying the price for all that irresponsible squandering and polluting of the commons, and the children of the world are going to pay an even bigger price.

        Apart from the aspects you mentioned, of tourism destroying the very things the tourists want to experience, it is worth noting that just ONE international round trip consumes more resources and generates more pollution than an ENTIRE LIFTIME of a non-traveller.

  2. Funny how a human rights lawyer seem to be more interested in getting locals to pay the tab of returning travellers and visitors into NZ while pretty silent on having NZ’s growing homeless pay back their hotel stays..

    Since you can become a NZ citizen or PR in an astonishing short time with the right connections https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/29/new-zealand-gave-peter-thiel-citizenship-after-spending-just-12-days-there or on the back of a criminal career https://thespinoff.co.nz/music/02-07-2019/the-extraordinary-story-of-love-brar-the-fraudster-who-became-a-pop-star/ be a convicted rapist https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11837608, be a drugs lord for decades without ever putting in a NZ tax return https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11842563 even if you have not even been here much https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/121302846/colour-drained-from-real-estate-agents-face-as-he-realised-hed-been-defrauded-of-120k-in-sim-hijacking-scam…. so of course the human rights lawyers are all over how the rest of the country that actually pays taxes here should pay for their expenses of the returning ‘kiwis’ which is a pretty loose term these days…. oh and return to claim benefits too when it’s convenient…

    Travellers have to pay for the flights to return and paid for the expense to leave NZ, they paid a paltry fee for their ‘mercy’ flights back to NZ organised by Winston, so not sure why the latest round of accomodation and expenses needs to be paid for by Kiwi taxes and that is a human rights issue (according to ex construction cum human rights lawyer https://www.heretaungalaw.co.nz/michael-bott) when there is so many other human rights abuses within our own country that the lawyers seem to be strangely silent on… If it is even true or another hoax…https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/102989694/top-high-court-judge-caught-in-email-hoax-involving-prominent-lawyer

    Even in the co-payment option, why should the rest of the county pay for returning citizens and PR stays at all. No wonder we can’t afford ICU beds in NZ as our taxes are continually being diverted to those that generally don’t live here and often have a lot more money or the ability to hide a lot more money from the NZ authorities here.

    Meanwhile no human rights mentioned by lawyers when airlines pocket customers cash with non refunds on cancelled flights as our government ‘forgot’ to update our aviation laws unlike other countries). https://www.caa.co.uk/News/UK-Civil-Aviation-Authority-reviewing-airline-refunds/

    Anyone can call themselves a human rights lawyer these days, dime a dozen around the world

    aka
    ‘I am a f***ing international lawyer and you won’t give me a glass of wine?’ Irish woman’s astonishing rant at Air India staff after she is denied a drink during flight to Heathrow’
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6387833/British-woman-denied-drink-flight-Heathrow-rants-Air-India-staff.html

    • ReYCTMe: “Even in the co-payment option, why should the rest of the county pay for returning citizens and PR stays at all.”

      As I pointed out above; because we all benefit. Not just those in quarantine. Just as we all benefit by have free covid19 tests in the community.

      On top of which there are practical reasons. Force people to pay and you risk them absconding. This requires a large degree of co-operation and user-pays (or even partial user-pays) would undermine that co-operation.

      Let’s not forget that implementing user-pays in one place often ends up being applied elsewhere. It is one of the very foundations of neo-liberalism.

      Ironically, we don’t expect hospital patients to pay for their beds and procedures. Expecting co-payments would fly in the face of that principle.

      It boils down to the question we should be asking; is this a personal “good” or a collective “good”, where we all benefit? I think it is the latter.

      • @Frank – nope don’t think the public benefits from these travellers, there is record unemployment so no doubt the majority of them will go onto benefits.

        They were not recently in NZ and therefore are unlikely to have paid any taxes while others who were here are having to pay taxes and their own accomodation and expenses living here even if they are homeless they often have a dept to pay back.

        And pay we do to the wage subsidies as you pointed out… when does it end…. adding more and more overseas beneficiaries on the NZ taxpayers as well as the corporate welfare.

        Overseas beneficiaries get more freebies that local beneficiaries, Overseas companies get free water while locals pay a fortune and are in a drought, more overseas cum NZ residents through our courts, and the woke don’t mind, they support it, it seems …

        and you can bet that a lot of the returning Kiwis are either newly minted Kiwis who take the benefits and have contributed minimal taxes – or even worse, getting more criminals into NZ who our blind government gives citizenship to… NZ has a bums on seats approach to immigration just like they have a bums on seats to education now, and it is not good for society.

  3. Target the quarantine, some may genuinely not have the money and may have abruptly lost jobs overseas. Some have tiki toured around the world and now realised the country they are in is no longer safe so made there way home. Some may not have taken the virus serious and didn’t heed the advice when Winstone told them to come home. Either way we can moan and bitch till the cows come home but legally we cannot stop NZ citizens no matter how and when some got citizenship from returning.

  4. Target the quarantine, some may genuinely not have the money and may have abruptly lost jobs overseas. Some have tiki toured around the world and now realised the country they are in is no longer safe so made there way home. Some may not have taken the virus serious and didn’t heed the advice when Winstone told them to come home. Either way we can moan and bitch till the cows come home but legally we cannot stop NZ citizens no matter how and when some got citizenship from returning.

    • Nobody is stopping NZ citizens coming, home the point is, that since due to Covid they need to be quarantined they should pay for it, and have that debt put against them just like the local’s accessing emergency accomodation. It’s not free for our own poor to get free accomodation, then why should it be for the Peter Thiel’s and Sroubek’s who comes to NZ in times of crisis?

      • “then why should it be for the Peter Thiel’s and Sroubek’s who comes to NZ in times of crisis?”

        Eh? You’re using those 2 bogeymen to smear other returning nzers? I don’t know which part of nz you’re trying to save, but those returning to NZ are our fellow kiwis you’re denigrating and equating them to 2 men who have no links to this country is not cool.

      • That’s harsh Savenz. I’d expect that kind of comment from Kiwiblog readers. But yeah, whatever.

Comments are closed.