Life in Level 2: National’s Barely Secret Agenda



national business virus covid19


National has come out of it’s corner fighting hard. With Labour’s recent high polling on TV3 and TV1, National faces a colossal election defeat, the worst since 2002.

This has forced National to adapt it’s “tough on crime” cliches to the current microscopic threat against our wellbeing. National is now “tough on covid“.

The phrasing is slightly altered, but the “tough on XYZ” image is not changed or diluted one iota. It is appealing to it’s rump base and to those New Zealanders who are pissed of at quarantine fence-jumpers; resent having to use their taxes to pay for Returnees’ quarantining; and or who feel that quarantine procedures/testing have been too lax, whether for Returnees or Border staff.

This is all fertile soil upon which National can sow its seeds of resentment and fear, and harvest a rich crop of votes.

They have not disappointed.

TDB Recommends

Their latest Border Protection policyissued “only” six months after the first recorded case of Covid19 in Aotearoa New Zealand on 28 February – is a study in punitive restrictions; over promising; vagueness; and… of course, very much business-friendly.

It is also a masterpiece of deflection.

The document has been widely presented with the main msm narrative that all Returnees planning to board an aircraft must first present a negative covid test;


msm headlines - national covid19


True to her “crusher” form, Opposition Leader Judith Collins has presented a staunch – almost authoritarian figure – determined to keep covid19 out of Aotearoa New Zealand;

“We will make sure that it is legal because … we will change the law if necessary.

We know that there will be some concerns about the Bill of Rights Act and peoples’ human rights, we understand that. And we also understand that this is always a balancing situation between the rights of an individual who may be feeling that they shouldn’t have to have a test to come back into New Zealand, but let’s look at it this way, right at the moment the law has been changed so when they are here they have penalties. So what’s the problem?

The answer surely must be. We don’t want Covid-19, and no New Zealander wants Covid-19 here.”

Those unable to get pre-tested and obtain a negative would not be allowed back into the country, according to Ms Collins.

However, aside from the sheer illegality of such a draconian step, the practicality and certainty of pre-testing Returnees prior to boarding their flights back home has been questioned.

More than one person has pointed out it is possible to be asymptomatic and return a negative result – only to test positive later. Or to contract the virus in-flight, from others.

Ms Collins and National’s health spokesperson, Dr Shane Reti, both insist this policy has been written in consultation with epidemiologists. Neither have disclosed who those epidemiologist(s) are.

Said Ms Collins;

“We have epidemiologists who are working with us. I’m not going to name them…”

Dr Reti also declined to name them;

“We’re grateful for those networks of trust and those relationships. If they want to identify themselves, they will.”

Such coyness.

Let’s hope it was not Dr Thornley, a maverick epidemiologist who has touted the “herd immunity” option and praised Sweden’s strategy of allowing the virus to sweep through the population. (Even though Sweden’s death toll from covid19 now stands at a staggering 5,810 – despite that country having only twice our population.)

Or perhaps it was the “Emotional Junior Staffer“? Or Michael Woodhouse’ “Homeless Man“? National abounds with mysterious characters, it would appear.

However, a closer scrutiny of National’s policy documents “Securing New Zealand’s border against COVID-19” and it’s in-depth version “Securing Our Border“, reveals that there is a ‘fish hook’ in their policy on handling covid-19.

The latter document, “Securing Our Border” contains just four short references to the complex (and probably unworkable) suggestion that New Zealanders be pre-tested prior to returning home;

Receiving returning Kiwis and visitors at the border, and ensuring pre-border checks for people coming into New Zealand. (p2)

National would follow international models and require people coming into the country to not only quarantine but also receive a test for COVID-19, or a subsequent pandemic virus, three days before departure and provide the results of that test to airline staff before boarding their plane. (p3)

National would […] Require people travelling to New Zealand to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving into New Zealand. (p3)

National would […] [Require] Pre boarding thermal imaging and completion of health declaration card. (p3)

It is interesting to note that there is no reference made whatsoever to what would happen to a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident if they tested positive for covid19. The policy document does not address this critical point.

When it comes to lock-downs and business needs, the document is more fulsome. Note the highlighted parts:

Preparing for a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur. Lockdowns, if needed, can be more targeted shorter in duration, while protecting our most vulnerable. (p1)

Facilitating planning with businesses to ensure safe practices. Specifically tailoring plans for small business, retailers and manufacturers. (p2)

This report, and the examples of high-quality contact tracing and testing systems internationally, provide confidence that similar systems in New Zealand could allow for less intrusive lockdowns in the event of an isolated outbreak. (p4)

National would implement the following […] Ensuring consistency and capacity within the contact tracing system is critical to achieving the goals of a rapid contact tracing system that would help manage any isolated incidents of COVID-19 beyond the border and to limit the need of intensive lockdowns across the country. (p4)

If lockdowns do occur, we must help our economy so that commerce can continue through lockdowns and people can continue work. […] Lockdowns are a short-term intervention that come at a tremendous cost to businesses and our economy. In the long term, New Zealand cannot afford to shut down or slow our entire economy even if there is a localised incursion. (p6)

National is concerned the lessons of the first lockdown were not closely studied to provide an improved response during the August lockdown. Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy. For example, where small businesses like butchers and greengrocers can demonstrate and implement or plan to operate safely, they should be allowed to do so. (p6)

In a press statement, National’s Covid-19 Border Response spokesperson, Gerry Brownlee, reaffirmed his Party’s intention to localise lockdowns  (;

“Continuous improvement of our systems is required so that lockdowns become more targeted and effective, with minimal impact on our communities and the economy.”

Almost every paragraph contains a reference to limiting lockdowns. The terms “isolated outbreak“, “localised incursion”, “less intrusive lockdowns”, and “lockdowns become more targeted” are suggestive of National pursuing the failed limited ‘post-code’-based lockdowns in various Melbourne suburbs that were utterly ineffectual to contain their current outbreak;

…the current restrictions still allow significant movement of people between suburbs and to work. Face-to-face teaching in schools is still permitted, and there is no limit on the number of people in supermarkets and shopping centres.

This was National’s coded message to the business community: that under a National government, any lockdown would be localised and not encompass an entire city. As much as they could get away with, it would be business-as-usual.

The over-hyped references to pre-testing returning New Zealanders (without disclosing what would happen if they failed a covid test) was a noisy distraction so the media and the public would look elsewhere, missing the true message buried within the text of the policy document.

But the business community would have read the document. They would have noticed the carefully nuanced references to “less intrusive lockdowns”, and “lockdowns become more targeted” and understood the meaning perfectly well.

Under a National Government, the economy would take priority. End of.

National learned its lesson when it endorsed allowing foreign students to return to this country. At a time when our MIQ (Mandatory Isolation and Quarantine) facilities were struggling to cope with nearly 40,000 Returnees – Universities were noisily agitating to allow foreign students back in.

The suggestion was that Universities would look after their own quarantine facilities;

Victoria University of Wellington has a plan for international students’ quarantine it will put to government, in the hope students will be allowed back before the border reopens.


Victoria University of Wellington vice-chancellor Grant Guilford said they had had a plan since late February for a strict quarantine.

The university had identified three facilities in the capital that could take students.


Quarantine would be supervised by university staff and possibly public health officials as well.

Only a few days ago (19 August), Universities were still touting and pressuring the government to re-admit foreign students into Aotearoa New Zealand;

Universities New Zealand chief executive Chris Whelan said Australia was following in the footsteps of places like Canada and the United Kingdom by bringing international students back.

New Zealand risked being left behind if students could not return by early next year, and it could take 10 years for the international student sector, which is worth $5 billion to the economy annually, to get back on track.

He believed the Australian programme could work in New Zealand.

We can all guess how that would turn out.

Not very well, would be the correct answer.

In case anyone was in doubt, this is how such a scenario might play out if Universities got their way;

First week: foreign students enter the country. They are taken to quarantine hotels run by Victoria University staff and private security guards in Wellington. The public is assured all students will remain in strict quarantine; not mingle; not leave the facility; obey protocols,etc, etc, etc…

Second week: first reports in the media of students partying; mingling; co-habiting; venturing out to bottle stores to buy alcohol and pizza. Security guards unable to stop them: they do not have police powers. University staff: nowhere to be seen.

Third week: more reports of partying and absconding. Local Wellington apartment dwellers tell media students are coming and going without hindrance.

Fourth week: first cases of covid19 detected in Wellington. Source “unclear”.

Fifth week: more cases of covid19 detected. Source identified through genomic sequencing as coming from student in one of the hotel facilities.

Sixth week: University management blame “systemic failures” and “undertake to review systems/protocols”.

Seventh week: Wellington goes into Level 3 lockdown. Blogger writes shortest blogpost ever: “I f*****g told you so!”

It’s always “systemic failures”;


systemic failures


It’s always “Systemic Failure” – which conveniently  means no one will ever be held to account; no one will lose their job. Apparently it’s never human accountability because someone stuffed up and promised something they simply couldn’t deliver.

When foreign students from one of the country’s University’s reintroduces covid19 into the community – it will be a “systemic/systems failure”.

In June, National enthusiastically supported Universities having foreign students return to the country;

A National Government would be working hard to safely return tertiary international students back to New Zealand as quickly as possible, Deputy Leader and Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye and National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Dr Shane Reti say.

Only two months later, National fully reversed it’s policy 180 degrees and have now dropped it like a hot potato. Public reaction would not have been supportive of such a risky venture – a fact National’s internal polling and/or focus groups would have sheeted home without any ambiguity whatsoever.

On top of which, having potentially infected foreign students entering the country, creating new clusters, would have undermined the revised narrative that new National leader, Judith Collins, was feeding the public;

“We’ve said very clearly since I’ve been the leader that there is no tolerance for Covid-19 in New Zealand. I’ve heard lots of reports from some people that we should be much softer on this, I’m not prepared to be softer on this,” Collins said.

You can only let people in if it can be done safely. And safely means someone checking the checkers.”

She says that so well, so convincingly. Almost with sincerity.

But a Leader who is willing to leave our fellow sick New Zealanders stranded overseas is not one to be trusted to look after the well-being of the rest of us. Her “compassion” and concern for our safety cannot be foremost in her mind when she so casually turns her back on sick New Zealanders in time of their greatest need.

Ms Collins’ media minders have obviously noted Prime Minister Ardern’s concern for our safety and well-being – and have tried to transplant it on the National Party Leader.

It is not a good fit.

National have read the tea leaves; the chicken entrails; and most critically, public opinion: very few New Zealanders want to risk reintroducing covid19. So they have written their Border Protection policy accordingly… but with that one, little ‘fish hook’ they snuck in, without anyone noticing.

And just to leave the gates open just a fraction for a future incoming National Government, they have given themselves an ‘out’ in that same Border Policy document:

In the shorter term, the [Border Protection] agency will administer policy and procedures for:


Considering expansion of entry qualifications and timing. (p2)

Expansion of entry qualifications“… for who? Foreign fee-paying students?


New Zealanders should be careful in voting for National. They have have made it clear where they place their priority, whether it be human lives and safety – or the economy.

If you guessed “human lives and safety”, you guessed wrong.





Wikipedia: 2002 New Zealand general election

RNZ:  New poll – Labour climbs to 60.9%, National at 25.1%

RNZ: Latest poll puts Labour at 53, National at 32

Stuff media: Alleged isolation escapee told New Zealanders ‘sick and tired’ of quarantine breaches

Stuff media:  Make quarantined travellers pay: It’s unfair to expect taxpayers to pick up the tab

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus: – Recent returnee blasts ‘cowboy approach’ to PPE in managed isolation

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Lack of testing of staff at border ‘extraordinary’ – Skegg

National Party: Securing New Zealand’s border against COVID-19 (

RNZ:  New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

RNZ:  ‘We’ll make sure it’s legal’ – Collins on compulsory testing

Otago Daily Times:  Nats want everyone entering NZ to test negative to Covid first

The Spinoff: The Bulletin – National changes philosophy behind border policy

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – National wants everyone entering NZ to test negative first

Stuff media: Election 2020 – National wants travellers to test negative for Covid-19 before flying to NZ

Mediaworks/Newshub:  National’s border policy – Negative COVID-19 test required before returning to New Zealand

The Spinoff:  Live updates, August 22 – Six new cases of Covid-19 in the community (see: 10.15am entry)

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Has Sweden’s COVID-19 approach paid off?

Worldometer: Coronavirus – Sweden

Newsroom: Petition taken down by ‘emotional junior staffer’

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Michael Woodhouse’s isolation homeless mystery man claim debunked

National Party: Securing Our Border

RNZ: Melbourne retailer philosophical about ‘unusual’ postcode lockdown

The Conversation:  Two weeks into Melbourne’s lockdown, why aren’t COVID-19 case numbers going down?

RNZ: University has plans for bringing back international students

Stuff media: Coronavirus – New Zealand ‘risks being left behind’ if international students can’t return

Stuff media:  Minister spots ‘systemic failing’, thousands of beneficiaries affected by automatic payment error

NZ Family Violence Clearing House:  Health and Disability Commissioner finds “systemic failing” at DHB in child abuse case

RNZ:  ‘Systemic failure’ in library closure shocks mayor

NZ Herald:  Leslie Gelberger tragedy – Ports of Auckland fined $424,000 for ‘systemic failure’

National Party:  Under National international students would be back (

Stuff media: Coronavirus – National goes cold on international student policy


Twitter: @fmacskasy – 1.41PM Jun 15, 2020

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 9:45AM  Jun 12, 2020 – no mood to go back into lockdown

Previous related blogposts

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!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus




collins - covid 19

Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch


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).



= fs =


  1. “It’s always “Systemic Failure” – which conveniently means no one will ever be held to account; no one will lose their job.”
    What amuses me is that those that trot out the “systemic failure” routine are usually the very people that have created the “system” or been party to it. It’s usually followed by something like “we’re reviewing our processes and procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen again” . Rinse and repeat the cycle until it becomes bleeding bloody obvious that they’re not up to it.
    “systemic failure” goes hand in hand with a number of other infectious spin lines (in that space, going forward)
    It’d have been easier to have listened to experts, and/or people at the coalface in the first place rather than having “complete faith in officials” that have used the “systemic failure” routine all too often.
    Thankfully JA and a few of her more competent ministers haven’t totally succumbed to the rhubarb rhubarb bullshit – even if some of them have had to learn the hard way.

    • Ekshully …… just as an aside – and triggered by the recent dumping of Loise Nicholas by MSD – shows how all this plays out. Often the utterances from “officials” when cornered, and have done the whole rhubarb rhubarb “systemic failure” – then the “we’ve updated our policies and procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen again” routine get cornered, begin to behave like cornered shithouse rats and they often become really vindictive.
      I was going to give you a couple of examples in the previous comment – one being to do with MSD, the other MBIE – but there are countless others.
      We’re expecting Ashley Bloomfield to be a super-hero having undermined the institution he has to struggle with over a few decades. Well equipped with over-ambitious, generic managerialists looking to enhance their CVs and who are not above leaking and undermining anyone that has a genuine desire to do what’s right (correct). Dare I mention OT, or a number of other agencies of state where the whole corporate neo-liberal religion/cult has failed to deliver on its promises.
      As for the MBIE example – I’m not sure where to begin but there’s a recent Aljazeera documentary re Sihks picking tomatoes in Italy. Consider it when you watch, with Steve Kilgallon’s recent contribution.
      And with a shitload of other warning signs – including from the ILO on modern-day slavery (Not really that different from olden-day slavery). Somehow, implementing the same sorts of ‘systems’ and policies that have enabled all this to happen is “best practice” (“best practice’ being yet another piece of rhubarb)

  2. Said Ms Collins;

    “We have epidemiologists who are working with us. I’m not going to name them…”

    Dr Reti also declined to name them;

    “We’re grateful for those networks of trust and those relationships. If they want to identify themselves, they will.”

    That’s not just being Coy Frank.

    Transparency is critically important when presenting alleged “expert advice” There are only two possible reasons for the bare faced liars refusing to name the “experts”.

    1) They don’t exist. National have made an art form of giving evidence that nobody can prove it’s authenticity. They lied about Paul Goldsmith being Ngati Porou. Instead of coming out and admitting it was a lie or even an honest mistake, Goldsmith said his GREAT GREAT GRANDFATHER had multiple wives. Some were European and some were Maori. How can this ever be checked? It can’t and that is exactly why Goldsmith said it. Recently Chucky stated border staff have been contacting her and she used this alleged “evidence” to state Ardern was “very wrong” to state there had been push back from some border staff about being tested. Chucky stated the border staff that contacted her had requested a test but that had been refused. How can this be challenged when the alleged complainant / informant remains completely anonymous? It can’t be challenged / examined which is exactly why Chucky uses it. Same scenario with these alleged epidemiologists. The actual and real epidemiologists the Government have called on have become virtual household names now. Barely a day goes by that at least one of them is not advising about protection against Covid through the media, yet Chucky won’t name her eggspurts because they don’t far king exist. It must be remembered that an entire chapter of the Dirty Politics book is devoted to none other than Judith Collins.

    2) The only other plausible justification to not name her multiple epidemiologists is that they are complete clowns who will be 100% discredited in 2 minutes should they be named. Chucky knows that.

    The transparency of the National Party is a 40 gallon drum full to overflowing with mud and toxic waste. The only thing the NZ public can see through is Chucky. How ironic that there was a piece on a news website yesterday asking why Collins and National are being rejected on mass by NZ voters. Roll on election day.

    • “The only other plausible justification to not name her multiple epidemiologists is that they are complete clowns who will be 100% discredited in 2 minutes should they be named. ”

      My TAB will be on that one, Jacindafan.

      It’s the only plausible reason they haven’t disclosed the identity(s) of their epidemiologist(s). Unless they are lying completely; there are no epidemiologist(s); and it’s all been cobbled together using second hand information gleaned from the internet? (That would be my second bet at the TAB.)

  3. “We have epidemiologists who are working with us. I’m not going to name them…”

    Jabba the Hutt? He’s got plenty of experience of rorting the system and doing deals that make a buck for himself and his mates and screw everyone else.

  4. Great article yet again Frank.
    Let’s see how many of the corporate lying propaganda media pick up this story and run with it.
    I’m going to stick my neck out and say none, or if one does it, It’ll be a ‘hit job’.

    • Agreed, Kevin.

      I watched Q+A this morning and Jack Tame briefly touched on the issue of lockdown zones. However, Dr Reti skirted the issue and his response was at odds with the actual content in the “Securing Our Border” document (pages 1,2, 4, and 6).

      However, going by past experience, the msm won’t spend much time on this and will probably miss it entirely.

  5. As far as the polls go, the old saying “A week is a long time in politics” is more relevant than ever. You cannot count your chickens before they are hatched. Look at ScoMo, Trump, Brexit and Boris Johnson as examples of polls getting it wrong.

  6. As someone with health conditions (high blood pressure for one) I’m glad these guys aren’t in power, or I might be dead. Sort of hard to formulate any argument for me to vote National with that in mind.

    Some of us don’t want to be scarificed at the alter of commerce.

    • Ditto, Z. I’m in a double demographic; age and T2 Diabetes. Plus two of my clients would almost certainly be killed off by this virus.

      As John Clarke sang, many years ago, “We don’t know how lucky we are…”

  7. Epidemiologists are stethoscope wearing, white coated graduates of medical schools.
    Their medical specialty relies on statistics, not science.
    If a political party wants to use their opinions to back up political campaign claims of course they would back off.
    Shame on Reti and his party playing to an avid msm looking for headlines ( and advertisements.

  8. Epidemiologists are stethoscope wearing, white coated graduates of medical schools.
    Their medical specialty relies on statistics, not science.
    If a political party wants to use their opinions to back up political campaign claims of course they would back off.
    Shame on Reti and his party playing to an avid msm looking for headlines ( and advertisements.
    OBTW rogue medics are known to exist.

  9. REALLY?
    Shane Reti expects epidemiologists to publicly back a political party campaign?
    National party idiocy knows no bounds. Their spin doctors, a la Trump, are very desperate.
    Say anything to get msm attention.
    Shane Reti is the natzy party next brindle hope as leader?

  10. epidemiologists have graduated from medical schools and use statistical methodology, not scientific methodology.
    No wonder they refuse to be identified-by a political party.
    There are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
    Unfortunately statistics is used by “marketers” and politicians to sell anything.
    Statistics, unfortunately, have been , and are still, being abused by egotistical money grubbers, as well as mps.

    Reti is being touted as a future natz party leader with secret epidemiologist army.

  11. Frank, or any of you other learned folks:
    Explain to me why Jacinda does not ever want to own the problems or to take blame, or let alone ever apologise? She hates that word Sorry and its implications. Why is that? Is it a ratings thing? Is it a likes thing? Is it a UN perception thing?

    What’s so terribly difficult about saying: “Sorry New Zealand, we fucked up that border plan, it’s our fault, nobody else’s, but we’re fixing it.”

    Isn’t that what we teach our kids? Or do we now teach them to say ‘systemic failure’ when they break the neighbour’s window with a cricket ball? Implying of course that the neighbour has to fix it himself. ‘Yeah whatever, fuck your windows…systemic failure!’

    Because at it stands, we all, you guys on this blog, the hand-washing, kind, Team of 5 Million are really fixing the border fuck up for the govt, by happily complying and behaving pretty much exactly how Jacinda wants us to, like it was our fault anyway.

    I just don’t get it.

    • Well your as thick as two short planks Frankie. Politicians just dont say sorry!
      Keys attempt at saying sorry to the waitress whose hair he pulled was ” it was just a bit of harmless fun”. Where was Woodhouses apology?
      Where was Winston’s apology. Shit a politician once admitted that he was sorry for being a man and look where that got him.
      Why did National ministers not say sorry for the housing crisis they created? It just doesn’t happen!

Comments are closed.