Heather Roy

7 April 2020

I’m possibly the only person in New Zealand saying “hang on a minute” about David Clark. Yes, he should have set a better example as Minister of the Crown, but going to the beach with his family in their bubble on day 3 of lockdown when everyone was settling into a new normal is hardly a cardinal sin. Nor is putting your bike on your car and driving a short distance to go for some exercise between meetings on a busy day, as long as it is done in isolation.

I commented in a recent blog post that we “essentially became a socialist state at 11.59pm on Wednesday 25 March 2020”. As people settle into lockdown – now at day 13 – my view is reinforced every time I read the news. We’re constantly being told what to do, or what we shouldn’t be doing. These ‘news’ articles are quickly followed by the stories about who has dobbed whom in to the police. My heart sank when reading the police website for dobbing in your neighbours had over 4200 reports in the first 24 hours of going up. We’ve become a nation of narks and oh how quickly that happened. Jacinda has appealed to our inner tell-tale-tit, and too many of us have let her.  Journalists were practically salivating at the news David Clark had been for a bike ride. Dobbing has become the COVID-19 sports news.

I’m not a socialist because I believe most people will do the right thing when the seriousness of a problem is explained to them. It’s called establishing principles. Consistent guidelines and messaging for expected behaviours to limit the spread of COVID-19 are what we need. Instead we’ve had daily changing call signs of what we can and can’t do and the unfairness of being confined to our houses while the border is inadequately policed. Why have kiwis been on lockdown for 13 days but those entering New Zealand have never been quarantined?

The principles are simple:

  1. Stay in your bubble.
  2. When you encounter those outside your bubble stay two metres away.
  3. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer
  4. Look out for the symptoms of COVD-19 and ring Healthline for medical advice
  5. Be kind to each other

As soon you tell people what they can’t do the finger pointing starts – nothing principled about that.

I’m disappointed we’re not hearing principled messaging from the opposition. By taking on the role of Chair of the Epidemic Response Committee Simon Bridges has disabled his ability to speak freely as Leader of the Opposition and hold government to account. He should instead have put another senior MP in the role, perhaps Gerry Brownlee or Todd McLay, leaving him free to do the job of opposition leader. Instead the old leaders (Key, English and Joyce) are doing the running. We’d normally expect to hear the civil liberties voice of ACTs David Seymour upholding people’s rights, but he too has been disenfranchised by being on the committee. Who for instance, is actually asking the question about whether we really need to maintain the state of national emergency which is strangling the New Zealand economy?

So, back to David Clark. Yes, fire him if he is underperforming in his portfolios. I can’t actually recall when he has spoken as Associate Minister of Finance, but in a time of pandemic the Health Minister should be inner circle, not last on the Cabinet ranking list. In these strangest of times I’m not sure if PM stands for Prime Minister or Prime Mother, the intent being looking strong by brandishing the wooden spoon over the head of a naughty child. Clark looks to me like he has been a scapegoat and convenience. I’d like to think the principles are adhered to but with recognition there are many, like me, whose daily outing in the fresh air is a way to maintain sanity in exceptional times.