Saturday, November 27

Week in Politics: Will December 1 be Auckland’s ‘Freedom Day’?


By Peter wilson*

Analysis: The prime minister almost promised Auckland his freedom and the date is likely to be December 1, thousands of people march to Parliament protesting vaccines, mandates and other complaints, but no one listens to them.

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There were no MPs or ministers on the Esplanade of Parliament to meet with protesters earlier this week because all parties support vaccines and mandates.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

In Monday’s post-cabinet press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the government’s intentions very clear: On November 29, she would announce that Auckland would come out of the lockdown and enter the new traffic light system.

It is likely to say that the measure will take effect from 11:59 p.m. the following day, November 30, and that Auckland’s ‘Freedom Day’ will be on December 1.

Coincidentally, or not, that’s the date National set to launch Auckland in its own freedom plan.

The difference is that National said it would do it regardless of the vaccination rate and the government wants Auckland’s three DHBs to have reached 90 percent double doses, although that is not going to delay its decision.

Ardern’s quotes show the strength of the government’s intentions and how extremely unlikely it is that he will change his mind: “Based on today’s Cabinet discussion, there is a strong expectation that Auckland will move to the Covid-19 Protection Framework following this. verification of Nov. 29. -en, “he said.

Ardern was questioned about that, about how sure she was that it would happen.

“I can tell you, based on today’s Cabinet discussion, there is an expectation that that November 29 (record) we will be confirming the measure,” he replied.

He was then asked what would happen if one of the city’s DHBs, Counties Manukau, did not achieve the goal.

Ardern said that wouldn’t matter. “We’re going to be very pragmatic with that decision … that’s a very, very strong assent from us.”

In fact it was. The New Zealand Herald it described it as an “unofficial announcement”, while RNZ said the prime minister had “almost promised” that it would happen.

Auckland DHBs have done well with their vaccination campaigns, better than almost everyone else. They all hit the 90 percent milestone for the first dose last weekend and have time to turn that into double doses.

One of them, Auckland DHB, leads the country with 95 percent first doses and 88 percent second doses. Auckland’s other two DHBs are not far behind: Waitematā’s vaccination statistics are 92/84 and those of Manukau counties are 90/81.

When Auckland moves, the rest of the country has to wait on Level 2 of the old system. The government wants the other 17 DHBs to hit a double dose of 90 percent, but it could also be pragmatic about it and has indicated that it will not wait months for the laggards to catch up.

Some are doing well. Capital and Coast has reached 93/84, Canterbury 90/80 and Southern 91/81. At the other extreme, Tairāwhiti follows with 81/68, Whanganui 82/72 and Taranaki 88/72.

Some may never reach 90 percent of the double dose.

Auckland will turn red on the traffic light system, the stage at which the lockdown ends, but there are strong public health precautions and vaccination passports will severely restrict the freedom of those who do not have them.

The government gave assurances this week that vaccination certificates would be ready when Auckland is released from lockdown. On Wednesday, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the system was in its final testing stage.

Holders will need to present them to be scanned when they want to attend close contact events and businesses, or any business that decides it will only admit vaccinated customers. The personnel of companies that use vaccine passports must also be vaccinated.

Will they work properly? It would be amazing if there were no problems to start with, do you remember the first problems with QR codes?

Then there is the actual processing of them. It’s going to take time as Stuff reported: “Festival goers and audiences at international concerts, sports matches and major theatrical productions will have to wait longer in slower lines as organizers grapple with the processing of mass vaccination certificates,” their report says.

Ardern’s ad was the biggest deal of the week, but there was another one that garnered wide publicity. It was the march to Parliament and the demonstration there by several thousand protesters.

They were angry about vaccination mandates, which cover about 40 percent of the workforce, and about some other things as well.

“There were chants that included ‘freedom’ and ‘you serve us,’ but the protest was mostly peaceful,” RNZ reported.

“A fence was torn down and tennis balls with angry messages were thrown to the media, security and police as the crowd began to disperse.”

The prime minister said the protesters did not represent the vast majority of New Zealanders. No one was going to challenge her on that when 90 percent of the vast majority have received a first dose of the vaccine and 80 percent have a double dose.

Stuff’s political editor, Luke Malpass, said it seemed little common cause among the estimated 3,000 to 5,000 protesters.

“They included gang members, hippies, anti-vaccines, anti-leaders, as well as those worried about losing jobs or who just don’t like being told what to do,” he said.

“There were New Zealand flags, rangatiratanga tino flags, Trump flags, the Eureka flag (most common in Australia and used by various unions and white nationalists), even a Russian flag.”

Not a single deputy came out to listen to them.

“Whatever the message, no one in power was listening,” Malpass said.

“Protests work only when there is a political vehicle or politicians to help put pressure on the government. Currently there is no such vehicle or party.”

He said there were few advantages for the protesters.

“This was a gesture of those who feel excluded and excluded in a world that has fundamentally changed.

“The fact that they think this will work suggests that they have fallen deeply into the resonance chamber of social media.”

the HeraldThomas coughlan Asked a question: “When a few thousand people, I would say 4000-5000, were able to summon so much passion and bile for a painless and safe method of avoiding an aggressive and deadly virus, one really has to ask oneself, ‘Are we okay, completely freaked out? It certainly seems like some of us have. “

Coughlan also had difficulty describing the motives involved. The protesters could be described as “anti … something, maybe anti … anything,” he said.

His conclusion was that the real lesson of the march could be how difficult it was going to be to vaccinate the final 10 percent of eligible New Zealanders.

There were no MPs or ministers on the esplanade of Parliament because all parties support vaccines and mandates, although National is concerned about the length of the terms.

Party leader Judith Collins said the government should give more clarity on this, even if it was not a deadline.

“We cannot go down this path of having a mandate that lasts forever,” he said.

Ardern was reluctant to talk about when they could be lifted, RNZ reported. He said the government was not using them as much as some foreign jurisdictions and that it was “difficult to know” how long they would have to be in place.

Other political news this week included:

* Parliament approved a bill that transfers control of water fluoridation from municipalities to the director general of health. It was introduced by the previous government and the vote was unanimous.

Deputy Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verrall said tooth decay was largely preventable and fluoride was “a constant repair kit.”

Chief Health Officer Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said he was very satisfied, the change would have a big impact and he would get down to business.

* Justice Minister Kris Faafoi said he would introduce a bill to repeal the “three strikes” law. I was hoping he would have his first reading next week.

The law was created by the ACT Party and introduced by the previous government. It requires judges to sentence serious offenders a third time to the maximum penalty for the crime they have committed.

Faafoi said it had made no difference to the violent crime rate and had resulted in some disproportionate sentences.

Labor wanted to repeal it during its first term, but it was blocked by coalition partner NZ First.

* An opinion poll commissioned by the Taxpayers Union showed Labor force falls below 40 percent for the first time since the pandemic began, Stuff reported.

Labor got 39.3 percent, a six-point drop from the last poll a month ago, while National gained 3.7 points to 26.2 percent. The Greens rose slightly to 8.6 percent.

The poll was conducted by Curia Market Research and showed that if elections were held now, Labor and Greens could form a government with 62 seats out of 120.

* The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, undertook her first trip abroad to visit Australia, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada and the United States.

He will meet with foreign ministers and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken before returning on November 28.

* Peter Wilson is a life member of the Press Gallery of Parliament, 22 years as NZPA political editor and seven as head of the NZ Newswire parliamentary bureau.


www.rnz.co.nz

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