We are in tough times as coronavirus sweeps our globe, taking people's lives and closing economies as it goes.
The response around the world has varied. Some nations have been more effective than others. Our country, Aotearoa New Zealand, has not been immune. We've seen case numbers surge as the virus spreads and we test more.
Today we could look backward at what has been done well, and perhaps not so well, but it is not a time for that. We are where we are and we're all in this together.
Today, on the big questions in this House and in New Zealand, we agree. There is no National or Labour or Green or ACT or New Zealand First; just New Zealanders.
We should be going to Level 4 lockdown this evening. We are putting in all the economic resources and investments required to defeat this common enemy.
None of us can, of course, see the future. It's possible, but not likely, that we come through this somewhat quickly. Some will say, ‘well, shutdown – it was an over-reaction’. I'd prefer that was the case because it means people did not die needlessly.
But if the models and the charts and the workings that I have seen, and that Jacinda Ardern has seen, and that this House is seeing are right, or even half right, and if we follow the international examples to date, broadly speaking, Level 4 and shutting down is clearly right.
In relation to the Government's investments; we saved for a rainy day as a country and now that day has come. Our aim must be to keep businesses in business and workers in jobs so we can come out of the tunnel and into the sunlight again, sooner and stronger.
Last week we stood here and said, ‘lift the cap on job support’. To its credit, the Government has. We called for bank guarantees and they are now being put in place. I acknowledge the difficulty of being a finance minister today anywhere in the world, including in this little country, Mr. Robertson.
Now we must ensure that on the things we agree on, we are all working together to ensure their effective practical implementation today, tomorrow, and in the coming days and weeks.
In health, that involves us gearing up with urgency the masks, the ventilators, the hospital beds, the staff, the relief staff, the testing, and the tracing as they will all be required.
Economically, we must ensure that what we intend, what Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern and the Government intend, hits the mark.
We entirely support the intentions of the job support programme. We have questions about how to ensure the support gets to where it should. For example, my colleague Paul Goldsmith and I were talking yesterday and this morning about Germany where they have an interesting model for paying for reductions in work from employers so that workers are kept in their normal pay.
But, Mr Speaker, fundamentally we stand with the Government on all of this as New Zealanders.
This virus is of none of our making, but it will affect for at least a generation the health and wealth of us as a people.
We are all in this together, united against COVID-19.
We all have a month, dare I say it, at least a month, to self-isolate, to show social distance, to do or actually, probably more accurately, not to do what needs to be done.
This doesn't mean that National will always agree with our colleagues opposite, but it does mean that as this Parliament ceases to sit for at least a month we will join with the Government in seeking to constantly improve our nation's response for the common good of our people.
Our Members of Parliament – and I say this with just a dozen or so National MPs here in this House but 55 here in spirit here today – will be the eyes and the ears and the advocates for our communities.
In that regard I want to acknowledge our electorate agents. In my case, Marie and Sonia back in Tauranga who are working from home incredibly hard on all of the multiple issues that this virus has brought upon my local community.
Immigrant cases, those stuck offshore, those in Picton wanting to get home, and businesses and workers in need of financial support – I want to thank them. Use us, as Members of Parliament, as we can help a lot in the shared effort for our country.
I want to thank our supermarket workers, our petrol station attendants, our IT professionals, our essential infrastructure and health workers all over this nation, our police and defence and other first responders, plus many, many more keeping New Zealand going. You are heroes.
I also want to thank all New Zealanders for following instructions as we head into lockdown tonight.
The Prime Minister has put some of this very well. I'm confident we can show our best nature as Kiwis, following the rules and showing small acts of kindness, through to those of us of faith, praying for our communities and our nation at this tough time.
He waka eke noa – the canoe which we are all in without exception. We are all in this together.