This week, Jacinda Ardern finally fronted up and announced the trans-Tasman safe travel bubble will open from 19 April 2021. This isn’t a case of job done, however. This should be the first step in the Government laying out its roadmap for how it plans to safely reconnect New Zealand to the world.
National has been pushing for a Pacific bubble, and we believe the Government should allow quarantine-free travel from Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji into New Zealand, alongside our realm countries. A Pacific bubble would have similar benefits of reconnecting families, providing our Pacific neighbours with much needed economic support, and ensuring our $6 billion horticulture sector has enough RSE workers next season.
We’ve also called for a Parliamentary Inquiry into the migrant issues created by COVID-19 and New Zealand’s closed border, as well as Immigration New Zealand’s policy settings and rules. Many of our temporary visa holders have had their lives thrown into turmoil and an inquiry would finally give a voice to the desperate migrants who feel unheard and ignored by the Labour Government.
You can read more here from Judith Collins, David Bennett, and Erica Stanford.
Hipkins out to lunch on vaccinations
As it stands, New Zealand is second bottom in the OECD for the number of COVID-19 vaccinations, and a leaked Ministry of Health report shows we are nowhere near where the Government planned for us to be back in January.
The leaked data shows that at this point a cumulative total of 390,413 vaccines should have been administered, but only 90,286 (or 23%) have been so far. On top of that, news out this week that an unvaccinated border worker has been infected with COVID-19 has helped reveal that the Government doesn’t know how many border workers there are in New Zealand. Even though they claim to have vaccinated 90% of them.
On the 10th of March 2021 Chris Hipkins said “Our plan is clear – first protect those most at risk of picking up the virus in their workplace…”. In all their planning on this single page a3 document for the vaccine roll-out, it would seem the Government never bothered to think they might actually need a list of people to check-off as they were vaccinated. A month later, they’re now doing that.
Coincidentally three of the four necessary IT systems for our vaccine roll-out still aren’t ready, DHBs are contracting their own booking system solutions with disastrous results, the Government refuses to set a target for the percentage of the population to be vaccinated, and we’re still unclear who will be vaccinated when.
Finally, what ever happened to Labour’s promise of a Smart Border? National has put forward five steps for strengthening our border. Let’s get on with it.
You can read more here from Chris Bishop.
Mental Health report delayed and sanitised
It is unthinkable that health officials have been found to be working behind the scenes to sanitise a mental health report because it contains ‘negative’ statistics about suicides, waiting times and even the number of people accessing specialised mental health services. Quite frankly, it’s an utter disgrace to the integrity of the public service, and a slap in the face to Kiwis desperately in need of help.
It suggests Jacinda Ardern’s Government is afraid of the truth: that the mental health system is in worse shape now than it was when Labour took over in 2017. Wait times have increased in 17 of the 18 DHBs that provided data, with some as much as 50 per cent longer in 2021, and that is simply not good enough.
These reports are a way of benchmarking the investment put into mental health and the results of those investments. They are crucial for knowing whether the money spent on these services is having a meaningful impact on the New Zealanders who need them.
Success isn’t measured by the number of announcements a Government makes or the amount of money it budgets. Neither of these things matter to people suffering from mental health issues if they aren’t getting the help they desperately need.
The Government won’t be able to do right by Kiwis who are urgently in need of mental health support until it takes an honest look at the problem.
You can watch more on this from Matt Doocey here and read more here from Judith Collins.
Boiler ban about international kudos rather than practical climate policy
The Government has, once again, jumped the gun by announcing a ban on new coal-fired boilers ahead of the independent Climate Change Commission announcing its emissions reduction plan.
Jacinda Ardern is due to attend a Leaders Summit on Climate Change at the end of April, and perhaps this is another case of announcing a ban just so she has something to talk about. It seems very similar to the rushed oil and gas ban before she appeared at the UN Climate Summit, which has seen coal use skyrocket, wholesale electricity costs quadruple, and Megan Woods ask for advice on importing natural gas.
Anyway, back to the Climate Commission. While they have released a draft report, we see it as just that; a draft. There have been a large number of submissions from expert organisations that have raised concerns with how the Commission has modelled the New Zealand economy. Among the 15,500 submissions received, concerns have been raised by the likes of Contact Energy, Trust Power, DairyNZ, and BusinessNZ.
The Government should wait for the Climate Change Commission to finalise its analysis, and in the meantime let people continue to respond to the very effective signal sent by the existing emissions trading scheme.
We all want an Emissions Reduction Plan that addresses the environmental challenges we face in New Zealand, but in order to do this we must allow submitters and the Commission enough time to reflect and respond to issues raised.
National has made a submission on the plan, you can read it here. We’ve also written to James Shaw calling for him to extend the report-back time on the Climate Change Commission Report from 31st May, to 31st of August. This would allow the Commission time to update its economic modelling and provide more detail on the policies it has recommended.
You can read more here from Stuart Smith and Barbara Kuriger.
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