Barry Soper: Prime Minister Jacinda Arderns traffic light announcement a familiar meaningless sermon

OPINION:

Jacinda Ardern seemed to me to give every indication during her round of media interviews yesterday – which didn’t include Newstalk ZB unfortunately – that we could expect some movement to the country’s red light setting that’s been frozen for the past several months now.

The PM waxed about how the peak had been reached in Auckland and Wellington and that the hospital system, that they’ve had years to fix, wasn’t overwhelmed.

It was with a sense of guarded relief that restaurateurs thought people could begin moving around inside, rather than being stuck to their seats, and that event planners could start planning on crowd sizes increasing from the impossible to manage indoor restrictions.

You can imagine how disappointed they then were as they tuned in to hear from a Pulpit of Truth that seemed to have reverted back to the Delta days, with Ashley Bloomfield standing at Ardern’s side as she put a dampener on things.

The country had done what it was told. In fact, it has been doing that for the past two years. And now about 95 per cent of eligible people are vaccinated, with promises of nirvana from the pulpit for doing so. They’ve kept their distance and washed their hands and worn their masks to slow the spread of Omicron, and they are achieving it.

The wheels were surely going to start moving again with the lights about to change to orange, people thought, with a view to getting the show on the road.

Instead, the sermon sounded like the same script they had preached so many times before: We’re not out of the woods yet, we don’t want to spoil the gains we’ve made, it’s better to be safe than sorry, our record speaks for itself. Of course it does. It’s a cracked one.

What we got was what Act’s David Seymour so eloquently observed. An announcement that the announcement wasn’t being announced, and that another announcement might come later.

In fact, another announcement’s been scheduled for April 13, a couple of days before Good Friday, when the lollipop man will yet again consider flicking the switch to orange. If their past record is anything to go by, it’s unlikely to incorporate the Easter weekend.

The irony is that from today vaccine passes are no longer required, which means the unvaccinated can now have relative freedom of movement and are no longer second-class citizens. Most of them have probably had the dreaded lurgy anyway, is perhaps Ardern’s thinking.

But it’s as though this Labour Government’s wrapped in a red flag.Their politicians don’t have to come to Wellington. Daily they beam in from wherever they are, posing patsy questions to their ministers on the big screen erected in the debating chamber.

It means they are kept away from the pesky media, who usually gather to ask them questions on their way into their caucus meetings. But they haven’t been here for many weeks now.

The other downside is their staff aren’t required to come to work either, and neither are public servants. They’re all allowed to work from home, away from their taxpayer-funded high-rise offices, meaning business in the Wellington CBD are doing a starve.

If it all made sense, we would understand it. But it simply doesn’t. And now we wearily limp toward the next full, frank and meaningless announcement.

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