Saturday 9 October 2021

Why Is Labour So Frightened Of "Mr Stick"?

Force Multiplier: Why are Ardern and her ministers so loathe to put a bit of stick about? The “emergency” legislation eventually enacted to authorise the measures needed to combat the Covid-19 pandemic failed to confer upon the New Zealand Government the unequivocal authority that subsequent events showed to be so operationally necessary. It was almost as if Ardern and her colleagues are frightened of wielding power – even when the safety of the people depends upon it.

WHEN HITLER AND STALIN confirmed their Non-Aggression Pact in August 1939, war in Europe became inevitable. The scales of Appeasement having fallen from his eyes, the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, introduced the Emergency Powers (Defence) Bill, which the House of Commons duly and swiftly passed into law. The legislation provided the British Government with the all the powers necessary to fight a modern war.

Here is a sample of the wording:

His Majesty may by Order in Council make such Regulations […] as appear to him to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of any war [in which] His Majesty may be engaged, and for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community.

The reference to “His Majesty” should be read as “The Government of the United Kingdom”. An “Order in Council” is pretty much the same as a decision arrived at in Cabinet. What the Act empowered, in its essence, was a Government that could do whatever it considered necessary for the safety of the people, the life of the community, and the defence of the realm.

If you are wondering just what powers the Crown’s “Defence Regulations” conferred upon the Government, then the following should provide some clarity:

Defence Regulations may, so far as appears to His Majesty in Council to be necessary or expedient for any of the purposes mentioned in that subsection:

(a) Make provision for the apprehension, trial, and punishment of persons offending against the Regulations and for the detention of persons whose detention appears to the Secretary of State to be expedient in the interests of the public safety or the defence of the realm;

(b) authorise -

(i) the taking of possession or control, on behalf of His Majesty, of any property or undertaking;

(ii) the acquisition, on behalf of His Majesty, of any property other than land;

(c) authorise the entering and searching of any premises; and

(d) provide for amending any enactment, for suspending the operation of any enactment, and for applying any enactment with or without modification.

More than enough power to get the job done, and quite enough to “put a bit of stick about” – if necessary.

* * * * *

WHEN THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION declared a global Covid-19 pandemic on 11 March 2020, it should have been as clear to Jacinda Ardern’s Government as it was to Neville Chamberlain’s when the Non-Aggression Pact was signed, that the state would have to arm itself with virtually unlimited powers if it was to meet the challenges of the coming emergency.

When fighting Covid-19, the last thing Ardern and her ministers needed was the threat of legal pedants and anti-social elements tossing endless spanners into the anti-Covid works. One piece of legislation, before which all other pieces of legislation – The Bill of Rights Act, The Privacy Act, The Employment Relations Act, The Resource Management Act, etc, etc, etc – were required to give way, would be an essential weapon in the war against the virus.

So, why didn’t we get our own version of the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act? Why were Ardern and her ministers so loathe to put a bit of stick about? The “emergency” legislation that was eventually enacted to authorise the measures needed to combat the pandemic failed to confer upon the New Zealand Government the unequivocal authority that subsequent events have shown to be so operationally necessary. It was almost as if Ardern and her colleagues were frightened of wielding power – even when the safety of the people depended upon it.

Why was that?

Part of the answer lies in the Labour Party’s ingrained antipathy to state-wielded “emergency powers” of all kinds. Whether it be the laws that permitted the enrolment of “Special Constables” in the Great Strike of 1913 – the infamous “Massey’s Cossacks”: or, the Public Safety Conservation Act, which was passed by the right-wing Reform-United Coalition Government following the Unemployment Riots of 1932, and used to devastating effect by the First National Government of Sid Holland against the Waterside Workers Union in 1951; Labour was convinced such powers would only ever be deployed against the labour movement. Fuelled by this historical antipathy (and also by the libertarian spirit animating the Rogernomics Revolution) Labour’s Attorney-General, Geoffrey Palmer, repealed the Public Safety Conservation Act in 1987.

In the 34 years since 1987 that libertarian spirit has only grown stronger. Strongly influenced by the neoliberal hatred of any and all manifestations of decisive state intervention, the libertarian instincts of younger New Zealanders cause them to recoil from the very idea of the state “putting a bit of stick about”. (Unless, of course, it’s dealing with the purveyors of “hate speech”, or women who insist that a man cannot become a woman just by saying so, in which case, the more stick the better!) “Jacinda’s” generation doesn’t issue orders, it has “conversations”. Viewed from an anti-authoritarian perspective, this “light-handed” approach is admirable. From a public safety perspective, however, this political refusal to both demand and enforce compliance is extremely dangerous.

How, for example, is the goal of vaccinating 95 percent of the adult population against Covid-19 to be reached if employers are not given the unassailable legal authority to say “No Jab. No Job”? How is the long-awaited Vaccination Certificate to be made effective if legal pedants are free to test the meaning of “mandatory” in the courts? How would London have fared in the Blitz if vexatious litigants had been free to challenge the Blackout Order as an unreasonable infringement of the fundamental human right to let the enemy know exactly where to drop his bombs?

It is the Ardern-led Government’s unwillingness to follow the Ciceronian legal principle of “salus populi suprema lex esto” – the safety of the people shall be the highest law – that lies at the heart of New Zealand’s rapidly deepening Covid-19 crisis. The generation now in power is, quite simply, politically allergic to adopting the hard-line policies required to rescue both themselves – and the New Zealand people – from disaster. Even when Ms Carrot’s “kindness” is so obviously failing, this Labour Government refuses to reach for Mr Stick.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Friday, 8 October 2021.


David George said...

Satire from John Black:
Covid vaccine rates have climbed among gang members after their leaders have tried a new approach: threats of extreme violence. “It’s more in keeping with our culture,” said Mongrel Mob leader Harry Munta. “The guys really get the point when we threaten to knee cap them with a tire iron. They turn up at the vaccine centre the next day.”

” I got it done for my whanau, my community and my face. Harry was going to smash it in if I didn’t.” said Rua Jones from the Taupo chapter.

“Yes the mob have been very useful in motivating their members to get the jab,” enthused one official from the Health Department. “We have learnt a lot from their methods. Next week we are starting a nationwide campaign targeting the vaccine-hesitant. The slogan will be: Get vaccinated or we will rip your arms out of your sockets and beat you to the death with them. We are sure it will be a big success.”

Simon Cohen said...

An excellent post Chris. The Govts hesitation in these matters places us all in jeopardy both health wise and financial.
Like the UK in 1939 we are at war and history will judge this Govt harshly if it hesitates to mobilise all its powers in this struggle.
I am not holding my breath !!!!!
PS under the Emergency Powers Bill in the UK my mother was interned and I was put into state care as we were Austrian refugees. My mother was interned on the Isle of Man for three years and did not see me in that time. It was a horrible experience for us both but I understand the reasons for it and believe now that they did the right thing in interning foreign nationals even though the majority were very anti Nazi.

David George said...

Good questions Chris, the inevitable dilemma of rootless liberalism I guess but who would be prepared to sanction such measures as "no jab, no job" how about "no jab, no welfare"?

Jack Scrivano said...

Of course The King did not have to worry about: Do nothing that might upset Maori

Kat said...

Churchill had a grand coalition during the war years all united against a common enemy. This enemy could be seen and heard and a no brainer to resist.

The National/Act parties brain fade since the start of the pandemic, instinctively opposing and rubbishing govt actions including the advice of health professionals, a grand coalition was never going to happen. And it never will unless party politics Kiwi stye changes dramatically.

The current Health Orders are emergency powers enough, thank you.

Russ the muss said...

Indeed. To he honest Chris I'm not sure the various state organs have the culture or bottle for it, or are indeed capable. The police culture has changed immensely and the 'controlled' street violence they asserted even say 15 years ago has gone and never to return based in the recruits and training emphasis at college. Strangely in relation to gangs, no political ever lost a vote harresing them, but this current govt is deadset keen on engagement and getting to the root cause of why they exist, which seems a fools errand based in the lack of loyalty and damage they will do to this kind government. Just as the scorpion did to the frog.

The Barron said...

At the beginning of the pandemic, some us speculated what the United States would have been like if Dick Cheney was still in charge. Covid19 would have been a national health crisis, and that emergency would have been the excuse for a power grab by Government and associated business. Servalence would have increased, measures containing poor (multi-ethic) communities, and corporate allies would have billion dollar contracts to manage the outbreak. He would probably have contained the virus at the cost of future liberties.

700,000 attributed US deaths (number will be highly above this) is not lucky, but having a President that was uniquely incompetent gave some breaks to the States. By being in denial, the power grab opportunity didn't happen and instead devolved responsibility to States and local authorities.

NZ was responsible for the gold standard in how not handle a epidemic though authoritarian means. Col. Robert Logan thought his time on the Maniatoto rabbit board would see him well for the military occupation of Samoa. 1918 he allowed an unquarantined ship into Apia and within weeks a quarter of the population dies. He behaved like a macabre Basil Fawlty, blaming the Samoans, yelling at school girls trying to bury their classmates, cutting the telegraph to American Samoa so the world could not help in the crisis, and completely melting down. He later told an enquiry into 22.5% of the Samoan population dying under his watch (again the number is more likely 25%), "like children they'll get over it".

Reminded of this, I get a vision of giving Bill Birch a warrant to form Birch's Boys - local farmers sons to protect the Onewhero boarder.

I have been concerned as to the position we are putting the police and health officials in having to have a soft approach to those refusing vaccination and flouting the rules. A police officer just contracted Covid19 from someone with mental health problems, it is difficult enough without those deliberately creating compromised situations. Obviously, the person(s) that went south of Auckland are known to the Police and the woman who went north is currently being dealt with. If they knew they had Covid19, they should be treated in the same way as someone who is aware they have HIV having unprotected sex. That is the current structure of law to address this.

The question is whether all those that break boarders or MIQ should be treated by authorities for the potential of spread. I think this becomes the nexus of Chris' question on Mr Stick. The first point is the extent of the laws in place. Are the laws sufficient? Or has their been a reluctance of the Police and Courts to strictly enforce? Social cohesion during the outbreak had held reasonably well in NZ, but we are now in a position that individuals can endanger whole cities and provinces. This is not only at the cost to health, but business, workers, elderly and beneficiaries. Poverty is increased by the reckless action of a few.

Legal sanctions are for punishment, retribution or deterrent. It is the latter which is todays focus, while the former two may grow in demands. If someone's behaviour leads to millions of dollars lost to a community (with the greatest impact on the already struggling) it should be dealt with as a white collar crime would. If Covid19 is spread, it should be treated as criminal.

I cannot see this Government doing any more than adding a few more tools in the emergency health measures. I believe it will be left to the police and judiciary to realize without deterrent, there will always be those that will place self over community, those that treat the restrictions with the maturity of an 11 year old on school camp, and it maybe that there are the dangerous who feel they have a right to spread and defy. They might be reminded that the final judicial option is removal for the safety of others.

Shane McDowall said...

Covid could be a blessing in disguise.

Anti-vaxxers are fucking morons. By letting covid kill them we will improve New Zealand's breeding stock. Average IQ will increase dramatically.

The fewer poor dumb people the better.

Brendan McNeill said...

Who knew we had so many totalitarians lurking in our midst, clothed with self righteous respectability. We are not at war. Covid-19 is a virus from which there in a generally accepted 99% survival rate amongst the minority of the population who are destined to be infected.

Take off your brown shirts, put your truncheons away, get outside and enjoy some sunshine. This too shall pass.

Simon Cohen said...

Kat, The Prime Minister who passed the Emergency Powers was Neville Chamberlain [Churchill did not become PM until 8 months later] and if you think he had a grand coalition behind him your knowledge of history is sadly amiss.
In fact the Labour Party were very strongly opposed [and rightly so] to many of the govts policies. It was only when Churchill came to power that there was a grand coalition.
It would be so refreshing if just once you could acknowledge a mistake this govt has made.
You see blind partisanship is very dangerous.

Tom Hunter said...

I don't think you really need to think about cops with clubs when there are softer ways of getting the job done, as these series of Tweets from a <a href=">Lithuaian man named Gluboco Lietuva</a href> attest:
<blockquote>Here's how life looks after one month in Lithuania,under Europe's first strict,society-wide Covid Pass regime:
We can't find new jobs in our professions. My wife and I have very different jobs in very different fields. But all jobs in both our fields now require the Covid Pass.

No Pass, no job.
We're not allowed to buy food in the local supermarket.

We may only shop in small stores with street-facing entrances which mainly sell food,pharma,glasses/contacts, or farming/pet supplies.

In our area, that effectively limits us to one small, expensive convenience store.</blockquote>

I guess the Nazi and Soviet domination of Lithuania left deeper marks than imagined.

Jens Meder said...

Yes, the enforced discipline needed to fight Covid 19 successfully -

may also help to make more acceptable the enforced discipline needed to fight poverty.

DS said...

Not one of your finer articles, Chris. I'm slightly younger than Jacinda, and I am a very enthusiastic support of decisive state action to protect people against Covid. The hotbed of anti-lockdownism in New Zealand is among 50-something middle-class media-types, together with swathes of the upper North Island Maori community.

Oh, and Brendan: the thing about Covid is that it infects enough people at once that even 1% fatality will crash the health system.

Kat said...

"It was only when Churchill came to power that there was a grand coalition......"

Simon Cohen, was it not Churchill that I was referring to with regards the grand coalition, not sure I can be any more specific with my reference. It was just a general comment on the post about the emergency powers of the time relative to today.

Something that does intrigue me is your narrative that this labour govt led by Jacinda Ardern is somehow "hesitant". If you are going to use WW11 as an example of reference then bear in mind the politicians of that time had not too distant experience and examples of warfare to fall back on in fighting the Germans, and others. Conversely the last global pandemic was a century ago. The present govt in fighting Covid is having to fly the plane while it is still building it, so to speak.

Your recounting of the the time when you were separated from your mother is quite illuminating, I would imagine that experience would have left some indelible memories for you.

Just a wee point, you seem to have a rather misguided if not jaundiced view as to my political partisanship. I can assure you I am neither wide eyed or blinded, just saying.

Christopher said...

She's too busy being nice and sitting with scared kids whilst they get their shot and reminiscing about Murupara to actually run the country.

Barry said...

I had a great lesson when I was a border at a Catholic school in the 1970s. I was in the 6th form (yr12 now) and I had been accused of smoking by the disciple master. Smoking was always 6 of the best with the cane. I told him that I wasnt smoking and I wasnt going to take the cane. He said "ok -I will agree with that as long as you accept the cane for a those times you were smoking but didnt get caught" I accepted the cane. Best lesson I ever had.
These days there would be a restotative justice meeting -and probably nothing would change.
Thats the difference between fast and slow learning.
Arderns government are a restorative justice generation - slow learners.
Covid is a very fast learner. Just see how fast when the next mutation comes along - probably resistant to the current vaccines.

Trev1 said...

Covid is not an existential crisis unless you are elderly, obese or have asthma or diabetes etc. I would not trust this train-wreck of a government with a dog license, let alone a license to imprison and suppress those who speak freely.

Unknown said...

My sympathy Tom. We should all fight for your right to disable and maybe kill those within your workplace. Let's extend that to families needing the supermarket.

Really Tom, your self obsessed martyrdom is as tedious as it is sad.

Robert said...

In retrospect everyone will know what is happening presently. The hostile takeover of a country using venture capitalism after USAID's co-funding model.

David George said...

Well said Brendan, too often, within the liberal, socially concerned collectivist, the totalitarian tyrant is quietly hiding. In one case above even the fascist eugenicist comes out. Get a grip!

John Hurley said...

What I find intriguing is that while "Asian" lead in vaccing "Maori" are most hesitant . Perhaps because "Maori" are pawns of the left including middle class "Maori" who shed tears at the infamous Christchurch "Hui" about racism and "God awful history" while they trounce about going to conferences here their and everywhere and purport to understand the lived experience of "my whanau". The latter lot were the ones who "rescued" Maori and the nation and now lead us away from our former darkness (racism/nation) to the carrot of unspecified glorious pre-industrial society (as promoted in it's vagueness by pro-vice chancellors at every university in the country and assorted wreckers and haters).

As for Simon Cohen, he tried to have me kicked off as a racist: "you should see what he said about Chinese and Indians" (unspecified). What I would have said would have been that we under estimate identity and that we should be allowed to keep our ethnic majority through slower immigration and that the benefits should be real because the benefits are concentrated and the costs dispersed.

Who benefits from there being no archetypical New Zealander (Spoonley gets to talk about this tolerant NZ at international conferences)?

And the truth is in the data

In the words of Murtaza Hussain
Toronto is a great monument to this because it is perhaps the most post-historical place on earth. It has embraced completely the politics of homogenous globalization, something that can be seen its anonymous mass-produced architecture and absence of identifiable civic culture. The city, and indeed entire country, is run less as a nation than as a free economic zone. There is a lot of immigration and it is supported by elites on every side of the political spectrum. But this is less out of ideological conviction than for the short-term economic benefits it brings to people already here; waves of new peoples from around the world are needed to keep the gigantic real estate Ponzi scheme (Please look at the charts on Canadian housing prices) underpinning the economy in motion. That’s all that’s going on. It turns out that at the end of history there is nothing left to do but try to make some money, eat, and fixate on the small dramas of a few mediocre sports teams. I still, inescapably love it, for the simple reason that it is the place on Earth that I can most clearly call home. I love despite the knowledge that, because of its cold, impersonal nature, it is incapable of ever loving me or anyone else back in return.

Jon Haidt talks about a dress that was a Twitter sensation as some ppl saw it as gold and some blue and (to them) that was fact.
As Ranginui Walker said "I resent all these people coming here. If this continues NZ will be ruined. It will be just like anywhere else"

Thank God we have Paul Spoonley and Arthur Grime on Q&A to tell us how boring Auckland used to be (nowhere to spend their money).

Anonymous said...

The only one, the government need take a stick to, to end this outbreak, are the big Aussie owned banks, which take $3.5b out of our economy and off shore, every year.

We need a legislative stick to force these greedy banksters to let off failing businesses and suffering families from having to pay their usurious rents and mortgages during lockdown.

We eliminated the virus once in 2020, we can do it again in 2021. Delta will need stronger medicine.

To kill off this virus this time, it will take a full Level 4 Lockdown for the whole of the North Island, with a full rent and mortgage moratorium for the whole country until we have successfully eliminated virus again.

It is not like these 'unconsionable' criminal bastards can't afford it, these Aussie banks deserve a very big whack with a very heavy stick.

In 2010, leading litigation funder IMP Australia helped initiate more than ten class action lawsuits against leading banks, including Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, and NAB, alleging that some AU400 million had been syphoned from customers.
Australian banks used to routinely charge up to AU45 if, for example, an account was to be overdrawn without prior agreement, the overdraft limit was exceeded, or late payments were made on credit card transactions. In early 2014, the country’s Federal Court found that the late fees charged by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) were “extravagant, exorbitant, and unconscionable”.

To overcome past major crises we have had mortgage and rental moratoriums twice before:

… 1931, it was clear that further intervention was necessary to prevent widespread foreclosures and mortgagee sales…..

….Although mortgage relief was frequently discussed at some length by
contemporary commentators, and by some historians in the 1950s and
1960s, it has been relegated to a few lines at most in more recent works.’

…..This Act also extended to lessees [renters] the same protection
that had been granted to mortgagors,

The modification of mortgage conditions was not new in New Zealand. A ‘mortgage moratorium’ had been imposed as a war measure in 1914,


Russ the muss said...

Sadly for you it will only kill 1 in 100 of them who set it.

greywarbler said...

This is real commonsense visible:
How would London have fared in the Blitz if vexatious litigants had been free to challenge the Blackout Order as an unreasonable infringement of the fundamental human right to let the enemy know exactly where to drop his bombs?

A lesson in how to be a coward holding oneself out as a person of great ethics! Compare to a conscientious objector, who won't take up arms and follow killing commands against others, and an anti-vax objector who won't hold their arm up to prevent their causing harm or death to others. The next street rally placards could read Prevarication not Vaccination!

CXH said...

30,000 Maori get vaccinated in the last three days. It would appear it was more apathy than a generational mistrust of the colonialist. Amazing how a good outbreak helps sharpen the mind.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

No Brendan, there is not a 99% survival rate. It's about 98.6 and that doesn't count people who have long-term effects. And in the US, that has meant 700,000 deaths.The New Zealand equivalent would have been somewhere between 2000 and 3000 I can't be bothered getting my calculator out. To be honest, I don't mind if people don't get vaccinated except they run the risk of infecting people who can't get vaccinated. You been told this Brendan but of course you completely ignore it as usual. Let's hope none of your friends and relatives are very young, or immunocompromised, or can't get vaccinated for one reason or another. Never mind my truncheon, your freedom to punch stops at the end of my nose. Actually, it's amusing to hear someone go on about truncheons who probably would have supported Massey's Cossacks.