Friday 4 February 2022

The Bellis Embarrassment.

The Right To Return? Where is the “kindness” in the treatment of Charlotte Bellis, and scores of other pregnant New Zealand women aching to get home? If this desperate, pregnant, Kiwi journalist, stranded in starving Afghanistan, did not deserve kindness – then who does?

CHARLOTTE BELLIS knows the news business. Over the last week the pregnant and stranded Kiwi journalist has delivered a master-class in how to apply pressure to a government via the news media. Sadly, the same cannot not be said of the Covid-19 Response Minister, Chris Hipkins.

Confronted with a story like Bellis’, there is only one sensible strategy: shut it down by giving the aggrieved party exactly what she wants. Instantly, a very bad news story becomes a passably good news story.

Had the Minister announced that, thanks to his decisive intervention, Bellis would be arriving home on the first convenient flight; following that up with the terse observation that those responsible for this debacle had let both Bellis and the Government down very badly; then a passably good news story could have become an excellent news story.

But, he didn’t. Instead, he just kept right on digging himself into a deeper hole. The National Opposition, and their Act ally, were not slow to take advantage of the Labour Government’s folly. Unsurprising, since, when it came to ammunition, they were spoiled for choice.

Should they fire the shot reminding voters that the Taliban regime had shown this young woman more empathy, and offered her more practical assistance, than her own government? Or, should they begin their barrage with a devastating salvo of statistics? Blasting the Government with the numbers proving that Bellis is very far from the only pregnant New Zealander languishing in the tortuous limbo of MIQ?

Decisions, decisions.

The utter madness of the Government’s response may be judged by the way it instantly devalued any and all decision-making related to MIQ policy. Whatever the Cabinet decided to do: no matter how far it went towards meeting the public’s expectations and/or criticisms; it could not now avoid being read by the electorate as a policy concession forced upon Labour by the Bellis Embarrassment.

The madness of Minister Hipkins also provided the National Opposition Leader, Chris Luxon, with an opportunity to, in effect, piggy-back on the public interest generated by the Bellis Embarrassment. His own Party’s “solution” to the MIQ disaster could now gazump the announcement of the Cabinet’s policy decisions.

In the highly-charged atmosphere generated by Bellis’ difficulties, National’s MIQ position statement was, naturally, given fulsome and positive coverage by the media.

Luxon and his advisers, undoubtedly buoyed by the results of the latest Roy Morgan poll (showing National/Act backed by 50 percent of the voting public) could hardly be blamed for marking the past seven days as the week Fortune’s tide re-floated the Centre-Right’s boats.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the Bellis Embarrassment to understand is what on earth possessed those writing the rules to erect even the smallest obstacles to pregnant New Zealand women returning to their homeland to give birth. For most older New Zealanders, the rule has always been: “Women and children first – and pregnant women before everyone!” We were raised on the tragic example of the doomed “Titanic” – where men gave up their places in the lifeboats for the bearers of the next generation.

What does it say about the current crop of public servants that they were able to create a labyrinth of rules and regulations that made it possible for a British deejay to be welcomed into this country, while denying re-entry to a stranded Kiwi woman and her unborn child?

More to the point, what does it say about the current crop of Labour ministers – Chris Hipkins in particular – that they did not intervene, with righteous wrath, to put an end to this unconscionable rejection of that most basic human instinct: the urge to protect, at any cost, mothers and their children?

The Bellis Embarrassment is, in Talleyrand’s famous quip: “worse than a crime, it’s a blunder.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made “kindness” the watchword of her ministry. In doing so, she gave birth to a new kind of politics. Just how appreciated, especially by New Zealand women, “Jacinda’s” efforts were to soften and humanise the exercise of power, was confirmed by her stunning victory in the 2020 General Election.

But where is the “kindness” in the treatment of Charlotte Bellis, and scores of other pregnant New Zealander women aching to get home? If this desperate, pregnant, Kiwi journalist, stranded in starving Afghanistan, does not deserve kindness – then who does?

POSTSCRIPT: Even as this column was being written, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson was doing what his colleague, Chris Hipkins, should have done at the very beginning – giving Charlotte Bellis everything she asked for. Too late to repair the considerable damage done to Labour’s reputation by the Bellis Embarrassment, but at least it’s off the front page.

This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 4 February 2022.


Odysseus said...

All New Zealanders owe Charlotte Bellis their gratitude for bringing down the walls of Jericho. MIQ has long outlasted any useful purpose. This government's obsession with imposing and holding onto total control over New Zealanders' lives is its Achilles heel.

Tom Hunter said...

What does it say about the current crop of public servants that they were able to create a labyrinth of rules and regulations ...

Oh Chris. You already know what this says since you covered it several weeks ago in the post Paradise Postponed (which seems even more appropriate in this case).

This is the modern civil service: talk, much talk, plus writing, lots of writing.

But no do! I'm sure you'll blame neo-liberalism as usual but this growing cancer of fail was apparent more than forty years ago when the play Glide Time was written in the mid-70's (the old guys lament at the end, comparing the present to when he joined in the late 1930's, still sticks with me).

Combined with this... More to the point, what does it say about the current crop of Labour ministers – Chris Hipkins in particular – that they did not intervene, with righteous wrath,...

It says that you're beginning to see what many others, including more than a few Labour voters, have noticed for some time. The current crop are just bloody hopeless, and I say that as somebody who voted Labour between 1987-1999. In that last election I knew Clark-Cullen would do things I would not agree with (and they did), but I knew they were more competent than Shipley's shower, and continued to be so right to the end in 2008.

I cannot say that about this crowd. Saying "No" and "Stop" as they have done with Covid-19 (and before that to AR-15's) is the easiest thing a government can do. Creating things, building things is tough, and this group are just not up to it. They are the most useless government in my lifetime, and to be fair to Hipkins he's one of only two who are competent (Robertson the other): so much so that he's carrying an enormous workload, which is why he missed this.

The Bellis incident merely made obvious what a lot of blinded Labour devotees could not see, and perhaps still won't.

Dunxharfe said...

Typical of a Labor grubment

too many cooks spoiling the broth

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Giving her what she wants is the expedient way out I suppose. But given the controversy – he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't. If I was a conservative, I'd be saying it's all about choices. She chose to go to Afghanistan, she chose not to leave when advised to, and AFAIK she chose to go back when there were other options available. That latter if true, was quite manipulative.
Of course when it is Labour's responsibility instead of saying it's a matter of choices, conservatives were all about "She has to be given priority immediately" because it's a stick to beat the government with. The usual hypocrisy I guess.

DS said...

Or alternatively, she's an attention-seeking, insincere, politically-motivated muppet like Grounded Kiwis in general?

I mean, the price of giving her and her ilk their desire is the demolition of MIQ. The same MIQ that has saved thousands of lives.

greywarbler said...

The public response to Charlotte Bellis is most disappointing and makes me despair of NZ achieving rational governance by the broad mass of people which would fit what I believe should be the future - participatory democracy. But approaching everything with a robot like electric switch approach of Off or On, negates any wise overview beyond simple personal preference.

Shane McDowall said...

She was offered an MIQ placement but this was not on the date she wanted.

She could have married her boyfriend and avoided the whole kerfuffle.

She has tried to make the Taliban look like knights in shining armour.

She is a privileged bourgeois honky twat.

Kat said...

"If this desperate, pregnant, Kiwi journalist, stranded in starving Afghanistan, does not deserve kindness – then who does.....?

Muzhgan Samarqandi may have a good suggestion:

Chris Morris said...

One of the things of interest that came out during the debacle is just how unoccupied MIQ was. They (it is the Minister who issues directives, bureaucrats only decide in a policy vacuum) could have easily allowed all the pregnant women (or am I supposed to say people with cervixes?) and their partners in at very little cost, no disruptions and a lot of positive PR. So the whole exercise is a Cabinet blunder of the first order.
It is so obvious that the Cabinet has no understanding of the issues faced by those New Zealanders stuck overseas. That empathy is what decides elections

Scouser said...

It did have one very good outcome. It made highly visible what an utter debacle MIQ has been in terms of eligibility with, at times, vicious cruelty. Shambolic and surprisingly stupid.

theotherneil said...

Government of kindness, your glasses are beyond pink or even the red to which you aspire. 5 years of nothing but handouts and increasing debt for the future.

Anonymous said...

Interesting as always Chris but you have I think missed the point with respect to the roles of officials and Ministers. The civil servants might have framed the rules, but Ministers signed off on both the informing priorities and the detail of those rules. For Hipkins to intervene 'with righteous wrath' in this case and direct that an alternate outcome be found, saying that officials had let everyone down badly when they were simply and consistently applying Hipkins own rules is simply problem management by perception management. At least he had the integrity not to do that. It also wouldn't withstand much scrutiny. We used to adhere to the Westminster tradition of Ministerial responsibility and I note that no Minister has said that the policies they have are wrong, or were misapplied in this case or the hundreds of other similar cases. This is a clear case of the Government having bad policy that has been thrown into stark relief by a media savvy person with a readily available platform. Robertson might have moved this off the headlines but he has not dug them out of the hole that was there beforehand; what he has shown is that, as is consistent with Ministers of most inclinations, when things start looking sticky in the media the answer is to find some way to kill the story, but not to address the underlying policy failure for which they are responsible.

David McLoughlin said...

What does it say about the current crop of public servants that they were able to create a labyrinth of rules and regulations that made it possible for a British deejay to be welcomed into this country...

Three times!

John Hurley said...

Andrea Vance asked "Immi-what"? several elections back. Now NZ has "Kiwis" from all over the world with a claim to our little progressive nation (born on a immigration fueled population Ponzi

and wishful thinking about humanity)

Kyle Reese said...

The nasty comments about Charlotte Bellis on Twitter by leftists when her situation came to light, as well as recent comments about a man who was barred from being with his father while he died, came after several decades of well-funded anti-European propaganda funded by foreign hedge funders like George Soros; funds activated through weird cut-outs like ActionStation and the Hillary Institute, whose Harvard Kennedy-trained agents effectively captured KIwi elites: Academics, judiciary, political elites on left and right, civil society, iwi, and so on and so forth, until there was no psychic, cultural or institutional opposition to their platinum armoured leviathan. Their goal was not equality or equity, but division. They chose to speak to our better natures, our collective consciousness, so we would lean heavy on very nails they drove into the body politic to divide us.

The purpose of that funding and institutional capture was to undermine community and nationhood and to cause social chaos while transforming the economy for their purposes; so the country could be bought up or sold off cheaply, and citizens' traditional rights eroded sufficiently, in order to force us all to accept stakeholder capitalism under an alternative, phoney moral framework under which rights like freedom of association and the right to bodily integrity were not ascendant. This will be obvious to all in the future, if we ever get ourselves out from under these people; when the history books are written. Very few understand the process now, whatever your and other traditional leftists' uncomfortable shifting around of late. Irritability does not a revolution make; it will take someone or something to throw some cold water onto them for them to get out of bed...

"Woke" shilling was paid for to lay the groundwork for the rollout of a fascist alignment between Fortune 500 multinationals and once independent and more socially cohesive states of the West. Those effort have succeeded. Fools now demand to be ID'd, having been taught that to "self-ID" is to exercise freedom rather than to demand one's own tagging and enclosure in the online world, as well as the real one - the two are undergoing a forced merger.

The traditional rights of citizens, only recently extended to some of the more beleaguered minorities being cynically used to roll them back, continue to be eroded, and swiftly, and without comment or with little comment or understanding from establishment voices, on the left in particular; dissenters are dismissed as if what is happening is "progress" rather than what it really is: a new form of colonisation and imperialism in which our minds, bodies, and daily activities hither and thither constitute the territory to be conquered, the commodities to be squeezed for profit.

Industry is no longer content with eight hours of our day.

Survey the world and you will find the same organisations behind similar "protest" movements around the world working to the same end, funded by members of the World Economic Forum (WEF), their agents embedded in every institution and every office.

In years hence leftists will peer at the photographs of transhumanist fascist Klaus Schwab in his weird spacey garb, and wonder how they so badly missed what was rolling out right in front of them, and what Klaus and his global fascist insurrection intended for us rather than what their paid-up, not-always-witting minions claimed for themselves - choosing to see it all instead, like many others, as "revolutionary change" or "progress" until it was too late to mount a left wing block against it; hazed, as we all were, by the manipulatable masks or avatars - brown, lesbian, trans, whatever - carefully chosen by the economic hitmen of the hostile takeover to disguise and advance their fascist - according to Mussolini's, not ActionStation's definition - ​takeover of the entire Western world, and their subjugation and the final commodification and enclosure of all of its peoples.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Jesus Christ Kyle, I've never heard so many conspiracy theories since I once sullied myself by having a look at Breitbart and Stormfront. All across the world "rightists" are trying to shut down democracy, yet somehow it's the "woke" – meaning they care about people I hate) that are somehow taking over the institutions in the world. Funny, when one right wing hero Jordan Peterson was asked to name some of them, he managed about five. They must be really efficient of between them they are taking over all our institutions.
It's not the left that are making it more difficult to vote in the US, imprisoning journalists all over Europe, censoring and burning schoolbooks. God help us all, just take off the tinfoil hat. Or at least provide some evidence to back up all this wild nonsense. I'm not hopeful there to be honest but you never know.

Kyle Reese said...

They've done a real job on you, mate. On everyone.

It always happens this way. Read any book on the rise of the Third Reich or the Soviets.

Polite, educated people don't think for themselves. It's at these messy times in history that we learn that difficult lesson. "We" being hardly anyone at all at the time; always most polite, educated people in retrospect, if you can bring yourself to believe them - usually, people do, because they are guilty of the same mentality and intellectual dishonesty.

You'll see. We all will.

ianboag said...

Grandstanding. Wanna bet that if push came to shove she would have just gone to the UK? Reciprocal medical stuff and all that ...

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well Kyle ...As I thought, you got nothing. Except a tinfoil hat.

Kyle Reese said...

You didn't address what was conspiratorial in my comment, Guerilla Surgeon.

Please point out what is tinfoil hat stuff and I will furnish you with evidence to the contrary.

Kyle Reese said...

This about sums up the situation in Wellington right now Mr Surgeon.

I'm sure you, like all good "liberals", were cheering on the batons, too?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"several decades of well-funded anti-European propaganda funded by foreign hedge funders like George Soros"
Poor old George. Blamed for everything the right doesn't like. Mostly because the other billionaires support right-wing causes.

"institutional capture"
Your hero Jordan Peterson couldn't name more than 1/2 a dozen of those people who were capturing institutions. There should be thousands. Perhaps you'd like to name some of them? I'd settle for 100.

Your second paragraph I don't understand at all. I'm not sure how you would define stakeholder capitalism, except it seems to be something that Jens goes on about all the time.

"Trans-humanist"? I'm not sure it means what you think it means judging by your rather enigmatic statement about a German economist.
But I await your proofs with interest.

Guerilla Surgeon said...
Given that 95% of New Zealanders are vaccinated, and these people seem violent and almost fascist – my son was harassed for wearing a mask on his way home the other day – I would agree with the Prime Minister. Some of them are well-meaning and deluded, many of them are outright nutcases. And although the PM has exaggerated for effect and we are stuck with them, they are part of the lunatic fringe. And I didn't see nearly as many batons there as I did at anti-Apartheid protests. In fact most if not all of them seem to have been arrested without the aid of bat ons at all. If only you'd seen the Red Squad and action – my spare motorcycle helmet was never more in demand.
They are not fighting for me – at least I didn't ask them to. They are not fighting for my freedoms, particularly the freedom not to be infected by a disease which even though I am vaccinated could ruin my life, they are selfish eejits who have no regard for wider society.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Further to that, the police were not using batons at all, and had been instructed to leave their batons off. So you suggesting that batons were used Kyle, leads me to think that you haven't a clue about what's going on but simply accept the nutty reasoning of the lunatic fringe. Perhaps if you stop getting all your news off of social media?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Still waiting for your replies Kyle. Get those proofs a- rolin'. :)I'd be particularly interested in your take on the invisible batons.

sumsuch said...

Charlotte Bellis doesn't matter to me except for her inability to freckle (gingerhead).

I pre-judge her uber-confidence comes from a middle class privileged upbringing -- she has a right! Maybe wrong. Journalism is inhabited by middle classians these days, unwilling to go among the people. Versus the old days.