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Free Press, 4 May 2020

Level 2 – What’s To Decide?

Media reports that the Cabinet is meeting to decide how Level 2 would work. This morning the Prime Minister said there was lots to work out. So we consulted the Government’s table of COVID-19 Alert Levels, published on 16 April. To summarise, it is like normal life but you must wash your hands, practice physical distancing, and not go to a gathering of more than 100 people inside (or 500 if outside). You should also self-isolate if you feel ill. All very sensible stuff. If Level 3 is like Australia, Level 2 is like Sweden.

What About Travel?

The border remains closed, and people are asked to ‘minimise travel.’ This shouldn’t be difficult. Most of us are short of time and money so we minimise travel at the best of times anyway. The Cabinet should not be focusing on the rules of Level 2, these are clear. It should be focusing on how to open up the border, at least with Australia, in a COVID-proof way.

Will Level 2 Happen Next Wednesday?

Earlier editions of Free Press reported that it takes 11.5 days from contracting COVID-19 to showing symptoms, based on reading early reports on the virus. We now know it takes 5 to 6 days to show symptoms. So, if the people queuing outside Burger Fuel and similar last Tuesday were spreading COVID-19, they will get symptoms, some will get tested, and the statistics will show it in the middle of this week. Absent a major spike in cases with multiple clusters around the country, going to Level 2 is an obvious decision.

How Would We Do It?

The Prime Minister should have come out this morning and said “Because things are going so well, we will be at Level 2 this time next week, unless there is a sudden and unexpected outbreak that is beyond the Government’s contact tracing abilities. We now have the ability to trace 100 cases per day. To be safe, if we get more than 50 cases in a day this week my decision will reverse. The choice is now with you.” That would be leadership.

And The Border?

“Because Australians have the same infection rate as us, it makes no sense to exclude them from our national bubble. The winter ski season could save South Island tourism, for a start. My Government will be working around the clock to arrange a common bubble. Obviously we need their Government to agree, but the New Zealand Government is ready to go from next week.”

What Are The Police Up To?

Revelations this morning showed that the Police acted with very little legal power to do anything in the early days of the lockdown, at least until 3 April. This casts new light on the Police Commissioner’s intransigent refusal to release their legal advice under questioning from David Seymour last week. The result is that a rank and file cop leaked emails showing what it meant. The Attorney-General should release the advice Crown Law gave the Police because the public have a right to know.

What Are The Police Up To? #2

This attempt by Police to take a businessman’s house, and his family member’s property, using proceeds of crime legislation is worth a read. The short take: The legislation was introduced to stop people going into illegal businesses and banking the profits. It was not intended as a punishment for people in legal businesses who were party to a terrible accident and have already been punished.

The Budget

Next week, all eyes turn to the Budget. ACT will release an Alternative Budget that will (1) get the Government back into surplus by 2024, (2) not raise taxes (in fact cut them), (3) not use monetisation to fund government spending, (4) invest smartly in infrastructure that actually stacks up, and (4) remove regulatory barriers to growth. Next week’s Free Press will cover this off.

Not Saying We Told You So, But…

This typically snarky Stuff editorial from February 27 has not aged well: “ACT leader David Seymour took point-scoring a step further when he demanded that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern return immediately from a three-day visit to Fiji to deal with a ‘worsening’ coronavirus crisis. That is a glib over-reaction by Seymour, as is the claim that ‘the New Zealand economy is at a tipping point’. Seymour's outburst can be attributed to a desperate need to be involved in political events.” And people wonder why Stuff needs a Government bail out!

An Important Statistic To Remember

This paragraph is a good reminder for people who think government helps the poor. “Over the last 12 years, prices for beneficiaries have risen 26 percent and prices for Māori have risen 22 percent. Prices for the highest spending quintile have risen 14.6 percent over that time, while prices for superannuitants have risen 28 percent.” The differences are around the higher spending on rent, tobacco and transport by lower income groups, while higher income non-superannuitants have benefited from higher home ownership rates and falling interest rates. Superannuitants have been hammered by higher healthcare costs. Government sets the taxes, regulates building, and provides healthcare.

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