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How Many Mistakes And How Much Incompetence And Arrogance Does It Take To Bring Down A Government?

If recent history is anything to go by it takes a lot. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why we believe that Labour should go. Mistakes, Incompetence and Arrogance included.

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First let’s look at the Hon Phil Twyford.

Phil Twyford has a tendency to self-assurance that borders on arrogance and a bit of a habit of winging the details along with an inclination to over-promise and swiftly under-deliver.

He was removed from the post of the Minister of Housing as a result of his handling of the KiwiBuild fiasco.

Then he was at the centre of a cauldron of accusations relating both to the government's light rail ambitions in Auckland and the ill-fated Let's Get Wellington Moving initiative.

The Wellington issue, the Basin Reserve and Mt Victoria tunnel choke point remains at the heart of the political stalemate between motorists and the public transport lobby and is the result of poorly managed coalition politics.

It was Twyford's associate transport minister Julie Anne Genter that created Twyford's problems.

Her refusal to release a letter to Twyford that mixed party political and ministerial responsibilities by opposing a second Mt Victoria tunnel let the issue drag on for weeks.

Late last year Twyford was accused of misleading parliament in relation to questions in the house around the Auckland light rail proposals. First he was forced to concede that he had given Parliament incorrect information about NZTA board appointments.

Then he told Parliament that NZTA "didn't complete an assessment" of the NZ Super Fund's proposal to build the multibillion-dollar light rail project.

The existence of the assessment, denied by Twyford, was proven in documents which showed that the NZTA assessment was in fact complete enough to send to the NZ Super Fund for a response.

Despite the documents appearing to show a completed assessment, Twyford held his ground and said

"I stand by my statement in the House that NZTA did not complete an assessment of the NZ Infra proposal using standard Treasury methodology.”

It now seems that Minister of Transport Phil Twyford is embroiled in another fiasco around the delayed Transmission Gully project.

It seems there is a clause within the PPP partnership agreement allows the road's builders CPB and HEB to walk away from the $1b Transmission Gully project if they've been locked out of the site for two months.

The full cost of finishing the road could then fall to the coalition Government and this would delay it even further.

It is believed that the clock on this clause started ticking after the country went into Level 4 lockdown on March 25.

The conditions in this lockout clause would be met if Level 2 restrictions remained in place until May 25 even though construction work was allowed to resume at Level 3 and later at Level 2 on May 14.

It is thought that the joint venture partners consider themselves to be locked out from the site because certain aspects of Transmission Gully work couldn't be completed under Ministry of Health Covid19 lockdown guidelines.

Those included the difficulties in the transportation of large numbers of people by car and the need for site-wide safety meetings of employees.

NZTA and the Transport Minister Phil Twyford in February made a $190m advance payment on the Transmission Gully project that they weren't liable for.

I have been told that there was legal advice given to NZTA not to pay as there was no liability to pay at that time yet they paid anyway.

Twyford has had a knack for being in the midst of this government's most damaging untidiness and he has bungled enough answers to parliamentary questions that he's damaged his personal credibility.

If anything, his greatest personal failing mirrors that of the government as a whole - he's better at thinking policy up than at executing it.

Second let’s look at the Hon David Clark.

Clark was demoted to the bottom ranking of Cabinet earlier this month, after he admitted breaking the lockdown rules by driving his family 20 kilometres to a beach in the first weekend of alert level 4.

This followed him being spotted driving to a mountain biking track to exercise.

At the time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said under normal circumstances she would have sacked him, what Dr Clark did was wrong and there were no excuses.

She added that it was not just Dr Clark's knowledge of the pandemic that determined he stay, but also his insight into the health system and its issues.

Yet after this, for weeks during the lockdown, Dr Clark has assiduously isolated himself completely from health policy, media, politics, constituents, the Epidemic Response select committee, mountain biking, being a Minister, daily press briefing sessions etc.

The daily updates on New Zealand's COVID-19 response were handled by a mix of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Finance Minister Grant Robertson, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield and Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay.

Dr Clark stating that like other MPs, he was told to stay home.

"We were asked to go back to our electorates to make sure that we were able to be in our communities like everybody else in New Zealand, locked up and in our bubbles.

Surely as Health Minister he should have been front and centre of "probably one of the biggest health crises of this country is ever going to experience".

The Prime Minister, the Director-General and the others that have filled in there have done the job, but so, too, have the quiet hard working New Zealanders who have had to comply with the lockdown rules to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Surely if he was so critical to the running of the health system then he would have been required at the centre of the issue not locked away in his bubble in Dunedin. If not then he should have been sacked as he was not deemed to be that important.

Clark was reportedly seen repeatedly taking boxes between two properties during the lockdown.

Under the alert level 4 rules, people were not allowed to move into or out of their houses.

But in a statement, Clark said he moved homes before the lockdown began.

"I moved house, using the services of a moving company, on the Wednesday immediately before the level 4 lockdown began. My new house is just up the road from my old one.

"During lockdown I used my old house as my office and occasionally walked the odd item or box back with me, as is within the rules," the statement said.

Surely he must have realised that this would not look good in the eyes of the general public coming so soon after his previous breaches. Was this just a case of not thinking, making a mistake or arrogance in thinking he was above the rules?

Third we need to look at the Government as a whole.

In a 20 March document, top health officials recommended New Zealand move to Alert Level 2, and remain there for up to 30 days.

But just three days later, the Government moved to Level 3, and in another two days went to Level 4.

"There are differences between what the Government saw about their response and what they told the New Zealand public.

The Government released hundreds of documents late on a Friday, and then the Prime Minister's office gagged her ministers by telling them, in an email, not to do interviews.

This shows a high level of arrogance and disregard for due process as well as making a mockery of their claim to be open and transparent.

The idea that ministers wouldn't be available to give explanations in relation to the massive amount of information released shows a level of arrogance on the part of the government that is just incredible to me.

The released documents included papers, minutes and advice to most sectors of the Government from January until 17 April with one of the earliest papers dating back to January 28, when a Cabinet minute discussed a low risk to New Zealand but a potentially serious risk to public health.

Other documents discussed the decision-making centred on alert levels and restrictions, the border, public health, housing, income support and foreign affairs.

Given that we are staring down the barrel at a looming economic catastrophe, we are still under lockdown level 2 rules, and also only four months away from a general election, and then the need for openness and transparency in government actions is critical to the application of true democracy.

When a government decides that it is above the need to give explanations for its actions, to the people that elected it and for whom it is supposed to be benefiting, this in my opinion is nothing short of arrogance and leads me to think that it might be time to change the government.

The voting public of NZ will decide this in the 2020 general election.

Mark Ball

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