New Zealand has done what most of the nations around the globe could only have dreamed of at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic – reduced active cases to zero for a stunning 19 days, with a fraction of the deaths, even though each and every one is a heartbreaking loss. How did we achieve that? What made us follow the instructions we were given and abandon freedoms and forsake established working practices? I’d say it was thoughtful, considered and empathetic leadership. The sort of leadership that has saved lives, while the lack of it in other democracies has caused needless deaths.
I firmly believe that leadership is all we ever want from those we elect to govern us and politics is a tiresome, pointless distraction that hinders progress and the overall well-being of our nation and our relationship with others. Jacinda Ardern has delivered that in spades and has doubtless saved many Kiwis from the fate of others around the world. It has been refreshing, comforting and it has worked. To the credit of ‘the opposition’ there has been an abandonment of the tedious business as usual of politics and a drive to work together to combat, and hopefully eradicate Covid-19. The team of five million adage that our prime minister has utilised to good effect has established collectivity and connection. It made Kiwis follow new and extremely challenging directives, while unsure and fearful.
But now that we are in a new chapter of a a strange new ‘normal’ why do we need to go backwards and why would our leader – who has been so impressive – fall for cheap shots and politcking, when the dominant appetite is for something else?
Yesterday Jacinda Ardern set her sights on the Warehouse Group after their announcement that they were closing six stores with job losses of 1080 staff. “I’m angry, if I’m speaking frankly … because at the moment, I’m getting hundreds of letters from small business owners, who are giving up everything to try and keep their staff on,” Ardern said on Morning Report. The Government, of course, and taxpayers are taking a huge hit, because we are prioritising trying to keep many businesses and individuals employed, and up and running as we can. I’d like to see the same attitude applied by some of our larger organisations in New Zealand.” (Source: “Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ‘angry’ at the Warehouse Group for proposing 1080 job cuts.” www.stuff.co.nz).
I fail to see the logic or the benefit in singling out The Warehouse – especially while other large companies – Air New Zealand for example – have done far worse. Despite their slick emails to anyone on their lists, Air New Zealand has made made a pig’s ear out of its woeful efforts to compensate, or re-organise travel for those whose bookings were affected by lockdown restrictions. To be fair, Ardern did rap our national carrier over the knuckles over that fiasco, but it didn’t go anywhere far enough, considering Air New Zealand has also laid off staff – over 3500 – despite the government giving the company access to a $900 million loan. Surely a part that money could have been spent keeping Kiwis in work?
Like so many others, I hope that the pre-Covid normality of poitcal squabbling and points scoring is a thing of the past. It is not easy to criticise our leadership, especially when it has been so robust and inspiring but after months and months of sacrifice, can’t we continue as we’ve been the past few months? Can’t we have the leadership that is the envy of the world and abandon the cheap shots?