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Wendy Geus: Truth has been a casualty of Ardern’s Covid response and commentators need to remove their blinkers as Ardern and her Government’s fortune’s fall in the polls
Wendy Geus
Contributing Writer
March 17th, 2022

OPINION: Vitriolic attacks of Judith Collins when Opposition leader were never explained away as old-fashioned sexism and misogyny or traditionalist myths. After all it was the media who were often causing the attacks, like cartoonist Sharon Murdoch who must miss the days when her vicious cartoons on Judith were almost a daily occurrence. She does not pay the same compliment to Jacinda who escapes with a mild retribution often in tandem with Luxon and Seymour, to soften the blow.

Massey University’s Suze Wilson valiantly tries to defend Jacinda against ‘vitriolic attacks’ and explain why she has become one of the ‘most reviled people’ in NZ by mostly deflecting blame to society’s tendency to be sexist, misogynist and prefer traditionalist roles for public figures.

Even when she lists covid and the ‘cost of living crisis’ as factors, it is as though Ardern was simply an observer of all this, in the wrong place at the wrong time and has been unfairly maligned for all its negative outcomes.

One of National’s most competent MPs, Dr Shane Reti, when questioning ineffective Health Minister Andrew Little recently, in closing summoned all his venom and with breath-taking effectiveness told him to OWN IT! 

This is Ardern and her government’s problem. Failure to own anything and large swathes of the media in lock step are only too willing to take the ‘attack is the best means of defence’ approach. 

The shocking end of the protest at parliament can be blamed in part to Jacinda’s unwise decision to firstly ignore them, then insult them. Her condoning of the vitriolic attacks by Speaker Mallard labelling them ‘ferals’ and the much worse vitriol by Minister Michael Wood in the House, which will be recorded for posterity in Hansard, saw echoes of Hillary’s ‘deplorables’, and we know what happened to her. 

43% of the public in the March Kantar poll thought Ardern did not handle the protest well (against 46% who thought she did).  That is not something that can be put down to influences outside herself such as bigoted protesters as many commentators like to opine. 

In her distinctly imperious way she did not own it or show any sympathy or empathy towards those who were suffering in various ways as a result of her policies. The protest became the sunlight for revealing the true nature of this Government as tone deaf, bigoted, ignorant and arrogant; this combined with new leader Christopher Luxon striking all the right notes in prosecuting Ardern, saw his and National’s meteoric rise in popularity in the polls.

Her much lauded ‘health-based’ approach to covid was in reality anything but as it had a wider damaging effect on the public’s health and the economy; with rigid adherence to prolonged lock downs, and prolonged (unnecessary) hospital closures with very little covid in the country. 

The shutdown of the South Island for over a year with no cases showed dereliction of duty by the Government. A complete inability to make decisions in real time.

Ardern’s Government stymied the health system as people with cancer (and other) ailments went unseen, and surgeries were cancelled. The public were doing all of the pivoting and suffering.

Newsroom’s Marc Daalder went on the attack recently when Dr Reti had the temerity to reveal global self-harm hospital admissions had risen (unsurprisingly) during covid. Enraged that someone could be tarnishing Ardern’s lowest covid deaths legacy he jumped to her defence explaining how these vulnerable people would be hurt by Reti’s cruel revelations. 

Reality sucks Marc. That is what we need right now, and pragmatism, as we emerge from Ardern’s make-believe podium of truth, where, actually, truth was often an imposter. 

Only by looking at our overall health outcomes including all the statistics will we truly know the effectiveness of the Government’s covid response. Reti has been trying to get the message out of cancer fatalities and cases gone unseen during covid but fails to get much traction with most of the media ignoring him.

Accountability is to be avoided by this government. Labour removed National’s public service targets in 2018, and since then has employed 14,000 new public servants costing $1.7 billion with no discernible positive outcomes. 

They also removed children’s vaccine targets four years ago, when rates were high, (early 90s) when National left office. Predictably these had dropped pre-covid. The Labour Government is more concerned about protection from accountability than our children’s health outcomes.

There is a pattern here. A refusal of the Government to set targets is a failure to own their decisions, actions and outcomes, which has been a contributing factor to the public’s turning away from the woman who they no longer regard as an effective Prime Minister.


Wendy Geus is a former speechwriter and generalist communications advisor in local government. She now writes for the pure love of it.