Election 2020 will go down in history either way, but team five million is taking a fairly overwhelming hit as we stagger to reclaim the composure and thoroughness of our first bout with the disease.
While the Covid-19 virus – the obvious and hugely damaging enemy – proves its astonishing agility, a poisonous on-line ‘fifth column’ of our own is cutting through the home team’s ability to get to grips with a second lockdown.
Globally, this phenomenon has been severe enough for the World Health Organisation to have named it an infodemic. Here it is compounded by the return of attack politics and the dirty tricks we had hoped were left decently behind us.
While saluting the Prime Minister’s generous decision to delay until October the country’s 2020 election, I’m finding it hard to contemplate two more months watching constant political smearing by a triumphant Opposition leader. So hypocritical.
And what’s with being out to “crush the other lot”? I had more respect for Simon Bridges when he indicated at least a notion of cross-party co-operation in the face of a global threat.
International investigative journalist Nicky Hager’s 2014 book Dirty Politics was subtitled “How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment” for good reason. It was a phenomena of ruthless character assassination, political grooming and information ‘leaks’ fed to Whale Oil blogger Cameron Slater’s attack machine. Imported from Washington via young Nats, it also owed much to Australian political strategists Crosby Textor.
Opposition leader Judith Collins was centre stage in the revelations. She recently claimed that she was cleared of everything written about her in Dirty Politics but “this was not even slightly true,” Hager said in a recent Spinoff article. None of the revelations in the entire book were ever officially questioned – and only one enquiry into a later, and possibly spurious episode involving a leak of information about a government official, was rebutted, he said.
National’s disarray this year, which has left Collins the last one standing, has been entirely self-inflicted.
It began with an eruption of dirty politics back in January with the disgrace of Jami-Lee Ross and continued to include – in quick and bloody succession after the Covid lockdown – the demise of two Opposition party leaders, former party president Michelle Boag and Hamish Walker. It has also given us Judith Collins’ memoirs.
And a leader of the Opposition who – in the kinder and more inclusive level of political discourse we have reached in 2020 – is unlikely to win, but who has full rein to make a lot of noise. This can only be detrimental to our collective response to a second wave – and could easily overwhelm our early gains.
In that respect, former boxer Dave Letele should have woken up on Wednesday morning a national hero.
TVNZ 1’s Seven Sharp segment on Tuesday showed his businesses, which include a gym and food parcel delivery enterprise, had a thorough contact-tracing app at-the-ready for putting his gym-goers ahead of the game, even before a positive case of Covid-19 was announced in connection with his businesses.
Mr Letele said once he was made aware of the situation, he was able to contact “every single person” who had come into contact with the positive case.
“When we found out on Sunday, because we have track-and-tracing software called Mindbody, once we knew of the positive case we contacted every single person that had come into contact with the person,” he said.
“Before the Ministry of Health contacted anyone, everyone was already in self-isolation and had been tested,” Mr Letele said.
He cheerfully said the Ministry of Health apologised for the surprise public ‘outing’ of the business and said his best advice for businesses was to have contact-tracing software available.
“Make sure you are able to contact back and trace everyone who has come into your workplace – and be open about it.”
It was a deeply reassuring piece of coverage; a reminder that it is up to us if we are to recapture the solidarity which had us committed to behaving as if every one of us, individually and collectively, could have the virus – and could spread it around at the touch of a finger on a parcel of meat.
The campaign worked. It was even interesting. Team five million has a lot of amateur epidemiologists already, aware that the lovely pre-Covid family gathering a week before might turn out to have infected all of our nearest and dearest. Even as blameless internal travelling by an unfortunate South Auckland family has done this time. • Liz Waters