The Government has just delivered a Budget so heavy on paying the wages of the otherwise unemployed that its critics on both the left and the right are asking: "Where's the plan?"
Some in the tourism industry had hoped for their own special package as many face financial ruin in the absence of international visitors.
All kinds of futurists wondered whether the Government would use the Covid-19 crisis as a catalyst to transform social and economic norms, ranging from a powerful focus on climate change through to the end of capitalism.
Sorry everyone. Even if the Coalition could muster the coherence for such big new ideas, the Cabinet hasn't really had time for it.
Ministers have been fighting Covid-19 fires since February and, for all that it was pitched as a recovery plan, the Budget was still very much a rescue package.
And let's just agree: that's fine. The focus on preserving jobs, even at costs that in leisurely hindsight may be open to criticism, is an entirely legitimate and practical short-term focus.
National is right to worry that the Government will try to buy the election by shortening dole queues in the lead-up to polling day in September, but people receiving the help will hardly complain.
Yet, if jobs are so important, why did Finance Minister Grant Robertson emphatically squash Education Minister Chris "Chippy" Hipkins' enthusiasm for reopening the country to international students a little over a week ago?
On the Wednesday of the week before last, Hipkins responded to some kite-flying on the issue by university representatives at the pandemic select committee by saying he would look at it "within 24 hours".
The news swept through the tertiary education sector like wildfire, producing a burst of optimism, not only from universities, but also polytechs and private training providers.
The latter two can accept intakes of students more regularly through the year than the universities.
Mark Rushworth, the chief executive at the country's largest private training establishment, UP Education, began talking to media immediately about the potential to bring students in as early as July or August.
Within hours, however, Robertson had hosed down such expectations, citing "next year" as the earliest the sector might see students return.
Yet international education is a bit like tourism. Before Covid-19 it was worth between $3 billion and $5b in export services income annually, making it New Zealand's fourth largest export earner on some measures.
Post-Covid, it has ground to a halt, apart from the students who got here before the Government closed the border in March.
Where it differs from tourism is that international students come here for anything from one to four years. Unlike a tourist, they're not bothered about spending two weeks in quarantine before they can move around the country.
And with a quarantine system now working well for returning New Zealanders, there is no logical reason not to treat fee-paying foreign students exactly the same way.
By all means, make them take more tests for Covid-19 before they leave their home country.
And hell! UP Education would happily pay the $3000 to $5000 the quarantine process would cost. That's also cashflow for local accommodation providers and caterers who are currently bleeding out for lack of custom.
So why the caution? And is it as great as it seemed when Robbo slapped Chippy down?
Back in February, when the universities were pushing so hard to win special access for international students that they got offside with the Government, the sticking point was the failings of the immigration and customs systems.
The arrivals hall at Auckland International Airport was a daily nightmare of incompetence that was driving Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spare.
At a time when the country had yet to lock down and so much less was known about the virus, there was no appetite for some special deal for universities, especially when that deal involved letting in a whole bunch of students from China, which was then the epicentre of the disease.
The issues now are different.
Despite appearances, ministers are far more prepared to consider reopening international education. High-level discussions are already under way among departmental officials, and initial briefings in the Beehive are understood to be scheduled for next week.
However, the education sector should keep that champagne corked for a little while yet.
At play now in the policy discussion are four inter-related elements:
• Sequencing: It is completely unrealistic to imagine that international students from third countries will be allowed to start arriving here before the transtasman travel bubble is up and running. The earliest that can start, let alone be subject to a high level of confidence, is July.
• Progress against the virus: A revival of international education will only become viable if the current progress in New Zealand is maintained and there is no resurgence of Covid-19, either globally or in key countries of origin for international students — mainly in Asia.
• Quality of educational offering: It seems the opportunity will be taken to rethink what kinds of international education providers are desired. Low-rent English language "academies", particularly in Auckland, have been hotbeds of unethical practice, shadow permanent migration scams, and exploitation by New Zealand-based employers of migrant students. There is no desire to facilitate the resurgence of that part of the international education sector.
• Labour market dynamics: A very large number of New Zealanders who had jobs pre-Covid are going to be looking for new ones very soon. Many of those unemployed will have worked in tourism and hospitality. The last thing the Government wants is for international students to return in numbers to become competitors for those jobs.
So, international education is more firmly on the Government's agenda than it may have appeared.
But it's complicated.
That said, if successful progress against the virus continues over coming months, the pressure on the Government to start reopening to high-quality international education as early as November, to coincide with the university third trimester intake, is likely to become intense.