It's time for bold action. Postpone the election. Roll out a major multibillion-dollar fiscal stimulus and appoint a taskforce headed by someone like Sir Brian Roche or Martyn Dunne to take charge of the operational response to the coronavirus pandemic.
What's stopping Jacinda Ardern and Simon Bridges from making a joint call to postpone the September 19 election to ensure the fight to contain the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic here is not subject to political distraction?
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This shouldn't be a difficult decision to make, so full attention can be directed to the local impacts of this global pandemic.
But politics still reigns.
It is absurd that politicians are planning to be out on the hustings in winter at a time when — if the predictions are correct — the virus outbreak could be putting serious stress on the capability of the hospital system to cope; parts of New Zealand may be under quarantine with some schools and universities closed and many New Zealanders working from home (if they can) as multiple cases grow.
If nothing else, politicians are self-interested.
Ardern knows her own leadership has been burnished through the way she empathetically took charge after the Christchurch terrorist massacre.
She might feel a similar response to corralling the Covid-19 outbreak in New Zealand would position Labour well going into the upcoming election. It gives Ardern another platform for her to demonstrate leadership.
But this current crisis is becoming much more complex by the day.
Her initial response to the outbreak was assured — particularly when it came to the imposition of border restrictions with China and latterly with Iran. With other nations it has been less decisive.
She has endeavoured to ensure that people remain calm and to buy a window of time for the health system to respond and fiscal packages to be put in place to keep businesses going and employees in work.
But in recent days that leadership has become diffident.
Example: her initial unwillingness to cancel this weekend's Pasifika festival, which only happened after discussions with Auckland mayor Phil Goff, who also made the announcement.
Goff and Ardern noted that hundreds of people were coming from the Pacific and that they were not prepared to take the risk that Covid-19 would be picked up here and transmitted back to the islands. Ardern said that as the gateway to the Pacific, New Zealand had a responsibility to protect the health of Pacific Islanders.
But here's the disconnect.
Auckland is arguably the city with the largest number of Polynesians in the Pacific. If the coronavirus gets established in areas like South Auckland, it could wreak just as much damage as it would in the islands.
Unlike measles, there is no tested vaccine for Covid-19 and Polynesian (including Māori) populations, according to various health studies, are subject to household crowding which is closely related to the risk of developing meningococcal disease, respiratory disease, and other infectious diseases.
That's the reason they should have cited up front. But they have pussy-footed.
The Government's competence is also being tested with what has now become a tardy fiscal response to this crisis.
Example 2: does anyone — other than a Finance Minister — seriously care about endless repetition as to which phase the advisers are at when it comes to the fiscal response? Or whether or not New Zealand is in a technical recession?
Just read the business news.
What businesses and employees want to see is decisive action.
Notably, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Treasurer Josh Frydenberg did just that on Wednesday when they unveiled a $A17.6b fiscal stimulus package to keep Australians in jobs, and support businesses and households to "ensure [we] bounce back stronger on the other side".
Some $A10.95b will be rolled out the door in the next 3 and a half months.
As The Australian's Paul Kelly noted, the Australian Treasury estimates the front-end load aspect of the package equates to 2.2 per cent of GDP for the June quarter and that will mean an extra 1.5 per cent of GDP on that quarterly growth figure.
Morrison has also tightened travel restrictions, put major investment into the health system to help it cope and will make $A750 cash payments to low income earners and welfare recipients.
Interestingly, the Morrison Government was initially much more cautious about the need for a major fiscal response. But this week a conservative Australian Government tore up its playbook in favour of a massive stimulus.
In New Zealand, a Labour-led Government has talked about a package but has yet to unveil a developed response.
No wonder Finance Minister Grant Robertson was keen fly to Australia yesterday to confer with Frydenberg.
The visit was cancelled and he instead talked by Skype.
Labour's ability to project its standing as a competent leader and manager of government will be sorely tested.
Its ability to execute is not its greatest attribute.
It could do worse than to appoint a taskforce to lead the operational management of the coronavirus response across the public service in coming months. There are competent people who could do this such as Sir Brian and Dunne.
National's messaging in private soirees with business has been on the button.
But Simon Bridges has (so far) missed an opportunity to publicly scope a big picture response.
In the US, Joe Biden has presented himself as a "President-in-waiting" while Donald Trump's White House response to the coronavirus pandemic tests his leadership. If he wins the nomination, Biden has promised to unite the Democratic Party and also the nation if elected president on November 3.
Bridges has yet to show he can project empathetic (yet strong) decisive leadership — that's the gap he has to fill.