The Prime Minister often makes me feel like a 4-year-old sitting cross-legged on a kindy floor, gazing up at the podium as she tells us how good Auckland has been and how much everyone should appreciate the sacrifices Auckland has made to keep us all safe.
If that is to make us feel better about being left at level 3, and grateful for the small mercy of playdates with one other household at a time, it doesn't work for me. As a kid, I remember, I reacted badly to praise I'd done nothing to deserve.
I count myself lucky to have made it through the education system just before the cult of positive reinforcement arrived. Along with constant praise for every little thing, it's a mode of encouragement that is uncritical, undemanding, pressure-free. Nobody fails, nobody's at fault, the system is always to blame.
Jacinda Ardern is the first Prime Minister to have been born and educated entirely in the era of positive reinforcement. Her first words as leader of the Labour Party were that she would be "relentlessly positive" and so she remains. It's probably the reason she seems hardly able to bring herself to put some pressure on people who have yet to be vaccinated.
Can you imagine Helen Clark having trouble with that?
Ardern says we are still at level 3 because although her pandemic response is in transition from lockdowns to vaccination, not enough of us are fully vaccinated yet. Fair enough, but 80 per cent of the eligible population is in the programme now and she knows the next 10-15 per cent will be harder to convince.
But she still won't name a date to begin re-opening the borders, which might put some frisson into those determined to hold out, as well as giving tourism, hospitality, external education and, indeed, all business, something to hope for and plan towards.
She still hasn't agreed to make mandatory vaccination legally available to all employers. It's only fair that business owners should be able to insist that those they hire, or continue to employ, are vaccinated. Owners have a right to protect their business from the risk of interruption by an outbreak among its staff, especially if lockdowns continue to be part of the Government's response.
Employees and job-seekers should be expected to take all reasonable steps to remain healthy enough to meet the requirements of the job they have applied for and agreed to do. Vaccination is a perfectly reasonable expectation, and a fairly effective precaution on the evidence of the very low infection rate among vaccinated people in this Delta outbreak.
Yet the Government has not made vaccination mandatory even for all of its own employees. A quarter of those in the health services remained unvaccinated at last report. By now vaccination should be mandatory for school teachers too.
Children in Auckland have missed seven weeks of classroom learning so far this year, on top of 10 weeks last year. They must be able to return after these holidays and their parents have a right to expect they will be under the supervision of vaccinated teachers.
It's not just a question of health. As one parent has said to me, "If my child had a teacher who was anti-vax, I'd be worried about what other things they might be telling the kids."
Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education as well as Covid Response, has already had a High Court rule in his favour against a challenge from a Customs employee to compulsory vaccination for air and sea ports and quarantine staff under the Covid-19 Public Health Response Act 2020.
Justice Peter Churchman ruled that an employment mandate was not contrary to the Bill of Rights Act that includes a right to refuse medical treatment. He noted nobody was being forced to be vaccinated, they simply faced consequences for employment if they chose not to be.
But the closest Ardern has come to confronting the hesitant with any consequences so far is a warning that entry to outdoor music festivals this summer might require a "vaccine passport". She produced two Health Ministry officials this week to explain how the digital passports might function.
Their model looked rudimentary, with nothing definite, as tentative as most projects of this Government. The Prime Minister does not appear to be in a hurry to see it happen. She still hopes to persuade everyone nicely, gently, positively, with a big "push" next Saturday.
The vaccinated are asked to talk to someone reluctant who might trust them. We've probably already tried that. Time passes, the year of the vaccine is in its last quarter. To get to 90 per cent we need some steel in the campaign now.