Dr Michael Bassett

Dr Michael Bassett

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Circus in Wellington



There's something symbiotic about the protestors outside Parliament Buildings and the ministers inside who won't talk to them. Both are motley, arrogant and short-sighted; they radiate confusion and specialize in messaging that is hard to understand. Virtually everything ministers have promised over the last four and a half years has crumpled in their hands, from building 100,000 new houses, abolishing homelessness, lifting people out of poverty, improving education, fixing the country's creaking infrastructure, and enhancing race relations that have never been in a worse state. Yes, they have managed to get more than 90% of people over 12 vaccinated and citizens, overwhelmingly, are happy to carry a vaccination pass. But MIQ eventually became an expensive disaster and fewer and fewer people are contact tracing lest they become caught up in time-consuming, bureaucratic wrangles. Ministerial messaging is getting increasingly out of line with what people are doing.

The protestors are similarly confused on everything from a clear purpose through to whether they even want to talk to those who don't want to talk to them. Most in this diverse assemblage of New Zealand's modern underclass are engaged in a rumble with an "up you" message to the rest of us. As well, there's a thin layer of brighter ideologues who are worried about the creeping shroud of authoritarianism that Jacinda Ardern is encasing us in. But, for the most part the IQ level on both sides is about equal. Some protestors would have happily joined Trump's January 2021 Capitol riot; others are drawing welfare rather than having any work obligations. Both sides are mostly on the public payroll. The current ministers have similarly impoverished educational backgrounds and narrow life experience. Both sides seem ill-equipped to talk to produce a constructive dialogue, even if anyone wanted to.

Trespassing and randomly parking vehicles would normally be dealt with quickly by Police. But the Commissioner is a Jacinda clone who doesn't want to upset anyone. "Be kind" seems to have become the Police's mantra too. Meantime, Wellington's Mayor and councillors, all of whom face elections in a few months' time, would like to free up the streets and return their city to some form of normality. Small businesses without customers face closure because protestors are thumbing their noses at authority and won't clear thoroughfares. There are probably more people whose livelihoods are in danger as a result of what is happening in their neighborhood than there are protestors whom Andrew Coster doesn't want to risk roughing up. But with law and order gradually breaking down, more and more people are joining the throng at Parliament, excited by a sniff of anarchy and the fairground atmosphere. Political poseurs like Winston Peters can't resist joining them. By doing nothing to enforce the law, the Police are growing the problem.

With Parliament in recess for a week there is a chance for ministers and the Police to come to their senses and work out some way of clearing the streets. If similar scenes in Ottawa, Canberra and Paris are any guide, force of some kind will be necessary. And after this is all over, the Police and the Defence forces will need to purchase new equipment like tow-away vehicles because the behaviour of the last couple of weeks will be repeated, nothing surer.