Amanda Gillies: John Key 'arrogant' to suggest Govt is not prioritising economy in COVID-19 response

Opinion 29/04/2020

Sir John Key is "arrogant" to assume the Government doesn't want the best for New Zealand's economy during the hardship of the COVID-19 response, says The AM Show co-host Amanda Gillies. 

Gillies aimed fire at the former Prime Minister after host Duncan Garner revisited Key's critique of the Government's response, which he unloaded to Paul Henry on Tuesday's episode of Rebuilding Paradise.  

Key called for a "more open" economy under level 3, which was officially implemented at 11:59pm on Monday after four-and-a-half weeks of nationwide lockdown that forced the closure of all non-essential businesses. The economy has been in a "freeze-frame", he said, and local businesses are feeling the financial pinch. 

"It's crucially important we get to a freer, more open economy... I think the level system was a good idea and it did its job - it defined what we had to do, but in a lot of ways it defined what we couldn't do," he said.

Key implied that the Government should be analysing the situation on a day-by-day basis, rather than implementing each stage of the alert level framework for a set period. Under level 3, which will remain in place for a preliminary two-week period, more businesses are permitted to reopen if they can implement contactless service or delivery that maintains the two-metre physical distancing protocol. 

"I don't think the Government should wake up every day and say 'are we in level 3' and 'I'll let you know in a couple of weeks if we move to level 2'. I think they should get up every single morning and say - 'what could we do? How could we get the economy growing faster?' How could we get people back into work and into their businesses and do that in a safe way," he told Henry. 

But Gillies says it's presumptuous for Key to suggest that the health of the economy is not a priority for the Government.

"Does John Key not think that our Government doesn't wake up everyday thinking, 'what can we do that's best for our country?' They don't want to have an economy that fails [sic]," she said.

"Every Government that comes in wants an economy that flourishes. So it's a bit arrogant on his behalf to make out that they don't wake up saying, 'we want our economy to win'."

Gillies also crossed swords with co-host Mark Richardson over the definition of "good leadership". 

In a pointed attack on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Richardson claimed New Zealand "has lost touch with what good leadership is".

"I don't think good leadership is turning up everyday smiling, looking great and being affable - I think good leadership is surrounding yourself with capable people and empowering [them] to do their job," he stated.

When asked for her view, Gillies applauded Ardern, who has attracted worldwide praise for her calm communication and compassionate demeanour in the face of the health crisis. 

"I think good leadership is making decisions people don't necessarily like and convincing people to do it," she said. 

"She shut down and locked down our country - no we didn't want to do it, but she got the country behind it."

The Government has introduced a raft of economic measures to support businesses throughout the pandemic. Roughly $10 billion has been paid out via wage subsidies, while greater flexibility has been given to businesses to meet their tax obligations.