GUEST BLOG: Pat O’Dea – The Big Lie

“There is no such thing as bad soldiers, only bad generals” Napoleon

I imagine that there were just as many drunks, deserters, trouble makers and bad soldiers in Napoleon’s army as in any other. The point Napoleon was making, is that good commanders don’t blame the setbacks caused by their bad decisions on their soldiers.
(And Napoleon would know, after the disaster that overcame his soldiers after he ordered them into Russia.)

In a different time and place German playwright Bertolt Brecht wrote;

 ‘The people have forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only by redoubled efforts’.

‘Would it not be easier’ Brecht wrote

‘For the government, to dissolve the people
And elect another?


I was going to write a completely different essay.

I wanted to write an essay on climate change.
I was going to base my essay on Chris Trotter’s earlier essay in praise of the government’s courageous leadership during the Covid crisis. I wanted to write that the same ‘science-guided, humanitarian responsethat Trotter wrote of, ‘of putting the interest of ordinary people first before business interests’, to successfully eliminate Covid-19, could also be applied to the climate crisis.

Why the Right-Wing Media Hates Jacinda’s Covid Elimination Strategy.

By Chris Trotter – August 26, 2021

……Had Ardern followed the Swedish prime minister’s example, her country would have sustained upwards of 7,000 deaths. By following its leader’s strict elimination strategy, however, New Zealand’s “Team of Five Million” kept their country’s Covid death toll to 26.

On the Right, however, this sort of science-guided, humanitarian response to Covid-19 just doesn’t compute. Conservatives around the world react by accusing Ardern of political cowardice. She simply doesn’t have the balls to adopt a strategy that will lead directly to hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths. Look at the Brits; look at the Yanks; they had the courage to condemn tens-of-thousands of their people to early and unnecessary deaths; they know that “you can’t live in a cave forever”; that, in the end, the economy must come first…..

What I wanted to write was how much I admired the government for standing up to the businessmen and financiers, by prioritising public health over the economy. I wanted to write that I thought Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the best Prime Minister of my lifetime. I wanted to write how her example of standing up to vested interest to fight Covid-19 was an example that could be followed in the fight against climate change.
Unfortunately following the government’s “move away from the elimination strategy” and surrender to the business lobby. This will not be the essay on climate change that I wanted to write.

The Big Lie on the climate and environment

From the early 1990s when climate change first became a mainstream issue. We were all told that we, You and I, were the problem.
It was our fault because we drove petrol cars, and used electricity generated from fossil fuels, and lived wasteful consumerist lifestyles.
Yes the people are the problem.
Not government policy. Not the out of control polluting corporations. These powerful forces in society that give us no other choices but the ones mandated by them.

Recycling and sustainability and climate protection is not profitable so it is not done.

The big oil companies, the big coal companies the big plastic manufacturers of one use disposable products. The big advertising companies that prey on our insecurities to make us dissatisfied with what we have, and encourage us to consume and throw away the one use disposable goods they can sell to us over and over again.
But the profit driven polluters are not at fault. You the people are!

Maybe Brecht was right, our rulers in business and government, need to elect another people. (sarc.)

The truth is, you and I are pretty much powerless as individuals to oppose these powerful vested interests.  Each week as we conscientiously sort our recyclables from our disposables. Compared to our individual efforts to do the right thing, the big powerful corporations and industries, (with the complicity of government0, are pouring out a tsunami of pollution and waste as much as they profitably can. You and I might even find ourselves working for them in their factories, or on their production lines, to earn the wages we need to pay our bills and rent, or mortgage and raise our families.. Feeling even more powerless and despondent trapped in these jobs. Especially when at the end of the day we go home and turn on the TV, and the big media outlets and the government continue to berate us. “It’s all your fault!”

The Big Lie on Covid-19

The TVNZ graphical chart above, shows it all.

A peak of 83 cases a day on October 27, by the end of September, the spread of the infection had been all but eliminated by the Level 4 Lockdown.

By September 29. under Level 4 Lockdown, Infections had fallen to below 10 cases a day, and were close to being eliminated entirely.

However, it was not to be.

Under pressure from business, on the 22nd of September, as marked on the graph above, the government had dropped the Level 4 Alert.. The next day, 200,000 working people in Auckland who had been isolating at home went to work. One week later after the incubation period of the virus, around September 30, infections started rising sharply and have continued rising steadily ever since. From below 10 cases a day, to over 100 cases a day currently.

This turnaround represents a huge triumph for business over public health.

To explain away this sudden rise in cases, the media and the government went into overdrive to blame the public, especially the most down trodden and marginalised members of society, the gangs, the rough sleepers, sex workers, the homeless. A lot of these accusations turned out to be false.

What these government and media liars can’t or won’t explain, is why the actions of society’s marginalised minority of rule breakers had no effect on the falling numbers of infections under the Level 4 Lockdown.

The Level 4 Alert could cope with the small minority of rule breakers, the Level 3 Alert couldn’t. And the government and the media knew this would happen because they had been warned by health experts and pandemic modelers, whose advice had been ignored.

Despite the propaganda blaming gangs and sex workers as the cause of the rise in infections. It was not the small minority of rule breakers, but the government change in policy away from elimination to suppression.

The ‘Roadmap out of Lockdown’

On the 22nd of September the day the government lowered the Level 4 lockdown, the government announced a Three Step ‘Roadmap out of lockdown’. Which was to be implemented, even if cases of infection kept rising. The first stage of the three step ‘Roadmap’ was applied. On October 6. You can clearly see on the TVNZ graph above, that the Stage One of loosening restrictions of the Roadmap Out of Lockdown, was applied, despite a continued rise in infections. This is not a mistake, this was deliberate. Again the health experts warned against it.

But only the first stage of the 3 Step Roadmap was ever implemented. Since then the three step roadmap has been abandoned as ‘unworkable’ and ‘confusing’ and has now been replaced by a so called ‘Traffic Light’ system. The ‘Traffic Light’ system and the Roadmap Out of Lockdown, have both been criticised as being confusing and unworkable. Both these systems were opposed by the health experts and pandemic modelers, who recommended sticking with the 4 Level alert system.

The traffic light system will not work, it is not meant to work. The Traffic Light System is not designed to halt infections. The Traffic Light system, like the ‘Roadmap Out of Lockdown’ before it, is a scheme to get us back to Business as Usual as soon as possible, despite rising infections and deaths.

So when did things start to go wrong?

When did the government begin its change away from its successful policy of elimination to the current failed policy of suppression?

When did the “interests of business, [begin to] 
The days and dates can be pinpointed exactly. And the evidence is damning.


March 25, 2020, the contagion first reached our shores, the government quickly imposes a hard nation wide Level 4 lockdown and eliminates’ community transmission of the Covid-19 virus, to world acclaim.

The opponents of lockdown, or any other form of restriction or interference in the market, were caught off guard by the government’s swift action.

But it didn’t take them long to regroup, and let the government feel their displeasure, funding a sour rear guard action to retroactively declare that the government’s mandated lockdown was illegal.

But it made little difference, as the plaudits for government’s swift action kept rolling in from a grateful people, and overseas admirers.

Later that year the right wing opponents of lockdown and border closures were delivered a sharp rebuke by the electorate in the general election of 2020, returninga majority Labour Government for the first time in MMP history.

Covid Returns: 

On August 17, 2021 the newly evolved and more virulent Delta strain of the virus reappeared on our shores. Ignoring the warning shot they had received from business. Off the back of the successful actions of the previous year, the government swiftly imposed another level 4 Lockdown for the whole country. The nation-wide alert gave the government’s scientific and medical advisors time to determine that the infection had been caught early, and was limited to the Auckland region. The level 4 alert was maintained for Auckland but was able to be lowered in the rest of the country to Level 2.

Because the actions of the government were widely supported, the business opponents of lockdown acted more subversively, many by flouting lockdown

A number of companies that had stayed closed during the first Level 4 lockdown in 2020 stayed open this time. With many reports from workers of being ordered back to work, when in the last Level 4 Lockdown, they had been sent home.

Despite higher non-compliance from business, the Level 4 Lockdown was working.

One case of infection on August 17, had by August 30 ballooned to a peak of 83 cases, after a short plateau, under the influence of the Level 4 Lockdown. the number of cases began to plummet precipitously. (see graph above).

On August 30 still under Level 4 Lockdown, the Prime Minister identified businesses still operating in defiance of the Lockdown, as a source of infection and said she would look at tightening up restrictions on them.

Auckland lockdown extended as New Zealand Covid cases drop to 53

Mon 30 Aug 2021

….On Sunday, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said there had been a small number of workplaces operating under level 4 that had seen transmission within staff – four to date.

“If we need to tighten up our restrictions further we will,” Ardern said.

Microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said the worksite transmission was a worry,….

e​​​​​​​This is point where things started to go wrong.

Instead of tightening restrictions on “workplaces”.

On September 7 following an “outcry” from manufacturers, despite still being under Level 4 Alert, the government did a “U-turn” and loosened restrictions on worksites.

September 7, 2021, marks the date that the government first gave in to pressure from business.

Govt’s Auckland manufacturing u-turn


By:Anne Gibson Property editor, NZ Herald

….Auckland residential construction manufacturing will be allowed to resume even though the city remains at level 4 alert.

Grant Robertson, Finance Minister and Poto Williams, Building and Construction Minister, jointly announced the u-turn today.


The government surrender to the pressure from business that began under Lockdown on September 7, became a landslide 14 days later.

On September 21, 2021, the government removed the restrictions on non-essential worksites, The next day 200,000 Auckland workers who had been isolating at home, were ordered back to work. The Level 4 lockdown was over.

Eight days later, (which is about the period of incubation of the virus), the numbers of daily infections which had been approaching close to zero under the Level 4 Lockdown, started rising again, and haven’t stopped rising since.

The Prime Minister breaks her word

On September 21 when the Level 4 Alert was lifted, (see graph above), there was a total of 22 cases in the community .Two of those cases could not be traced to any known source of transmission. This was proof that cases of covid infections were still circulating undetected in the community.

On August 30 the Prime Minister, (as well as saying that she would tighten restrictions on worksites), had also said that the Level 4 Lockdown in Auckland would not be lowered while there were still undetected cases of Delta Covid-19 circulating in the community.

The government did a U-turn on this policy as well.

At the same time as announcing the drop from Alert Level 4, the government announced the beginning of the end for Alert Levels and lockdowns, and their replacement with a stepped system out of lockdown even as numbers of infections keep increasing, which just as predicted, they have..

From the start of the outbreak on August 17, to the peak of 83 cases of Covid-19 on August 30, to the precipitous drop to almost total elimination by September 21, and then the abandonment of the Elimination strategy, followed by the rise in infections 8 days later. And finally, on October 5 the implementation of the first stage of the ‘The Three Step Roadmap’ for loosening lockdown restrictions, even as numbers of infections keep rising. Then abandoning the Roadmap as unworkable after only implementing step one. Replacing The Roadmap Out Of Lockdown, with the Traffic Light system, and the official announcement that there will no return to Elimination or lockdowns no matter how bad things get.

What does all this indicate?

Child poverty, climate change, biosphere collapse, unaffordable housing, homelessness, not even a deadly global pandemic. Nothing will be allowed to impede the flow of profits to private business.

Climate change is a classic example. Business leaders and government make all the right noises about being carbon neutral in 2050, while supervising a year by year increase in emissions in the present, especially here in Godzone..

“Net Zero by 2050, Blah, blah, blah,” Greta Thunberg, commenting on carbon neutral promises by business and governments by 2050.

And when the country doesn’t reach these fictional targets, who will be blamed?

That’s right. You and me.


Pat O’Dea is a unionist and human rights activist.

Related Posts