Friday, 29 October 2021

Protecting the Aristocracy of Pull

Andrew Geddis, at Spinoff, on how the government has been thwarting attempts to end MIQ's Aristocracy of Pull. He couches it in all the usual lawyer stuff like "may or may not have been entirely coincidental", but it's obvious what's going on here.

The entire MIQ allocation system is a corrupt mess. Not bribery corruption. The more typical New Zealand corruption where the rules get written so that the bureaucrats just automatically do what's necessary. Carve out a national interest exception, define it the right way, and the politically favoured just find spaces in MIQ where others can't. 

It's been obvious since the thing started. Remember how, somehow, spaces for horse track workers happened to be in the national interest because, somehow, horse race tracks got picked as shovel-ready projects when the government was scrambling to find things to spend money on? Nobody needed to bribe MBIE to do that. MBIE wouldn't take bribes. But whatever arrangements led to tax breaks for pretty horses and piles of spending on horse race tracks in a pandemic, which may or may not have been entirely coincidental with one of the coalition partners' funding arrangements, that was above the pay-grade of MBIE. Somebody up the chain deemed horses to be in the national interest, so spaces for horse track workers would be found. 

And here's Geddis on how the Government has been insulating the system against legal challenge. Bottom line: if you can't get a spot, and you haven't got political pull, suing the government will be pretty likely to have them just give you a spot rather than let the courts weigh in on the mess that the government is running. 

The primary method of MIQ allocation – first a “fastest finger” approach, then an always resetting random lottery – might be considered unfair at best, discriminatory at worst.

To take but one example, I still cannot for the life of me see how the overall allocation process could regard the English netball team as being more deserving of a MIQ place than Bergen Graham, a pregnant New Zealand citizen whose request for an emergency spot in MIQ was turned down six times. A small part of me wonders if permitting decisions like this represented a form of extra reward for those of us resident in lifeboat Aotearoa. Our hard, collective effort had won “us” a normal life, and so our life would be made as normal as possible – netball games against international competition included. And if that meant our citizens and residents outside of the country suffered, well, maybe “they” just shouldn’t have left in the first place? Out of sight, out of mind, and all that.

Suspicions regarding just how fair and justifiable MIQ’s operation has been in practice are compounded by the way the government has avoided having its allocation decisions scrutinised. On the two occasions that people who were refused emergency MIQ spots took their claims before the courts, previous decisions that they failed to meet the criteria were reversed mid-trial. It may or may not be entirely coincidental that doing so had the consequence of putting the legal action to an end before the High Court had a chance to rule on the government’s actions. And now the government is busy moving the legal basis for making MIQ decisions from secondary legislation into a primary enactment. That this parliamentary move will have the effect of largely insulating the overall MIQ process from being judicially overturned at a time when it is being challenged in the High Court again may or may not be coincidental.

I have sometimes wondered what would happen if someone with the resources to do so just got a private jet, put up double-vax and testing certificates, announced credible plans to self-isolate, announced when his flight would be landing, and came home.  

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