Thursday 27 January 2022

It's not a seizure?

Thomas Coughlan is great on the rapid antigen test seizure fiasco.

After months of talking down RATS and blocking their import, the Government then over-restricted their use, while faffing its own order. Now, it appears the Government wants millions of the things, and instead of getting its own, it's "consolidating" them from the businesses that it was blocking from receiving the tests just months ago.

And on that "consolidation" malarky - at least some distributors are concerned the Government applied its significant market pressure to force manufacturers to drop smaller orders in favour of the Government's large order.

If this is the case, there is cause for concern.

The Government seems convinced the clear benevolence of the Covid response is an excuse for common thuggery - it is not.

Gangs seize the goods they want - Governments procure them. Ends do not justify means, especially not now. Don't be surprised if the Auditor-General decides to go sniffing.

We shouldn't be surprised if another few predictable things happen.

Other companies will have tests on order, queued up from the same suppliers, for later on. If any of them expect their goods to be 'consolidated' by a thuggish government, they'll cancel orders and seek refunds now rather than see their orders taken into some pool to be redistributed by the state. 

As consequence, the government had better, right now, order a hell of a lot more RATs than they'd bargained on needing. Because if they'd previously expected that private companies were going to be taking care of their own workers and that the government only needed to order in enough for the public health response, they've just screwed that all up. Those fearing their orders will just be 'consolidated' will be cancelling orders in favour of begging the government for tests. 

Another bit of fun. The Director General of Health was interviewed by Heather du Plessis-Allan yesterday. At the very start of the interview, DG Health Bloomfield provided an interjection in rebuttal to something du Plessis-Allan had said before the interview started. It was not in response to a question; it was volunteered. 

Bloomfield stated, "I have no powers to seize the assets or the testing capacity of private companies...."

You can find it here at 0.42.

Loyal readers will recall that, last year, the Ministry of Health pushed very hard for a broad set of powers. The requisitioning powers were very contentious. They featured in the Select Committee hearings and in the report from the Select Committee.

Section 11 of the revised Act specifies Orders that can be made under the Act.

Part (1) of Section 11 allows either the Minister or the DG Health to make orders for one or more of a list of purposes.

Part (1)(g) reads as follows:

(g) requiring the owner or any person in charge of a specified laboratory that undertakes COVID-19 testing to—

(i) deliver or use, in accordance with directions given under the order, specified quantities of COVID-19 testing consumables that the Minister considers necessary for the purposes of the public health response to COVID-19:

(ii) undertake COVID-19 testing solely for the purposes of the public health response to COVID-19 while subject to the order, whether or not the laboratory is contracted by the Crown for that purpose.

So (1)(g)(i) allows the Director General of Health to require labs to deliver testing consumables that the Minister considers necessary. 

And (1)(g)(ii) allows DG Health to require labs to undertake testing only as part of the public health response - the testing capacity of the private labs, whether or not they are already under contract with the Crown.

It is ...difficult... to reconcile DG Health's assertion about his powers with the powers that his Ministry pushed for him to have only a few months ago. 

One could be charitable and assume that he forgot that his Ministry sought for him to have these powers, but remember that he provided this as volunteered interjection - not in response to a question. 

On a direct question, someone who doesn't think they have those powers might mistakenly volunteer that they don't think they do. 

Interjection suggests either a strong belief that he does not have those powers, which is odd since he just got those powers and they were very controversial, or that there is some nicety between "seize" and the way the Act is written. 

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