There are sound bites and then there’s just plain vile. James Elliott looks back at a painful week and asks: is cyclone denial now a thing?
It’s hard to find the right words to respond to the tragic weather events of the past week, coming so soon after earlier tragic weather events.
Unfortunately it’s not too hard to find quite a few wrong words responding to the destruction wrought by Cyclone Gabrielle.
Let’s start with David Seymour, the ACT party leader, a man who couldn’t read the room if the room consisted solely of three letter words in very big print. Parliament was suspended on Tuesday after a national state of emergency was declared. When it felt like half the east coast of the North Island was being washed into the Pacific Ocean only one party opposed that suspension, the ACT party.
“We need Parliament to be sitting so we can hold the Government to account” was the ACT party party line. So let’s examine that. It’s true that opposition parties see themselves as playing an important role in holding the Government to account. One of the principal ways opposition parties do this is by asking questions with a capital Q in Parliament, questions that government ministers are obliged to answer. Parliamentary Question Time is often the breeding ground for political scandal and calamity. A well-researched and crafted question can indeed hold the government to account in ways that can have serious consequences for said government.
When it felt like half the east coast of the North Island was being washed into the Pacific Ocean only one party opposed that suspension, the ACT party.
I don’t know what capital Q question David Seymour would want to ask right now, so I can only go off the most recent capital Q question he has asked. To do that I have had to trawl through the list of Parliamentary Questions carefully compiled and collated by Parliamentary Services to find David Seymour’s most recent question – a question intended to hold the Government to account, to hold its feet to the flame of public scrutiny. Here it is:
“What were the budgeted and actual costs, if any, of flights to and from Antarctica in 2022 provided to the Prime Minister by the Royal New Zealand Air Force?”
I know, I know. None of us is going to be able to sleep until we get the answer to that one. Clearly the Minister of Defence should be dragged away forthwith from overseeing the coordinated response of the army, navy and air force to the worst floods in living memory and made to tell us what those costs were, if any.
To be fair to David Seymour he isn’t the only one from ACT asking these hold-to-account questions. ACT’s Simon Court has another sleepless night’s question waiting for an answer from the Minister of Transport:
“What has been the percentage of bus services cancelled, if any, since 2017, listed by month and city?”
Feet to the flame? Yeah nah.
Foot to the mouth? Yeah definitely. Especially when Seymour said this on Tuesday:
“Just like under Jacinda, Labour loves disaster politics.”
I wonder what other disasters he’s alluding to that Labour apparently loves the politics of? The Christchurch Mosque shootings, 51 dead and others injured and traumatized? The Whakaari-White Island tragedy, 22 dead and others injured and traumatized? There are sound bites and then there’s just plain vile. Memo to NEMA: I know another write-off that needs to be red stickered.
Either Leo doesn’t know what emasculated means or I don’t know how a city really works, in which case I don’t want to know.
PS to NEMA: actually, another two or three red stickers would come in quite handy. On Monday morning Leo Molloy – Auckland mayoral hopeful who pulled out of the race with the Auckland mayoral hopeless – looked out a window in Auckland’s viaduct and saw a flag that couldn’t raise a flutter prompting him to observe:
“No doubt it’s [Gabrielle’s] coming but it sure as hell ain’t here yet and the city should not be emasculated/evacuated by false alarms …”
Put aside the slide from “no doubt it’s coming” to “false alarm” in the space of 23 words, I’m quite troubled by the use of “emasculated”. Either Leo doesn’t know what emasculated means or I don’t know how a city really works, in which case I don’t want to know. I think the solution here is a very large red sticker so that Leo can’t look out the window.
And Leo wasn’t the only one engaging in “what-can-I-see-from-my-window?” cyclone punditry on Monday morning. Kate Hawkesby also looked out a window and couldn’t see much, prompting her to post on Instagram:
“With all the anxiety inducing alerts and warnings and breathless media coverage, I’m just wondering where this cyclone is?”
I’m just wondering how someone who works in the media couldn’t look at, say, the website of the media company that she works for to find out where the cyclone was? I’m also wondering whether cyclone denial is now a thing?
Have a peaceful weekend.