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What is in the public interest for a COVID Inquiry?

In brief

  • The terms of inquiry say NZ’s COVID response had “high levels of public support”, but this is no longer true.
  • There’s also growing opposition from experts; many were censored by the Government, but that’s outside the scope of the inquiry.
  • The Royal Inquiry won’t even ask the most important questions – unless a new Government changes it.

Our previous article showed how the Royal Commission of Inquiry into NZ’s COVID response seems set to do the opposite of what’s expected from a Royal Inquiry: to protect the Government that made the decisions, and to further increase its powers. The major newsrooms are still missing this.

The Commission chair Tony Blakely says he’s glad the inquiry isn’t seeking to find blame. Of course he’s glad when he was one of those most vocal in pushing harsh measures. It isn’t suggested the focus should be blame, but on improving for next time. On the other hand, perhaps some blameworthy conduct could be exposed.

Instead we’ve already given the Director of the COVID response (now-Sir) Ashley Bloomfield the highest honours in the country.

Would the public support a real inquiry?

The terms of the Commission say “The measures New Zealand put in place to respond to COVID-19 generally enjoyed high levels of public support, and were positively reviewed by independent experts.”

According to NZ Herald’s recent survey of readers, the COVID response does not have “high levels of public support”: most believe it divided the country and 43% do not agree the response was “well-judged and appropriate”. And it clearly has passionate opposition, judging by the February Parliament occupation that saw many thousands of protestors attend from around the country.

Parliamentary debate overseas, but blanket silence in NZ

The COVID response was also negatively reviewed by independent experts, such as Simon Thornley of Covid Plan B and NZ Doctors Speaking Out with Science. Perhaps the biggest critique of the entire response is that critical experts were consistently ignored in favour of alarmists and Pfizer advocates. It’s far from clear the latter had better credentials, especially when their projections of the COVID threat proved to be hugely overstated.

Doctors who disagreed had their licence suspended, and members of the public who shared the views of opposing experts on social media were censored by the Government in unprecedented fashion. Government acted as the single source of truth on everything COVID related.

Meanwhile the COVID debate rages overseas; Conservative MP Danny Kruger said in UK Parliament, October 2022:

Although many questions about our covid response need to be answered, the UK is by no means the worst offender. We are not Canada, New Zealand or China – places where Governments think they can exterminate COVID by depriving their population of the most basic civil liberties.

All this is outside the scope of the inquiry, which excludes most of the public debate and impacts. It won’t look at the impact on individuals, the impact on the election, or the justification of the entire response: the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines.

Unless a new Government wins the election and expands the scope.

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