John Key’s reckons on Covid are an embarrassment

September 27, 2021
3 mins read

Former PM John Key has come out swinging about the Government’s Covid response. PAT PILCHER puts him in his place.


New Zealand newspaper editors decided to give New Zealand’s former PM, Sir John Key, free reign in hosing readers with his reckons on the Covid situation. Sadly, it also appears that none of the newspapers bothered to fulfill their role as the Fourth Estate and question Key’s ideas.


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This is a real shame. Key failed to bring any useful perspectives into the debate and instead stuck to a populist rant aimed at the National Party faithful that is woefully short on practical detail. That Key’s rant landed in most major NZ newspapers also reeks of an orchestrated publicity stunt by the National Party. In choosing to have Key to front this, the National leadership failed to grasp that they were in effect highlighting the failings of the National Party under Judith Collins’ leadership. Here’s Key’s 5-point plan:

1) Give Maori and Pacific health providers a financial incentive for every person they get vaccinated in the next six weeks.

Financial incentives for Maori and Pasifika health providers might sound great. However, the reality is that it’s unlikely to get many more Maori or Pasifika people vaccinated. What seems to have eluded Key is that health providers are not marketing agencies with a magic wand that can change the minds of vaccine-hesitant minorities. Key fails to tell us how these already overworked and chronically under-resourced health services are going to make more people get the shot.

2) Give every person aged between 12-29 a $25 voucher of their choice if they get vaccinated before December 1.

Let’s get real here. $25 is going to do little to change the minds of vaccine-hesitant people. Key completely neglects education campaigns aimed at countering vaccine misinformation or reassuring the vaccine-hesitant. Put simply, throwing money at the situation isn’t a workable solution. Frankly, most people wouldn’t get out of bed for $25. Key needs to understand and address the real concerns of vaccine-hesitant people or pay a decent amount as a bribe for the jab.

3) Allow only vaccinated people into licensed premises (and maybe park the Shot Bro bus outside a few nightclubs as an incentive).

So, does Key really see Kiwis as a bunch of nightclubbing pissheads? Key also fails to say how licensed premises (many of whom are already struggling financially from the lockdown) would be expected to resource and police his wonky idea. Who would pay for the additional security needed to keep the unvaccinated out? How will staff on the Shot Bro bus be kept safe as it parks outside nightclubs? Has Key ever set foot in our cities and towns during the wee hours to see the drunken mayhem that happens? Again, Key’s words appear designed to engage Mr and Mrs National Supporter but are woefully short on practical details.

4) Tell New Zealanders when borders will reopen. It might incentivise more people to get the jab.

This is just straight out disingenuous. Key, as a former PM, should probably know that a pandemic is a fluid situation. He should also know that setting expectations during a pandemic that mightn’t be delivered on could lead to public unrest and a decline in goodwill. Either way, Key clearly knows that throwing ideas out there when he doesn’t have to wear their consequences is dead easy.

5) Stop ruling by fear. Instead, reassure people that living with the virus is possible, as long as you’re vaccinated. Take positive actions like funding Pharmac to invest in therapies proven to help fight the virus, build up our hospital capacity and workforce, use saliva testing for Covid, subsidise home-Covid testing kits, and order booster shots now.

Again, Key’s lack of empathy and complete lack of understanding around the issue is boggling. The vaccine will not work for those who’re immune-compromised (such as those undergoing medical treatments for cancer, HIV, and other medical conditions). If the borders reopened and Covid became widespread in NZ, these people would be put at considerable risk. This issue is conveniently ignored by Key. Taking Key’s political rhetoric out of the mix, it’s clear that the Government is ruling with compassion, not fear, and is trying to keep as many Kiwis as safe as possible.

UPDATE: Stuff is reporting that Pfizer has categorically denied John Key’s claim that New Zealand could have paid $40 million for earlier access to its Covid-19 vaccine, saying the notion is “incorrect and baseless”.

Pat has been talking about tech on TV, radio and print for over 20 years, having served time as a TV tech guy and currently penning reviews for Witchdoctor. He loves nothing more than rolling his sleeves up and playing with shiny gadgets.

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