George Lucas is not exactly renowned as the greatest writer of dialogue in modern cinema, but his Revenge of the Sith contains at least one sharply observant line: So this is how liberty dies – with thunderous applause. It is referring, of course, to the rapturous reception given to newly-appointed dictator Senator Palpatine – behind whose benevolent mask lurks the sinister Emperor.

There are few leaders garnering more thunderous applause – at least from the global media elite – than Jacinda Ardern. But, behind Ardern’s unctuous mask of “kindness” lurks a Sith lord whose incipient malevolence is exceeded only by her economic incompetence.

Just as Senator Palpatine manipulates the threat of the Trade Federation to enact sweeping “emergency powers”, Jacinda Ardern has used the Wuhan pandemic crisis to grant her government extraordinary new power. Power so sinister that even the normally supinely left-wing Human Rights Commission is alarmed.

But it’s Ardern’s economic incompetence which is posing the direst immediate threat to New Zealand.

New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.

These are not mere misfortunes of global ill-winds. This is all the Ardern government’s own doing. Even before Patient Zero got a sniffle in Wuhan, Ardern’s concatenation of blunders, from Kiwibuild to capital gains tax, were pushing New Zealand’s economy to the cliff’s edge. Her panicked, floundering response to the pandemic has finally shoved it over the brink.

“New Zealand is going backwards, falling behind the vast ­majority of our OECD partners in virtually every social and economic measure that matters,” said Roger Douglas, a former New Zealand Labour treasurer and the famed architect of Rogernomics[…]

In one year, New Zealand has blown 30 years of hard-fought ­fiscal rectitude. Its public debt will explode from the equivalent of 19 per cent of gross domestic product last year to 54 per cent by 2022, on the government’s own figures.

Tourism is – or was – one of New Zealand’s biggest export earners. Border closures have shot that down in one swoop. Worse, by pinning her legitimacy on (false) claims to have “eliminated” the virus, Ardern has locked herself into mostly keeping border closures in place. Until a vaccine is developed – quite likely years away – there is no “eliminating” the virus.

That makes Labour’s ban on oil and gas exploration all the more bizarre. With 0.3 per cent of global GDP, New Zealand can only shoot itself in the foot by shunning fossil fuels. The Prime Minister and Finance Minister, who have not worked in the private sector, spruik the totems of modern left governments — renewable energy, trees, higher tax, equality — but without much to show for it. Plans for a billion trees and 100,000 houses have come close to almost naught, and a capital-gains tax was dumped. Labour made a song and dance about reducing child poverty too, but on six out of nine measures tracked by Statistics New Zealand it is unchanged or worse since 2017, including the share of children living in “material hardship”, which has risen to 13.4 per cent.

It’s hard to see how shifting to a four-day working week, the Prime Minister’s latest reform idea, will fix the country’s problems.

“The real problem with the Ardern government is they have no idea whatsoever apart from how to throw money at things,” Douglas told The Australian.

Remember how well the four-day week worked out for Britain in the 1970s? Can New Zealanders expect “Winter of Discontent”-style power-rationing next?

Which Ardern would no doubt spin as a “climate change” initiative, to thunderous applause from the media.

Come to the Dark Side. We have hugs. The BFD. Photoshop by Lushington Brady.

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