26 Sep 2021

'Fear doesn't work with unvaccinated' - Sir John Key

3:02 pm on 26 September 2021

Former Prime Minister Sir John Key believes the government needs to get out its cheque book, rather than rely on fear tactics to get people vaccinated.

ANZ chairman and ex-Prime Minister John Key.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Sir John - who was Prime Minister from 2008 to 2016 - said that vaccination is the only way to return to normality where New Zealanders can travel overseas and return when they want to.

He said incentives to encourage people to get the jab are the best way forward.

"You have to move to a series of carrots and sticks. I don't think fear is going to work.

"Rolling out Shaun Hendy and saying that 7000 people could die won't work.

"Fear works with the vaccinated in my opinion, it doesn't work with the unvaccinated.

"If you go and have a look at cigarette packets and the terrible pictures of people's organs that are demonstrated on those - I don't think that's really what stops people smoking. I think it's when the price went up and when you were refused the ability to smoke in public venues."

Sir John said options could include providing a bounty to vaccinators who go to hard-to-reach areas or paying people to get vaccinated.

He said when the lockdown was costing a billion dollars a week, it would not be unreasonable to offer an incentive of $500 to young people to get vaccinated.

Sir John also believed people who were not vaccinated should be barred from licensed venues such as restaurants, bars and nightclubs and even Air New Zealand flights.

"And pretty quickly, I think you will find that those very same young people, who are largely the people who are not getting vaccinated, will very rapidly get vaccinated or their lifestyle will dramatically change."

Sir John wrote an editorial published in both the Herald on Sunday and Sunday Star-Times newspapers today, in which he called for a "coherent plan" to be shared with the public and said the government should "stop ruling by fear."

"The aim should no longer be to exist in a smug hermit kingdom," Sir John wrote.

On TVNZ's Q+A programme Sunday morning, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins took issue with Sir John's comments.

"I think it's a great piece of politics," Hipkins said. "Many of the things John Key's arguing are already happening.

"I really don't agree with him describing New Zealand as a smug hermit kingdom.

"I think that's an insult to New Zealanders who have actually achieved some of the highest rates of freedom in the world by going hard and going early when we've needed to."

In his editorial, Sir John criticised MIQ allotment requirements and said New Zealanders should be told when borders will open.

He also called for financial incentives for Māori and Pacific health providers based on vaccination rates and $25 vouches for those aged 12-29 if they are vaccinated before 1 December.

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