27 Sep 2021

'Take away some of their rights' - Sir John Key on incentivising vaccinations

9:59 am on 27 September 2021

Sir John Key says the New Zealand government is using fear tactics to get the population vaccinated, instead, he suggests more young people are likely to get vaccinated if their rights to go to nightclubs and take flights are withdrawn.

ANZ chairman and ex-Prime Minister John Key.

Sir John Key. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Sir John Key is accusing the government of having no clear strategy for handling Covid-19 and shutting itself off from the world.

In a widely discussed article published at the weekend, he accused the government of relying on fear tactics in its handling of Covid-19 in order to maintain what he calls a "smug hermit kingdom".

Sir John told Morning Report it was not over-the-top to liken New Zealand to North Korea, as he has.

He said there had to be a "tension system" in place; the government needed to state definite dates of opening and incentivise vaccinations.

"I made it really clear that if you want to get vaccination rates up to a level, you cannot do that by doing what the government is doing, which is no plan and no clear strategy of when we're doing these things.

"If you want to get the young people who are not being vaccinated to be vaccinated, take away some of their rights: Rhythm and Vines, nightclubs, bars, Air New Zealand flights - very quickly you will find that those young people will be vaccinated."

He believed the government did not have a plan about opening borders and fixing the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) system which is leaving many New Zealanders "stateless".

"All they have actually done is lock us down ... any prime minister can do that."

Sir John said the government was left with no other choice after failing to buy vaccines sooner.

"The government wouldn't pay $40 million to Pfizer to get us the vaccines that we deserved. Instead, they'd rather pay a billion or a billion-and-a-half a week to be in level 4 lockdown."

He said businesses were suffering as a result.

"Go and ask those thousands and thousands and thousands of businesspeople who either can't travel overseas, can't go and market New Zealand, New Zealanders who work overseas."

He compared New Zealand with North Korea.

"The government has had 18 months of Covid to come up with a coherent plan. What they've managed to do is make people fearful.

"Fear worries the vaccinated, which is why they got vaccinated."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Morning Report fear was not part of the government's vaccine strategy.

Sir John's plan comes out ahead of the National Party, which he used to lead, releasing its own one.

He said he had not spoken to current leader Judith Collins before releasing his plan but had done so after the fact.

"I haven't seen it, but they've got some very smart people in there, I'm pretty sure you'll find that they'll come out with some fairly clear things."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs