New Labour MP Deborah Russell copped a social media backlash, typical of the mob mentality when in full flight.

Deborah is a former philosophy academic. She suggested to a Parliamentary select committee that if only a few weeks out of action caused the demise of small and medium sized businesses, that suggested an absence of foresight in being insufficiently capitalised in the first place.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson, seemingly the only government Minister with an awareness of small business realities, promptly stepped in saying he disagreed with those comments. But the damage was done. ACT’s David Seymour, playing to the crowd, released a video of Russell’s observations, unleashing an avalanche of abuse and claims the MP lacked empathy.

That’s rubbish. What Deborah lacked was awareness of the facts underlying small businesses.

Whether a farmer, café owner or self-employed plumber, the driving force behind most small businesses is the dignity of self-employment. For some people (me for starters) that’s a huge factor overwhelming any other consideration.

Common-sense says that the average small and medium sized business, the nation’s biggest employee sector, are not vehicles for wealth.

Deborah’s comments about under-capitalisation also illustrated her unawareness of the realities.

The issue is not a capital one, instead it’s the loss of income for a few weeks for which they can’t cope.

In 1978 I wrote a book on New Zealand current affairs. The chapter on farming was headed “Farming – A Career For Masochists”. In the four decades since nothing has changed but still the buggers queue to get in. Obviously they’re not motivated by money.

Take the ubiquitous Indian corner dairy, usually a family affair living in a few small rooms at the back, open 15 hours a day, seven days a week. Common-sense when one looks at their meagre stock, says they can’t make much, but again, it’s the dignity of self-employment.

New Zealand has the most intensive restaurant scene in the world. Armenia always claimed to have but it’s nothing like here.

A month back an Auckland restaurant owner told the Herald she wanted the Council to stop issuing new restaurant licences as there were already far too many and they were all barely eking out a living. So why do they do it? The answer again, is the dignity of self-employment.

As my company owns the most prime CBD Wellington office-buildings (18), we also inadvertently own the most shops. Add David Jones which we bought because we wanted the two office towers on the site and we also own the most CBD retail space.

Any vacancy that arises sees a queue of aspiring lessees, mostly restaurant and coffee-shop aspirants. It’s madness which is what Deborah who’s eminently sane doesn’t understand. Who can blame her?

But the same could be said about a Labour Parliamentary career. Initially exciting and an escape from the tedium of school-teaching, the public service or union work, the fact is it’s a seven days a week, long hours, marriage-destroying activity which always ends in obscurity and disappointment.

That’s why the Nats (and NZ First) have a better understanding of small business as their ranks are made up of many former farmers, retailers, small practise lawyers and such-like. But equally their Parliamentary careers end in abrupt obscurity.

I suspect, given their lives over again, few would opt for such careers.

The week out of action has enabled many small businesses a rethink. The Dominion-Post claim at least 400 Wellington so-called hospitality activities have had enough and will not re-open.

But it won’t just be vacant shops which will provide tangible evidence of the government’s blunder in tackling the virus so single-mindedly. Small builders, and numerous other activities will opt for welfare rather than try again.

It’s a sorry scene ahead of us and I say again, by election-time the Jacinda lustre will be replaced by despair and anger with the obvious electoral outcome.


The stupidity of the lockdown was the silly notion and fantasy of essential being decided by a DG Health. That should never have been allowed.

If it was really urgent then the criteria from the start should have been safety with the few (supermarkets, pharmacies etc) given immediate dispensation while the many earned approval. Maintaining the destructive farce for four weeks was simply criminally incompetent.

As for the insane ban on outdoor activities even solo, don’t get me started.

Our media have been really quite disgraceful. The fawning female fan club masquerading as a press gallery should be sacked along with their editors.

    Your bring up so many great points here, this has been communism of the highest order and I hope the NZ public put JA to the sword come election time. She and her bumbling party need to GO!

What New Zealand lacked before the lock down was an intelligent conversation to determine the agreed course of action. We did not need Jokecinda deciding to go hard on a whim and we do not need her now. The sooner I see her walking into the distance the better.

There’s a lot here I agree with, especially sentiments about dignity.

Im already angry, ive just got to make sure i dont go mad from it so i can still vote

    Gee, thanks Bob, I considered I was some kind of weirdo on the spectrum puzzled by what I’m doing. As a farmer, I feel like a Masochist for about 5 months every year from October-February. Now I understand

Great post and nailed it, but alas your thoughts bring me no comfort.

Even if Labour lose the next election (which I’m not convinced will happen), in the intervening six months, Ms Ardern et al will have completely vandalised the economy.

We could then savour the very definition of a Pyrrhic victory.
“Even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth.” [JFK]

    Well if Labour do win the next election at least they’ll have to face the consequences of their actions, but they’d probably just make things worse. They’ll be goners for sure next election, & hopefully National can use the current disaster as an opportunity to make some meaningful changes that John Key was to chicken to implement lest it dented his popularity.

Thank You, as a small business owner for many years ,sometimes in tandem with solo parenting I see a lot of your points.But I’m glad I wasn’t Betwixt the Devil and the deep blue sea when it came to these decisions and I doubt that anybody would have got it right. There’s going to be lot’s of great Hindsight!

The mob mentality was drawn on herself. If you are a politician, and you express yourself in a supercillious manner about peoples’ livelihoods, expect it. I thought David Seymour’s critique was mild, and predictable. That many kicked a lot harder is not surprising.

The inflamed reaction to her sepulchral “worries” was because people perceived her to be insincere, or naive, or both. People are realizing that government policy was accurately described in these terms by Jonathan Sumption QC (but before most, in the grip of irrational fear, were willing to listen to such voices of reason):

“But the real question is: is this serious enough to warrant putting most of our population into house imprisonment, wrecking our economy for an indefinite period, destroying businesses that honest and hardworking people have taken years to build up, saddling future generations with debt, depression, stress, heart attacks, suicides and unbelievable distress inflicted on millions of people who are not especially vulnerable and will suffer only mild symptoms or none at all”

I also observe that Ms Russell’s ‘worries’ could be levied on the likes of Air New Zealand and Fletchers – why were they not prepared for such an epidemic, like the little ‘masochists’ were, in her view, required to be?

In politics it’s a particular moment that the public will remember..The constant kindness and hug type of comfort will resonate a lot with those who see this as deep care.
Had one of them come out on “Wahine Day” 10th April and said let us now cast our minds back today and express sorrow and thanks for all who helped and went through the loss of 51 people on that day, then genuine sorrow would have been shown by that individual and would bring others of like mind with them.in support.in the current CoVid -19 situation.
Alas, this was not there,it should have been and more to the point been a genuine expression.
You cannot fake genuine.

Completely agree with self dignity I am a farmer and have been self employed for over 30 years and some years I worked for no income at all,and went backwards financially,but I would not change anything for a moment The good years more than make up for the bad ones and you become very adapt to survival
It takes a certain type to be self employed You have to of course be able to work hard ,be good with money and make good decisions most the time Some businesses live on shoestring budget,and a financial hit like Covid 19 would finish them quickly The only correct move this government has made is the wage subsidy,that is more like a cash injection,to get them through this crisis Hospitality and tourism will need another cash injection as they can’t return to work for some time yet
We should have gone to level 3 like Australia The cost financially would have been many billions less than level 4 , albeit with a few more deaths of older people The lockdown draconian rules are a joke and I cannot believe how compliant kiwis have It has become truly a police state and some people will feel very comfortable with that ,but it is an abuse of our civil rights
As far as the labour MP who said small business should be able to cope with a crisis like this,she should be stood down for being stupid, insensitive and incredibly unworldly

Thanks Bob. On the button as per usual. I don’t know about others but are we aware of just what will happen if we vote Alice in Me2land back into power?? We will be giving Labour and the Greens whether they make it or not , further mandate to INCREASE the level of madness. Think about the consequences and we can all thank our wonderful female media. It does cross my mind that mother nature has a way of controlling species, is that what we are seeing with this insane left wing madness. Implosion!! ..so be it.

She may be first term but I wouldn’t call her ‘new’ after two and a half years. The moment I heard her remarks I thought, she does not understand that many small businesses simply represent an individual who bought themselves an income. Many are not sale-able enterprises as such.

What I can’t understand is why a fully comprehensive publicly funded and available pandemic ‘song book’ hadn’t been prepared by academia years ago and updated annually to prevent by way of example, such absurd inaction as not immediately closing our borders or enabling golf courses to remain open for maintenance. Action to remedy the above took days and only following protest.
Bob Jones rightly points out a fundamental lack of real world experience in both the Labour Party and the civil service. I look forward to seeing this government destroyed by its inaction.

I assume by the pharmacists, doctors and dentists now also saying they are going broke Ms Russell now thinks that they also haven’t been able to plan , which must cause her a great deal of consternation as academics often consider medical at the top of the pinnacle. It really reinforces the fact how far removed from the real world virtually all Labour ministers are. Either as a ex tax accountant she only dealt with clients who made significant enough amounts of money or she is a typical labour academic unable to grasp how the common person operates. The lack of depth of talent surrounding the few good key Labour ministers is simply astounding.

Right now in New Zealand it feels as though a spell has been cast on the nation and an invisible cloud has spread from person to person infecting common sense, individual thinking and healthy skepticism, replacing those qualities with idealised group-think ably lead by our current prime minister. The other night on network news channel (not watching by choice) a women was being interviewed about return to pre-school and school. She was on first name basis with New Zealand’s current heroes. “Jacinda and Ashley know best” I just about choked on a brussel sprout! Now, I don’t know if Ashley knows best but Jacinda surely does. I can’t wait to catch a few more of those socialist crumbs and who knows; soon maybe I’ll have enough to make a sandwich. Until then I have a sense of peace and calm, knowing we are all in this together, one big love fest.

    Its called the Jacinda bermuda triangle and her spells have suckered thousands into believing her award winning performance!

I don’t know why everyone gets all het up about these things.
These people in elected office are not Einsteins , that’s always been a given.
You either play the hand you are dealt or you get involved and try and elicit change , at the very least you exercise your right on election day or you sit back and do nothing.
Crying is the most pointless thing you can do.
As for farmers.
The old joke about : The farmer that won lotto , when asked what he was going to do with all the money. ” I’m just going to keep farming till it’s all gone.”
Don’t worry a lot of them are doing just fine.
Same as in any profession , there are good ones and bad ones.

Love it
Business is a dream. There is no reason to dream now so why be in business?
No dreams. This will be our biggest health an economic cost

Frederick Williscroft April 23, 2020 at 7:25 pm

So correct again Bob. The economic carnage caused by this government is beyond comprehension. If reelected, and for some reason you are unaffected and are of a mischievous disposition (govt employee on a generous salary) then it could be amusing to watch Rome burn to the ground. For the rest of us another 3 years of this and well – hello Venezuela.

The dignity of self-employment ! Poppycock. There ain’t no jobs so what ya got to do – open a restaurant for at least your meals are tax deductible and you’ll be able to cream the cash out of the till. The only other alternatives is to drive a taxis, deliver pizzas, cut hair or clean dunnies.

I think you’re fundamental right, Bob, but wrong in that it’s not about dignity as such – but psychological freedom. Whenever you work underneath someone there’s an underlying weight that’s always there. You have to feel constantly answerable to someone above, and that is totally different to feeling answerable only to your customers. It adds a weight and subtle daily depression. It also suffocates natural initiative, insight, and intelligence…

Common sense is not your guide, but “correct procedures”. You have to double-think with everything. It’s not what you think that you have to refer to, but what you think someone else thinks.

Take this away–like in a small business you own–and work doesn’t even feel like work, no matter how ‘hard working’ you appear from the outside.

Also, part of it is New Zealand’s revolting tradition of parent-to-child style of employer to employee relationships. My long suggested solution, if I may…


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Quotes of the month | HomepaddockMay 1, 2020 at 10:01 am

[…] Whether a farmer, café owner or self-employed plumber, the driving force behind most small businesses is the dignity of self-employment. For some people (me for starters) that’s a huge factor overwhelming any other consideration. – Sir Bob Jones […]

The Russell Kerfuffle | No MinisterJuly 18, 2020 at 4:29 pm

[…] No, her problem is exactly what Bob Jones spotted: […]

Quotes of the year | HomepaddockJanuary 1, 2021 at 7:03 am

[…] Whether a farmer, café owner or self-employed plumber, the driving force behind most small businesses is the dignity of self-employment. For some people (me for starters) that’s a huge factor overwhelming any other consideration. – Sir Bob Jones […]

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