Opinion: The question of Health Minister David Clark's removal is not debatable

OPINION: I know some of my regular listeners have been a little disappointed in me of late.

They think I've gone soft and been too compliant as we've moved into Level 4 pandemic alert and a National State of Emergency.

But believe me I've been working and thinking really hard about how best to serve my listeners and my country in the most serious situation as a person and a broadcaster I have ever experienced.

As a broadcaster I am designated part of an essential service, so I have the privilege and responsibility of continuing to go to work during the lockdown.

That means I've been following and urging others to follow instructions, to "Stay Home and Save Lives".  More than that I have been trying to keep people's spirits up and explain in simple terms what the plan is to protect us all from COVID-19.  Each day we carry the Ministry of Health briefing and the Prime Minister's media conference.

I've refrained from being overly critical and tried to apply common sense and compassion when you have rung scared, angry or outraged at what has happened to our country and the world.  I have tried not to scaremonger or sow division but to be onboard and a team player in this most difficult of times.

Right now I'm feeling very let down by the Government I so much want to support, and hope will succeed in leading us all through this.

More specifically by one member of that Government the Minister of Health Dr David Clark.

I was told some days ago about his refusal to be in Wellington to head his Ministry's response to COVID-19 because he wanted to be at home in Dunedin with his family. I didn't make that a story because I didn't think it was helpful.

I was also busy telling callers and my friends not to do anything risky by way of exercise as they might take up badly needed capacity in our health system. I even tweeted that I was swearing off BMX riding, kayaking, paragliding and Pilates for the lockdown. 

Many, particularly surfers and fishermen argued the point and as is my style I talked most of them round.

On Thursday the Minister of Health told me I needn't have bothered trying to do the right thing.  In between video conferences the man who should be at the front of our fight against COVID-19 put his mountain bike in the back of his campaign van and drove 2kms to a 6km mountain back track for a bit of exercise.

The excuses he gave when approached by the media are the same lines of self-centred self- justification that I and police officers all over the country have been hearing for the past week and a half, the sort of bullshit that the non-team players use in putting us all at risk.

Health Minister David Clark, right, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Health Minister David Clark, right, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty

The question of this Minister's removal is not a debateable point.

At a time when our government and authorities need to have a moral high ground and exercise an unimpeachable authority to ask great sacrifice of citizens this Dr of Theology's fall from grace is beyond redemption.

His selfish bike ride is like a member of Churchill's war cabinet hanging party lights on his house during the blitz.

He has insulted every health worker, police officer and citizen of this country and made a fool of his Prime Minister.

Priority one for the government today is to find a new minister health we can trust to do the right thing.

Sean Plunket is the host of Magic Talk afternoons.