MPs are regarded as essential workers but the Prime Minister has decreed that parliament won’t sit:
The Prime Minister has advised me that she is unilaterally suspending parliament, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.
“I have expressed that a one week suspension of Parliament is all the National Party will support. However, the Prime Minister has indicated that she expects it will continue longer than that.
“At a time when New Zealanders have the harshest lockdown in the world and have lost our freedoms because of the Government’s failure to vaccinate and secure the border, this move by Jacinda Ardern is unfathomable.
“Look around the world and you will see parliaments managing to continue to function despite challenging circumstances. In the UK they operated virtually for almost a year.
No-one is suggesting all 120 MPs gather for business as usual but there are alternatives.
Just a few weeks ago the PM chaired an international meeting of APEC virtually. If it’s possible to do that, it’s possible to have a virtual parliament.
“There are important questions that need to be asked as to how Delta got into New Zealand. Suspending Parliament means the Government avoids this scrutiny.
“As Leader of the Opposition I will be reaching out to the ACT and Māori Parties to establish how best we can prevent this shut down of democracy at the very moment we need it the most.
“Additionally, Labour have resisted all calls for the recommencement of the Epidemic Response Committee. Jacinda Ardern clearly thinks that her actions and the actions of her Government should be beyond reproach and is moving to ensure that is the case.
“This is unacceptable and an overreach of power. It leaves New Zealanders with no ability to demand accountability and transparency from the Government.
“Clearly, despite her assurances to govern for all New Zealanders, Jacinda Ardern is unwilling to be accountable to them.
“The National Party will lead the Opposition to demand democracy is retained during this time of crisis. New Zealand cannot and will not become a one-party dictatorship.”
. . . But there is no reason to refuse permission to set up the epidemic response select committee like Simon Bridges did back in the last level four lockdown.
That was done via zoom. No one needs to travel. No one needs to congregate. It’s completely safe.
Yet, it would allow the opposition to control who gets called in to answer questions, who gets to ask questions, and how long questioners get during that select committee.
It is simply not comparable or good enough to rely on a bunch of existing select committees with labour MPs in charge.
Especially when the health select committee, arguably the most important one right now, is chaired by the hapless Liz Craig who, along with other labour MPs on that committee, has been so hell bent on wasting time and frustrating Chris Bishop from being able to ask questions that she ended up reprimanded by her own teammate Trevor Mallard. Does that fill you with confidence? . .
Day by day as this government shows it hasn’t learned from past mistakes I have less and less confidence in anything it says or does.
The Prime Minister doesn’t need to hog all the media space.
She already gets up to an hour a day any day she likes beaming straight into Kiwi’s lounge rooms.
She already gets to pick and choose which media outlets she goes on in a bid to avoid hard questions.
When she stops meetings from taking place via zoom It goes beyond a health-based decision and becomes a political decision.
She is playing politics here while she pretends to rise above that.
It is impossible to respect this decision and her for making it.
Select Committees are sitting but they are chaired, and dominated, by government MPs. That makes them a very poor second to the Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) that operated so successfully last year.
One extra week of parliament not sitting might be excused but locking down democracy for more than this week without the ERC being reconvened or a virtual sitting of parliament would be an abuse of power.