Govt not interested in full transparency on COVID-19

It is deeply disappointing that the Government has not agreed to National’s call for a new COVID-19 Select Committee, National’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

National’s proposal was to establish a committee, based on the Epidemic Response Committee, which successfully held the Government to account on its Covid-19 response while Parliament was suspended during lockdown last year.

National called for the committee to return after the Health Select Committee debacle in April where Labour MPs fired multiple patsy questions at Dr Ashley Bloomfield and MIQ officials to kill time and shield them from proper scrutiny.

Parliament’s Business Committee has now rejected National’s proposal for a new Covid-19 committee after Labour’s MPs on the committee failed to support it, Mr Bishop says.

“Few issues are more important to New Zealand than effective management of our border, the proper roll-out of Covid-19 vaccines, and well-managed contract tracing and testing.

“Scrutiny of these important matters is currently split across multiple committees, and Labour MPs on the Health Committee have demonstrated no willingness to allow proper scrutiny of Ministers and senior officials.

National has now put forward an alternative option to improve scrutiny of the Government:

  • The Health Select Committee dedicate at least an hour to a briefing on Covid-19 during each regularly-scheduled meeting on Wednesdays.

  • Officials and/or Ministers invited to present at these briefings are decided by Opposition MPs on the committee.

  • Presentations at these briefings are limited to a maximum of five minutes.

  • Two thirds of the question time for each briefing is allocated to Opposition MPs.

“We can’t go on the way we have, with Ministers and officials subject to little scrutiny through the existing committee process,” Mr Bishop says.

“The Opposition has a constitutional responsibility to hold the Government to account. We want to do our job.”