Questions remain around Govt’s Covid-19 law

The Government should be using this time to draft up a second Covid-19 Public Health Bill in case we are faced with a second wave of Covid-19, National’s Shadow Attorney-General Judith Collins says.

“The last Covid-19 Public Health Bill was rushed through Parliament by the Government under urgency and without a Select Committee process. The resulting Act was loose, met with considerable public disquiet and the Government belatedly asked Parliament to send the Act to a Select Committee after it had passed into law, making a farce of the normal process of public consultation.

“Today, during the Select Committee Inquiry, I asked legal academics whether the Government should be using this time to draft up an alternative Bill in case we see a second wave of Covid-19 and the country is forced to move back up the Alert Levels.

“It’s an affront to all New Zealanders that the Government waited far too long to address the legal framework to support the policy framework of the Covid-19 Alert Levels. To send an Act for an Inquiry by Select Committee after it is already passed into law is highly unusual and evidence of shoddy work from the Government.

“If the Government had allowed any Select Committee process initially we wouldn’t have the questions we currently have, namely around who are the Enforcement Officers who have been given extraordinary powers and can close premises or roads, ban travel or congregations, and require people to physically distance or to stay at home.

“Further questions have also been raised around what training or oversight these Enforcement Officers are required to have and why there are no immediate appeal rights to their decisions.

“From a Rule of Law perspective, this Act has been put in place too late, with a lack of specificity and without adequate public scrutiny which needs to be addressed by the Government now.

“New Zealanders have seen widespread disobedience to the Alert Level 2 social distancing rules recently. It is time the Government addressed this issue from a Rule of Law perspective, now that any immediate health issues have, at this stage, passed.”