Cross-party committee to scrutinise Government as Parliament adjourns

Parliament was in recess this week but has been recalled today to deal with urgent business related to Covid-19 and the country lockdown, but will then be suspended for 5 weeks. This means the usual scrutiny of Government through Question Time won’t be possible, so  special committee is being set up.

RNZ: Special committee set-up as Parliament is adjourned

The opposition leader Simon Bridges will chair a cross-party committee, that will scrutinise the Government’s response to Covid-19.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said all of the Government’s regular legislative programme was now on hold.

Hipkins said tomorrow the house will be focusing on receiving the epidemic notice from the Prime Minister and pass an Imprest Supply Bill, which will allow Government funding to continue to flow as normal.

The epidemic notice would enact the Epidemic Preparedness Act, allowing for actions to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, without having to comply with the usual statuary requirements.

Like last week, Parliamentary business tomorrow will begin with a debate, this time focusing on the epidemic notice and other documents tabled by the Government.

The adjournment will last until April 28, meaning two sitting weeks will be missed.

To enable the politicians to still hold the Government to account, speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard said the cross-party Business Select Committee has put forward a motion to set-up a special Select Committee, which will run for at least the next four-to-five weeks.

He said the committee will meet remotely, be chaired by Opposition leader Simon Bridges with the majority of the sitting MPs being from opposition parties.

The committee will have powers that usually reside with privileges committee, such as the ability to send for people and papers.

“What we think we have got here is a balance of accountability because of a very powerful committee, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, who can make arrangements to effectively interrogate ministers or public servants on their actions around the pandemic,” he said.

Bridges said it would be a valuable chance for constructive scrutiny of the government, that will make the nation’s response to Covid-19 better and stronger.

Bridges said the committee would be sitting two or three times a week, from next week, to ask the questions New Zealanders want answered.

He said overall, he supported the direction the government has taken, but there are things that can be improved.

However, ACT leader David Seymour called the decision to adjourn Parliament as ‘misguided’.

“We accept that the government has a difficult task ahead, all New Zealanders stand ready to support it, but this is no reason to partially suspend democracy,” he said.

“New Zealanders have just faced the greatest peacetime loss of civil liberties in our history, and it is possible we may not have an election this year.

“ACT believes there should be a Question Time and local electorate offices should remain open,” he said.

From RNZ Live covering an interview of Bridges this morning:

Bridges on the special cross-party committee of scrutiny during the lockdown – says he will have a lot of his front benchers on the committee, National will have a majority in the committee.

He says ultimately he thinks rents need to be paid during this time, says landlords should definitely not be putting up rent at the moment.

He says he’s spoken to some big businesses and what he’s hearing is that the government hasn’t quite hit the mark with the business schemes they’ve introduced.

That’s not surprising. Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and many will be fighting for survival. The Government is doing what it thinks will help but it must be a work in progress. And they will never be able to ‘hit the mark’ for all businesses.

He doesn’t think benefits should be doubled, like in Australia. Asked whether it would be a good way to pump more money into the economy, Mr Bridges said he didn’t believe NZ’s issue at the moment is an issue of stimulus.

Over the last couple of days Bridges has changed his approach noticeably towards being mostly supportive of Government actions dealing with Covid-19 but with generally sensible sounding questions of some of what is being done. I think this is a good change from him.

Interview with bridges on RNZ: Coronavirus: Simon Bridges to chair scrutiny committee

 

Leave a comment

16 Comments

  1. artcroft

     /  25th March 2020

    Setting up the committee is a very positive step.

    Reply
    • Blazer

       /  25th March 2020

      what!..not another working group/committee!

      Reply
      • It’s not a working group. And it’s actually a reduction, from regular Question Times in Parliament to a scrutiny committee competing for media attention while they’re covering the biggest story of the century.

        Reply
      • Ray

         /  25th March 2020

        It is an excellent idea, especially as it is all that stands between us and a police state.
        And if you think having the Government firmly in the driver’s seat without any carping opposition keeping an eye on things, check out the “Standard” with some of their bright ideas for the future or the more extreme Police statements.
        For some of these people this is a wet dream come true.

        Reply
        • Blazer

           /  25th March 2020

          the future is a U.BI. and a cashless society….monitored digital transactions…only.

          Reply
        • Duker

           /  25th March 2020

          Its a National Emergency not a police state.
          The Standard commentators are extreme left on the whole and laughed at in parliamentary labour party. One poster was too extreme even for the Greens and a Scottish professor from Otago ( Bill) is a marxist.

          Reply
          • Blazer

             /  25th March 2020

            ‘laughed at in parliamentary labour party’…according to…you?

            Reply
  2. Duker

     /  25th March 2020

    Grilling public servants ?
    That will be like trying to catch a greased pig….they are even slipperier

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  25th March 2020

      I was one in the Education Department and Gezza spent his working life as a civil servant.

      As a teacher, I suppose I was one then as well. So was my mother 😀

      Reply
  3. Zedd

     /  25th March 2020

    politics 101 continues.. from Natl. especially; intent on gaining any benefit they can, towards 19/9 :/

    Reply
  4. duperez

     /  25th March 2020

    A cross party committee to scrutinise the Government.? Well, that sounds grand, that sounds a really big deal. That should get the headlines and sow some seeds about being on top of things and being responsible and gravitas.

    A cross-party committee eh? Umm, let’s see, who should we have …? Okay, cross-party …
    Simon Bridges, David Seymour, Paul Goldsmith, David Seymour, Paula Bennett, David Seymour, Michael Woodhouse and to make sure it’s cross-party we’d better have David Seymour. There you go, all the parties not in Government in one fantastic group to scrutinise the Government. 🙃

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  25th March 2020

      Your point was ? That the government should scrutinise itself to better reassure us

      And this made me laugh
      “Barry Soper: No place for politics in ghastly Covid-19 situation”
      Doesnt mean he and Duplessis-Allan- Soper wont be playing their usual political head kicking and point scoring.
      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=12319228

      Reply
      • duperez

         /  25th March 2020

        Anyone asking what the point is shows the point is well made.

        ALL, yes, every single one of the parties not in Government, are going to form a committee to scrutinise the Government.

        i.e. Simon Bridges and a couple of his cobbers are going to talk with David Seymour and keep on doing the job they are being paid for.

        Reply
  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th March 2020

    If it’s running remotely how will it be open to the public?

    Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  25th March 2020

    The biggest worry in this is that the major MSM outlets are almost entirely staffed by the Labour Party Fan Club.

    Even Lurch has to go to Kiwiblog and YSB to get his kicks. I’m not sure if his radio can get past the static on Hosking’s frequency.

    Reply

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