Judith Collins fires back at Breakfast presenter Indira Stewart’s questioning over vaccines and MP’s being Covid-19 tested before returning to parliament. Video / TVNZ
The schedule for the quiz shows at Parliament now lists two programmes: a 1pm programme called the Source of Truth followed by the 2pm programme, which Leader of the House Chris Hipkins has called “the Pantomime of Question Time”.
The co-hosts of both are the same – Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins and PM Jacinda Ardern. Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield only attends Source of Truth.
The interrogators are different. For the first, it is the media and for the second, it is the Opposition parties, led by National’s Judith Collins and Act’s David Seymour.
It is quite clear which of the shows the co-host Hipkins prefers. After delivering the updates of the day at the Source of Truth on Wednesday, Hipkins took a dig at the second show and the interrogators in it.
“I don’t think whether or not we get to partake in the pantomime of Parliamentary Question Time is something that is of particular priority for New Zealanders at the moment.”
Despite that, the debate about whether Parliament should be sitting in lockdown to debate the Covid response was again more about whether Parliament should be sitting rather than Covid.
In the general debate, Finance Minister Grant Robertson kicked off by railing at the “vanity and ego of the Opposition” for requiring Parliamentary staff be recalled.
Judith Collins – who started the day defending her decision to eschew a virtual Parliament in a testy interview on the Breakfast show – then had her say, describing Robertson’s words as “contemptuous and smug”.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of Parliament in a lockdown, now it is happening all sides should take it seriously rather than continue to use Parliament itself as a political football.
National is not alone in this.
Labour’s MPs – and the Speaker – appear to have gone out of their way to highlight that Collins has travelled down from Auckland.
They also seemed hellbent on making sure the sitting of Parliament seemed as futile and useless as possible, presumably to try to prove a virtual Parliament would be more worthwhile.
The Speaker can also carry some blame for being a stubborn goat. There are miles in between the seats of MPs – much vaster distances than apply outside the debating chamber.
Everybody must be protected from Collins’ level 4 vapours.
Mallard has made it clear that those rules were because if any Auckland MPs were there, the rules of level 4 had to apply rather than level 3.
Given Collins is the only Auckland MP, that can only be seen as a bid to further villainise her for it.
It has not helped Collins’ cause that Act leader David Seymour was sitting there as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, having taken the precaution of returning to Wellington at the very start and staying there, knowing full well if he went back to Auckland he risked public opprobrium for trying to then come back to Wellington.
After all the fireworks and name-calling, yesterday ended on a much happier bipartisan note.
Hipkins was back to his usual constructive self.
He put up the latest Orders in the Covid-response, and noted the support for its measures from the other side. He got an equally reasonable response from National’s Chis Bishop.
Constructive debate had returned – albeit briefly.
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