18 Jun 2020

Covid-19: Mutual friend told two women to contact Bishop

From Checkpoint, 5:20 pm on 18 June 2020

Labour minister Chris Hipkins claimed in Parliament today that it was a National Party MP who advocated for the early release of two women - who have since tested positive for Covid-19 - from managed isolation.

Hipkins said Hutt South MP Christopher Bishop "advocated" for the compassionate exemption of the two women from isolation to visit their dying mother in Wellington earlier this month.

In response to Hipkins' questions in Parliament, Minister of Health David Clark said he was aware of the situation.

Asked by reporters to elaborate further, Hipkins said "you should ask [Bishop] about it."

Meanwhile, deputy prime Minister Winston Peters said he was not surprised and added that the integrity of good faith was being seriously challenged.

"I mean one day he is click-baiting, the next day he's lobbying some other woman."

Bishop told Checkpoint that he believed he was only doing his job as MP to help by forwarding an email from the women on to authorities.

He said a mutual friend, whom he regards as an acquaintance that he hasn't seen in years, messaged him on Twitter about the women's situation.

"I said [to the mutual friend] they should send me an email," Bishop said.

"I was contacted on Friday night by the two women via email, when I saw the email on Saturday afternoon I forwarded it to the email address provided to MPs for that purpose, and asked the officials to look at it 'expeditiously', I think was the language used."

Afterwards, he said he emailed the women back to let them know he had passed on their request, and their correspondence ended after that with the pair thanking him.

He doesn't believe there was anything in his email that could be regarded as personal appeal or open support for the women to be granted exemption.

He said he had dealt with other pleas in the same manner, by forwarding them on to the appropriate people, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I did what MPs are ... obliged to do and dozens of MPs from around the Parliament will have done over the last three months or so, I've dealt with probably hundreds of inquiries and forwarded them on to the appropriate address, everything from essential businesses to immigration matters through to this case."

However, he said this was the only case of isolation exemption that his office had dealt with.

Bishop said this was a smear campaign against him by Labour.

"This was a desperate attempt by the government to distract away from their incompetent management at the border and I think it's frankly pretty disgraceful that an MP doing their job is being dragged into this."