25 Nov 2021

Red, green, blue, yellow? Parliament’s Covid traffic lights

From The House , 6:55 pm on 25 November 2021

This week Parliament (the legislative body) approved the Government’s new ‘traffic light system’ for Covid-19 management, with a sliding scale of restrictions according to risk and vaccine status. 

As a result Parliament (the institution) has had to create its own rules and expectations within that Covid Protection Framework. For Parliament doing so is surprisingly complex. 

Parliament’s Covid Protection Framework

Parliament’s Covid Protection Framework Photo: Parliament (screen shot)

For a start Parliament includes function venues, a tourism service, a cafe and restaurant, school visits, a library, even an exercise room and swimming pool. Oh, plus the actual Parliament and its various functions. 

To confuse things further Parliament is not a single employer; instead it is a conglomeration of dozens of organisations, agencies and companies. 

A number of different organisations staff Parliament and Government offices including the Parliamentary Service, the Office of the Clerk, the National Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ministerial Services, Internal Affairs, the Parliamentary Counsel Office, etcetera. Even the New Zealand Police have a presence. Plus each political party is also an employer. 

There are also numerous contractors and services, a caterer, and the various media companies that comprise the Press Gallery.

So, who can come up with rules for all of that? There is one unifying factor: Parliament has a landlord, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

So this week, after consultation across the legion that is Parliament the Speaker announced a traffic light system that attempts to outline how the new Covid-19 approach will apply to the complexities.

The House chatted with him about the complexities, and the outcome.

The main points: 

  • The fully vaccinated will have vastly more freedom around the precinct than is currently allowable, the adult unvaccinated will have much more restricted access than at present.

  • Public tours and school visits will restart again in 2022. 

  • Select Committees will once again be allowed to receive public evidence in person (or online).

  • Parliament has been trialling a partially virtual chamber, so that when (note: when, not if) MPs are forced to self-isolate as close contacts the House will still be able to meet, even if not entirely in person.

  • Now the various employers will all individually need to decide whether and which of their staff might need to be mandated as requiring vaccines for continuing in specific role, and what to do about the unvaccinated (if there are any).

The House - parliamentary legislation, issues and insights - made with funding from Parliament.