3 Jun 2020

Government hits back at opposition over level 1 urgency

5:18 pm on 3 June 2020

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has accused the opposition of belittling New Zealanders' achievement in the fight against Covid-19.

The Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, provides his weekly Treasury update.

Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National has today continued to pile pressure on the government to move to alert level 1 immediately.

Its attack came with ammunition after the opposition was leaked a Cabinet paper detailing what was needed to move to alert level 1.

National leader Todd Muller quoted sections of the document, drafted by the Prime Minister's office, during Question Time today while calling for an immediate move to level 1.

A copy of the paper obtained by RNZ said there must be 28 days of no community transmission of Covid-19 before the country could safely drop alert levels.

Muller said Jacinda Ardern should make a Captain's Call and ease restrictions now given the 28 days requirement has been met.

"If we're really a team of five million in the fight against Covid-19 then we all need to know what the game plan is," Muller said.

"Every day the government waits to make this shift is another day that businesses sink deeper into debt and the economic crisis in this country worsens."

Ardern had all of the information she needed and there was no need to wait until Monday's Cabinet meeting to make the decision, Muller said.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the 28-day requirement had not yet been achieved however, as one person was still recovering.

National's Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith also turned up the heat, asking Robertson if he could understand the frustration of small business owners operating under level two restrictions when the general public "seem to have moved on".

Robertson said he was on the same page as most New Zealanders who wanted to avoid a second wave of infections and further restrictions.

"I understand the frustration of many New Zealanders that Covid-19 has arrived and had such a massive impact on our society and our economy, but I also believe... that New Zealanders back the idea of doing this job once and doing it right."

Goldsmith fired back and urged the minister to acknowledge New Zealand should have been one of the first to get on top of the virus because it's an island nation with a small population, instead of "continually congratulating himself and his government".

Robertson conceded the country has some geographic advantages, but said Goldsmith did "a disservice to the five million New Zealanders who've sacrificed a great deal".

"We should be proud of New Zealander's efforts, not belittling of them," Robertson said.

Cabinet will decide on Monday if the country should move to alert level 1, with a move to the lowest alert level from 10 June - next Wednesday - at the earliest.

The leaked document also outlined that Cabinet would shortly consider a suite of papers on ongoing border controls and exemptions.

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