15 Feb 2021

ACT alone in call for Epidemic Response Committee to reconvene

2:31 pm on 15 February 2021

The ACT Party wants Parliament's special Epidemic Response Committee to reconvene in response to the latest community outbreak of Covid-19 in South Auckland.

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ACT Party leader David Seymour. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Three people - a mother, a father and a daughter - are infected with the UK variant of the virus, but there is no link to cases recorded in managed isolation and no known source.

In response, the government has placed Auckland in an alert level 3 lockdown for 72 hours, while the rest of the country at alert level 2.

ACT Party leader David Seymour said following the outbreak, he wrote to the Speaker Trevor Mallard and asked that the Epidemic Response Committee be re-established.

The majority of the members on the committee during the first lockdown were from the opposition which meant there was real scrutiny of the government's response, Seymour said.

"It's critical for the public that elected representatives are there questioning the decision makers from the government, that's what the Epidemic Response Committee did, I got overwhelming positive feedback from the public about its performance," he said.

Seymour said he was "enormously disappointed" Parliament's business committee rejected ACT's request to re-establish the committee.

"If we do have an extended lockdown it would be very useful to be able to have more detailed debates about things like saliva testing than are possible in a question time in the adversarial environment of the House," Seymour said.

It was a "travesty" there was no opposition-controlled select committee to "bring some balance" to the government's response to this outbreak, Seymour said.

Read more on the latest Covid-19 outbreak:

National leader Judith Collins was not convinced the committee was needed at this stage, however.

"The main thing from our point of view is that we get accountability from the government and that we are able to ask the right questions, whether that's in normal select committees or it's in the question time," she said.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw also did not back ACT's call to re-establish the committee.

"At the moment, this alert is only for 72 hours and the Epidemic Response Committee was set up as a substitute for Parliament because Parliament wasn't sitting and there needed to be Parliamentary oversight of the response.

"Parliament is sitting, it's going to continue to sit this week, and given this lockdown expires on Wednesday or Thursday, then at the moment we would say there is no need for it," Shaw said.

The Green Party would reconsider its position if the lockdown was extended and Parliament was unable to convene, he said.

Business committee chair Trevor Mallard has been contacted for comment.

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