National vote against new law which sets out level 2 enforcement rules

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 May 2020, 5:53PM
National Party leader Simon Bridges. (Photo / NZ Herald)
National Party leader Simon Bridges. (Photo / NZ Herald)

National vote against new law which sets out level 2 enforcement rules

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 May 2020, 5:53PM

The National Party has voted against the first reading of the legislation which allows the enforcement of new rules under alert level 1 and 2.

Although the party understands there is a need for appropriate legal framework for operating within the different Covid-19 levels, National has major reservations that the bill going before the House this afternoon is too broad.

National is also worried the law would be in place for too long - it would be in place for two years, or until Covid-19 has subsided.

The bill is going through under urgency, meaning the first, second and third reading will happen tonight.

National voted against the bill at the first reading, as did independent MP Jami-Lee Ross. It passed with support from Labour, NZ First, the Greens and the Act Party.

National is holding fire on committing their support in the second and third readings until the committee of the whole House stage of the bill, where the party will seek a number of changes.

But the bill is still highly likely to pass even without National's support in all three readings, as it has the support of Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens.

All National's MPs voted against the bill being rushed through the House under urgency.

Speaking to media before going into the House this afternoon, Bridges sounded the alarm over some elements of the bill – he said he "wouldn't rule out" National voting against the bill.

He said his MPs would attempt to get some elements of it changed through what's called the committee of the whole house phase.

This is where MPs can make last-minute changes to legislation before it becomes law.
Such changes, according to Bridges, include looking to increase the max gathering rules – bolstering the numbers from 10 to 100 across the board.

 

National also planned to change the bill to allow for funerals and tangi to be attended.

Bridges questioned why people would be allowed to go to the movies, but not to mourn a loved one.

"There can be sports games with physical contact and yet at one of the most tragic defining points of life, a funeral, direct family members cannot attend them.

"That's not just not kind – it's inhumane. We can do better than that."

The level 2 law basically gives effect to what was announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday.

It will go through the House under urgency, meaning it will go through all three readings in one sitting so it is law before the country goes into level 2, tomorrow night at 11:59.

That means there is no select committee process, where the bill can be scrutinised by experts.

Attorney-General David Parker said the Bill would ensure controls on gatherings of people and physical distancing are still enforceable.

"There will be fewer restrictions under alert level 2 but those remaining still need to be enforceable. We don't want these narrower controls to rely on a National State of Emergency," he said.

Although he believes New Zealanders would 'do the right thing,' it's important to have a "regulatory backstop" to address behaviour at alert level 2 that is particularly harmful to the public health objective.