NZ Herald | 3 May 2020
So far, the public has shown a remarkable degree of tolerance of the Government’s decisions in relation to Covid-19 with little argument or even public debate.
The calamitous way in which Parliament turned Inland Revenue into a small business lender , without a single MP realising they were doing so, is a sign that the time is well past for greater scrutiny to return.
The Government’s refusal to release the advice it used as the basis of its decision to place New Zealand into a highly restrictive lockdown is coming close to an abuse of the extraordinary trust the public has granted it.
Apparently a mix up in the Parliamentary Counsel Office – a part of Parliament generally known for an obsessive attention to detail – saw a law passed on Thursday evening without the knowledge of a single MP, because the wrong bill was put before the house.
On Friday Finance Minister Grant Robertson attempted to minimise the mistake, claiming the important thing was that money would be going to small businesses, with loans of up to $100,000 set to be offered, initially interest free.
He was unable to give basic information such as how much taxpayers are on the hook for.
The fact that the Government gets to advance its plan in this way shows how serious the mistake is. Even if no minister was to blame, the plans were clearly well advanced for it to happen.
With the Opposition calling for more direct cash support for business, rather than loans, it is right to feel aggrieved that the Government did not signal what its plans were in advance. It had no idea it was voting for a scheme which it may have opposed.