Given the Government’s stonewalling about the legal basis for the huge powers it has asserted, Bridges’ committee has been forced to summons Solicitor-General Una Jagose in a last-ditch attempt to find out what the Prime Minister was told about the legality of her actions.

Ardern and Attorney-General David Parker should spare Jagose that indignity by pre-emptively waiving the legal privilege over the advice. As Attorney-General, Parker is required to act in the interests of the rule of law rather than as a member of his political party.

Meanwhile, the Government has decided it shouldn’t have to prepare RISs for its proposed legislation. The Ministry of Health is automatically turning down all Official Information requests. Health providers have been informed of a make-believe principle called “the passage of time”, whereby the Government need not respect written commitments given just a month ago.

As Environment Minister, Parker wants to streamline the Resource Management Act and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway the rules around visas. Their proposals make sense but are hardly so urgent that they shouldn’t receive the usual scrutiny. Absent that scrutiny, just last week Parliament accidentally legislated for a multibillion-dollar loans scheme.

The Government has also ensured there will be much less immediate scrutiny of its Budget on Thursday, with the usual Treasury analysts, bank economists, lobby groups, business reporters and union leaders excluded from Robertson’s lockup, despite the country likely to be in level 2.

Government cheerleaders say none of this matters; that Ardern being subject to the rule of law and public scrutiny is less important than saving lives. Shame on them.

First, there is no reason Ardern couldn’t have done everything she has, but maintained the rule of law.

Second, a major reason the lockdown has succeeded is because New Zealanders respect the rule of law and have assumed she does too.

And, third, the principle that prime ministers are subject to the rule of law is in fact a norm so important that many more people have sacrificed their lives in its defence than could ever be at risk of dying from Covid-19.

– Matthew Hooton is an Auckland-based PR consultant and lobbyist.