Gag order on Ministers after Covid-19 document dump was 'arrogant' move by Government, commentator says

A political commentator says a gag order memo sent from the Prime Minister's Office dents the idea of it being an open and transparent Government.

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Josie Pagani and Ben Thomas give their thoughts on the Government’s handling of the release of documents about Covid-19. Source: Breakfast

Josie Pagani's comments come after hundreds of official documents, including minutes and advice about Covid-19, were published on Friday afternoon, followed by a leaked Government email instructing Ministers not to do media interviews on the material released.

Ms Pagani told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning that the Government should have "points deducted" for the timing of its Friday dump, but more concerning was the memo that followed.

"The charitable light on this is that they wanted to get this out of the way before we moved to Level 2 so they could focus on safety measures in Level 2, that's the charitable interpretation.

"But I think the memo particularly dents this idea of a different type of politics, a transparent and open Government, and it adds something new which commentators have noticed which is sort of a tone of arrogance."

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Ms Pagani also said the content of the documents was concerning, recommending a Royal Commission into how the Government handled the coronavirus pandemic and it's advice.

"Not because we think they were wrong, but because we need to understand how did they make these decisions," she said.

"One of the things that really surprises me is that you can't say on the one hand that you've got to trust the experts, and then on the other hand do exactly what the experts tell you not to do which is go from Level 2 to Level 4 straight away which is what the Government did.

"[It] may have been the right call, I don't know, but I do think there needs to be some kind of Royal Commission at some point into how these decisions are made. Too many jobs were lost, too many businesses gone under. We need to understand how they made decisions and what can be done differently in the future."

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Meanwhile, commentator Ben Thomas, who spoke alongside Ms Pagani on Breakfast, said the documents were "significant", specifically noting recommendations such as takeaways remaining open in lockdown - an issue the Opposition had "banged on about".

Mr Thomas also slammed the timing of the Friday dump as a "media ploy", explaining that the time of the release meant the Government was trying to get the news out at a time when journalists were getting ready to go home and television had little time before going to air.

"Combined with the email saying Ministers won't do interviews on it, they won't respond to anything here, and actually the words, you know, 'we've got the public on our side, we don't need to defend this, we can just dismiss it' -  I mean, previous Government's may have thought that, but you don't commit it to writing," he said.

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The Health Minister maintained the Government was “very transparent” after their Covid-19 document dump. Source: 1 NEWS