James Shaw defends gag on ministers talking about COVID-19 documents

James Shaw has defended a controversial gag on ministers speaking to media about the COVID-19 documents the Government released on Friday afternoon.

Newshub was leaked an internal memo sent to all ministers from the Prime Minister's office, instructing them not to speak to the media about the document dump. 

Instead, they were told to respond only with written responses, that had to be signed off by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

"Most open and transparent Government ever," National deputy leader Paula Bennett tweeted, mocking a commitment Ardern made in 2017 when she took the reins. 

Many journalists don't like the Government releasing documents on a Friday afternoon, as they believe it reduces the likelihood they'll be covered in any great detail, with limited time to investigate what's in them before the 6pm television news and most newsroom having fewer staff on at weekends. 

Greens co-leader Shaw, whose ministerial roles include climate change, statistics and associate finance, told Newshub Nation on Saturday he didn't receive the memo but has no problem with it.

"It is really important in a time of crisis that the Government speaks with one voice, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been that voice, and I think it's appropriate that she continues to be that voice."

He said it was "entirely appropriate" considering the scale of the COVID-19 crisis, which he compared to World War II and the Great Depression.

"I don't think there's anything strange about that at all."

As a member of the Green Party, Shaw is not a part of Cabinet, which consists only of Labour and NZ First MPs, as they formed a formal coalition to govern, with the Greens playing a support role.

The most interesting details from the documents released on Friday can be found here.

 

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