Willie Jackson demands Kiwis 'congratulate this Government' over COVID-19 lockdown success

Labour MP Willie Jackson has told the Opposition and media to stop playing "gotcha politics" and "congratulate this Government" on its COVID-19 strategy instead.

Concerns have been raised this week over the legality of the lockdown, which has seen Kiwis stay at home and avoid others in order to halt the spread of the deadly disease. Hundreds have been charged with breaking the rules, which the Government insists were implemented legally, despite leaked advice from its own advisors casting doubt on this. 

Attorney-General David Parker says the leaked versions of the advice were just drafts, and weren't considered in the Government's formation of the lockdown rules. 

The Opposition has called for the final versions of the advice to be released.

"This actually affected every person in New Zealand for around about five weeks and it's supposed to continue in some form," said National MP Judith Collins, appearing with Jackson on The AM Show on Friday via video.

"It is important. New Zealanders have done a wonderful job trying to do the right thing during all these lockdown levels, so I think we deserve to be treated as adults." 

Jackson told host Duncan Garner while it's important the Government follows the law, "in the greater scheme of things we should be congratulating ourselves, New Zealanders, for doing a magnificent job".

"Rather than waffle on and try and find gaps or holes or problems - and we'll look at that later on - why don't we just congratulate ourselves, congratulate this Government and Jacinda Ardern who I think was voted the best communicator in the world? We're doing such a great job. 

"I want you and [AM Show sportsreader Mark] Richardson to start celebrating instead of being twisted and broken. I heard some waffle yesterday about poor old Mark losing it and saying he'd be the Prime Minister. We've got to just move on and celebrate what this Government and Jacinda Ardern has been doing."

A survey of 289 public relations professionals this week ranked New Zealand as best in the world for its communication around COVID-19, ahead of Germany and Singapore. The US, whose health officials have had to repeatedly debunk false claims about the virus from President Donald Trump, was ranked worst.

Rights lawyer Andrew Geddis told Newshub there were good reasons for the Government refusing to release the Crown Law advice - including that advisors wouldn't be frank and honest if there was a chance their words could be made public. He said there was "more than one legal basis for action throughout the lockdown" and any wrinkles in the hastily-assembled legislation would be ironed out after the pandemic.

"I wouldn't say this was an example of some tyranny running wild or anything; I would say this is actually an example of the system working - the institutions being concerned to have a legal basis for action, and where there are questions about whether that legal basis were proper, those are being examined through the courts as they should be."

Collins said the Government should be deciding on the rules for each level well ahead of time.

"Apparently legislation will be rushed through the House next week to set down what level 2 actually means. This is one of the problems we've had with the various levels - we haven't actually quite known what they're supposed to mean until they're suddenly in place.  People have had plans, they've had to change them."

But she and the National Party have also called for a move to level 2 right away, leader Simon Bridges saying he's getting "impatient".

"I would think any movement towards freeing up New Zealanders and the economy is really good, and obviously we've been calling for level 2 for some time," Collins said.

New Zealand will find out next week if we're staying at level 3 a bit longer, moving to level 2 or - if cases begin to rise again - going back to level 4.