Judith Collins has labelled Chris Hipkins a "part-time" Health Minister and wants to know which Government minister is ultimately responsible when something goes wrong in the COVID-19 response.
The Opposition leader is not letting the Government forget Newshub's revelation that 60 percent of border-facing workers in Auckland had not been tested the week before the latest COVID-19 outbreak, falling short of Cabinet's expectations.
"The Government has not undertaken what anybody would expect would be undertaken - in other words, what they promised. We would not do that," Collins said on Tuesday.
"We're saying with any mistakes it's fronted up and we're not going to sit there pointing fingers at each other and saying 'oh, it was your fault, it was my fault, somebody's fault'. The fact is, is that that is part of ministerial responsibility.
"At the moment, the Prime Minister has put in place a Minister of Health, Chris Hipkins. He's essentially part-time in that role because he's got such big other jobs to deal with."
Hipkins is a busy man. He's Labour's MP for Remutaka and is also Health Minister, Education Minister, State Services Minister and Leader of the House. He was given the health portfolio after his predecessor David Clark stepped down.
Collins thinks it's too much for Hipkins to handle and believes that's why the Prime Minister had to bring in Helen Clark's former chief of staff Heather Simpson and NZTA chair Brian Roche to lead a new group to implement Cabinet's testing strategy.
"There's a reason why Heather Simpson and Brian Boche have been brought in. It's not because everything was going well," Collins said. "Clearly they have dropped the ball."
Hipkins hit back Collins.
"I completely disagree with her," he said on Tuesday. "I can certainly tell you it doesn't feel particularly part-time at the moment."
Ardern was accused of being a "part-time" Prime Minister by former National Party leader Simon Bridges after she visited Tokelau in 2019.
Collins is looking for accountability over the testing strategy botch-up. She probed the Prime Minister in Parliament on Tuesday about who is ultimately responsible when things go wrong in the COVID-19 response.
"Obviously as a Government, we have ministers that are responsible for individual strands but as a Cabinet, we take responsibility for the entire implementation of our COVID response and resurgence plans," Ardern said.
"I have trust and faith in my entire Cabinet and every single minister has been contributing in some way to our response and has played a role."
Ardern said Simpson and Sir Brian were brought in to make sure the Government's testing strategy is implemented to Cabinet's satisfaction.
"As I said when I announced their appointments, so far the roll-out of our resurgence plan is working as we intended, however as has been discussed, there are constantly things we can and should be improving with our COVID response," she said.
"Cabinet signed off a good, solid testing plan for border and managed isolation workers in late June, but as we have discussed, it has not been executed at the scale and speed necessary.
"As with our response in all things COVID where we've identified gaps or issues, we have moved at speed to fill them and we do so now again."
Newshub also revealed Hipkins did not read the Ministry of Health's testing strategy which clearly outlined that testing of all border-facing staff was not thought to be viable.
New Zealand First has joined National in calling for Parliament's Health Select Committee to reconvene so that MPs can probe Hipkins and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield on the testing controversy.
National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti wants answers.
"We think it is important the Director-General of Health fronts up to explain the disconnect between the Government's rhetoric on testing and what is actually happening."
Health Select Committee chair Louisa Walll confirmed to Newshub on Tuesday evening that it will reconvene next week and she will invite Hipkins and Dr Bloomfield to appear.