NZ Election 2020: Judith Collins uses Jacinda Ardern's 'source of truth' statement to attack Government's record

National Party leader Judith Collins has used Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's "source of truth" statement made in March to attack the Government's record as Parliament wrapped up before the election.  

Ardern said back in March the Government would be New Zealand's "single source of truth" after a false rumour that originated in Malaysia spread about imminent COVID-19 lockdowns in Australia and New Zealand. 

Collins used the "source of truth" quote to question the Government's policy delivery since coming into office in 2017, including the promise of 16,000 KiwiBuild homes in the first three years of the housing programme. 

"I stand proudly on this Government's record of building houses and I stand proudly on the fact that we have always been very open when a programme that we had proceeded with hadn't achieved what we expected," Ardern said. 

"That does not, however, diminish the 5000 housing places that we very proudly have helped achieve whilst in Government and that is all in addressing the housing crisis we inherited."

Collins pointed out that Housing New Zealand or Kāinga Ora houses were not included in the KiwiBuild programme, and Ardern said she was speaking broadly about the Government's housing initiatives. 

The Prime Minister said she did not agree with Collins' "conflation" of her "single source of truth" statement, which she said was used around providing accurate information to New Zealanders amid "harmful rumours" and conspiracy theories. 

But Collins continued to use the "single source of truth" statement, asking how that could be if only two-thirds of border-facing workers were tested for COVID-19 nine weeks after the Government said there would be asymptomatic testing of all border facing workers. 

"We did agree as a Cabinet in our testing strategy that there would be testing of asymptomatic border workers. That had started with pop-ups at the airport in July on multiple occasions but we have been very open about the fact that it wasn't as comprehensive or scaled-up as quickly as Cabinet has desired," Ardern said. 

"That is why we have put in place additional support in the Ministry of Health to ensure the roll-out of that. We are now in our second sweep of border workers at the ports, at the airport and our managed isolation facilities."

She said it is "important to note" that alongside those sweeps the Government has not identified the source of the resurgence in Auckland. 

Collins asked why just 200 of about 10,000 port workers had been tested so far in the Government's second round of border worker testing. 

Ardern explained how in the first sweep port workers were tested last so it makes sense that they are tested last again. But the Government only has until Sunday to complete the second round, and the numbers Ardern provided show there is still a way to go. 

"The latest report I have as at Wednesday 10:30am, is that for the Port of Auckland that's roughly 277 workers and for the Port of Tauranga 133," she said. 

Collins also probed Ardern over the Government being forced to apologise for putting out false information over the weekend which led to thousands of Aucklanders queuing up for COVID-19 tests when they didn't need to. 

"Was her Government the single source of truth when it mistakenly told 700,000 Aucklanders to get a COVID-19 test and then failed to proactively correct the record?" Collins asked. 

Ardern responded, "I refute the last part of the member's question. We did seek to proactively correct that information when it was identified."

She apologised to "any New Zealander who had any anxiety" as a result of the incorrect information, which instructed all west and south Aucklanders to get a COVID-19 test.

Collins concluded by asking Ardern if she agreed with NZ First leader Winston Peters who said on Wednesday the Government's COVID-19 response could have been better, and putting the blame on Labour Party ministers. 

Ardern said she stands "proudly" on the response to COVID-19. 

"We should all be proud of the efforts of New Zealanders in this global pandemic, because whilst it surges globally, we have continued to take a process of elimination that puts us in the best position to protect New Zealanders' health and the best position for our economy to recover," she said. 

"I for one am very proud of that."