Judith Collins has lashed out at journalists, claiming they haven't been asking questions about the vaccine rollout because they "don't want to", preferring instead to engage in a "political attack" on the National Party.
In a heated interview on TVNZ's Breakfast the National Party leader objected to host Indira Stewart's line of questioning, accusing her of being "more interested in talking about me" than the vaccine rollout and the media of asking soft questions of the Prime Minister.
Parliament resumed on Tuesday in a stripped-back format, with only a few MPs from the major parties present in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading, on the advice of the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfied. Collins was one of them, flying down from Auckland - which is still at alert level 4. Though Wellington is at level 3, Parliament will continue to operate under level 4 protocols thanks to Collins' visit, Stuff reported on Tuesday.
She didn't get a test before going down, claiming she has "not been in contact with COVID" and always uses the COVID Tracer app when she's out. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wanted Parliament to meet via Zoom, but Collins rejected the offer, saying it was impossible "without any practise".
Stewart asked Collins, speaking via Zoom from her office in Wellington, what she would say to New Zealanders who've had to rapidly adjust to working from home, without any choice in the matter.
"That is totally unfair, absolutely unfair. We're doing a Zoom now," said Collins, who went on to criticise the quality of questioning at the daily 1pm press conferences, which she said Ardern should conduct via Zoom.
"We've seen the sort of level of some of the questions that have been used in the press conferences, things like, 'How are you feeling today Prime Minister?' How about ask the questions for New Zealand?"
Newshub checked the transcripts of this week's press conferences, and found numerous questions about the vaccine rollout - there were five at the 1pm briefing on Tuesday, including whether prison staff potentially exposed to the virus had been vaccinated, about reports people's bookings were being mysteriously cancelled, and about work being to ramp up supply to meet growing demand.
There were 13 questions about vaccines at the late-afternoon press conference on Monday, including about the first reported death linked to a jab, the growing concerns about supply and whether any thought had gone into prioritising Auckland, the centre of the current outbreak.
The only time Ardern appears to have been asked recently how she was feeling was on Tuesday, in regards to the news that six babies had been diagnosed with COVID-19. Answering the question, Ardern didn't actually talk about her personal feelings - instead using it as a chance to talk up the importance of the elimination strategy and vaccines.
The latest data on the vaccine rollout shows after a slow start, New Zealand is streaking ahead - we're now ahead of the global average in terms of doses administered per capita, and - according to figures collected by Our World In Data - right now, we're vaccinating faster than any other country.
There have been concerns that uptake amongst some Pacific communities - particularly youth - has been low. Collins was asked if, as her party's Pacific spokesperson, if she'd been in contact with the community.
Collins shook her head and rocked back and forth, saying the question was "ridiculous".
"You know fully well that I'm deeply involved in the Pacific community, and what I'm hearing is that they want to get vaccinated, just like every other New Zealander… My husband is Pasifika, I talk to him every day."
Stewart cut the interview off after Collins said she has to be in Parliament to ask questions about vaccines, "particularly if the media don't want to do that job".
"I enjoyed that," Collins said. "Thank you Indira, lovely to talk to you."
Collins later retweeted a person who said she was "on fire" and that Breakfast was "the media wing of the Labour Party".
"Not once did @Breakfaston1 want to talk about the lack of a vaccination roll out and how NZ is still in lockdown," Collins added. At the time of writing more than three hours later, not a single National MP had retweeted her.
The National Party tweeted to say Stewart wanted to "waste everyone’s time attacking the Opposition for doing our job".