Judith Collins says it's Jacinda Ardern's fault Parliament is staying under level 4, not hers, because the Prime Minister declined to suspend Parliament again before the capital moved to level 3.
Parliament sat on Tuesday, a day before Wellington and the rest of the country outside of Auckland and Northland moved from level 4 to 3. Labour had wanted to run it online, but Collins and National insisted on sending MPs to appear in the House physically - and because Collins was attending from Auckland, where the outbreak is ongoing - Parliament now has to continue operating under level 4 conditions.
Labour only sent MPs already in Wellington, while the Greens and the Māori Party didn't send anyone at all.
Asked on The AM Show on Wednesday why MPs couldn't have waited one more day to meet, Collins said it was a question for Ardern, not her.
"You should ask the Prime Minister. She had the option to suspend Parliament for another week or another day. She chose not to. In fact, she said she didn't want to do that again. So you'd better ask her about that."
Ardern had already suspended Parliament's normal routine for a week and had arranged it to reconvene online, via video chat, but National and the ACT Party rejected it.
"I didn't want to suspend Parliament again, but nor did I agree with the fact that there was a problem with what we presented or a need for us to meet in person," she told RNZ.
"They are essential workers, so what I will say is that they are able to [travel to Parliament for work]. It is within the rules. The question is, was it necessary? We've asked everyone to try and be nimble. Come up with alternative ways in order to fulfil their functions."
Collins told The AM Show National didn't agree to an online meeting of Parliament because it would give Speaker Trevor Mallard too much power.
"The Zoom meeting that Trevor Mallard suddenly decided he wanted to do, that has of course never been tested in New Zealand for Parliament. You're talking 120 MPs. We don't actually believe that he wouldn't just sort of mute us every time he felt like it, just like he does generally in the House. But at least in the physical environment you have a little bit more of an opportunity."
Ardern also told RNZ on Tuesday she lies awake at night, thinking about how the outbreak might have happened and shares her theories the next day with Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.
Collins said she doesn't think about anything at night, and just goes to sleep - recommending Ardern do the same because "there's no point".
"I think if you're worried about something then either deal with it or accept that you can't change it. There's no point worrying, lying awake all night thinking about where the outbreak's come in."