Deputy PM Grant Robertson, National leader Judith Collins trade barbs in fiery speeches

The gloves were off on Parliament's second day back since the COVID-19 outbreak, with Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson and National leader Judith Collins trading barbs in fiery speeches. 

Robertson in his speech thanked parliamentary staff for risking their health by coming into work - a dig at the Opposition for refusing to accept plans for a virtual sitting of MPs under lockdown restrictions. 

"Sadly Mr Speaker, they have had to come here because of the selfishness of the Opposition in this Parliament, because Judith Collins decided to ignore a proposal that was developed by her colleague Chris Bishop that would have seen a virtual Parliament built off the virtual committees we have had," Robertson said. 

"But no Mr Speaker, the vanity and ego of the Opposition was more important to them than the health and safety of people who work at Parliament. 

"It was more important than setting an example for how businesses could operate virtually, and for what Mr Speaker? To throw misleading accusations and take contradictory positions. 

"But that's no surprise from this Opposition, Mr Speaker, who has had more positions on the COVID-19 response than a Chris Hipkins exercise guide. 

"Mr Speaker, we can and should do better by the people of New Zealand to use the technology we have. On this side of the House we remain resolutely focused on supporting New Zealanders to get through COVID-19."

Collins didn't hold back in her response. 

"What a smug, contemptuous contribution from the Minister of Finance Grant Robertson," she said. 

"What a smug contribution where he talks about the health and safety of parliamentary staff, forgetting the ministerial staff he's had working all the way through lockdown level four without a thought."

Robertson stood and interrupted Collins to inform House Speaker Trevor Mallard that he had no staff on the precinct during the lockdown. 

"The member has made a completely inaccurate observation about my office. I've had no ministerial staff working in my office until today."

Collins continued her attack. 

"Obviously somebody's a bit tetchy today," she said.  

"A little bit touchy that we've pointed out that ministerial staff have been working in the Beehive, because we've seen them on television, and then all of a sudden they're not in his office. That's what we've got from that minister. 

"Well, he loves to throw the dirt and the accusations and he does not like any of it coming back to him."

Watch the full interaction above.