Coalition's 100-day plan: Govt promises tougher stance on adopting amendments to World Health Organization regulations with 'national interest test'

  • 30/11/2023

The Coalition wants to hit the ground running after taking more than a month to put a new Government together. 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has his Cabinet in place, which included a few mates from ACT and NZ Frist. 

With the backing of his Coalition partners, National leader Luxon wants to achieve a lot in the Government's first 100 days - the goals for which he unveiled on Wednesday. Most of the goals were policies the National Party campaigned on.  

However, the list also contained a surprise: Lodging a reservation against adopting amendments to World Health Organization (WHO) health regulations to allow the Government to consider these against a "national interest test". 

"That wasn't talked about during the campaign," said Newshub political editor Jenna Lynch. "That is a policy that came from New Zealand First and the reason it's made it into the 100-day plan is we need to lodge that reservation before December 1 - so the clock is well and truly ticking on that one," she told AM.

The policy was in NZ First's election manifesto under the section 'defending democracy and our nation's sovereignty'. The policy promised to require "a national interest test to stop us being dictated to by the United Nations and agencies like the WHO". 

It was subsequently included in the Coalition agreement between National and NZ First. 

The agreement said the Coalition would ensure the national interest test was undertaken "before New Zealand accepts any agreements from the UN and its agencies that limit national decision-making and reconfirm that New Zealand's domestic law holds primacy over any international agreements". 

"As part of the above, by December 1, 2023, reserve against proposed amendments to WHO health regulations to allow the incoming Government to consider these against a 'national interest test.'" 

Asked about the policy on Wednesday, Luxon said it was simple. 

Peters and Luxon.
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon (right) and his deputy Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty Images

"We just, as a new Government, want to be able to take a pause and make sure that it meets a national interest test," he told reporters. 

"There's a decision that needs to be made by December 1, we want to take a pause and make sure we understand, and it meets the desires." 

But Labour Health spokesperson Ayesha Verrall has slammed the policy.

"Those health regulations are used to make sure that when there is a disease with pandemic-potential, there is a early warning given out across the world," Dr Verrall said.

"It is incredibly important that we have international health regulations that work.

"As I have said on many of the issues, the Coalition formed its agreement behind closed doors - so we can't say why they did that. However, I'm deeply concerned that I see that sort of rubbish about the WHO and international health regulations on the internet and, all of a sudden, it's in a Coalition document."