The case for a Royal Commission

Danielle van Dalen writes:

The Covid-19 pandemic saw New Zealand enter its second nationwide state of emergency in March 2020. This gave the Government access to levels of power not seen since the 1950s, perhaps ever. As a nation, we got lucky this time – the pandemic exposed constitutional weaknesses that might have been exploited if we had leaders with a more totalitarian bent.

When an extraordinary event like this occurs, it’s important that we pause and take the time to learn from our experience. There will always be another emergency, and we need to be prepared for next time.

Totally agree. Covid-19 is the biggest economic shock since the Great Depression and the biggest health challenge in 100 years. The cost to us is around $140 billion.

It should be unthinkable that we don’t have a Royal Commission of Inquiry into all aspects of our response.

Establishing a royal commission of inquiry will provide an important avenue for beginning this work. As Professor Nick Wilson and colleagues suggest, an inquiry could investigate questions on the effectiveness and appropriateness of the Government’s actions when responding to the pandemic, the social impacts of the methods taken on different communities around New Zealand, “the implications for how public health systems are organised and resourced,” the “different health impacts” of the pandemic, as well as its “the long-term societal and economic impacts”. The first question, in particular, will assist as we determine where constitutional checks and balances should be strengthened.

It’s time to learn from what has happened and prepare for the future. Another emergency will come; the task now is to reflect and – alongside our work to ensure the long-term survival of our economic, public health and safety – work to ensure the long-term survival of our democracy. This should begin with the establishment of a royal commission.

There is a huge amount of stuff to cover in analysing our response and the impact of it. The Government should establish the Royal Commission before the end of the year.

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