Media release: Requisitioning a step too far - NZ Initiative
Wellington (Tuesday, 12 October 2021) – The New Zealand Initiative is urging the Government to substantially reconsider a provision in the COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No. 2) that would allow it to commandeer private Covid testing facilities and equipment such as those of Rako Science.
The egregious provision and its implications for New Zealand’s testing capability were the subject of the New Zealand Initiative’s submission on the Bill.
Submission author Dr Eric Crampton says:
“We understand that the Government wants to expand its testing capabilities but using a blunt legislative instrument to commandeer private goods and services will have the opposite effect.”
“Private labs will be less willing to hold equipment and tests, or to expand their testing capability, if there is a risk that it could be taken over at any time by the government. Having this law on the books, even if its provisions are never invoked, puts testing capacity and contracts at risk.”
The draft legislation gives the government the ability to requisition Covid testing materials from private laboratories. It also allows the government to order testing companies to abandon existing testing contracts and only supply testing for the public Covid response, regardless of whether the Crown has contracted for testing.
Dr Crampton continued, “While it is great that the government has at long last apparently realised that its testing strategy has failed, and that it will need a lot more testing capacity than it currently has available, requisitioning tests is the wrong approach.”
“Testing companies like Rako Science, and its clients, who have done the right thing in making critically important workplaces and medical facilities safer through testing, will be the ones punished if the government decides to requisition tests.”
“The government has had every opportunity to deal fairly with Rako Science. It could have contracted with Rako to increase capacity to complement the public testing effort. It still can do so. That would be the appropriate way of boosting testing capacity for the country as a whole. Instead, Government is giving itself the ability simply to take testing away from Rako’s private clients through compulsory requisitioning.”
“If MPs vote for this, they vote to decrease testing capacity at a time when it needs to increase. Who would invest in improving testing capacity in New Zealand if the government can simply decide to take it all away?,” asked Dr Crampton.
Submission: COVID-19 Public Health Response Amendment Bill (No. 2) is available here.