The Attorney-General is adamant the Government's strict lockdown orders to combat the coronavirus were legal.
David Parker addressed growing concerns and questions about the legality of the lockdown orders, which have introduced unprecedented restrictions on civil liberties, this afternoon in a Facebook video.
His comments came after Crown Law documents were leaked to Newstalk ZB yesterday, which purportedly say police powers were severely limited under the first directive by director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield in March.
And there are also now two applications for a Covid-19 judicial review as the High Court is asked to rule on the legality of some of the lockdown orders. Former parliamentary counsel Andrew Borrowdale, who is responsible for the first application, sought a transfer of the case from the High Court to the Court of Appeal which was declined this afternoon.
"There have been plenty of commentators pouring over every remark made by the Prime Minister, director-general of health and me, and there will be some who will ask whether I'm trying to influence court proceedings that are upcoming," Parker said in his video.
He claimed some of the "attacks" had the intention to undermine public confidence in the Government's measures to stamp out Covid-19.
"There's no vaccine, there's no cure, and the health advice was clear. If we wanted to avoid the awful loss of life that we saw unfolding overseas, and to prevent our health system being overwhelmed, we should all wash out hands, practice good hygiene, but most of all practice we had to keep physically distant from one another," Parker said.
"The measures we took put the most significant restrictions on New Zealanders' movements in modern history and closed our borders to overseas travellers in an unprecedented way."
But Parker said speculation that the Government's legal advice throws doubt on the legality of the restrictions was wrong.
"It appears to be based on draft views provided to agencies for feedback, that was not the considered advice of Crown Law. Crown Law's advice was, and is, there is no gap in enforcement power," he said.
"We've all given up some of our liberties as we've worked together to save thousands of lives. We have taken into account civil liberties and other human rights."
Despite this, he said he would continue to refuse to release Crown Law's advice, citing legal privilege, even though he claimed it "supports the legality of the Government's position".
But concerns over the advice have led to Solicitor-General Una Jagose, the director general of health and Commissioner of Police being summonsed by the Epidemic Response Committee and asked to reveal what Crown Law said.
Chairman of the committee and Opposition leader Simon Bridges has said: "The people of New Zealand have given up their freedoms for this lockdown. We all deserve to know what the legal basis was for that."
Parker said the unprecedented move of summonsing public servants to the Epidemic Response Committee was "attacking" fair process, legal privilege, and the separation of powers.
He said he would ask the Speaker of the House to refer the matter to Parliament's Privileges Committee.
He added Bridges was offered a confidential briefing on the legal advice, but Bridges has said that was an attempt to gag him and declined.
• Solicitor-General summonsed to reveal legal basis for lockdown
• Judge overrules lockdown and allows son to visit dying dad, PM orders review of refusals
• Duo's appeal dismissed in lawsuit against Jacinda Ardern over lockdown 'detention'
• Law Society calls for greater Govt clarity on curbs to our freedoms and commerce
Parker said the Government's response to Covid-19 was proportionate and rational, while "all of the orders" are compliant with the Bill of Rights Act.
"There has been some debate as to whether the director general could legitimately isolate or quarantine the entire nation under section 70(1)(f) of the Health Act. I consider the subsection is apt to cover a direction to all New Zealanders," Parker said.
"The provision is that persons, with an s, can be isolated or quarantined with no statutory pre-condition that they may have or carry the disease. So, there is no stretch of language and this is entirely consistent with the purposes of these powers, which is to prevent the outbreak or spread of infectious disease."
Left unchecked, Parker said, the virus "would cause the deaths of thousands of New Zealanders" as well as serious economic harm.
"I considered, and still consider, the measures imposed are necessary and a proportionate response. Preventing the spread of the virus could not be achieved in a less liberty-restricting way."
Parker expected the majority of Kiwis would continue to "voluntarily" comply with the Government's orders but also issued a warning.
"We will need to enforce the rules when there is serious non-compliance."
Police have accused thousands of people of breaching the lockdown orders, resulting in hundreds of prosecutions.