Q+A: health debate – Coleman & Clark

On Q+A this morning: Who has the best policies for our health system?
Watch our health debate – Political Editor Corin Dann with Labour’s Dr David Clark and National’s Dr Jonathan Coleman.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, glasses

Coleman and Clark also featured on The Nation yesterday (repeated this morning at 10:00 am).

Labour on health:

Health

Additional $8 billion investment in health over four years

See the details in our fiscal plan here.

Cut GP fees by $10 a visit with $8 GP visits for Community Services Card holders

From 1 July 2018, Labour will lower the cost of GP visits by $10 through:

  • Lowering the VLCA fee cap by $10 to $8 for adults and $2 for teens (under 13s are already free), with a funding increase to VLCA practices to cover this
  • Increasing government funding for all practices that lower their fees by $10, low (show all)

Continue reading →

National responded to Labour’s $8b:

Labour’s mythical $8b extra health spend

The Labour Party has been trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes with its mythical $8 billion extra health spend, National Party Health spokesman Dr Jonathan Coleman says.

“The ‘$8 billion more’ health spending argument is smoke and mirrors. They are simply rolling out normal baseline increases and comparing them with a mythical situation of an alternative government that apparently doesn’t add a single dollar to health expenditure for four years. That’s laughable and has simply never happened,” Dr Coleman says.

“The Labour massive extra spending myth also shows up in the amount of new budget money they propose to add each year. Labour is planning to add less in health for each year in the next four years than the National Government has added in the last budget alone.

National new budget operating spend (actual):

  • 2017/18        $879 million

Labour proposed new budget operating spend:

  • 2018/19        $847 million
  • 2019/20        $689 million
  • 2020/21        $826 million
  • 2021/22        $795 million

“The reality is every government makes big increases to the health budget. Of course it’s all about what you do with the money rather than the money itself. And the National Government has an absolute focus on lifting results from the health investments we make.

“The irony is that whether you measure by our respective history of results or just the dollars, when you compare Labour’s proposed plan with National’s track record New Zealanders would receive less from the health sector under Labour.”


The Nation: Coleman v Clark on health

 

There will be a debate this morning on The Nation on health spending, between the Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman, and Labour’s health spokesperson David Clark. These two have clashed a number of times in Parliament.

Health is on of the biggest issues of concern to New Zealanders. In the latest Herald-ZB-Kantar TNS online survey of 1000 voters…asked which of eight issues was most likely to affect their vote:

  • Economy 25%
  • Health 16%
  • Housing 12%

You need a healthy economy to provide good health care (and housing).

Providing healthcare is very expensive. here will never be enough money to provide all the health care wanted. Governments have to balance health spending against need and against other spending demands.

Labour have claimed that health funding has been effectively cut.

Stuff: Frustration, disappointment over health funding in Budget 2017

Patients and healthcare workers say they have been left frustrated and disappointed by “inadequate” funding for health in the 2017 Budget.

They said the Government’s announcements on Thursday would not go nearly far enough in addressing concerns about overworked staff, access to new medicines, and access to mental health treatment.

The Government said total health spending would be a record $16.77 billion in 2017/18 – an increase of $879 million, with an overall increase of $3.9b over the next four years.

However, the record claim does not take inflation into account, and sidesteps the fact that almost half the spending will go toward mandated wage increases as part of the pay equity settlement.

Budget 2017: Health funding to record levels with $1.7b injection to DHBs 

A strained health sector is set to receive a record $3.9b shot in the arm, with $1.8b going to District Health Boards (DHBs) alone.

While DHBs funding is above the $1.7b figure Labour claims has been stripped out of the health service, the Council of Trade Unions is warning the devil is in the detail.

The increase to DHB funding has built on previous years – going up to $1.8b across four years, up from $1b last year. As a yearly figure, DHBs will get $439m, up from last year’s $400m.

 

An Ashburton farmer on vitriol and inconsistency in the water debate

David Clark, an Ashburton farmer, on hatred, vitriol, water tax, and farming’s contribution to the rural based economy:


It really saddens me to hear and read to the hatred and vitriol that been brought into this election campaign and I am very concerned at the rift between urban and rural and the disconnection between food production and our population.

We live in a nation of low unemployment, a world standard low cost health system, a no-fault accident compensation scheme, social welfare and pension provisions. We have an extraordinary high degree of food security in this country.

I live in a district whose main town has virtually the lowest unemployment in New Zealand. We have a vibrant, multi-cultural community that offers a wide range of employment opportunities and a very high level of community facilities. This is much transformed town that come out of the ‘80’s with its tail firmly between its legs.

Ashburton is a town that has been transformed in the last 25 years; this is a town that has been transformed by the development of irrigation, both in arable and dairying land uses. This district grows over half of the world’s carrot and radish seeds along with a wide variety of other crops exported worldwide. We produce 8% of the National Dairy production.

I am an arable farmer using irrigation to grow seed crops that are exported worldwide and grain and vegetable crops for domestic food consumption as well as finishing lambs for NZ butchers and export.

We first put irrigation on in ’98 and then in 2011 installed pivots to achieve more efficient water use and lower leaching than the older irrigators we had originally operated, at a cost of well over $1 million. We did that voluntarily because it increased our production, reduced our water use and significantly reduced our environmental footprint, however we could only justify that expenditure because our business was bankable.

Our business proudly supports local firms for the provision of goods and services and like our fellow farmers, most of the gross income is spent in the local community and profit, if any is largely reinvested in our business via local firms.

We operate our tractors on GPS guidance, running at 20mm accuracy to reduce overlap, our fertiliser spreader is GPS controlled and records all applications to a geo-spacial map, our combine weighs every kg of crop and overlays that data onto a map so we can track inputs and outputs accurately here as a result of investment in technology. It is investment in this technology that is achieving improvements in our environmental footprint.

On Friday night I attended a public meeting to hear Labour Water Spokesperson David Parker present his proposal for a tax on irrigation water. His presentation was headed by “How did we get to this?” and showed a series of photos from around New Zealand of environmental degradation caused by agriculture. The photos showed practices that are unacceptable for sure, no argument about that, but a selective portrayal of the worst of the worst in my view.

At not one point did I hear any positive comment of the actions of the farming community in NZ. But interestingly none of the photos depicted anything in Mid Canterbury, had nothing to do with arable agriculture and only one shot of Coe’s Ford after three years of drought had any connection to irrigation. There was only one photo of a degraded urban waterway and that was one that Federated Farmers had provided to Mr Parker earlier in the day and challenged him to display.

The purpose of the meeting and continuation of his presentation was to explain the Labour Party’s intention to impose a tax on irrigation in NZ with the intent of using the money raised to repair environmental damage.

The missing part of this logic was that his slide show did not depict irrigation as the cause of the degradation and this is confirmed by a report by Irrigation NZ that shows there is no correlation between areas of high irrigation development and regions with poor water quality in NZ.

So why tax irrigation? And Irrigation predominately in Canterbury and Otago that are regions with good water quality?

I listened to the proposal and wondered why, if using a public resource for private profit was so villainous, why would a food producer using irrigation be taxed, but a soft drink company abstracting water from the Auckland Municipal supply be exempt? I heard the argument popular in Ashburton about export water bottlers, but if the bottling company pumped from their own well, they would be captured by this tax, however if the plant connected onto the local Council reticulated supply, their export activity would be water-tax free.

I sat in the meeting heard a whole lot of vitriol and bitterness extended towards the agricultural community and I reflected on the fact that it was August 18th and that night our monthly bills would be paid and a not insignificant sum would be transferred to local businesses, local businesses that the attendees relied on for either direct or indirect employment or for taxation to fund their social payments. The receipts from our production re-cycle many times through our local community, and I’m pleased about that.

I reflected on the reality that in the last ten years a qualified tradesman in Ashburton could pretty much name their charge out rate or hourly wage on the back of rapid development, both urban and rural, largely, virtually entirely, whether direct or indirect, on the back of the productivity achieved irrigation in the Ashburton District.

This is a town where professionals view their income earning potential as better than in large cities, a town that offers an unemployment rate equal to the lowest in the country. A town with a man-made lake providing a housing location and leisure facility for all; a lake that is packed on any summer’s afternoon.

We have a town with a new art gallery; and a new aquatic centre costing $35m. A fantastic complex on which the paint was hardly dry and some around the town were grizzling that it needed the addition of a Hydro Slide for the children.

I listened to the anti-farming vitriol, and heard how they believed that we were stealing water and the town folk saw no benefit. Every dollar we earn is re-cycled into our local community, the employment generated by our business, direct or indirectly is significantly higher than it was in 1994 when we moved to a dryland sheep farm running 2,000 ewes.

A theme, which seems to be propagated at present by the Left is that Water Quality is a Rural problem, and therefore of Agricultural origin.

I accept that farming has an environmental footprint; no doubt, I also accept that practices need to and will change. In my view, technology and regulation will go hand in hand to solve those problems. Interestingly the three key policies that David Parker said he would implement are already in place by way of the Canterbury Land and Water Plan and he congratulated the National Government appointed Commissioners at ECan on introducing a robust water management framework.

But I don’t think that is the end of the debate. We regularly swim with our children in the river that bounds our farm; in fact I would happily drink it. I, along with thousands of others enjoy recreation in Lake Hood which is fed by the Ashburton River.
But the media and the Left would portray our rivers as dangerously polluted and degraded.

In comparison, I cannot swim in the Avon or Heathcote, nor the Christchurch Estuary which are subjected to storm water flows, overflows from the sewer network, seepage from broken sewers and heavy metals and petroleum contamination, which at times are several hundred times safe levels. Sure Christchurch has been devastated by the earthquakes, but the pollution of these urban waterways long pre-date the earthquake.

I would look forward to the day we can safely swim in the Avon adjacent to Oxford Terrace.

We hear much of the risks of the Ruataniwha Dam, but overlook the reality that the Hawke’s Bay’s two cities pump their sewerage out in the bay. Invercargill City is currently arguing in the Courts to renew its consent to discharge sewerage into four waterways including a lagoon.

In the Hutt Valley the sewerage system has contaminated an aquifer and will likely require the long term chlorination of the local water supply.

I grew up in South Auckland and enjoyed swimming at their most magnificent beaches during summer. The situation now is that one million cubic metres of sewerage and wastewater pours into the harbour every year regularly requiring the beaches to be closed to swimmers.

Two summers ago we stopped for lunch at a public picnic table looking out to Lion Rock at Piha. As our children walked across the mown grass their shoes turned green from the septic tank leachate oozing from the ground. Their shoes and the whole area stank; it sure didn’t do much for our appetite.

Yet the Left are silent on urban water quality issues, best not scare the voters with any suggestion they may need to fund the upgrade of their own effluent disposal system. It is far more politically expedient to poke the borax at farmers. We all have a footprint on this planet, and poor water quality has many causes and we are all responsible for the many solutions. Taxing only one group is not that solution.

Across New Zealand we are covering much of our elite food producing soils with the ongoing march of urban sprawl, permanently removing this land from production. Surely mankind cannot have more of a footprint that covering food producing soil with concrete.

In our world, we are challenged to produce food at the lowest price in the world. We do so by employing world leading technology to be some of the most efficient producers on the planet. Why would I say the cheapest in the world? Well, if we are not, the manufacturers and supermarkets will turn and import the ingredients quickity-split.

You see, as much as we talk about providence of supply and country of origin, animal welfare and environmental footprint, the brutal reality it that the vast bulk of consumers purchase the grocery item that the supermarket has a “special” tag attached to and couldn’t give two-toots as to where it came from or what standards it conformed to.

Our family has proudly farmed continuously in various parts of NZ for 140 years; I am but a caretaker and would hope that at least one of my children might take our family forward as food producers. It is in our very best interests to ensure that this property is in better condition for the next generation than when I began my stewardship.

I have listened to the hatred, I have read the posts on social media riping into farmers and it saddens me. This is a very nasty election campaign and I hope it is not a reflection on society as a whole.

It is a wet Sunday afternoon and I have stock to check on, best get my wet weather gear back on and get cracking.

David Clark.

As posted on Facebook

Bad health in Parliament

The Minister of Health has a very demanding job, but that doesn’t excuse being an arrogant ass.

It’s a serious issue. for many. A lot of people have good cause to have serious concerns about the delivery (or often non-delivery) of health care.

7. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Why did he say yesterday in the House, “I do not need to check with DHBs around that”, when asked if he was sure about his claim that every other district health board is currently “managing to deliver the operations that are needed”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): As I said in the House yesterday, I do not need to check with district health boards (DHBs) around that, because it is a fact that we are delivering 50,000 more operations than 8 years ago.

Dr David Clark: What assurance will he give that IT glitches, like the one that stopped medical professionals accessing patient letters this morning at Counties Manukau for 2½ hours, are not impacting on delivering the operations that are needed?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: That sounds deeply operational. I am surprised that at this time of the political cycle the member is not trying to raise his game to a more strategic and political level, but be that as it may; I will go back and ask a question about that. At the same time, I will be able to assure him that there is an extra $470 million of money that has gone into Counties Manukau, as well as a lift of 4,500 operations at Counties Manukau, an increase of 34 percent compared with 8 years ago when that crowd was running the system.

Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table a message to Counties Manukau DHB staff relating to clinical letters being unavailable to medical staff for 2½ hours due to an IT glitch this morning—to help the Minister out.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular letter to staff. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Dr David Clark: Does he believe there are enough hospital beds for patients to meet demand pressures when at the beginning of August, 2 weeks ago, Middlemore Hospital was at 116 percent full capacity in medical, surgical, adult rehabilitation, and health of older people wards, with 358 patients going through the emergency department in one day and 52 patients left sitting waiting for an in-patient bed?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Of course, history shows I always have to check that member’s numbers, but be that as it may, of course winter is a busy time in our hospitals. It has been an especially vicious flu season, despite 1 million vaccines being distributed, but the member will be really pleased to know that, actually, we do have the capacity in our DHBs to absorb this sort of situation.

Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will assist the Minister again. Actually, one of them was 128 percent over, and I have the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! If the member is now seeking to raise a point of order, then he does it. What is the point of order?

Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table an internal email detailing just how overfull the Middlemore Hospital was.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this particular internal email. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not; it can be tabled.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Dr DAVID CLARK: After 9 years in Government, what is he doing about the fact that the most recent figures show that once eye injections, skin lesion removals, and other quick operations traditionally done outside the hospital setting are removed from elective surgery figures, year on year fewer elective surgeries were being done in Counties Manukau?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I find that extremely doubtful. I am not sure where the member is going with this line of questioning. These are very important operations. If he removed every important operation they were doing at Counties Manukau, none would be being done. Across the system as a whole, even if you removed these very important eye injections and skin operations, some of which have to be done under general anaesthetic, we are still doing 30,000 more operations per year than when that crowd was managing it.

Dr David Clark: After 9 years, how much longer will people have to wait when he says “[T]here is no doubt that in health there is always more to do.”, when all the wards in one of our largest hospitals in New Zealand are fully staffed and are in need of close to 70 extra beds before patients arrive each day?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I think the member needs to just reread his question in his mind, because, frankly, the whole thing just does not make sense, but despite that what I would say is that 9 years on, across the hundreds of services that our health system provides you would struggle to find more than a handful that are not performing better than 9 years ago. There are 50,000 more operations, 150,000 more appointments, and 7,000 more doctors and nurses in the system, and, yes, maybe from time to time the IT system might go down for 2 hours at Counties Manukau. If he thinks that is bad, he should try the IT system in Parliament for comparison.

Dr David Clark: After 9 years, what does he say to clinicians across the country who are pleading for their hospitals to be given more operating theatres, more specialist doctors, and more funding; and is this the “health system that’s the envy of the world” that he envisaged?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member needs to start becoming a bit more positive about New Zealand and our health system, because, actually, it stacks up pretty well. I can tell you that if you look at the facilities we have built in health across the country—$1 billion of health rebuilds in Christchurch, West Coast is being done, Dunedin is next, 6,900 more doctors and nurses in our hospital system, 50,000 more operations, and 150,000 more specialist assessments. What I would say to those specialist doctors is that if this guy was ever running the health system, they would be in really big trouble.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need to go there.

Clark v Coleman on mental health funding

Labour’s health spokesperson David Clark versus Health Minister Jonathan Coleman in Question Time on Tuesday – this approach doesn’t help the mental health debate.


Health, Minister—Statements on Authors of People’s Mental Health Report

11. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement about the authors of the People’s Mental Health Report, “they’re very left-wing, anti-Government protesters”; if not, when will he apologise to the 500 people who wrote their own stories about experiences with the mental health system as part of the report?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, and my statement distinguished between the genuinely motivated story submitters and those ActionStation organisers with some political agenda. My quote was: “When you look at the people behind it, [you know] they’re very left-wing, anti-Government protesters.” As I say, ActionStation is back on Thursday with another, separate, anti-Government protest within the health area, and it could be back week after week with different topics. And just for the record, the ActionStation campaign coordinator is Mr Rick Zwaan, the Green Party’s Wellington election campaign coordinator, who used to work as Kennedy Graham’s researcher. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Supplementary question, Dr David Clark. [Interruption] Order! I have asked for less interjection from everybody so that Dr David Clark can ask his supplementary questions.

Dr David Clark: Has he read the report; if so, does he accept that its aim, as recorded in the executive summary, is to give space to the stories of what is really going on and going wrong in our mental health services?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, I have read the report, and especially the executive summary, the first line of which is a totally false premise. It talks about $140 million being cut from health funding. Well, actually, health funding has gone up by $300 million, which kind of proves the point that this is a political document.

Dr David Clark: Does he think the contribution of Robbie, who described support services as expensive and inadequate, and which, he says, “almost drove him to take his own life”, should be dismissed as the experience of a left-wing, anti-Government campaign?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have already answered that. Look, I think Robbie’s experience is worth listening to, but that does not change the fact that this report is produced by a group of people who are permanent anti-Government protesters. If the member does not believe me, go and look at their website. They will be back here, week after week, on subject after subject after subject, because they do not like the Government.

Dr David Clark: Does he think the contribution of Mike King, who “describes despair and hopelessness in the face of inadequate access to mental health services”, should be dismissed as the experience of a left-wing, anti-Government campaigner?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Look, I think the member needs to speak to Mrs King about how you think on your feet. I have answered that question already. The organisers are from ActionStation, and it is the permanent anti-Government, left-wing protester. Mr King is a very good man—Mike King, as opposed to Mrs Annette King—who is genuinely motivated, and I do not detract from his efforts. But, as I say, when you have people like Mr Rick Zwaan, who used to work for Kennedy Graham, and his friends from the Green Party, I think it is pretty obvious that this is political.

Dr David Clark: Does he think the contribution of “the many parents who submitted in regard of their children’s experience of huge waiting lists and lack of funding” should be dismissed as the experience of a left-wing, anti-Government campaign?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I point out to the member that he does not have to take all his supplementary questions, and if he cannot think of new material in response to the answers, he should just stop. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will deal with them one at a time.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. For two answers in a row, the Minister began by insulting the questioner rather than addressing the question. But the main substantive point is that despite the abuse in that last answer, he did not even address the question that was asked.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion—[Interruption] Order! I have been increasingly worried about the interchange between these two members and some of the answers that have been given on occasion by the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, but, on this occasion, when I consider the three questions that were asked, they were, effectively, the same question each time. Therefore, I can understand the frustration of the Minister in having answered the question the first time—he, effectively, gets the same question for the next two occasions.

Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question, in my view, was not addressed, because he had talked about ActionStation, which is the compiler of the report. I am asking a specific question about the comments from the parents within the report. That is a very specific and non – politically loaded question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would like to assist the member, but when I consider the answer that was given to, I think, the second supplementary question, that, effectively, was an answer that was then quite suitable for the rest of the questions the member asked, which were, effectively, just drawing on the experience of someone else within the book. The Minister was quite clear in saying he is not in any way critical of the experiences that were detailed in the report; he was certainly critical of the authors who put the report together.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, is the problem with that not that the Minister is trying to write this off as being a left-wing conspiracy—that is the essence of his answer? I think it is quite proper for members of the Opposition to put instance after instance after instance that paint a different picture. I think the Minister should have to address each of those instances, rather than just cast aside a political insult telling him he should learn how to ask different questions.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not agree that it was a political insult. The question was answered. There was no attack on the various contributions that were made within that report by the Minister. There was certainly a feeling that the authors were not of the same political persuasion as the Minister. That is acceptable.

Dr David Clark: To clarify—

Mr SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Would the member please resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! Would the member please resume his seat. I have ruled on that matter. The member is now starting to challenge the Chair and debate with the Chair. That in itself will lead to gross disorder in this House. Question No. 12—Melissa Lee—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] If I hear a further interjection from Carmel Sepuloni while I am in the Chair today, she will be leaving the Chamber. She has been consistently interjecting throughout question time in a very—[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to go now, I can make that arrangement very easily. I expect cooperation, particularly from whips, and the level of interjection that has been coming from Carmel Sepuloni throughout question time is unacceptable. When I rise to my feet, for those interjections still to continue is just not acceptable to this House.

 

More calls for mental health care inquiry

The Government seems to be digging it’s toes in after more calls for an inquiry into the state of mental health care in New Zealand.

The People’s Mental Health Report has revved things up again


The People’s Mental Health Review was an innovative and powerful project aimed at improving Aotearoa New Zealand’s public mental health system by letting those within the system share their stories.

Although everyone would hope to live in good mental health, the reality for one in six New Zealand adults is very different – and for them and their families, the expectation that they should be able to get help when they need it is vital.

Unfortunately, there are signs that the public mental health system designed to offer this help is in crisis.

Those most in need are experiencing long waiting times for support; the lack of resources is leading to an increased reliance on the use of isolation as a form of care; and the country is experiencing alarmingly high levels of suicide.

The Ministry of Health has rejected repeated calls for a Government review of the public mental health system, so we decided to run our own.

The People’s Mental Health Review was designed to allow anyone involved with mental health in New Zealand – from mental health professionals to those with either personal or family experience of the system – to tell their story. We launched it in September 2016 with zero advertising budget, and over the space of three months collected 500 stories.

This website, and the associated People’s Mental Health Report are the result of that project.

WHAT YOU WILL FIND HERE:

  • An online and downloadable report summarising the key themes raised in more than 500 stories submitted to the People’s Mental Health Review.
  • Four key recommendations for Government based on those themes.
  • An invitation to sign up to an open letter calling on the government to implement our recommendations.

Our hope is that the courage of the 500 people who submitted their stories to this process will be rewarded by seeing their concerns taken seriously, along with their hopes and recommendations for a better future for mental health services in Aotearoa New Zealand.


In response from Newstalk ZB: Opposition calling for Govt to hold inquiry into state of mental health system

Green MP Julie-Anne Genter…

…said the Government’s statements seem to fly in the face of the experience of people needing mental health care, and those working in the sector.

“It does seem that National is failing to address some very real problems in the mental health system.”

“We need to go to some lengths to investigate what all the different causes of the problems in the mental health system are, so that we can begin to address them in a way that’s really effective.”

Labour MP David Clark…

…said his party believes there should be a full review of the mental health sector.

“What we need desperately is a stock take. To put a stake in the ground and say ‘this is where things are, these are the things that can be fixed immediately’ and then to lay out a path to assist them that’s more responsive, where everyone can get the support that they need.

“We need somebody with a mandate to see over the service to check that things are improving and to make recommendations where they clearly haven’t been adequate,” said Clark.

But it looks like the Government isn’t interested.

The Government’s ruled out holding an inquiry into the mental health system, as recommended by the review, with the Health Minister’s office saying an extra $300 million is now being spent on the mental health sector.

Labour leader Andrew Little…

…said Kiwis had “huge concern” about publicly-funded mental health services.

The number of service users had increased by 60 per cent since the 2007/08 year, he said.

“The report says patients have told ‘a story of frustration at being unable to access mental health services.’ This is a tragic indictment of the Government’s underfunding with many submitters talking of despair and hopelessness.

“Recent reports of bed closures, staff assaults and suicides are signalling a growing crisis in mental health. The Government has to act and act now.”

Quiet Labour reshuffle

Andrew Little has have reshuffled his caucus’s speaking roles after David Shearer’s resignation and Annette King’s stepping down as deputy.

It seems that Jacinda Ardern’s elevation to deputy has not been matched with an elevation in speaking roles. She has been spokesperson for Justice, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Children, and Small Business Associate Spokesperson for Auckland Issues, none of which are heavy hitting roles.

Dunedin MP David Clark has been given King’s Health portfolio. Clark has been an MP since 2011 and was quickly rated as a good future prospect, but has not been prominent for some time. Health will be a step up and a big test for him.

According to NZ Herald Megan Woods has been bumped up from 10 to 5 in the pecking order.

Ardern has retained all her portfolios, including Children, Arts, Small Business and Justice.

She will also pick up the extra duties of deputy, although Little said she would not fill the usual mould of deputy and would instead help him campaign.

That starts immediately – Ardern will accompany Little on a series of public meetings this week, including in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay, and Auckland.

They are keeping these changes low key, with one Tweet but I can’t see anything yet on Labour’s or Little’s Facebook pages and the Labour website still lists King as deputy.

And their website home page does not list the reshuffle under ‘Latest’ nor under ‘Latest Headlines’. I had to hunt for information.

David Clark takes over health role

Dunedin North MP David Clark succeeds Annette King as Health Spokesperson as part of a minor reallocation of portfolios announced today by Labour Leader Andrew Little.

“David has been Associate Spokesperson for some time and has worked closely with Annette in this important portfolio so I’m very confident he will do well in this role.

“A Labour Government will reverse National’s health cuts and David’s skills and experience will be invaluable in communicating to the electorate how Labour will fix the health system.

“Stuart Nash takes over David’s Economic Development (including Regional Development) portfolio and David Parker picks up his Trade and Export Growth role.

“Megan Woods has been a strong performer in her Climate Change and Canterbury Issues roles and picks up Stuart’s Energy, Innovation and Science, Research and Development portfolios.”

Among other changes:

  • Peeni Henare gains State Owned Enterprises
  • Raymond Huo, who is expected to join the Labour caucus next week, takes over the Land Information Role
  • Adrian Rurawhe moves into the Shadow Cabinet
  • Annette King takes over State Services

“This completes changes triggered by Michael Wood’s election as Mt Roskill MP. Earlier this year Kris Faafoi was elected Senior Whip and Adrian Rurawhe, Caucus Secretary.

“The team I lead into this year’s election is strong and determined. We will be working hard to show New Zealanders that there is a better way that provides fairness and opportunity for all,” says Andrew Little.

Herald:

Raymond Huo is set to return to Parliament soon to replace Ardern on the list and will do the Land Information portfolio.

That gives him some work in the area of foreign buyers – Land Information includes the Overseas Investment Office, as well as data collected on foreign buyers by the Government.

Is this an attempt to dampen down the fallout from their controversial ‘Chinese sounding names’ debacle?

Clark on RM poll

The December Roy Morgan poll had National down 4.5to 45%, and Labour up 5.5 to 28%. These weren’t out of the ordinary movements but were predictably heralded by left wing blogs.

The Daily Blog: LATEST POLL SHOCK: National plummet to 45% Labour-Green jump to 43%

National have suffered a shock drop of 4.5% and Labour-Greens have jumped up 5.5% in the latest Roy Morgan Poll…

Typical exaggeration from Martyn Bradbury. It would be more shocking if RM polls stayed consistent.

The question as to whether or not National would retain its popularity post Key looks like it is getting answered.

That question hasn’t been answered at all by this poll.

The Standard: Nats take a plunge on the Roy Morgan roundabout

The erratic Roy Morgan poll has swung around again, Nats down 4.5% to 45% and Labour/ Greens up up 5.5% to 43%. Worryingly for the B-team, government confidence fell a “whopping” 10 points.

Less over the top but it was hardly a plunge, given that National was 42.5% in April,  43% in May and 41.5% in September (and swung to 48% in October and 49.5% in November).

This sort of over-excitement is  to be expected from them, just as silence from them is the norm if polls move against them.

But Labour MP David Clark posted this on Facebook:

It has been an unusual political year. I wonder how much conflict within National’s ranks will cost them in next year’s election? Events like the frightened withdrawal in Mt Albert, the challenge to Todd Barclay, Jonathan Coleman’s unquenched ambition, and English’s early missteps in getting rid of broadcasting and housing portfolios – may have contributed to the sharp drop in the first public poll. Or is it just that people everywhere have decided it is time for a change?

Is Clark just trying to spin a line to his fan club or does he actually believe any of this?

The RM polling was actually being done (November 28-December 11) during the period that John Key resigned, Bill English was chosen as Prime Minister. English appointed his ministers and advised National wouldn’t stand a candidate in Mt Albert until after the polling period had finished.

Relative to normal poll fluctuations it wasn’t a ‘sharp drop’. The RM movements for National this year have been:

+1.5, -2.5, -3.5, +3, -2.5, +10, -7, -4.5, +6.5, +1.5, -4.5

National’s RM average over the year is 46.3%, well within the margin of error, so they haven’t finished far off that.

I hope Clark was just spinning a line. Otherwise his ignorance is alarming.

And also quite sad is Clark, The Standard and Bradbury seeming to accept Labour closing the year on 28.5% without concern.

Labour have only twice this year topped this, with 29.5% in May and 33.5% in September. For the rest of the year they have received 27.5, 27, 28, 26, 28, 25.5, 26.5, 23.

Labour have averaged 27.4% over the year and have closed just above that, which is similar to where they were leading into the 2014 election where they dropped to their lowest result for a long time at 25.13%

It will take several polls in the new year (and more than just the swinging Roy Morgan) to get a reasonable idea how party support is going  are doing under English’s leadership.

To look like a strong lead party Labour really need to get up to 35-40% at least by next year’s election, otherwise at best they will have to share power with Greens and probably New Zealand First.

TPPA timeframe change “an attack on democracy”

MPs considering submissions on the TPPA have had the available time slashed from a month to five days. This is bad process and appalling PR from the Government on a very contentious issue.

The select committee public submission process is an important part of our democratic system, despite efforts by parties and activist groups to manipulate it.

It’s a common tactic to try and flood submissions with a particular stance and then to claim that it’s a measure of public opposition. Numbers of submissions are not a measure of opinion.

But the Government has poked a stick into a wasp nest by slashing the time Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee members have to consider submissions on the TPPA.

Radio NZ reports: New TPP timeframe an ‘attack on democracy’

MPs have been given just five days to consider hundreds of submissions on the controversial TPP trade deal after the timeframe was drastically cut from four weeks.

The select committee was originally give a month to write its report and present it back to Parliament.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee had been hearing submissions on the TPP from hundreds of people across the country and that will continue until the end of the month.

National MP Mark Mitchell, chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, strongly rejects the view that the timeframe undermines the democratic process and says there will be plenty of time for robust debate.

But a last minute slashing of time to consider submissions is an awful look – what did key say about National’s need to avoid appearing arrogant this term?

Opposition MPs are understandably up in arms.

But opposition members on the committee say they were told yesterday the government wanted to cut down the time they had to analyse the submissions, so the legislation could get through by the end of the year.

They said they were stunned by the news and felt angry and frustrated.

Labour MP David Clark…

…said he wouldn’t be surprised if the people who made submissions felt the same way.

“Submitters will be horrified if they learnt that the committee is curtailing a process of consideration of the very serious issues they have raised,” he said.

“It seems very reasonable to expect them to be frustrated and to question whether there is integrity in the process at all.”

It’s fair to question motives and integrity.

Green MP Kennedy Graham…

…said he and other opposition MPs on the committee had thought the original timeframe of a month to write the report was too short.

“It’s just a slap of indifference and dismissal of some very sincere, very capable and hard-working New Zealand people,” he said.

“It shows it up for what it is – which is essentially a roadshow with a predetermined end.”

It gives opponents plenty of cause to ridicule the consultation process as a sham.

New Zealand First MP Fletcher Tabuteau…

…said what made it worse was that the tight deadline meant the draft report would be written before the committee had finished hearing all the submissions.

The TPP has been a farcical process from the beginning, he said.

“The whole negotiation had been undertaken in secret to start with. The submission time has been months in contrast to the six years it has to write [the TPP deal],” Mr Tabuteau said.

“This is clearly an attack on democracy – it’s unacceptable.”

It looks unacceptable to me.

This is likely to stir up the TPPA opponents yet again and give them a good reason to stir up protests again.

Is this just arrogant abuse of the democratic process, or is the Government deliberately stirring up anti-TPPA protest?

Whether the latter is their intent or not it is likely to be the outcome.

Labour’s first TPPA question

Labour asked their first question of the year in Parliament yesterday. It was question 9, asked by David Clark, while both Andrew Little and John Key were not in Parliament (they never are on Thursdays).

Paul Goldsmith answered on behalf of the Minister of Trade, so it was hardly a clash of heavy hitters from either party.

There were some contentious points of order, plus a patsy question from National MP Joanna Hayes.

Amongst the exchanges:

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Buried near the end of the week’s question list it didn’t do much to advance debate on the TPPA.

Draft transcript:

[Sitting date: 18 February 2016. Volume:711;Page:10. Text is subject to correction.]

9. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Trade: Did his predecessor Hon Tim Groser ask MFAT officials negotiating the TPP agreement to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to ban the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreign speculators?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs)on behalf of the Minister of Trade: No. He asked them to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners, which, I might add, was one of Labour’s bottom lines.

Dr David Clark: Why did Australia reserve the right to ban non-resident foreign speculators from its housing market, and why did he not do the same?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Other countries have negotiated based on their own domestic policy positions, which I have no responsibility for. The Government has no policy to outright ban foreigners investing in New Zealand, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) maintains our current approval requirements for foreign investments in sensitive land, and, as I said in my primary response, the Government has preserved the right for future Governments to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners.

Dr David Clark: Why did New Zealand agree to Singapore reserving the right to impose a ban on the purchase of housing by foreign speculators when Singapore did not already have a ban?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do not have those details to hand, but what I can say is that this Government has, in the interests of all New Zealanders, preserved the right of the Government to restrict the purchase of residential land, and that is a good deal for all New Zealanders.

Dr David Clark: To assist the order of the House, I seek leave to table a document stating that Singapore reserves the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the—[Interruption] Order! I need the source of the document and the date.

Dr David Clark: It is the relevant annexe in the many thousands of pages of the agreement on the Table—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now trifling with the Chair. If it has been tabled in the House it is available to all members. [Interruption] Order! It creates disorder when members then seek, for political purposes, to table something that is already freely available to all members of the House. That information was tabled at the beginning of last week. It is available, and to seek to table it again only creates disorder. I will not put up with it.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Dr—ah—Chris Hipkins.

Chris Hipkins: Not yet—maybe one day. The point of order that I want to raise with you is that I think the document in question is the document there on the Table, all of the many thousands of pages of it. I think that the question becomes: where such a large volume of information is available and where there is contested debate about a particular part of it, that is not necessarily going to be available—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need any assistance at all. I can see the document from here. To suggest that it is unavailable to members once it has been tabled in this House is not fact. It is available. The question the member might legitimately ask is whether members have an interest to go and look at it. That becomes the members’ business, but the information that is already tabled in the House is already available, and to seek to re-table it is simply using the point of tabling documents for a political purpose. That is not what they are designed for. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Does he accept that Singapore could “adopt any measure affecting real estate”?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Again, I do not have those details to hand, but I am focused on New Zealand’s focus, which is to make sure that we have the ability to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners. And I might add that that was one of the bottom lines of the Labour Party.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we have just had an illustration of the difficulty of having very large documents tabled in the House. If a Minister can say they do not have the information available and you have said that the information is available, how can it be an acceptable answer but not acceptable to table the material?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The question was asking the Minister whether he could confirm something about the particular ability of Singapore to do something. That answer will not be contained in that document at all. The statement about what Singapore has reserved is in the document—quite a different matter.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the point raised by Chris Hipkins adds to the discussion in any way whatsoever. The Minister was asked for some information about another country entirely. I would prefer him to stand and say he does not have that information rather than attempt to answer and end up giving an answer that he has to come back and correct. The fact is that the information has been available. The further tabling of it would not assist in that answer in any way whatsoever. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Can I speak to the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have dealt with it. I have ruled on it.

Dr David Clark: Does the Minister believe that a competent Minister of Trade would know whether the Singaporeans have reserved for themselves the right to ban New Zealanders from purchasing residential land?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: What I believe is that a competent spokesman on trade would believe in trade.

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: This Government welcomes wide-ranging discussion on the TPP, and that is what we will be doing over the rest of this year. We believe that this is a great deal for this country and that is why we are supporting it.

Joanne Hayes: Can the Minister confirm whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership meets essential bottom-line requirements to protect New Zealand’s interests?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Dr David Clark: Has the Minister seen reports from 2013 when Labour announced its policy on banning non-resident foreign buyers and subsequent reports when it introduced its bottom lines that clearly indicate that the intention was to ban non-resident foreign speculators with that policy?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am not responsible for Labour policy, but what I can say is that Labour policy was to restrict, and that is what this Government has set out to do.