Minister of Health David Clark has this morning effectively confirmed to New Zealanders that Labour’s promised reduction to GP fees will not occur on 1 July 2018 as they promised, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Labour campaigned on lowering the fee cap for Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) practices from $18 to $8 and to $2 for teens – as increasing funding for all practices that lowered their fees by $10 per visit. More than $1 billion was allocated in their Fiscal Plan to fund this promise,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“But Dr Clark has now confirmed that this won’t take place from 1 July, telling TVNZ’s Q&A this morning that ‘we’re going to have to phase some of these initiatives, I’m not going to skate around that’.
“That to me is a clear admission that the promise Labour made to New Zealanders will be broken.
“If, as the Health Minister has claimed, he is absolutely committed to the principle of bringing down the cost of going to the GP and the funds were allocated in their Fiscal Plan, why is it now not happening? The answer is that the Government has considerably over-promised and is now backtracking by breaking a key campaign promise.
“The Prime Minister recently stated the issues at Middlemore Hospital are emblematic. I agree – emblematic of a Government that has manufactured a crisis that doesn’t exist in order to mask its broken promises.
“The Minister’s record now includes the manufactured Middlemore crisis, raising massive expectations for nurse pay increases he won’t now meet, the debacle of the air ambulance tender, inertia and an unnecessary inquiry in Mental Health and now a billion dollar broken promise. This is a woeful litany after just six months in office.”
Labour looks set to break its election promise to lower the cost of GP visits by $10, leaving New Zealanders further out of pocket and GP practices at risk of closure, National’s Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Both National and Labour promised during the election to lower the cost of GP visits.
“But Labour is already preparing to break its promise to lower the fee cap for Very Low Cost Access (VLCA) practices from $18 to $8 and to $2 for teens – as well as its pledge to increase funding for all practices that lowered their fees by $10 per visit.
“All this was meant to happen from 1 July but it now appears yet another victim of the Government’s inability to manage the books, it’s poor spending decisions and its continued raid on the back pockets of New Zealanders.
“Sources in the GP community advise me that the pledges will at best be delayed, and at worst canned altogether, pending a review – yes, yet another Government working group - of primary health funding.
“New Zealand Doctor also reported last week that some practices believed the funding changes would threaten their viability and some might have to close.
“Regardless of the reasons for the delay, the Government made an unequivocal commitment to reduce the cost of GP fees for New Zealanders.
“Health Minister David Clark is apparently still working through the package of initiatives as part of the Budget process but that’s not good enough. This was a firm promise to New Zealanders when Labour was trying to get into Government – but now in power it’s trying to renege.
“The Prime Minister made much of the policy when she made the announcement at Mangere last year, saying the fees reduction would be implemented while Labour undertook a review of primary care, not after it.
“She stated the Labour Party had been working on the policy for some time but clearly not long enough for them to deliver on their promise or to effectively engage the GP community.
“After just six months the list of u-turns, broken promises and bad decisions made by this floundering Government is growing by the day, and raising real concerns.
“This likely backtrack looks to be another example of a policy that was poorly thought through or costed. GP practices and New Zealanders deserve to know what the Government’s real intentions are.”
Documents provided to the Minister of Health David Clark as released by media today raise serious questions about whether the Minister misled New Zealanders about his knowledge of problems at Middlemore Hospital.
“Given these documents, it is simply not believable for the Minister to claim not to have been briefed by the DHB about wider building issues after he visited Middlemore in early March to inspect the Scott Building,” National Party Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Minister of Health has been asked questions about his knowledge of the problems at Middlemore for some time now and these documents indicate that he would have known more than he’s admitted.
“These documents clearly indicate that the Minister was briefed as early as October and not only took no action at that time but claimed not to have been informed of the issues.
“This raises serious questions of whether the Minister has misled the media, Parliament and the public, and I think they are owed an urgent explanation.”
Health Minister David Clark needs to walk the talk and work with DHBs to ensure they can successfully negotiate a pay increase with nurses before strike action is taken, National’s Health Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“It comes as no surprise that the New Zealand Nurses Organisation has rejected the DHBs’ offer of a 2 per cent pay increase given the very high expectations created by this Government.
“Labour spent years talking about how the health sector was underfunded and as a result created the expectation that nurses were in for a big bump in their wages.
“Yet the first thing it does when it comes into Government is throw $2.8 billion at tertiary students leaving little money to invest in health and other important areas.
“Health Minister David Clark must at the very least make sure that DHBs have the confidence to make a higher offer to nurses by signalling future funding.
“And he must do it quickly, before nurses go on strike for the first time in decades. Strike action just as we’re approaching winter would cripple our health system and put lives at risk.
“This is a mess created by the Government and an example of the dangers of over promising and under delivering.
“It’s simply not good enough for the Government to sit on the sidelines and leave it to the DHBs to clean up its mess.”
The Prime Minister must condemn the latest threatening behaviour of the RMTU in the Lyttelton Port strike, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“A union organiser has been delivering fliers around Christchurch with the name and address of one of the port’s board members on them,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“This is a clear attempt to get people to approach that person personally and place pressure on them to fold in behind the strikers.
“It’s threatening thuggish behaviour and it needs to be condemned and stopped.
“This is not the 1930s. It’s the 21st century and bully boy tactics should be long gone.
“It’s obvious that the union thinks it can get away with this sort of behaviour under a Labour Government. The Prime Minister needs to be make it clear they can’t.
“Jacinda Ardern and her Minister Iain Lees-Galloway need to publicly denounce this approach and make sure that these sorts of ugly tactics have no place in 21st century industrial relations.
“We can have robust negotiations about pay and conditions without encouraging personal attacks and abuse.”
Time is running out for employers to submit on Labour’s first sweeping changes to employment law, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Business owners and managers only have until Easter to submit on these proposals which will result in significantly increased powers for unions in the workplace,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The changes will create all sorts of problems for small and medium sized business owners. They tilt the playing field in favour of unions with new requirements to conclude bargaining, keep paying in full those on partial strikes, and requiring employers in an industry to bargain together if that’s what the union wants.
“All up there are at least 10 union-friendly changes that will only slow down job and wage growth. And that’s before we get to the severe new restrictions on 90 day trials.
“We have added 245,000 jobs in this country over the last two calendar years and these changes fly in the face of that reality.”
Mr Woodhouse says employers and workers can get help with their submission by going to the www.protectnzjobs.co.nz.
“There is a submission form which clearly lays out the changes so submitters can select which of them they most oppose.
“I’m surprised how many people I talk to who still aren’t aware of these changes. The Protect NZ Jobs website is an easy way to get up to speed quickly, so you don’t wake up later and find out it has all already happened.
“The Government still hasn’t explained why these changes make any sense for the New Zealand economy, workers or employers.
“That’s because there is absolutely no justification beyond being a simple payoff for Labour’s union supporters at the expense of everyone else.
“New Zealanders need to reject Labour’s pro-union law changes now or there will be even more harmful reforms later in the year, including the ability of the Government to dictate pay rates across entire industries.”
Make your submission here.
The unions are clearly taking the new Labour-led Government for a ride with yet another strike underway today led by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, National Party MPs Michael Woodhouse and Jami-Lee Ross say.
“We are seeing another union power grab with strike action at Lyttelton Port from midnight last night. The culprit is again the Rail and Maritime Transport Union, the same Union behind the extremely disruptive train and bus strikes in Auckland,” Workplace Relations Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“This strike has the potential to be particularly significant, with warnings that it may shut down the port and that if it continues past a week, shortages of some critical supplies will begin to occur affecting thousands of people and businesses.
“This is not good enough. With union demands increasing at an alarming rate, these strikes are starting to become more common. This is now the fifth major strike within the first four months of a Labour-led Government.
“The unions know that the more disruption they cause, the more likely they are to force the Government to side with their excessive demands.
“I doubt this is the last time our transport industries will be held to ransom by unions. New Zealanders who rely on coastal transport need certainty of service, not strikes,” National Party Transport Spokesperson Jami-Lee Ross says.
“The transport sector is bearing the brunt of unions flexing their muscles with the new Government.
“Whether it’s commuters or exporters, they are all being inconvenienced by the Rail and Maritime Transport Union’s actions.
“Strike action will only get worse when Labour’s pro-union law changes take effect later this year,” Mr Woodhouse says.
The Government's housing stocktake report released today adds no new knowledge or solutions and simply repeats the already well-publicised views of the authors, National’s Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The proposals are largely the ones the previous Government already had underway, however the Government has also stopped approvals for Special Housing Areas and cancelled the Te Ture Whenua land reforms,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The only new programme is their flagship KiwiBuild policy, but advice from officials released last week shows it is unlikely to deliver more than 4,000 additional houses over the first three years – only a quarter of what the Minister has promised.
“In fact the Reserve Bank in its Monetary Policy Statement last week said it expected house building activity to grow more slowly in the next couple of years than it has in the last couple of years.
“The Government has created an expectation that thousands of New Zealanders are going to get access to a significantly subsidised first home and there's no sign that that's going to happen.
“The solution to housing pressures is simply to get more houses built.
“We are in the biggest residential boom in New Zealand’s history with more than 30,000 houses a year being built, and house prices are now flat to falling.
“The previous National Government had 102,000 houses forecast to be built over the next three years. The new Government needs to stop writing reports and get on and build on that.”
Official advice shows that in spite of claiming a ‘housing crisis’ the Government’s proposed solution will take years to ramp up, and even then around half its contribution will be instead of private sector builds, National’s Housing spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“Despite Mr Twyford’s big promises to build 100,000 houses over the next ten years, the moment he got into Government that target was slashed to 16,000 over the first three years and now he’s only going to achieve to half of that,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The Labour Party spent years in Opposition whipping up a frenzy over a ‘housing crisis’ it claimed needed an immediate fix and that it had the magic bullet – its flagship Kiwibuild policy.
“MBIE advice released under the OIA states that Kiwibuild will build only 8,000 houses over the next three years while Treasury advice shows that most were either going to be built anyway through the existing Crown building programme or purchased by the Government from existing developments.
“On top of that, the Reserve Bank has already stated that it expects ‘around half of the proposed increase will be offset by a reduction in private sector activity’. And today, the Reserve Bank has pushed off into the future any positive impact of the KiwiBuild policy and is actually expecting residential house building to grow more slowly than it has been over the next couple of years.
“So if we’re being generous, we’re talking an extra 1,333 houses a year over the next three years, most of which were going to happen anyway. That’s this Government’s much ballyhooed solution to the ‘housing crisis’?
“By contrast, the housing policies implemented by National were supporting the building of 102,000 houses in the same time frame. That’s an extraordinarily telling difference.
“Like the rest of his Government, Mr Twyford’s made huge promises he simply can’t back up and he’s being caught out as his Government is forced to reveal officials’ scathing assessment of his policy.
“We are already building more than 30,000 houses a year, as part of the biggest residential boom in New Zealand’s history and house prices are now flat to falling as a result.
“Through measures like ensuring access to tradespeople, building the infrastructure and that land and funding is readily available for development, we have made real progress and this Government has done next to nothing to add to that.”
The Government’s senseless axing of the transfer of state houses to community housing providers is another example of its blinkered and backward approach, National Party Social Housing Spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“The Government’s announcement today that it will cancel the ability for community housing providers to take on state houses, improve services to tenants and grow the amount of housing available, is a major step backwards.
“All it means is vulnerable New Zealanders miss out on the opportunity to have more people providing more houses and better services for tenants.
“Working with social housing providers also attracts further investment, above the Crown’s contribution. Labour’s ideological position will therefore reduce social housing supply and place yet more pressure on its over-burdened books.
“In Christchurch for example, the now-axed agreement to take over up to 2500 state houses included a requirement for the successful provider to add a further 150 properties – growing the total number of social houses with no further capital cost to the Crown.
“Tenants don’t care whether their landlord is the Government or a community housing provider. It’s just another example of Labour thinking only the Government can provide services to New Zealanders.
“Doing what we have done for decades doesn’t work – that’s why the previous Government was so focused on innovating and doing things better.
“Community housing providers know their local communities and neighbourhoods better and they can focus on individual tenants and their needs.
“This Government’s antagonistic approach to the private sector is taking New Zealand backwards. It needs to stop arrogantly believing the Government is the only one with the answers and work with New Zealanders who are improving the lives of our vulnerable.”