Today the Government has decriminalised marijuana by stealth with the passing of its medicinal cannabis scheme despite National having a comprehensive plan to create a sensible regime right now, National’s associate Health spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“The Government’s Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill which has passed today allows the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public and does not provide the details or framework for a permanent medicinal cannabis scheme.
“This is lazy and dangerous – this Government is simply ticking the 100-day box that they were forced to by the Greens and it is permitting the smoking of drugs in our communities.
“We support medicinal cannabis but strongly oppose the smoking of loose leaf cannabis in public. Smoked loose leaf is not a medicine.
“That’s why we did the work and created a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that widened access to medicinal cannabis and provided a framework for licensing high-quality domestic production under sensible and achievable regulations.
“We offered to share our regime with the Government but egos got in the way and we were turned down. Now the Government has created a situation where it will essentially be legal to smoke loose leaf in public. The upcoming referendum is the place for a cannabis legalisation discussion, not this amendment Bill.
“If our police weren’t already on the receiving end of the Government’s soft on crime attitude and the cuts to regional police stations it now has to deal with the shambolic mixed messaging from this law.
“Our regime was created using international advice and is backed by national and international stakeholders and local industry. Health professionals should decide what medical conditions are suitable for medical cannabis and not politicians like in this Bill.
“A survey released last week showed that 72 per cent of adults think that doctors should decide, on a patient by patient basis, who should access medicinal cannabis products and that 73 per cent think that it should be treated the same as any other medicine.
“Instead the Government’s given none of this any thought and it’s sneaking through the decriminalisation of marijuana without any care for the consequences.”
A specialist who raised concerns about the rising meningococcal infections in May this year said at the time ‘our Ministry of Health has been very quick to sit on their thumbs… I fear we are going to see a lot of deaths this winter’, National’s associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The warning was given in May this year at the Regional Royal New Zealand College of GPs Conference in Northland by a specialist doctor speaking at the conference.
“Tragically that’s exactly what went on to happen and it’s inappropriate for the Health Minister David Clark to continue praising the ‘swift response to the declaration of the outbreak in November’.
“It is especially inappropriate given that it has become clear that outbreak status was reached in October and there were many red flags as far back as May.
“The delay in acting on the outbreak may mean that the response won’t be enough for the needs of the community. It is not currently clear that there are enough vaccines for Northland children in the target groups.
“This is a cause for concern on its own, but coupled with the fact that the outbreak could spread to other communities means that the Health Minister must take this issue much more seriously.
“The DHB has commented that ‘the only effective way to manage this outbreak is with a vaccine programme’ and yet the Minister continues to dodge questions in Parliament claiming that a response of 20,000 vaccines is enough.
“Parents and members of the community are concerned and the Minister is doing nothing to convince them that the response is adequate. The Minister needs to listen to the pleas for information and action and properly respond to this deadly outbreak.”
National have supported the second reading of the Medicinal Cannabis Bill today with future support requiring the Government to accept a number of changes proposed by the National Party, National MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti says.
“National voted in favour of this Bill today, outlining that National’s future support depends on the Government’s acceptance of a number of Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) that I will introduce during the committee stage.
“This Bill, in its current form is loose and unworkable and has been widely criticised by the medical community, stakeholders and the wider public. Ridiculously, the Bill would make it legal for people with a terminal illness to possess and use cannabis but illegal for people to supply it to them.
“Our SOPs will significantly improve this Bill and are based on the significant work that I have done on my Members’ Bill. We want to that ensure New Zealanders in need can access high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering.
“The changes we are seeking would improve access and affordability including fast tracking provisional MedSafe consenting of new medicinal cannabis medicines and pharmacist dispensing as well as creating a workable licencing regime.
“We would not support the Bill permitting the smoking of loose leaf cannabis and have concerns for any medical conditions that are included in the Bill. This should be left to experts and not politicians under the guise of medical need.
“If the Government won’t work with National on making improvements to the Bill we will not able to support the Bill at any further stages. The Government’s bill is poorly designed, rushed legislation which the media has called ‘legislative laziness’ and raises more questions than answers.
“We want to work with the Government to fix this Bill to ensure that medicinal cannabis products are made available to New Zealanders who need them with an appropriate regime in place in a fraction of the time of their current plan.”
The Health Minister has today dismissed the deaths from the current meningococcal outbreak and categorised the outbreak as a ‘slight rise’ in the disease, National’s associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The Minister tried to dismiss the deaths from the current outbreak by saying ‘people have died of meningococcal disease… that happens.’ This is a callous and absolutely appalling description of a fatal disease which has caused devastation in a number of communities.
“The meningococcal outbreak that the Minister has described as a ‘slight rise’ in cases was identified in the Ministry of Health’s own immunisation update as an outbreak as early as May this year.
“That’s six months before the official notice was released. This gave the Government significant time to request and begin a response and yet by the Minister’s own admission he wasn’t even aware of the response till last week.
“Outbreaks don’t happen overnight and it is very clear that there were warnings about this for months before anything was done by the Minister. In fact, two of the deaths in Northland occurred after May, when the Ministry was signalling the outbreak.
“David Clark himself said in Parliament yesterday that he has ‘been made aware over time of concern around meningococcal W’ and yet he chose not to act. Given the seriousness of the disease, he should have taken action months earlier.
“The Ministry of Health document also specifically mentions that the two meningococcal vaccines available in New Zealand that protect against the W strain are not publicly funded for most people – therefore highlighting, back in May, that supplies would difficult to source compared to a publically funded vaccine.
“All of this adds up to the fact that the Health Minister should have known and actioned a response to this much sooner. He must come clean on what he knew, and when and why he didn’t request a response to this sooner so the public can judge how badly he has botched the handling of this fatal outbreak.”
The Health Minister David Clark must come clean on the timeline of events that led to his Governments’ inadequate and extremely delayed response to the fatal meningococcal outbreak, National’s associate Health spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“After the discovery of data that has been publically available for months showing significant increases in life-threatening meningococcal cases it defies belief that the Minister did not take steps to begin a response to this fatal outbreak sooner.
“The Minister claimed in Parliament today that he only knew about the outbreak last week, despite data from his Ministry’s monthly Public Health Surveillance reporting showing meningococcal cases doubling in the first few months of this year.
“Nationwide, cases went from four in January this year to ten in February, then to more than twenty cases in March, with nearly thirty cases in April and almost forty cases in May. By May there was already nearly double the cases than in 2017 for the same time period. Initially there were a range of meningococcal strains, but in April, half of the cases were identified as MenW and in May 100 per cent of the new cases were the MenW strain.
“The evidence that should have caused concern was there in May. We also now know from an internal memo that the Northland DHB has been ‘strongly encouraging the Ministry of Health for some months’ to respond to the increase in cases. This is simply not good enough.
“How can the Minister be so out of touch that he’s unaware of significant occurrences of deadly diseases? The safety of the public is at risk and instead of prioritising an appropriate response the Minister has attempting to justify his inaction based on the definition of an outbreak.
“I am concerned with the effectiveness of the school-based rollout because the majority of the target group are senior students who have already left for the year and primary students are also almost done. I am also concerned for other neighbouring DHBs where we know other cases have occurred. We aren’t aware of any plan for them at this time.
“The management of this serious threat to public health has been abysmal thus far and the public deserves to know what the Minister knew and when and how he is going to manage this to avoid further deaths.”
The Government’s cut-price plans for major Northland highways shows it’s priority is pet projects like central Auckland trams and is leaving Northland behind, MPs for Rodney, Whangarei and Northland Mark Mitchell, Dr Shane Reti and Matt King say.
“The Penlink project would provide an alternative route between the Whangaparoa Peninsula and State Highway 1 at Redvale. With only one way out of the Whangaparoa Peninsula this road is not only a safety issue, but also vital for the overall network,” Mr Mitchell says.
“This is an important project that the Government has wrongly thrown into uncertainty.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is choosing to axe or down-grade projects that, had they gone ahead, would have made a real difference to our community, as well as the wider Northland transport network.”
“The previous National Government committed to delivering a full four-lane motorway from Auckland to Whangarei. This was a vital project for Northland on a road that links us to the rest of New Zealand and built on our previous Road of National Significance between Puhoi to Warkworth,” Dr Reti says
“Part of this project, from Whangarei to Te Hana, was forced to be put under re-evaluation by NZTA following the Government’s cuts to highway funding. NZTA has since announced that instead of a reliable four-lane highway, only short term safety improvements are being made.
“It’s not good enough. State Highway 1 from Whangarei to Marsden is the deadliest Police Hot Spot road in New Zealand. Four lanes will improve the safety profile of this deadly stretch of road.”
“This is a project desperately needed in the north and, if built, would provide a huge boost to the economy and employment of our region. The Northland region has significant potential which is mostly dependent on State Highway 1,” Mr King says.
“The four-lane motorway would be a game changer for Northland by providing a safer, more reliable and resilient route for local communities, visitors and freight. It will be the gateway to the north.
“But by moving billions of dollars out of state highway funding for trams in central Auckland, the Government is showing its true colours. This tram plan is a sham. Northland deserves better.”
Health Minister David Clark must take responsibility after the release of a damning report by AuditNZ, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The report shows the Ministry of Health didn’t properly manage conflicts of interest when it reviewed the failing $90 million National Oracle IT Solution.
“The Health Minister’s shambolic handling of the National Oracle IT Solution (NOS) calls into question his leadership and his credibility.
“David Clark has yet to take responsibility for the fact the review he commissioned and then subsequently tried to bury showed there is ’little evidence’ conflicts of interest were considered, and management of the risk of conflicts of interest in the initial report was ‘wholly inadequate’.
“This comes from the Office of the Auditor General’s report into conflicts of interest that Deloitte told the minister 'our preference is that this information is not made public’.
“The report contains a battery of significant failings including:
- There is little evidence that the Ministry fully considered the conflict of interest
- The conflict of interest was poorly managed by the Ministry
- Communications around the conflict were wholly inadequate
- The perception by others Deloitte favoured its own interests at the very least represented a perception of conflict of interest
“The AuditNZ report concludes with five areas where the engagement of Deloitte did not demonstrate good practice and a raft of recommendations. It now comes as no surprise that David Clark played political games and tried to avoid releasing the AuditNZ report.
“David Clark must account for this incompetence, misuse of $150,000 of taxpayer money and subsequent attempt to hide the truth.
“It is also important to note that the $150,000 is just for the conflicted Deloitte report and not the cost of the AuditNZ review of the conflicted Deloitte report – which David Clark is refusing to reveal.
“David Clark is clearly not up to the task. We support the objectives of the National Oracle Solution and this crucial review which informs how many millions Cabinet will need to inject into the Oracle project now needs to be redone, and overseen by someone other than the Health Minister.”
In light of recent information that Lakes DHB is subject to 1.7 million cyberattacks per day Health Minister David Clark must ensure the sector and the public that something is being done to keep their data safe, National’s spokesperson for Data and Cybersecurity Dr Shane Reti says.
“Recently, a spokesperson from the David Clark’s office, told a Newshub reporter that Bay of Plenty DHB being subject to 800,000 cyberattacks per day wasn’t at a threshold that he would appear on camera to address these concerns.
“Information revealed in Parliament today shows Lakes DHB to be even worse than Bay of Plenty DHB at 1.7 million attacks per day that is, 20 times per second.
“In the House today when the Minister was asked whether the new information shows significantly more attacks on another DHB, firstly he didn’t know who the DHB was and secondly he naively replied that this only becomes a problem when there is a breach. This is not the right way to address cybersecurity issues.
“As a previous lecturer on cybersecurity I can tell him for free that if he does not act to support DHBs with their cybersecurity one of these attackers will eventually get through. Just one breach could expose New Zealanders private information and potentially wreak havoc in the health sector.
“His repeated dismissal of DHB cybersecurity concerns begs the question, what damage has to be done and what data has to be stolen or ransomed before he acts?
“The daily cyberattacks on Lakes DHB almost equals the number of cyberattacks on the whole Ministry of Health over a whole week. This shows that attackers are targeting smaller DHBs because they may lack vital infrastructure or have less cybersecurity support.
“National are concerned with cybersecurity and are seeking an urgent stocktake of DHB cybersecurity by the independent Government agency CertNZ.
“CertNZ was set up by the previous National Government as a clear commitment to the cybersecurity of New Zealanders and their data.”
Official documents have revealed there are up to 800,000 cyberattacks a day on the Bay of Plenty DHB, despite the Health Minister dismissing cybersecurity concerns in general as ‘hypothetical’, National’s Data and Cybersecurity spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“And as the UK deals with the aftermath of a serious cyber-attack, highlighting the vulnerability of individual health data, Health Minister David Clark’s dismissive approach to cyber security in New Zealand is a real concern.
“Official information obtained by the National Party shows just how prolific these cyber-attacks are, with most of the 800,000 daily attacks on the Bay of Plenty DHB originating in Russia and the Ukraine.
“In light of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack that crippled the National Health System in the UK it is imperative that our DHBs are fully equipped to handle and protect the important data that they hold.
“Bay of Plenty DHB for example has been cyberattacked three times more per week than the whole Ministry of Health. It had to put in corrective measures to block the attacks because there were so many that the DHB audit log was filling up every 30 days.
“Dr Clark has also downplayed cybersecurity issues by saying he won’t deal in hypotheticals. There is nothing hypothetical about our DHBs being under cyberattack– it is clearly occurring and at an alarming rate.
“This shows a lack of leadership. The Minister needs to undertake an urgent cybersecurity stocktake across all DHBs and dramatically improve security measures and monitoring.
“CertNZ is well placed to do that work. It was established by the National Government as a first response cybersecurity centre for collating, analysing and advising members of the public, business and the government on cybersecurity matters.
“The Health Minister needs to take issues of cybersecurity in our DHBs seriously and act to ensure that our DHBs, the systems that they run and the data that they hold is safe.”
A release of official documents confirms the Ardern-Peters Government does not consider further research into farmer suicide to be a high priority, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Documents relating to a funding application for Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) show how officials successfully persuaded the Minister of Health David Clark and the Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor that further investment into farm related suicide research is not a priority at this stage,” Dr Reti says.
"This astounding admission continues the Government’s dismissive attitude towards rural mental health – further compounded by the refusal to commit to a school of rural health.
"A statement like this in the context of the current Mycoplasma Bovis incursion defies belief. That the Government would pull funding and deprioritise farmer suicide research at this time is shocking.
“It's all very well to hold a general inquiry into mental health, but the rural community has specific needs now – and RHAANZ was geared up to deliver to those needs.
“RHAANZ is an organisation that stood up and delivered support when the GFC hurt rural communities. The documents show that the ministries of Health and Primary Industries ‘value RHAANZ as an important member of the rural health sector and value their contribution’ and yet that hasn't stopped the Ministers from withdrawing sustainable funding.
“In response to this decision, former Dairy Woman of the Year and Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger has launched a petition seeking public support to save rural healthcare services https://barbarakuriger.national.org.nz/save_our_rural_healthcare_services
"Ask the public what is more important – $1 billion to go towards foreign affairs and diplomats or research into farmer suicide – I’m pretty certain the Government will know the answer so I urge it to do the right thing and step up and make rural mental health a priority during this critical time,” Dr Reti says.