The new Minister of Health is displaying an appalling lack of responsibility by walking away from an outbreak of mumps in Auckland during the Rugby League World Cup, and the consequent spread into the Pacific Islands, National’s Dr Shane Reti and Alfred Ngaro say.
Associate Spokesperson for Health, Dr Reti and Pacific Peoples Spokesperson Alfred Ngaro are concerned at the current outbreak that is affecting several hundred Aucklanders – especially young Pasifika people – and the likelihood Pacific Island players and officials that were here during the recent tournament may have been exposed.
When asked whether he will take responsibility for mumps caught by the Pacific Island players in Auckland during the tournament, David Clark said “individual countries are responsible for their own immunisation programmes”.
“The Minister seems to be saying he doesn’t care if visitors from the Pacific take mumps back to vulnerable people when they return home,” Dr Reti says.
“There are currently 1,600 recorded cases in Tonga. Is the Minister saying that the complications of this disease such as deafness, sterility and meningitis don’t matter in Pacific Island people?”
New Zealand will provide $1 billion in aid to the Pacific in the three years ending next June, much of it aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of people in the Pacific Islands.
Mr Ngaro says it’s unclear whether the Minister has even placed a phone call to the Tongan Ministry of Health to offer any assistance.
“I think New Zealanders would expect our Government to help prevent the spread of diseases the Pacific Islands – especially if they are driven by an outbreak in New Zealand.
“The Minister could call his Tongan counterpart, offer passenger arrivals and departures information and maybe even look at how we might help their vaccination programme.
“With a new aid triennium being planned we’re calling on the Government to place the necessary funding to support vaccination programmes for our near neighbours,” Mr Ngaro says.
“New Zealanders enjoyed the vibrancy the Tongan rugby league team brought to our shores - now let’s meet our responsibilities for keeping them safe and well.”
“The Minister stood and acknowledged the visiting Pacific Island delegation in Parliament yesterday, now he needs to stand up and acknowledge some responsibility to them for mumps caught in New Zealand,” Mr Ngaro says.
The new Labour Government has shown yet again its high-handed approach to handling information and its complete disregard for transparency, National’s Data spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The new Minister for Social Development doesn’t consider it worthwhile to assure New Zealanders that their data will be used ‘wisely and well’,” Dr Reti says.
“I recently submitted a written question to Carmel Sepuloni asking her “What role does the Minister have in assuring the New Zealand public that Government-held data is being used wisely and well?”
“The Minister effectively replied that she couldn’t justify the time required to answer the question.
“And when I asked the same question in the House yesterday, I received a 20 second reply on her behalf. Is 20 seconds seriously all the assurance this new Government can give the public?”
Dr Reti says the success of modern data frameworks is wholly reliant on trust.
“For the Minister to decline to explain to the public that she will use its data ‘wisely and well’, is a missed opportunity to reassure New Zealanders that she can be trusted with their data,” he says.
“Is she further refusing to answer the question because she can’t guarantee that she will use it wisely?”
Dr Reti says that in his role as National’s data spokesperson, he aims to increase public trust in Government-held data and data infrastructures.
He has written to Ms Sepuloni offering to help build that trust.
“I hope the Minister will reflect on her glib response to my question and improve on her accountability to New Zealanders,” Dr Reti says.
National Party Data Spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says the Government will miss the biggest opportunity in a generation to transform the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders if it walks away from data collection.
“The new Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni will be taking a major step backwards if she follows through with her plan to stop using data to target investment to those who need assistance,” Dr Reti says.
“A lot of work has been done with the Privacy Commissioner and key stakeholders to ensure safe and appropriate collection of data. But rather than continue this work it seems the new Government would prefer to revert back to a stale model of blind spending.
“It’s no good just throwing money around and hoping for the best. Data can tell us exactly who needs what help and using that data provides the best opportunity to make a real difference for our most vulnerable.
“It’s a shame the Government is not prepared to continue the work on data protection and use policy. The most vulnerable New Zealanders have the most to lose from this missed opportunity.
“The Government should look to address issues around the data of vulnerable people instead of not looking at all.”
Consumers could be set to receive greater protection and decreased costs after Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti’s private members bill passed its first reading in Parliament on Wednesday.Read more