The Government is failing more patients than ever with at least 10,000 more people than last year on track to miss out on much-needed surgery, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Ministry of Health figures for the nine months to March show the total number of patients discharged from elective surgical specialties was nearly 6,500 procedures behind where it should be at that point in the financial year.
“When you add this to at least 1,500 cases that Health Minister David Clark said were cancelled due to the junior doctors’ strike in April, the number of unperformed elective surgeries is almost certain to be about 10,000 fewer by year’s end.
“The Government promised to do more in this area, but on current progress 10,000 people are going to be turned away from the operating table.
“This is a serious problem. These procedures include cancer, cardiac and neurosurgery operations, so they are more than minor.
“District Health Boards are currently 179 cardiac surgeries behind where they should be. It would be a tragedy if anyone was to die while waiting for an operation that should have been performed by now.
“On current projections more than 1,800 fewer gynaecology procedures and 1,500 fewer orthopaedic procedures will be performed by the year to June 30.
“Despite calling for more to be done while in Opposition, Labour didn’t even mention elective surgery in its election manifesto and removed targets at the first opportunity. This is the result.
“This is what happens when a Government talks about need but does nothing to meet it. The Health Minister has to step up to the plate and ensure this doesn’t become the first year in the past decade where fewer elective procedures are undertaken than the year before.
“This Government criticised the previous National-led Government for setting targets, saying they created perverse incentives. I cannot think of a more perverse outcome than the significant downward momentum in the health sector after they were removed.”
Table showing acute and elective surgery discharge numbers for the financial year and previous two full financial years attached. To be on track to meet last year’s figures, health boards should be at least 75% of where they were this time last year.
The Government has been caught out making up an entire work programme in answer to plummeting business confidence, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a business audience that business confidence ‘was not the elephant in the room, it's a flashing great neon sign with giant lights and fireworks going off behind it’.
“In answer to this, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson launched the ‘Business Partnership Agenda’ which they said ‘brings together the strands of this Government’s economic strategy’.
“Since then the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister haven’t mentioned the agenda once. Not in a speech, a press release or even a tweet.
“The website hasn’t been updated since it was launched. It still lists the Chief Technology Officer as a Government initiative, despite the idea being axed in September last year. Eleven of the website links on the page don’t even work.
“This is a Government with no economic plan which is slowing New Zealand down. The Business Partnership Agenda was clearly made up on the hoof and then forgotten about after the daily news cycle. As usual, all talk, no action.
“If this is how the Government treats the business community – it’s no wonder confidence is so low. It’s stayed at rock bottom levels since the August speech. The Prime Minister and Grant Robertson need to explain what’s happened to its Business Partnership Agenda so businesses can start to have some confidence again.”
Government Ministers received a Discussion Document from Police and Transport officials proposing roadside drug testing in December 2017, but 17 months later it has still not been released, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“The revelation in response to National’s questioning that Ministers have been sitting on a roadside drug testing Discussion Document for so long confirms the Government has been dragging its feet in addressing the serious issue of drug impaired driving.
“There can be no excuses for Ministers taking 17 months to agree on a Discussion Document when a New Zealander dies from a drug impaired driver every five days.
“Road deaths from drug impaired drivers have steadily increased in recent years from 14 in 2014, 27 in 2015, 54 in 2016 to 79 in 2017. The number of road fatalities from drug impaired drivers now exceed those for drink driving by 79 to 70. But the number of prosecutions number just 200 for drug impaired drivers, compared with 16,000 for drunk driving.
“When Police Minister Stuart Nash was asked about a petition launched following the death of Matthew Dow in a crash involving a drug driver, he said ‘There’s a Discussion Document that’s been approved by Cabinet that’s going out to the public early next year.’ We now know the Discussion Document had not been approved.
“It was inappropriate for Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters to say on Thursday that the delay was due to the Christchurch Mosque attack when Ministers had the officials’ drafted Discussion Document for well over a year.
“It’s obvious that the reason for the delay is the divergent views between the governing parties. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter is on the public record saying that roadside testing was too intrusive and that she was unimpressed with recommendations from her officials to introduce roadside saliva testing.
“National has heard from both Police and Transport officials who are frustrated Ministers are not acting on this issue. The Government has a blind spot when it comes to the risk of drug impaired driving due to their liberal policies around drugs.
“We will be seeking further explanation from Ministers about why it has taken so long to agree on the Discussion Document. National has a Bill on this issue which is ready to go through Parliament but it was voted down by Labour, NZ First and Green MPs in October 2018. National tried again to get the Bill introduced last Wednesday but it was blocked by Speaker Trevor Mallard triggering Nelson MP Nick Smith being suspended from Parliament.
“The revelation on Friday in the Coroner’s Court that the Waverley tragedy in June 2018 was caused by a driver impaired by cannabis and synthetics reinforces the urgent need for roadside drug testing. This was the worst road accident in a decade, killing seven New Zealanders.
“The Government, with National’s support, passed new gun laws in just four weeks in response to the 51 lives lost in the Christchurch Mosque attacks. We need the same sort of commitment and urgency to address drug impaired driving which causes the death of over 70 New Zealanders a year.
“National wants a proper roadside drug testing regime in place as soon as possible and before any of the Government’s law changes liberalising access to drugs takes effect. We will continue to push for the introduction of our own Bill but would equally support rapid progress on any Government Bill to get drug impaired drivers off the road.”
The Government’s pledge to build 100,000 homes in 10 years has fallen by the wayside just 18 months into its term, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“This is yet another broken promise from the Government. The Prime Minister told the nation that KiwiBuild would deliver 100,000 homes in a decade, but this was a pipe dream from the start and it hasn’t taken her government long to back away from it.”
When pressed by media today on whether the 100,000 homes in 10 years target would remain as part of KiwiBuild’s long-delayed “recalibration”, Housing and Urban Development Minster Phil Twyford compared it to American nuclear ships in the 1980s, saying he could neither “confirm nor deny” whether it would remain.
“The Prime Minister then failed to confirm in the House that the Government would retain the 100,000 houses target
“Halfway through the Government’s first term they’ve only built 80 houses, compared with an initial policy of 1000 in its first year – a policy they starting referring to as ‘just a target’ in January to reduce expectations.
“The 1000 houses target was then officially dropped as part of KiwiBuild’s policy, and now it seems the 100,000 houses target is gone too.
“The Government’s year of non-delivery is getting worse by the day. If Phil Twyford is looking for a ship to compare his KiwiBuild programme to, the Titanic would seem more appropriate at this point.
“National knows the answer to providing New Zealanders with houses is to reform our planning laws to make it easier to build.
“We know a bold solution is needed to the Resource Management Act, which has been a planning nightmare. That is why we will put forward a reformed RMA Bill to show there is hope and a way forward.”
The National Party welcomes today’s announcement of proposed amendments to the Climate Change Response Act as a positive step towards establishing an independent advisory Climate Change Commission, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“While we have found common ground on the Commission’s form and function, the net-zero target for long lived gases, and the separate treatment of methane, we have serious reservations about the expected rate of reduction for methane.
“National was clear on its position, as I outlined at my speech at Fieldays last year. We have taken a principled approach to these negotiations, including seeking different treatment for separate gases, and I am pleased to see this reflected in the Bill.
“We are not convinced that the proposed 24-47 per cent reduction for methane meets our test in terms of science, economic impact or global response.
“We’re committed to taking short term politics out of climate change policy, by having an enduring Commission which will give science-based advice for successive governments.
“New Zealand has been a global leader in sustainable agricultural production. For this leadership to be enhanced the sector must continue to embrace change, but this target goes beyond credible scientific recommendations.
“We have signalled to the Government in earlier discussions that it is exactly the sort of decision a newly formed Climate Commission should advise Parliament on, rather than politicians cherry picking numbers. Waiting five years to finally assess whether it’s fit for purpose is not acceptable.
“National remains committed to finding a bipartisan approach to climate change that delivers the best outcomes for New Zealand.”
After sitting on the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report for two months, the Government will report back later this week making next to no changes, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“National understands the Government will ignore the majority of the working group’s recommendations and instead kick the can down the road for further work, like it did with the Capital Gains Tax.
“This review cost $2.1 million, only for it to be put on the scrap heap.
“The fact the Government expected to release its response in late March suggests once again it hasn’t been able to make crucial decisions on pieces of work it commissions.
“New Zealanders will rightly be questioning what the point of this Government is when it commissions work, only to reject it because the coalition can’t agree with each other.
“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group had a wide ambit to look at the whole of the welfare system, including whether or not to remove all obligations and sanctions in line with the Labour Greens confidence and supply agreement, increase benefit rates and changes to working for families.
“Given 13,000 more people are on the benefit since the election, it didn’t need another expensive working group to tell it what to do.
“With a 31 per cent reduction in the number of sanctions being imposed on beneficiaries who do not fulfil their work or training obligations, New Zealanders will rightly be asking where is the fairness in our welfare system.
“National did extensive work in Government to make the welfare system fairer. We increased benefits above inflation for the first time in 43 years and strengthened obligations and sanctions to make sure people who were looking for work were attending job interviews and getting into training.
“It isn’t kind or compassionate to reduce incentives to work and to stop Kiwis being more aspirational and live more meaningful lives. National believes New Zealanders are better off in work and creating opportunities for them and their families.”
National has uncovered yet more irresponsible and wasteful spending from the Government with new information showing Corrections, under Minister Kelvin Davis, has spent more than a million dollars on frozen slushy machines, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Information released under the Official Information Act shows Corrections spent $1.095 million on 193 ice slushy machines at the end of last year for staff to enjoy flavoured frozen beverages at work.
“This is an extraordinary waste of taxpayers’ money. The Minister has responded to this by saying ‘who cares?’ Well I think most hardworking taxpayers will.
“Corrections claims that the summer of 17/18 was particularly hot and this increased the risk of volatile prisoner behaviour. It then says it managed this with handheld fans, cold water and cold flannels for staff and there were no major incidents."
“Corrections seems to be saying that by keeping staff cool that this stopped violent prisoner behaviour.
“Corrections then says that despite there being no major incidents in the 17/18 summer, it took the decision the following year to provide crushed ice machines and electrolyte replacement mixtures. It said this would also ‘minimise the risk of sodium depletion from dehydration.’
“Corrections says that there is research to say that drinking slushies ‘offers immediate and effective means of significantly reducing core body temperature’ and is ‘three times more effective than drinking water’.
“It wasn’t just one machine per prison, there are 26 slushy machines at Rimutaka and Arohata prisons, 20 machines at Mt Eden Corrections Facility, 18 at Christchurch Men’s Prison and 15 at Hawke’s Bay Regional Prison. These machines offer two or three different flavours of drink per machine.
“It’s unclear whether prisoners had any access to these cold, flavoured beverages.
“This frivolous spending follows the Government’s Justice Summit which saw $1.6 million including $20,000 on three registration desks, $970,660 on consultants, $26,592 on MCs, $65,800 on gourmet catering and $101,528 on international speakers.
“Government departments under Labour have got the idea that taxpayer money is there to spray around on whatever. Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis owes New Zealanders an explanation and an apology.
“This kind of spending shows the Government doesn’t need to be taxing Kiwis more, as they clearly don’t know how to spend what they’re already taking. I have no doubt we’ll see more of this wasteful spending as the ‘wellbeing’ Budget kicks in. Slushy funds everywhere, not just for Shane Jones and Corrections but across the public service.
“National wants New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn and we would take care of your money by spending it wisely.”
OIA response from Department of Corrections can be found here
Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges will this week put a Member’s Bill in the Ballot which will link income tax brackets to inflation, ensuring Kiwi families can keep more of what they earn, restoring fairness to our tax system.
“Over the next three years New Zealanders on the average wage will move into the top tax bracket. I don’t think it’s fair for people on the average wage to pay a third of their marginal income in tax.
“At the start of this year, I pledged that National would campaign on tax indexation, meaning income taxes would be adjusted every three years in line with the cost of living. I’ve drafted this Bill to go into the Ballot now because I believe Kiwis deserve a fairer tax system and they shouldn’t have to wait.
“More red tape and taxes from this Government means New Zealanders’ incomes are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. My Bill will ensure that governments are required to adjust tax thresholds for inflation, or explain to the public why not.
“Kiwi households will pay almost $10,000 more over the next four years than they would have under a National-led Government. The Government is taking more than it needs, only to waste billions on bad spending.
“Taxpayers are forking out $2.8 billion for fees-free tertiary which has resulted in fewer students, $3 billion for Shane Jones’ slush fund and $2 billion on KiwiBuild which has resulted in next to no houses.
“If my Bill is drawn from the Ballot and we assume inflation of two per cent, someone on the average wage would be $430 a year better off after the first adjustment, $900 after the second and $1,400 after the third.
“Kiwis would pay $650 million a year less in tax after the first adjustment on today’s estimates, which is affordable if the Government managed the books wisely.
“National believes New Zealanders should keep more of what they earn. We won’t introduce any new taxes in our first terms and we won’t allow future governments to use inflation as an annual tax increase by stealth.”
After 18 months of waiting and a $2 million tax working group, National’s relentless opposition to a Capital Gains Tax has forced the Government to back down, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“While the Government has backed down on a Capital Gains Tax, there are still a range of taxes on the table. They include a vacant land tax, an agricultural tax and a waste tax.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she personally still wants a Capital Gains Tax and that our tax system is unfair. New Zealanders simply can’t trust Labour when it comes to tax.
“The New Zealand economy has suffered while the Government has had a public discussion about a policy they couldn’t agree on. Put simply, this is political and economic mismanagement.
“Investment has completely slowed down while business owners worry what the future looked like. That has made New Zealanders worse off.
“Our economy was growing at four per cent two years ago – it’s rapidly heading down to two per cent. They have no economic plan to speak of at all because the Government has sapped the confidence out of small business owners and mum and dad investors.
“In the Government’s so called year of delivery, they’ve dropped their flagship tax policy.
“The big question remains, what are they doing to encourage the economy to grow?
“Unlike the Government, National has a plan when it comes to the economy. We won’t introduce any new taxes in our first term and we will index tax brackets to inflation. National believes Kiwis deserve to keep more of what they earn.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has thanked retiring MP Nuk Korako for his hard work and dedication to the National Party after he announced his retirement today.
“Nuk Korako has been a valuable member of our caucus. He is highly regarded by his local community, his colleagues and Iwi.
“Nuk was instrumental as chair of the National Party Māori Caucus in developing Māori capability within the National Party. He established the regional Kahurangi National Māori Groups and will continue this work.
“As Chair of the Māori Affairs Select Committee Nuk has made a positive difference in the lives of Māori, including 16 Iwi by helping to bring their Treaty Settlements to a conclusion.
“Nuk has been a supportive leader in his community following devastating events like the Port Hills fires and the Christchurch terror attack. He will be missed immensely.
“I am sorry to see him announce his retirement from Parliament but I know he will stay actively involved in his community and the National Party.”