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Inadequate Advice On Card Dropped Us In It - PM

Prime Minister Helen Clark has blamed inadequate officials advice for dropping the Government in it over the Community Services Card issue.

Speaking at yesterday’s post Cabinet press conference the PM said, "there were a number of points where we should've been advised. It's always of concern when you don't feel you have had the full picture."

Miss Clark said the Ministry of Social Policy probably assumed that everybody knew that all beneficiaries were entitled to the card regardless of the amount they received. "I certainly didn't know that," she said.

The Prime Minister said the Government would be sending a message back to the CEOs of Government departments that ministers need full advice.

Miss Clark said cabinet did not decide to redress the iniquity created by the decision not to raise the Community Services Card income threshold for workers, but had discussed how the issue had developed.

National Leader Jenny Shipley wrote to the Human Rights Commission and the Prime Minister complaining that Cabinet's decision last week discriminated against workers on the basis of their employment and called on Cabinet to take immediate action to redress the iniquity today.

The Human Rights Commission said it would be taking the matter up with the Government, but said the Government's action is not covered by the Human Rights Act.

The Prime Minister said there were iniquities before last week's decision, and said the card was always a very crude way of providing health care, which is why the Government wants to redesign primary health care funding.

She said the card has been available to those who are asset rich but cash poor, but not those who are cash rich but asset poor.

Miss Clark said Health Minister Annette King wants the review of primary health funding done in six months.

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