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Inflammatory Language Won't Help Rational Debate

MP's Inflammatory Language Won't Help Rational Debate

Health Minister Annette King says she is bemused by the hostile reaction of National's women's affairs spokesperson Anne Tolley to the Ministry of Health's discussion document on law changes to support effective auditing and evaluation of the National Cervical Screening Programme.

"When I released the findings of the Gisborne Cervical Screening Inquiry in Gisborne on April 10, former National Health Minister Wyatt Creech was in the audience. I was impressed by the inclusive comments he made at the meeting, attended by women affected by the Inquiry.

"Mr Creech clearly believed all the recommendations from the Inquiry needed to be addressed in a non-political way. I agreed with him that the important thing was that the recommendations were put into effect so that New Zealand delivered an efficient and effective National Cervical Screening Programme.

"I find it hard to reconcile his sensitive and rational approach with comments made by Anne Tolley yesterday. She alleged I was proposing 'a gross invasion of women's privacy'. She talked of researchers 'trawling' through the sexual histories of women.

"Her statement is quite bizarre. I suggest she reads the discussion document the ministry has issued.

"Better still, I suggest she talks to Wyatt. She may then understand that the Inquiry emphasised that 'by far the most important change which is required to make the National Cervical Screening Programme fully effective is the removal of legal barriers which are preventing the comprehensive evaluation of the Programme from proceeding'."

Mrs King said women had nothing to fear either from a comprehensive audit of the programme, or from valid and ethical academic research. "And valid and ethical research is the only sort that will be allowed.

"If Anne Tolley is genuinely interested in the welfare of women, she will seek to inform them, not to alarm them with extravagant and half-hysterical claims. This Government wants an effective screening programme. I had assumed, from Wyatt's comments, that that is what National wanted too."

Ends

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