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King can't define her censorship

Roger Sowry National Health Spokesperson

13 June 2001

King can't define her censorship

Health Minister Annette King showed in Parliament today how dangerous her gagging of District Health Board chief executives is, National's Health spokesman Roger Sowry said today. "The Minister says chief executives can talk about operational issues to the media but not about policy issues. But in the House today she refused to define what the difference between operational and policy issues is.

"She said chief executives could talk openly in board meetings. But she was highly embarrassed when National's Tony Ryall told her the Bay of Plenty District Health Board had to go 'in committee' when the chief executive wanted to talk at Monday's board meeting about the likely cuts due to its massive funding shortfall.

"Annette King repeatedly said in the House she was happy for chief executives to tell staff about future health services, as the Bay of Plenty chief Ron Dunham did in a concerned memorandum. But she refused to answer questions about whether Mr Dunham and other chiefs could speak to the media.

"On radio she said chiefs should tell fob journalists off by telling them their questions would be addressed at the next board meeting. Hello Annette! The media operates on a 24 hour clock and needs answers today. It's obvious there's plenty to hide if the board manager can't be open about the state of health services with the local media.

"Limiting chief executives to talking at board meetings is censorship. The Minister knows journalists and members of the public can't stop board meetings to ask questions they need answers on - questions like will our hospital lose services?

"Chief executives won't be open at meetings after the Minister's warnings and board chairs, appointed by the Minister, are hardly likely to be open now either.

"New Zealanders ought to be worried about the censorship of public information they are entitled to regarding their health services.

"This is another typical example of this Government shutting down anyone who might make comments which reflect badly on the Government," Mr Sowry said.

Ends

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