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Budget Speech Notes - Sue Kedgley

13 June 2001

I am delighted that one of the Green Party's budget initiatives from last year - the establishment of a Ministerial Advisory Committee on Complementary Healthcare, will finally be gazetted tomorrow and the membership of the committee announced.

The committee will provide expert advice to the Health Minister about a range of policy matters such as the desirability of regulating complementary healthcare practitioners in order to protect consumers. I hope that its establishment will be the first step in a process to recognise and integrate complementary healthcare into our health system.

We are pleased too, that Government agreed to work with the Green Party to look at testing soil dioxin levels in potentially contaminated areas of New Zealand. A potentially very serious public health issues exists in the areas near the Dow factory in New Plymouth and dioxin soil testing is urgently needed there to reassure residents that, by living there, they are not putting their health at risk. The Mayor of New Plymouth, the local bodies and the local District Health Board are all imploring the government to carry out dioxin soil testing as a matter of urgency, and any further delays in soil testing there would be irresponsible, in my view.

I am deeply disappointed that there is nothing in this budget to improve animal welfare.

When New Zealanders realise that thousands of animals in this clean, green land of ours are being kept in conditions that have been aptly described as animal concentration camps, they are deeply shocked. When they discover that highly intelligent and sociable pigs are being locked up for months on end in sow crates which are effectively cages where they cannot even move around, they are deeply shocked and that is why some 90,000 New Zealanders signed a petition last year calling on the Government to ban sow crates.

New Zealanders want sow crates banned from pig farming now - certainly within five years, and not fifteen years from now, and that is why the Green Party is extremely disappinted that the Government has declined our bid to provide financial assistance to the pork industry (to pig farmers wanting to convert from sow crate to free range pig farming) to ensure that the cruel and barbaric practice of sow crates can be eliminated from New Zealand by 2006.

Despite an agreement from the Pork Industry Board that it would play its part in achieving this objective if the Government would come to the party, the proposal was turned down because of the Minister's concern that financial assistance to farmers could be construed as a trade barrier and result in a WTO challenge. What this effectively means is that New Zealand is prevented from taking actions as a sovereign nation to ensure the humane treatment of animals because of WTO rules. What utter nonsense!

On a more general level we are concerned that the lack of any significant increase in funding in the health sector will inevitably result in service cuts, staff losses and most likely, an increase of medical mishaps and misadventures. Given that one in 10 people - or an estimated 60,000 New Zealanders who are admitted to hospital each year already suffer from some kind of what is euphemistically called a medical misadventure this is extremely worrying.

While we are pleased to see that a national Nutrition strategy is finally to be developed, we are disappointed that, yet again there are no Government-funded national nutrition awareness campaigns. Disappointed too, that despite an internal transfer of funds, there is no real increase in the public health budget and no significant research or investment in environmental health.

ends

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