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The Diary: Mallard the Ass vs Harold the Giraffe

Heather Roy's Diary is a weekly opinion piece from Mother of 5 and ACT New Zealand Member of Parliament Heather Roy.

Mallard the Ass vs. Harold the Giraffe

Trevor Mallard has no qualms about attacking civilian targets and this
week he had Harold the Giraffe in his sights. Harold is the mascot of the Life Education Trust - he is prominent whenever their caravan visits a school. The Trust promotes healthy living and deals with issues around drug use. Most people who use the caravan think Harold and his team are paid by the Ministry of Education but the independent trust actually survives on donations from individuals and corporations. It receives no government funding. The Trust incurred Trevor Mallard's wrath by accepting a donation of $100,000 from British American Tobacco. So the Minister issued a decree to schools in which he "strongly urged" them to boycott the Trust.

Mr Mallard apparently seems happy for his Government to continue relying on revenue collected from cigarette taxes. He ignores Harold's strong anti-smoking message. The Diary thinks he should pick on someone his own size. He has also completely underestimated Harold's popularity with the 250,000 children the giraffe meets each year. If it comes to a showdown, Harold will win hands-down.

In the background to all this is a philosophical disagreement between 'prevention' and 'harm minimisation'. The Life Education Trust advises complete avoidance of illegal drugs such as marijuana whereas the official, politically correct Labour policy is to move towards 'harm avoidance'.

Labour Raises Petrol Tax for the Third Time

The Injury, Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament last week - the third unnecessary increase in petrol levies since Labour came to power. This bill will increase levies used to fund ACC from 2.3 cents a litre to 5.08 cents - a rise of 2.78 cents a litre. The other increases were the July 1, 2001 Crown Revenue Petroleum Excise Tax increase and March 1, 2002 National Roads Fund Petrol increase. This most recent tax hike is to increase the ACC fund for injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. However the rate of serious injury and death has steadily fallen by 30% over the past decade, while the number of registered cars has increased by 30%. And the timing is no accident - Labour is hoping motorists won't notice the extra 3c a litre because of the volatility in the oil prices caused by the conflict in Iraq.

What is a PHO?

Primary Health Organisations (PHOs) are the Government's new plan to replace the traditional GP. Despite one million people being enrolled in 34 PHOs around the country, it has become increasingly obvious that the general public has no idea that there has been a fundamental change in the method of delivery of primary (initial contact) healthcare. Previously, GPs were small businessmen in heir own right. Now they have the option of joining a PHO with a governing body, which receives government funding to offer cheaper healthcare. It sounds great except for several points:-

You must sign up with one GP - patient choice has gone. You are only eligible for enrolment in a PHO if you have one operating in your area or your local Maori or Pacific community operates a PHO. Only those living in "poor areas" receive cheaper care - even if you have a high income. Poor people living in a wealthier area are out of luck. PHOs have created a two tier system - one for the 'poor' and one for the 'not poor'.

I have heard stories of people being signed up for PHOs in Church Halls on Sundays and supermarket carparks, especially in South Auckland. The emphasis for PHO organisers is on quantity, not on quality of service. A PHO is paid for the number of patients enrolled. To keep within budget some are now limiting patient visits to nine-minute sessions with the doctor.

This week I faced a personal dilemma. My own GP has joined a PHO. I have to decide whether or not to bite the bullet and enrol. How do you know if you are enrolled in a PHO? If you were asked to fill in a form to check your details last time you visited the doctor, chances are you are now one of the Government's favoured few.

Tax Relief Possible, but not Probable under Labour

In anticipation of the May Budget, ACT NZ has launched a massive Tax Campaign, which involves making over 600,000 individual communications with constituents. We think that Michael Cullen's $4 billion surplus shows taxes are too high. We have written to the Finance Minister offering ACT's support for a tax cut. ACT has made two proposals - one is that company and personal taxes should be immediately reduced to 25 cents in the dollar, with lower income earners at 18 cents in the dollar. The second option is a $50-per-week tax cut for every worker. We can afford this without cutting a cent from education, health or any other core spending. A tax cut would leave workers with more in their back pockets. For starters we could afford health insurance or pay for our children's education at an independent school. It's a novel thought, but ACT thinks New Zealanders can spend their own money more wisely than the government does on our behalf. Fill in the two-minute survey and find out more by going to www.act

Easter Show

The ACT MPs are taking turns at greeting the crowds at the Easter Show in Auckland over the weekend. If you are passing our stall, call in and say hello.

Thank you to everyone who responds to my weekly diary, I really enjoy getting feedback from you. If you wish to comment on anything in this weeks edition please send an email to scott.gilmore@parliament.govt.nz

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