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Labour Rewards Non-Smokers With Sunny Jaunt

Labour Rewards Non-Smokers With Sunny Jaunt

ACT New Zealand Health Spokesman Heather Roy today demanded that Health Minister Annette King tell the public whether her Labour Government had used taxpayers' money to send 25 anti-smoking bureaucrats and activists to Finland - and, if so, how much.

"New information shows that 25 New Zealanders - most from the Health Ministry or Ministry-funded organisations - attended the 12^th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in sunny Helsinki this month. Presumably, this trip was funded with public money" Mrs Roy said.

"Return airfares for this delegation would have cost, at the very least, $75,000. Using today's foreign exchange rate, conference registration would have come to around $21,840, and accommodation would have cost little less than $21,440.

"Government agencies which sent their employees on this junket include the Health Ministry, Northland Health and Community and Public Health - as well as taxpayer-funded organisations such as ASH, the Smokefree Coalition and the Health Sponsorship Council.

"If this jaunt was funded with vote health dollars - as is most likely - the public deserves to know how much. We must also know why we sent 25 people, when New Zealand has 750,000 smokers - compared to China, which has 300 million smokers and sent only 20.

"It is unlikely that these delegates paid their own way - especially in light of the Labour Government's anti-smoking agenda. Would it not have made more sense to simply send one or two to Helsinki, who could then report back to their colleagues upon their return?

"Whether taxpayers' funds were used to finance this trip, or the delegates received a special grant from Vote Health, the Minister must come clean. This would be a frivolous waste of health dollars - which could surely have been put into other, more sensible health initiatives. Sense, however, seems to be something this Labour Government is lacking," Mrs Roy said.

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