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Hide - Helen Clark is no longer the Teflon PM

8 June 2005

Helen Clark is no longer the Teflon Prime Minister.

Rodney Hide Address to the Hutt Rotary Club; Lower Hutt Memorial RSA, 3 Cornwall Street, Lower Hutt; Wednesday, 8 June 2005; 1pm.

Helen Clark is no longer the Teflon Prime Minister.

Her arrogance and her “she knows best” approach is proving her undoing. Her spin over substance has worn thin.

But her real problem is not her PR spin. Her real problem has been her total failure to address the issues of concern to Kiwis.

Michael Cullen’s Budget was a dud. It failed to offer a vision for New Zealand. It did nothing to lift New Zealanders’ sights.

It offered hardworking Kiwis no tax cuts despite the hype and the Government being flush with taxpayers’ money.

I was going to talk to you about the need and affordability of tax cuts. But yesterday I received a letter from a mum.

She lost her husband to the worst disease I know – Huntington’s. One of my close friends died of Huntington’s. It’s a terrible disease.

Huntington’s Disease is a terminal brain disease that’s genetic. Last year she lost her daughter. And now her son is suffering.

He’s in great pain and needs 10 or 12 teeth removed. But the Government has labelled his case as semi-urgent and he has to wait a minimum of a year. His mum was told his pain wasn’t as extreme as some who have had to wait two years.

Her son is having great difficulty eating and swallowing. The muscles of his throat are no long functioning properly. And so he waits. And he waits. And officials weigh his pain and suffering against that of others to se if he should have to wait one year or two.

And so today I won’t talk about tax. I will talk instead about health care. That’s the real failure of Michael Cullen’s Budget.

Political polls show health is the most important issue facing the country.

For good reason.

Labour has thrown billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money at the health system because they think spending money looks good.

They don’t care whether the extra money results in better health services or not.

Labour has let Kiwis down.

In 1999, health services cost taxpayers $6.1 billion. In last month’s Budget, the Government trumpeted an extra billion in spending, taking the total to $9.7 billion.

That’s a 57 percent increase in the cost of health in just six years.

Labour thinks it’s good that health is costing the country so much.

They simply measure how well they’re doing by how much tax they’re spending.

But the important question is whether health services have improved with all that extra cash.

How many extra operations are being carried out?

Has productivity in the health sector increased?

Are waiting lists down?

Are less people dying waiting for operations?

The answers to these questions make for grim telling.

Have we seen a 57 percent increase in the number of operations carried out?

Of course not.

If we look at the growth in the number of operations we see they have increased by 1.3 percent in the last three years.

There were 269,000 in 2000/01.

In 2003/04 there were around 272,000. About 3,500 more.

One percent more operations.

But when population growth of 4.3 percent over this period is taken into account the real number of operations has dropped.

What about waiting lists?

In opposition, Annette King described a waiting list of 96,000 as ‘criminal’.

In government she set about dismantling the waiting lists and hiding the true numbers waiting for operations.

Some are placed on a hidden list called active review.

This is Labour’s waiting list to get on the official waiting list.

Some are simply referred back to their GP and told to wait until their condition gets worse.

At the end of March this year, there were 61,000 people on the booking system waiting for surgery, with another 120,000 on other waiting lists for their first specialist assessments.

That’s a total of 180,000 people waiting!

Yet King said 96,000 waiting was criminal.

Here in the Hutt 3,309 people are waiting to see a specialist, 418 have been waiting for more than six months. I am sure each of you in this room knows someone on this list.

The Health Minister has spent an extra $3 billion (57 percent) in health funding, with no reductions in the 180,000 patients on waiting lists.

That is criminal.

More people are dying on waiting lists.

In 1999, 850 people died waiting for hospital treatment, last year 1,200 people died.

Here in the Hutt 24 people died while waiting for surgery last year.

The Health Minister says many of these people died from things unrelated to their condition. The Health Ministry says a lot of them were old anyway.

They say it doesn’t matter.

These people are just statistics. Their solution? Change the statistics.

The Labour Government has changed the coding they use to hide these numbers.

Annette King doesn’t care about the patients’ suffering. She just wants the numbers to look good.

People are asking why things are so bad when all the extra tax money is being used.

Part of the answer is explained by productivity.

We know that productivity in the health sector has been falling.

A 2004 Treasury report noted that despite an extra 7 percent of funding for hospitals, productivity increased just 1.5 percent.

In other words, almost all of the extra 7 percent funding has been soaked up providing the same services as before.

Labour has imposed much of the extra costs on the health sector itself.

Higher taxes on top earners led to an exodus of top health professionals and radiologists.

We are training our health professionals for export.

Labour has added to the wage bills in the health sector.

The Holidays Act and other employment related changes have added hundreds of millions of dollars to the health budget.

With no extra services.

The imposition of elected health boards has added to the costs of health bureaucracy. Again with no extra services.

Labour has wasted over $50 million a year on bureaucracy, instead of real health services.

The cost of running the increasingly discredited Primary Health Organisations is around $26 million a year, the new DHB boards cost over $6 million a year to run and Ministry of Health bureaucracy has skyrocketed from 780 full time staff in 2001 to 1,085 in 2004.

All these changes have increased the bill, which taxpayers get for health, but have not increased the service taxpayers get in return.

But that doesn’t worry Helen Clark or Annette King. They just trumpet the spending. But spending 57 percent for the same amount of service is nothing to be proud of.

That doesn’t make you better off. It makes you worse off.

It amounts to failure on a huge scale.

And it’s projected to get worse.

Treasury papers obtained by ACT tell a story of a runaway budget.

They detail the discussions that went on between departments in the run up to this year’s budget.

Treasury projects the health budget will explode from 6% of GDP to 14% in 15 years if it keeps growing at the current rate.

All this, with no extra services.

That’s a problem that is bigger for New Zealand than the rising cost of superannuation.

Treasury advised Michael Cullen to tell Annette King to re-do her budgets.

They pointed out the billion-dollar increase for health this year was more money than the Labour Government put into new spending across the entire public sector in each of their first three budgets, in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Instead, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen caved in to the extra billion dollars.

They are proud of taking an extra billion off taxpayers and giving you no extra health services in return.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

New Zealand’s health system doesn’t need to be in a state of perpetual crisis and demanding ever-increasing cash injections from taxpayers.

ACT says these appalling health outcomes are not acceptable.

Simply throwing money at a failing system does not work. The causes of failure must be identified and solutions found.

We need to get smarter.

ACT would tackle waiting lists properly.

People shouldn’t be allowed to wait needlessly for operations, no matter how old they are.

The tragedy is that there are private hospital beds remaining empty because the Government has an ideological aversion to the private sector in health.

Just like they have an aversion to cutting peoples taxes.

Lower taxes will enable more New Zealand families to enjoy the benefits of private health insurance.

At the moment, that is the only way you can guarantee you will get health care in New Zealand.

The health insurance system offers a speedy service to families, while at the same time taking pressure off the public system.

We need to focus on what works best and put ideology in the bin where it belongs.

The private health sector should not be the enemy of government.

Someone suffering on a waiting list doesn’t care who does their operation. They just want it done.

Local newspapers have reported that even Labour MPs use private hospitals to get their treatment quicker

Labour would rather have people waiting and suffering in the thousands than knock on the door of private hospitals.

This is the tragedy of putting ideology first.

ACT would put an end to that.

The solution to improving our health care is to make more use of the private sector.

ACT has no problem enlisting the help of the private sector to help achieve better health outcomes.

We want to reduce waiting lists, make sure people get the treatment they need straight away and ensure as many Kiwi families as possible enjoy the benefits of private health insurance.

ACT wants New Zealanders to enjoy the security that private health insurance provides.

And we want the waiting lists down. That means making sure that patients get treated irrespective of whether it’s a government-run hospital or a private one.

New Zealanders are ready for a change. But it’s not enough that we just change the government. We need to change the policies that are selling New Zealanders so tragically short.

There’s only one party that can do that.

And that’s why the Party Vote to ACT is so important this election. Otherwise, it’s just more of the same.

ACT isn’t greedy. You have two votes. We are just asking for one of them. Party Vote ACT.


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