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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

Parliament is now heading into a four week recess and in the build up to the election you can expect to see politicians all over the country.

There is a growing, palpable mood for change and realising that they have completely misjudged the electorate with the recent Budget, Labour ministers will be everywhere attempting to repair the damage during the parliamentary break.

Indicative of the growing discontent were the two protests in Parliament grounds this week. On Wednesday, apple growers from around the country arrived at Parliament to protest over their inability to access the Australian market. Australia has barred the importation of Kiwi apples for 84 years on the grounds that the tree disease fire blight would be transported to Australia on our apples. However science has proven that the blight bacteria cannot be carried by mature apples and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has accepted this fact in the last two years, but not by the Australian biosecurity body.

On Thursday, Federated Farmers launched a protest over Labour’s proposed ‘right to roam’ legislation, which would see anyone having the right to walk along water bodies and through farms without having to ask permission. In order to get to these waterways access will often have to be through private property. Farmers quite rightly point out that urban dwellers are not expected to allow anyone to wander through their backyards. They also quite rightly say that most farmers when asked allow people to walk through their properties. All they ask is that gates are left as they were found. It seems to me this is just good manners. The debate is of course one about property rights and ACT firmly supports landowners’ right to govern their own land. The real issue for landowners is “What is next on Labour’s socialist agenda?” The Resource Management Act has taken away large chunks of property rights. The ‘right to roam’ legislation will force an unregistered easement over private land, effectively devaluing properties in the process.

Pernicious Anaemia just got more pernicious

A concerned constituent suffering from pernicious anaemia wrote to me recently telling me that he urgently requires a Vitamin B12 injection. However when the prescription was presented to his pharmacy he was told that NZ is ‘out of stock’ and will be until late August.

Pernicious anaemia is a disorder of the blood caused by a lack of vitamin B12, usually due to an inability to absorb the vitamin, although in modern times some cases are caused by eccentric diets. The resulting anaemia (less red blood cells to carry oxygen) is called pernicious because the results can be fatal. The number of cases in New Zealand is low, but the vitamin supplement is essential to some. It is a great pity then that there is none in the country and the supplier has been out of stock for some time. PHARMAC has been looking for other sources and thought they might be able to get supplies from Australia but the source fell through. I suspect that nobody wants to play ball for the relatively small volume of the pharmaceutical involved and the cost of registering the product for distribution in New Zealand. If so this would be the latest event in a growing series where small volume, but essential, products are withdrawn by the present supplier leaving a gap in the market.

Increasingly PHARMAC is plugging these gaps using products distributed under Section 29 of the Medicines Act that allows unregistered medicines to be supplied to named patients. This causes doctors and pharmacists unnecessary administrative work.

Part of the problem is that the government body charged with purchasing pharmaceuticals, PHARMAC, has been exploiting its position as a monopoly purchaser. Why would any business have stock (often with short use by dates) hanging around on the off chance that PHARMAC might come cap in hand if their chosen supplier happens to fall through? Or continue to maintain registration of their product at considerable cost just on the off chance?

I have a Private Member's Bill in the ballot (members bills go into a ballot and are drawn randomly as Parliament’s order paper permits), which would provide for the removal and/or limitation of PHARMAC's exemption from Part 2 of the Commerce Act. This Bill aims to have the ultimate result of increasing consumer choice by creating a more competitive market.

Disorderly House

The Speaker has had some difficulty with disorderliness in the House this week. Several members of Parliament were ‘asked to leave the chamber’ including both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition on the same day. There is a rule that there are to be no interjections during the asking of a question or during points of order - anyone who does interject is asked to leave. I have to confess to being one of the culprits after an exchange with Health Minister Annette King. I haven’t been in this much trouble since I got a page of the dictionary in Form 2 for talking when I shouldn’t.


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