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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

Lies, Damned Lies and Ministry of Health Statistics

The Minister of Health has become alarmed that I have been drawing attention to the number of people who have died while on hospital waiting lists. Winston Peters has been drawing attention to it as well but he keeps getting confused and quoting the wrong figures.

In any event Annette King is worried, so the Ministry no longer collects statistics on waiting list deaths. They simply collect data on exits from the waiting list that might include death but also include, for example, people who opt for private surgery. Furthermore I have been waiting seven weeks for answers to written Parliamentary Questions, which were lodged on 9 June about the numbers of operations, and day surgery procedures Ms King claims are being performed.

The Minister has repeatedly claimed in Parliament, in media releases, and in radio and television interviews, that 40,000 more discharges are now being undertaken. But she can't or won't prove it.

That's because her own answers show that in 2000/01 there were 269,252 Surgical Case Weighted Discharges and in 2003/04 there was minimal change with 272,881 discharges.

When population growth is taken into account, there were actually fewer discharges - in 2000/01 there were 0.069 discharges per head and by 2003/04 this had dropped to 0.067 discharges per head.

These figures are also backed up by those published annually in the Health Ministry's Health and Independence Report.

When Parliament is dissolved further parliamentary questions to Ministers cannot be lodged so Ms King thinks all she has to do is bide her time and she'll get out of answering tricky questions about the completely unsubstantiated claims she has been making.

I wonder why they collect statistics at all, if it is impossible to draw any conclusions from them. As the Good Book says, "There are none so blind as those who will not see".

Election Madness - The Auction Has Begun

Election Day - 17 September - has been announced and the first bidding war has begun. National announced tax rebates on interest for those paying back student loans, now Labour has upped the ante promising no interest on debt accrued on student loans. Next bid please.

ACT refuses to enter the auction room. Both National & Labour policies are dopey – they will only increase government expenditure further and the incentive becomes one of encouraging students to borrow to the hilt. We can expect to see students, who don't need the money to enable them to study, borrowing it then investing it. You would be a mug not to.

The evidence is plain to see. Labour's existing policy of no interest while studying has seen student debt explode. When the interest was removed from loans while students were studying the average loan went up by 22% from $11,885 to $14,491 and 10% more students borrowed.

ACT has always maintained the only fair way of dealing with student debt is to lower taxes. This enables graduates to pay back their loans faster and doesn't disadvantage other groups. Someone starting a business doesn't get an interest free loan - but don't tell Labour that might be the next election bribe.


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