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National – bad medicine for freedom of speech

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Health

17 September 2008 Media Statement

National –bad medicine for freedom of speech

National leader John Key should get his health spokesman Tony Ryall to apologise for his blatant attempt to bully district health boards, Health Minister David Cunliffe said today.

Mr Ryall has written to the Auckland District Health Board threatening a “significant political issue” if the board informed New Zealanders about too much good news during the election campaign.

“This is a ham-fisted assault on the neutrality of the public service and an attack on the thousands of health sector workers who do such a good job every day in hospitals around the country.

“Mr Key should ensure his health spokesperson apologises otherwise this is a clear sign to the New Zealand public that should they ever get the chance to lead National cabinet ministers would have free reign to bully or manipulate the public sector.”

He said DHBs were free to report operational matters good or bad throughout the election period.

“Many New Zealanders use health services in this country, they deserve to know what’s happening in those health services bad or good and in many cases the news is very, very good.

“I knew the National Party were desperate to divert as much attention away from their failed health policy, but threatening DHBs is ridiculous.”

Mr Cunliffe said this blatant attack on freedom of speech was the most craven act political interference that he had ever witnessed.

“What does the National Party want? Does it expect highly important cancer screening programmes to stop advertising simply because it might be seen as positive for the Government. This is shameful.”


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