Speech: Peters -Prostate Awareness Support Society
Embargoed Until Delivery
13 June 1999
SPEECH: Rt Hon Winston Peters MP
MP for Tauranga
Leader of New Zealand First
(Extracts from an Address by the Rt Hon Winston Peters MP to the Prostate Awareness Support Society, Buretta Park Motor Inn, Vale Street, TAURANGA)
It is an unfortunate fact of life that many New Zealand men do not look after themselves.
They place themselves at risk physically when they are young through alcohol, drugs, cars and activities based on the philosophy that "I am young, strong and indestructible - it can't happen to me!"
It is also a known fact that, on average, men usually die younger than women in this country.
It happens for a variety of reasons - but one cause of these premature deaths is prostate cancer and all New Zealand men should be grateful for your Support Society which was formed to help sufferers and their families.
Statistics indicate that there will probably be between five and six hundred deaths this year as a result of prostate cancer.
That means that, in statistical terms, 10 or 12 Kiwi males will die this week from the disease.
How many of them would have lived if the disease had been picked up in its early stages?
A considerable number according to figures that show that one out of every ten men gets an aggressive form of prostate cancer, and 3 per cent of those will die from it.
In terms of human suffering and loss, we simply cannot afford statistics like this and more has to be done to detect and treat the disease as early as possible.
New Zealand First believes firmly in the principles of preventative medicine.
That is why we have pushed for Hepatitis B and Diabetes screening programmes.
We also strongly endorse the screening programmes aimed at detecting breast cancer and cervical cancer in women.
These are quite rightly free services and it would appear perfectly logical to introduce a similar free service to males at risk from prostate cancer.
It would appear logical that your organisation could assist health authorities with an outline of what is needed.
We are aware that the Cancer Society does not recommend across the board testing, because the physical examination and (PSA) blood tests are not always accurate, and can suggest cancer when none is present.
However, we also know that many of your members have contracted aggressive prostate cancer and have shown NO symptoms.
Most New Zealand men do not usually head to the doctor unless there is something seriously wrong.
Quite often their problems are detected too late.
We need to make men more aware of the dangers of prostate cancer and get them to do something about their problems.
At the moment there is a cost for the GP visit - and in some areas there is also a cost for the blood test.
We believe that the cost could be a barrier to some men going to the doctor so it is only fair that the test should be universally available, and should be free.
There has to be a commitment to make men aware - and the funds must be made available for this.
New Zealand First will make these funds available after the next election, when we are again in a position to do so.
After all, we did get free medical treatment for the under sixes, despite strong opposition from our coalition partner, and for Hepatitis B screening - despite the politicking!
Spending money on an awareness programme for prostate cancer, and paying for examinations would be another sound investment.
At the moment we are spending too much money on the bureaucrats in the health system instead of investing in public health.
The Health Funding Authority, which allocates funds for the public health system, is spending a fortune on new offices, staff salaries and consultants in Wellington.
This is a major problem at the moment. Too many health bureaucrats are in business for themselves instead of being in the business of providing a health service for New Zealanders.
Only this week we learned that we have a disgracefully low level of immunisation for our children, and that we are heading for a measles epidemic.
We have also had a meningitis epidemic for several years.
These are Third World diseases - and while our children suffer from them, the Health Funding Authority bureaucrats are spending a thousand dollars each on new chairs for their new yuppie offices.
Their days are numbered.
New Zealand First will be releasing comprehensive health policies to attack these problems over the next few months.
We will have one unified national health strategy and a streamlined system to deliver it.
It will strongly support preventative medicine - and that includes strong support for self help organisations like your own, and a free screening programme that is available for those who choose to use it.