National criticises Labour after they vote down Pharmac inquiry

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 3 Dec 2020, 4:11PM
National's health spokesman Dr Shane Reti announcing the party's health policy in Wellington in September. Photo / Mark Mitchell
National's health spokesman Dr Shane Reti announcing the party's health policy in Wellington in September. Photo / Mark Mitchell

National criticises Labour after they vote down Pharmac inquiry

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 3 Dec 2020, 4:11PM

The membership of Parliament's law-scrutinising select committees has only just been named, but that's not stopping National from putting pressure on the new chair of a pivotal committee.

National's health spokesman Shane Reti has revealed the Health Select Committee, which has a majority of Labour MPs, voted against a motion for an inquiry into Pharmac.

This is despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's previous agreement on the campaign trail that an inquiry was needed.

"It's now starting to look as though Labour only agreed with an inquiry when it was politically palatable in the midst of an election campaign," Reti said this morning.

He added that, as Parliament was rising for the year next week, it was unlikely significant progress would be made for another two months, given Parliament does not begin sitting again until February.

"This is a slap in the face, not only to the many thousands of New Zealanders who have been calling for the same thing, but particularly to those who marched with Crohn's and Colitis NZ, calling on Pharmac to fund a medication to help those suffering with the diseases."

The new Health Select Committee met for the first time this morning behind closed doors. Reti is not a voting member of that committee but acts as an observer and contributes to the meetings.

The committee is made up of mostly Labour MPs. Liz Craig – elected in 2017 – is its chair.

This morning's motion for the committee to initiate an inquiry into unfunded medicines in New Zealand, as well as the drug-buying agency Pharmac, was moved by National's Matt Doocey.

But the motion was only supported by National's three MPs. The Act and Greens MP on the committee voted against it, as did the five Labour MPs.

The makeup of select committees are an important part of Parliament's democratic process.

After a bill's first reading, it goes to one of a number of committees to be scrutinised.

The MPs on those committees also hear submissions from members of the public, and vote on things such as initiating inquiries.

Some relatively new MPs have been given important roles, particularly the class of 2017.

Hutt South MP Ginny Anderson has been made the chair of the Justice Select Committee, and her deputy is newly elected Vanushi Walters.

Labour's Tāmati Coffey will head the Māori Affairs committee with Arena Williams as his deputy, and Jamie Strange is now in charge of the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee.

Duncan Webb – Labour MP for Christchurch Central – has been announced as the chair of the all-important Finance and Expenditure Committee.

Although Labour holds the most committee leadership posts, National has managed to snag a couple.

Jacqui Dean will head the newly created Petitions Committee, Barbara Kuriger is in charge of the Governance and Administration Committee, and Chris Penk will chair the Regulations Review Committee.