ZB

John MacDonald: Prioritising a media merger over cancer drugs is shameful

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 May 2022, 12:53pm
Photo / ODT
Photo / ODT

John MacDonald: Prioritising a media merger over cancer drugs is shameful

Author
John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Fri, 20 May 2022, 12:53pm

Labour has turned its back on its people and the days of the Chardonnay Socialists are well and truly back.

When I say “its” people, I’m talking about the people I’ve always thought could rely the most on the Labour Party to be on their side. Those on benefits, superannuitants, the sick, and those who might’ve been called working class back in the day but are probably better known these days as low income.

And it seems to have turned its back on these people in a relatively short time.

If you go back to the Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament after Jacinda Ardern became Prime Minister in 2017, this is what Labour said:

“Join us in creating a better future together. A future with a fair and unified New Zealand, where the wellbeing of all New Zealanders is at the heart of all we do.”

I didn’t see the wellbeing of all New Zealanders being a priority in yesterday’s Budget.

I saw the wellbeing of the bureaucrats being catered for very nicely. And I’ve tried to resist the temptation to give it a nickname like the Opposition parties were quick to do yesterday, as they always do on Budget Day.

National says it had thought about a few options but is calling it the “Backwards Budget”. ACT is calling it the “Brain Drain Budget”.

But I’m going to give in to temptation and call it the “Bureaucracy Budget”. Because some of the spending beggars belief, as far as I’m concerned. A truckload of money is being poured into bureaucracy - driven by blind ideology.

First, there’s the $11 billion going into health. Is that to hire more doctors and nurses? Is that to put more money into intensive care units? No. It’s $11 billion over four years to bail out all the health boards around the country so that the new National Health Authority can start out with a clean financial slate.

Then there’s the $200 million for a report on establishing a deepwater port in the Manukau Harbour - which just sounds to me like the Harbour Bridge cycleway project in a wetsuit.

But the one that really gets me is $327 million to be spent on something I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone demanding.

I haven’t seen any petitions calling for this. I haven’t seen any marches on Parliament demanding this. Nothing.

Yet, the Government thinks now is the time to be spending $327 million merging state radio and state TV. Have you ever sat in your chair watching The Chase waiting for the news to come on and thought to yourself ‘what this country desperately needs right now is to spend a truckload of money creating a new media company’.

I’ve never thought it - and I bet you haven’t either.

But that’s what it is going to do. Spend $327 million merging RNZ and TVNZ - at the same time as you’ve got cancer patients at Parliament yesterday demanding more funding for life-saving and life-extending medications.

How this Government can justify blowing $327 million on something that is nothing more than ideological - and certainly not needed - and, at the same time, limit the amount of extra money it puts into Pharmac’s drug budget beggars belief.

The cancer patients who went to Parliament yesterday, went there hoping there’d be $417 million in the Budget so Pharmac could buy 78 drugs it wants to buy but doesn’t have the money for.

Instead, Grant Robertson gave Pharmac half that and, as the NZ Herald is reporting today, those cancer patients are “bitterly disappointed”.

“Patients will continue to die here, whereas overseas they don’t.”

That’s what the Chairperson of Patient Voice Aotearoa said after the Budget came out yesterday.

It is criminal that the Government is failing to deliver for these desperate people and is pouring money into merging its two media companies.

As I said a few weeks ago when we were talking about funding for cancer drugs, it’s appalling isn’t it that in between their chemo sessions, women in headscarves have to travel all the way to Wellington and stand on the steps of Parliament to try and make the powers-that-be sit up and pay attention.

And how galling it must be to turn up again on Budget Day and find out the Government’s only going to invest half of what’s needed, but it’s going to blow more than $300 million on merging its TV and radio operations - something, as far as I’m aware, no one has been crying out for.

It is shameful.