Archive

Archive for 14 August 2012

John Banks: condition deteriorating

14 August 2012 12 comments

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com

.

1. Electoral Commission review completed

.

Checklist for the week…

  • Electoral Commission recommendation: Reducing the Party threshold from  5% to 4%   
  • Electoral Commission recommendation: Eliminating the one electorate seat party threshold 
  • Consequence of Electoral Commission recommendations: Annoying the hell out of  John Banks 

Yes, it’s been a good week.

In short, the Electoral Commission has recommended the following

  • The one-electorate-seat threshold for allocating list seats should be abolished.
  • The party vote threshold for allocating list seats should be lowered from 5% to 4%
  • The provision for overhang seats should be abolished for parties that do not cross the party vote threshold.
  • Candidates should continue to be able to stand both in an electorate and on a party list at general elections.
  • List MPs should continue to be able to contest by-elections.
  • Political parties should continue to have responsibility for the composition and ranking of candidates on their party lists.
  • Parliament should review the gradual erosion of list seats relative to electorate seats as it risks undermining the diversity and proportionality of Parliament.

This blogger endorses  every recommendation made by the Electoral Commission.

The recommendations eliminate contradictions; remove areas vulnerable to rorting by politicians; and increase the democratic nature of MMP.

The only comment I would make is that the law should be tightened in the area of political Parties ranking their Party Lists. At present, the law states only that such Lists should be democratically ranked – but gives no formal expectations of how the process of ranking is carried out.

In fact, I would endorse Electoral Commission over-sight of all Party List rankings to ensure that there is no ‘giggery-pokery’ by Party apparatchiks. As they say, justice must not only be done – it must be seen to be done.

The same could be said of the political process. And after all, as politicians are fond of telling us when they increase police surveillance powers; if  Parties are honest in their list-ranking process – they have nothing to be afraid off. Right?

However, all up, I believe the Electoral Commission has done an outstanding job on the review.

.

2. Party Responses

.

ACT

ACT supported retaining both the 5% Party and one electorate seat party threshold.

The Electoral Commission rejected both propositions.

ACT’s sole MP, John Banks, called the review recommendations “woeful”, and then went on to state,

Those who want to gerrymander with the electoral system do so because they lost the last election.”

See: Pressure’s on to tweak MMP

Really, Mr Banks?

When it comes to “gerrymandering”, none is guiltier  than ACT and John Key, and their now infamous “cup of tea” incident during last year’s general election campaign. That event was an outrageous attempt to throw the  election by suggesting to Epsom voters that they should cast their electorate votes for John Banks.

For Banks to now try to climb the moral highground, and accuse those who want to reform MMP as “gerrymandering”, is breath-taking and nauseating hypocrisy on a grand scale.

Banks also issued this statement on the ACT website,

ACT will not support any changes to the MMP voting system. No electoral system is perfect, and the proposed changes do not offer any additional benefits to New Zealand. We do not support the abolishment of the one seat threshold.”

See: No Change Necessary to MMP

Aside from the inference that ACT is fast becoming a quasi-fascist party by ignoring the mass of public submissions that support reforms to MMP,  it is clear that John Banks’ Number One Priority is – John Banks. Ie;  getting himself re-elected to Parliament.

This man’s lack of personal insights into his behaviour, and how the public  view his self-serving and clownish actions,  is deeply troubling.

Greens

Of all the major Parties, only the Greens seem to have acted on principle on this issue.

As Green MP, Holly Walker said,

Abolishing the one electorate seat threshold and lowering the party vote threshold will help to reduce the number of ‘wasted’ votes, and ensure that everyone’s votes count.

Removing the one electorate seat threshold will make a big difference for fairness by making sure that the votes of people in some electorates are not given more weight than others.”

See: Electoral Commission recommendations strengthen MMP

It should be pointed out that whether the Party threshold is kept at 5% or 4%, or whether or not the one electorate seat party thresholdis retained or not, makes no difference to the Green Party.

With their electoral support now consistently over 10% (11.06% last year), and not being reliant on winning an electorate seat to gain Parliamentary representation, their submission to the Electoral Commission gives better representation to supporters of other small Parties, such as the Conservative Party.

Now that’s principled.

Labour

Labour’s submission to the Electoral Commission supported reducing the 5% threshold to 4% and doing away with the one electorate seat party threshold.

It’s fairly obvious why; National has been able to rort the one seat electorate seat threshold to allow potential coalition partners to win seats in Parliament.

By doing away with the one electorate seat party threshold, the demise of ACT is all but assured, and Peter Dunne’s party, United Future, becomes irrelevant.

Interestingly, Labour’s support for reducing the Party List threshold to 4%, gives the Conservative Party a greater chance to win seats in Parliament.

It also allows NZ First a better chance to win seats. (In 2008, NZ First missed out on seats by only .93 percentage-points of reaching the magic 5%.)

This blogger suspects that Labour strategists are thinking long-term on this issue. The Conservative Party may well win seats if the threshold is reduced to 4% – but this may be only a short-term victory for Colin Craig. One term in Parliament may alienate further electoral support, as happened to Peter Dunne’s United Future Party from 2002 to 2005 to 2008.)

See: Labour Welcomes MMP Proposals

Mana Party

Predictably,  the Mana Party is the Party that most loses out if the Electoral Commission’s recommendations are adopted.

Mana’s leader, Hone Harawira, won the Maori seat of  Te Tai Tokerau comfortably and also gained 1.08% of the Party Vote. Had Mana received an additional .12% votes, his Party would have gained an extra MP (the “coat tail” effect).

There is a good chance that if the one electorate seat threshold is retained that Mana could reasonably count on an extra one or two MPs. This is especially likely as the Maori Party bleeds electoral support because of it’s close association with the National Party, and increasingly divisive feelings over the sale of SOEs and water rights.

So it is little surprise that the Mana Party stated it’s opposition to abolition of the one electorate seat threshold.

It appears to be silent on the Party vote threshold.

See: Electoral Commission Report on MMP

This blogger believes that removing the one electorate seat threshold should only be a minor nuisance to the Mana Party. As the Maori Party disintergrates, Mana has a decent chance to pick up many of the Maori seats.

National

Like ACT, National supported retaining both the 5% Party andone electorate seat party threshold.

Deputy PM, Bill English has stated that National would consider the recommendations of the Electoral Commission.

Interestingly, right wing commentator and National Party cadre, Matthew Hooton, stated on Radio New Zealand on 13 August,

The other good thing for National in this report is by getting rid of the tomfoolery around the one seat rule, National won’t be tempted to have cups of tea with the likes of John Banks and Peter Dunne and they will become less relevant to the political system…

…So now National, assuming it will accept these recommendations, even though they are against what National itself recommended to the review, but if the government does accept these, then National now knows very clearly it’s path to it’s third term is through that Winston Peters/Colin Craig deal.

… Well strangely enough National recommended that 5% threshold remain and Labour recommended to the review that a 4% threshold be introduced and the review team has gone with what is the Labour party and the public’s preference. And the irony there is I think is that the 5% threshold, maintaining it , would have served the Labour Party’s interest and the 4% threshhold favours National. So the two Parties both, two main parties both, made recommendations that were against their own interests.”

See: Radio NZ, Nine to Noon Show: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Josie Pagani

In this matter, I concur fully with Hooton. Whilst reducing the 5% threshold to 4% may  disadvantage the Left in the short-term – in the long-term it will remove anomalies in the electoral system that  provides fertile ground for  a  pervading  sense of political cynicism, thereby alienating people from  voting.

The worst thing to put people off voting is a perception that the system is “rigged” to produce pre-determined results.

That’s why we got rid of First Past the Post.

New Zealand First

Winston Peters has curiously split his Party’s response to the Electoral Commission’s recommendations;

  •  5% vs 4% Threshold

Peters states that NZ First wants the 5% threshold retained, even though it might disadvantage his Party.

Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, stated on Radio NZ’s 4pm Panel on 14 August, that he considered Peters’ preference for 5% as “principled”.

Nonsense.

Peters wants the 5% threshold retained because it suits his strategy. NZ First has a better than 50/50 chance of crossing the 5% threshold in upcoming elections – especially now that his Party has access to millions of dollars in Parliamentary funding and free TV advertising.

Conversely, by insisting that  the 5% threshold be retained denies the Conservative Party the chance to win seats in Parliament, as reaching 5% is considerably harder than 4%. The Christian Coalition  Party achieved 4.33% in the first MMP election in 1996.

See: New Zealand general election, 1996

This assessment of Peters’ rationale is confirmed when, in the next breath, he supports abandoning the one electorate seat party threshold,

  • One electorate seat party threshold

There have been numerous attempts to corrupt the integrity of MMP by the National, ACT and United Future parties by misusing the intent of the one electorate seat threshold for the allocation of list seats.”

It’s interesting that Peters wants the 5% threshold retained, and insists,

Rt Hon Winston Peters says the 1993 referendum confirmed that the public wanted the threshold for a party to win list seats in a general election to be five per cent.

“It shouldn’t be tampered with now by Parliament”.”

See: MMP Recommendations Are Anti-Democratic – Peters

– but at the same time is comfortable with removing the one electorate seat party threshold despite it also being part and parcel of the 1993 Referendum?!

Contradictory, much?

The reason Peters wants the one electorate seat party threshold removed is that it prevents the Consertive Party from doing an Epsom or Ohariu-type deal with National, and thereby gaining Parliamentary seats by winning an electorate.

This is precisely how ACT gained five seats in the 2008 electorate;

  1. ACT failed to reach 5%, and gained only 3.65% of the Party Vote
  2. National did a deal with ACT, letting Rodney Hide win the Epsom electorate
  3. The one electorate seat threshold allowed four other MPs enter Parliament on Hide’s “coat tails”.

In simple words, Peters wants the Conservative Party from winning seats in Parliament in a similar manner.

In doing so, he retains his role as sole “king maker” between National and Labour/Greens.

.

3. The Thresholds – Why Change was necessary

.

5% Party Threshold

The Party vote threshold was probably originally set at 5% to allay fears that Parliament would be over-run by a plethora of small parties, as has happened in Israel.  The resulting instability would have destroyed MMPs reputation within a few years, and would not have survived the subsequent referendum.

A relatively ‘median’ 5% threshold could allow a measure of proportionality, whilst at the same time not resulting in the “Israeli Disease”. (Israeli politics has been dominated by numerous small, extremist, political parties, elected under proportional representation  with almost no Party threshold. In 2009 this resulted in a dozen parties being represented in The Knesset. See: Politics of Israel)

With MMP firmly bedded-in after 15 years, and the public comfortable with Parliamentary  proportional representation, it seems appropriate to reduce the Party threshold to 4%. This provides space and opportunity for a new political party to form; win representation in Parliament; and provide fresh ideas to be debated.

One electorate seat threshold

The one electorate seat threshold has always been an anomaly – but with justification. It was assumed that despite  MMP being favourable to small political Parties, it might still be difficult to win representation in Parliament. It was considered that if a small Party had the electoral support of voters to win one electorate (which was still fought under First Past the Post), then they deserved their full compliment of MPs, according to their Party vote, regardless of whether or not they reached 5%.

The one electorate seat threshold was a kind of “dispensation” from the 5% threshold, to ensure that a small Party could have an effective voice in Parliament.

Not only is it no longer needed – but the one electorate seat threshold dispensation has lately been exploited by larger parties such as National,  gerrymandering the system to gain  potential coalition partners  in Parliament.

It has also been demonstrated to be highly unfair.

In the 2008 General Election neither ACT nor NZ First reached the 5% Party threshold.  But because National assisted Rodney Hide to win the electorate seat of Epsom, ACT was given the  one electorate seat threshold dispensation, and won five seats in Parliament.

The irony was that ACT won fewer Party Votes (85,496 or, 3.65%) than NZ First (95,356 or, 4.07%) – but ACT still got into Parliament.

That result was not the fair system of proportional representation that was ‘sold’ to the public in 1993.

That situation was untenable, and the public stated as such in their submissions to the Electoral Commission. It was an affront to the Kiwi sense of fairness.

Accordingly, the public demand an end to it.

.

4. National’s dilemma

 

.

National now has a clear choice – and it is in a bind.

If it decides to accept the recommendations of the Electoral Commission to lower the Party threshold to 4% and abandon the one electorate seat threshold – then it risks alienating support from it’s two, one-man band, coalition partners, Peter Dunne and John “I-can’t-remember” Banks.

Dunne and Banks may push their coalition deal with National to the brink – and over the edge – if National accepts the Commission’s reforms.

If the reforms are implemented, it will make Dunne irrelevant, and John Banks and his Party, dog-tucker.

Dunne may win Ohariu – but he would never again have the chance to bring one or two extra MPs into Parliament on his “coat tails”.

And Epsom voters would dump Banks in favour of their own true-blue National candidate.

This would make life unpleasant for both Dunne and Banks. They might decide to issue an ultimatum (see below, “John Banks – mental confusion worsening?”) to abandon the reforms – or else they would walk from the Coalition. What would they have to lose?

But if National decides not to enact the Commission’s reforms, it risks losing a potential  coalition partner – the Conservative Party – in 2014. A Party threshold of 4% would mean 5 Conservative Party MPs.

That is simply too good an offer to pass up. Especially if National drops to 43% or 45% in the polls, as this blogger predicts will happen in the next twelve to 18  months.

Tough times ahead for the Nats…

.

5. John Banks – mental confusion worsening?

.

John Banks’ mental condition is deteriorating.

Today, the Member for Epsom forgot which political Party he is a member of, when he said on Radio NZ’s “Morning Report“,

The National Party are not going to support this proposal.”

Hear: Listen to John Banks on Morning Report

And again, on MSN News, Banks made it clear that he believed himself to be a National Party spokesperson when he said,

This is not going to happen.  The National Party is not going to support this proposal.”

John Banks is an ACT member of parliament – not National. He can no more speak for National than Hone Harawira  could speak on behalf of Labour.

It is becoming more apparent each day that the fellow is losing his tenuous grip on reality. This blogger hopes that he will receive the treatment he requires and makes a speedy recovery from his delusions and shocking memory loss.

Tomorrow, Banks may attempt to walk on water. Or invade Poland.

.

*

.

Previous blogposts

Supplementary Member system – it’s a bloody rort!

Some thoughts on MMP

John Banks – escaping justice

Additional

Radio NZ: Drop threshold from 5% to 4% – MMP review

Radio NZ: National won’t back MMP change, says Banks

.

.

= fs =

Advertisements

10 August: Unhealthy Health Cuts

14 August 2012 9 comments

.

.

In a repeat of health cuts in the late 1990s, National’s latest round of health cuts are starting to bite, and communities are fighting back.

See: Claim many burned out by health sector reforms (21 December 1996)

See: CHE job cuts impel nurses to eye Britain    (19 April 1997)

See: Cuts to hospital services expected (8 August 1997)

See: GP hits out at health reforms  (3 February 1998)

See: Widow says little improvement seem   (3 April 1999)

Despite assurances given after the May budget this year, National is cutting deep into the health budget, whilst raising user-pays charges. As Dear Leader said on 15 May,

“… low income earners should not be worried about the higher price of prescriptions because they too will benefit from improvements to other parts of the health service.”

See: PM says low income earners will benefit from health improvements

Tony Ryall added,

Despite tight financial times and what will be a zero Budget on 24 May, health will receive a big funding boost, which will come from savings within health and across the Government’s accounts.”

See: Prescription charges to increase

Well, we know how such assurances from National usually turn out.  Quite badly for us, unfortunately.

As is always the case, National’s “reforms” (aka, budget cuts)  impact on low-income families and individuals first – and  eventually creep up the socio-economic ladder  to affect the middle classes.  That is when we’ll see some real screaming from the public.

The cuts to Vote: Health have already started to affect our communities.  As District Health Boards are allocated either less money, or insufficient money to make up for inflation, local health initiatives begin to suffer.

One very clear example of cuts to local health programmes is  the Capital & Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) cutting funding for the Newtown Union Health Service,

  Coordinator Debbie Leyland says Newtown Union Health Service, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in the region, will lose $274,000 this year and expects to face more significant cuts in the year ahead.

“The DHB has indicated the 7.9% funding reduction to NUHS is required to help the DHB save $20 million this year. It has been indicated that the DHB needs to save an additional $20 million over the next two years which will have a serious impact on primary health care.”.

Leyland says the cuts will have serious impacts on patients who have no other option but to access low-cost primary health care, such as NUHS.”

See:  Scoop.co.nz: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

Since the Newtown Union Health Service serves mostly  low-income/fixed income families and individuals, these cuts to to the NUHS’s budget will go mostly unnoticed by the middle class. But these cuts will mimpact on those at the bottom of the socio-economic ‘pile’.

As Debbie Leyland said,

Newtown Union Health is a low cost primary health service that provides vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in Wellington. The funding cuts are dire for the service. Services such as the diabetes program are likely to be cut. There are nurses and doctors volunteering to work for free to keep services going. Wellington Hospital’s A&E will become increasingly cluttered and there will be less ability for accurate assessment of A&E patients due to the extra pressure.”

Leyland says the Government is ultimately responsible for the cuts, and says Health Minister Tony Ryall has refused to meet with community representatives.

“The Government is using a sharp razor to cut services that are vital to the lives of many vulnerable people. We would like to discuss the implications of these cuts with the Minister of Health Tony Ryall so he understands the impacts. Minister Ryall’s office is refusing to meet with us and has told us that he does not meet with members of the community. This shows he is deeply out of touch”.

See:  Scoop.co.nz: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

It is hardly surprising that Health Minister, Tony Ryall, refuses to meet with Ms Leyland. That would be… embarressing.

To show the community’s displeasure at cuts to their health service, a newly formed group, the United Community Action Newtown (UCAN) organised a public display of opposition, as well as meeting with the District Health Board at one of their many meetings.

The public health-cuts protest took place on the morning (8.45am, for about an hour) on 10 August.  Approximately 60 people from the Newtown community, and the Greater Wellington region,  took part,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

The picket was peaceful, subdued, and well-mannered. The lone policeman keeping watch may have  wondered what burglaries needed his attention, instead of wasting valuable police resources doing nothing except enjoying the brisk  morning air and sunshine,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

The banner of the newly formed United Community Action Newtown (UCAN) fluttered in the slight breeze of a cool Wellington morning,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

As the picket progressed, the Westpac Emergency helicopter took of from it’s landing-pad atop one of the Hospital buildings.

Whilst it’s refreshing to see this marvel of modern technology employed to save lives – another struggle to help people and save lives is carried out on in the streets below. Cuts to community-based healthcare can prove as harmful to human  beings as the critical injuries suffered by patients saved by this machine and it’s heroic crew,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

This gentleman had obviously put a great deal of thought into the content of his placard, and wanted to get a clear message across,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

UCAN organisor, Katie, addressing the crowd. She thanked Ken, the musician; the Maritime Union for their support; and the people who turned out to support the campaign to ratain full funding for community health services.

I later asked Katie a few questions,

Hi Katie, what do you hope to get out of this?

We just want to have a really strong and effective primary health system that cares for all people. Those particularly most vulnerable in our society, those who don’t have the money or the ability to travel to the doctor regularly. They need healthcare  that they can access because they’re the ones who’ve been  shown to  get sicker more often. So we need a health system that looks after them.”

Where do you see the health service going if they keep cutting and cutting?

Well of course, these clinics won’t be able to function. Their services have already been drastically reduced. They’ve already had to cut lots of  really good, effective services that they’ve provided in the past. So of course if the cuts keep happening they’re just will fall over and not be able to exist anymore.”

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

The crowd, listening to Katie,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Labour MP and spokesperson for ACC, Andrew Little, being interviewed by TV3 (below) and another journalist (further below),

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

TV3 news team wandering through the crowd. Unless this blogger missed it, there was no coverage that evening of this event,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

A month ago, on  18 July, Whitirea journalist, Vomle Springford reported  a previous, similar event held by UCAN, where organisor Debbie Leyland said,

Outreach clinics, asthma education, midwifery, and sexual health services are likely to go if the funding cut is finalised.

Ms Leyland says if services like the Strathmore outreach clinic are lost, vulnerable people will be less likely to seek primary health care and end up in hospital.

“For example, if you live in Strathmore and are on a low wage, with a sick child, and English isn’t your first language, it’s more of a challenge to get to Newtown. It’s the little things, these services are vital, crucial stuff “. “

It was unhelpful for CCDHB communications advisor, Lindsay Davis, to then  suggest that  cuts did not mean  people would be unable to get the help they need,

If the Newtown service stops their outreach clinic to council flats, people will still be able to access health services, but they will have to come into the Newtown clinic.”

See: Newtown group wants answers over health cuts

For many people, especially immigrants, an Outreach Clinic that comes to their council flats is their only contact with health services.  This is notr about “laziness”, it’s about society being proactive before a medical condition worsens to a degree that requires more expensive intervention.

Dr Ben Gray, a senior lecturer in Primary Health Care and General Practice at the University of Otago Wellington and former NUHS doctor, told the board in his submission  the funding cut does not make sense to him because research clearly shows primary care is much more cost effective at improving health status than secondary care.

“They (funding cuts) will lead to increased costs for the hospital in the way of increased emergency department visits, higher hospital admission rates and the risk of collapse of our obstetric (midwifery) service”. “

See: Newtown group wants answers over health cuts

Attending to an outbreak of disease at the start is more financially sensible than waiting for infection to spread, thereby compounding  the problem.

It is also the right thing to do in any fair-minded  society .

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

A month later, things have not gotten better, and UCAN is still having to deliver it’s message to the CCDHB that funding cuts to the NUHS will impace unfairly on an already disadvantaged, low-income community,

UCAN Coordinator Debbie Leyland says Newtown Union Health Service, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in the region, will lose $274,000 this year and expects to face more significant cuts in the year ahead.

“The DHB has indicated the 7.9% funding reduction to NUHS is required to help the DHB save $20 million this year. It has been indicated that the DHB needs to save an additional $20 million over the next two years which will have a serious impact on primary health care.”.

Leyland says the cuts will have serious impacts on patients who have no other option but to access low-cost primary health care, such as NUHS.

“Newtown Union Health is a low cost primary health service that provides vital services to some of the most vulnerable people in Wellington. The funding cuts are dire for the service. Services such as the diabetes program are likely to be cut. There are nurses and doctors volunteering to work for free to keep services going. Wellington Hospital’s A&E will become increasingly cluttered and there will be less ability for accurate assessment of A&E patients due to the extra pressure.”

Leyland says the Government is ultimately responsible for the cuts, and says Health Minister Tony Ryall has refused to meet with community representatives.

“The Government is using a sharp razor to cut services that are vital to the lives of many vulnerable people. We would like to discuss the implications of these cuts with the Minister of Health Tony Ryall so he understands the impacts. Minister Ryall’s office is refusing to meet with us and has told us that he does not meet with members of the community. This shows he is deeply out of touch”.”

Ms Leyland  explained the obvious end-conclusion to health budget cuts,

” Several dollars are saved in other parts of the health system for every one dollar put into primary health care. These cuts will cost tax payers millions in the long run. The Government should be putting a fence at the top of the cliff, not simply relying on an ambulance at the bottom. “

Scoop: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

This is fairly basic, common-sense, stuff.

The only reason that a National health-minister would disregard basic common sense and long-term health outcomes is for short-term accounting purposes.  After two tax cuts and various subsidies for businesses, National finds itself with a massive budget deficit.

See: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

See: Budget deficit keeps getting worse

Unfortunately, we are the ones who end up paying for National’s mistakes.

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Musician, Ken, entertained the crowd with a steady selection of R&B and other fine music,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Two representatives from the Service & Food Workers Union. Cuts to healthcare don’t just impact on the services that the community can access – but also to jobs and workers’ pay and conditions.

As services are wound back; jobs are cut; unemployment grows; serious medical conditions eventually demand more expensive medical interventions, it is apparent that budget cuts are a false economy.  (But try telling that to bean-counters in the National Party.)

Budget cuts affect every aspect of society and the economy.

Unions aren’t just advocating on behalf of their members – they are looking out for society as a whole.

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Representatives of the NZ Maritime Union were thanked for supporting the picket, and assisting with the ‘UCAN’ t-shirts for the organisers,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

This woman stood by the roadside – her placards eliciting a noisy barrage of supportive toots from passing traffic,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Robin, a member of the Newtown Union Health Service. He was emphatic in his belief that funding should not be cut,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Retired trade unionist, Pat Bolster, gave his support to  community anger at cutbacks,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Debbie Leyland, co-founder of UCAN, then took the microphone to address the gathering. A little later, I chatted with Debbie and asked her about her meeting with the Board,

We went to see the members of the district health board, Mary Bonner, and the other members. We went to discuss the cuts in the Union health service funding which is over a quarter of a million dollars.

I presented them with a game of ‘Jenga’ which I explained is our model of  Newtown Union health.  Because if you start taking blocks away , Newtown Union [Health Service]  will fall. We asked them to respond with their plan of health cuts and how they’re going to cope. Where are the people that are going to be affected by these health cuts going to go?

They said to me that they’d take on board what we’ve said and they will have a robust discussion behind their closed doors in that part of the meeting.  

I asked for transparency and open discussion on the public arena and that was denied.  So I then said that we had people wanting answers. They said they would have a robust discussion and they would come back to us in a week. “

I asked Debbie Leyland if  the CCDHB gave any indication why they were cutting the budget?

Because Tony Ryall has ordered $129 million [cut] out of the Health budget.  A lot of that is to come out of primary healthcare. There’s $40 million this year coming out, $40 million next year.

But the thing is, healthcuts don’t heal people. They cost lots of money at the end of the road. For every dollar, you put in primary healthcare, you save several [dollars] in the secondary, which is going to the hospitals. So it’s a financial nonsense.”

With these healthcuts the government has promised not to cut front line services, but it almost seems inevitable that they will be, I suggested.

Ms Leyland replied,

The funding’s already been cut. They’re not renewing  contracts like the diabetes contracts; midwives;  Strathmore mobile clinic, is probably going to go. They are cutting it. They said that this was a one-off cut last year, and here they are back again for another cut.

If they come back in the next year [with another cut] I doubt whether  the Newtown Union [Health Service] will ever be opened. “

This almost seems like a re-run of the 1990s health cuts?

Well doesn’t it? And what’s very ironic about that statement is that that was the reason why Newtown union Health Service was set up in the first place/. It was set up by the Unions to provide honest, affordable healthcare for their members and for the most vulnerable in the community. So it is quite ironic that we find outselves here, and also what’s more ironic is today is the same day that the PHO building across the road was opened five years ago. “

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Rev. Richard Noble, one of the group of a dozen people,  making a representation to the CCDHB opposing damaging  cuts to  community healthcare. He was joined by Dr Ben Gray and Prof Don Matheson.

Rev Noble, standing alongside another member of the picket,

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

Two local Newtown residents, Ariana and Bronwyn.  Browyn expressed her disgust at having “a posh cafe with $6 sandwiches within the hospital” complex, and suggested  that “maybe we need a soup kitchen instead?”

.

Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking   fmacskasy.wordpress.com Newtown Union Health Service United Community Action Newtown 10 August 2012 protest Wellington Hospital

.

This blogger also had an opportunity to discuss the issue with  Linda Hobman, UCAN chairperson and a member of the Wellington City Council Accessibility Advisory Committee. I started by asking Ms Hobman what happened when she appeared before the CCDHB.

Ms Hobman replied,

We did public participation. We did that at the June Board meeting, and they asked the officers to do a report, which is on the Agenda today but it’s in “Public Excluded”. So we gave public participation again today asking them to reconsider the cuts…

… They [said they] would let us know in a week. I’m a bit confused as to why they have to wait a week to let us know the decision, if they make the decision today.”

Ms Hobman then confirmed that the Board had cut the NUHS funding by $274,000. I asked Ms Hobman what services might be cut with their  funding slashed.  She replied,

“Well that is the decision that the Newtown Union have to make. The reality is that services will be cut. That 7.8% of the budget, and so services will be cut.”

Ms Hobson continued, thather group pointed out to the CCDHB,

We just really emphasised the point that we’re dealing with a lot people enrolled at the  Newtown [Union Service]  that have high and complex needs. We have a high proportion of refugees.

We have a high proportion of mental health consumers.

And many of the mental health consumers would have traditonally been treated at secondary, that’s in hospital, but because  Newtown Union works the way it does , these people can be living in the community and receiving the care they need. The reality is  we won’t be able to take on any new patients.”

I suggested to Ms Hobman that if patients were going to receive more  secondary [hospital in-patient] care, that this would impact on the hospital itself.

Ms Hobman replied,

Yes absolutely. But they didn’t respond, they just listened.

It’s very important that people take a stand… The reality is it’s our  most vulnerable people that are being affected by the health cuts. And it’s  our most vulnerable people in New Zealand that this government doesn’t give a darn about.”

Ms Hobman then stated she would be returning to the Board meeting whilst it was still in open public-mode.

The protest picket disbanded peacefully, and without incident, a short time later.

.

Addendum

To gather more information  relating to funding for the NUHS, I have emailed a request to CCDHB CEO, Mary Bonner, seeking  clarification on budgetary  matters. They responded,

.

.

This blogger will keep you posted on this issue.

.

*

.

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     For non-commercial use, images may be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

.

Additional

CCDHB Annual Report: 2009

CCDHB Annual Report: 2010

CCDHB Annual Report: 2011

NZ Herald: Health cuts costly in long term, warns union

NZ Herald: Divided Auckland: Overcrowding a hotbed for infections

NZ Herald: Pressure leads to health cut predictions

Fairfax Media: Whooping cough is rampant in capital

Fairfax Media: Prescription charges to increase

Radio NZ: PM says low income earners will benefit from health improvements

Fairfax Media: Maori children suffer health treatment inequalities: study

Scoop: New community group protests at hospital against funding cuts

Newswire: Newtown group wants answers over health cuts

Facebook: United Community Action Newtown

Media coverage

NZ Herald: Protest against cuts to health funds

.

.

= fs =