When National won government following the recent NZ election, I knew that the more centrist approach of party leader John Key would mean that I wouldn’t have to automatically oppose everything they’d be doing, as I’d probably have to with Republicans in the US. In fact, I anticipated supporting things they’d be doing right, and there are two things in the news that reinforce that.
First, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett (whose appointed I praised) has killed a $200,000 conference sponsored by the Families Commission. The conference, which was approved when economic times were still good, was positively over-the-top in bad times, and Bennett saw that immediately. This was a very sensible move.
But the bigger bouquet must go to the Government following through on a pledge to fund a full 12-month treatment of breast cancer with Herceptin. New Zealand’s central drug-funding agency, Pharmac, would only fund nine weeks, arguing that there was no scientific evidence that longer treatment was warranted. 34 countries disagree with them and fund 12 months, and now New Zealand does, too.
The previous health minister said, correctly, that he couldn’t overrule Pharmac. But the National-led Government has done a clever work-around, funding the rest of the treatment directly through the Ministry of Health. This way, women get the full 12-month treatment and the government doesn’t have to take the dangerous course of legislating to allow politicians to tell Pharmac what to do. Everyone wins in this move.
I do have one mild criticism of another minister, Gerry Brownlee, who’s cut off funding for the “Buy Kiwi” ad campaign. I think that’s short-sighted and a bit “penny wise, pound foolish”. Even so, I’m certainly not willing to go to the barricades over it.
There are issues coming up where I’ll definitely be opposed to government plans, but in two of the cases above I think the new government has gotten it completely right (the third I mentioned is, for me, a “meh” situation). Here’s hoping that I’ll have many more opportunities to offer praise.