Monday, April 29, 2024

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 29/4/24

If there has been any fiddling with Pharmac’s funding, we can count on Paula to figure out the fiscal facts – can’t we?”

Pharmac has been given a financial transfusion and a new chair to oversee its spending in the pharmaceutical business.

Associate Health Minister David Seymour described the funding for Pharmac as “its largest ever budget of $6.294 billion over four years, fixing a $1.774 billion fiscal cliff”.

He hyped this as a government commitment to save access to medicines, implying that without a change of government last year, the public’s access to medicines would have been denied.


Labour’s health spokesperson, Ayesha Verrall, accused the National-led Government of engaging in “fiscal jiggery pokery”.

“The government has increased Pharmac funding but conceded it will only make minimal increases in access to medicine”, said Ayesha Verrall

“This is far from the bold promises made to fund cancer medicines pre-election”.

“Associate Minister of Health David Seymour has asserted there is a ‘$1.774 billion fiscal cliff’. The actual figure published in the pre-election update was $724M and David Seymour is trying to gloss over $1.050 billion of increased costs at Pharmac.

“David Seymour needs to explain why an additional estimated $1.050 billion needs to be spent for the Pharmac budget to stand still.

The funding announcement followed Seymour’s announcement that former Deputy PM Paula Bennett has been appointed as a member and chair of the Pharmac board.

That’s great. She will see through any camouflage in the numbers bandied by Seymour and flush out any fiscal flim-flam – won’t she?

Maybe not.

There was an occasion in 2012 when her list of job vacancies didn’t add up, according to Wikipedia.

The Government had gone on the offensive over the worst unemployment rates for 13 years.

The Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, said there were plenty of job opportunities, claiming 300 vacancies at The Warehouse and 40 at Bunnings.

But The Warehouse told RadioLIVE it only had 30 jobs available and Bunnings said it had advertised only three.

Details of the Pharmac funding and the appointment can be found with other news on the government’s official website.

Latest from the Beehive

29 APRIL 2024

Associate Health Minister David Seymour has announced Pharmac’s largest ever budget of $6.294 billion over four years, fixing a $1.774 billion fiscal cliff.

28 APRIL 2024

Hon Paula Bennett has been appointed as member and chair of the Pharmac board, Associate Health Minister David Seymour announced today.

27 APRIL 2024

Hundreds of New Zealand families affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder will benefit from a new Government focus on prevention and treatment, says Health Minister Dr Shane Reti.

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones today attended the official opening of Kaikohe’s new $14.7 million sports complex.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters’ engagements in Türkiye this week underlined the importance of diplomacy to meet growing global challenges.

With regard to the appointment of Paula Bennett to chair the Pharmac board, David Seymour said:

“Paula brings a wealth of experience to this role, with extensive experience in governance and organisational change.

“Her political career spans 15 years. During which she served as Deputy Prime Minister and as a Cabinet Minister, with portfolios including Social Development, Associate Finance, State Services, Social Housing, Police, Local Government, and Tourism.

“As the Minister for Social Development, she led significant reforms to the national welfare system. In her current role, she leads engagement with select corporate, government, large developers, and private stakeholders as the National Director of Customer Engagement and Advisory at Bayleys Realty Group.”

Fair enough. But a quick check of her profile on Wikipedia shows just two mentions of “health”, one of “Pharmac” and none of “pharmaceuticals”.
  • Bennett continued as National’s deputy leader under Simon Bridges after Bill English retired in 2018 and was the party’s spokesperson for social investment and social services, women and drug Bennett has argued that the government’s drug reform policy needs to consider health, education, and justice.
  • In 2024, Associate Minister of Health David Seymour appointed Bennett as chair of Pharmac.
Seymour obviously regards her as the best person in the country for the job (other than anyone who might have better credentials but turned down the job offer).

He said:

“As Chair, Paula will lead the Pharmac board in their role of managing the pharmaceutical schedule and driving greater efficiencies and access to medicine for New Zealanders.

“Globally, changes in medicine are making them more useful and presenting new opportunities for our health, while at the same time presenting new challenges that need to be navigated.

“I’m confident that Paula has the leadership qualities that will make her the best person to make the decisions needed to ensure that Pharmac is world-leading.

Paula Bennett will take up the role from 13 May.

Right-wing blogger Cameron Slater has written about the appointment under the heading It’s Cronyism, Pure and Simple

Paula Bennett’s pay off for raising millions of dollars of donations for the National Party has been realised. She’s been appointed chair of Pharmac in a brazen display of cronyism from the Government:


I can’t think of a worse person to chair Pharmac but at least it ends her bid to be the next Mayor of Auckland.

As to ensuring continued access to medicines, Seymour said:

“Access to medicines is a crucial part of many Kiwis’ lives. We’ve committed to a budget allocation of $1.774 billion over four years so Kiwis are able to access the medicines they need to live a fulfilling life,” says Mr Seymour.

“Upon assuming the role of Associate Health Minister, I was informed by Pharmac that they were facing a $1.774 billion shortfall over the next four years. This deficit occurred because Labour neglected to budget for medicines, creating a significant fiscal challenge.

“In Labour’s fiscal plan, they allocated $180 million annually. However, the true cost to secure Pharmac’s budget was over $400 million per year. This lack of funding jeopardised New Zealanders by potentially causing Pharmac to delist medicines, thereby reducing access to vital healthcare.

“For many New Zealanders, funding for pharmaceuticals is life or death, or the difference between a life of pain and suffering or living freely. It was a priority for this government to find the additional $1.774 billion to prevent this from happening.

This is what New Zealanders can expect from the Luxon government, Seymour insisted – prioritising spending so it can focus on what is most important.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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