8/10

June 22, 2013

8/10 in the Herald’s politics quiz.

Though I’m awarding myself a bonus for knowing that in question 4  it’s Jacqui Dean, not Jackie Blue, who chairs the Law and Order select committee.


Jackie Blue’s valedictory speech

May 18, 2013

Dr Jackie Blue delivered her valedictory speech on Wednesday.

Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) : When I completed my medical degree back in the early 1980s, neither I nor anyone around me could have predicted that I would end up in politics and then move on to be the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission. But life is full of twists and turns and, most important, opportunities, though we may not recognise them as such at the time.

The opportunity to get involved with the National Party came in 2001. When advocating for breast physicians, a role that I had pioneered in New Zealand, I had a chance meeting with Bill and Mary English. I became actively involved in the party in 2002, after the general election. It was an exciting time to get involved. The party was regrouping and reviewing its constitution. After the encouragement of the National Party leader at the time, Dr Don Brash, I put my name forward as a candidate in the 2005 election. I was truly delighted when I was selected to stand in the Mt Roskill electorate.

With my health background, I joined National’s health team. Tony Ryall was the health spokesperson. Tony was, and is, a great mentor. I know many of our colleagues were very envious. Tony put the health team to work, giving us a range of health responsibilities. I had the access to medicines portfolio and, because of my background, breast cancer – related issues.

While I was a new MP in 2005, Herceptin became high-profile, with many countries funding a 12-month course for a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer. It was being used for treatment in metastatic breast cancer in New Zealand, but the trials were showing that it was reducing deaths in early stage, newly diagnosed breast cancer. I am grateful that Tony gave me the opportunity to advocate for 12-months’ Herceptin funding for women with breast cancer in New Zealand.

I was extraordinarily proud when John Key made this a National Party election promise in 2008. One of the most marvellous memories from my time in Parliament is of a meeting shortly after the November 2008 election, when I joined Tony, who was the new Minister of Health, and key officials from the Ministry of Health and Pharmac. The meeting was to work through the logistics of ensuring that the women who needed Herceptin had access to it by Christmas 2008. The timing was very tight, but it was a case of Yes, Minister at its very best. Everyone worked together to ensure that the policy rolled out smoothly. With the results of recent trials, time has proved that funding 12 months’ Herceptin was the right decision. Twelve months is considered to be the international gold standard. For Pharmac to continue to financially support a trial that offers a 9-week Herceptin course is, in my opinion, dubious and possibly unethical.

In my first term of Parliament Tony Ryall and I had the opportunity to advocate for enrolled nurses. This iconic nursing workforce had been increasingly marginalised. They had been forced out of acute hospital services, with their training limited to the very narrow scopes of long-term care and rehabilitation, as well as having undergone a name change to nurse assistant. The name change was detrimental. The nurses felt demeaned, undervalued, and demoted. A concerning consequence was that the numbers of students in training dropped significantly. There were reports that it had caused a loss of confidence and confusion with the public and prospective employers.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation took the case to the Regulations Review Committee, which did support that the enrolled nurse name should be retained. In late September 2008 the Government moved a motion in Parliament that required the Nursing Council to change the name. Expanding the role and training of enrolled nurses became a 2008 election commitment for the National Party, and when Tony Ryall became the Minister of Health he set about implementing that policy.

I really connected with the enrolled nurses’ story. They had faced ignorance and prejudice. Their battles had been my battles when I was establishing breast physicians in New Zealand. Regrettably, the number of breast physicians in New Zealand has not grown as it should, and it is my sincere hope that this will change as professional colleges accept the huge contribution that breast physicians bring to the multidisciplinary breast cancer team.

Early in 2008 I met with a group of refugee and migrant doctors who were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service, or ARMS, in Mount Roskill. The group had been struggling to get registration with the New Zealand Medical Council. They were frustrated that we did not have a bridging programme like Australia had. Over several years they had made successive approaches to health Ministers without getting any traction. They were meeting regularly at the Auckland Regional Migrant Service to study and to support each other, and I would like to acknowledge the amazing support that Dr Mary Dawson and Anna Fyfe-Rahal from the service have been providing to this group. Without their support and encouragement, I am quite sure that this group would have disbanded long ago.

My heart went out to these doctors. After the election I re-established contact with the group and began to meet with them each month. I went back to Tony Ryall and I said that we simply had to do something for them. Tony was very supportive and agreed that I could start investigating options, and I began discussions with the Ministry of Health and the Medical Council. However, when Professor Des Gorman, chair of Health Workforce New Zealand, got involved in the latter part of 2009, the project developed a momentum all of its own. The NZREX preparation placement programme began in 2011 and has been hugely successful, with 33 out of 38 migrant doctors passing the Medical Council registration exam. This programme has been truly life changing for those doctors and their families.

The public would be very interested to know that our Parliament exists in an alternative reality. This parallel Parliament is full of cross-party committees and friendship groups. It is a place I have inhabited since I have been an MP. It is a happy place. It is a place where MPs work collaboratively towards common objectives. I have found it immensely satisfying and stimulating. I recall a retired senior National Minister telling me that one of the most satisfying times of his career was when, as a result of a crisis, Government and Opposition MPs worked together to broker a solution. Of course, I knew exactly what he was talking about because this is my experience in the cross-party groups. The thing is, you do not need to wait for a crisis. The chance already exists.

The opportunity to chair three cross-party groups has been truly life changing for me. All three groups—the New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development, or NZPPD, the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians, or CWP, and Parliamentarians for Global Action, or PGA—have a strong human rights focus. The New Zealand Parliamentarians’ Group on Population and Development, in particular, specifically focused on women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, domestic violence, and our overseas aid in Pacific countries. The Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians group is focused on improving the number of women in Pacific Parliaments. I co-chaired with Louisa Wall. The Parliamentarians for Global Action group has a strong focus on human rights, the rule of law, the International Criminal Court, gender, and democracy.

It has been the work of these committees that has left me utterly convinced that society must back its women and girls. Women make up one-half of the world’s human capital. No society can achieve its full potential when half the population is denied the opportunity to achieve theirs. Empowering and educating women and girls are fundamental to succeeding and prospering in the ever more competitive world. This is particularly true in developing countries, but it is also absolutely relevant in developed countries like New Zealand. As women progress, everyone in society progresses, including men and boys. Tapping into the potential of women and girls is not only the right thing; it is the smart thing. Sexual reproductive health and rights and education go hand in hand. When women have the opportunity to control their fertility and have access to reproductive health services they are more likely to stay in education, get employment, and provide for their families. Education leads to more choices and opportunities.

The cross-party groups that I am involved with are very excited about the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration that our Government signed along with other Pacific Parliaments last year in Rarotonga at the Pacific Islands Forum. All leaders—and that includes Australia’s and New Zealand’s—have agreed to implement specific national policy actions to progress gender equality in the areas of Government programmes, decision making, economic empowerment, health, education, and ending violence against women. The leaders agreed that progress in these areas should be reported on at each forum leaders meeting by way of a performance-monitoring framework. We are all looking forward to having a robust measure by which we can track New Zealand’s progress in gender equality.

We are a House of Representatives, but, unfortunately, as it is, we do not truly represent all New Zealanders. If our Parliament perfectly represented our diverse society, we would have eight Pacific MPs; we have five. We would have three Indian MPs; we have two. We would have eight Asian MPs; we have three. We would have one Middle Eastern, Latin American, or African MP; we have none. We would have 18 Māori MPs. We are doing well in this area—we have 22. And, of course, 50 percent of our MPs would be women. The fact is that only 33 percent are women MPs. This is unacceptable in the 21st century. We can, and we must, do better.

I am very appreciative that Maggie Barry will be taking over my member’s bill, the Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill, which proposes to change the Marriage Act such that minors—16 and 17-year-olds—who wish to marry would need to get the consent of the Family Court. The current situation is that minors require only parental consent. This bill arose out of the concern that some minors, predominantly young girls, are being coerced into marriage. I was very grateful that Judith Collins came out in strong support of this bill. In December last year an inter-agency response for victims of forced marriage in New Zealand was agreed upon to enable agencies to work together to support these young, vulnerable victims.

On a personal note, I would like to thank Judith for the support she gave me when I made the decision to promote the Shine organisation helpline by going public with my own experience of domestic violence. Thank you, Judith. She was, and is, a tower of strength.

I have talked a lot about opportunity, and I am so grateful that I have had the most extraordinary opportunities as an MP. I am tremendously excited about my new role as Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner. I would like to acknowledge the former commissioner, Dr Judy McGregor. Her work in this area has been simply outstanding. Prime Minister, you will be pleased to know that the equal employment opportunities in the workplace policy fits perfectly with the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. There is strong, irrefutable evidence that it improves productivity and innovation. Our future workforce will be increasingly diverse, and the fact is that it is in our best interests to manage it well. Equal employment opportunities policy is mandated in the State sector, but it needs to become part of normal practice in the private sector. Indeed, many successful New Zealand businesses cite equal employment opportunities policy and practice as giving them the competitive edge.

There are many people to thank. My gratitude goes to my team in Mt Roskill, the northern region National Party, and all the volunteers. I would particularly like to make a special mention of Ram Rai and Jim Stephens. My sincere thanks go to my parliamentary staff, Denise Tustin and Kristin White, who have given me the most wonderful support. I would like to thank all the parliamentary staff who keep this place functioning, particularly the Parliamentary Library and the travel centre, which provide amazing service. I would like to thank my taxi drivers Stefan—also known as the “Silver Fox”—and Artur, who got me safely and on time to many engagements.

Thank you to the “class of 2005” MPs for the wonderful friendship and support you have given me. It is something I will always treasure. Thank you to my friends who have made the special journey here to Wellington—and, on a special note, thank you to Mark, Karen, Spencer, and Nicholas Withers. My heartfelt thanks go to my husband Dave Miller and my beautiful daughters Jess and Paddy, whom I am just so very proud of. I honestly could not have done any of this without you being solidly by my side.

My husband Dave has a building background, and each election year he was in charge of hoardings. Dave has become quite famous in the northern region. The hoardings structures he built were indestructible. No matter if an Opposition hoarding built our one out; Dave would just rebuild ours taller than before. They were creatively built, and absolutely straight, as Dave insisted on a spirit level. I am sure many should have had a resource consent. I have always said that if I could leave Parliament with my family, health, and reputation intact, I was doing all right. I like to think I have achieved that.

I would like to thank the Prime Minister for his leadership over the last 4 years, which have been extremely tough. The economic recovery has had to take centre stage. There has been no one better placed to lead this recovery than you, Prime Minister. I am very proud of the National Party. I am proud that the vision and values of this party were founded on a strong human rights framework. The right to be safe, to have equal opportunity, to be free, and have choice are all fundamental freedoms. They remain as true today as they did 75 years ago when the party was formed. I wish you all well. Thank you.

Parliament Today has the video.

 

 

 


So much for supporting women

April 17, 2013

Dame Susan Devoy got no support from the left-wing sisterhood when she was appointed Race Relations Commissioner.

Now the appointment of another woman, Dr Jackie Blue, to the role of Equal Opportunities Commissioner, is being labelled  cronyism.

Justice Minister Judith Collins is being accused of cronyism for appointing National MP Jackie Blue as the next Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner.

Opposition parties and the Council of Trade Unions are criticising the appointment, saying Ms Blue has supported legislation that disadvantages women.

“It’s yet another example of cronyism from the Government,” said Labour MP Sue Moroney.

“Hard on the heels of Dame Susan Devoy’s appointment as Race Relations Commissioner, the Government is fast turning the Human Rights Commission into a recruitment agency for its supporters.”

Both positions are part of the Human Rights Commission.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says cronyism is a legitimate description of Ms Blue’s appointment.

“It’s very unusual for a sitting MP to be appointed to a position like this,” she told reporters.

“Jackie Blue has voted for legislation that has harmed women… she needs to explain how she is going to undo the harm.”

These women can’t see past their left-wing bias to celebrate the success of another woman.

But Dr Blue does have the support of Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition (BCAC) which welcomes her appointment:

The Mt Roskill MP was instrumental in securing public funding for a twelve-month treatment programme of Herceptin for New Zealand women with HER2-Positive breast cancer.

BCAC chairperson, Libby Burgess, says Dr Blue’s actions in advocating for the Government funding of Herceptin demonstrate her commitment to women’s health.

“Dr Blue is a passionate advocate for New Zealand women and her drive to see that women with HER2-Positive breast cancer received life-saving treatment in the form of Herceptin was inspirational.

“She has a clear sense of fair play, a firm commitment to equality for all and a desire to see New Zealand develop as a better society. We firmly believe Dr Blue will fulfil her new role with the energy and dedication it deserves,” Ms Burgess says.

I’d take the view of an organisation which backs up its view with evidence over the politically motivated criticism by opposition MPs and the Council of Trade Unions.


Blue out, Paul who in?

April 16, 2013

National list MP Jackie Blue is to take up a new role as Equal Opportunities Commissioner in June.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said:

“The EEO Commissioner has an important role to play in championing EEO principles, issues and practices in New Zealand as well as appreciating their relationship to social, economic and labour market trends.

“Dr Blue is committed to human rights and equity issues and is currently the Chair of three cross-party groups in Parliament. I’m confident she will be a very capable Commissioner.”

Dr Blue has a Private Members’ Bill in the ballot seeking to protect young women from forced marriages. I hope another MP takes up this issue.

Dr Blue holds a BSc from the University of Auckland and gained her MB ChB from Auckland Medical School in 1983. She came to prominence in the medical sector as a pioneering breast physician and, in 1992, was a founding member of the St Marks Women’s Health Centre. Dr Blue entered Parliament as a list MP in 2005 and has since held a number of roles including membership of the Health Committee (2005 to 2008).

She is currently the Chair of three cross-party groups in Parliament – New Zealand Parliamentarian’s Group on Population and Development, Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians and Parliamentarians for Global Action. Dr Blue is also a member of the Justice & Electoral Committee and Deputy Chairperson of the Health Committee.

Her resignation from parliament will open the way for another MP.

The next person on National’s list is former MP Paul Quinn. If he chooses not to take up the vacancy the next one of the list if Paul Foster-Bell.


Court protection to prevent forced marriages

November 13, 2012

Protecting young people from forced marriages is the intention of Dr Jackie Blue’s Marriage (Court Consent to Marriage of Minors) Amendment Bill.

There are only about 80 marriages each year which involve a minor (16 or 17 year old) , the vast majority being young women.  I am concerned that some minors may be undergoing forced marriage.
Currently 16 and 17 year olds who wish to marry need parental consent. This Bill will require 16 and 17 year olds who wish to marry to apply to the Family Court.  It also sets out how the court should consider the application.
This is an important amendment to the Marriage Act 1955 and will make sure that all minors wishing to marry are doing with the acceptance of the court and with equal consent from both parties.
I have made it very clear in the Bill’s explanatory note that forced marriage is not an arranged marriage where parents take a leading role in choosing a partner but ultimately the son or daughter has free choice.
Marriage celebrants have the right to refuse to carry out a marriage ceremony. Suspicion that one or both parties was under coercion would be good grounds for doing so but that isn’t sufficient protection.
Hearing about a distraught girl who was forced into marriage prompted the Bill.
Dr Blue said only a small number of teenage nuptials would be marriages forced upon girls for cultural reasons.

“The majority are probably quite legitimate, but the majority of those minors are young girls. I can’t not do anything. If it saves one young girl it’s going to be worth it.”

No data existed on how many people have been forced to marry as affected women were often hidden from the glare of social services.

But while researching the issue Dr Blue heard of a recent incident in which a school girl approached a social worker after being forced into an engagement. . .

By forcing teenagers to seek the court’s permission to marry, Dr Blue said it would take parental coercion out of the equation.

“It’s not going to stop people from dragging their sons and daughters off shore to get married. We can’t stop that, but it’s another hurdle.” . . .

This Bill won’t stop young people marrying of their own free will but it will make it more difficult to force them into marriage.

It is unlikely to affect many people but it is still worth doing.

Forced marriages are more common in other countries. This Bill, if enacted, will send a strong signal that they will not be condoned here.


The facts on Rena – UPDATED

October 13, 2011

The captain of the Rema and another officer have been charged with ‘operating a vessel in a manner causing unnecessary danger or risk’.

It is difficult to understand how a container ship could hit a well marked  charted reef but the court case may answer some of the many questions about that.

In the mean time, a media release from National MP Dr Jackie Blue answers the critics who think the government should have done, and should still be doing more:

1. What are Government’s environmental priorities?

The main concern is the 1700 tonnes of heavy oil on the Rena, of which an estimated 350 tonnes has leaked.  The second priority is
the 80 tonnes of hazardous goods, albeit these raise greater occupational safety risks for the salvage operation than environmental risks to the Bay of Plenty community.  The third is the risk to shipping from the containers lost overboard.

 2. Why was oil not removed from the vessel earlier?

The heavy oil tanks on the Rena are serviced by pipes in the duct keel which was extensively damaged when the ship hit the reef. 
The time critical issue in getting the heavy oil off the ship was putting together the alternative pipe system to enable the tanks to be emptied.  A further priority was pumping oil out of the bow tanks that were damaged to the stern tanks.  An additional complication was intrusions within the tanks that made the job of getting the pumps in from the top difficult.  Even if the oil transfer vessel, the Awanuia, had arrived prior to Sunday it would not have changed the time when the pumping could have started.

3. Why were booms not placed to contain the oil around the ship?

Booms are only useful in very specific circumstances and their performance varies with the type of oil and sea conditions.  They don’t work in a chop of more than 0.5 metres or in any significant sea current.  The fuel oil in the ship is heavy grade and can float below the surface, also making booms less effective in this spill.  Absorption booms are being used in some of the estuaries, but are limited to areas where there
is low current.

4. What about the environmental safety of the dispersant being used?

Dispersants help reduce the harm of an oil spill by breaking up the oil and thus reducing the toll on birdlife.  It is most effective as soon as possible after the oil enters the ocean.  Five dispersants were trialled because different formulations work differently on different oil types.  The dispersant being used, Corexit 9500, is approved by the Environmental Protection Authority and has a low eco-toxicity.  It is similar to dishwashing liquid or washing powder.  It can have ecological effects in shallow waters that exceed its benefits and, as a consequence, its use is being limited to deeper waters.  The Government is taking a cautious approach to its use but decisions on this, like on other parts of the operation, are being made by technical experts.

 5. What implications are there from this spill for the Government’s plans for petroleum development
in the marine environment?

The Government has taken a very environmentally responsible approach in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico disaster.  There was an independent review of New Zealand’s regulations and systems for managing the risks.  This review found New Zealand’s regulations and systems were in good shape, with the exception of the gap in respect of assessment of environmental effects in the EEZ.  The Government has introduced legislation based on world’s best practise for the EEZ and put in place interim arrangements.  This legislation was supported by the Greens but opposed by Labour.  You should note that there were 14 test bores drilled in the deep sea during Labour’s last term, without any mandatory assessment of environmental effects.  The connection between this shipping based spill and proposed deep sea drilling are thin.  The risks are quite different and no one is suggesting that an export based country should ban shipping.

This is an environmental disaster but TV3 has a history of maritime disasters which put it into perspective:

An estimated 300 tonnes of heavy fuel oil has spilled into the sea from the  Rena so far.

* Last year the Deepwater Horizon oil well exploded, spilling about 780,000  tonnes of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

* In 2003 the oil tanker Tasman Spirit ran aground off Karachi,Pakistan, spilling about 27,000 tonnes of crude oil.

* In 2002 the tanker Prestige wrecked on the Spanish coast leaked an  estimated 76,000 tonnes of crude oil.

* In 1989 the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska,  spilling up to 119,000 tonnes of crude oil.

* In 1978 the oil tanker Amoco Cadiz ran aground off the French coast and  broke up, spilling its cargo of 220,000 tonnes of light crude oil and 4000  tonnes of fuel oil into the sea.

And in New Zealand:

 * In 2002, the Jody F Millennium broke free from her moorings in Gisborne Harbour and ran onto the beach in rough seas. An  estimated 25 tonnes of fuel oil leaked out, coming ashore over about 8km of  coastline.

* Also in 2002, the Hong Kong-flagged carrier Tai Ping, carrying 9500 tonnes  of fertiliser, ran aground at Tiwai Point, at the entrance to Bluff Harbour.  After being grounded for nine days, the vessel was refloated with not a drop of  oil spilled.

* In 2000, the Seafresh 1 caught fire and sank off the Chatham Islands,  spilling 60 tonnes of diesel.

* In 1999, the container ship MV Rotoma discharged around 7 tonnes of oily  water off Northland’s east coast.

* In 1998, the Korean fishing vessel Don Wong 529 ran aground off Stewart  Island, spilling 400 tonnes of automotive oil.

NZ History online has a list of disasters among which are the following maritime ones:

* The Maria broke up on rocks near Wellington on  23 July 1851, with the loss of 26 lives.

* The sinking of the Orpheus which hit the Manakau bar in 1863 killing 189 of the 259 people on board.

* The City of Dunedin which disappeared without trace in 1865 with 39 passengers and crew.

* After fire broke out on board the Fiery Star in 1865 the captain and 77 passengers took to the lifeboats and were never seen again.

* The steamer Taiaroa struck rocks at the mouth of the Clarence River on 11 April 1886, and 34 people drowned.

* The sinking of the General Grant in 1866 resulted in the death of all but 15 of the 83 on board.

* In 1869, 20 people died when the St Vincent was wrecked in Palliser Bay.

* In  1881, the steamer  Tararua struck a reef at Waipapa Point, Southland. In all, 131 passengers and crew died, including 12 women and 14 children. Most were washed overboard and drowned while the rescuers were held back by high seas.

* The following year a sudden storm wrecked two large sailing ships, the City of Perth and Ben Venue, in Timaru’s exposed roadstead. Nine lives were lost. Among the dead were the port’s harbourmaster and five local watermen, who had tried to rescue the ships’ crews.

* In 1886 Taiaroa struck rocks near the mouth of the Clarence River, north of Kaikōura, and sank with the loss of 34 lives.

* In  1894 the steamer Wairarapa hit cliffs on Great Barrier Island, resulting in the deaths of 101 of the 186 passengers and 20 of the 65 crew.

*  In 1902 the three-masted sailing ship the Loch Long was wrecked off the Chatham Islands, with the loss of 24 lives.

*  The same year  the steamer Elingamite was wrecked on the Three Kings Islands, north of Cape Rēinga, with the loss of 45 lives.

* In 1909 the Cook Strait ferry Penguin struck rocks off Cape Terawhiti and sank with the loss of 72 lives.

* In 1950 the passenger launch Ranui, returning from a holiday trip to Mayor Island, was wrecked on North Rock, Mt Maunganui. Of the 23 people on board, only one survived.

* In 1951 the 10 crew on board  Husky and Argo, were lost during the centennial Wellington-Lyttelton yacht race. (My father was on board the Caplin, another yacht which entered the race).

* The Holmglen foundered north of Oamaru in 1959. All 15 crew were lost.

* In 1966 the collier Kaitawa was lost with all 29 hands.

* In 1968 the  Lyttelton–Wellington ferry Wahine struck Barrett Reef at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. Of the 734 passengers and crew on board, 51 died (a 52nd victim died several weeks later, and a 53rd of related causes in 1990).

These don’t make the foundering of the Rema any better.

It is an environmental disaster which will have social and economic repercussions but no human lives have been lost, nor should any be put at risk in the recovery and clean-up.

UPDATE: Whaleoil has some graphics which also put the Rena into perspective.


Aftersocks for aftershocks

June 21, 2011

Warming hearts, warming toes, warming Cantabrians – that’s the idea behind aftersocks.

It’s a fundraising venture for Canterbury earthquake relief which was thought up by Justine and Jo Ottey. They went to Rural Women NZ who enlisted the help of Ashburton company NZ Socks.

The result is red and black merino blend socks with a fault-line pattern  selling for $20 a pair with all proceeds going to the Mayoral Relief Fund.

The socks will be officially launched on Thrusday  by Wellington Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade Brown then at parliament by Jackie Blue MP.

You can read more on Facebook.


MPs getting plastered

October 7, 2010

First it was Young Farmers, now MPs are getting plastered  too.

The Parliamentary ‘Let’s Get Plastered for Breast Cancer event is part of a nationwide campaign by Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) to remind women of the importance of staying in touch with their breast health.

Thirty MPs and staff are taking part, making plaster casts of their busts, which will be revealed at an anonymous exhibition of breast sculptures to be held at Parliament next Tuesday, 12 October.

“We are delighted that MPs and parliamentary staff are supporting this event.  It’s a fun way to highlight the need for women to monitor their breast health and stay alert to any changes,” says RWNZ National President, Liz Evans. 

“Breast screening is the best tool for diagnosing breast cancer, but for women outside the 45-69 year age range covered by the national screening programme, self-awareness is vital.”

Next week’s event at the Beehive is being hosted by National list MP Dr Jackie Blue, who was also New Zealand’s first breast physician.  She maintains a keen interest in breast cancer awareness.

Rural Women is selling plaster kits for $10 with the profits donated the the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation. More than 20 breast sculpture events have been organised around the country.


Why can’t we afford Herceptin?

August 7, 2008

Pharmac’s announcement it won’t fund 12 month courses of Herceptin for women with aggressive Her-2 breast cancer has been labelled a cruel blow by Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chair, Libby Burgess.

Ms Burgess said it was “unbelieveable and shameful” that New Zealand women were denied the standard of care offered elsewhere.

“It’s a bad outcome, but we’re not terribly surprised by it. But we are of course extremely disappointed.

“This is a cruel blow for women and their families. Phamac’s continuing refusal to fund the treatments New Zealanders need is simply inhumane.”
 
Ms Burgess said that, to access the 12 month treatment their doctors were recommending, women had to fundraise the tens of thousands of dollars needed. 

“This adds huge stress and suffering for women when they most need support and comfort … I am amazed Government hasn’t stepped in to end this inhumane treatment of our women.

“Increased funding for medicines including Herceptin will surely become an election issue. That will give voters the opportunity to decide.

Pharmac chief executive Matthew Brougham said the cost wasn’t the reason the drug won’t be funded.

“I want to be absolutely clear; this decision is not about the cost of Herceptin. This decision rests solely on the science and our assessment, our confidence, around whether or not funding 12 months treatment with Herceptin would produce additional health benefits.”

But he also said:

[Pharmac]  had to consider all illnesses and treatments, not just cancer, and had to make a decision with limited funds about what would bring the greatest benefits.

“It’s not about who can scream the loudest and make the most noise.” Read the rest of this entry »


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