E tū is appalled to hear this morning that National Party leader Christopher Luxon has reneged on a commitment to keep health and education funding at least in line with inflation.
Despite recent assurances, Luxon told the AM Show this morning under a National government, increases may fall behind inflation after all.
The back track has sent shockwaves through the health community, with many worrying that National will cut funding when and where it is needed most. Theatre orderly at Middlemore Hospital, Taatahi Phillips, says the pressures in the health system are already having a huge impact at his workplace.
“We are losing more and more staff, and we have another three nurses leaving our team in the next two weeks,” Taatahi says.
“It means we have to cover and do work that we might not have specialist training in.”
However, Taatahi says that while there are many reasons for the current pressures in the health system, there have been real improvements in the sector under the Labour Government.
“We still have a way to go, but we have had seen a massive pay increase under Labour. The old regime was broken, and they are fixing it. Labour might be getting the blame because everyone wants problems fixed tomorrow, but we are in a lot better position than we were.
“We are finally starting to see the positives of the new money that has been invested in the new health system. It might still be in the teething stage, but it is real progress.”
Taatahi says that he and his colleagues are very worried about what a National government would mean for the sector.
“We really do dread what will happen if National gets in. If we start going backwards again, well, I don’t know what to say. My daughter says ‘Dad, come over to Australia’. Any more cuts will just make the brain drain worse.
“People forget that under National last time, we actually had pay freezes. National took away everything. I was there, I know how bare the money was. Christopher Luxon will do no good for the country. He will make it worse.”
Taatahi says it’s not just a lack of funding that worries him about National.
“Take the Māori Health Authority. A lot of people of my generation know what it was like to feel like second-class citizens in our own country. Labour is finally doing something about this, and Luxon wants to undo it all – this just will not work!”
E tū Assistant National Secretary, Annie Newman, says Luxon’s comments today are just one example of the National Party not understanding the reality of challenges in health funding.
“We actually need more than just keeping up with inflation in health funding, given the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the much-needed improvements to health infrastructure, and the changing demographics in our population,” Annie says.
“To indicate that funding won’t even keep up with inflation is just astounding and will amount to cuts to the health system in real terms.
“The final insult is that National’s gutting of the health system will be to pay for a wildly irresponsible tax cut plan, that will give top earners tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Annie says there is a common theme of the National Party opposing anything that will help the people who need it most.
“Luxon’s National Party opposes minimum wage increases, Fair Pay Agreements, the New Zealand Income Insurance Scheme, the Cost of Living Payment, and many more Government initiatives designed to help working families get ahead.
“The contrast could not be clearer.”