Deputy PM calls out National's cancer agency proposal

By Tema Hemi

National Party leader Simon Bridges has announced that a $200 million cancer agency would be on the cards in a National-led government.  But Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters is calling him to task over the efforts of the previous National government.

National are calling for a national cancer agency, which will be involved in prevention, screening and treatment of the disease.  But attempts by government to establish an agency in 2017 haven't been forgotten. 

Peters says, "This is what Mr Steven Joyce said, 'It's a waste of money to spend ten million dollars on an agency'.  I don't know where he got that figure from.  He said, 'a new agency wouldn't solve anything'. And then, Mr English said, 'It's marketing, it's just another bureaucracy!".  It didn't stop there of course."

National Party leader Simon Bridges says, "When you've got New Zealanders who are worried about a bunch of things, when you can't get a cancer plan together, how about dealing with those?"

The previous National government boosted annual investment in PHARMAC by $220mil over nine years.  But more funding is still needed now to address the disease, which is estimated to affect 1 in 3 people in their lifetime.

Shayne Nahu from the Cancer Society says, "Obviously the government has also got a cancer plan its about to announce so hopefully with both of those we're gonna get a really strong commitment by both major parties to improve our cancer care."

But Bridges is sticking to his guns, "I think there's a sense that this government's failing to deliver on its promises, whether its a cancer plan and cancer drugs where they've promised the world and delivered nothing."

Basic details of how National intend to fulfill their promise are yet to be released. 

Nahu says, "What we all want is a coordinated national approach to cancer treatment and cancer care and we need to see the detail around that but it's promising to see it's on the way, it's on the agenda for both parties."

However, for now the politicians continue to hammer each other over their competing visions.

"You've got all the infrastructure and a whole lot of other things that go with an oncologist, nurses and positions, people nationwide for fair treatment regardless of geographic spread.  No consideration of that what so ever," says Peters.

Meanwhile, Bridges says that when a New Zealander is going through what will be the most difficult time in their lives, their country should be there for them.