“He might not be COVID Minister anymore, but New Zealanders are still paying for Chris Hipkins’ incompetence from when he was in the role. Written Parliamentary Questions answered by the Health Minister show that $158 million dollars’ worth of Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) are set to expire,” says ACT’s Health spokesperson Brooke van Velden.
“Chris Hipkins is directly responsible for this massive waste of taxpayers’ hard-earned money. He was the COVID-19 Response Minister who insisted on stopping private citizens from importing their own RATs.
“This is waste on an extraordinary scale. But it’s just a bigger and more obvious example of what politicians do every day.
“It is another reminder of how the Government lost all sight of responsible spending during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have the dual honour of coming last in the RAT race when it came to getting them into the country, and last when it comes to getting value for money.
“ACT advocated for the Government to allow people to take responsibility and import their own RATs midway in June 2021. Instead, the Government entered control-freak mode, as late as February 2022, Customs we’re confiscating RATs at the border because the Government said they were ‘unapproved.’ The whole reason the Government has this problem on its hands is it insisted it knew best.
“This is taxpayers’ money down the drain. Imagine if this $158 million was actually spent on improving health services for Kiwis? That’s a whole year of free prescriptions, or a 13 per cent increase in GP capitation payments.
“Health services across the board in New Zealand are suffocating because of misguided priorities from this Government. It overspends hundreds of millions on RATs and drops billions on administrative reforms while at the same time people can’t even get an appointment. Just a few days ago I revealed that tens of thousands of planned care operations haven’t happened on time. If the Government was more sensible with its spending then there would be fewer stories like this.
“As ACT proposes in its alternative budget. One reason we face a cost of living crisis is that the Government has been so careless in its spending throughout the COVID period. This is why net core Crown debt is up to $92 billion.
“The irony is of course that during the COVID period the Government was so hellbent on preventing private businesses from importing RAT tests themselves that they became the primary importer themselves. If they didn’t ban everyone else from spending their own money on RAT tests perhaps there wouldn’t be $158 million of taxpayers’ money going to waste.
“This is a classic lesson in Government waste. No Government spends a dollar more carefully than the people they taxed it off would have.
“If you’ve ever wondered why everything keeps getting more expensive, look no further. Government spending next year will be 79 per cent higher – or $137 billion – than when Labour entered government. Not a single public service has improved in this time, especially not health services which are under more pressure than ever before.
“Labour can cry ‘Coalition of Cuts’ all they like, but if we don’t take money off the politicians and give it back to taxpayers, this is what we’ll get.
“New Zealanders need not just an economically literate Government, but a Government that offers a vision of real change. Right now, ACT is offering that.”