Andrew Little uses own cancer battle to highlight Labour's health policy

Labour Leader Andrew Little shares a stage with the Greens at the joint State of the Nation event In Auckland.
David White

Labour Leader Andrew Little shares a stage with the Greens at the joint State of the Nation event In Auckland.

Labour leader Andrew Little says his own cancer scare has coloured his views on health funding.

Little made the remarks on Sunday in a joint State of the Nation event with the Greens in Auckland's Mt Albert.

The event was designed to stress the two parties' ability and willingness to work together for a change of government.

Labour leader Andrew Little said Labour would reverse the $1.7 billion in health cuts made by National.
MAARTEN HOLL/ FAIRFAX NZ

Labour leader Andrew Little said Labour would reverse the $1.7 billion in health cuts made by National.

Little was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer in 2009, at the age of 43, but has since received treatment and been given a clean bill of health. 

READ MORE: ACT leader David Seymour calls for action on housing affordability in State of the Nation speech

He said the experience gave him "a stronger determination to strive for a system that is genuinely fair for everyone".

That included a push for the latest medicines for those with treatable cancer, such as Leisa Renwick's fight against advanced melanoma that eventually saw Pharmac fund the advanced drug Keytruda.

"What a powerful win that was last year," Little said.

If voted into power, Labour would reverse the $1.7 billion in health cuts made by National, he said.

"You know, Labour built the public health system in this country. We fixed it after National tried to tear it down in the 1990s. And we'll fix it again."

Ad Feedback

He also peppered his speech, which Labour billed in advance as not containing major policy announcements, with other personal touches - including an account of his rail trail cycle trip with his 16-year-old son Cam.

The speech, in the sweltering Mt Albert Memorial Hall, touched on the major election issues Labour has identified: Housing, health, and education.

Little also reiterated his pledge to get justice for the Pike River families.

On the housing issue, Little said the party's Kiwibuild policy would see 100,000 affordable houses built and every rental home would be warm, dry, and healthy.

Speculators who used homes as "gambling chips" would be reined in.

"We've solved housing crises before. Labour's built homes before. We've done it before. We'll do it again."

Little used the opportunity to attach Prime Minister Bill English for not attending Waitangi on Waitangi Day and for not standing a candidate in the Mt Albert by-election so he could make a case for his government.

"Bill English is a competent bean counter, but he's showing he's not a leader."

Little said Labour would pay down government debt and be fiscally responsible and run surpluses.

"I'm going to run a tight ship. No more Saudi sheep scams, I promise you that."

Little said he was proud the Greens were at the meeting too.

"Both Labour and the Greens believe that politics is about building a better future for everyone. We're ready to win. We're ready to govern."

Green co-leader Metiria Turei, whose shorter speech preceded Little's, praised mana wahine - strong women who had inspired her, including union leader Helen Kelly, who died last year, and former Green co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons.

She also stressed housing and the need for better homes, as well as other mainstream Green themes including jobs, clean rivers and beaches.

The two parties would work together "to see Andrew Little become our new prime minister" and "do what's right, not just what's easy".

But she also shied away from announcing any new policy on a day that was more about the theatre of the two parties working together and appearing on the same stage.

Speaking to reporters after their speeches Turei said there would be time for policy before the election.

Little said there would be policies in common, but they would each be competing for the party vote.

There would be a shared commitment to some guidelines on economic management.

He said he would "call out" United States President Donald Trump on his ban on muslim immigrants and his comments on interrogation techniques.

Turei said that was why the Greens wanted Little to be prime minister. "We need a straight up, decent guy to tell it like it is and speak truth to power."

But Little said he would not say before the voters had their say who was his preferred deputy, if it was not his deputy Annette King. 

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback