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Govt not afraid of mental health inquiry

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/06/2017 Karen Sweeney

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman isn't afraid of a review into mental health, he just doesn't think it would tell him anything he doesn't already know.

He's certainly not afraid of the idea, he told a budget estimates hearing by parliament's health select committee on Wednesday.

Questioned by Labour health spokesman David Clark, Dr Coleman was asked whether he'd object to the calls, which have been made multiple times in the past month.

"I'm wondering if you Minister would have any objection to having a review or are you afraid of what might be found," Dr Clark asked.

"No I'm not afraid of it, I just think it would not be the best use of your time because we have got a very clear approach and plan to improve access to mental health services," Dr Coleman responded.

He said there didn't need to be more diagnosis of the problem.

"I don't think it's going to tell us any more than we know now."

The pair stared each other down throughout the hour-long committee hearing. At one point getting into a "you tell me" "no you tell me" debate over inclusions in Vote Health funding versus Core Crown Accounts.

Dr Coleman used the committee hearing to address claims funding for health had been reduced.

Labour leader Andrew Little put out a statement ahead of the hearing saying there was a $2.3 billion shortfall in health spending.

"This gap in health spending is a result of eight years of the government ignoring growing demographic and inflationary pressures," he said.

Labour say its figure is based on a study by independent economic consultants commissioned by the party.

But Dr Coleman responded to those claims saying they were "absolutely untrue" and noted the study referred to Core Crown Health spending which includes ACC rather than with Vote Health.

"So we're not comparing like with like," he said, later adding that he generally had to double check figures presented to him by Dr Clark.

"If you look back over the last nine years of government we've fully funded demographics, population growth and inflation," he said.

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