An embassy in Sweden prioritised over cheaper GP visits? National MP calls move 'horse-trading'

The government is set to significantly boost funding for foreign affairs and development, however the increase has left some asking why the move was prioritised over a swifter implementation of cheaper GP visits. 

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters announced yesterday in a pre-Budget speech that an extra $714.2 million would go to foreign aid, mainly around the Pacific region over the next four years, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would see an increase of $150.4 million over the next four years, as well as $40.3 million in capital expenditure. 

Mr Peters said the funding increase would open up 50 more positions in foreign policy and the New Zealand embassy in Stockholm, Sweden would reopen.

This morning on TVNZ1's Breakfast, Labour MP Ginny Andersen said there were social and economic reasons for the boost. 

Host Jack Tame asked why New Zealand needed an embassy in Sweden, Ms Anderson answered: "I think it's important we're well connected across the country, it means having New Zealanders in countries where other New Zealanders, and other people we need to be connecting with, are."

National MP Sarah Dowie shot back saying, "let's be clear, this is hundreds of millions of dollars into this project for Winston Peters, hot on the heels of the Prime Minister back-tracking on an election promise, with regards to cheaper GP visits and it absolutely undermines the government's argument that there has been so-called under-investment in education and health". 

"It's about time this government got its priorities straight and started looking after New Zealanders."

Ms Andersen said GP visits were still happening, "they're just being rolled out over a longer period of time"

"[Cheaper GP visits] are still a priority, and it continues to be, but we need to be good global citizens, as well as citizens here, and if we ignore the importance of being connected internationally, it will be at our own peril."

Host Jack Tame asked Ms Andersen where the government's priorities lie. 

She answered: "GP visits are cheaper than they were under National, and they will continue to be so, and people are able to access those services. The truth of the matter is that we did not anticipate the state of a lot of that infrastructure, schools, and hospitals need rebuilding urgently. It takes a lot of money."

Josie Pagani, director of the Council for International Development, said it was a "massive improvement". Source: 1 NEWS

Ms Dowie called it "horse-trading between coalition partners, it's spin, if the country was in this greater, desperate need, then we wouldn't be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for an embassy in Sweden". 

Cheaper GP visits have been delayed by the government, however millions were announced last night to go into foreign affairs and aid. Source: Breakfast

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