Taxpayers should not fund advocacy

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s biggest anti-smoking lobby groups face likely closure after a Government decision to slash funding for anti-smoking advocacy.

The Smokefree Coalition will close next month, Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) faces closure unless it can find new funding sources, and Smokefree Nurses Aotearoa and Pacific anti-smoking agency Tala Pasifika have all lost their funding from this week.

Instead, the Ministry of Health has awarded a single national anti-smoking advocacy contract to West Auckland-based Maori health agency Hapai Te Hauora.

Total funding for national advocacy has been cut from $1.7 million to $450,000.

There should be no funding for advocacy. It is appropriate to fund research and also good to fund cessation services, but taxpayers should not allow government departments to hand out money to lobby groups, so they can lobby MPs on what the law should be. The role of the public service is to serve, not to fund advocacy.

Ministry service commissioning director Jill Lane said the funding cut from advocacy would be redirected into “strengthening our frontline cessation services with improved training to get better quit results”.

The training budget has jumped from $286,000 to $1.6 million, lifting total spending on advocacy and training from $2.26 million to $2.37 million.

Ms Lane said the ministry’s total spending on control, including the Quitline service, was $61 million.

So more money for cessation services and less money for lobbying. Good.

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