Hodgson should withdraw dioxin analyst, correct confusions

30 October 2006

Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley has called on Health Minister Pete Hodgson to re-think and withdraw his choice of Dr Allan Smith as the ‘independent’ expert appointed to review the findings of forensic accountant John Leonard, contained within the recent TV3 dioxin documentary.

“The expert must not only be independent, but must be perceived to be independent if his conclusions are to have any credibility with the Paritutu community,” Ms Kedgley says.

“On that score, I was concerned to read the 1 June 2003 submission by retired Major John Moller to the Health Select Committee inquiry into the exposure of Defence Personnel to Agent Orange, which reports (on pages 16-17) that the Environment Ministry had organised public lectures by Professor Allan Smith, Dr Michael Bates and other officials regarding dioxin concerns then in the public arena.

“This participation in Government programmes of re-assurances about dioxin should discount Dr Smith as an independent authority.

“Mr Hodgson can only commence the corrective process by clarifying his apparently misleading statement to the House during question time on 26 October that ‘the anonymised data in question [ie the individual serum results from the 2005 MoH study] was provided to the international peer reviewers.’

“This is not what Public Health Director Dr Mark Jacobs says. In a letter posted on the TV3 website, and received one working day before the TV3 doco screened, Dr Jacobs states: ‘The local and international reviewers did not receive individual test results contained in appendix O, just the analysed data.’

“Furthermore, I have sighted correspondence between the four international peer reviewers and the makers of the TV3 doco, and the reviewers either say that they were not given the individual serum results or, in one case, said they couldn’t remember getting it. It is now up to Pete Hodgson to show that the international peer reviewers were given the individual blood serum results, since the credibility of his reassurances about the 2005 MoH dioxin study hinges on whether the peer reviewers considered all of the data.

“It would hardly be surprising that Mr Hodgson seems confused, because the Ministry’s utterances contradict their own Public Health Director. The Health Ministry’s 26 October press release for instance says: ‘Peer reviewers received the individual data for their review…’ This is in clear conflict with what Dr Jacobs and the reviewers themselves are saying.

“Finally, can Mr Hodgson assure us that whoever ultimately gets to carry out the overview report on the Paritutu situation will receive and consider the blood serum results? That anonymised individual data is crucial as to whether – as the TV3 documentary argues – some individuals were wrongly categorised. Clearly, such a step is essential if any definitive verdict is ever to be reached. To do less would be a whitewash, and a sheer waste of taxpayer money.”

30 October 2006 | Press Release: Green Party | NEWS-2006-M10-31-001 | greens.org.nz
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