8 Apr 2021

Squeezing in sunscreen standards

From The House , 6:55 pm on 8 April 2021

This 53rd Parliament has been struggling a bit with members’ days - the days when non-government bills are debated.  

Members’ days usually happen every other sitting Wednesday but they have been regularly trumped since the election by either a set piece debate (which is normal at the beginning of a Parliament) or by Covid Alert Level Changes (which are not). 

To overcome the lack of them the government gave up a Wednesday to allow an extra one - this week.  

The Leader of the Opposition Todd Muller questions the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

Todd Muller debating in the House as Leader of the Opposition Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Continuing the run of poor luck this week’s was partially displaced by an Urgent Debate, requested by the Leader of the Opposition on the Australian Travel Bubble. 

It was an awkward debate which often involved MPs either applauding the bubble or straying outside the agreed topic to find things they wanted to criticise about the Government’s Covid-19 performance.

When Member’s Day finally got up a head of steam after 5pm it considered three bills and began debating a fourth. Two of them were rejected, but one received a first reading.

A bill in the name of National MP Todd Muller that seeks to test and regulate the effectiveness of sunscreens against their claims. 

Todd Muller lamented that while Australia has regulated sunscreens we have not. 

“But in New Zealand, compliance is voluntary. And the result is that many sunscreens do not meet the promise of the label. They say they are broad spectrum, they say they are SPF 50 or a similarly high number, but actually when tested they do not deliver that claim.

“In 2019, Consumer New Zealand tested 20 sunscreens, and nine products did not meet the SPF claim on the label. In 2020, they tested a further 10 sunscreens and five failed the SPF claim.”

The Bill flew through its first reading debate with support from all-comers, though Labour MP Jamie Strange did note that this bill  might get rolled into wider legislation later. 

“We are… already progressing the regulation of sunscreen products as part of the proposed Therapeutic Products Bill, which we anticipate will be introduced to the House later this year. 

Now, I acknowledge the member's comments in terms of wanting to move quickly, but that is just to signal that to the member: that we do intend to bring that bill in towards the end of the year. We are supporting taking a health-based approach to the regulation of sunscreen safety standards.”

The general comity allowed time for the various speakers to point out related issues - like that covering up is not just for Pakeha. 

Labour MP Anae Neru Leavasa in the House

Labour MP Anae Neru Leavasa in the House Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Labour MP and medico, Anae Neru Leavasa had a message for Pasifika.  

“It's really important not only for our fair-skinned populations, but also for my Pacific Islanders as well. It's important because there's always a risk to get skin cancers. The three most common being BCCs, basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, or melanomas as well.”

Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere had a similar message for Maori.

“We know that Aotearoa has the highest rate of melanomas in the world. Although Māori and Pasifika are much less likely to get them, when we do we have a higher risk of thick and more advanced melanoma with a poorer prognosis. Whereas for non-Māori it is predominately men who get melanomas, for some reason for Māori it is predominately women.”

The Sunscreen (Product Safety Standard) Bill has gone to the Health Committee for a review. They will call for public submissions.