Winston Peters says changes are needed to get more Kiwi men to have their prostate health checked - saying tax refunds could be withheld until such check-ups are made.
The New Zealand First caucus has discussed what could be done to get more men to have check-ups, Peters told the Herald. Policy had been developed but hadn't been released yet.
"What I'm saying is there should be serious incentivisation for people to go and get checked. Because it is costing the state a packet because of their lack of early detection, they end up being a charge or their dependants become a charge on the state," Peters said.
"It is just a bad neglect of human capital. And of course there are appalling figures."
About 3000 men in New Zealand are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year; it is the most common kind of cancer in Kiwi men. Of those, about 600 die each year.
Peters said one possible change would be to withhold tax refunds unless a man could prove he had a check-up. That wouldn't necessarily require a doctor's certificate.
"These days you can computerise all these things ... this is far easier than it used to be. I don't want people to be filling out forms."
Prostate Cancer Foundation NZ has campaigned for men to not "die of embarrassment" and get checked regularly. There are two tests: the prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test and the digital rectal exam. Men aged 50-plus should be making these appointments regularly.
The Herald spoke to Peters after he talked about the need for changes while answering questions from an audience at the Gisborne Cosmopolitan Club. He said not nearly enough was being done to prevent illness, citing prostate cancer as an example.
"Prostate cancer is a psychological condition more than anything else - mainly of men who need a good kick up you-know-where," Peters told the gathering.
"Frankly, if I had my way I would have further compulsory requirements for every male in this country, so it goes something like this - your taxation is that, but you are not getting it back until I see you with an annualised check or a two-yearly check.
"Why? Because the moment things go wrong, there is a massive cost to the state of dependence."
In a similar way, making eye tests more freely available would stop thousands of people needlessly going blind, Peters told the meeting. The New Zealand First leader on Saturday launched policy for a "next generation" SuperGold card, which would include benefits including three free doctors' visits a year, and one free eye check.
Peters told the Herald the attitude of many New Zealand men in regards to the threat of prostate cancer needed to shift. He declined to answer questions about how often he gets a prostate check-up, saying that was a private matter.
"The reality is for a whole lot of reasons, including being macho and thinking they are bulletproof, they are costing their families and a whole lot of people, and the state as well, a lot of money as a consequence of them not getting the check-out."
Regional airport support
Peters, who was joined by NZ First MPs Fletcher Tabuteau and Clayton Mitchell and his party's East Coast candidate Julian Tilley, used his speech to call for funding from central Government for regional airports.
The current "survival of the fittest" approach meant many regions faced losing their airport, Peters said, and NZ First would provide funding to airports owned by local authorities to improve infrastructure and meet safety standards.
"There is a place for subsidising regional airports. They are crucial for communications and development," Peters said.
Earlier this year NZ Airports launched a campaign for support for small airports, saying many couldn't make significant infrastructure investments without support from their owners, which were usually local councils. That meant they were effectively being subsidised by ratepayers.
The 12 airports the association says are most at risk include Whangarei, Kerikeri and Kaitaia.
Not just the 'Jacinda effect' - Peters
In his speech, Peters said the Labour Party had "come back from the dead" in recently weeks. That couldn't just be attributed to Jacinda Ardern taking over as leader from Andrew Little, he said.
"It has been due to nine years of tight monetarist policies that have choked vast sections of our society to breaking point.
"The economy exists for people - mums and dads struggling to pay the bills, seniors getting by on NZ Super, young students grappling with student loans, small business owners worrying about keeping themselves afloat," Peters said.
"The economy doesn't exist only so that figures look good on a balance sheet. That might be the sole interest of bean counters like Bill English and Steven Joyce."
Peters also took another swipe at Labour, saying the party had stolen NZ First's long-standing policy to re-establish a New Zealand Forestry Service.