National stuffs up...again

Saturday 17 May 2008, 9:39AM
By Hon Jim Anderton

A statement from National’s Agriculture Spokesman that the Government has done a u-turn to support a meat industry 'mega-merger' shows how little work National has done in Opposition, agriculture minister Jim Anderton says.

"National has a bad habit of just saying stuff, regardless of the facts. They just say anything and no one holds them to account. The claim that the govenrment didn’t previously support closer meat industry cooperation, and now we do, is entirely without foundation and just plain wrong. David Carter has made this up, either because he is being dishonest or because he is asleep at the wheel.

"No wonder National is reduced to making policy on the hoof all the time - it has no awareness of what’s going on. An Opposition is supposed to watch what the government is doing. Instead, it just makes stuff up.

"I’ve been working closely with meat companies to encourage more co-operation in the industry and closer work together has been a mantra since I became agriculture minister. My entire keynote address at the Primary Production Summit last year was dedicated to encouraging closer co-operation to solve the issues our primary industries face. Before the National Party had even heard about a 'mega-merger' I brought the last chairmen of PPCS and Alliance together for merger discussions in Dunedin and Christchurch.

"What I refused to support was National’s policy of subsidising meat companies with a $200 million hand out from the government. A meat merger will have to stand on its own business merits. If it isn’t profitable in its own right, it shouldn’t go ahead. If it is profitable, why would it need a subsidy from taxpayers that would in turn create mayhem for us in overseas markets. Plus it would require us to increase taxes or debt to fund the hand out Mr Key promised to stump up for.

It appears Mr Carter still wants to go back to the failed policies of the past and using taxpayers’ cash to subsidise agriculture. He can't understand that we can encourage meat industry cooperation without using taxpayer cash to fund it," Jim Anderton said.