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PM expects Flak From Greens

The gap between the minority Labour-Alliance Coalition Government and their allies the Green Party appears to be widening, with two key areas of disagreement to the fore at today’s post-Cabinet press conference - genetic engineering and party-hopping.

Announcing the Government’s decision to impose a voluntary moratorium on genetic engineering experiments, Prime Minister Helen Clark told the conference she expected environmentalists and the Green Party to protest the move, while internationally it would be applauded as a world-first

during the election campaign, both Greens and the Alliance advocated a compulsory moratorium which would put a stop to all genetic engineering experiments until a Royal Commission of Inquiry had reported on the issue.

Alliance MP Phillida Bunkle even put forward a bill to accomplish this.

But last week the Alliance backed down over the issue. In today’s announcement both coalition partners have demonstrated their support for a voluntary agreement between scientists and lawmakers to put experiments on hold.

The Greens are not amused with Co-leader Jeannette Fitzsimons loudly voicing her disapproval over the change last week. Today Green MP Sue Kedgley said the move would amount to a “Clayton’s moratorium”.

Joining unlikely bedfellows ACT, National and United New Zealand, the Greens also oppose the coalition’s proposed party hopping legislation which would force MPs who left their parties to resign from Parliament.

Miss Clark told the conference the Government was confident with the help of New Zealand First Party, the Government would have the numbers to push through the legislation when it sits next week.

Meanwhile National’s Tony Ryall says the bill has enough holes in it to drive through a bus-load of MPs.

Somewhat ironically the two disputes between the Greens and the minority coalition - the GE moratorium and party-hopping bill – while apparently unconnected, may yet prove to be closely tied.

Alliance MP Phillida Bunkle, formerly a member of the Green Party, looks likely to be the first member of the Government under significant pressure to jump ship.

Ms Clark was accompanied at the press conference by Environment Minister Marion Hobbs, Research and Science Minister Peter Hodgson and Alliance Leader Jim Anderton.

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