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Sutton shoots messenger to dodge message

Eric Roy National Biosecurity Spokesman

1 March 2001

Sutton shoots messenger to dodge message

The Minister of Agriculture must not be allowed to distract attention from the real issue of his Government's unwillingness to step up biosecurity in response to the threat of foot and mouth disease, National's Biosecurity spokesman Eric Roy said today.

"His ham-fisted threat to imprison a woman who made a simple mistake during a long-haul flight is the trademark of a bully and a coward. The real issue is that a single question, set in 8-point type on a document containing thousands of words is New Zealand's only line of defence against the threat of major biosecurity incursions.

"Jim Sutton's concern about the current outbreak, in a country from which thousands of people come to New Zealand each month, is so minimal that he did not even see fit to cancel a junket to Japan. Meanwhile, as the foot and mouth outbreak spreads rapidly across Britain and has already jumped over the Irish Sea, his Government is not taking one single step to beef up our border controls.

"Instead of tackling the threat of foot and mouth disease Mr Sutton is conducting a witch-hunt for a woman who simply made a mistake. He is breaking a butterfly on a wheel.

"His arrogance is plainly demonstrated by his dismissal as 'scaremongering' of the concerns which I have raised about this potential threat to our livelihoods and our economy. Once again he is shooting the messenger, in an argument which is akin to saying the Aids Foundation is 'scaremongering' by highlighting the need to take precautions against HIV.

"Since raising the issue of the Government's failure to increase its border controls I have been contacted by people from Taranaki to Southland expressing sincere concerns about not only their own experiences but also what they have observed of others coming through border control.

"Leaving our borders protected by a single question on a form, filled out by people who have often been in a packed aircraft for between 20 and 30 hours is appalling and inadequate at a time when there is a real threat of foot and mouth. Jim Sutton is playing Russian Roulette with our country's livelihood.

"I am truly disgusted by the lengths to which this Minister will go to avoid confronting the real issue. He is a disgrace to his country and this parliament," Eric Roy said.

Ends

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