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Embarrassed Sutton attempts to show urgency

Shane Ardern National Rural Affairs Spokesperson

6 March 2001

Embarrassed Sutton attempts to show urgency

Jim Sutton must have cringed when he heard that his Government back home had airily dismissed any suggestions that biosecurity needed to be upgraded in light of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in the UK, National's Rural Affairs spokesperson Shane Ardern said today.

"The Minister had to hot-foot it back from overseas to stop his colleagues from making further fools of themselves. In his absence they showed a real lack of understanding of the potential FMD risks and impact on the country's economy. There's nothing worse than ignorant MPs.

"Foot-and-mouth according to the Government last week was not a problem, but now they inform us that it's 'an issue of national economic security.' Well don't tell us Jim, while you have been out of the country the Opposition and farming community have been trying to hammer that message home to your ignorant Government, without success.

"Last week, when questioned in the House, Pete Hodgson who was standing in for Jim Sutton, told us that New Zealand had a very sophisticated Biosecurity system already in place. But in the same breath he alarmingly said that the risk of foot-and-mouth had increased and it was only a matter of time before we suffer the same fate as the UK.

"Once again Jim Sutton, Minister for Agriculture, Minister for Trade Negotiations, Minister for Rural Affairs and now Acting Minister for Biosecurity dashed back from one of his numerous trips overseas to set his colleagues straight.

"Australia has already instigated extra checks for passengers and a ban on imports of all products which could transmit the disease. The Prime Minister of Australia has offered more money to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to help stop the spread of foot and mouth disease to Australia.

"Where is New Zealand in all of this? Embarrassing well behind in its reactions and preparations. Only now is the Minister taking a meek and mild package of measures to Cabinet next Monday to consider," Mr Ardern said.

Ends

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