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Clark's Comments Out Of Line

23 January 2002

"Helen Clark has - once again - shown her Government's arrogance towards and ignorance of the business sector with her snide remarks about recently resigned Fonterra director Mike Smith," says National's agriculture spokesman Gavan Herlihy.

"Mr Smith is clearly a very respected and competent company director - with vast commercial and agribusiness experience. Ms Clark is way out of order denigrating his status and business integrity," he added.

"For the Prime Minister to arrogantly dismiss Mr Smith's decision to step down from Fonterra's board as ' throwing in the towel' - defies belief and reinforces just how little this Government really understands business," Mr Herlihy explained.

He added that while Mr Smith would be a great loss to Fonterra and the wider dairy industry, his resignation should act as a catalyst for the company to front up to its farmer shareholders.

"This is a litmus test for the 46-member shareholders' council and its chairman John Wilson, which must get to the bottom of any governance problems with the Fonterra board.

"John Roadley has, quite rightly, refused to debate this issue in the glare of the media spotlight. However, he cannot be dismissive of the shareholders' council concerns. The council must not allow him - and/or the rest of the Fonterra board - to brush any problems under the carpet."

Mr Herlihy said the shareholders' council, as the voice of New Zealand's 14,000 dairy farmers, had a responsibility on behalf the industry - as well as the country as a whole - to identify and help sort out any problems the fledgling company may be experiencing.

"Fonterra is New Zealand's biggest commercial entity and it is vitally important to our all-important dairy industry - and the entire economy - that any potential problems are resolved as soon as possible," he concluded.

Ends

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