Nats No Longer The Farmers' Party
13 November 2002
The demise of the "farmers' party"
The National Party can no longer describe itself as the farmers' party, or the main opposition party, Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton said today.
Mr Sutton said that, during the estimates debate on agriculture and biosecurity in Parliament last night, not one National MP stood up to speak.
The estimates debate is when political parties debate in the House the allocation of funds to Government departments for spending in the year ahead, and is a key time for opposition parties to dispute the Government's plans.
"Not one National party MP spoke in either the agriculture or the biosecurity debates, a ringing endorsement of the Government's programme.
"Instead, it was left to Green MP Ian Ewen-Street and NZ First MP Doug Woolerton to try to put some scrutiny on the Government's programme."
Mr Sutton said he was not surprised that the Labour-led Government's programme was generally accepted by opposition parties.
"We have put more money into biosecurity since 1999 than any other party. We have the tightest biosecurity and border control measures in the world. We don't claim to be perfect ? clearly we are not ? but we do have a culture of continuous improvement.
"In agriculture, we have listened to what primary producers want and have facilitated the changes they need in order to remain competitive in the international markets.
"Labour has kept its promises: setting up the Sustainable Farming Fund to fund innovation in rural communities; establishing Heartland Services centres to bring Government services back to rural communities; and recognising the worth of rural people with the establishment of a Minister for Rural Affairs.
"Labour cares about rural communities, and we can demonstrate tangible proof of that."
In contrast, National had abandoned rural communities, as demonstrated last night, he said.