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Green light for Agent Orange inquiry

Green light for Agent Orange inquiry

The Green Party is adding its voice to calls for a parliamentary inquiry into New Zealanders' exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

"There appears to be something of a cover-up and a whitewash going on, and it's time we put the spotlight on the whole issue," Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

"The conflicting testimony from veterans and the Government about the exposure of New Zealand personnel to the herbicide Agent Orange means an independent inquiry is now essential.

"We need a forum with no vested interest to hold a full and frank inquiry into this very serious matter. The Health Select Committee would be a suitable forum. And the sooner the better. Veterans and their children have suffered enough without being exposed to protracted delaying tactics from the Government," Ms Kedgley said.

"Let's not forget that New Zealanders who served in Vietnam went at the behest of their country and on behalf of fellow New Zealanders. They trusted that their country would look after their interests, including any long-term health effects from exposure to dangerous chemicals," Ms Kedgley said.

The media has reported that retired officer John Masters, commander of 161 Battery Royal New Zealand Artillery in Vietnam, has a copy of an official map showing that the Vietnamese province he served in - Phuoc Tuy - was subject to chemical defoliation.

A Veterans' Affairs Department report has claimed there was no spraying of Agent Orange in Phuoc Tuy.

Ms Kedgley said this was exactly the type of factual discrepancy a select committee inquiry could get to the bottom of.

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