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Dunne corrects NZ Herald columnist errors

Dunne corrects NZ Herald columnist errors

United Future leader, Peter Dunne, has corrected numerous errors in today's column by Garth George in the NZ Herald.

Dear Mr George,

I normally read your column with interest and a general state of agreement.

However, I cannot agree with your comments this week about United Future because they are simply inaccurate. United Future has a very clearly stated position on GM - which has been out in the public arena since well before the last election.

We are neither for nor against GE and consider that categorisation to be somewhat silly and simplistic.

Whether we like it or not GE technology has been around for many years and is already a widely accepted part of medicine, for example. The issue was therefore never one of GE or no GE - despite the slogans and bumper stickers. Rather it was one of what the appropriate way of regulating its use should be. We supported the establishment of the Royal Commission of Enquiry because we believed in the importance of the issue, the need for clear guidance and caution. We approached the Royal Commission's enquiry with a genuinely open mind. We considered that its conclusion that GE should proceed only with care was the appropriate one. What is of significance to date is that there has been no serious challenge to the integrity or veracity of those findings.

For that reason our policy since that time has been that the lifting of the moratorium should occur only if the appropriate regulatory regime was in place. I myself sat on the select committee which met during 2001 to put in place the interim arrangements we now have in place, including the moratorium. (Bear in mind too that the moratorium has never applied to GE per se, or to experimentation within laboratories etc, but only to field trials.) That legislation determined that the moratorium would terminate at the end of October 2003, thus there will be no further vote in Parliament on the issue. Those who claim Parliament is about to vote to lift the moratorium are spreading untruth, deliberately or otherwise.

What Parliament is about to vote on is the New Organisms and Other Matters Bill (the NOOM Bill) which puts in place the permanent regime, and which meets our concerns. It is worth bearing in mind that under this legislation there is no automatic release procedure and that the Minister retains the right to call in any application at any time. In fact, the Minister in response to United Future probing has made it clear she is more than likely to invoke those procedures with regard to the first few applications received after the moratorium.

It is further worth recalling that the so-called Corngate incident occurred before the passage of both the 2001 interim legislation and obviously before the advent of the NOOM Bill. I think it fair to observe that it is precisely because of the deficiencies identified in the earlier regulatory regime that the current measures have been put in place, and I venture to suggest Corngate would not have occurred had the legislation been in place at the time.

Our MP on the select committee considering Corngate voted against calling the Prime Minister for precisely the reasons set out in your column. This incident is a beat-up and no good purpose is served by adding to that by pandering to the wishes of environmental extremists.

With regard to your wider criticism that we have not "stood up and been counted", may I draw your attention to my speech to the Parnell Rotary club just yesterday, a copy of which is on view at our website www.unitedfuture.org.nz. This is a very clear statement of where we stand and of our differences with the Labour Party. It hardly smacks of the sycophancy you imply.

You also may be interested to know that since the election we have opposed just over one-third of the Government's major legislation including:

- the changes to occupational safety and health legislation;

- the establishment of a separate Maori Television service;

- the increase in ACC levies;

- the new holidays laws;

- the plans to scrap private prisons;

- the Care of Children Bill.

United Future MPs also voted against the Prostitution legislation and the euthanasia Bill. In addition, we have differed strongly with the government over the Air New Zealand/Qantas merger which we oppose; the flatulence tax which we think is silly; and we have an ongoing disagreement over the notion that nobody owns the foreshore and seabed when all of us know that all New Zealanders own it equally.

This is hardly the record of a party that is anyone's "puppy dog" as any dispassionate and reasonable assessment of the record would show. Already in just over one year since the election, we have opposed the government more frequently and on a wider variety of issues than the Greens - even by their own admission - did during the entire three years they were in a similar position. At the same time, we have achieved major policy concessions from the government:

- the Families Commission will be passed into law by the end of the year;

- Television New Zealand was restructured according to our plan, not the original plan proposed by Dr Ross Armstrong and the old Alliance;

- strong victims' rights law has been put in place for the first time;

- the new transport legislation to be put in place will at our insistence take positive steps towards breaking traffic gridlock in our major cities;

- the Resource Management Act will be streamlined later this year to reflect our concerns;

- only yesterday significant changes to gambling laws were announced directly as a result of our intervention.

The blunt truth is we have achieved more in one year than any other party in a similar position in the past. The difference is that unlike New Zealand First, the Alliance or the Greens before we have not torn ourselves apart in the process, nor have we ever acted like spoilt children throwing tantrums if we do not get our own way. We have been prepared to be counted on the things that matter, but we have also been positive and constructive.

This is common sense in action, and it is also making MMP work. I am proud of those achievements.

Yours sincerely,

Hon Peter Dunne

MP for Ohariu Belmont

Leader, United Future

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