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$15 million writ an attack on free speech

Hon Nick Smith
National Party Building spokesman

23 December 2005

$15 million writ an attack on free speech

National's Building spokesman, Nick Smith, is horrified that he and timber preservation scientist Dr Robin Wakeling have received legal writs for $15 million from American chemical company Osmose for expressing concerns in July about a surface treated timber product known as T1.2.

"This $15 million writ is an attack on free speech. It is just crass that this company has chosen to do so on the eve of Christmas.

"It is also bully boy tactics to target us as individuals while leaving many companies and organisations that also expressed concern about this product out of legal proceedings.

"Dr Robin Wakeling and myself expressed concerns about the surface treated T1.2 framing product because it does not comply with the New Zealand standard for timber treatment and because it was not being used as specified.

"It is outrageous that we are now being personally sued for raising quite legitimate concerns and being asked to pay this multinational for their lost profits on the product.

"We have 15,000 homes rotting because of failings in the building industry, with everyone ducking for cover. The regulatory system for timber treatment has a history of serious failures, and scientists like Dr Wakeling and MPs like myself had a public duty to raise legitimate concerns that had come from the building industry about this product.

"I would have thought after the McLibel fiasco earlier in the year that American companies would have learnt that attacks on free speech are counter-productive and often backfire.

"I will be defending this action with every bone in my body. I stand by my concerns about this product and would not use it in my home. The right to express such views is fundamental in a free society," says Dr Smith.

Ends

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