Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search 24 March 2006 24 March 2006

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully
MP for East Coast Bays

Organic Shonkiness

There was much fanfare earlier this week as Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard announced a $1.5 million grant to an outfit called Organics Aotearoa New Zealand. The organisation, said Mr Mallard, had been launched “in November last year to provide a single voice for the sector”. The chair of OANZ, Doug Voss, welcomed the grant as “evidence of the cohesion of the sector organisation” and claimed it would “enable OANZ to lead the unified organic sector and establish self-funding.”

But word reached the worldwide headquarters of that the cohesion and unity of the sector (to borrow their own words) might be worth a little scrutiny. And that questions might usefully be asked about whether the funding package was the result of Ministry officials identifying the outstanding potential of both the sector, and the specific recipient (namely Organics Aotearoa New Zealand) or perhaps the result of a shabby cash-for-votes political deal with the Green Party.

Checking the official records, it didn’t take long to start finding cracks in the Mallard façade. While OANZ may have been launched “in November last year” not much care can have been taken over the formalities. The official records show the organisation was actually incorporated on 9 March 2006. And Mr Mallard announced his $1.5 million grant only 11 days later - surely a world record for the formulation, lodging, assessing and granting of million dollar government funding. Some explaining required here, we think.

But it gets worse. Much, much worse. OANZ has seven members. And a little scrutiny of those members makes for interesting reading. The first is an outfit called Te Waka Kai Ora Inc. And interestingly the official records show this organisation was struck off the register on 11 November 2005 - well before Mr Mallard’s act of munificence. How can this be?

Then there’s the Organic Product Exporters of NZ Inc. But this organisation also appears to be more than a little lacking on the cohesion and unity front. Having been registered in April 1999, it was actually struck off the register on the 15th of December last year, and restored to the register on the ninth of January 2006, weeks prior to (but of course not influenced by) Mr Mallard announcing his gesture of generosity.

Listed as a member of the Organic Product Exporters is one David Wright. A Mr David Wright is also amongst the names in one of the other seven OANZ members, the New Zealand Biological Producers and Consumers Society, registered back in October 1983. Unfortunately this organisation was struck off the register in June 2004, but restored to the register five months later under the name NZ Biological Producers and Consumers Council.

Another of the seven OANZ members is an outfit called Bio Dynamic Farming and Gardening Association of New Zealand. Little can be found on the official records about this organisation but one of the signatures for the Association on the OANZ incorporation application is that of the Secretary, a Mr David Wright – obviously a hugely popular and widely chosen name amongst organic producers.

But let’s go back to the role of the struck-off Te Waka Kai Ora Inc for a minute. Accounts for this organisation show for the year ended October 2002 they received income from a number of sources – none of them related to actually growing stuff in the ground, organically or otherwise. There was a grant from Te Puni Kokiri ($23 450), one from the Poutama Trust ($21 250), and another from MAF ($5 000). Oh, and then there was some koha.

So, just what is going on here in this hugely unified and cohesive sector that has persuaded Mr Mallard, the chairman of the Cabinet Razor Gang, no less, to flourish the taxpayers’ cheque-book with such alacrity, just eleven short days after the formation of OANZ? You know where you will read about it first.

Time for a Cleanout

Last Friday the Police announced their decision regarding their investigations into political parties which had potentially breached Electoral Act campaign laws. Most seriously in the gun was the Labour Party, under investigation for knowingly overspending the allowed campaign budget (once their plan to have a campaign centerpiece credit card paid for by taxpayers came unstuck at the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer). The short notice and the late Friday press conference spoke volumes. Mr Plod had a great deal to be ashamed about.

Who knows the extent of the influence the Crown Law Office had, headed by Sisterhood lackey Terence Arnold, on the eventual outcome. The repetition of the well-worn Paintergate, Speedgate, Benson-Popegate path should have been predictable. Unless, of course, you have confidence in the rule of law and the independence of the Police and the Crown Law Office.

The test, of course, is whether politicians or political parties are being treated as any other New Zealander would be treated in the same circumstances. But as National MPs Nick Smith and Shane Ardern have discovered, the Police and/or Crown Law have one law for Labour politicians and another for their National counterparts. The Judge’s early dismissal of the Ardern case made it abundantly clear that no other New Zealander would have faced charges in the same circumstances (for driving a tractor up Parliament’s steps). The Ardern case should have served as a warning to the nation’s increasingly politicised Police management. Sadly they didn’t see it.

The case against the Labour Party for campaign spending is open and shut. The confession is there for all to see in their signed electoral return. Police headquarters’ (and Crown Law) claims of a lack of evidence are truly laughable. The current acting Police leadership and Crown Law advisors forfeit any claim to public confidence in their judgment and independence as a result of their gutless and indefensible position.

The time has come for a cleanout at both Crown Law and Police headquarters. The country urgently needs truly independent, professional, competent Police and Crown Law officers who will serve the public interest and not be cowered by political pressure or seduced by the prospect of personal advancement.


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