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Cabinet paper reveals secret decision

28 June 2006

Cabinet paper reveals secret decision

Documents released under the Official Information Act to the Green Party reveal that the Government made a decision to veto mandatory country of origin labelling of food in secret, without any debate in Parliament or consultation with any parties in the House, MP Sue Kedgley says.

The government last year unilaterally pulled out of a joint food standard with Australia that would have required New Zealand to introduce mandatory country of origin labelling of food.

Cabinet papers, made public by Ms Kedgley, show that the Minister of Food Safety, at the time, Annette King, told the Cabinet Business Committee that in making its decision 'consultation is not required with the government caucuses or other parties represented in Parliament'.

Most remarkably, the largest group of legislators in the country, the Labour Party caucus, were not even consulted when the Minister moved to introduce this rift into Trans-Tasman relations.

"This is breathtaking arrogance and complete disregard for democracy. It has all the hallmarks of Muldoonism, with the executive making decisions without any input from Parliament," Ms Kedgley says.

"The decision as to whether or not there is mandatory country of origin labelling of our food is of vital interest to New Zealand consumers and to many MPs and parties in the House.

"Yet the Minister decided to ignore their views, and not to even consult with MPs, but to go ahead and make the decision in secret.

"She justified her decision by saying that there is no demand amongst New Zealanders and no consumer benefit from country of origin labelling. This is outrageous and completely contrary to independent research which found that 81 percent of New Zealanders want to know whether their food is imported or not.

"The Minister justified her decision by saying 'it would set a precedent that would be unhelpful for New Zealand companies internationally' and 'would be a potentially trade restrictive and incompatible with our WTO obligations'.

"She doesn't appear to have considered the interests of consumers in making this decision, only those of the meat and dairy lobbies," Ms Kedgley says.

Ms Kedgley's Consumer Right to Know Bill, being considered in the House today, would introduce mandatory country of origin labelling in New Zealand.


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