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Meat export subsidies show Key not ready to govern

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity
Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education

Progressive Leader

20 February 2008 Media statement

Meat export subsidies shows Key not ready to govern

John Key is the first party leader since Sir Robert Muldoon to advocate agricultural subsidies for farmers, Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton says.

He was responding to a report that Mr Key announced a new policy of a $200 million suspensory loan of establishment capital for a new mega-merger meat export company.

The Southland Times has reported that on a visit to Southland Mr Key promised a “financial umbrella” in the form of a $200 million suspensory loan to provide the capital for the establishment of the company.

The Southland Times says, “When National Party finance spokesman Bill English ambled across the paddock, Mr Key quickly told him, “I’ve just committed you to a suspensory loan.” Apparently unfazed, Mr English replied: “As long as it’s under $200 million I don’t care.”

Jim Anderton says “John Key wants to bring back family support for sheep!”

“This is back to the very worst days of Muldoonism. The queue of businesses with their hands out for similar loans will be never-ending.

“This policy was apparently made on the hoof, with no thought or care. It is an irresponsible $200 million policy promise with potentially disastrous consequences for the New Zealand economy.

“It shows National is completely unprepared to take hard decisions for our economy and unprepared for government. It shows National will say whatever they think people want to hear. It shows we don’t know anything about what John Key really stands for.

“If a mega-merger is a good idea, it will stand on its own business case.

“But this is not a policy promise made on its merits. It is the worst sort of pork barrel local pandering because he wanted to win over Southland farmers with a bribe.

“The meat companies have not even asked for this. Even if they had, the worst thing you can do is have politicians making decisions themselves about handing out cash to private companies.

“John Key is showing himself to be either extraordinarily naïve, or cynical and is clearly too inexperienced for government. He is such a policy vacuum he should carry an electrolux label.

“New Zealand has tried these policies before and we nearly went bankrupt.

“We would immediately face retaliatory tariffs on our entire agricultural export base. The National party, in a single swoop, would risk bringing New Zealand's export sector to its knees. We would immediately lose all credibility in global trade negotiations. I wonder if former trade negotiator Mr Groser, or diplomat Mr Hayes support their leaders’ agricultural subsidy policies?

“This policy announcement shows National has no vision for developing New Zealand’s economy. You don’t get rich by subsidising developed industries to do what they need to do anyway.

“Furthermore, this Labour-Progressive government has developed a rigorous, clear and principled adverse events policy. If National’s leader makes a habit of promising large subsidies − without even first talking it over with his finance spokesman − what is going to be left to help those in the rural sector when they genuinely need some help?

“John Key’s taste for making policy on the hoof shows he is not ready for government. He is all tip and no iceberg,” Jim Anderton said.


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