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Meeting led to National’s meat subsidy pledge

21 February 2008

Meeting led to National’s $200 million meat subsidy pledge

Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton says National leader John Key announced a $200 million suspensory loan for the meat industry only after a meeting with the industry.

“The meeting destroys National’s spin yesterday that the policy announcement was just a light-hearted or casual comment not meant seriously,” Jim Anderton said.

“Last Wednesday night, Mr Key apparently met with Bill English, David Carter and Alliance meat group chairman Owen Poole. At that meeting Mr Poole reportedly outlined a proposed mega-merger for meat companies and said an extra $200 to $400 million of capital would be needed. He asked Mr Key to commit to the funding and the next day Mr Key made the promise while on a visit to Southland.

“I’ve just committed you to a suspensory loan,” Mr Key told Bill English, according to a Southland Times reporter who was there. “As long as it’s under $200 million I don’t mind,” Bill English replied.

Jim Anderton says the policy is unprecedented in New Zealand politics since the early eighties. “I have never heard of a private company holding a meeting with a party leader to ask for $200 million. It would completely undermine the integrity of policy-making in New Zealand if you could make budget bids this way.

“I have seldom heard of a party policy making process so loose, that $200 million could be allocated from government coffers at the drop of a hat.

“And I have not heard anyone promise meat export subsidies since the eighties. If the mega-merger is a good idea it should stand on its own feet. But it should not require us to subsidise an industry that New Zealand needs to be successful in its own right.

“$200 million would be a subsidy for exports worth $15 per lamb – that’s nearly half the average subsidy for a British lamb in one single policy. It’s worth nearly a dollar a kilo of export sheep meat. The trade consequences for New Zealand could devastate our export industries,” Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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