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Slippery Nats put agriculture at risk

2 April 2008

Slippery Nats put agriculture at risk

"Climate change is not a topic on which New Zealand can afford the National Party to be slippery. The issue is too important for our land-based industries and therefore to the backbone of our economy," Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton said today.

He is critical of National's slipperiness over climate change after two senior National MPs, including the party's transport spokesperson, in speeches last week apparently denied climate change exists.

"Maurice Williamson and Lockwood Smith still won't make statements accepting the plain evidence and Nobel Prize winning science. John Key stands lamely by, apparently too weak to control his own caucus. In government, with the pressure on, slipperiness would only lead to a faster skid.

"National's climate change deniers are the sorts of people who are effectively relaxed about the drought that our farmers are currently attempting to manage. If National won't take climate change seriously, how will they work with the international community to minimise the effects of climate on our most important economic sector? Climate change will mean more droughts, and we should respond. I never thought I would hear about pro-drought National MPs.

"No other developed country is as exposed to changes in climate as New Zealand, because no other developed country is as dependent on agriculture. Yet two of National's most senior MPs can't even recognise the major challenge the sector faces, which the industry itself now accepts.

"We are opening new business opportunities and markets for New Zealand, and avoiding regulatory backlash such as 'food miles' tariffs, by being more sustainable than our competitors. The Labour Progressive Government has invested enormous resources into a Plan of Action on Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change. A National Party in denial about climate science would put all this at risk.

"Coming on top of National's opposition to the government's primary sector science and innovation fund, this is the most anti-agriculture National has been since the party was formed. If it behaved this way in government it would put billions of dollars of New Zealand exports at risk and tarnish New Zealand's hard earned reputation as a leader on sustainability."

Jim Anderton said John Key's weakness in confronting climate change deniers in his caucus is serious and cannot go unanswered.

"Either John Key is too weak to stand up to his own front and backbench MPs or else he is a closet climate change denier himself. It was not so long ago that John Key was describing climate change as a "hoax" but since then has changed his public stance. This flip flopping by the National leader begs the question whether his position on climate change is simply political puffery to avoid being out of step with public opinion.

"Either way, John Key is once again asking for a free pass for National's slipperiness on policy. National MPs avoid saying what they would really do in government because, if people knew, no one would vote for them.

"If National are pro-climate change, come out and tell the public. And if they are not, then John Key has to clear up what his henchmen are saying in their meetings, come clean with the public and discipline his MPs," Jim Anderton said.


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