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National Party persists in hiding from the truth

20 May 2008 Media Statement


National Party persists in hiding from the truth

Progressive leader and Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton today made public background papers on the New Zealand Fast Forward Fund and called on National to reverse its pledge to axe the fund.

Jim Anderton said the background briefing papers and advice on the $700 million Fast Forward fund released today showed the fund had been developed over several years and was not a "gimmick" as claimed by John Key.

"The fund is an unprecedented investment in innovation and research designed to achieve a step-change in our economic performance. National promised to axe the fund because it said was an ad hoc policy dreamt up at the last minute. The papers released today show National's claims weren't true. Indeed, I first wrote to the Prime Minister about it in June 2006."

"Back then I suggested we needed a 'revolution - not incremental change… that puts the biological base of the economy, and the environment it depends on, at the heart of economic transformation policy.' The focus from the start has been heavily on 'partnership with industry' to create 'an overarching national strategic direction based on adding value through innovation and productivity, brand value and environmental sustainability.'"

"What the paper trail clearly shows is that over the last few years I have engaged heavily with primary sector leaders, through the Food and Beverage Taskforce and the Primary Sector Leaders Forum, culminating in the Primary Industries 20/20 Summit last November, to gain commitment to a collaborative boost to investment in skills, innovation and research.

Jim Anderton said that when the fund was announced, John Key got flustered and confused about it and said he wanted more details while at the same time criticising the initiative. Since then, John Key has refused to take up offers of a briefing, which his office initially accepted but then never took up.

"I offered a full briefing with officials, and we have kept that offer open for two months, but National didn't take up the offer. They keep saying they don't know any details of the fund, but they still won't take up the opportunity to get that information. Clearly they are not ready for government because they won't do hard work."

"National thinks it can get away with saying anything it wants because National is never asked the hard questions. John Key first said the Government would only spend the interest earned by the fund and then Bill English claimed the fund would only last seven years. Both claims have been shown to be wrong. It shows National just make stuff up and hope nobody notices.

"But John Key should be grilled on his opposition to the fund because National's promise to scrap the fund is deeply unpopular in the primary industries and with anyone who knows anything about innovation and research in New Zealand. The future of our food and pastoral industries is too important to fall victim to short-sighted and self-serving politicking by the opposition.

"Now that National's grounds for opposing New Zealand Fast Forward have been exposed as fraudulent, National should own up to its error of judgement and reverse its promise to scrap the Fund," Jim Anderton said.

"New Zealand Fast Forward has been resoundingly welcomed by farmers, primary industry sector groups and exporters, and primary sector scientists. Many primary industries leaders have privately expressed their astonishment to me over John Key's petty posturing on this issue. It's a pretty sad indictment on someone who will say anything, regardless of the facts, to get into power," said Jim Anderton.

The background briefings and other papers are available on: http://www.maf.govt.nz/mafnet/new-zealand-fast-forward/oia/

ENDS

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