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Nat's heartland tour turns into comedy show

2000 web siteLabour Leader Helen Clark said today that the National Party's rural heartland tour was a joke when National has no intention of listening to rural interests and developing policy in a way which rural people want.

"Last October the Prime Minister stated, with respect to the primary sector and producer board debate, that 'it is up to each industry to decide how they are going to look forward'.

"That commitment was hollow. Producer boards are now being put through an intense process of bullying by government officials, backed by ministers, with a view to forcing them to give up their single-desk selling status.

"At a special meeting of hop growers on 26 May, at which almost all hop growers in New Zealand were present, the growers unanimously resolved that while they were prepared to see the Hop Marketing Board reconstituted as a grower owned co-operative company, they were not prepared to see their single-desk marketing of export hops and hop products abolished.

"Today in Parliament, Mr Creech, answering on behalf of Mrs Shipley, refused to give any government commitment to allowing hop growers to determine the future of their own industry.

"National claims that its heartland tour is going back to its grassroots to 'listen to people's concerns'. But the tour has been dismissed as a 'pathetic and transparent piece of flimflam' by Northland Federated Farmers who say that the tour is simply 'an insulting and hypocritical action by MPs worried about losing their jobs'. Farmers are laughing at National.

"The rural heartland is now being treated to the spectacle of National MPs wandering from pub to pub trying to persuade rural people that National cares about them. Meanwhile, back in Parliament, the Prime Minister and her deputy are not prepared to stand by commitments they gave to allow each primary industry to decide their own future.

"National will have to do better than this if it is to have any prospect of escaping electoral annihilation even in its rural heartland," Helen Clark said.

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