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Labour wants more dairy reform consultation

2000 web siteThe mega-merger dairy reform is developing a speed wobble, and Labour wants the process slowed down to allow more consultation, according to Opposition Leader Helen Clark and agriculture spokesperson Jim Sutton.

"Labour endorses the concept articulated by industry leaders, and will support the necessary legislation at the right time," Helen Clark and Jim Sutton said.

"But our support has always been conditional on the architects of the plan being able to bring the dairy farming community along with them. As we see it, farmers have tentatively endorsed the vision, and given their leaders a mandate to further develop their plans, but we are still some way from the point of being able to say that the industry leadership has obtained the informed consent of the stakeholders to introduce legislation which will represent the most radical change in the industry since the formation of the Dairy Board."

Mr Sutton said he understood that the negotiations between a small group of Dairy Board leaders and Ministers had been so secretive that even Federated Farmers leaders had not been allowed to see the draft bill.

"This is not consultation; it is not democracy. It is ambush," Mr Sutton said.

"Labour will not support legislation being rammed through under urgency, because that does not allow for proper feedback and input from the farmers, who after all are the owners.

"We resent those advocates who try to bulldoze farmers by falsely stating that unless the bill goes through before the election, a Labour government might expropriate quota rents.

"That is nonsense. Labour has always been determined that the benefits of access to quota limited markets must flow to the industry as a whole. Indeed, one of the questions the industry must reach consensus on is how this is to be fairly achieved; how sharemilkers and any companies which choose to stay out of the merger are provided for."

Mr Sutton said the real political risk to the mega co-operative concept was the possibility that a National/ACT coalition with a clear Parliamentary majority would impose deregulation, under which numerous separate dairy companies would be left to compete among themselves and with multi-national newcomers, in marketing New Zealand dairy products around the world.

"Labour says there is no need to rush, no need to pursue a timetable which excludes effective farmer input.

"The Commerce Commission, and the farmers, should be listened to before legislation is passed. Otherwise, there is a danger that the job will be botched, as so many other rushed reforms have been.

"Labour will vote for the bill to go to select committee, but only when it has been tabled in Parliament and thus been publicly available for a week. When it gets to select committee, we will vote to allow at least four weeks for submissions to be made."

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