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GE Business Influence on Government Deplored

Wednesday 10 July 2002

GE Business Influence on Government Deplored: Failure to Disclose Corrosive of Good Government

THE INFLUENCE of environmentally damaging business interests on government policy and actions needs to be scrutinized more closely, and public servants need to be reminded not to lend themselves to cover-ups, says the Environment and Conservation Organisations of NZ (ECO) today, in reaction to the revelations in Nicky Hager’s new book Seeds of Distrust.

“Senior government folk seem to have had good instincts at first and then a mistake seems to have escalated into a deplorable cover-up and un-corrected genetically engineered contamination event when they came under sustained pressure from powerful business interests,” said Cath Wallace, chairperson of ECO.

“Regrettably this pattern where policies that seemed to take a responsible position in relation to the environment and community interests are then modified under pressure and made more acceptable to powerful environmentally damaging business interests seems to be a repeating pattern with this government.

“We have seen the same pattern with the watering down of policies for the protection of the environment against greenhouse gases and in moves to pass fisheries management and research over to the fishing industry – with the environment and public control of fisheries management likely to be at risk in consequence.

“The book raises important issues for the civil service. The role of several of the officials is disappointing – though we salute those who spoke plainly and whoever released the documents published today.

“We hope that State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham will issue a clear and explicit reminder to civil servants about their responsibility for open government and to issue free and frank advice to Ministers. This advice should spell out for civil servants the need for them not to help Ministers under pressure to cover up. They must send clear and pointed advice to Ministers if they think the chosen course of action is wrong.

“ERMA seems to have done this to the Ministers but then to have given opaque advice to the Royal Commission on Genetic Engineering.

The old slogan that open government makes it harder to govern but even harder to govern badly is all too true and should be a reminder to all in government to not corrode democracy with secrecy.

“We are very grateful to Nicky Hager for his continued vigilance of democracy and an open society. He is to be applauded for his work.

For further information contact Cath Wallace 04- 463-5713 or 04-389-1696


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