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Govt surrenders $200m industry to Australia

8 December, 2003

Bitter pill: Govt surrenders $200m industry to Australian control

The Health Minister has effectively given Australia control of New Zealand's $200 million dietary supplements industry, Green MP Sue Kedgley charged today.

"The Minister's unilateral decision to regulate the industry through an agency based in Australia, staffed primarily by Australians, governed by an Australian-dominated board and set up under Australian law, makes a travesty of New Zealand sovereignty," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Health spokesperson.

Ms Kedgley pointed out that the new agency would be an expanded version of an existing Australian agency. It will have far reaching powers, including the power of search and seizure, enforcement powers and the ability to make what are essentially policy decisions without recourse to the New Zealand parliament.

"The Australian-based Managing Director of the Agency will have extraordinary powers, including the authority to make delegated legislation in the form of Rules and Orders, which will have a direct effect in New Zealand but will not to be incorporated into domestic legislation.

"These unprecedented powers are not found anywhere in the New Zealand public service and are probably unconstitutional," said Ms Kedgley.

Just a fortnight ago another trans-Tasman regulator, the Food Regulation Ministerial Council, refused to release any of their papers under the Official Information Act, on the grounds that they were an international organisation. "We are witnessing a disturbing pattern of policy making and regulation being placed out of reach of New Zealand citizens," warned Ms Kedgley.

"This is a shocking decision and it's pathetic to see the Minister of Health flailing around trying to blame the select committee, and myself, for her outrageous decision to ignore our year-long inquiry and sign a treaty with Australia before the select committee has even reported back to Parliament."

Ms Kedgley predicted the move would contravene the government's own commitment to reducing the compliance costs of small business by significantly increasing costs across the industry and inevitably forcing many small dietary supplements businesses to the wall.

ENDS

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