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David Shearer response to Ministerial Statement on Fonterrra

David Shearer
Labour Leader

6 August 2013

David Shearer's response to Ministerial Statement on Fonterra

Mr Speaker,

Our priority today and over the next few days is making sure that parents here and abroad have the accurate information they need to ensure that their children are safe.

As a parent, I understand how anxious they’re feeling.

They are confused and worried about whether there’s a risk to the health of their kids.

Their questions must be answered in full.

They must have access to accurate and timely advice.

And nothing must be held back from them.

The safety of our children is paramount.

We are standing alongside the Government as it works with Fonterra to provide answers for parents. We will also support its efforts to protect our export markets and international reputation from further damage.

But when the time is right we will also demand answers.

Why did the potential contamination take so long to detect?

Why did it take so long to tell people about it?

Why has the Ministry of Health not played a major role in getting information to parents?

What protocols do the Ministry for Primary Industries and Fonterra have for handling these situations?

Have they followed them?

And what can we do to prevent this kind of shambles ever happening again?

Fonterra is New Zealand’s largest company.

It came into existence under a previous Labour government.

It was given special rights to operate largely outside the Commerce Act to maximise the nation’s wealth.

We are proud of its achievements.

But with rights come enormous responsibility.

As our only truly global company, that responsibility includes protecting our reputation as a source of safe, quality food.

This is built on trust as much as technology.

But the quality of trust disappears as transparency fades.

Fonterra has let us down.

Its strategic communications have been hugely lacking.

People understand that things can go wrong.

But they expect to be told the truth and given the full facts.

That’s what this country is known for around the world – honesty and transparency.

And that must never be put at risk.

Hard questions must also be asked about the role of government.

Have Ministers done enough?

Has the Ministry for Primary Industries been too hands-off?

MPI’s mission statement is to grow and protect New Zealand.

But has the push for growing exports overshadowed the critical focus on protection?

In this case, the protection of families and their children, of our international standing as a safe food exporter and of our nation’s reputation.

We must work harder than ever to safeguard our valuable relationship with our trading partners, including China.

They are right to be asking questions of us given events like the DCD scare and problems with meat certification.

It is devastating today to see Chinese media describing our 100% pure campaign as a ‘festering sore’. And claiming that our food safety issues are systemic.

This shows the ‘she’ll be right attitude’ simply doesn’t cut it in the global marketplace.

We must be more vigilant than that.

This issue is bigger than politics.

But Fonterra is not bigger than Parliament.

And it is up to us in this House to come together and make sure that everything that happens from this moment on happens in the best interests of parents and the country.

ENDS

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