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Q+A Panel Discussion - In response to Tim Groser interview

Q+A 4 August 2013

Panel Discussions

Hosted by SUSAN WOOD

In response to Tim Groser interview

SUSAN Welcome, panel: Dr Raymond Miller, Michelle Boag and Mike Williams. A dirty pipe and all our milk exports are suspended to China. Raymond, this is huge.

RAYMOND MILLER – Political Scientist
This is immensely damaging for New Zealand – for New Zealand trade, for the New Zealand economy and also of course very damaging for the kind of New Zealand brand, if you like. Members of the government must be absolutely furious that it’s taken this long and they were informed only on Friday of what was happening. It’s a really very major issue for New Zealand.

SUSAN Michelle, we’ve already been under pressure from the Chinese about lax safety standard. There's been lots of reporting around it. We know in 2008 there was melamine. You begin to wonder if Fonterra has learnt the lessons.

MICHELLE BOAG – Former National Party President
Well, you do and I think the focus, clearly from what the minister says, is on getting it right right now – focussing on that. I’m sure there will be lots of questions. I’m sure there will be some discussions behind closed doors with a few raised voices. But I don’t think that’s going to happen in the next 24, 48 hours, because they’re going to focus on managing this situation and I’m sure there will be lots of people in the government who are very consumed with that right now.

SUSAN No easy thing managing this situation, Mike. We know with the Chinese, it’s an unusual relationship. It’s a difficult relationship in many ways.

MIKE WILLIAMS – Former Labour Party President
There’s so many layers to this. It’s a disaster for New Zealand’s economy. It could be a disaster for all of us. This is our ace in the hole – white gold – and it’s been degraded. Chinese typically are only allowed one baby, so they’re very very jumpy about this. I think the minister performed exceptionally well there. He must be absolutely furious. How on earth— I’m reading here that this pollution actually occurred a year ago.

SUSAN That’s what I don’t understand. May 2012 and we find out in July 2013? That’s an extraordinary timeline, isn’t it?

RAYMOND It’s the long-term aspect to the timeline, but also, you know, when the announcement was made to the public, Fonterra refused to give any further information. Now, can you imagine parents worrying about their young children. Have they consumed it? Will they be going and taking it off the shelf and using it that very day? This is grossly irresponsible on the part of Fonterra for this to be allowed.

SUSAN It is extraordinary, Michelle. They came out and they wouldn’t give us the brands to begin, and it was only pressure that made them do so.

MICHELLE That’s right, and you wonder why they would do that, because it’s much easier to be specific and to be able to say, actually, exactly what the minister says: “The product was sent to Australia. It was exported back into New Zealand. The only brands concerned are these particular ones. If you’re concerned, ring these numbers.” You know, it would have been quite easy for Fonterra to do that, you would have thought.

MIKE But there's a question there, Susan: do they know the brands that this stuff has gone into? I mean, they know that they sent some to Australia and that was turned into something else and sent back here. We know that one. But from that list, it went to the Philippines, to Saudi Arabia—

SUSAN Vietnam, we’re talking Saudi, we’re talking a lot of countries.

MIKE Yeah, do we actually even know what products this stuff is in?

SUSAN Quite possibly not. Alright, well, more to come on this, no doubt, throughout the days and weeks. If you’d like some advice, the numbers from the minister. You can call PlunketLine. The number: 0800 933 922. Healthline 0800 611 116.


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