‘Bad im­i­ta­tions of Oliver Twist’ mocked

The Timaru Herald - - Business - Tom Pullar-Strecker

For­mer fi­nance min­is­ter Sir Michael Cullen has hit out at busi­ness bod­ies for fail­ing to come to terms with the im­pli­ca­tions of Covid-19.

‘‘Many of our peak or­gan­i­sa­tions at the mo­ment are be­hav­ing in a very strange way, where they are queue­ing up to get on Morn­ing Re­port to give bad im­i­ta­tions of Oliver Twist,’’ Cullen told a meet­ing hosted by fi­nan­cial ser­vices or­gan­i­sa­tion CFA So­ci­ety NZ.

‘‘They just keep hang­ing out the cap, ask­ing for govern­ment money, in­stead of com­ing to the Govern­ment and say­ing: let’s sit down and work out a re­al­is­tic plan for how we have a sur­viv­able in­dus­try mov­ing into the fu­ture.’’

Cullen sin­gled out the tourism in­dus­try for crit­i­cism. ‘‘It is no use the tourism in­dus­try ask­ing the Govern­ment to sub­sidise it com­pletely to the point where we keep every­thing go­ing be­cause it is go­ing to be years be­fore that in­dus­try is go­ing to be in the state it was be­fore Covid-19 hit us.’’ That changed re­al­ity for the in­dus­try was ‘‘not just be­cause what we have done’’ but be­cause of what was hap­pen­ing in other coun­tries around the world, he said.

‘‘We need to re­ally give some thought to how govern­ment, civil so­ci­ety and in­dus­try groups can bet­ter work to­gether,’’ he said. ‘‘I think we are still miss­ing the op­por­tu­nity to form ef­fec­tive part­ner­ships.’’

Peak tourism in­dus­try body Tourism In­dus­try Aotearoa has been ap­proached for com­ment.

Cullen la­belled Fed­er­ated Farm­ers a ‘‘de­clin­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion’’.

Fon­terra, most other dairy com­pa­nies, and DairyNZ were ‘‘on board’’ with the pro­gramme sur­round­ing cli­mate change but Fed­er­ated Farm­ers was ‘‘buried in a hole in the ground on this’’, he said.

‘‘It is in a state of com­plete de­nial and just re­fuses to co-op­er­ate with cen­tral govern­ment around what ought to be a pro­gramme of change that is in the pri­mary sec­tor’s own best in­ter­ests,’’ Cullen said.

He fore­cast that if New Zealand was pro­duc­ing ‘‘dirty pri­mary prod­ucts’’ in 20 years ‘‘you can guar­an­tee con­sumers in the EU will find a hell of a good rea­son to erect non-tar­iff trade bar­ri­ers against us’’.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers chief ex­ec­u­tive Terry Copeland said the crit­i­cism was ‘‘dis­ap­point­ing’’ and the fed­er­a­tion was ac­tively in­volved in He Waka Ekeke Noa, a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween the Govern­ment and iwi to re­duce farm emis­sions over the next five years. The view that Fed­er­ated Farm­ers was ‘‘stick-in-the-mud’’ was old-fash­ioned, he said. ‘‘ We are cer­tainly not de­niers of cli­mate change, we just want work­able so­lu­tions that al­low food pro­duc­tion to be at the fore­front of the econ­omy.’’

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers ‘‘voiced its views strongly’’ but be­lieved its re­la­tion­ship with the Govern­ment was strength­en­ing, Copeland said.

‘‘They [busi­nesses] just keep hang­ing out the cap, ask­ing for govern­ment money.’’ Sir Michael Cullen

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