‘Bad imitations of Oliver Twist’ mocked
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