• David Carter
Associate Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control

Jim Sutton's claim that National's support in South Canterbury is collapsing has been rubbished by Food and Fibre Minister John Luxton, Trade Minister Lockwood Smith and Associate Food and Fibre Minister David Carter.

"Over the past few weeks, we've held a series of woolshed meetings across New Zealand, and found warm support for National's policies for rural communities," the Ministers said.

"As farmers ourselves, we know that depressed global commodity prices and two years of drought have meant that it's been very hard to make ends meet over the past couple of years," Dr Smith and Mr Luxton said.

"But farmers and primary producers have demonstrated strong support for National's record over the past nine years which has assisted rural communities through:

* tax cuts; * the abolition of stamp and death duties; * interest rates at 30 year lows; * increased productivity and lower transport charges; * flexible employment law; * reduced input costs through the elimination of most import tariffs; * competitive provision of workplace accident insurance; * huge gains on access to overseas markets; * a tough stance on law and order;

"Although we give Jim Sutton's commitment to assisting rural communities the benefit of the doubt, farmers have serious reservations about Labour's commitment to rural communities given that its policies of higher taxes, inflexible employment law, higher interest rates and higher ACC premiums will all harm rural communities.

"Moreover, farmers are very concerned that while over 40% of Labour's top 50 list candidates have trade union backgrounds, just three have a background in primary production, and that's if you include former vet Pete Hodgson.

"By contrast, over 40% of National's top 50 list candidates have a background in primary production, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer, Trade Minister, Minister and Associate Food and Fibre Ministers, and so on.

"National is the only party with a proven track record and a team that has the experience, skills and understanding necessary to deliver sound policies for New Zealand's rural communities.

"Jim Sutton's commitment to help farmers by fiddling with the portfolio's name is hollow, and probably all he'd be able to achieve for farmers within any Labour-Alliance coalition," the Ministers concluded.