Jan 10, 2005
New Zealand First is calling for the Government to release all papers relating to Agent Orange use in the Vietnam war, claiming a cover-up.
A newspaper report at the weekend said Agent Orange ingredients were exported by a New Zealand company during the Vietnam war more than 30 years ago. The government last year admitted New Zealand troops were exposed following decades of controversy over the health effects of the chemical.
Today NZ First defence spokesman Ron Mark said it was time the Government fronted up with all government papers from the period regarding the issue.
“I’ve asked for the Government to come clean with all the documents. The Government has access to all of the cabinet papers from the 60s. Just front up,” Mr Mark said.
All information should already have been provided to the health select committee that came to the conclusion troops were exposed, he said.
“It just seems like we finally got a select committee inquiry out of them, it’s quite clear they did not tell the truth, the whole truth or anything but the truth.
“If they truly want to put this matter to rest for once and for all why would they continue to hide information or to conveniently not reveal it?”
It was hard to understand why Labour continued to “cover up” National’s role in exporting Agent Orange ingredients, Mr Mark said.
“This is the old boys’ club. National does something, Labour comes to government and they hide it.”
National Party deputy leader Gerry Brownlee said it was unreasonable to expect ministers to be fully aware of every action previous governments took.
“For people to assume on a blanket basis that because you’re sitting around a Cabinet table that you naturally know every decision that every previous cabinet has made is a bit of a long bow.”
NZ First Leader Winston Peters was a cabinet minister during the 1990s and had as much opportunity to access the information, Mr Brownlee said.
The real issue was there had been an inquiry into Agent Orange use last year and whether Government ministers knew about the New Zealand involvement in the supply of Agent Orange then why it was withheld. “It’s the behaviour and attitude right now that is most important.”
The Government has promised to look into the export of the defoliant’s ingredients by chemical company Ivon Watkins Dow – now called Dow AgroSciences.
A spokeswoman for Government duty minister Rick Barker said earlier the Government would investigate whether information was withheld from the inquiry.
NZPA | nzherald.co.nz | Jan 10, 2005