Sep 18, 2008

MFAT Being Dragged Into Fonterra Scandal

A few days ago we asked "What did the New Zealand Government know about the milk contamination?"

Today's Herald provides an answer. And it is a disturbing one. Good on the PM and Phil Goff for coming clean on this. A number of journalists around town have been suggesting the closed nature of MFAT responses on this issue have given new weight to MFAT's nickname - Ministry of Fonterra Affairs and then other Trade.

The amount of time that New Zealand representatives took to respond to Fonterra's initial approach is also under the microscope.
According to Prime Minister Helen Clark, Fonterra first indicated to New Zealand's embassy in China on August 14 that it had some concerns about a product.
The company elaborated further around August 22, but it was not until August 31 - a total of 17 days after the first contact - that the embassy felt it had enough information to report to Wellington.
Mr Goff said he wasn't certain it took 17 days, but he emphasised that when a report was finalised on September 5, it was discussed days later at Cabinet level and New Zealand's ambassador was sent in immediately to talk to Chinese authorities in Beijing.
Asked if he was happy with the time it took for New Zealand officials to react, Mr Goff said it was not clear early on what the nature of the problem was and how widespread it was.