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Anderson attempts to silence his critics with legal action



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AUSTRALIA ,'

THE HON. NEIL O'KEEFE M H R

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR BURKE SHADOW MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA

Anderson attempts to silence critics with legal action

In the latest twist to the meat inspection fiasco, Federal Primary Industries Minister, John Anderson, has threatened Shadow Minister, Neil O'Keefe, with a lawyer's letter, following Mr O'Keefe's exposure of the Minister's attempt to portray United States rejection of Project 2 as 'in principle acceptance'.

"I refuse to be intimidated by the Minister's attempt to muzzle me. John Anderson has clearly been stung by questioning of his absurd claim that reform of meat inspection is on track and being enthusiastically accepted by our international customers.

"This is a situation of his own making and the Minister can not go on blaming me, the ABC the print media, the Americans and consumer groups for misunderstanding his comments," Mr O'Keefe said

The Government's attempts to fast track Project 2 have come under further criticism. The European Union announced yesterday agreement with the United States to reject both the pace and process of Mr Anderson's proposals, and indicated it would be requiring significant changes before negotiations could progress further.

"ON ABC Radio's PM program last Thursday, the Minister added the Europeans to the long list of people who 'do not understand his reforms'. He would have us believe it is everyone else who is wrong."

"The fact is, the European announcement is another significant rebuff and confirms the reservations I have been expressing about the way he is handling this matter from as far back as Budget time last year," Mr O'Keefe said.

"The Minister has to understand that the prime consideration must be the customer. It is churlish to pretend we can present an Australian product in any other way than how the customer is prepared to receive and pay for it. That is why you have to move at their pace.

"No one should underestimate the seriousness of this matter. It took the former Labor Government years to rebuild trust in Australia following the meat substitution scandal of the Fraser years. Now progress has been badly set back by the Minister's immature grandstanding," Mr O'Keefe said.

"I repeat my view that John Howard should stand down Mr Anderson an Him with a Minister who is able to rebuild confidence with our internatil trading partners," Mr O'Keefe said.

Further enquires: Pat Giles — 0418 509 649 Jacinta Allan — 5422 2711 or 0419 585 286 "Ss 0A1514 Sunday 22 February 1998 C O W ° V1-113

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