Wednesday, 17 January 2024 08:55

Back to the backbench

Written by  Peter Burke
Former agriculture and trade minister Damien O’Connor says it’s never easy being an agriculture minister in a Labour government. Former agriculture and trade minister Damien O’Connor says it’s never easy being an agriculture minister in a Labour government.

Former Labour agriculture and trade minister Damien O'Connor hopes the new coalition Governent will continue the direction of travel initiated by his government in terms of ensuring the high reputation of our primary exports.

However, O'Connor claims the messages that he's been getting from around the world since the National-led coalition took office are not positive. He hopes that there isn't a slide in NZ's reputation.

"I can't make a judgement on how they will work, but we will be scrutinising their actions and I hope that collectively that they don't succumb to the noisiest people in agriculture and drag NZ back into the past."

O'Connor told Rural News that he thinks the new coalition has got off to a pretty rocky start and that some believe tumultuous times lie ahead for the new Government for as long as it is in office.

O'Connor himself concedes that it's never easy being an agriculture minister in a Labour government.

"I was always facing the reality that most farmers didn't like Labour being in government from day one and that certainly made it more challenging to make the progress I think was necessary for us to make as a pastoral nation."

O'Connor, who is now a list MP - having lost his West Coast Tasman seat at the election - admits it's not much fun being in opposition. He says losing his seat was disappointing but he accepts that's the roll of the dice, and one good thing is that it will reduce the hectic travel workload to get around the electorate, coupled with the travel associated with the trade portfolio.

O'Connor says, at the moment, he is committed to work with the Labour Party to build it up again and to ensure the coalition Government is kept honest.

"My colleagues and I have a job to hold the Government to account for the many promises and claims they have made. It's disappointing seeing many positive things rolled back in the first weeks of the coalition and we have a duty to reduce the harm to NZ from the policies of the incoming Government."

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