Audrey Young

Political editor Audrey Young blogs from Parliament

I'm bloody angry with Key

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John Key has just issued a press statement saying my story in today's Herald on the transtasman therapeutics regulatory agency misrepresents him.
I'm bloody angry because his press statement totally misrepresents what took place yesterday.
He clearly suggested that if Labour presented him with a proposal like the one Peters put up - one that carves out complementary medicines except for those who export to Australia and have a voluntary opt-in - he would sign it.
I can only suspect that Tony Ryall - his chief negotiator on the bill - has gone ballistic and Key has had to back away from the clear and repetitive suggestion he made yesterday in the company of three senior Herald journalists that if he was presented with a proposal like the one Peters put up that he would sign it.
I have checked with my other two colleagues, John Armstrong and Paula Oliver, who were there (we were interviewing him and Bill English ahead of the National Party conference this weekend).
They also came away with the clear view that National had not been presented with the Peters proposal - which is pretty appalling on Labour's part - and that if he were, he would sign it.
But don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself. Naturally I had my tape running in the interview - there were four tapes on it.



Here's the best bits:
Key: It's pretty straightforward isn't it? It's all very well people having a whack at us, but if they want to bring us a proposal in line with what Peters said on television, we'll sign it.

I keep asking for it. No one has shown it to me."
Here is another extract where you'll see that I was so flabbergasted that I asked him if he had heard the question. The most salient parts are in bold.
Key: The New Zealand perspective on how Australia views this is overrated. I think they've said `look it is an issue but there's lots of other things out there.'
As for Winston Peters' proposal, a press release does not make a proposal. If someone wants to show us a proposal and it does what it says and carves out complementaries with a voluntary opt-in, we'll sign it.
Herald: If they came to you now would you sign it?
Key: Yep. It is parked on the order paper. Our position has always been carve out complementaries with a voluntary opt-in regime.
Herald: Did you hear her question?
Key: If they came to us now with that proposal we will sign it.

Herald: So it is a do-able deal now?
Key: Sure . We have always said that. Our argument has been ... there are elements around medical devices and things you can argue all you like over. There are bits that some in the industry like and some that they don't like.
But the basic fundamental principal is carve out the complementaries which won't be exported to Australia so are of no concern to Australia. They are a domestic-only issue here in New Zealand. For the vast bulk they will voluntarily opt back in and that was what our understanding is of Winston Peter's proposal. We sat there waiting for it to turn up. No one has ever seen it.
Herald: Helen Clark contacted Murray McCully on the Wednesday you had three days where she asked him if National would be prepared to discuss it and was prepared to offer briefings and when she contacted him on the Friday he said `no deal.' Do you need more than two days to respond to an invitation for a briefing on the compromise.
Key: The way it was relayed to me was that she rang him and said, look, as they have said to us on before number occasions `we'd like to get this thing over the line and we have always made it clear, carve out complementaries and we are there.' We have never seen a proposal.
Herald: If the Prime Minister invites National to a briefing about the proposal why didn't you say yes.
Key: I wasn't aware of it. She didn't invite me to a briefing.
So if she wants to hold a briefing and she wants to come through with the proposal that carves out complementaries with a voluntary opt-in we'll sign it. But the failure in breakdown of negotiations isn't on National's side. It's on the Labour side and it has been there for quite some time and it was a view that was taken - we don't need National and we are not going to engage with you. And at the last minute they worked out that they did. Well that doesn't make us the bad guy. So bring us the proposal and we'll bring our pen with us. We're on.



This is me, now, not Key. The interesting thing about Key's statement is that while the interview is littered with reference to a voluntary "opt-in" for complementaries, there is not one mention of it in the press statement.
I can't be sure what Key has told Tony Ryall and whether his comments yesterday changed that, but I can be sure what he told us. And his comments today misrepresent what he said.

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