M. Bovis eradication plan

The Government has decided to attempt eradication of Mycoplasma bovis at an estimated cost of $886m over ten years.


Plan to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis

Government and farming sector leaders have agreed to attempt the eradication of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis from New Zealand to protect the national herd and the long-term productivity of the farming sector.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor say we have one shot at eradicating a disease that causes painful, untreatable illness in cattle.

The decision was taken collectively by Government and farming sector bodies after months of intense modelling and analysis to understand the likely impacts of the disease, the potential spread and the costs and benefits of eradication versus other actions.

“Today’s decision to eradicate is driven by the Government’s desire to protect the national herd from the disease and protect the base of our economy – the farming sector,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’ve worked hard to get the information to make this call and I know the past 10 months have been hugely uncertain for our beef and dairy farmers.

“Speaking with affected farmers in recent weeks it is obvious that this has taken a toll, but standing back and allowing the disease to spread would simply create more anxiety for all farmers.

“This is a tough call – no-one ever wants to see mass culls. But the alternative is to risk the spread of the disease across our national herd. We have a real chance of eradication to protect our more than 20,000 dairy and beef farms, but only if we act now.

“Today’s decision will provide some certainty, but at the same time will be terribly painful for those farmers who are directly affected. Both Government and our industry partners want those farmers to know support is there for them.

“We are committed to working in partnership with the farming sector to ensure its long-term success. Today’s move reflects how important the success of the dairy and beef industries is to the prosperity of all New Zealanders,” Jacinda Ardern said.

All decision-makers acknowledge that eradication of Mycoplasma bovis – which is possible because it is not widespread, infected properties are all connected through animal movements and there is just one strain of the disease out there – will be challenging and require collaboration.

Damien O’Connor said it was important all farmers showed a collective responsibility for the sake of the wider sector and get on-board with the eradication operation.

“We all agree that while there remains a chance to get rid of this disease, we should take it. It’s the only chance we’ll get.

“It won’t work without farmer support. In particular farmers need to be meticulous with animal movement records and the way they use NAIT. We have already begun improvements to make it easier to use

“I’ve also asked MPI to revisit the compensation process and they’ve developed a new streamlined approach for those whose animals are culled to enable a substantial payment within a matter of days.

“Farmer welfare is crucial and I’d like to thank the Rural Support Trusts for the work they’re doing. With this decision we know more help is needed and the Government and industry groups are committed to helping farmers through this stressful time.

“Mycoplasma bovis is a difficult disease to diagnose and to control. For this reason, it is possible that at some stage we may have to let the fight go and learn to manage it in our herds.

“We have a set of reassessment measures that, if met, would prompt us to re-evaluate the plan. These include finding the disease is more widespread than our surveillance and modelling anticipates or a property is found that pre-dates the earliest known infection of December 2015.

“Spring testing this year will give us the opportunity to reassess the feasibility of eradication when results are in come February, as Mycoplasma bovis is at its most detectable after calving,” said Damien O’Connor.

Eradication will involve:

  • Culling all cattle on all infected properties along with cattle on most restricted properties
  • All infected farms found in future will also be depopulated
  • Following depopulation, farms are disinfected and will lie fallow for 60 days after which they can be restocked
  • Intensive active surveillance, including testing and tracing, will continue to detect infected herds
  • There will be some flexibility for farmers in the timing of culling to offset production losses
  • An improved compensation claim process. MPI says a substantial part of a farmer’s claim for culled cows should now take 4-10 days, with a fully verified claim taking 2-3 weeks.

The full cost of phased eradication over 10 years is projected at $886 million. Of this, $16 million is loss of production and is borne by farmers and $870 million is the cost of the response (including compensation to farmers). We expect to do most of the eradication work in 1-2 years.

Government will meet 68 per cent of this cost and DairyNZ and Beef+Lamb New Zealand will meet 32 per cent.

The alternative option was for long-term management. This was projected at $1.2 billion. Of this, $698 million is the loss of production borne by farmers and $520 million of response costs.

To not act at all is estimated to cost the industry $1.3 billion in lost production over 10 years, with ongoing productivity losses across our farming sector.

Mycoplasma bovis a growing and spreading problem

The introduction and spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis may go back further and have spread more than has been publicly known.

ODT: Timely information important

The spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis is wider than expected and there are indications the number of infected farms will continue to grow.

This is proving one of the most difficult periods for dairy farmers, faced with uncertainty about the future of their herds.

New information suggests the disease was in New Zealand up to three years before the official announcement it had been found in South Canterbury.

All sorts of excuses are being made. The facts are someone is responsible for this disease. No-one knows who yet, and it has become a problem for those left wondering.

About 11,000 cows of a possible 22,000 have been slaughtered to stop the spread through the national herd, the animals destroyed along with the income of the owners of those cows. Farmers are not immune to the pain of seeing productive animals slaughtered because of a disease which will continue spreading, in all likelihood.

Talk has switched from eradication to containment. It seems that is the best that can be offered.

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor blames the previous government for not being vigilant enough in the way the national animal tracing system (Nait) was enforced.

The previous National-led government’s inaction, lack of enforcement and promotion of Nait has created major issues for hunting down Mycoplasma bovis. Mr O’Connor is promising changes.

Some serious facts are emerging. Farmers may have been selling infected calves to others in the dairy industry, not alerting authorities to the sale and thereby creating an underground path of infection.

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor:


Mycoplasma bovis update

  • Farming leaders and Government discuss next steps
  • $307,000 for Rural Support Trusts
  • $7.8 million for animal feed
  • We will fix NAIT alongside the farming industry

Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says a top-level meeting with farming leaders about Mycoplasma bovis focused on helping farmers through the next few weeks.

“We all committed to make a decision about the next steps in the M.bovis response within the next couple of weeks. We talked about phased eradication and long-term management.

“It is a difficult choice that we will make together once we receive more advice from the Technical Advisory Group in the coming days.

“Farmer welfare is paramount to all of us. We are committed to helping farmers on the ground who are caught in the M.bovis response.

“We’ve given $307,000 to Rural Support Trusts to help farmers. And there is $7.8 million of funding that has been committed to help those struggling with feed issues.

“Over the next few weeks farmers who are not under controls are allowed to move stock, but they must adhere to their legal National Animal Identification and Tracing requirements and record animal movements.

“If you are concerned about moving your stock then be prudent, seek advice from your industry groups and MPI. The same goes for sourcing feed.’’

DairyNZ Chief Executive Tim Mackle says that this has been a tough road for farmers.

“It’s simply devastating to find out you have this disease on your farm and know what it could mean for your animals. The government and sector groups are working closely, putting our farmers and animals at the forefront of our thinking.”

Beef + Lamb New Zealand CEO Sam McIvor says: “We have huge sympathy for the affected farmers and their families. The government and industry are working extremely hard to bring some certainty. For B+LNZ, our focus is on getting a clear direction for the future of the response as soon as possible, and learning everything we can to avoid our farmers going through this again.”

Federated Farmers president Katie Milne says we are all in this together.

“Feds is totally committed to working with government and the other industry bodies to get to the right outcome – whatever that looks like.

“It’s in everyone’s interest to figure out what is the best way forward.”

Mr O’Connor says the Government and farming groups are committed to improving the NAIT system.

“It hasn’t worked as well as it should have. I know farmers are keen to improve it and I’ll work alongside them to achieve that.

“We realise that compensation is a major source of concern for farmers. DairyNZ has recently committed 10 additional staff to advise farmers on preparing their compensation claims – recognising that the more complete a claim is when it’s lodged, the faster MPI can turn it around.

“In addition, MPI has committed that farmers whose animals are being culled due to presence of the infection, will receive an initial payment for the value of culled stock within two weeks of a completed claim being lodged,” says Damien O’Connor.

B+LNZ has committed additional funding for the Rural Support Trusts to help drystock farmers through the compensation process, and employed additional resource to work with farmers on M.bovis and wider biosecurity management.

Mr O’Connor again met with leaders from DairyNZ, B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Rural Women New Zealand, Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, Fonterra and the Meat Industry Association this afternoon.

Labour will legalise medical cannabis

In a Q&A with Tracy Watkins at Stuff today Andrew Little said that Labour would legalise medical cannabis “pretty quickly” after taking office.

We would legalise medicinal cannabis – Labour leader

Labour will legislate for medicinal cannabis “pretty quickly” after taking office, leader Andrew Little has confirmed.

Little said cannabis products should be available to anyone suffering chronic pain or a terminal condition if their GP signed off on it.

Labour MP Damien O’Connor has drafted a bill for Parliament that would shift the onus of decision making on medicinal cannabis away from the minister to GPs and medical professionals.

Little said Labour would pass O’Connor’s law “pretty quickly” after the next election, should it win.

Good news, but it’s not his top priority: “When I’m Prime Minister what I’ll do first? Change a law or something. Ram healthy homes bill through without any further consultation.”

However the wider issue of \recreational cannabis looks to be way down the priority list.

But on the wider issue of decriminalising cannabis, he wanted to see more evidence.

“I don’t have a moral thing about recreational drugs…my own experience of dealing with it as an issue was when I was a union lawyer, when employers started to do drug and alcohol testing and I did a lot of work on that.

“The medical evidence that came back to me overwhelmingly was that a lot of the cannabis available in New Zealand had very high THC (mind altering substance tetrahydrocannabinol) levels. For brains that are still developing in their late teens and early 20s cannabis use even to a modest degree can still cause long term brain damage. So I’d want to know we are addressing that real risk to that issue.”

At least dealing with medical cannabis will be a good start.

Member’s Bill on Medical Cannabis

In Mid-October Helen Kelly admitted to have used cannabis to self-treat her cancer, NZ Herald reported MPs back calls for medicinal marijuana.

Union boss Helen Kelly’s call for better access to medicinal marijuana has been backed by MPs from both sides of the House.

Ms Kelly, who is terminally ill, has admitted to using cannabis oil for pain relief and wants Government to improve access to the drug.

It was also reported that Damien O’Connor was drafting a member’s bill in support of medical cannabis.

Labour’s West Coast MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a bill private member’s bill which would improve access to cannabidiol.

He started work on the bill after the death of a Nelson teenager Alex Renton, who had taken a hemp-derived treatment for repeated seizures.

Last week the Greymouth Star also reported on this:

MP to draft medicinal cannabis bill

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a private member’s bill to allow the medicinal use of cannabis.

You need a subscription to see the whole article but it was republished by the ODT:

O’Connor drafting medicinal cannabis Bill

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor is drafting a private member’s bill to allow the medicinal use of cannabis.

He says high profile cases such as terminally ill trade union leader Helen Kelly, who is using cannabis oil for pain relief because it does not make her sick like morphine, have helped changed public attitudes.

He stressed he was not advocating the decriminalisation of cannabis.

Mr O’Connor said today he had believed in the benefits of medicinal cannabis since the 2000s, when he was on a select committee which backed its use.

He said Labour Party technical staff were now helping him draft a private member’s bill.

There has been suggestions that O’Connor may have fibbed about who he is consulting with.

Every drug had some side effects, and it was important they were minimal and not harmful. Cannabis would have to be prescribed by a GP, and GPs in turn would need to be comfortable with it. It would need to be of consistent quality.

“It’s really important no one pushes too hard, too fast,” he said, as that could derail the process.

“People like Helen Kelly and others exposing the careful use of it – people understand there’s value.”

The value of medicinal cannabis products is still up for debate as the growing number of products haven’t been comprehensively tested yet.

Drafting the private member’s bill would take some time. He was also talking to other political parties including Health Minister Jonathan Coleman.

I presume he will also talk to Peter Dunne, odd that he doesn’t mention him here. Dunne as Associate Health Minister has represented the Government on cannabis matters.

I hope O’Connor also actually consults with people in New Zealand that have useful knowledge on the use of medicinal cannabis.

As a Member’s Bill this will go in an occasional draw with 60-70 other bills, with 3 or 4 usually drawn at a time.  So the chances of progressing this through a Member’s Bill are low.

Shearer on Corbyn

There’s some hope on the left that the seismic Corbyn shift in the UK will translate into a worldwide shift left, including in New Zealand.

The political situation in New Zealand is quite different. And there doesn’t seem to be any imminent Labour leadership contest. (A back bencher of thirty years as Corbyn becoming leader would be like Damien O’Connor becoming leader here, except that O’Connor is probably the opposite of being a far left radical).

David Shearer knows what it is like for an outsider to suddenly be elevated to a leadership position. He posted his thoughts on the Corbyn phenomenon on Facebook yesterday:

Jeremy Corbyn looks likely to be elected the new UK Labour leader this weekend. 

He will win without the support of most of his caucus and with many senior members refusing to serve under him. 

Corbyn’s supporters could be right … for the first time in modern political history we may see a leader shun the centre, steer a party to the left and win an election.

But more likely it will guarantee Labour stays in ‘glorious’ opposition as it did during the 1980s and 1990s – until finally it reached out to voters in the centre and won three elections in a row. But until then Thatcher and the Conservatives ran rampant for 18 years. 

Too often we forget that being in government is the objective. Anything else is just academic discussion. 

Meanwhile, the Conservatives are gleeful. Many joined the Labour Party under Labour’s new voting rules just so they could vote for Corbyn. 

Sadly, the stakes are heavily tilted against a positive outcome for Labour – and with it the majority of hardworking, decent Brits.

The stakes also seem heavily tilted against a Corbyn-like revolution in New Zealand. Andrew Little could suddenly transform himself, or someone else could come from left field and take over the Labour leadership, but both look unlikely.

Coma continues while the DHB stuffs around

Seven Sharp reported on Friday that the Wellington DHB had agreed to apply to the Ministry of Health to enable CBD (non-intoxicating cannabis oil) treatment of Alex Renton, who has been in an induced coma for sixty days due to seizures. See “Teen in coma for 57 days needs legal access to cannabis oil”.

Stuff update this in DHB delays treatment application for teenager in coma.

Alex Renton, 19, of Nelson, has been in hospital since early April and remains in “status epilepticus”,  a kind of prolonged seizure.

Capital & Coast District Health Board decided late on Friday to apply to the Ministry of Health for approval to use a marijuana extract to treat him.

The ministry is yet to receive the DHB’s application. A DHB  spokeswoman said staff would work on the application on Monday, and was expected it would be sent to the ministry in the next couple of days.

This lack of urgency from the DHB is very disappointing, even disturbing. Possibly disgraceful.

Alex is still in a coma. His family are still waiting for something that may help him.

Damien O’Connor speaks up about it.

O’Connor, a former associate health minister, has been in contact with the Renton family and says he is outraged that bureaucracy has got in the way of saving someone’s life.

“As a previous minister, I’m well aware staff will work 24 hours a day to get something done and, if they’ll do that for a trade deal, then they should be doing it for a health matter,” he said.

The way Alex’s treatment had been handled was bordering on “unethical”.

The DHB’s procrastination is very difficult to understand. Someone’s life is potentially at stake.

Damien O’Connor – 1080 idiot

One News reports Labour’s Damien O’Connor – Why haven’t police found 1080 ‘idiot’?, asks Labour.

The person threatening to poison baby milk formula isn’t necessarily an idiot, they are extremely irresponsible criminals.

O’Connor is the idiot.

Labour’s primary industries spokesman Damien O’Connor says police should by now “absolutely” have found the “idiot who did this”.

“I cannot understand why the police don’t have more leads in this area,” he says.

What does O’Connor suggest the police do, get the GCSB to spy on every New Zealander to try and track them down?

I don’t understand why O’Connor doesn’t have more clues in this area.

Mr O’Connor says that security will have to stay in place indefinitely, unless an arrest is made.

“I think the reality is that our food system has to be guaranteed,” he says.

The police can’t guarantee any system. There’s no way they can stop every nutter in the country from making threats or doing stupid things.

It might be inaccurate calling O’Connor a 1080 idiot, but on this he’s close to a 100% idiot.

The 1080 threats are serious, far more so than for a half baked politician to bollocks the police for no apparent reason that makes any sense..

Cunliffe and the Labour blokes

Different columns on Labour, one from Rachel Smalley claiming David Cunliffe is trying to attract the female vote, and another by Duncan Garner on Labour blokes disregarding party interests and trying to shore up their electorate chances.

Rachel Smalley: Cunliffe courting the female vote

The most recent policy announcements suggest to me that David Cunliffe is not cutting it with women. You’ll remember Helen Clark lost the support of women in her final term, and I don’t think Labour has ever claimed it back. During his leadership challenge, remember that Cunliffe wasn’t popular with women in his own party. I suspect that’s resonating in the wider public too.

According to polls this year both Labour and Cunliffe have lost support from female voters.

So he’s going after the female vote. Women are more likely to bounce between parties. Men tend to vote for what’s right for their own wallets, but women are more likely to consider issues beyond personal wealth and economics.

A particular problem Cunliffe has is that women are more adept at reading body language and don’t like it when it differs from verbal language.

Even his “sorry I’m a man” speech, which was obviously targeting women, had suggestions of a lack of authenticity.

Meanwhile Duncan Garner posts Three Labour MPs say ‘stuff the party – I want to win my seat!’

Three Labour MPs have broken ranks in recent weeks – quite loudly and very publicly.

They are interested in one thing: self-preservation. They want to win their seats and they’ve given up relying on their party. They are clearly concerned Labour will poll poorly on election night, so they’ve decided to run their own campaigns – away from head office and away from the leader.

These MPs have either chosen not to be on the list or they have a low-list spot. They are vulnerable. It’s all or nothing for them.

They must win their seats to return to Parliament; this sort of pressure usually focuses an MP’s mind. They want to be back in Parliament and they want the $150k salary.

I’m talking about West Coast-Tasman MP, Damien O’Connor, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard and list MP and Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Kelvin Davis.

He has left Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene out.

Take Davis: yesterday he engaged Labour in its biggest u-turn in years. He told me he supported the Puhoi-Wellsford road project that his party has openly mocked and criticised.

Davis is a staunch promoter of Northland interests and has put this before the party.

Further south in Wellington, Trevor Mallard is openly campaigning for the return of the moa – against the wishes of his party and the leadership. It’s a desperate cry for attention: Mallard needs visibility and the moa got him the headlines.

That has been a bizarre sideshow. Cunliffe initially responded “the moa is not a goer” but Mallard has kept on going on about his pet project of the future.

And further south again, Damien O’Connor voted with the Government 10 days ago to allow storm-damaged native trees to be harvested in protected forests.

Tirikatene also voted with the Government on the tree bill.

These three blokes are the outliers in the Labour Caucus. And they are blokes too; they need to make some noise to be heard. They clearly have issues with the tame approach within their caucus.

O’Connor and Davis certainly look in touch with middle New Zealand, their electorates and their issues. They have given the one-fingered salute to their struggling party and put self-preservation first.

O’Connor, Tirikatene and Mallard are relying totally on holding their current electorates in order to stay in Parliament, they don’t feature on the Labour list.

Davis is in a doubtful list position and to put a bob each way on his chances he needs to keenly contest Hone Harawira to try and win Te Tai Tokerau off him.

While Cunliffe is struggling to woo the women voters some of the strongest male presence in Labour is going their own way, disregarding the wider party interests, and as Garner says, putting self preservation first. This suggests they don’t hold much hope of the party doing well.

Cunliffe is struggling to appeal to women and failing to appeal to his own caucus for unity.

It’s hard to see how this can work out well for Labour.

Unless Kim Dotcom sinks National, giving Labour  a shot at forming a Government despite their shambles.

 

O’Connor may cross floor over windfall timber

There seems to be some disagreement in the Labour caucus over the plan to use windfall timber from the West Coast.

National claim to have the support of the Maori Party and United Future (and also NZ First although Peters seemed to contest that).

David Cunliffe started a typical yeah/nah stance yesterday – Playing politics with West Coast windfall trees

It now looks like Damien O;Connor will try to get some amendments but will cross the floor to vote for it anyway:

RadioLIVE Newsroom ‏@LIVENewsDesk

Labour’s Damien O’Connor will cross Parliament’s floor and vote in favour of native logging, if his party decides to vote against it.

This has sort of been confirmed by Moana Mackey:

Christian Hermansen ‏@chermansen__

@tauhenare @clarecurranmp Majority just increased anyway, Damien O’Connor will cross the floor

@MoanaMackey

@chermansen__ @tauhenare @clarecurranmp only at third reading if govt votes down all his very sensible amendments

Labour have manouvered themselves into a stupid position on this, all over a small proportion of blown over trees.

UPDATE:  Two Labour MPs support Government’s West Coast timber legislation 

Two Labour MPs will cross the floor to support the government’s legislation the enabling the harvesting of windblown timber on West Coast conservation land.

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor, and Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatene, will support the bill, in their capacities as local MPs for the area.

The remaining Labour MPs will oppose the legislation, because it’s being rushed through parliament under urgency – with no public consultation.

Labour’s problem with homophobia

The Labour Party has a number of openly homosexual MPs, and it has promoted pro-homosexual law. MP Louisa Wall currently has a bill in progress that looks likely to increase marriage equality by allowing homosexual partners to legally get married.

So it’s surprising to see anti homosexual comments from people in the party. Making critical and derogatory comments about homosexuals is often referred to as homophobic.

David Shearer has recently made a comment that I think is more likely a faux pas rather than acceopting of homophobia in the party in a recent radio interview:

Zac: Is there room for MPs with homophobic views in the Labour Party?

Shearer: Oh look yes, absolutely, there are some,

But there is a bit of history of Labour MPs being derogatory towards homosexuals. This is something that David Shearer needs to respond to and address, particularly as he is supporting and promoting John Tamihere’s return to the ranks of Labour MPs. A recent Dominion Post editorial discussed this:

If Labour Party leader David Shearer is hatching a cunning plan to re-enlist former MP John Tamihere in the party’s parliamentary ranks to court the blue-collar vote, he should drop it.

Mr Tamihere’s on-air tirade against a female reporter who dared to ask him if he was fattist, a misogynist or a homophobe, shows he is unsuited to again hold public office.

Coming just days after he was readmitted to the party, the tirade also shows he learnt nothing from the 2005 brouhaha that effectively ended his six-year parliamentary career.

Then, in an interview he thought was off-the-record, he variously described his Labour colleagues as “smarmy”, “queers” and tossers, said the prime minister, Helen Clark, was emotionally fragile, labelled her chief of staff “butch”, referred to women as “front-bums” and said he was “sick and tired of hearing how many Jews got gassed”.

 

From Stuff in 2011:

Labour MP Damien O’Connor was forced to apologise to colleagues for remarking that his party’s list for the November election is dominated by “unionists and a gaggle of gays”.

And…

Labour’s Trevor Mallard says he shouldn’t have called Attorney-General Chris Finlayson “Tinkerbell” but denies there is problem with homophobia in the party.

ACT’s Wellington central candidate Stephen Whittington yesterday accused openly gay Labour MPs Grant Robertson and Charles Chauvel of covering up prejudice among their caucus.

Hutt South MP Mr Mallard likened Mr Finlayson to the Peter Pan fairy during a parliamentary debate in October 2009. Waimakariri MP Clayton Cosgrove twice called Mr Finlayson Tinkerbell in the House in July 2009.

Mr Mallard said last night: “I certainly don’t think I’m homophobic. It’s a comment that was probably unfortunate and if I’d thought carefully I wouldn’t have made it.”

It was “ridiculous” to suggest Mr Cosgrove was anti-gay, he said. Mr Cosgrove did not respond to a request for comment.

The allegations flew after a Rainbow meeting in Wellington on Wednesday night. Mr Whittington believes both Labour MPs were denying the Tinkerbell remarks were ever made.

“I felt that they had questioned my credibility in a public forum and denied there were aspects of their party who criticised and abused MPs for being homosexual,” he said. “I didn’t think that was acceptable.”

Both Mr Robertson and Mr Mallard believe Mr Whittington was trying to divert attention from homophobic comments made by ACT’s Epsom candidate John Banks a number of years ago.

“He was asked a question about John Banks. In his response, he said there are homophobic Labour MPs,” Mr Robertson said. “I don’t believe there are.”

He added: “Of course I don’t think it’s a good thing for Labour MPs to call Chris Finlayson Tinkerbell. It’s silly statement…With all due respect, [to] Stephen, I suspect I know more about homophobia than he does.”

Green MP Kevin Hague, who was also at the meeting, backed Mr Whittington’s version of events. “My sense was thatCharles and Grant were denying that Mallard and Cosgrove had abused Chris Finlayson in a homophobic way.

“The impression I had was that they were denying that he said it.”

Shearer may be tolerant of allowing people representing Labour to have differing views, and even expressing them colourfully.

But in light of his recent radio comment that appears to accept homophobia in the Labour cacucus I think Shearer has a duty to be open and clear about where he stands on this.

In particular he needs to clarify:

  • what he meant by his comments on 95bFM
  • what he expects of his MPs in relation to derogatory ‘homophobic’ statements

And questions need to be asked about Shearer’s participation in the Gay Pride parade in the weekend – was that just publicity seeking, using gays for some photo opportunities?  Then the next day say homophobia is fine in Labour?

If he doesn’t address this he will be added to the list of Labour MPs who have been openly ‘homophobic’, and the Labour Party will be inextricably linked to homophobia.

I have emailed David Shearer, Trevor Mallard, Damien O’Connor and Clayton Cosgrove asking for a statement on this.