Barker admits Agent Orange blunder

Veterans Minister Rick Barker yesterday admitted an embarrassing mistake by telling a woman the Government had yet to respond to a report on Agent Orange – when it had done so in 2004.

National MP Judith Collins asked why he had advised Ms Freda Moffitt on March 16 that: “The Government has yet to respond formally to the health select committee.”

“I made that comment mistakenly on advice, and I regret it,” he said.

Mrs Collins: “Did the minister read the letter before he signed it … ?”

Mr Barker replied he had read the letter.

Mrs Collins: “Does the minister accept that the exposure of Vietnam veterans and their families to Agent Orange is the biggest issue in his portfolio, and that for him to sign a letter that stated that the Government had not responded, when the Government’s response was tabled in this House on 14 December 2004 and is on his department’s website, is a disgrace?”

Mr Barker: “I accept that I made a mistake. I say publicly to the person to whom I wrote that I apologise.”

A joint working group was set up by the Government after the 2004 health select committee report, which found Defence Force personnel were exposed to a toxic environment, including Agent Orange and other herbicides, while serving in Vietnam.

The group has been consulting Vietnam veterans and their families and will make recommendations about compensation.

Published: 2006, Mar, 23. | Time-stamp: 9:43 PM Thursday | By: Ruth Berry | Article Link: nzherald.co.nz | Article Title: Barker admits Agent Orange blunder.

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