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To sell or not to sell

Written By: - Date published: 11:00 pm, April 12th, 2008 - 11 comments
Categories: assets, john key - Tags: ,

auck-airport.jpgAt the Labour Party congress today, Helen Clark predicted that asset sales would be a key election issue and says the Government was right to veto the Auckland Airport share bid.

“The National Party and ACT have made it plain where they stand – ‘sell it off’, they cry.

This is a defining issue. In Labour we support special scrutiny being applied to bids for foreign ownership of strategic infrastructure on sensitive land.”

Yesterday John Key, with the luxury of time to prepare after being put on the spot back in Marchcame out strongly saying the Government’s action shows it always intended to veto the offer and overseas investors won’t like it.

However, I suspect many people would agree with Michael Cullen when he pointed out that New Zealand has had bad experiences selling assets offshore – such as Telecom, the rail network and Air New Zealand. He says it was up to the Canadian company to prove the offer was in the national interests of New Zealand.

Given the Colmar Brunton poll last month found that 48% of people said assets should be kept and 45% backed a partial sale it will be interesting to see how the final decision is received over the next few weeks.

NB – for those interested in the full ins and outs of the arguments the associated papers are up on the web here.

11 comments on “To sell or not to sell ”

  1. Razorlight 1

    Labour will be desperate to make this an election issue as they feel ,politically at least, they are on the winning side of the argument.

    Natinal has to be careful the electorate is not fed half truths from Cullen & Co. The airport after all wasn’t part of the family jewels. It is already privatley owned and I feel this point is often forgotten.

    They have to come out early, like right now, draw a line in the sand and clearly explain where they stand. End the argument now before Cullen gets any traction.

    Bring the election back to the real issues like why the Health system is swallowing billions more of our tax dollars but delivering at best the same services. Or pull Labour up on some of their forgoten objectives like dragging New Zealand back into the top half of the OECD!!!

  2. ghostwhowalks 2

    The fact that the airport is ‘privately’ owned is irrelevant.
    ( BTW the shares were issued only to NZers to start with, so they got a special deal).

    All consideration of purchases under the OIC is of ‘privately owned land’. This applies to all of the applications. So the assertion that its not the governments is ridiculous.

  3. higherstandard 3


    So how would a bid by Emirates (at 40% rather than 60%) have stood up as they were offering the capital and the aviation experience to upgrade the airport and attract more business.

    I wonder if they came back whether the government would have an honest look at their proposal or just continue playing politics.

  4. Razorlight 4

    Why are private investors from New Zealand less dangerous to our still undefined startegic assets, than foreign Canadian investors.

    It is xenophobic rubbish to suggest they would run the things differently. I expect this scare mongering from New Zealand First but not Labour.

    Anything goes in election year though doesn’t it.

  5. gobsmacked 5

    Well, John Key has now come out and drawn that “line in the sand”. It may not be where Razorlight and the right would want it though.

    On Agenda this morning, Key made it clear: no sales whatsoever of publicly-owned assets – even partial, even minor.

    He gave no economic policy reason for this, begging many questions (Why a blanket ban? Are all state-owned assets the same? Are the current boundaries exactly right? Why? Should the state buy some instead? What about Rail?).

    Colin Espiner was sharp enough immediately to recognize this as “innoculation”. Key admitted it was, before backtracking.

    Two more questions: what is a state-owned asset? For example, does it include houses, which even Labour have been willing to sell for the right price? What other exceptions are there?

    And how long will the National caucus put up with this constant retreat from the right?

  6. Pascal's bookie 6

    And how long will the National caucus put up with this constant retreat from the right?

    Till those phone calls from the ‘anonymous donors’ are made. About 5 minutes after the polls close on election day.

  7. gobsmacked 7

    Heh. Roger Douglas pops up on One News with a good line (all spin, no spine).

    What an absurd policy it is, really. As though (for example) the state owning a bank is a Good Idea in 2010 but may be transformed into a Bad Idea in 2012. Why do they need three years to work that one out? What will happen to make Kiwibank different three years down the track?

    An economics undergraduate would get torn apart for such witless logic.

  8. higherstandard 8


    Douglas was referring to both Labour and National – and he was right they are both as bland and mindless as each other with PR advisers coming out of every orifice demanding that everyone race towards the middle ground on each and every issue.

    I’d like more of the Phil Goff approach but out in the open – when somethings bullshit call it bullshit

    What chance any sensible discussion of the real issues facing NZ over the next decade and beyond during this election campaign zero I suspect.

  9. Razorlight 9

    I am starting to think a Goff lead Labour would be a good thing. Although the move may lose suppoort from the left fringe of Labour they would make it up from voters on the right becoming disillusioned with Key’s stance.

    Goff believe in free trade and the importance of foreign investment.
    He wouldn’t allow Xenophobic politics to stop this.

  10. sdm 10

    So Labour cost me a few thousands with this announcement. I’d like to sue…

  11. Billy 11

    This was just populist politics, and the losers are New Zealander shareholders. By the end the Canadians could have put forward a proposal to buy nothing more than a jam doghnut at the kiosk and Cullen would have said they’d failed to demonstrate it was in the country’s national interest.

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