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Airport share sale veto a strategy to trick voters

Media statement
April 15, 2008

Airport share sale veto a strategy to trick voters

The Government's decision that Auckland International Airport is a strategic asset and therefore shareholders cannot sell their shares to foreign investors is designed to fool some people into thinking Government does not support globalization.

"We can only conclude the Government's airport decision is a vote-buying ploy to appeal to the anti globalisation lobby in New Zealand," says Alasdair Thompson, chief executive of the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern) or EMA.

"And it's a dishonest ploy at that, because we know the Government supports globalisation, foreign direct investment (FDI) both into and out of New Zealand, free trade and free capital flows too. That was obvious in PM Helen Clark's speech at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing last week, at the signing of the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

"Further evidence of that stance is we are being encouraged to invest our savings into equities rather than property - with KiwiSaver as a vehicle to do that.

"But the Government knows a lot of New Zealanders have hang ups about these matters. That's why every now and again it does something like intervene to stop the sale of 40 per cent in the airport, even though the Canadians said they'd only take 20 per cent of the vote in the company."

And if Government can suddenly decide the airport is a strategic asset, what else will it target this way?

Mr Thompson says, "When Winston Peters was treasurer in a former National government he sold the Auckland Airport to private shareholders. But neither he nor the government of the day, nor the next (and current) government said this was a strategic asset upon which there would be a restriction on the sale of shares to foreigners.

"Until now.

"Telecom, Contact Energy and many other New Zealand companies are largely foreign owned. How many of them might, out of the blue, be declared to be strategic assets and have their share value greatly reduced as a consequence?

"The reason Helen Clark's Government stopped the sale of 40 per cent of the airport shares to the Canadian Pension Fund was similar to the reason Winston Peters bagged the excellent FTA with China, and the reason his deputy Peter Brown bagged Asian immigrants: for cynical political reasons, to appeal to people who fear globalization and who worry about FDI into New Zealand.

"As well as trying to appeal to the left and the right, the PM's government is deterring investment on the one had while trying to increase it on the other.

"The airport sale veto will scare away investors, right at a time when we are trying to court them - with a development such as the China FTA.

"Whilst in Beijing [for the FTA signing] I was talking to a director of a major construction bank in China who told me the New Zealand Government's Auckland Airport decision had been discussed at its board meeting the day before. This indicates that all over the world the decision has been noted, and I can guarantee there will be consequences.

"Foreign investors will shy off New Zealand until certainty returns. You will see evidence of this within three months although I cannot elaborate as I am bound by confidence."

The EMA has already made public its view that the Government veto of the sale of shares in Auckland's airport to foreigners removes the rights of shareholders to sell private property.


© Scoop Media

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