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Government guilty of Soviet style control of info

Jenny Shipley Leader of the Opposition

18 February 2001

Government guilty of Soviet style control of information

Deceptive and diversionary tactics cannot hide the fact that Ross Armstrong, Helen Clark and Jim Anderton are trying to conceal vital information about the Peoples Bank proposal, Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley said today.

"Ross Armstrong will not succeed in his abusive and bullying attempts to have things his own way unchallenged. He and the Government have refused to let vital information, which is known to exist, concerning the viability of this bank proposal into the public arena.

"For weeks I called for those Ministers to disclose information, and for weeks they refused to give the public any insight into the advice they had received on the bank proposal.

"This whole situation makes a mockery of the Prime Minister's claims that she runs an 'open' regime, and is a huge mistreatment of New Zealand taxpayers.

"The Government has a duty to respond to new information which has come to light about the contents of the Cameron and Co independent report on the proposal.

"Information which has been passed to me indicates that the independent report by Cameron and Co sounds a significant warning about the Peoples Bank proposal.

"The information I have received asserts that in the expert opinion of Cameron and Co the most likely scenario for the bank is a negative one.

"If this is correct I find it outrageous and offensive that the Government could sit on such information and proceed with the plan merely to pander to Mr Anderton's political ego.

"I also find assertions made by the chairman of New Zealand Post, Ross Armstrong, to be offensive and wildly inaccurate. His outrageous statements to media today are wholly without foundation.

"Material on the business case for the Peoples Bank arrived unsolicited in my office last week. From the moment I first publicly mentioned this material I made it clear that I would not allow any commercially sensitive information in the New Zealand Post business plan to be made public. As a further sign of good faith I have today destroyed all copies of the segments of the report which are commercially sensitive and which have not in any form been made public.

"I make no apology for allowing essential information about the aims of the bank to be made public under circumstances where the Government was deliberately trying to create an information vacuum.

"I intend to do everything in my power to get vital information, including the Treasury advice and the Cameron and Co report, into the public arena, to let New Zealanders know the full story before Budget appropriations are debated.

"The public has an inalienable right to know that the scenario where the bank aimed to provide personal service for low and middle income New Zealanders was a figment of Mr Anderton's imagination. The information which I have made public shows Mr Anderton's portrayal of his pet project to be a million miles from what the bank is designed to be.

"Both Mr Anderton and Mr Armstrong are guilty of trying to distract attention away from the real issues. I will not assist them in their attempts to keep the public in the dark over an issue where $80 million of taxpayer money, and countless millions more of savers money, are to be put at some considerable risk," Jenny Shipley said

Ends

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