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Cullen Answering Questions Today On Air NZ

Michael Cullen Answering Questions In The House Today On Air New Zealand.

Belinda Vernon [National - Opposition]
Is the Government considering underwriting or investing in Air New Zealand, rather than allowing commercial interests to invest in the company; if so, why?

Michael Cullen
The Government has made no decisions with respect to Air New Zealand and won't be in a position to do so until the company is clear about its business plan for future operations and the nature of its recapitalisation requirements.

In light of Air New Zealand's deferring release of its financial report from 4 September to 13 September, what assurance can he give that the government will make a decision this Monday and not procrastinate further on a decision that has already taken too long?

Michael Cullen
The Member should not believe everything she reads in the New Zealand Herald or the Dominion. The fact that Air New Zealand of its own volition has delayed its financial statements to the 13 of September should suggest to the member that the government is not responsible in any way for the delay.

Phillida Bunkle [Government]
Has the government delayed the process for making final decisions on Air New Zealand's future?

Michael Cullen
No. I repeat and this needs to be clearly understood, the timetable against which decisions are being made is essentially dictated by Air New Zealand and to a less extent Singapore. The government will need to integrate the exercise of its responsibilities with Air New Zealand's decision processes but this has not delayed matters.

Steven Franks [ACT – Opposition]
Why did the government not tell Brierley, now an Asian company, many months ago that it must sell to genuine New Zealanders the shares it holds that only New Zealanders can own instead of toiling to rescue Brierley from a disastrous Ansett purchase decision.

Michael Cullen
The member again misunderstands matters. Whether or not Brierley sells its shares has nothing to do with Air New Zealand's requirements for recapitalisation. Selling shares in no way recapitalises a company.

Rod Donald [Greens – neutral]
If it's good enough for the Singapore government through its controlling stake in Singapore Air to own a stake in Air New Zealand, why is it not good enough for the New Zealand government to do the same?

Michael Cullen
I have some difficulty in answering that question in a way that would be consistent with the public interest, I simply say to the member that he and every other member on the opposite side and almost every member on this side of the house, cannot know what the sums of money involved are.

Winston Peters (NZ First - neutral)
Is it the government's view that the sale to Brierley in 1989 was a decision that was correct, based on the premise that only a private business can run an airline, something that the Singapore government has yet to learn, and if not why would Cabinet even consider an increase in a foreign control option.

Michael Cullen
The overriding interest that the government has in this matter is to ensure the survival of Air New Zealand as a strong and viable airline, one that can promote the Air New Zealand brand, hopefully also providing a frame work within which competition can occur both domestically and internationally and where New Zealand's international carrier rights are preserved.

Belinda Vernon
In light of the highly volatile nature of the capital intensive and globalising aviation market, what assurances can he give that the government will not risk New Zealand taxpayers' dollars in Air New Zealand particularly when commercial investors are keen to invest.

Michael Cullen
Again I have difficulty in answering in a way that would be consistent with the public interest. But let me repeat what the Prime Minister said on Monday. It is certainly not our preference to be involved in terms of investment within Air New Zealand.

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