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Govt Cracking Under Pressure Over Air NZ

7 September 2001

Top level confusion in the Government over a deal with Australia on Air New Zealand shows they are cracking under the pressure of the commercial mess they have helped create, National's Finance spokesperson Bill English said today.

"Months of dithering over the foreign ownership cap have made a difficult commercial situation worse and now the Government can't decide whether it is or it isn't talking to the Australian Government about supporting Air New Zealand.

"Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported the Australian Government had rebuffed an approach from the New Zealand Government to work together on supporting Air New Zealand. When I asked Associate Finance Minister Trevor Mallard in the House yesterday whether he could confirm this report, he said there was no basis for the report.

"It turns out that Dr Cullen and John Anderson, Australia's Transport Minister, spoke about the issue on Tuesday and today Anderson said he would entertain a proposal from the New Zealand Government. Adding even more to the confusion, Dr Cullen today indicated the Government is stepping back from taking part in a rescue plan.

"After three months of dithering, the Government is less decisive than ever. They have talked themselves into the middle of a commercial mess and now they need the Australian Government to help them out of it.

"Adding to the dithering sources within the Government say Dr Cullen and Helen Clark have not been able to agree on which deal is best, with Cullen carrying the flag for Qantas and Clark for Singapore Airlines.

"When Trevor Mallard misled the House he was either embarrassed about the Australian revelations, or he didn't know what Dr Cullen was doing.

Mr English said he had lodged a breach of privilege complaint with the Speaker regarding answers Trevor Mallard gave in the House yesterday.


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