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Clark's bungling could write a blank cheque

Bill English National Finance Spokesperson

27 September 2001

Clark's bungling could write a blank cheque for Air NZ bailout

Prime Minister Helen Clark's inappropriate comments, aimed at influencing the behaviour of shareholders in Air New Zealand, could effectively force the Government to write a blank cheque for the bailout of the troubled airline, National's Bill English predicted today.

"The Government appears to have abandoned the idea of statutory management. If that's the case they will have to put additional hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers' money at risk, in order to avoid embarrassing Helen Clark," Mr English said.

"If they put the airline into statutory management now they would be effectively destroying the investments of the small shareholders who followed Helen Clark's inappropriate advice. That includes thousands of New Zealand mum and dad shareholders, whose investment in the airline would be wiped out.

"Helen Clark's comments, based on extensive inside information, have put the Government in a weak bargaining position. The Government will have real trouble persuading the banks, Singapore Airlines and Brierleys to put money in without the threat of statutory management.

"Having made the error she compounded it by sending Dr Cullen to blame the media for asking the wrong questions, in a classic example of shooting the messenger.

"It is important to save our national carrier, but that process should involve weighing up the options and acting decisively. Each week of dithering and bungling by the Government is pushing up the cost to the taxpayer," Bill English said.

Ends

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