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Is Our Govt Dithering Again On Air New Zealand?

The Air New Zealand interim announcement does nothing to clear up the most ominous uncertainty facing the company, says ACT New Zealand commerce spokesman Stephen Franks. That is the threat from the Australian government.

"Mr Norris says that: `The company will continue to co-operate fully with ASIC in its ongoing inquiries into the adequacy of disclosures made to the market in the period leading up to 12 September'. That doesn't deal at all with its symbolic and practical importance as a sign of growing political risk to Air New Zealand.

"Only the Government can deal with this threat. It was the Government that recapitalised a company with such unquantified contingencies - when it could instead have funded a new company to take over the operation.

"Shrewd observers expected massive losses and ongoing operating deficits - the obvious business risks since its Australian operation imploded.

"But neither the market nor taxpayers should be left wondering whether Australian political chicanery will shoot down Air New Zealand. If the Australian Government is bent on a Qantas-first policy, and our Government has lost all clout with Australia, all our efforts could be wasted - no matter how much New Zealand staff and customer effort, and taxpayer money, we pour in.

"The Australian government securities market regulator trumpets its hostility to poorly informed markets. It routinely urges suspension of trading where there is uncertainty. Yet it has deliberately left Air New Zealand in exactly that position.

"My enquiries of the ASX have confirmed that as a foreign exempt company, compliance by Air New Zealand with New Zealand disclosure requirements should have been sufficient. ASIC seems to be saying it disagrees with the New Zealand Market Surveillance Panel, findings of `substantial compliance'.

"My enquiries of the New Zealand Stock Exchange, the New Zealand Securities Commission, Air New Zealand, the Australian Stock Exchange, and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission have turned up no one who knows (on the New Zealand side) or is willing to tell (on the Australian side) anything about this risk.

"We need to know how much might be involved in the law suit which ASIC is fomenting. We need to know what the possible grounds might be, and what interest the representative plaintiffs might have. More to the point for taxpayers we need to know why the Australian government feels able to renege on the deal done with the administrators, which has already left $NZ300 million of New Zealand money for Ansett claimants.

"The New Zealand Government should immediately let the market know how it proposes to deal with unconscionable bullying from Australia. I cannot imagine from my time on the New Zealand Securities Commission that any trans-Tasman securities market issue like this would have been handled without full prior consultation.

The New Zealand Stock Exchange too should be demanding answers. An uncertainty cloud hanging over Air New Zealand is no less material just because it involves government. Is our Government dithering again?

Where is the New Zealand Securities Commission report on Air New Zealand's securities law compliance?


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