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Govt About to Hand Aussies Control of NZ's Airways

Government About to Hand Aussies Control of NZ's Airways and Capital Markets

Sunday 21 Jul 2002

Business voters' eyes have been so fixed on the choreographed GE spat between the Greens and Helen Clark, they are not counting the cost of the Government's attempts to get back in favour with the Aussies by handing them control of our airways and our capital markets, ACT MP Stephen Franks says.

"Michael Cullen is no doubt making sure there is no embarrassing pre-election Air New Zealand announcement about any deal to give Qantas a controlling stake. But he is carefully avoiding telling Qantas to stop wasting its time.

"He should have told them two years ago, and repeated now, that the Commerce Commission will get a 'no way' Government instruction under section 26 of the Commerce Act. Then Simon Botherway, from Brook Asset Management, one of NZ's highest profile fund managers, would not have had to warn: `this is simply a poor deal from the New Zealand consumer's point of view... I can think of no other asset sale that would hand such unmitigated monopoly power to a foreign buyer'.

"We can expect a bucketful of bad decisions immediately after the election if Labour wins, to take advantage of the demonstrably short memory of business. Getting all the unpalatable decisions out early means they can work on business credulity again before the next election.

"Another infamous decision is foreshadowed in a secret MFAT report, urging an immediate merger of the NZSE with the ASX. Driven by Simon Murdoch, who has been our man in Canberra, the report has been pitifully argued. In effect it assumes what the ACT Party said in Parliament about the NZSE Restructuring Act 2002 - that the Bill was the nationalisation of the NZSE. The NZSE is now to be used as a peace offering to Australian broking and business interests.

"Was this part of the price for getting the ASIC to call off its planned litigation against Air New Zealand? The litigation could have ended up calling in question the PM's market manipulation in September last year? Or is it just to meet the continuing Australian demand for reparations for New Zealand reneging on defence and immigration obligations?

"Whatever the reason it is intolerable that these issues are not being dealt with openly so that new Zealanders can take them in to account when deciding who to trust with our foreign and business policy for the next three years," Mr Franks said.


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