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Qantas Has Government's Tacit Approval

12 August 2002

Qantas Has Government's Tacit Approval

"I am calling on the Labour-led minority Government to rule out a deal that allows Qantas to gain a significant shareholding in our national carrier Air New Zealand," Opposition Leader Bill English said today.

He says this deal can be ruled out today if the new Government simply says 'No'.

"Finance Minister Michael Cullen appears to have given tacit approval for Qantas to negotiate a deal with Air New Zealand. Negotiations would not be so far advanced today without that approval.

"If the deal goes ahead, it will be a disaster for our national carrier and the tourism industry."

"Air New Zealand must work in New Zealand's interests. If Qantas takes a significant holding, Qantas will work in the interests of Australia.

"The deal is unacceptable and will turn Air New Zealand into a marginalised, regional carrier. That was the advice the Government received last year when the Qantas deal was first raised and it is just as true today.

"Last year, Singapore Airlines offered to recapitalise Air New Zealand, but the offer foundered after the Labour Government dithered and insisted that an offer from Qantas be considered too.

"Despite Qantas' spoiling behaviour, the Government again seems determined to accommodate its interests. National will work with others who have expressed similar concerns about what is in New Zealand's national interests.

"The Air New Zealand issue needs open debate about our national interests just as we need open debate on the much bigger decision made by the Government to invest billions of dollars of taxpayers' money in the Cullen Fund."

"New Zealanders want to see a clear framework in which Government makes these major investment decisions on our behalf," Mr English says.

Ends

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