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Transcript of Cullen on Air NZ-Qantas Deal

Transcript from Michael Cullen stand-up to electronic media on Air NZ-Qantas.

The decision today by the Commerce Commission here and the ACCC in Australia was pretty much the expected one in terms of the actual decision or the draft decision, although I think some of the elements of it were not so expected. We are anticipating Air NZ and Qantas will now proceed on to the conference stage and vigorously contest some of the arguments which were put forward. But I do want to repeat that there is no change in the government’s position – that is that approval of this deal is subject to Commerce Commission and ACCC approval. There is no intention of over-riding the decision when it finally comes whatever that decision may be.

How disappointed are you at the tenor of the determinations? Well the one issue which I found surprising in the decision on 1st glance was in terms of the so-called counter-factual which I think makes some fairly unlikely assumptions about the future, both in terms of alternative partners. Rather generously I think, looking at it from my perspective, it assumes on-going capital input into the company and a number of other things which, if one looks at the international environment on aviation at the present time and for the likely future don’t seem to me to be terribly well-founded. So that is the area I expect Air NZ and Qantas will be arguing very strongly indeed during the conference process.

The Opposition parties say the traveller is the winner and the govt the loser out of today’s decision. The government is not the loser at this point in time. But certainly if the deal doesn’t proceed then, as indeed the draft decision today says, there is a certain assumption built in there about the government providing more capital in the future. The government isn’t going to be very keen on that proposition.

[Question unclear] It [the commission] seems to assume a slow recovery and seems to assume that some kind of fairy godmother is going to appear in the wings at some date within the foreseeable future. Given the number of fairy godmothers in bankruptcy at the moment, that doesn’t seem terribly likely.

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