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Michael Cullen backs the wrong horse - again

Hon Maurice Williamson

MP National Party Transport Spokesman

21 September 2004

Michael Cullen backs the wrong horse - again

National Party Transport spokesman Maurice Williamson says Michael Cullen must be feeling some degree of public embarrassment after his strong backing of the failed Air New Zealand/Qantas merger.

"It's not just George Hawkins who the Prime Minister should be giving a hurry up at this week's Labour retreat," says Mr Williamson.

He's referring to yesterday's High Court decision, which backed an earlier Commerce Commission finding that the air merger was anti-competitive.

"Michael Cullen was a strong advocate for this deal. In July the Finance Minister is reported to have given an Export New Zealand group a 'good ear wagging' about the merger.

"He is reported to have told them their opposition to the deal was all wrong.

"Unfortunately for Dr Cullen, both the Australian and New Zealand competition watchdogs, as well as the New Zealand High Court, say the Finance Minister was wrong.

"The National Party has consistently opposed the air merger, arguing that it was not good for competition or in the longer term interests of the travelling public.

"Air New Zealand has spent $20 million on legal expenses fighting this challenge. The irony is that if Dr Cullen had not been so quick to dismiss an earlier Singapore Airlines offer, maybe none of this would have been necessary," says Mr Williamson.


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