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Ministers conflicted over secret Air NZ meeting

John Key MP National Party Finance Spokesman

27 June 2006

Ministers conflicted over secret Air NZ meeting

National Finance spokesman John Key is questioning Finance Minister Michael Cullen's judgment in holding a secret dinner meeting with Air NZ executives a month before the Air NZ-Qantas codeshare plan was revealed.

"Dr Cullen, as shareholding minister, has responsibility for safeguarding taxpayers' investment in Air NZ, and David Parker at that time had responsibility for signing off on the codeshare deal as transport minister.

"The secret dinner meeting was held at the Boulcott Street Bistro on 13 March. Both Dr Cullen and Mr Parker were there.

Dr Cullen told the Sunday Star Times that 'as shareholding minister I must absent myself from any involvement in the decision-making process on Air NZ's application'.

"I find it hard to believe that the Qantas-Air NZ codeshare plan was not discussed - especially as Treasury, in a note written five days beforehand, said an accompanying report 'updates you on current issues on (Air NZ's) agenda - a code share on the Tasman with Qantas'.

"What did Dr Cullen do when the subject came up at dinner - go to the toilet while it was being discussed?

"And what was David Parker - in charge of approving the codeshare deal - doing? Did he absent himself as well when it came up?

"This is a lapse in judgment on the part of Dr Cullen and Mr Parker. They clearly have a conflict of interest here," says Mr Key.

ENDS

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