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Cullen's airport ownership plan sows confusion

Bill English MP
National Party Finance Spokesman

4 March 2008

Cullen's airport ownership plan sows confusion

National Party Finance spokesman Bill English says Finance Minister Michael Cullen's claim that a new clause will stop the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board from taking a stake in Auckland Airport appears questionable.

"The Canadian pension fund has confirmed today, their offer will stand, as they have no plan to take control of Auckland Airport. Dr Cullen needs to explain how his regulation will stop this bid.

"Like Labour, National believes retaining the control of strategic assets is important. That's why there is an established process to consider each situation case by case to ensure it benefits New Zealand.

"But in a rash bid to get a headline today, Dr Cullen is playing around with a billion-dollar asset. He must clarify the Government's intent and explain what he means by 'control'.

"What is clear is that Dr Cullen could have announced and explained his policy on Auckland Airport at any point in the past eight months.

"Where is the evidence that control of the airport was being sought? Is Labour now opposed to all foreign investment? What are the criteria for acceptable foreign investment? It appears Dr Cullen's rules apply only to airports by sensitive land - what about the others?

"Dr Cullen appears to have done a complete about-face on the issue of foreign investment in our economy. When passing the Overseas Investment Act three years ago, he said 'I want to say quite clearly that it is critical for the future of this country, and for our social and cultural development, that we have a welcoming and open attitude towards inwards foreign direct investment... if this country relied on its own capital resources alone, we would not just not grow; this economy would shrink, because our investment levels would be insufficient to maintain our current level of economic activity.'

"Dr Cullen can't have it all ways. "

ENDS

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