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News Worthy: Auckland Airport

18 April 2008 - No. 244

Auckland Airport

John Key has noted that Labour’s “blatantly political decision to scuttle the Canadian Pension Plan’s bid for a stake in Auckland Airport despite the Overseas Investment Office approval is a disgrace”.

A host of issues arise:

What is a “strategic asset” and what is “sensitive land”?

If an asset can be properly said to be “strategic” should it not be owned by the Government? Is it right that some “strategic assets” should be maintained by private interests?

Is it inappropriate for a foreign investor to hold a minority shareholding in a strategic asset? In the present case the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board wanted 40% of the Auckland Airport and was prepared to waive any rights it might have in respect of the controlling strength of that shareholding.

Is it appropriate that the Government should intervene to block private sector transactions which aren’t seen as politically acceptable? In the wake of the Government intervention more than $300 million was wiped off the market value of the shares in the Company.

What is the message to foreign investors in respect of New Zealand’s openness to foreign investment and in particular the securing of private sector partners for major infrastructure development?

It is as if the Government has put up a “don’t invest here” sign on the New Zealand sharemarket.

Beyond the pale

In an earlier newsletter No. 238 I criticised the Government for displaying Labour Party slogans (written in Chinese characters) at a Chinese celebration in Parliament. Parliament has strict rules banning any advertising in its precincts.

The tribalism of the Government is manifest.

Last Tuesday the Government issued an invitation to military personnel to meet in the Labour Caucus Room to receive their New Zealand General Service Medal Timor Leste medals. That venue decision meant that no other political parties could be present at the event. The venue was belatedly changed when other parties objected.

The heading to this item has an interesting history. A pale is an old name for a pointed stake driven into the ground and now of course has taken on a figurative meaning of a limit beyond which it is not permissible to go.

Boys will be boys

Parliament increasingly becomes disorderly and at times ungovernable. The noise levels within the debating chamber are at such a level that there are constant complaints that members are unable to hear. The listening public are probably unaware of the problem because at any time only two microphones are live – that of the Speaker and of the politician who is speaking.

Those who are responsible for the disruption pursue a range of strategies. The most obvious tactic is to raise frivolous “points of order” which are not points of order and are designed to break up a member’s speech or raise debating points.

One long standing member of the House was noted by another to have raised his 14th point of order during question time last week. In the previous week he had 18 points of order. The vast majority of the points of order were wholly spurious.

For the record a “point of order” calls attention to a breach of order or a breach of rules – in the case of Parliament the Standing Orders or Speakers Rulings.

Clearly a point will be reached where the Speaker’s patience will be exhausted and the members should be told to quit the Chamber.

Political Quote of the Week

"The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments." William H. Borah - US Senator 1907-1940

Dr Richard Worth

National Party MP


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