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National cannot be trusted on rail

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Minister of Finance

13 May 2008 Media Advisory

National cannot be trusted on rail

The National Party’s short-sighted attacks on New Zealand’s buy back of the rail system means they cannot be trusted to protect the asset in the interests of New Zealanders, Finance Minister Michael Cullen said today.

“John Key can’t stop attacking the Labour-led government’s buy back of New Zealand’s rail system,” Dr Cullen said. “His short-sighted obsession with the short-term aspects of the ‘deal’ might be appropriate for a trader at Merrill Lynch, but it’s worrying in someone who wants to be Prime Minister by Christmas.

“The truth is that when full details are made available – which the government would like to happen very soon – it will be clear that the medium to long-term business case for government ownership is compelling. I have no doubt that this purchase at the price we have paid for it and the debt we will take on makes sound business, social, and environmental sense.

“In the mean time, Mr Key and his deputy might want to be more cautious with their attacks on the deal and their patronising attitude toward the New Zealanders who support it. Mr Key has publicly accused New Zealanders of suffering from ‘nostalgia’ if they think owning rail is a good idea.

“New Zealanders know that rail will be a vital part of not only our push for sustainability, but for a more prosperous and modern economy into the future. They also know that the stripping of the rail asset in the 1990s was a painful experience for New Zealand, especially for provincial and rural communities.

“The government has made a long-term investment in the best interests of the economy. Mr Key’s condemnation of the deal and simultaneous pledge to keep in it state ownership is the sort of slippery politics we are getting used to from the National leader.”

The government is bound by a confidentiality agreement with Toll Holdings Ltd which prevents disclosure of full details of the rail investment. As soon as negotiations regarding the transitional arrangements for transfer of the asset are completed more information will be made available.


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