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Toll leaks must alarm Michael Cullen

Bill English MP
National Party Finance Spokesman

14 May 2008

Toll leaks must alarm Michael Cullen

“In the run up to the Budget, Michael Cullen must be alarmed by the information which appears to be leaking out of his office about the deal to buy Toll’s rail business,” says National Party Finance spokesman Bill English.

“Dr Cullen has cited confidentiality as the reason why he kept secret the hidden costs of buying the Toll operation. This hidden taxpayer liability is reported to be between $80 million and $200 million and comes on top of the $665 million Labour is paying for the operation.

“Dr Cullen has refused to confirm the size of the liability, but shortly after the first reports surfaced, information started to leak out that the debt was smaller than the $200 million, and today it has been claimed the debt is $80 million.

“Given that the Finance Minister says he is legally bound not to say anything publicly someone in his office, or near to the deal, appears to be releasing confidential information. That should concern Dr Cullen heading into the Budget.

“Regardless of the size of that debt, the fact remains that Dr Cullen never mentioned it when he announced Labour’s renationalisation plans for rail. That looks very deceptive indeed.”

Mr English says National remains convinced that Labour’s priorities are wrong, and the purchase of rail from an efficient operator will do nothing to stop the exodus of New Zealanders to greener pastures, or help families struggling to pay their bills.

“This was a purely political decision, which has seen quarter of a billion dollars injected directly into the pockets of Toll’s Australian shareholders.

“Dr Cullen should also confirm or deny industry rumours about whether Toll has secured a further sweetener at taxpayer expense, by negotiating a special subsidy for its freight on New Zealand rail.

“Australian media have described the Toll deal as a once in a lifetime ‘Helen moment’. Unfortunately, it’s hard working Kiwi taxpayers that are picking up the tab.”


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