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John Key must explain why he lied over Tranz Rail

22 September 2008 Media Statement

John Key must explain why he lied over Tranz Rail

John Key’s failure to tell the truth over his Tranz Rail shareholding shows that he knew he acted unethically and in breach of Parliament’s rules when speaking out against the government’s plan to rescue the rail service, Finance Minister Michael Cullen said.

When John Key’s shareholding in Tranz Rail was first revealed by the Prime Minister in July, Mr Key claimed he entered Parliament as an existing shareholder through his family trust and then sold the shares when he wanted to speak out against the government’s buyback of the rail track. Mr Key did not correct reports that his shareholding was limited to 30,000 shares held by his family trust.

New information shows that Mr Key was in fact commenting publicly on Tranz Rail, meeting with bidders for the rail track, and vigorously pursuing the release of commercially relevant information all while being an undisclosed shareholder in the firm.

It has also been revealed that he held not 30,000 shares, but 100,000 shares in Tranz Rail. 50,000 of these shares were purchased in his own name while he was serving as an MP and a member of Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee. His shareholding was never disclosed – a clear breach of Parliament’s Standing Orders.

“John Key lied because he knew he had something to hide,” Dr Cullen said.

“Mr Key has spent a lot of time over the last few weeks attacking the character and credibility of others. He has said people should not have to wait for direct questions to provide relevant information to the public.

“He took a big gamble when climbing up on his high horse knowing that on an issue that matters to the public – the buyback of our rail system – he had acted unethically and sought to cover up his actions.

“As someone who sat at the end of a committee table while Mr Key, in his own words, ‘intensely questioned’ me over Tranz Rail, I unknowingly witnessed Mr Key’s dodgy dealings on this issue first hand.

“The amount of money involved here probably didn’t matter much to Mr Key at the time. Apparently, the principles and the rules involved didn’t matter much either.”


  • Key tranzrail letters
  • Timeline of Key’s Tranz Rail share conflict (italics denote new information since timeline was first issued in July)

    15 February 2002

    Through his family trust John Key buys 30,000 shares in Tranz Rail, owners of New Zealand’s rail system (dates for share purchases reflect appearance in register)

    19 February 2002 –

    Family Trust purchases an additional 20,000 Tranz Rail shares

    July 2002 –

    John Key elected to Parliament

    30 and 31 October 2002 –

    Key asks series of Parliamentary Questions relating to Tranz Rail and the future of the rail track. Ministers reply to questions. His shareholding interest is not disclosed.

    9 April 2003 –

    In Parliament at Question Time, Key asks detailed question of Finance Minister seeking information about ‘secret meetings’ between the government and Tranz Rail. His shareholding interest is not disclosed.

    14 April 2003 –

    Key asks Written Parliamentary Questions to Finance Minister seeking dates and details of government meetings with Tranz Rail

    23 April 2003 –

    Key writes to Finance Minister seeking copies of minutes from government meetings with Tranz Rail. Request declined on commercial secrecy grounds.

    7 May 2003 –

    John Key purchases an additional 50,000 Tranz Rail shares, this time in his own name

    20 May 2003 –

    In his Parliamentary role as Associate Transport Spokesman Key meets with Rail America to discuss their views on Tranz Rail. Shareholding not disclosed.

    27 May 2003 –

    Key complains to Ombudsmen Anand Satyanand over Cullen’s refusal to release commercial information on Tranz Rail

    10 June 2003 –

    John Key sells the 50,000 Tranz Rail shares he purchased in his own name

    11 June 2003 –

    John Key ‘intensely’ questions (Key’s own words) Finance Minister Michael Cullen on Tranz Rail issue. Cullen expresses his view that Tranz Rail is carrying hundreds of millions worth of liabilities.

    13 June 2003 –

    John Key sells the 50,000 Tranz Rail shares purchased through his family trust

    18 June 2003 –

    Key attacks government over Tranz Rail and plans to buy back the track. Recent shareholding interest is not disclosed.

    16 October 2003 –

    Key raises Tranz Rail in what appeared at the time to be an apparent hypothetical reference in the debate over Pecuniary Interests Legislation:

    It might be a bit uncomfortable, but if I am a shareholder of Tranz Rail and I want to get up in this House and start talking about that company, then my shareholding is relevant.


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