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Cullen confirms blank cheque approach to rail

Bill English MP
National Party Finance Spokesman

1 October 2008

Cullen confirms blank cheque approach to rail

National Party Finance spokesman Bill English says the announcement today of another additional taxpayer subsidy for KiwiRail confirms Michael Cullen’s “blank cheque approach” to rail.

“He paid way too much for the business. The purchase of the rail assets was all about politics rather than disciplined, targeted spending of taxpayer funds.”

Mr English says papers recently released on the rail buy-back deal reveal that Dr Cullen paid hundreds of millions more for the asset than he had been advised it was worth.

“He gifted the Australian owners of Toll a quarter of a billion dollar windfall. That came from Kiwi taxpayers. Back then, Australian media said it was a once-in-a-lifetime Helen Clark moment.

“This is yet another example that Dr Cullen is a fair-weather Finance Minister whose only answer to every problem is to throw taxpayers’ money at it

“These investment decisions appear to have been made on the basis of advice from OnTrack, which the Office of the Auditor General has slammed in a recent performance audit.

“We also understand KiwiRail have cancelled the contracting-out of maintenance services because they intend to build and maintain their own rolling stock.

“At a time when families are struggling to make ends meet, KiwiRail should be focused on value for the taxpayers’ dollar, not recreating 1970's railways.”

Mr English says National is committed to making the rail investment work for New Zealanders. If we are elected we will review KiwiRail decisions with a strong focus on value for money and economic competitiveness. It’s the least that taxpayers deserve when they are tightening their belts.

“National is committed to making the rail investment work for New Zealanders but will take a much more careful approach with taxpayers’ funds than Labour has displayed.”


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