Asset sales vote could follow privatisations, says Key
Sept. 2 (BusinessDesk) - The citizens' initiated referendum on asset sales could occur after the government has finished its current round of partial privatisations, Prime Minister John Key said today.
He is taking advice over the course of this week on options for the timing of the referendum, which must be held within a year of the petition triggering it being tabled in Parliament, most likely tomorrow, and will carry a price tag of between $9 million and $30 million.
But Key said there was a possibility the vote, which must be called because more than 10 percent of eligible voters have signed a petition calling for the referendum, could come after the government's asset sales process had finished.
"It's possible," he said, describing the citizens' initiated referendum as "an utter waste of money" because the country had gone to the polls and re-elected a National-led government at the general election in 2011, and National had campaigned on its intention to partially privatise electricity companies, the state coal miner Solid Energy, and to further sell down its holding in Air New Zealand.
Solid Energy is off the table after revealing huge financial problems in January, while 49 percent of MightyRiverPower was floated in May. Meridian Energy is next on the block, with NZX and ASX listing due in early November.
The referendum would not be held before the Meridian float and could not practically be meshed with the November local government elections, said Key, although he indicated it was likely to be a postal ballot and predicted it would draw a low turnout.