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Cullen on Air New Zealand at PM's Presser

Cullen on Air New Zealand at Prime Minister's post cabinet press conference
1 October 2001

……I get frequently briefed by our negotiators… I talk to them either in person or call him on the phone, get updates on where things are going. I've continued to maintain contacts with Australian ministerial colleagues like John Anderson and Peter Costello. So dialogue continues and negotiations are moving along, but there are all sorts of players I this and all sorts of people who are involved in decisions. We are only one player. We only have control of a certain number of decisions in this process.

Q. Where is due diligence up to in terms of ……[unclear]?

I prefer not to comment on that at this point.

Q. Can you say when a final decision will be reached?

No, I can't. I can say is that I am hopeful we will get an outcome in the next few days… a few is a slightly expandable and elastic concept…hope to make some clear announcement within the next few days. But it depends very much on other people's decisions. If I could just pre-empt the obvious criticism again; the government has had a clear view on this for some time, as usual we are waiting for others to come up to speed and to make decisions and we can't force them. And particular, some of those decisions are on the other side of the Tasman.

Q. Does a final agreement have to go back to Cabinet for sign off?

No. We have an ad hoc group of Ministers (Clark, Anderton, Cullen, Swain, Mallard, Burton and Gosche) who have authority to act in this respect.

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Q. When you say the other side of the Tasman are you referring to political or business [interests]?

A range of interests.

Q. Are you clear in your own mind what needs to be done?

We've been clear from the beginning what needs to be done, well since it became clear issues of sorts about the future of Air New Zealand ……that is to ensure the viability of an Air New Zealand. I have been using that phraseology for some time now and that remains the government's central overriding objective.

Q. Have you changed your view on statutory management?

I think I would prefer not to comment on those sorts of issues.

Q. What do you mean by an Air New Zealand?

Yes, a New Zealand national carrier – which succeeds.

Q. Does Treasury share that view?

I would assume they would see it was desirable to have a national carrier.

Q. UNCLEAR

Treasury provides advice on the details that are going along and the process and on the possible outcomes. I don't think anyone thinks this is an easy issue and they have always presented their advice in terms of think carefully about what you are doing in a number of different respects. Exactly as I would expect them to do.

Q. Have you done any work at all, however prelimany about setting up an airline from scratch?

No.

Q. Do you think the trading in Air New Zealand shares should have been suspended earlier?

I prefer not to comment on that. I would say that in some overseas jurisdictions, trading would have been suspended earlier because clearly there were crucial negotiations and discussions occurring about the future of the airline. In some jurisdictions that would have meant - at a much earlier stage - a suspension of trading. New Zealand stock exchange tends to take the view that they prefer to see normal life carrying on as much as possible. I am not going to make a judgement on that.

Q. Are you surprised the Australian stock exchange….?

I think there were different issues being considered and again, I think that’s a matter for them to comment on not me.


Q. If you are waiting on others, you say the delay is not down to government, its down to others - how long can you afford to wait? How crucial is the time factor at this stage?

I don't think the time factor is necessarily that crucial. The airline is operating, the airline has reasonable cash flow uh its not doing any worse than any other international airline given recent events in that respect, its domestic services – I am sure many of you can confirm –seem to be reasonably well booked and operating successfully. But we cannot force decisions out of certain other parties. We can present proposals and hope that they will agree.

Q. Have you considered at all, say, guaranteeing tickets or salaries…?

No.

Q. Would you if asked?

No.

Ends

ENDS

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