Empty promises on asset sales unconvincing   24 Nov 2011

National’s latest empty promises on asset sales won’t convince voters, says Labour’s Finance spokesperson David Cunliffe.

“John Key’s assurance yesterday that he could enforce a 10 per cent cap on any one shareholder by law will not convince anyone, as it is transparently a last-minute fig leaf to try to dampen public opposition,” David Cunliffe said.

“Ownership caps cut across the legal rights of minority shareholders and do not in any event prevent the on-sale of shares to foreign buyers.

“Nor is there is any evidence to give credence to his assurance that 85 to 90 per cent of the assets will remain in Kiwi hands. He can’t convince Treasury and he can’t convince the rest of us,” David Cunliffe said.

“He is unable to say how he would ensure Kiwi ownership would be retained. The best he can do is say --- ‘I’ve spent my life studying investment banking’. That’s hardly reassuring.

“Kiwis have studied too, and they know the history of asset sales. Air New Zealand, rail, BNZ, Telecom, Contact --- all have ended up in foreign ownership and the consequences have been dire. In our last term in government, Labour had to repeatedly intervene to stop price-gouging and asset-stripping by foreign owners of what were once public assets.

“John Key says National would retain 51 per cent ownership in our assets --– until the next crisis at least --- but voters know that minority shareholders have significant power,” David Cunliffe said. “They could sue the Government if it refused to raise power prices to increase profits for private owners or groups of owners.

“We know from experience that privatisation of electricity companies means more expensive power. MED data shows that privately-owned Contact and Transpower have the most expensive electricity prices across 87 per cent of New Zealand.

“Is that the future we want --- a future where the electricity we use every day to power our industry and heat our homes is more expensive because foreign buyers want to squeeze all the profit they can out of our country? That’s what will happen if a National government is re-elected,” David Cunliffe said.

“Mr Key has made it abundantly clear that he will push ahead with asset sales despite the overwhelming case against the policy and overwhelming public opposition. Only a Labour-led government can prevent our future falling into foreign hands.”

(New Zealand Labour Party)

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