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Election Will Be A Referendum On Asset Sales - Goff

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Jan 28 NZPA - State asset sales will be a critical election issue and Labour will fight "tooth and nail" to stop the Government going ahead with its proposals, party leader Phil Goff says.

Labour MPs held an all-day caucus meeting in Auckland today and Mr Goff told NZPA the Government's proposal to partially sell three power companies and Solid Energy, and reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand, was a big item on the agenda.

"We feel very strongly about this. We don't believe Kiwis want to see their assets hocked off," he said.

"They will end up in big corporate ownership, and overseas ownership, and we will fight this."

Mr Goff said Prime Minister John Key had made this year's election a referendum on whether New Zealanders wanted to see their most important strategic assets sold.

"He says this is just for mum and dad investors and it won't mean majority ownership, but we know that's the thin end of the wedge," he said.

"They started off talking in the same way about Contact Energy but ownership very quickly became concentrated in overseas corporate hands, and as a result New Zealanders lost the $1.5 billion in dividends that the asset has been paying to its shareholders."

Mr Key said yesterday he wouldn't be swayed by "negative opinion" about the partial sale of state assets, which the Government calls mixed ownership. Mr Goff said that was "incredibly arrogant ... he is saying he doesn't care what New Zealanders think, he is going to go ahead and do it".

Mr Goff released figures today which he said showed how the previous National government's sale of Contact Energy in 1999 was a bad deal for taxpayers and a great deal for foreign companies.

"Foreign-owned Edison made a lot of money out of the sale of Contact," he said.

"It sold its 51 percent stake in Contact for nearly $1.7 billion in 2004 when the whole company was sold for $2.3 billion in 1999.

"That's windfall money New Zealanders missed out on ... there's only one winner out of privatisation and it's not the taxpayer."

Mr Goff said that since it had been sold, Contact had paid out dividends of $1.5 billion to its private shareholders -- money that had gone offshore."

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