National accuses Govt of 'populist' airport move

The National Party is accusing the Government of using self-serving, populist tactics over the foreign bid for shares in Auckland International Airport.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen yesterday announced new foreign investment rules which will give ministers the power to block deals that would allow control of strategic assets to fall into overseas ownership.

The move was a response to the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board's (CPPIB) offer to airport shareholders, which will now be much more difficult to sustain.

National's leader, John Key, said today his party would not have changed the rules at the last minute if it was in government.

"The reality is they (the Government) just want to give themselves a reason to knock out the bid for populist reasons," he said on TV One's Breakfast programme.

"They're trying to portray National as somehow pro-asset sales."

Mr Key was not clear yesterday as to whether his party supported or opposed the Government's action, and today he tried to clear that up.

"We don't think majority control of a strategic asset should pass to foreign ownership but we're not opposed to a minority stake - and that's been the Government's position as well until they got 19 points behind in the polls," he said.

Asked whether the CPPIB bid would have gone through under National, he said it would have been processed in the usual way through the Overseas Investment Office.

"There's a chance it would (have gone through)," he said.

The Green Party wants the rule changes put into law so a National-led government can't easily tamper with them.

"It would be very easy for a future National government to quietly remove the new regulations," MP Sue Kedgley said today.

"It's clear from Mr Key's comments that the National Party still supports the sale of key strategic assets to foreign owners,"

Ms Kedgley challenged National to release a list of assets it would allow to be sold to overseas investors.

"The problem is that if we sell off one of our key strategic assets, which has been built up over many years, it's gone forever," she said.

"They're almost impossible to get back."

- NZPA


Your views

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 17 Sep 2014 18:07:15 Processing Time: 2403ms