MPs' sign-up may be a stunt - English

KATE CHAPMAN AND HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2013

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Opposition leaders claim they've been signed up fraudulently to buy Mighty River Power shares, but the Government says it's a political stunt to draw attention to their asset-sales petition.

It has become a game of political tit-for-tat, with both sides accusing the other of fudging the numbers.

The petition, one of New Zealand's largest, was submitted to Parliament yesterday with 200 people carrying boxes containing about 392,000 signatures calling for a referendum on asset sales.

It was revealed yesterday that Labour leader David Shearer and Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei had all been pre-registered for Mighty River shares without their knowledge.

It came to their attention because their parliamentary email addresses were used.

Pre-registration for shares opened last Tuesday. It does not create an obligation to go through with the purchase.

Norman said their registrations showed the process was "dodgy and open-ended".

He had contacted Treasury officials to cancel his registration and express his annoyance, but they suggested it was made in jest and were not concerned.

"I'm not aware of whether any domestic pets have been signed up for the pre-registration process, but clearly it is possible because Treasury have got very poor standards," he said.

Shearer was registered twice, including once under the name DonKey.

He said he had never had any intention to buy shares and the situation showed the whole process was "shonky".

It also raised questions about how many of the more than 290,000 registrations were legitimate.

But acting Prime Minister Bill English said the fact the three were alerted showed the system was working.

He suggested the registrations were a political stunt to raise attention to the petition.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it's a stunt.

"It may not be a coincidence that the only two complaints about pre-registration have come from the leaders of the Greens and the Labour Party and they've happened on the day that the petition is presented."

The leaders denied that.

Grey Power president Roy Reid, who initiated the petition, said no one should be buying shares because the state-owned energy companies were not for sale.

However, Prime Minister John Key said the petition, or any subsequent referendum, would have no impact on the Government's plans to sell off 49 per cent of a selection of state-owned enterprises.

Shearer said it would be politically risky for the Government to ignore people's feeling about asset sales.

"You'd be a pretty foolish prime minister to tell people you're not going to take any account of this. It will show you're very out of touch with the wishes of New Zealand."

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- Fairfax Media

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