Shearer comes out fighting over image and SOE sales

03:43, Feb 24 2012
David Shearer
CHANGING THE GAME: David Shearer doesn't want to play politics the normal way.

Labour leader David Shearer has attempted to counter criticism his leadership style has been too laid back, saying he doesn't believe in bickering and partisanship.

In a speech to Grey Power in Auckland this afternoon, Shearer said he was not the kind of leader who believed in ''rival tribes playing gotcha''.

''Of course that's what a lot of people look for. They want to score the game, give points for the best smart remark in Parliament. But that's not what most New Zealanders want.''

There was no excuse for not being constructive.

''I want a new kind of politics, pragmatic and attentive to what works, not tied up in the squabbles of the past.''

The Grey Power National Council was planning a campaign against asset sales and Shearer offered Labour's help.

''We will be doing what we can to support you and the community with this important campaign.''

Shearer attacked the Government's estimates of the revenue asset sales would generate, saying when first touted, the partial sales were estimated to raise $10 billion.

''Then it was $6.6 billion, then about $6 billion. Then last week [Finance Minister)] Bill English admitted they were just 'guessing' at what the sale price would be.

''It's the sort of shambles you'd expect to see at a backyard garage sale not when you're selling off our nation's valuable assets.''

The Government plans to sell up to 49 per cent of state-owned energy companies Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian and Solid Energy and further reduce its shareholding in Air New Zealand.

Shearer seized on news today that Air New Zealand had suffered a 61 per cent fall in profits and there could be more than 400 job losses.

''It's never a good time to sell an asset, but selling Air NZ now, at the bottom of the market, is crazy.

''Once our assets are gone, they're gone. And experience tells us where they'll go. These assets will end up in foreign ownership.''

New Zealand should learn from Finland which 20 years ago was faced with similar problems.

Instead of selling off its assets and trying to compete internationally by keeping wages low, Finland invested in schools, science and research and development.

''Today they have one of the world's greatest small economies.''

New Zealand should not sell off its productive land because that was it's competitive advantage, he said.

The High Court's overturning of the Crafar farms deal last week was a victory for common sense and New Zealand's best interests.

''The Court said the same thing I've heard from New Zealanders right across the country. That the Government got it wrong.''

The former United Nations worker told Grey Power how he became motivated to make the world, and New Zealand, a better place.

''In South Sudan we were sitting in the back of a truck peeling a mango and throwing the skins over the side. I heard noises below and looking down I saw children fighting over the skins - desperate because they were hungry.

''It was one of those turning points - it hit me that I should be doing something more to make a difference in the world.''