Asset sales 'fight not over', vows Opposition

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 09:25 27/06/2012
Opinion poll

Does the Government have a mandate for partial asset sales?

Yes - they campaigned on it and won the election

No - the law only passed by one vote

Vote Result

Peter Dunne
DECIDING VOTE: UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne.

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The Government will now begin its controversial asset sales after legislation scraped through Parliament by one vote last night, but the Opposition is vowing it won't give up the fight.

The Mixed Ownership Model Act allows the Government to sell up to 49 per cent of Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian and Solid Energy. The Government will plans to reduce its shareholding of Air New Zealand but didn't require legislation to do so.

Mighty River Power is first off the block and State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall said the Government would now decide whether to proceed with an offer around September, depending on market conditions.

Finance Minister Bill English said an advertising and public relations campaign to sell Mighty River Power would now begin.

"It's important people know about the company itself which is not well known and particularly because of previous investor experiences such as with finance companies, people now understand they need to have a good grasp of what the assets are and what the risks are."

The Greens have criticised the Government for refusing to say how much it is spending on advertising company Clemenger and public relations company Senate.

English said the Government would now make decisions around the share price and the minimum parcel offer, which Prime Minister John Key said yesterday was likely to be around $1000.

The legislation passed by 61 votes to 60 with two crucial support votes from ACT leader John Banks and United Future leader Peter Dunne.

While opponents have paid little attention to Banks, Dunne has been the target of protesters with two lobby groups in his Ohariu electorate in Wellington set up to put pressure on him.

Dunne wasn't at last night's vote because he had to attend a funeral but said in a statement he supported the Bill because it was in the "best long term interests of this country".

"This legislation is an innovative way to raise much-needed capital and at the same time gives New Zealanders a chance to invest in their own futures."

Labour leader David Shearer said the passing of the Bill was a "national tragedy".

"Peter Dunne and National MPs will pay dearly for their actions when voters get their say at the next election."

The legislation may have gone through but the "fight is not over".

"It simply moves from the debating chamber out onto the streets. New Zealanders are queuing up to sign the petition for a citizens-initiated referendum."

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Mana leader Hone Harawira said it was a sad day for New Zealand.

"Sad for the poor families who will get their power switched off because they can't afford the price hikes. And sad to see assets built by our fathers sold off so that private shareholders can get the benefits we should all enjoy."

There was ongoing action to stop asset sales, he said. Iwi Tuwharetoa was considering taking court action over water rights and the Maori Council was seeking a Waitangi Tribunal ruling to stop the sales until Maori interest in water and geothermal resources had been settled.

"The battle in the House may be over but the fight for our grandchildren's future continues."

'HITLER' COMMENT APOLOGY

Labour MP Megan Woods has apologised for comparing the National Party to Adolf Hitler.

There was heated debate in Parliament last night as the Government's partial-asset sales legislation scraped through.

Last night's debate prompted Woods, who was the MP for Wigram, to tweet: "Hitler had a pretty clear manifesto that he campaigned and won on. Question: does this make what he did OK?"

However, this morning she appeared to regret her comments, and tweeted she was sorry.

"My comments yesterday were said in heat and were extreme and I apologise."

Shearer this morning refused to support Wood's comment.

"I don't think it's a useful thing to do to compare this kind of thing with bygone eras and Hitler," he told TV3's Firstline programme.

- The Dominion Post

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