Labour open to asset buy-back talks

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 15:30 24/01/2014
David Cunliffe
GRANT MATTHEW/ Fairfax NZ
AT RATANA: Labour leader David Cunliffe.

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Labour is signalling a willingness to negotiate buybacks of state assets as part of coalition talks.

Speaking at Ratana Pa today, leader David Cunliffe responded to NZ First leader Winston Peters' comments that buying back state assets would be part of coalition negotiations.

"I wouldn't think that that would be a particularly difficult part of the negotiations, but look, we have those sorts of negotiations in private after the election, not on camera before the election," Cunliffe said.

Labour had previously bought back assets once owned by the state, including a majority of Air New Zealand and what is now KiwiRail, in both instances when the companies were in distress.

Cunliffe refused to say whether a Government he led would buy back companies only when they were in need of a bailout.

"I'm not going to be speculating at this point what the conditions would be about different companies," he said.

"I've said many, many times that we reserve the right to act in the public interest and I further said that we would like to strengthen on behalf of the public, the Crown's overall asset holding."

Peters reportedly warned that he was not prepared to be part of any coalition that would increase the age of entitlement for government superannuation.

Cunliffe warned that this would be a "more complicated discussion" as Labour had pledged a gradual increase of the entitlement age from 65 to 67.

"It is true that to make superannuation sustainable, which is one of his [Peters'] goals, something would have to be done about the long-term fiscal position."

Cunliffe said National's education announcement on Thursday contained "multiple fish hooks," which Labour would discuss in the coming days.

These included the way the policy cut across school governance, with executive principals overseeing those of individual schools, which were accountable to a board of trustees.

"You end up with two lines of accountability".

The policy also risked favouring higher decile schools because of the way national standards measured absolute performance, taking no account of relative improvement, Cunliffe said.

"What we want to see is great teachers in every school. Labour's proposal here is that every parent should be able to guarantee a world-class education for their children in every state school, wherever they live. That is what we're driving for," Cunliffe said.

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"I've said very openly, look, having a special layer of teachers who are recognised, including financially for their skills, we wouldn't rule out that's part of our ideas too.

"The particular way National's chosen to do this risks creating elitism and it also has multiple fish hooks, if it is tied to national standards."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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