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New Zealanders are opposed to state asset sales because they have been fed a “line of nonsense” by the Labour Party, according to Act leader Don Brash.
He made the comment during an interview on TVNZ’s Q+A show yesterday, which also featured Labour’s Finance spokesman David Cunliffe.
Dr Brash said it made “perfect financial sense” for the government to sell the big state-owned power companies and it’s “just absolutely a no-brainer at all.”
The interviewer Guyon Espiner asked why “poll after poll when you ask New Zealanders, overwhelmingly, it comes back, they say they don’t like it. Are they just stupid?”
“Basically, because the Labour Government under Helen Clark sold New Zealand a line of nonsense, quite frankly,” Dr Brash said.
“I think… we’ve been taught that this is in some way dangerous and detrimental to our interest, and, frankly, that is simply nonsense.
“I mean, if it made sense for New Zealand to own three competing power generators, why not also have the government buy Foodstuffs and Countdown?”
Mr Cunliffe said, “We make a very very tidy return on those energy assets while maintaining a guarantee that they behave in the national interest.
“Now, we pay 6% for the cost of that debt; we make about 17% total shareholder return on those assets.
“New Zealanders understand, Guyon, you don’t sell your ladder when you’re in a hole. And once that family silver’s gone, it’s gone, and we are starting again.
“That money that Don Brash talks about will pay for less than six months of the current government’s operating deficit, and then where would we be? New Zealanders understand that.”
Although Dr Brash said there was “no logic at all” in the government owning competing power companies, he said he wouldn’t sell Transpower, which he described as the “ultimate natural monopoly.”