I don't normally read a lot in the business pages, but the headline of the lead article in the Sunday Star-Times caught my eye today - Cullen brings back memories of Muldoon - I somehow doubt that the good Dr Cullen will be too pleased with the comparison! Anyway, here's the linl - worth checking out for the accompanying photograph alone! http://www.stuff.co.nz/sundaystartimes/4431763a6871.html
Making the point that Cullen's move to pour cold water on the bid for a stake in Auckland is a massive flip-flop by the Finance Minister, Gary Sheeran writes:
"The crudely political nature of the government's late-night move to block the Canadian bid for 40 per cent of Auckland International Airport is highlighted by a barely cold, two-year review of the Overseas Investment Act.
That review, enacted into law in August 2005, was supported by a government "committed to maintaining a liberal investment regime".
The legislation's sponsor, Finance Minister Michael Cullen, said at the time that New Zealand needed foreign capital to develop the economy.
No surprise, then, at the collective gasp which greeted the same minister's announcement late on Monday that the same act would be amended to send the Canadians packing, once and for all.
Political commentator Chris Trotter said the use of an order-in-council to rewrite the law harked back to the 1980s. "It would have been just another day under Rob Muldoon," he said, "but using the governor-general and most of the cabinet to rewrite the rules is not something we are used to any more.""
Sheeran also quotes John Key extensively, and with the benefit of time to think:
"But the government's motive in this instance was solely motivated by the desire to portray the National Party as being in favour of asset sales."It's a 100% political move", he said."
Key also gets the last word:
""Key said National believed major local ownership of local assets was important, but minority stakes were not necessarily problematic. "We think the bid should have been allowed to proceed and go through the conditions of the act."
But the bottom-line message from Cullen, said Key, was "to hell with investors and anyone else who may get in the way of the politics of it".
Key said it now looked like Cullen wanted to buy out Toll Holdings, which didn't want to sell. "That may leave him in a position where his only option is to nationalise Toll, and what message is that going to send to the capital markets?""
That is a very good question.