Article – Anne Russell
Today the Prime Minister announced that the government will make a supplementary disclosure to the Mighty River Power document. The impetus for it was the Labour- Greens NZ Power proposal, which has caused some uncertainties within the sharemarket, …
PM: Mighty River Power| NZ Power| National’s Potential Coalition Partners
PM Post-Cabinet Press Conference – 22 April 2013
By Anne Russell
Today the Prime Minister announced that the government will make a supplementary disclosure to the Mighty River Power document. The impetus was the Labour- Greens NZ Power proposal, which had caused some uncertainties within the sharemarket, wiping $500m from the stock exchange. He compared a centrally-planned electricity system to a similar operation in South Korea, and claimed that it has been responsible for electricity price hikes and increased work hours.
Key claimed that a competitive electricity market would bring down the rate of price increases, and that state bureaucracy was an inefficient method for controlling the electricity market. NZ Power would introduce regulatory uncertainty, he claimed, which would scare off investors.
Key briefly mentioned the 2013 budget, and stated that the government was on track for a surplus in 2014-15. He also mentioned the return of 60 personnel from the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan, which marked the end of New Zealand’s involvement there. Thirty Afghan interpreters and their families had also come to New Zealand for resettlement.
The majority of questions directed at Key on the NZ Power scheme attempted to gauge how the government felt about both the proposal and its timing. Despite referring to the idea as “a huge setback for New Zealand”, Key did not appear overly concerned about NZ Power–in part because it only has the potential to be enacted if a Labour- Green coalition wins the election next year. Despite this, legal obligations prompted the release of a supplementary disclosure on Mighty River. Key was asked whether or not the government would eventually buy back Mighty River if it appeared to be in New Zealand’s best interests, but he said no.
In light of NZ Power, Key characterised Labour-Greens as ‘far left’, and said the election would be a contest between centre-right and far left. This led to questions about whether or not Colin Craig and NZ First would be potential coalition partners for National. Key made little comment on the issue.
Brief attention was given to the rain and how it would affect farming–Key said support for farmers would remain until September 30th. Some questions were asked about Japan joining the TPP, which Key approves of, but it remains unclear when the TPP will be finalised.
Key was asked whether or not the government found it difficult to deal with numerous Wellington local government bodies at once, as compared to the Auckland supercity structure. He said that Wellington was smaller, and that any amalgamation plans would have to be led by the Wellington City Council.
He was asked whether a governmental focus on China’s relationship with New Zealand was approved of by the population. Fielding the answer with “I’ll just wing it”, Key said that being involved with a country when we’re selling more than buying was good for business.
Lastly, the press gallery inquired about Maurice Williamson, whose speech on marriage equality has gone viral, enabling him to appear on Ellen Degeneres’ television show. Key referred to him as “our own little gay icon”. When asked if it was inappropriate for Williamson to take the title of gay icon when he has given minimal support to a bill which benefits a subset of privileged queers, Key said that Williamson has always had a very liberal record on conscience votes. However, it was pointed out that Williamson voted against civil unions in 2005.