Does he stand by his statement of 13 July 2008 on Agenda in reference to State-owned enterprises that “Well I’m happy to have floats as long as it’s non core assets”?
Yes. I would like to add that it is a longstanding policy of the Labour-led Government not to sell core assets, unlike that member and his party, with its now public—formerly secret—agenda that would see the selling of Kiwibank. That is a bank with over 600,000 New Zealand customers, a bank that pays tax in New Zealand, retains its profit in New Zealand, and is a distinctly New Zealand brand. What we will not do is sell it out from under our feet in the way that Bill English is promising to do.
Can the Minister define for the House what he considers to be non-core assets, given that he has said on no fewer than three separate occasions this year that he is happy to float non-core assets, and will he also provide some examples of some of those non-core assets that he thinks it would be a good idea to sell?
That is no problem at all. One very clear example of a non-core asset that could have been floated and has been sold is Southern Hydro. Southern Hydro is a wind farm in Australia that was owned by Meridian Energy. It was sold for $1.4 billion, and it is an example of a non-core asset that has been sold. A flotation methodology, if the price was good, could have worked for it, as well.
I seek leave to table a document showing that the sale of Southern Hydro happened well before the Minister made any of the three statements I speak of.
It is impossible to hear. Members will be leaving the Chamber if this continues.
Has the Minister seen any reports on the value of State-owned enterprises?
Yes, I have. I have seen another outbreak of the truth. In this case it was from Dr Richard Worth in material drafted by him that outlines the National Party approach. In it he says—
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister is about to quote from a select committee document that is currently privy to the select committee and has not been tabled in the House. One of his own members, the Hon Paul Swain, is doing considerable support work on that document. It would be advisable for the Minister not to breach the conventions of the House by discussing select committee business on the floor of the House before it is reported.
I think the member makes a very fair point. If this material is draft material before a select committee, then, of course, it would not be appropriate for it to be used in the House. Of course, that does not change the fact that Dr Richard Worth is proposing precisely those facts.
As long as it is consistent with the Standing Orders; you cannot quote from that document.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Minister deliberately defied your ruling. I could come in here with the draft monetary policy inquiry report of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, and make allegations about who has written what, what Paul Swain said, and there perhaps being other, different points of view in the Labour caucus, and then talk about splits and divisions. It is absolutely out of order for that Minister to bring any material into this House that is from a committee report and the property of that committee. He has no idea whether it represents the ideas of the committee clerk or those of members of the committee.
What did the Minister mean in June of 2006 when he confirmed that he hopes that “mum and dad New Zealanders might get a chance to have shares in subsidiary companies” of State-owned enterprises to be listed on the stock exchange; and can he tell us which subsidiaries of State-owned enterprises he intends selling after the next election, should Labour be returned to office?
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It is not infrequent for you to ask Ministers to expand a little on their answers. We know what the Minister said, because I have the quote; we are just asking what he meant. Clearly, he would have to name some assets that the Labour Government intends selling.
I think the Minister actually did address the question quite clearly. But the member has another supplementary question.
Why was the Government’s decision to launch the Capital Market Development Taskforce, which is chaired by Rob Cameron, a well-known proponent of partial floats of State-owned enterprises, a response to the Minister’s trio of public expressions supporting partial sales of State-owned enterprises?
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. If you are to have us stick to the conventions, he could not make a question out of that. He said: “Why was”, which made it a statement, not a question. If we are going to have the rules applied, let us apply them to everybody.
No. I think it was a question this time. We are not going to get silly over this.
If we are going to be pedantic, I should try again. Was the Government’s decision to launch the Capital Market Development Taskforce, which is chaired by Rob Cameron, a well-known proponent of State-owned enterprise partial floats, a response to the Minister’s trio of public expressions supporting the idea of partial floats of State-owned enterprises?
No; it could not possibly be, because this Minister, like the Government, opposes the sale of core State assets. Can I make it absolutely clear that, unlike Bill English, who wants to sell Kiwibank, and unlike Richard Worth, who wants to list State-owned enterprises on the stock exchange, we do not want to do that.
Can the Minister try to tell the House just what the Government’s position on State asset sales is, because Helen Clark says one thing, he has said another thing on three separate occasions, and Michael Cullen and Lianne Dalziel have launched the Capital Market Development Taskforce, but when we look at the Labour Party website, we see that there is no current policy on there, whatsoever, let alone any discussion about State-owned enterprises; and is it not true that the real secret agenda around this issue is being circulated among the Labour Cabinet Ministers?
Given that Dr Cullen appears to be the person who knows the answer to that question, I seek leave for Gerry Brownlee to be able to redirect his question to Dr Cullen.
Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection. Will the Minister please just address the question.
I spent lunchtime today at the Hutt railway workshop. That workshop is a clear example that this Government buys assets, and does not sell them in the way that Bill English wants to do.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether the Minister might confirm that that was a job interview.
I was well greeted by the workers, who were highly offended by Gerry’s description of skilled tradesmen as people who worked in a sheltered workshop.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Mr Brownlee raised a facetious point of order, which invited precisely that response, given that Mr Brownlee had insulted the Hutt workshop workers.
Madam Speaker, can you confirm whether it was a question, and not a point of order, to start with?
Oh, right. Can I make it absolutely clear that I spent time at the Hutt railway workshop discussing the Government’s plans to have an efficient, New Zealand - owned railway system, unlike the National Party, which already wants to change the name from KiwiRail to “DingoRail” again.
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. There was an interruption between the answer the Minister gave and the supplementary question I asked. I wonder whether you might allow me to ask that question again, so that he can give us an answer, because he has not addressed it. For him simply to say what he did at lunchtime, etc., is not really addressing the question.
Please be seated. A question was asked, points of order were made, the Minister addressed the question, I asked him to expand on it, and he did.
Since the Minister made his trio of statements in favour of selling, or partially selling, State-owned enterprises—
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. To say “Since the Minister”, is not how one starts a question.
It is a great way to make one’s point twice! Can the Minister tell the House whether, since his trio of statements favouring the partial float of State-owned enterprises, he has had a “please explain” conversation with Helen Clark, given her speech to the Labour conference in April in which she said that asset sales were a defining issue of the election; or was his trio of statements in favour of partial floats in fact Labour’s real policy that she was referring to?
I have regular conversations with the Prime Minister across a broad range of issues, but can I make it absolutely clear that the policy of the Labour-led Government is not to sell core State-owned enterprises. If members opposite think that State-owned enterprises never sell anything, I ask them to consider what happens every day with electricity.
Can the Minister confirm—in order to make it clear to some parliamentarians—that the sale of, for example, vehicles owned by a State-owned enterprise is not a core State asset sale?
I can absolutely confirm that. Every day these multibillion-dollar enterprises sell non-core assets. Doing that is part of their role. Small subsidiaries are sold on a monthly basis, and many more are bought.
I named one earlier—Southern Hydro. Whisper Tech has just entered a big joint venture. Quotable Value has sold its assets to a new vehicle. Every State-owned enterprise sells non-core assets, many of them on a weekly basis.
If we are to believe the Minister—that all he was talking about was used cars, old furniture, etc.—why did he say that he wanted mum and dad New Zealanders to have a chance to have shares in subsidiary companies of State-owned enterprises listed on the stock exchange; what is so hard about his explaining what he meant, when he has made that statement no fewer than three times this year?
Well, it might have been three times in this House this year, but I think I gave the member a very good example in Southern Hydro. If the price of a float had been higher than the price—
I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. A document currently being tabled in the House shows that long before Trevor Mallard made his statement of aspiration for mum and dad New Zealanders to have a share of used Government equipment, the Southern Hydro scheme had been well sold.
Well, that is all very interesting, but the Minister is addressing the question.