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SOE minister says no advice sought on Kiwibank sale

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Simon Power
Simon Power

By Maggie Tait of NZPA

Wellington, June 2 NZPA - State Owned Enterprises Minister Simon Power says he has not requested or received any advice about selling off Kiwibank.

Finance Minister Bill English sparked a debate by raising the prospect when answering questions in a post-budget speech last month.

Mr English said Kiwibank had reached a size where it needed either a government guarantee or "an awful lot of capital".

He suggested there would be strong demand for shares in it.

Back in 2008 Mr English was covertly recorded saying that National will sell Kiwibank "eventually, but not now".

Ever since the Government has repeatedly said it has no intention of selling any state owned assets and if the policy changed it would be campaigned on.

Prime Minister John Key said the Government was yet to start work on a policy about state assets but work on that may start later this year. He indicated a preference for a float rather than trade sales if that route was taken.

Mr Power appeared before Parliament's finance and expenditure select committee and was grilled by Labour's Clayton Cosgrove on what advice he sought.

Mr Power said he got no advice on either future sales or rationalisation of SOEs.

"An initial discussion is going to be required as to whether there's going to be any change in policy or whether it's worth having a further discussion about a change in policy. Remember there's nothing on or off the cards here. It may well be that there is no change to policy."

He declined to speculate about what model he would prefer if the Government did change its policy and said as far as he was concerned nothing had changed since his appearance before the committee last year.

Mr Cosgrove found it puzzling that one shareholding minister, Mr English, would hypothesise "very specifically, very loudly over the potential asset sale of Kiwibank, and in my view the primary shareholding minister which is you, has not formed a view, has not contributed to any discussions, has not thought about it, dreamed about it or discussed it with your counterpart. I mean that lacks a tad of credibility."

Mr Power retorted: "Believe me Mr Cosgrove what I dream about would be of no interest to this select committee... I don't speak for comments made by the Minister of Finance. All I am saying to you is as Minister of State Owned Enterprises... I have neither sought nor received any advice from Treasury on the issue."

Mr Power said there had been no formal Cabinet discussion about the issue and his conversation with Mr English was only to express interest in hearing his comments.

Mr Cosgrove said that was astounding.

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