Two major aspects of National's asset sales plan are in
ONE News has discovered that the party has very limited official advice to back up its claims about restricting foreign investors and big businesses buying up the assets.
ONE News has been fighting since August to have this made public under the Official Information Act.
Finally this morning, ONE News found out that despite claims that up to 90% of these assets will remain in New Zealand hands, the Treasury has not provided the Government with any detailed analysis on that aspect of the asset sales policy.
Asset sales is one of the most heated issues of the election campaign.
"Can you imagine a dumber thing to do than to sell your best performing assets," said Labour leader Phil Goff.
National plans to sell up to a 49% stake in Air New Zealand and
the four energy companies - Genesis, Meridian, Mighty River Power
and Solid Energy.
In August, National said it expected New Zealanders would end up owning 85% to 90% of those companies, and just 10% to 15% would end up in foreign hands.
"These companies will remain firmly and overwhelmingly in New Zealand control," Tony Ryall, State Owned Enterprises Minister, said in August.
ONE News used the Official Information Act to seek the expert advice given to back up those claims.
The Government refused to release the information about the asset sales so ONE News called in the Ombudsmen to investigate.
The response to the ONE News complaint reveals the Government
has received very little official advice to back up some of its
major claims about the asset sales programme.
In fact Treasury admits it has not provided the Minister of Finance with any advice about a possible 10% cap on shares held by any single company or individual.
"It looks like National has deceived New Zealanders, tried to
cover it up and been caught out," Goff said.
The Ombudsmen's ruling also says that the basis for the 85% to 90% domestic take-up rate and the 10% cap for any one shareholder was oral advice provided by Ministerial advisers and informal discussions with market contacts.
"There is advice as I understand it. Some of it's oral, some of
it is advice that they've taken from industry experts. There are a
range of different factors that have been put together to come up
with that number," National leader John Key said.
Key said given New Zealanders have $300 billion worth of investments, they will buy and keep the shares.
"We could say one hundred percent of shares to New Zealanders, obviously we could say less, but we are targeting that eighty five to ninety percent and I'm confident we'll reach it," Key said.
Call for release
Labour is calling on Key to immediately release all information the Government has received supporting his claims that majority ownership of public assets will remain in New Zealand hands after National has sold them.
"John Key, Bill English and Tony Ryall have repeatedly told New Zealanders that 85-90 per cent of the four energy companies and Air New Zealand that National wants to sell will remain in Kiwi hands," Labour's campaign spokesman Grant Robertson said.
"They have also said that any one stakeholder would be limited to a 10 per cent cap of shares to give 'mum and dad' shareholders a stake.
"Under pressure from the Ombudsman, the Government has been forced to reveal these claims are worthless. National has received no official advice, and instead is relying on National Party staffers and 'market contacts'."
Robertson said: "John Key and other senior ministers have been caught out attempting to hoodwink the public. Today's new information weakens an already flimsy case."
Asset sales information held back
A significant amount of information is being held back from the public about this asset sales programme. In fact five official reports on asset sales policy are being kept secret.
The Ombudsman has made an official ruling that the Government was right to refuse the release of these papers.
The ruling says it is too early in the sales process, and if the information got out now it could affect the amount of money gained from these assets.
The ruling also says the negative economic impact of that could be significant given the total asset sales price is expected to be between $5 billion and $7 billion.
ONE News has argued that people need this information to judge whether the asset sales policy stacks up, given they are about to go to the polls in a few days' time.
The Ombudsman will hear ONE News' final case tomorrow and make a final ruling probably by Thursday. That would leave one day for this to be debated before people go to the polls to vote on Saturday.