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Opposition pledge to delay asset-sale process

Published: 9:28AM Friday June 15, 2012 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

The Prime Minister is forging ahead with the sale of state assets despite growing opposition to the plan.

The legislation, which would allow for the partial sell off of state owned assets, looks set to become law by the middle of August despite a group collecting signatures to try to force a citizens initiated referendum against the move.

The petition needs to collect 300,000 names to succeed and so far has nearly 80,000.

But meanwhile the second reading of the legislation has been passed in Parliament by 61 votes to 59.

"We're very keen for New Zealanders to get a chance to buy those shares and we're going to continue to press that legislation through and ultimately take those companies to the market," said Prime Minister John Key.

"It will help restore New Zealand back into surplus quicker than we otherwise would and we think that's very important."

Labour and Greens fight back

The Labour Party says it will do what it can to slow the process.

"We're going to fight this, for every day and hour we can keep it in the Parliament it's a day and hour Kiwis get to keep their assets," Labour's SOE spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove said.

"It's not a matter of obstructing the vote, we'll be putting up substantive amendments and we are not going to be letting this slide through, the Government will be making every attempt as they have, to rush it through."

The Green Party has organised a petition calling for a referendum on the issue. They have written to the leaders of all the other political parties asking them to support an amendment to the Bill which would prohibit any sales, if the legislation is passed, until after any referendum.

The Mixed Ownership Model Bill will allow the sale of up to 49% of electricity companies Mighty River Power (MRP), Meridian Energy, and Genesis Energy, and coal-miner Solid Energy.

The bill now goes to committee stage but regardless, shares in Mighty River Power are set to go on sale before September.