Bill English has today finally conceded that a prime reason the $30 million subsidy was given to Rio Tinto to keep running its Tiwai Point smelter was to get the sale of Meridian over the line, Labour’s Finance spokesperson David Parker says.
“Since the Rio Tinto subsidy was announced Bill English has pretended that the deal was about jobs and refused to admit that the prime motive was to remove uncertainty for investors so he could get Meridian off the block.
“Now he’s been found out.
“Labour put an Official Information Act request to the head of Treasury about the Rio Tinto deal. It was answered by the Director of the Government Share Offer Programme. That’s the asset sales division. That’s proof the deal was done to sell Meridian.
“Today in Parliament Bill English finally admitted what everyone knew. He said: ‘One of the reasons is that it would create certainty for investors on Meridian’ and admitted the deal may not have happened if Meridian wasn’t being sold.
“Everyone knew that was why the deal was struck, especially given the big winner was clearly Rio Tinto.
“That this subsidy was ad hoc is also proven by the fact that neither Norse Skog nor Holcim Cement – both large energy-intensive employers – were offered a subsidy to prevent their layoffs.
“The Rio Tinto subsidy, a clear Government intervention in the electricity market, is further proof that New Zealand’s electricity market is uncompetitive. There is no doubt the intervention keeps electricity bills for other businesses and New Zealand residential consumers higher.
“In one day at Question Time Bill English has dropped his façade around the Meridian sale and proven yet again that New Zealand electricity prices are too high and the market is uncompetitive,” says David Parker.
28 August 2013 MEDIA STATEMENT