I rarely make predictions, but I am going to predict that the Government will not approve the sale of Auckland Airport to a Dubai company.
The xenophobia over foreign ownership to “Arabs” is as repugnant here as it was in the US when port management was blocked on much the same grounds. People talk about foreign control of an asset as if we might wake up one day and find the airport has suddenly been moved overseas.
And as for profits going overseas, well to be consistent you should then support overseas countries banning New Zealanders and NZ companies owning any overseas assets. Plus people forget that if the airport is sold for $2.6 billion, then that $2.6 billion is available for investment in other companies (which may make even bigger profits), or in the case of Councils in local infrastructure.
So why do I predict the sale will be turned down, even though it shouldn’t be? One word. Winston.
He collapsed the coalition in 1998 over the sale of Wellington Airport. It wasn’t actually about the airport at all (that issue got resolved) but was about NZ First trying to recover in the polls.
And we have the same situation in 2007 – NZ First supporting an unpopular third term Government, below 5% in the polls, and without even an electorate seat as a safety net. And remember since re-elected in 1984 Winston Peters has never once gone into an election supporting the Government of the day. So this issue is a perfect excuse for him to walk out over. He has vowed to “vowed to battle right through to the final decision”.
So if I was Helen Clark, and Helen is a student of history, I would be telling the two Ministers who officially decide, that they can go and commission all the reports they want, and get all the advice they want, but unless they want to be having an early election, they should turn down the proposal.
I mean if Winston was ready to use the excuse of Wellington Airport being sold to a NZ private company as a reason to collapse one Government, how can he not do the same to stop a bigger airport sale to not just a foreign company, but shock horror, “Arabs” with “security concerns”. Of course in this case the Govt is not the seller or owner – it is just the permission given, but Winston doesn’t tend to deal with unhelpful facts and subtle distinctions.