Key on Tranz Rail

Pleased to see this statement by :

  • I never personally owned shares in Tranzrail. My family trust did, and initially purchased Tranzrail shares prior to me entering Parliament.
  • My broker managed the details of the trust’s portfolio, reporting to a solicitor acting as an independent trustee of the family trust, and was able to act without reference to me personally.
  • In early June 2003 I saw that Tranzrail was going to be a political issue, and instructed that the shares be sold. The parcel as a whole was sold at a loss.
  • My recollection is that I instructed the sale prior to the 11 June select committee meeting. Nevertheless, I now believe I should have instructed their sale earlier.
  • I didn’t intend to mislead in regards to the number of shares the family trust owned. The trust owned different parcels on different dates, and the focus had been on a 30,000 share parcel which was the subject of a Labour Party allegation.
  • I didn’t release details of those shareholdings at that time. In hindsight I should have, and I am doing so now.

This is the exact opposite of what Peters has done. Give us the facts, and admit that it should have been handled better. Key has noted that he could have exited the shares earlier and that is a call I agree with. He was still in his first year of being an MP then, and as he started to get promoted, he became more aware of the potential conflicts. In fact I understand during that year he instructed his brokers to divest themselves of pretty much all NZ stocks, to minimise any actual or perceived conflicts. But it would have been better for this to have been done slightly earlier than it was.

National has put online a letter from his broker setting out all transactions with Tranzrail. They have also put up all the actual share contracts. Again smart work to get it all out there. As Key says, it would have been better to do this earlier also.

In terms of this, and other related issues, I’d make two comments:

  1. National needs to focus more on risk management and mitigation – maybe even having a dedicated staffer whose only job is to look at the worst case scenarios around items and issues, and make sure this feeds into decision making. Even the most innocent meeting should be looked at by someone who is skilled at working out ways it could be twisted, made to look sinister, etc etc. Because there will be more of this sort of stuff, beyond doubt.
  2. When things do go wrong though, the response is generally very good. Calling a press conference this morning, having Key admit in hindsight he could have handled things better and making all the documents available is the right thing to do.

Clark to this day still denies she did anything wrong by sitting on the revelation by Owen Glenn he had donated to Winston for six months. In fact she still denies Peters even did anything wrong except by rude to the media!

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