A misleading headline

The SST headline:

Call to ban ministers from share float

Except they already are. Ministers absolutely can not take part in the share float.

In fact the conflict of interest obligations are taken so seriously that when Contact Energy was sold in the late 1990s, I was one of those banned from buying shares when it floated as I worked in the PM’s Office. Now I had zero involvement in the float, saw no papers about it, but still was banned.

So a headline that suggests Ministers are not already banned is absolutely misleading.

We asked our readers if they wanted a similar rule to Australia’s “Standards of Ministerial Ethics” that require ministers “to divest themselves of all shareholdings other than through investment vehicles such as broadly diversified superannuation funds or publicly listed managed or trust arrangements”.

That is a very separate issue to the suggestion that Ministers can take part in the Mighty River share float.

Incidentally I think it is a good idea for Ministers to follow the lead of the PM and put their shareholdings in a blind trust. But a one size fits all rule may be overly prescriptive  You may have a Minister who has say 10,000 shares in one company prior to becoming a Minister and requiring them to set up a Trust for such a minor shareholding could be a bit over the top.