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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Key's shoulder tap to crony capitalism a king hit to process, public interest

It was all my idea?

NZ Herald:
SkyCity's shareholders were told of close ties to "high ranking" Cabinet ministers five days before Prime Minister John Key invited the company to bid to build the new national convention centre.

SkyCity chairman Rod McGeoch said the access was enabling the company to change the way it was seen by "key influencers".

The claim emerged as the Government comes under intense pressure over its relationship with the company after Mr Key admitted yesterday it was his idea to have SkyCity build the $350 million national convention centre.

Sounds like the sort of shit that used to go down in Australia. But it's not corruption if the government ministers themselves unilaterally initiate the public-private partnership? Well... they claim they did.

Last night Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce corrected a previous statement that he had not met SkyCity officials for five months.

A spokeswoman for Mr Joyce, whose ministry officials are negotiating the deal, said he had met Mr McGeoch last Friday at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Sydney.

"They talked briefly about the national convention centre proposal," she said.

This is precisely the Statist 'pick-a-winner' policy of protection and regulation that the National Party traditionally rails against most dogmatically, as an article of faith. At least, they do when in opposition - now they are in government it turns out these evils are "an important part of building that tourism model."

Parliamentary records show Mr Key had dinner with the SkyCity board on November 4, 2009 - five days after Mr McGeoch's speech at the annual meeting.

Mr Key filed a written response to a Green Party parliamentary question saying they discussed the convention centre and board members raised issues over gambling law.

Yesterday, Mr Key said his approach was not a "shoulder-tap".

He said SkyCity was the only party prepared to fully pay for the convention centre and he was comfortable if the deal led to an increase in the number of poker machines the company was allowed.

"It's largely the issue of a piece of infrastructure for tourism and it's an important part of building that tourism model."

Well if it wasn't a shoulder tap then what was it? A mutual back scratch? A back massage? or maybe a *special* massage? I'm picking with the favours that Sky City does for the Tory election campaigns it's more like a very, very ***special*** massage... long time.

I recall in the term of the previous Labour ministry that Ross Armstrong - then Chairman of TVNZ amongst other roles - had to resign after implying to a corporation it would have an inside running on a public-private partnership deal the government was working on. Armstrong had to go as he had crossed the line and Clark acted promptly to remove the implication that her government tolerated a wink-and-nod culture of influence peddling; but what happens when it is the PM themselves cooking it up? Just business? Just getting it done and making the calls that need to made? It didn't wash with senior officials like Armstrong, why should it wash with the PM? Aren't the principles similar enough here?

Does he have the authority, free of Cabinet, to arrange to allocate these millions of dollars in government funding? Does he think he's still a trader on the floor, with personal authority delegated to wager large amounts on bets where he reckons he's the House?

He has conflated the public interest with Sky City's private corporate interests in a way which both undercuts the viability of Auckland's other competing venues and which will contribute inevitably to the encouragement of irresponsible gambling, ie. the licencing of hundreds more pokie machines. Any trade-offs mooted have no counteracting off-set for the losses to the other venues or to mitigate the peculiar social harm that pokie machines represent.


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