In another breathtaking display of autocratic rule John Key it appears just called Pacific Aluminium boss Sandeep Biswas to offer him millions of taxpayer dollars to keep the Tiwai Point smelter open, just two days after his ministers largely discarded the idea.
I don’t make this up. This is recorded in treasury papers! So John Key against the advice and opinion of the ministers we elected to represent our interest, called mr Sandeep Biswas to promise him millions of our money to keep a privately owned company open?
I don’t know about you but when this happens in say Indonesia or any other country ruled by a small kleptocratic elite we would call it backroom wheeling and dealing between treacherous kleptocratic tyrannical rulers not beholden to any rule or limitation of their power.
In fact I would call the $30 million an odious debt, corrupt and unenforceable as a result.
What is the good news? Well, since it is clear from official records John Key did this on his personal reconnaissance and not upon advice of his ministers we can call him personally responsible and actually take him to court if and when the time comes.
Prime Minister John Key was on the phone to Pacific Aluminium boss Sandeep Biswas offering him millions of taxpayer dollars to keep the Tiwai Point smelter open, just two days after his ministers largely discarded the idea, Treasury documents show.
The documents released yesterday show Mr Key picked up the phone after Mr Biswas wrote to him seeking “Government involvement”, despite Treasury’s warnings not to get involved.
The papers detail year-long negotiations between Meridian Energy and Pacific Aluminium over the price of electricity which ended last month when the Government made a $30 million payment to the smelting company.
While Pacific Aluminium – which is largely owned by mining giant Rio Tinto – threatened to close the smelter if it didn’t get a lower power price, Treasury repeatedly warned the Government that a direct subsidy to the smelter was not in New Zealand’s economic interest.
In March, when Meridian indicated it might leave the negotiations, Cabinet ministers Bill English, Steven Joyce and Tony Ryall agreed they were unlikely to consider direct assistance to the smelter.
The same day, Mr Biswas wrote to Mr Key asking him to do “everything in his power” to get Meridian back to the negotiating table, and asking to talk with him.
Two days later Mr Key called Mr Biswas and offered him payments worth about $30 million over six years.
Pacific Aluminium rejected the deal at the time but in July, as negotiations ground on and the partial sale of Meridian loomed, Treasury said that given the “significant transition costs in the event of a shut-down scenario … a short-term subsidy might be justified if this provided certainty”.