20 Feb 2013

Greens question PM's answers over SkyCity deal

10:28 pm on 20 February 2013

The Green Party is questioning whether answers the Prime Minister gave to Parliament on Wednesday about the SkyCity deal are correct.

The Government will proceed with negotiations with SkyCity to build an international convention centre in Auckland, saying a report by Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith, made public on Tuesday, has cleared it of any inappropriate conduct.

John Key assured Parliament on Wednesday that all bidders were given the same information as SkyCity Entertainment.

He told MPs that every bidder was told that the Government was cash-strapped and that they should come up with creative ideas to build the convention centre. He rejected criticism that SkyCity got preferential treatment.

"All bidders were told that we were looking for creative solutions; it was a cash-strapped government. Every bid was different. In fact, in the case of every bid, with the exception of SkyCity, they were asking the Government for $300-odd million to build it."

But despite Mr Key's comments, the Deputy Auditor-General's report says there is no evidence that the Prime Minister told other bidders what he told SkyCity.

Greens' co-leader Metiria Turei says that is a worry and is questioning whether answers John Key gave to Parliament on Wednesday about the deal are correct.

"If he is being inconsistent in his statements about his dealings with SkyCity, if he is being inconsistent in the evidence he gave to the Auditor-General and is now giving to the public and the House, that is a very serious matter."

Ms Turei has already made a complaint to the Auditor-General that John Key breached the confidentiality of the report by talking about it before it was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday.

Joyce defends process

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce earlier rejected suggestions that the Government's involvement with SkyCity over the convention centre was flawed.

The report said there is no evidence to suggest the final decision was influenced by inappropriate considerations, but notes SkyCity was given preferential treatment and that other bidders were treated unfairly.

Mr Joyce told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Wednesday the report found issues with the procedures undertaken by officials, but they made no difference to the outcome.

But the Labour Party says the report shows SkyCity had an inside track straight into the Prime Minister's office.

Leader David Shearer told Morning Report that any reasonable person reading the review would be shocked to see how one company got preferential treatment and the report shows that good practice was not followed.