Prime Minister John Key has
defended his Government's $30 million payout to the owners of
the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter after the Greens and Labour
said parent company Rio Tinto's US$3.7 billion profit showed
the payment was unjustified.
As well as reporting the US$3.7 billion net profit, the
global mining giant announced a 15 per cent increase in
dividends to shareholders.
In August last year, the New Zealand Government made a made a
one-off payment of $NZ30 million to Rio Tinto - which
threatened to close the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter if it
didn't get a lower power price from Meridian Energy.
Given Rio Tinto's increased profit, "John Key should be
asking for our money back," Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel
Labour's state owned enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove
said the subsidy paid to Rio Tinto "has been shown up to be
corporate welfare at its worst".
"Rio Tinto must be laughing all the way to the bank. It can
pack up and leave Tiwai in 2016, minus any obligations and
having pocketed millions in taxpayer cash."
Mr Key this morning defended the payment as "a modest step to
ensure there was a smoother transition where we didn't either
have a glut of electricity we couldn't use or the thousands
and thousands of Southland jobs were put at risk.
"If Tiwai Point had closed straight away then hundreds and
hundreds and hundreds of jobs would have disappeared and the
Greens would have said the Government doesn't care about
those workers and is turning their back on them so they
really can't have it both ways."
- By Adam Bennett of
the New Zealand Herald