Rebuff by National ministers torpedoes village's asset sales debate

A debate on asset sales which a Hampden group was trying to organise before this year's general election has been cancelled.

Hampden Community Energy, which organises annual debates, had chosen the issue of asset sales for this year, but an invitation to Prime Minister John Key to organise a team of Cabinet ministers was declined.

Mr Key suggested the group write to individual ministers and Members of Parliament to assemble a National Party team, including Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean. But no team eventuated, despite the group's shifting dates and even suggesting it would hold the debate in Dunedin if it meant having a National Party team.

Yesterday one of the debate organisers, Dugald MacTavish, said the group had had to cancel the event planned for September 17. An invitation to Mrs Dean to propose another date for the debate before the election had been declined.

"We did seriously consider continuing with the event as a discussion evening, but without people who believe in state-owned asset sales to make the case, even this seemed rather pointless," he said.

Mr MacTavish said selling large chunks of New Zealand's primary energy network would radically change the economic landscape, and he hoped others have more success in getting proper discussion about the implications before the election.

Hampden Community Energy started organising the debate in May with the invitation to Mr Key, after a similar invitation last year was turned down.

Hampden already had its team organised - Peter Hodgson (Labour Party), Chris Trotter (political commentator) and Kennedy Graham (Green Party) - to debate the affirmative of: "The sale of all, or significant proportions of, New Zealand state assets will create more problems than it solves."


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