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John Key accused of lying about Transrail shares

Tuesday 23 Sep 2008 6:57 p.m.

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The government tried to shift the focus away from Winston Peters earlier today, by attacking National leader John Key.

The Prime Minister led the charge, saying Mr Key lied about how many Transrail shares he owned when he was National's Associate Transport Spokesman and forcing him to admit that he should have been clearer when he was asked in July how many shares he had in Transrail.

"I'm prepared to accept and I fully accept that after, when I found out later on that there was a bigger share holding, even though the story had politically passed in the media, I should have come back and said that," Mr Key admitted.

In July, Mr Key told parliament his family trust sold its $30,000 rail shares in 2003. He now admits that there were others in his name, but they were registered wrongly.

And Mr Key was forced to backtrack on comments his family had only held $50,000, when it in fact had up to $100,000.

"In 2003 when the issue started hotting up, I started realising it was a political issue and in my opinion, I should have acted to sell those shares earlier," he says. "And that was a mistake."

Mr Key questioned the government about its planned buyback of Transrail while a shareholder and National's associate transport spokesman in 2003.

Michael Cullen says Mr Key has been caught red-handed.

"Even if he can produce documentation, of which I doubt show he didn't lie in 2003, he tried to lie yesterday," Mr Cullen said. "He can't have it both ways."

Mr Key says he never made any personal profit from his political position, but the government does not buy that.

Mr Key has blamed inexperience and says his broker often used his money without direction. The government says that is a convenient explanation and sounds like something Winston Peters would come up with.

However, Mr Key says it is all part of Labour's smear campaign and admits that he lost almost $68,000 selling his rail shares.

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