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Going off half-cocked has already caused this government a few problems and they seem to have done it again with the loyalty programme for asset sales.
Needing to show they were front-footing the issue, John Key made the announcement of the loyalty scheme. It worked – for a day.
The problem is there was actually nothing much new to say and, crucially, the basic details and costs are still unknown. John Hartevelt writes ‘It suggests a rather casual, if not rushed, attempt at a newsy "announcement" for the National Party faithful at the weekend. It all feels a bit half-baked - "we think a loyalty scheme will work, but we don't really know why and we can't tell you exactly what it will look like" – see: Details vacuum befuddles both Key and his rivals. Hartevelt thinks the lack of detail actually had Labour and the Greens struggling as well.
It gave the Opposition an opening, however, to speculate and then draw outrageous conclusions. Suddenly the Prime Minister was back on the defensive having to hose down claims of billion dollar plus price tags. Rather than countering with facts he had do his own speculating, which opened up further avenues for attack.
Playing down the cost of the scheme, by definition, meant minimising the level of ‘mum and dad’ investors who would hold on to their shares for three years – a figure the government had been trying to build up previously. Green co-Leader Russel Norman also forced a concession from the PM that the scheme may require additional parliamentary approval to proceed – see Vernon Small’s Sales bonus share retreat amid speculation. NZ First has come up with it’s own angle pointing out the bonus would be paid even if the investor left the country – see Newswire’s Kiwis could leave and still get share bonus.
Shifting the debate away from the rights and wrongs of privatisation onto the actual sales process is a victory for Government in itself says John Armstrong: ‘The argument is turning away from one of principle - whether minority shareholdings should be sold in the three state-owned electricity generators - to one of practicalities and the mechanics of how they should be sold’ – see: Too many unknowns to judge asset share float.
The scheme is sensible according to The Press editorial (Asset sales) but the Herald thinks the share sales should stand in the market on their own merits and ‘Sadly, it is a case of political timidity trumping market nous’ – see: Sweetener to shares leaves a sour taste.
Other important or interesting political items today include:
* We now know there are limits to King Gerry’s powers in Christchurch with a court overruling a land zoning decision he took under his CERA Act powers – see Pattrick Smellie’s Court overthrows Brownlee on Chch airport noise zone. The Greens say Brownlee has too much power, particularly so long after the emergency phase of the earthquake recovery –see Michael Berry’s Rein Brownlee's powers in – Greens.
* Labour may have a hit and a miss on two private members bills back in front of the house today. They appear to have majority support for both the Mondayisation of ANZAC and Waitangi day holidays (see No Right Turn’s Will Mondayisation pass?) and extending paid parental leave. However, despite claims that it will cost less than the Government claims (see: Claire Trevett’s Parental leave costs overstated claims MP, Bill English is still set to veto any extra spending – see: Govt still plans to block parental leave bill.
* Do all leftwingers support the Maori Council’s claims over water? Obviously not. For an interesting critique, see Prof Elizabeth Rata’s argument for Why iwi have got it wrong, published on the rightwing website of the NZ Centre for Political Research. Rata has long argued that ‘Treaty politics’ and the state’s focus on ‘biculturalism’ has done nothing for lower socio-economic Maori, but instead led to a growing Maori elite and thus an increased class divide within Maoridom.
* Stories continue to emerge of widespread abuse of student visas, especially in the horticultural sector – see: Andrea Laxon’s Sham student visas used in orchard jobs rort - ex-worker.
* Debate over the merits of more drilling for oil and gas is focused on Taranaki’s experience with Climate Justice Taranaki running a ‘Taranaki Dirty-As Regional Fracking Tour’ and Greenpeace delivering a 142,000-signature petition calling on the Government to abandon its fossil fuels agenda – see Rob Maetzig’s Friction grows over fossil-fuels policy.
* Add it to the Auditor-General’s list….Andrea Vance reports on Labour’s Call for auditor-general over 'money for mates'.
* ‘Pay as you drive’ is the preferred funding method for Auckland’s big transport spend according to an online poll – see Matthew Dearnaley’s Most favour motorway tolls to plug money gap, survey finds.
* Who needs to be a millionaire? Anyone wanting to own a house in some Auckland suburbs apparently – see: Anne Gibson and Alanah Eriksen’s $1m 'entry level' house sign of times.
* National’s ultimate priority is ‘economic development’ – that’s the conclusion from Colin James’ survey of where the Government is at and where it’s going – see: Development: For National all else comes second.
* Parliamentarians are not a particularly trusted profession, and the latest news that they are discussing their own pay setting behind closed doors will do little to improve the public’s confidence in them – see Tracy Watkins’ MPs to discuss pay in secret.
* Opponents of a Housing New Zealand re-development in Glen Innes they call ‘social cleansing on a grand scale’ are claiming a short term victory as a delay is confirmed – see: Socialist Aotearoa’s Six month delay a victory in the battle for Glen Innes- Minto.
* Trade deals are supposed to be about creating a ‘level playing field’ between countries but Gordon Campbell writes that the U.S. simply doesn’t play that way – see: On how conservative US politicians are demonstrating how we should respond to the TPP.
* Finally, if the Auditor general is all over you and the police are trawling through your emails for ‘only serving your constituents’ Mark Blackham has some very practical advice: 10 steps to a political comeback.