NZ POLITICS DAILY: Three more chances to oppose asset sales

SOE Minister Tony Ryall

The public will get three more chances to pass judgment on the government’s asset sales despite parliament being about to pass the enabling legislation.

The first chance will be with our wallets when shares go on the market, and according to Herald on Sunday polling, nearly 60% of us would like to buy them – see: Most of us oppose selling NZ.

Given the same poll also showed even more people oppose the sales in the first place it could be seen as contradictory, but as Green co-leader Metiria Turei commented: "New Zealanders understand that these are shares in profitable, stable companies, but that is why they should stay in public ownership, not private ownership".

Or perhaps the poll figure simply indicates that the widespread opposition to partial privatisation just isn’t felt very strongly.

The public’s second chance to pass judgment on the asset sales policy will be in a possible citizens’ initiated referendum. Russel Norman is claiming the CIR petition already has 100,000 of the 310,000 signatures required after only a couple of months.
 
The Standard looks at how the government could time a referendum to minimise the impact on the 2014 election, and concludes that late-2013 is the most likely date – see: Nats’ pollster reveals asset sale plan.
 
The third chance will occur at the 2014 general election. Of course, the government would add that the public’s most important chance to pass judgment was at the 2011 election when the policy was promoted and discussed.
 
A blog post at the Standard disputes this claim, arguing that there were actually more votes for anti-asset sale parties than those advocating them (although the opponents ended up with one less seat in parliament) – see: About that mandate.
 
For the moment, the debate on privatisation continues. Yesterday’s Herald editorial argues that private input into the running of the companies will produce better results for the remaining public shareholding – see: Private stakes will ensure assets run well.
 
But the Waikato Times acknowledges that energy analyst Molly Melhuish may have a point that it is power consumers who may pay the biggest price for the sales – see: Fair play over power prices. Arguably, the sales will deprive consumers from being able to "vote" with their accounts by choosing the publicly owned companies that Melhuish claims charge on average 12% less than private companies.
 
A widespread and diverse spread of "Kiwi buyers" is so politically vital to the government that they are willing to forgo millions in proceeds to ensure it, including a loyalty bonus scheme. A similar scheme in Queensland didn’t work says Duncan Garner (see: Loyalty asset shares didn't work in Australia), and saw most investors ignore the bonus and sell for a quick profit.
 
Such a scenario would be political disaster here as shares quickly accumulate into corporate hands and the Government would be accused of selling too cheaply. 
 
If 60% of the public really is enthusiastic for buying the new shares then Winston Peters’ promise to buy them back at the sale price could be politically disastrous says David Farrar in The HoS Poll. But, as Scott Yorke points out, saying you would like to buy shares and actually having the minimum $1000 spare to do so are two different matters – see: No Great Surprises In HOS Political Poll.
 
Responding to claims of fiscal recklessness over the buy-back policy, Winston Peters says there is funding already available to bring them back into public ownership – see Claire Trevett’s Peters: Use super funds to buy back state assets. Labour and the Greens both say the unknown financial situation in 2014 means they cannot commit to a buy-back.
 
Other important or interesting political items yesterday include:
 
The government is still very much on the back foot over ACC as Phil Kitchin reveals more evidence that the corporation’s bottom line is taking priority over client needs. Senior ACC managers speaking at a Brisbane conference in November said "the 'low-hanging fruit' was gone but the job would get harder” –see: ACC's quota deal with Smith revealed’. Adam Bennett looks at figures appearing to show that getting clients back to work isn’t the only solution the corporation has embraced in the past two years – see: More ACC clients going on to welfare. The ongoing revelations have many calling for change in culture, focus and funding base for ACC – see the Herald on Sunday’s ACC culture change overdue, Matt McCarten’s Launch inquiry to root out what has to be rotten, and Kirsty Wynn’s ACC architect says people paying more in levies than they should
 
The government’s environmental record comes under attack after the Rio+20 conference (Minister blasts damning environment report) while Matthew Hooton takes aim at a "rogue" diplomat who attacked New Zealand’s record on carbon emissions – see: What Mr Key might have said to Mr Clemson. David Cunliffe’s taken the opportunity to use environmental issues for another lengthy positioning speech – see: The Dolphin and the Dole Queue
 
There’s more evidence today that social class has a real impact in the classroom, as research shows Auckland secondary schools manipulating their zones to exclude poor suburbs and even individual kids from poor areas – see: Enrolment zones skewed to exclude poor children. For Tapu Misa, the growing disparities in our schools reflect the failure of market based education, quoting the PPTA in 2009: "the application of market principles in schools has not so much encouraged individuality but produced a rigid consumer-driven conservatism" – see:  Market model leaves schools to die. Meanwhile, public schools are seen as prime targets for missionary work by some churches: Christians target schools in 'mission'
 
The National government’s recent performance is examined in different ways by Jane Clifton in Collins’s moue (http://bit.ly/Ml0glS), Fran O’Sullivan in Fashion designer's bold makeover for NZ, Tim Watkin in Surplus, what surplus? National's core brand at risk and Rodney Hide’s Battered govt staggers from credibility blows
 
Tau Henare is not guilty of censoring his Wikipedia page – see: Henare wins apology from Wikipedia over blocking
 
Steve Braunias delves into the NZ First leader’s nightmares – see: The Secret Diary Of . . . Winston Peters
 
Finally, New Zealand politicians continue to be barely trusted by the public. The results of the latest Readers Digest annual trust poll about 100 public individuals is out, and it reveals that our 10 "least trusted" public individuals are: Brian Tamaki, Hone Harawira, Kim Dotcom, Sir Douglas Graham, Michael Laws, Tariana Turia, Sir Michael Fay, Gerry Brownlee, Pita Sharples, Peter Whittall and Winston Peters. It is also reported that "those at the wrong end of the list included Prime Minister John Key (70) and Labour Party leader David Shearer (83)" – see: Destiny Church boss tops list of least-trusted  Apparently, the "most-trusted politician, at No 47, was Christchurch mayor Bob Parker", while the most-trusted MP is National’s Maggie Barry, the former TV presenter at No 49 out of 100.
 
Bryce Edwards

Asset sales
Jonathan Milne (Herald): Most of us oppose selling NZ
Scott Yorke (Imperator Fish): No Great Surprises In HOS Political Poll
Keeping Stock: Mum and Dad have spoken
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): The HoS Poll
Russell Norman (RadioLIve): Asset sales fight continues
Marta Steeman (Herald): Palmer tips 2014 for partial sale
Waikato Times: Editorial - Fair play over power prices
James Henderson (Standard): About that mandate
Keeping Stock: The Left's dilemma
 
ACC
Adam Bennett (Herald): More ACC clients going on to welfare
Danyl Mclauchlan (Dim Post): The last piece in the ACC puzzle 
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): ACC and Welfare
Jane Clifton (Listener): Collins’s moue
ODT: Editorial - Just doing their ACC jobs
James Henderson (Standard): Nats order ACC to cut claimants
 
Car crushing
Southland Times: Editorial: When it comes to the crunch
Editorial (Herald): Car crushing an undignified stunt
Sean Plunket (Dom Post): Forget the photo op, minister
 
Economy
Bernard Hickey (Herald): Smug line on dodgy inflation policy
The Standard: Endless greed
Fran O’Sullivan (Herald): Fashion designer's bold makeover for NZ
 
Environment
Kennedy Graham (Frogblog): Apologising to Grant – from Rio
Kate Chapman (Stuff): Mineral hunt in heritage areas
 
Education
Listener: Editorial: There is no data for league tables
Kelvin Davis (Maui Street): On improving education
Danyl Mclauchlan (Dim Post): First do no harm
Imogen Neale (Stuff): Ministry 'hides test's real purpose'
John Roughan (Herald): How charter schools may look
 
Immigration
John Armstrong (Herald): Attack on migrants thin on the facts
Steve Braunias (Taranaki Daily News): The Secret Diary Of . . . Winston Peters
 
Fonterra
 
Christchurch rebuild
David Killick (Press): Housing is a problem beyond politics
Press: Editorial: Doubling up
 
Other
Tom Pullar-Strecker (Stuff): Igloo TV service launch delayed
Claire Trevett (Herald): Health groups: 'Stop duty-free cigs'
David Farrar (Kiwiblog): Outlier polls 

 

 

 

 

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7 Comments & Questions

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"Three more chances to oppose asset sales"!!!
Why on earth would any sensible person oppose getting the taxpayer out of a business risk that private individuals want to take on?

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John,Risk!These assets are returning 10 to18% and they are utilities, come on!

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I have not seen any evidence that partial share float of state assets is a bad thing, but have seen and heard a lot of emotional fears. The Listener magazine had an excellent editorial 19 November 2011, explaining why the partial floats make sound business sense, but as usual, the Anti- brigade produces a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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How about selling assets giving a return of 10 to 18% when govt can borrow at 3 to 4%,fact!

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The first and most likely to succeed opportunity to oppose asset sales is for customers of Mighty River power to switch their accounts so diminishing the customer base to a figure that renders the companies value so low as be not worth selling. Perhaps the Greens should spend some more of their money on a campaign to this effect.

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The dumbest idea I have heard... You would see govt. owned assets fail before they are sold?

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Happy to oppose asset sales if the Waitangi Tribunal and Maori Council are disbanded. The savings would preclude the need to sell assets.

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