Timing may not be everything in politics – but it’s right up there.
With an admission yesterday that a legal challenge to the asset sales programme was ‘a high probability’, the PM’s cockiness over the flagship policy all going to plan is quickly disappearing. ‘We certainly hope it's not delayed’ doesn’t exude a lot of confidence – see: Duncan Garner’s John Key concedes likely asset sales delay.
Comparing the chances of a delay to that of a meteorite hitting the earth today was probably a mistake as Toby Manhire points out that several thousand meteorites hit the earth every day – see: Facts bugger up John Key’s meteorite analogy.
For a more statistically reliable measure, iPredict stocks say there is a 67.5% chance Mighty River Power will not be sold this year and a 27% chance it won’t be sold in 2013, either – see Hamish Rutherford’s Punters pick SOE sale delay.
Significant delay could have several results, writes Anthony Robins at the Standard – see: Asset sale delay likely
. They include more time for the anti-sales petition and referendum, further scrutiny on how the numbers add up for taxpayers, a reduction in sale price of the shares and to ‘increase the already incredible pressure’ on the Maori Party to walk from government.
Maori Council co-chairman Maanu Paul certainly left Turia and Sharples in no doubt about his views, saying they had ‘become “virtually useless” at representing Maori’ and that a crucial decision was upon them: ‘Their political life is almost at the “OK Corral stage”’ – see TVNZ’s Maoridom turning cold on Maori Party
With such hostility from the Maori Council and a final shootout being very unlikely this week, the Maori Party’s only hope of riding through this crisis rests with a directly negotiated settlement with individual iwi or the Iwi Leaders Group.
The prime minister was talking up that option on Monday (see Danya Levy’s Key: Keep treaty out of water issue
, downplaying the usefulness of the Waitangi Tribunal in settling claims and the representativeness of the Maori Council. He was advised by lawyer and Mana Party president Annette Sykes to get a law degree or stay quiet on the issue: ‘He really does not understand the complexity of the overlay of rights relating to resources like water’ – see Claire Trevett’s PM warned to leave water rights issues to the lawyers
It might be good advice, as a letter from Key to iwi leaders from three years ago was tabled at the tribunal yesterday, including an acknowledgement that Maori had ‘specific rights and interests’ in fresh water – see Claire Trevett and Adam Bennett’s Key acknowledged water rights in 2009
Richard Long, who was Don Brash’s chief of staff during the time of Brash’s Orewa speech, thinks Key should resist the temptation to call a snap election over the furore, advising instead a ‘face-saving formula such as the guardianship solution’ – see: Moral panic hits the mainstream
Rawiri Taonui in Crown's authority crux of water claim
has a useful analysis of the issue in light of international legal precedents regarding indigenous water rights and notes that neither the Maori Council or iwi leaders can claim a complete mandate from Maori.
Other important or interesting political items yesterday include:
* The government has told local councils not to spend so much and the councils have told the government to stop meddling, unanimously voting at their conference to reject changes that narrow the core definition of their roles – see: Isaac Davison’s Local councils push back against Government redefinitions
. Vernon Small has a good summary of the issues in Grey areas in law trouble council
. With the government apparently ‘comfortable’ with the current level of council debt and councils free to continue funding projects like V8 races, the necessity for the changes are being questioned by local body politicians who claim it is the local body voters who should decided what their councils should do with their rates.
* Spending over $200 million on consultants planning the ‘Roads of National Significance’ before even a single ‘road works’ sign has hit the road has been criticised by Labour, particularly as a significant part of one of the projects has already been cancelled and it would be physically impossible to actually build them all at the same time – see Paul Harper’s Road consultants paid 'eye-watering' $200
. Even supporters like the Road Transport Forum are baulking at the programme (which is costing more than $10 billion over a decade), saying that some of the projects appear to be ‘gold plated’ and do not leave enough for maintaining and upgrading existing roads – see RNZ’s Big roading projects 'drain transport coffers'
. With the work contracted out of the public sector the recipients of the $200 million have a vested interest in making sure the plans keep the money flowing along with the traffic, writes Gordon Campbell: On the $200 million bill for roading consultants
* Follow the money is the key to explaining why the UN is handing out awards to tobacco companies – see: Michael Field’s Helen Clark criticised for tobacco award
. Pranay Lal of Union Southeast Asia, a lobby group fighting tuberculosis and lung disease: ‘The answer is simply - money. Starved of public financing, the UN agencies rely upon 'voluntary' contributions like donors, private philanthropies and companies.’
* It would be funny if the floor wasn’t collapsing beneath Islay McLeod, who details her very long and frustrating battle to get earthquake repairs started: A comedy of errors with no repairs
* Finally, Stuff’s Today in politics
notes that the prime minister has cancelled two post-cabinet press conferences in a row and wonders if Key is adopting Helen Clark’s crisis management tactics.
Water rights and asset sales