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Goff denies bill a worthless gesture

Private Member's legislation seeks to block asset sales.

Colin Williscroft
Mon, 20 Jun 2011

Labour leader Phil Goff today denied a move to block state asset sales was a worthless gesture signaling Labour had no chance of an election win.

Labour wants to introduce a private members bill to prevent the sale of state assets unless there is a clear public mandate.

The private member's bill, in the name of State-Owned Enterprises spokesman Clayton Cosgrove, would require any future proposal to partly or wholly private an SOE or Crown entity to have the support of at least 75% of parliament or the majority of voters in a referendum.

Those assets included electricity generation and transmission companies, New Zealand Post (including KiwiBank), Landcorp and Solid Energy.

It also included other strategic assets, such as Radio New Zealand, Television New Zealand and the Crown research institutes.

Mr Goff admitted the bill had very little chance of passing, given the government would vote against it, but drafting the bill was one way of keeping the issue in the public arena, he said.

He would not be drawn on what chance it had, should it be picked from the ballot of others member's bills, of even getting a first reading before the election in November.

Mr Goff admitted Labour got it wrong in the past when it sold state assets.

“We made a mistake in the 80s. That's why in the nine years of the last Labour government, we sold no assets.

“We understood that New Zealanders wanted to retain their key assets and we honoured our key undertaking to them not to sell." ”

The government must have a specific mandate to sell shares in state assets, which the government did not have, Mr Goff said.

“That's theft.

“Assets like our power companies were built through the blood,sweat and tears of New Zealanders and paid for by Kiwis over generations.

“They are not National's to sell.”

The bill has come under fire from Act MP Heather Roy, who said Labour had torpedoed any chance it had of passing through the party's continued attempts to filibuster the voluntary student membership bill.

"Labour has shot itself in the foot," Mrs Roy said.

"Labour MPs have been wasting over $450,000 of taxpayers' money every hour by delaying non-controversial bills ahead of the VSM bill."

She said in doing so, Labour effectively barred MPs across the house from the right to have their bills debated.

"Now, ironically, Clayton Cosgove's State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities (Protecting New Zealand's Strategic Assets) Amendment Bill - another election year gimmick from Labour - has no chance of reaching the house unless Labour stops their petty delaying tactics.

"This is a big test of what is more important to Labour - guaranteed income for student associations to push their political barrow or saving SOEs from the big, 'big, bad private sector' bogeyman," she said.

"Either way, it is hardly an inspiring set of priorities for a party trying to convince the electorate it is ready to govern."

Colin Williscroft
Mon, 20 Jun 2011
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Goff denies bill a worthless gesture