It doesn’t suit the Labour Party narrative – and indeed it’s not their espoused philosophy – but every now and then National can’t help but be “hands on”.
We’ve had the South Canterbury Finances in the past (won’t somebody think of the shareholders!), but this week was a real doozy for it.
Despite going on about small government, non-productive civil servants being a drain on the economy, and how much better the private sector is at running everything, what happens when there’s a real problem? Why National send civil servants into our biggest and supposedly best private enterprise, Fonterra, to show them how to run a business.
Suddenly those Ministry for Primary Industries bureaucrats are our saviours apparently… which they may very well be, but this has got to be a real bitter pill to swallow for Bill English et al. I mean obviously he values those Treasury civil servants (like him), which is why their budget increases when the rest take a cut, but now he’s having to admit that public sector bods in any department might be better than the private sector at business…
Next there’s $30 million (plus less, cheaper power) to save
the Meridian Share Float Tiwai Point. For one extra year. It now can’t shut until January 2017, instead of January 2016. 800 people work there so that’s nearly $40,000 for each employee… except it might not be 800, as they didn’t sign any job guarantees and Tiwai are thinking of halving the employees.
I’m not sure why National didn’t just agree to pay their salaries for the year, it might yet work out cheaper… and we can bet Rio Tinto (fresh profit announcement: $4.2 billion) will be back in a couple of years with their caps out again.
Still, it means National’s share-float to their rich mates can stay on track.
But that wasn’t enough meddling in business for the week.
Apparently, despite the fact that it’s anathema to National that the government intervene in power prices, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to set broadband prices. They may both come down wires, but National don’t want you to think about this too deeply.
To be fair there is a significant difference: Labour want to intervene to get prices down (to benefit the public) – National want to intervene to get prices up (to benefit shareholders). So I guess you can see why only one would be justified in National’s eyes.
There was a good quote from the Telecom Users Association of NZ about the Chorus meddling:
“In the bad old days we used to see MPs debating the price of butter in the House. This is a return to that and worse – instead, we won’t have the debate, the price will simply be set by the Beehive.”
Yup – your broadband plan is now Minister Joyce’s cash cow for the benefit of Chorus’ shareholders. Enjoy.
I look forward to a hands-on Labour government… one that’s hands-on for the country, not National’s mates.