National pollster and Herald columnist (I know!) David Farrar has revealed what National has up its sleeve for asset sales. No, I’m not talking about how they would put ‘mums and dads’ at the ‘front of the queue’, or any such nonsense. I’m talking about how they will attempt to de-legitimise the referendum or, alternatively, try to slam the sales through before it happens.
The first partial sale is schedule for the third quarter of 2012, so before 30 September. Labour and the Greens will hope the petition is certified before that sale occurs, as it will allow them to call for the sale to be suspended until after the referendum is held…
…The Government will then decide on the timing of the referendum, so long as it is within the next 12 months. They will want the turn out to be as low as possible, so that it has a reduced political impact. Hence they could decide to schedule the postal referendum very quickly, say in December. Most people in December are busy doing other things, plus that would get the referendum (which would no doubt vote against the partial sales) out of the way.
The other option for the referendum is that the Government sets it as late as possible, so mid to late 2013. By then it is likely three of the four sales would have occurred, and the referendum would look even more pointless than it is.
Isn’t that lovely? National’s pollster revealing the options that National is looking at to disenfranchise the population by either holding the referendum when fewer people will vote, or executing most of the policy before we get our chance to have our say. What a bunch of dirty bastards these tories are.
For a kick-off, the petition isn’t going to be presented to the House by the end of September and a referendum by December is highly unlikely. In the successful petitions to date (and only four out of 46 have gotten enough signatures) it has taken four months, on average, for the Clerk of the House to check the names and present the petition to the House. On average, the referendum has followed eight months later (it legally has to be within 12). Even if they had all the signatures today, there wouldn’t be a referendum by year’s end.
But it is an interesting admission by Farrar of the strength of feeling that people have about asset sales that he thinks it will have the signatures it needs within a couple of months. I don’t think it will be quite that quick (the quickest was the firemen’s referendum petition, which took just four months thanks to their existing community network, the other three successful ones scrapped in just within the year deadline). The signature collection is about a third of the way there after less than two months but the remaining two thirds will be harder to get..
So, if the Nats have some hope of getting the referendum through in summer to reduce turnout, they’ll be waiting until the end of 2013.
And the plan in that case seems to be to slam through nearly all the sales before that referendum happens. That’s a major speeding up of the programme. To date, it has been costed as a 4-5 year agenda. Treasury told the Government that spreading the sales out over years was necessary to get a decent return. So, if they’re looking at doing 3 or 4 sales within a year, it would be the final triumph of political expediency over economic rationality.
It would also be an admission that National knows it’s losing the next election. Why else the rush?
Now, Farrar thinks that National will get away with this. Apparently, people won’t mind it if their government cynically tries to render their referendum pointless or cynically tries to minimise the turn-out. And, if they do, they will forget all about it by the 2014 election. Yeah, right.