There is a lot of call in the comments here for Labour to come out and say they will buy National-sold assets back (at sale or market price, whichever lower) – or indeed take them back. An announcement will render the assets unsellable.
The view we’ve heard from Labour is that National will have spent all the money in the kitty (highly likely) and there will be no money to buy them back. Take them back and we lose the confidence of the international community.
Now, putting aside more radical ideas of where the money to buy them back could come from (even if some of them have merit – that argument would need winning), I see a middle (but not third) way.
Even among most market believers, the New Zealand Electricity Market doesn’t work.
We’re too small for any sort of proper competition apparently. I’m dubious that any competition truly works in something so infrastructure dependent as electricity (we don’t want 2 sets of cables everywhere…). Ideally we’d still own the power companies and be able to scrap the whole idea.
But if we don’t own, we can still regulate.
And we can regulate these companies within an inch of their lives. Make sure that no “excess” profit is taken (and certainly not offshore). Make sure the right amount is put back and invested into the right sorts of infrastructure renewal and renewable energy. And a personal hobby-horse – even make sure that a good rate is paid to private households contributing energy to the grid. A distributed power-supply will be more efficient.
If Labour comes out and advocates heavy regulation on power companies it will certainly depress the price. Ideally down to a level that National decide to scrap the idea, but that’s unlikely. So hopefully at least down to a level that we can buy them back piece-by-piece over time.
Max Bradford’s late-90s electricity reforms (to create the “market”) were what outraged David Parker so much that he got into politics, so surely Parker has a better plan for how to organise our electricity sector. Let’s hear a plan to move towards it.