I think Mike’s hit it on the head. National’s asset sales policy is dead, it just doesn’t know it yet. Key’s punted for touch, pushed the hard calls out by six months (at a cost of another $10 million to us, thank you very much). But what’s really going to have changed when we get to March 2013? Key’s ruled out giving iwi what they want. So, any sales will be blocked by court injunctions.
You would have thought that Key would have bit the bullet and set aside shares for iwi now, rather than delaying that inevitability for six months so that there can be just five weeks of talks with iwi. That they didn’t suggests a weakening commitment to the asset sales by the government – although certain ministers obviously haven’t reached the point of deciding to throw in the towel entirely.
For the Left, for all of us who have fought these sales, the delay is great news. The issue rolls on but no actual sale takes place. The best of both worlds. Labour and the Greens’ call for the referendum to be held before the first sale now has even more power. They will have the petition completed soon and there will be no reason why the referendum can’t be held before March 2013. If National refuses to allow a referendum before any sales, then that gives another stick to whack them with and puts them even further off side with the public. The Nats aren’t fools. They know this.
Which adds further colour to the decision to delay. If they had pushed ahead now, they would have been able to make the referendum look pointless – as it is they have dramatically added to the potency of the referendum. Maybe, just maybe, Key is even looking to the referendum as an out for this stupid and crisis-laden policy.
How much longer will Key be content to bleed over a policy that makes no sense and has no positive impacts on the economy, a policy that is actually just about giving some rich people a few more gold-plated shares? About six months, I reckon.