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Asset sales referendum is a go!

Written By: - Date published: 8:32 am, January 4th, 2013 - 92 comments
Categories: assets, class war, economy, Privatisation, treasury - Tags:

Asset sales petition organisers say they have the numbers of signatures for a referendum.  (h/t mickysavage) However, to be sure, they will continue to collect signatures up until the time to submit the petition at the end of January.  Congratulations and thanks to all who have worked so hard on the petition.

Grey Power national president Roy Reid said the group had collected more than 340,000 signatures, allowing for a percentage of signatures that did not meet the requirements under the Citizen Initiated Referendum Act.

After checking the figures at the end of 2012, Mr Reid was confident they now had the numbers to push through the referendum. …

Mr Reid said the anti-asset-sales coalition would continue to collect signatures over the new few weeks, before the petition was presented to Parliament when it opened again in the last week of January.

This should mean the campaign then shifts from collecting signatures to presenting the case against asset sales.  The referendum question is;

“Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?”

While a high proportion of New Zealanders still support john Key, most New Zealanders are against asset sales. The Herald on Sunday reported on the 30 December 2012 that:

New Zealanders are loath to relinquish even a partial ownership share in national assets such as power companies – but the asset sales debate hasn’t harmed the Government’s polling one jot. …

Yet despite the opposition to the asset sales, Prime Minister John Key continues to enjoy unmatched favour in the Key Research- Herald on Sundaypoll: 59.8 per cent of eligible voters nominate him their preferred leader.

If an election were held tomorrow, 46.9 per cent of voters would tick the National box. As long as National’s coalition partners in Act and United Future held their electorate seats, John Key would be returned to the Beehive as Prime Minister.

However, the article also reports that:

A Key Research- Herald on Sunday poll reveals three out of five Kiwis want to keep tight hold of the country’s engine room. Only 32.1 per cent of eligible voters support the Government’s mixed-ownership model for Mighty River Power, Genesis, Meridian, Solid Energy and an increased sale of Air NZ; 59.2 per cent oppose the sales.

Those aged between 45 and 64 years – the voting bloc that lived through the dismantling of state-owned enterprises during the 80s – are the strongest opponents of the sales.

Organisers of a petition to force a national referendum on the asset sales told the Herald on Sunday they had now topped the magic number of 310,000 signatures and will present the petition to Parliament’s clerk next month.

Everyone of all voting ages need to be provided with the evidence that shows sale of the power companies will be very bad fro all New Zealanders, and to be encouraged to vote in the referendum.

And let’s not forget just before Christmas an OAI showed Treasury had warned against the rushed asset sales.  meanwhile there’s still a further court challenge by Maori groups over water rights.


92 comments on “Asset sales referendum is a go!”

  1. IrishBill 1

    Particular kudos to the Greens. While union, Labour, and Greypower members have done a great job of gathering signatures, the Greens (and a special shout-out to Lalia) have really organised around this issue and brought a lot of signatures in while also using it to build themselves a solid presence in Auckland – something that hadn’t previously been able to do and something that will stand them in good stead going into 2014. It warms my heart to see such solid organising on the Left.

    • Marty 1.1

      It’s a great outcome!!!! But I can’t help but cringe at the observation the Greens have once again taken a Labour policy, made it their own, and managed to do in a short time what Labour failed to do for years.

      Still. The Nats can’t stop us this time. The People will speak.

    • I am interested in seeing the break down of figures. I suspect the Greens may have collected more than Labour …

      • TightyRighty 1.2.1

        People respond to incentives. Splash the cash and people will commit. I think it’s why paying for votes is outlawed and political parties rely on volunteers to canvas.

        Not that this having all the signatures a wit of difference, being non-binding like the smacking referendum. What a laugh if this referendum were to get less support for anti-asset sales than for anti-smacking.

        • karol

          I would say, among the general public that keeping assets like power companies has more support than the amendment to remove justifications for beating children (aka the so-called “anti-smacking bill”).

          The more people hear about the damage that will be done by the sale of power companies, the more government support will drop.

          • The Pink Postman

            Nothing in the Herald Karol .I would have thought the petition numbers would have been headline news .
            Is Key now obliged to hold a referendum ?

            • lprent

              From memory, the electoral commission is obligated to hold a referendum (nothing to do with Key). They will decide when it gets called with some kind of limits on when it must be called – the latest would be the next general election.

        • Ennui in Requiem

          People respond to incentives if they have the wherewithal to respond. Therein is the basic failure of the core premise of neo lib economics (which incidentally fails on a number of other counts).

        • felixviper

          “People respond to incentives. Splash the cash and people will commit. “

          Eh? What do you mean, Tighty?

          Has someone been paying people to sign a petition?

        • Balu

          Erm I’m confused Tighty, are you perhaps referring to the $120 Million earmarked to polish the asset theft turd?


      • Shane Gallagher 1.2.2

        We did – by quite a lot. 🙂 I know we collected over half the total given above.

        • Anne

          Yeah… and some of them were actually Labour’s. I went to local flea market one morning… collected 8 pages of signatures… was in a hurry to get away so left them at the nearest table – the Green table. I know at least one other person who did the same. 🙂

          Didn’t matter in my book. All for the same cause.

      • Green Viper 1.2.3

        They have but lets not be partisan about it Mickey. The important thing is that we have the numbers for a referendum..

        • Anne

          I don’t think Mickey was being partisan – just making a (probably true) observation.

          • mickysavage

            True Anne. I thought that the Greens may have collected the most.

            On a number of occasions when I was collecting there were Labour and Green activists working together on collecting signatures. It was a really good feeling really. hopefully this camaraderie will continue.

      • Rhinoviper 1.2.4

        No doubt in the next “Shearer Sayzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” we’ll read how this great initiative by the Pointy-Haired Boss shows that all Labour “followers” are behind him*, and oh, yeah, thanks to the Greens for providing tea and scones.

        *and it’s a “good start to the year” and they’re “holding the government to account” yadda yadda yadda.

      • Well M/S .Our small LP.Branch consisting of mainly us old wrinklies collected a huge amount and in Tory Stronghold the Waikato.so even the Tories are against it.

        • mickysavage

          On ya PP. My 75 year old father managed to collect a couple of thousand in Mangere.

        • tc

          It’s not so much a left right issue anymore especially with the crap going down about water in Hamilton, many Tories are seeing the plight their retired parents are having and realise it’ll be a lot tougher for them.

          People see how much of their utilities bill would go into foreign hands over the coming decades rather than nz or network reinvestment just so Johnny and bill can pay down a few billion of the many they’ve recklessly racked up with tax cuts and standing back after kicking the economy down a hill.

          It’s a con and even the hesrtland tories know it.

    • xtasy 1.3

      LAILA it is by the way, not Lalia, I am sure, but we forgive!

  2. Craig Glen viper 2

    Its fantastic that the people will have a say on asset sales, however the problem we have is even though people know Key/National would sell assets and they didnt want those assets sold they still cast votes for Key/National. Labour has to produce a new direction that presents a real alternative to National, both in the form of a Leader and well articulated policy. Labours message was not heard under Goff and Shearer has done nothing to show he can articulate anything.

    This is the chalenge for Labour its not good enough to just oppose shit policy, people want to be lead. What I have seen is the Greens have done a better job of opposing asset sales the Greens have a brand, mean while Labour are not inspiring anything.

    • Anne 2.1

      I don’t think that is strictly fair CGv. Labour also had a well run “Stop Asset Sales” brand. Overall, I think both Greens and Labour have had an equal amount of publicity over the issue. Since Nov. 2008, it’s the one area where Labour/Goff/Shearer did well. There can be no real complaints.

      • Craig Glen viper 2.1.1

        “stop Asset sales ” is not a brand Anne, its policy.

        Greens have a better brand than Labour now in my opinion. A brand Anne means people know what something is or stands for, a good brand produces emotional linkages weather they are warranted or not. The Greens are being very clever with their pictures (Billboard signage) during elections and use of words in media and sound bites on TV and Radio.

        I can tell you I personally got many emails from the Greens on asset sales encouraging me to get signatures and the communication was positive in comparison I got uninspiring communication from Labour. As a Labour member we in Labour need to learn to change or we will be even more irrelevant at the next election.

        • Napkins

          The title of leading Opposition Party needs to be re-earned by Labour. They have resources, expertise and experience within their organisation which in theory outmatches the Greens. However, the potential is not being realised, and in some senses has been squandered.

          • Northshoreguynz

            Yet the mighty Greens are still only at 12-15%, how can that calamity be. It must all be that dreadful Mr Shearers fault.

            • Napkins

              It’s the fight in the dog which counts mate, not its size. As for Shearer, this will be a very big year for him – one way or another. I wish him very good luck.

  3. Jester 3

    Quite puzzling that a “Citizen Initiated Referendum” ends with two political parties arguing over who collected the most signatures.


    • quartz 3.1

      You’re a rightwinger. You don’t understand irony.

      • Jester 3.1.1

        You may be correct quartz. We didn’t have National Standards when I was at school so I am probably less advantaged than those much younger than I.

        • mike

          “Quite puzzling that a “Citizen Initiated Referendum” ends with two political parties arguing over who collected the most signatures.”

          1. A couple of people on a blog doesn’t equal ‘two political parties’.

          2. I don’t see any claims being disputed or anything else that might constitute an argument.

          3. This referendum will ‘end’ with the people of New Zealand telling NAct where to shove their asset sales.

          Maybe you should go back to school and get yourself some of that National Standards advantage.

          • Jester

            Thanks Mike.

            Before you rush off and unscrew the lid off the bottle of chardy that you saved for a special occasion it may pay to rethink point 3. The CIR will not affect the rollout any more than Goffs lame “you can’t buy it back” election speeches.

            Let’s not kid ourselves here. At least Karol is being honest when she points out the real incentive of opposing asset sales at a political level.

            “The more people hear about the damage that will be done by the sale of power companies, the more government support will drop”

            • karol

              No, the real reason is that asset sales are damaging to the country. And that’s one of the main reasons for wanting this government to be sent packing. The two things go together.

              The government poll support is too high given that most people oppose their flagship policy. The more people know about the real long-term impacts of this government, the better.

              • Jester

                Make sense Karol. But any indication why govt polling is as you say too high.

                Surely you aren’t suggesting that even after being headline news since prior the election 11 that people still don’t understand, in opposition opinion, how bad asset sales are.

                Kind of smells of the Goff/Mallard train of thought post election 08 and 11 that it was the voters that got it wrong not the messengers?

                I’ve read enough of your posts to work out that a writer of such very insightful posts could not be so gullible.

            • mike

              “Before you rush off and unscrew the lid off the bottle of chardy that you saved for a special occasion it may pay to rethink point 3.”

              Nope, I’m gonna stick by point 3. I didn’t say the referendum would stop the asset sales, (Key’s too arrogant to respect the will of the people, he’ll just moan on about how people just don’t get it and he knows best despite being a failure in every other area of government), I said the people will tell them to shove it. See if you can figure out the difference.

              Are the opposition hoping to score political points here? Of course they are. But does that mean they are not allowed to pursue a referendum on an issue important to all NZers? Of course not. If you’re saying that the opposition cares less about stopping the sales and more about scoring a political win, then that’s your opinion. I think that at least for the Greens, they genuinely realize that the sales are bad for the country and don’t want to see them happen.

              Polls show that NZers don’t want these sales. The opposition is representing the will of the people on this matter, isn’t that what political parties are supposed to do? Maybe the referendum won’t stop the sales, but if helps to wake people up to Key and NAct’s arrogant contempt for democracy, then that’s a meaningful result I say.

              I’ll be holding off on the chardy until this bunch of incompetent front men and women are kicked out by Lab/Green and John Key says “Ackshully New Ziland, I’ve been great,” and pisses off to his next corporate money making scheme.

        • mike e vipe e

          Jester I thought you would have compared that to competitive free market forces!
          Or should they just have a cup of tea to sort it out and self destruct ie Nact!

    • Zetetic 3.2

      Not sure what the problem is. There’s a CIR coalition that includes political parties. Members of political parties are citizens. Nats can support CIRs if they want. I recall Nat mps collected for pro-smacking referendum

    • QoTViper 3.3

      ends with two political parties arguing over who collected the most signatures.

      [citation needed – mickysavage isn’t one political party, much less two]
      [citation needed – who’s “arguing”?]

  4. CnrJoe 4

    great start to the year

  5. Another Viper 5

    Now is the time for the Labour Party to put everyone on notice that it is quite likely that any sold assets will be re-acquired at market value with a cap of sale price plus 10% pa CoF.

    We have a duty to be be clear to potential investors.
    And to show we will put our money where our mouth is.

    • LynWiper 5.1

      +1 Absolutely. And not just quite likely, but definitely.

      • alwyn 5.1.1

        The proposal is certainly an interesting one. If you are so sure that it is “definitely” going to happen can you please provide a link to a senior MP, or any MP for that matter, in either the Labour or the Green party caucuses who has said it? They of course are the only ones who could do it and they have, as far as I have seen, all kept very well clear of any such statements.
        Simply having an anonymous commenter on a blog propose it certainly doesn’t make it something that will “definitely” occur.
        Incidentally Another Viper’s proposal would make it a wonderful investment as a guaranteed return of 10% pa is vastly better than any other investment that is around at the moment.

        • LynWiper

          Of course my ‘definitely’ was a hopeful directive not a quote from previous statements or policy. 🙂

        • Another Viper

          “Market value” means the buy back price could be 50% of the sale price, Alwyn.
          The only guarantee is NO windfall profit. That is what the Cap achieves.

    • Pete 5.2

      I agreed with this until the thought occurred to me that this would be a recipe for asset stripping the SOEs, particularly when it comes to any overseas assets and any cash assets they might have in hand. In the lead up to the election everything the SOEs would have of value would be sold off, a special dividend would be paid to shareholders and then the new government would be stuck with buying back a shell for more than what it’s worth.

      The only way this is going to be stopped is either through the courts or making it politically untenable for the government.

      • Descendant Of Sssmith 5.2.1

        They will be asset stripped anyway. I’m sure one of the attractions for private enterprise has always been the assets and land owned by councils and the state.

        We’ve seen time and time again good assets sold off once they fall into private hands / semi private control.

        And if they can’t sell things they bulldoze em so it’s too hard for a new government to put them back e.g. hospital wards, loco repair workshop and so on.

        Look around any town and I bet you can find plenty of buildings and land that used to be collectively owned by the state / local citizens.

        Asset stripping + wanton destruction + control over publically purchased items + rorting the public over pricing.

        Profit = private taxation.

  6. burt 6

    Has anyone got any detailed analysis of how much tax payers money was spent paying people to collect signatures for this Green/Labour Party electoral advertising campaign ?

    • Fortran 6.1


      • mike e vipe e 6.1.1

        Probably 10,000th of the cost that of $120 million govt(National party propaganda paid for by us tax payers) + the extra costs of delay and the loss of income treasury predicted would be more than the cost of borrowing the same amount.That report was suppressed by National!

    • karol 6.2

      This seemed to be a beat up by Key and co 6 months or more ago. I haven’t seen anything on it since.

      At the time, the Greens said they were being transparent about the money spent on the petition, with most of the signatures being gathered by volunteers. But if you have evidence on it, go for it.

      In contrast there’s been a lack of transparency on the amount of money the government is using to promote their asset sales policy.

      Estimates put it in the hundreds of million, as of August this year:

      Official Information Act responses from Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy, and Solid Energy show that they have collectively spent over $1.3 million on preparing themselves for sale. A request for the same data on Mighty River Power, the first company up for sale, was refused by the Government and Dr Norman will be questioning the Minister of Finance on the issue today in Question Time.

      These costs are additional to the $106 million in the Budget to pay for asset sales costs (of which over $10.5 million has been spent so far), the millions of dollars in Waitangi Tribunal costs, the pay-rises given to senior managers at the energy companies to bring them up to “commercial rates”, the potentially $200 million cost of a share give-away, and the $100 million a year that asset sales would add to the deficit due to the net loss of profits.

      • burt 6.2.1

        In contrast there’s been a lack of transparency on the amount of money the government is using to promote their asset sales policy.

        Here we go: Others were doing it too…. It’s the way we have always done it….. National did something worse….

        Let me guess, there is no need to be accountable to the tax payers because National were worse… Perhaps we had better denigrate the accusers, retrospectively validate the spending and move on ….

        Why is expecting a high standard of accountability from all parties impossible – Because apologists for a flag colour hide behind ‘they did it too so it’s not fair to single out…’

        You know karol – each deed by any political party should be measured for what it is – not for how bad it is compared to others. Perhaps I’ll get off a speeding ticket @ 120-kph because somebody somewhere was speeding at 125-kph… I doubt it though because I don’t have a bunch of apologists running around behind me excusing my bad deeds because others were doing it too or … doing it worse….

        • Zetetic

          I swear to god burt you dumb fuck. If you start doing your bold retrospective and ‘she did it too’ shit again, you’re banned.

        • karol

          Burt, did you read the bit where I said the Greens had been transparent about the money spent. Not to mention Zetetic’s figures on it. And that if you had evidence go for it? Do you have any such evidence to add?

          The amount of money spent by the government in relation to the (lack of) amount of economic benefit goes to the heart of the reasons for opposing the sales.

        • mike

          “Others were doing it too…. It’s the way we have always done it….. National did something worse….”

          Thanks burt, your comprehension fail made me truly lol.

          Here’s the bit you don’t seem to get. The Greens did nothing wrong. They were entitled to spend the $70,000 on the petition, and they were open about doing so. So what ‘standard of accountability’ have they breached?

          Karol and Zetetic have pointed out that NAct has spent or planning to spend $120,000,000 to make the asset sales happen, but doesn’t feel like telling you where it’s going exactly. Their point is that if you’re really worried about tax payer money spending re accountability, you might want to direct your attention there instead. Else you might look like a hypocrite.

        • mike e vipe e

          So which is the bigger crime $70,000 or the $ 200 million the govt is using to flog of the assets at fire sale prices!
          The bigger the crime the the lees the time!

        • mike e vipe e

          So burt using your analogy
          $70,000 is say 7km over the speed limit worth a warning
          $200,000, 000 is say 20,000 km over the speed limit!
          Lock em up up and throw away the key!

          • mike

            I appreciate what you’re saying mike e, $200m is much more than $70k, but I don’t like the implication, which seems to me to be buying into the spin burt is selling, than the Greens did a small thing wrong but NAct did a much bigger thing wrong.

            Because… The. Greens. Did. Nothing. Wrong. They spent their money openly and as they were entitled to. NAct asset sales costs are $100m+ (wtf) but transparency is notably lacking about where that money will go, and OIA queries reveal extra undisclosed costs, (see karol’s link above). That’s the issue, not $200m is bigger than $70k.

      • Anne 6.2.2

        This seemed to be a beat up by Key and co 6 months or more ago.

        Yes, and I can recall Bill English around the same time accusing Labour and the Greens of cheating by signing up under-voting age teenagers – and others who were not entitled to sign for one reason or another. Of course there will be individuals who are not yet naturalised and therefore not eligible to sign the petition. Most don’t realise it, and – as anyone who has ever been collecting at flea markets etc. can tell you – it’s impossible to check out the history of each and every person who signs, including their age. That’s one of the jobs of the Electoral Commission anyway – to check the signatures for validity!

        I remember signing up a couple of young women (or so I thought) when the mother of one of them pointed out to me they were only 14. They looked about 18/19!

    • Zetetic 6.3

      The Greens spent $70k out of their leaders office budget, money that they would have just spent on something else – like polling or advisers – otherwise. This spending was within the rules. Labour didn’t spend any of its public funding on the CIR.

      So far, National has spent $23m on asset sales and they haven’t even sold any yet. there’s another hundred million budgeted, plus hundreds of millions in off-budget costs, and the permanent hundred million per year net increase in the deficit from the lost dividends.

      Here’s those numbers in full so you can see the difference –

    • mike 6.4

      Apparently about $70,000. A bargain.

      Here’s John Key moaning about the Green’s ‘hypocrisy’ since they can pay for this but “…told you they don’t have enough money for Mojo Mathers to operate properly in parliament.”

      Then Russell Norman points out that a) they never said that, b) they were fighting for the principle that they shouldn’t effectively be financially penalized for having an MP that needs disability support (they won), c) he wouldn’t call John Key a liar, but gee he does say a lot of stuff that he knows isn’t true, d) Key talks about hypocrisy over the Greens spending $70,000 on a petition on an issue important to all NZers, but refuses to disclose where exactly $120,000,000 asset sales related costs have gone.

    • Burt as far as Labour is concerned $0.00.

    • felixviper 6.6

      “how much tax payers money was spent “

      None, burt. Not one extra cent of tax was raised for such purpose.

  7. Ad 7

    I don’t even mind that it wont stop them. It’s the best non election-year initiative to get some of the 800,000 non voters engaged in civic contests since “damn the dam” Manapouri, and I wasn’t even born then!
    I hope it reawakens some previous Labour members to sign up for any leadership challenge involving members too.

    Congratulations to all the organisers, whatever group they belong to.

    First pre-Coalition test coming up: coordinated messages please, all year.

    • Another Viper 7.1

      @AD 7
      Co-ordinated messages with the Greens?

      Labour can’t co-ordinate its own message on the Assets Sales.

      That MP Chris Hipkins recently was making comment on the optimal timing of the sales!

      Who is the Labour Spokesperson for Asset Sales?

  8. LynWiper 8

    +1 Agree Ad. Also thanks Karol, Zetetic and Mike for sorting burt’s gripe with this issue. Very helpful.

  9. xtasy 9

    Well, this is all good for enabling the opposition parties opposed to the MOB to resume political debate and demand a referendum to be held on asset sales the government has already passed and turned into law.

    But what is actually possible, and what will a referendum now achieve, besides of reactivated strong political debate?

    Perhaps stop cracking the champagne corks and have a read of what the law says:


    There are only provisions for an INDICATIVE referendum to be held, which would NOT bind the government. It is unlikely that the government will back off from the asset sales, as the mixed owner ship bill has been enacted now, and as the government has already made substantial preparations and announcements for the first sale(s) to start early to mid this year.

    Key and consorts will simply ridicule this and frown upon the wider public’s views, and a propaganda battle will start, to “prove”, that not proceeding will mean fiscal and economic disaster, thus scaring many to perhaps rethink.

    But of course, this is a welcome chance, to hammer the message home to Key and NatACT, that they are passing law against the will of the majority of NZers.

    It will at least result in a great embarrassment.

    • Ad 9.1

      Lose the battle, win the war.
      We don’t have 1970s or 1980s activism any more, to win “on the streets”.
      But it will re-energise, and prepare us all to act like a coalition in waiting.
      Especially the political leadership of such a coalition.

      Let’s see who leads now.

  10. millsy 10

    The asset sales debate is a battle between the concepts of public/collective ownership, and the benefits of such going to the wider community (ie SOE dividends to schools and hospitals, reliable power supply, etc), and the the concept of individual shareholder ownership, and the benefits in the form of dividends to ‘mum and dad’ shareholders (with the non-share holders being told to screw themselves).

    This will be the defining date of 2013.

    Though, I am picking that while we will lose two of the power companies, the rest of the asset sales program will be postponed till after the 2014 election, by which we hope that Labour gets its act together.

  11. Murray Olsen 11

    The only way Labour could possibly have its act together after the 2014 election is if there is a high enough vote for Mana/Greens and the ACT/Nat lite component of Labour are hamstrung into insignificance. Labour will have to be pulled to the left, kicking and screaming and probably thinking of a coalition with National as a government of national salvation, to keep the “extremes” of both left and right at bay. It may sound unlikely, but who would have scoffed at predictions that a good part of the 1984 Labour front bench would leave to form ACT?
    I think we’ll see a cure for cancer before we see Labour collectively getting its act together.

  12. Alinsky 12

    Do you want to stop the sales or just whinge about them?

    We and the merchants we buy from all buy power everyday. That is huge leverage. If we organize, we can employ strategies that would make the sales impossible and/or unprofitable. Destroy the future value of the companies to be sold. No value; no buyers; no asset sales.

    We know this non-binding referendum will not stop the sales.

    If you are serious, ORGANIZE and use tactics to stop the sales, not just to try to embarrass a bunch of petty dictators who don’t give a stuff about your opinions.

    Did you not get the message from Collins, Bennett, etc., about how much they respect anybody’s opinion besides their own?

    • LynWiper 12.1


    • Tiresias 12.2

      A referendum will concentrate people’s minds and generate debate, and if Key & Co. get a sense that – especially in a run-up to a General Election – they have to stand against a powerful meme in the oposite direction it will concentrate their minds, too.

      However they have a lot of skin in the asset sales programme – if it doesn’t go through they’re either going to have to start making a lot of cuts or be left with some nasty-looking red ink in the books, so watch out for a carefully-crafted referendum question – perhaps something along the lines of “Do you think it better that the State should own commercial power companies or provide food, shelter, medical help and education for Tiny Tim?”

      There’s a better way of stopping the sales, as has been pointed out. A referendum would legitimise an Opposition promise to re-nationalise any assets sold in the interim should the vote go against the principle of the sale. Even the threat of such would blow a massive hole in any valuation.

      From Wikipedia:

      “During the 2008 financial crisis, Contact [Energy] decided to increase prices by up to 12% while doubling its directors’ fees. As a result, it lost more than 40,000 customers in six months – 10% of the total. Its profit was halved. Contact calls this the worst blow to its reputation in the company’s history.”

      A serious campaign to urge customers to shift business away from any sold-off Power Companies could also frighten away potential investors. However any such a campaign would need to have a serious, major promoter with clout and I can’t see Labour doing it. I can see the Greens doing it, tho’, and gaining a lot of kudos by the way – in fact continuing to grow to fill the vacuum on the Left left by Labour.

      (Declaration of interest – I have $50,000 coming off term deposit at the end of February in order to be buy Might River shares should they become available, unless common prudence persuades me it would not be a good investment.)

      Ps. I still own all the Contact Energy shares I purchased at the float in 1999 for $3.10@ – today worth $5.38 despite a board of pea-brained, overpaid directors.

      • Rogue Trooper 12.2.1

        thank you for your enlightening analyses.Night

      • Alinsky 12.2.2

        Make this a trans-party issue. There are plenty of independents and Nats who will switch power companies to block the sales. Ultimately, politicians can be counted on to disappoint you.

        If there is to be a buy-back, only buy back ONE power company. Then organize consumers to all shift to that ONE state owned company. That strengthens the one state owned company and damages ALL the privately owned ones, reducing the value of their shares.

        This need not be a Left/Right issue. Economically it is moronic to sell gold plated assets in order to borrow more money we can’t repay.

      • Tiresias 12.2.3

        Oh, and don’t forget the example of the poor Irish who twice (in 2001 and 2008) voted No in referenda called to approve EU treaties and were both times told by their ‘leaders’ to do it again and get it right which after suitable arm-twisting, obfustication and scare-mongering, they did.

      • Draco T Bastard 12.2.4

        However they have a lot of skin in the asset sales programme – if it doesn’t go through they’re either going to have to start making a lot of cuts or be left with some nasty-looking red ink in the books,

        Checked out the massive borrowing that this government has engaged in? Yeah, they’re not bothered about the red ink – they’re not the ones paying for it after all and they’re probably making money off of it. The sole purpose that this government has in selling our assets is to make themselves and their rich foreign mates richer at our expense.

        • Tiresias

          Two questionable statements of fact in one paragraph:

          “they’re not bothered about the red ink – ”

          Oh but they are – Bill English has hung his hat on getting back into surplus and their obvious failure to make any progress in that direction is going to be a massive millstone around this Government’s neck during the next General Election campaign. Moreover Governments clocking up the red in a recession, or to fend one off, is standard Keynsian economics generally more favoured by the Left than the Right.

          I have very little doubt that if English, Graeme Wheeler et al ‘explained’ that it was necessary for the Government to run a deficit in hard times no-one in Labour would argue counter to it – in fact they’d probably claim to have said so all along.

          Honestly I’m puzzled why the Government has taken this absolutist tack – apart from an attempt to appeal to the economically illiterate ‘middle-of-the-road’ voter who believes that a nation’s finances are the same as a family’s finances written large. But the asset-sales programme was always the Government’s ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card when it came to meeting this unnecessary pledge and now it’s hung up on it.

          “The sole purpose that this government has in selling our assets is to make themselves and their rich foreign mates richer at our expense.”

          No, that’s just a collateral benefit. While you and I might disagree with it, believing that the State has no business owning and running power-generation companies – or any other commercial operation – is as valid and unimpeachable a belief as is believing that a wafer of bread placed on your tongue is actually the flesh of some Jewish bloke who was nailed to a cross two-thousand years ago.

          Plus, Alinsky’s “economically it is moronic to sell gold plated assets in order to borrow more money we can’t repay.”

          The argument is that the proceeds of sale will obviate the need to borrow as much as we might otherwise need to. And consider – when I bought my Contact shares in 1999 the Government received a nice capital sum to either pay down borrowings and thus reduce the burden on repayments, re-invest in other projects with the potential to earn even more for the country, or to build schools, hospitals, roads or other socially desireable projects. And since I bought those shares the Government has taken income tax from the dividends plus GST from all the rest that I spent on goods and services in my local economy, so the state gained both capital from me, an income stream from me and a boost to the local economy.

          Tbe fact that the money the Government received from the sale was probably wasted and frittered away on non-productive projects comes down to the third-rate nature of our politicians and bureaucats, not the political principle itself which should be respected and understood even if, like me, you don’t agree with it.

          FWIW I’ve added my name to the anti-asset-sale petition and disagree with the sale of the power companies at least. But then, I’d go further than many on the Left including some of the commentators on this blog by arguing that electicity should be a utility of the commons sold at no more than cost – which hardly makes it a gold-plated asset.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Oh but they are – Bill English has hung his hat on getting back into surplus and their obvious failure to make any progress in that direction is going to be a massive millstone around this Government’s neck during the next General Election campaign.

            No they’re not even though they say that they are as the government being in surplus decreases profit. They know this but they don’t anyone else to know it.

            Moreover Governments clocking up the red in a recession, or to fend one off, is standard Keynsian economics generally more favoured by the Left than the Right.

            Two things:
            1.) Governments should never borrow and thus never go into the red
            2.) No matter what happens, as long as profit exists governments will run at a deficit

            I know the latter seems contradictory as NZ was running at a significant government surplus in the 2000s but I think you’ll find that that was offset by other governments running at an increased deficit.

            While you and I might disagree with it, believing that the State has no business owning and running power-generation companies – or any other commercial operation – is as valid and unimpeachable a belief…

            Tbe fact that the money the Government received from the sale was probably wasted and frittered away on non-productive projects comes down to the third-rate nature of our politicians and bureaucats, not the political principle itself which should be respected…

            Considering that selling assets has consistently made us worse off then no it shouldn’t. A persons beliefs should only ever be respected if they’re backed by reality and state assets sales aren’t backed by reality and neither is the idea that the private sector does it better.

      • karol 12.2.5

        I think the 2013 campaign around the referendum should be multi-pronged: communicating far and wide how damaging the sales will be; plus added campaigns as mentioned to undermine the sales; people shifting their power providers away from those being prepared for privatisation.

      • Daveosaurus 12.2.6

        watch out for a carefully-crafted referendum question

        The politicians aren’t going to get that chance. The question is (theoretically, at least) set by the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

        The biggest surprise in all of this is how invisible the petition has been. I’ve never seen people canvassing for signatures anyware. Compare this with the Family Fist child-abuse referendum which was hawked around constantly by its promoters – the local one of whom, after it initially failed, went around claiming that everyone had to re-sign it.

  13. karol 13

    A headlined Stuff article on the continued rising cost of liiving in 2013:

    Apart from other worries to do with the high cost of living many are likely to experience in 2013, the article includes the added problem of rising power prices as the powercos are prepared for privatisation:

    Article title: Higher cost of living expected: [Families fear a grim year- 2013]

    A survey by The Dominion Post paints a gloomy picture for many households: two-thirds of respondents said the cost of living is becoming too high. …

    But after a year in which electricity prices rose 4.4 per cent, power ranked as the number one burden, with 51 per cent saying household power bills hit them hardest in the pocket.

    Domestic Energy Users Network analyst Molly Melhuish said electricity and gas bills would keep growing because the five state-owned power companies were being primed for sale.

    Ever-rising electricity retail prices ensured ongoing profits would paint a rosier picture for potential buyers of state-owned power companies under the government's asset sales scheme.

    "For 2013, my crystal ball says electricity prices will keep going up and that's because the Government wants to sell assets and wants prices to keep rising."

    Yet wholesale prices should be falling because of a big electricity surplus, in turn pushing retail prices down, Mrs Melhuish said. …

    Labour MP Jacinda Ardern said the rising cost of living was a direct result of the National Government's failure to develop an economic plan.

    "This survey shows the Government's failure is hitting Kiwis in the pocket with increases in GST, increases in fuel tax and price rises as the Government prepares assets for sale – and that's going to get worse, not better.

    • Mary 13.1

      Ardern’s comments are so inane they almost support what she’s apparently opposing. When’s Labour going to start attacking the agenda? Answer: never. Why? Because Labour can’t guarantee it won’t itself do what Ardern’s complaining about. Sound familiar? That’s why Labour’s fucked.

  14. irascible 14

    Interesting to note that the Herald’s only comment was its Leader Article condemning the call for a referendum (not online as far as I can find) and the SST leader article also condemning the campaign as as a waste of time as Key will simply trample over the result and, with English’s conivance, simply proceed before the referendum is conducted. (also not online?).

    The argument seems to be that KeY campaigned on hocking off the family silver and won the election therefore any questioning of KeY’s competence on this issue, through a CIR, is a waste of resources and a further discrediting of CIR, the Labour Party and the Greens.

  15. Mary 15

    I like the typo in the post:

    “While a high proportion of New Zealanders still support john Key…”

    key doesn’t deserve his name to be written using capitals. john key suits him way better.

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