Phil Goff must be feeling slightly odd right now. He campaigned relentless on the ‘own our future’ message for six months and, suddenly, everyone’s talking about it – 3 months too late. Economic sovereignty is suddenly the hot issue with the vast majority of Kiwis opposed to more foreign ownership and asset sales. If an election were held today, there would be no way in hell that asset sales would be able to win a majority in the new Parliament (it still oughtn’t win a majority now if its opponents focus on Peter Dunne and his vulnerable Ohariu seat).
The Nats are in a spin: Key is desperately trying to upgrade English’s numbers on the fiscal impact of asset sales, which he said “is not our best guess – it’s just a guess”, to a “best estimate”. Strange best estimate: you sell parts of five differently sized companies over four years and somehow bring in precisely $1,500 million ($200 million over book value) each year for a nice round total of $6 billion, and the foregone dividend flow is a nice, even 3.3%, which bears no relation to the actual historical dividend flow from these companies. The actual best estimate of asset sales revenue is the one in the PREFU: $3.86 billion – but you can see why Key would want a number more than 50% higher than that, eh?
It’s time for that asset sales referendum petition. There’s still chatter about it happening but nothing definite. It’s hard to understand why – it would be a fantastic mobilising opportunity for political parties, unions, and other activist groups. And a chance for MPs to knock on doors with a 75% chance the person will be on the same side of the issue as them – not often they get that kind of chance to build bonds.
Could be they need a little help. Maybe you can help draft the question.
Here’s the constraints:
At Standard HQ, also known as The Kingslander, we’ve kicked it around a bit and come up with:
We the undersigned petition the House of Representatives that a referendum be held on the question: Should it be illegal for the government to sell or part sell any state-owned enterprise or any other publicly owned company unless it wins majority support for that sale in a referendum?
I’m sure you can improve on that…