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National’s ‘whack-a-mole’ game

Written By: - Date published: 1:44 pm, April 14th, 2008 - 21 comments
Categories: assets, national, slippery - Tags: , ,


Trying to follow National policy is like playing that ‘whack-a-mole’ game. Up pops John Key or Bill English or a spokesperson, and they make a clear statement of policy but just as you turn your attention to it, that position disappears and they pop up somewhere else with a contradictory statement on the same policy. You don’t know where National will be on an issue from one moment to the next.

Take assets. When Key was National’s Finance spokesman he was all for selling off state assets and allowing more foreign control of strategic assets. Then the issue disappeared. Then English said National had ‘for some time’ been pro-partial privatisation and would use the proceeds to pay for tax cuts, and National talked about future state assets (new schools, for example) being built and owned by the private sector. Then National’s David Carter said Landcorp would be sold. Then Key ummed and ahhed about Auckland Airport saying he was against it falling under foreign control but opposing the Government’s decision to block foreign control. English told us that if the Government buys back the railways, National will sell them again. Now, Key tells us that assets sales are off the table completely ‘in the first term‘ of a National government, not because he doesn’t want to sell them but because kiwis oppose flogging off our assets.

But even that isn’t the end of the story. National still plans to sell part of TVNZ. It also seems that National might be planning to have SOEs issue ‘infrastructure bonds‘ and pay the capital raised to the Government. In typical slippery style, that wouldn’t technically be selling the SOEs. The Government would get cash from private investors and future profits from the SOEs would go to those investors but as returns on bonds, rather than dividends.

Stay tuned for National’s next assets policy, due out sometime next week.

21 comments on “National’s ‘whack-a-mole’ game”

  1. Steve Pierson 1

    I wonder if Key talked to English, or anyone, before ruling out asset sales

  2. James Kearney 2

    Probably Kevin Taylor. I heard it was Taylor who eventually persuaded Key to front to the media and rule out having Roger Douglas in cabinet.

  3. It would be interesting to see a rationale analysis of the pros and con’s of state & private ‘strategic’ asset sales rather than the knee-jerk poll driven xenophobia being exhibited by most of the political players but especially NZF,Greens & Labour and the me tooism being offered by National.

  4. insider 4

    Hell, Michael Cullen defining what is and isn;t strategic would be a nice start

  5. Matthew Pilott 5

    mawgxxxxiv – interesting that a desire to keep asstes NZ-owned is now considered a knee-jerk reaction. Isn’t saying that a knee-jerk reaction in of itself? You’re dismissing, out of hand, any rationale the public may have for keeping assets NZ-owned and branding it xenophobia. That’s more of a knee-jerk because it illustrates a weak underlying assumption.

    Those who oppose sales have many reasons to do so, the history of the subject notwithstanding!

  6. Steve Pierson 6

    maw… explain why selling the assets would be good for New Zealand. That’s the only test that needs to be applied.

  7. gobsmacked 7

    Well, there must be an awful lot of knee-jerk poll-driven xenophobes in Australia, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Spain etc, etc.

    One of the great ironies here is that the people claiming that a desire for sovereignty and accountability = “xenophobia” are themselves apparently quite uninterested in how them funny foreigners run their countries.

    Canada’s right-wing government vetoed a foreign bid for a strategic asset last Friday – the day our government did the same. There are countless other examples overseas, if you’re not too xenophobic to read foreign media and learn about them.

  8. gobsmacked 8

    And just FYI:

    A statement from the Conservative government of Canada:


    Sound familiar?

  9. Steve Pierson 9

    thanks for the link gobsmacked. kind of puts the rightwing claims aobut nz being extreme and scaring off investors to rest, don’t it?

  10. Monty 10

    I just think you guys are pissed because National have a policy which neutralises what labour were hoping was going to be an attack weapon. Afterall Labour have spent 18 years saying asset sales are bad – but never really providing a thorough rationale and arguement as to why they are bad – but have rather relied upon fuzzy soundbites such as “not in the NZs Interest” and “bad for NZ” and “selling the family silver”.

    I was pleased to see Devious Michael acknowledge that National will sell Assets in their second term. I take this to mean that Cullen now realises all is lost and that National will be in Government for at least the next two terms.

  11. My understanding is that the Overseas Investment Office recommended approving the sale of what is private property. Assuming the OIO carried out a professional, thorough and extensive analysis of the proposed sale it seems hard to see why the government rejected it, apart from an appeal to Kiwi xenophobia.

    In NZ we rely heavily on money from overseas investors: all the government is doing is increasing the risk and therefore the cost of that money for short term political gain. By signaling no change under a National led government next term Key is exacerbating the situation. He should be exhibiting more courageous leadership.

  12. Matthew Pilott 12

    Monty – I think you’re just pissed because Key is so weak he won’t even stickk to ONE core conservative policy. What has the Labour Lite Kid got left to swallow? Honestly, tell me!

    See, you’re just looking at it from a curiousyl myopic and cynical point of view. From what I see, come 2009: whoever is in power, they won’t be selling state assets. Given that’s a good thing, in my mind, er, why would I be pissed?

    We’re not all as bitter and cynical, I’m happy to say.

  13. Monty 13

    I certainly am not pissed – National are sitting around 50% and Labour are sitting around 35%. Key is doing what he needs to do to win – taking the contentious issues off the agenda is smart politics. Then it can focus the electorate on the matters that count – such as personal responsibility vs nanny state intervention.

    The only thing I am pissed about is that the economy is tanking thanks to Devious Cullen’s mismanagement of the economy – the lost opportunities and the way he has used the middle classes to fund his social programmes

    Captcha “Government Dummy”

  14. Robinsod 14

    Devious Michael???

    Monty that’s as silly as Burt’s lame attempts to get “retrospective validation” to catch as a meme. I love you righties with your hamfisted attempts at spin. Don’t give up your day job bro…

  15. Dan 15

    The poor old Nats! Last election it was the hollow men who were unmasked, and cost them the election. This year the threat is from within. In trying to cover the centre ground, the Nats have allowed in a mole in from the left who whispers leftie ideals to John Key who heads out to the Media before his minders can gag him. It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers all over again. How can you tell a leftie from a Nat when they all look the same!

  16. Matthew Pilott 16

    The economy is tanking because of (*buzzes and squeaks ensue*). Yes monty, that’s it. Tell me, why has it been so good for the past few years? Some accident perhaps?

    Now tell my why so many tories complain that Labour’s policies constitute ‘middle class welfare’, and then go on to complain that the middle classes are oppressed under Labour. You guys are as incoherent as Key in the spotlight.

    Monty: Key is doing what he needs to do to win – taking the contentious issues off the agenda is smart politics.

    Translation: Key is abandoning the core principles that have guided his party for decades in order to gain power. And you say Labour is desperate – at least they have some spine and principle, unlike the pansies on National’s front bench that are too scared to admit to the public the truth behind their policies.

    I guess here are always people stupid enough to fall for this type of inoculation, but you’ll see the public waking up closer to election time.

  17. mike 17

    “Key is abandoning the core principles that have guided his party for decades in order to gain power”

    Matt, so offering tax cuts in election year that go against Labours core principles but because you are behind in the polls is Ok in your books is it?

  18. Ari 18

    While National are sitting at close to 50%, they’re far from secure. They’ve got about three extra seats max from there with their good old buddies Act and United Future/Peter Dunne. Everyone else are much more likely to be friendly with Labour. The election is very much anyone’s game at this point, with the balance of power hanging on United Future’s vote, and even small changes of opinion making huge waves.

    But honestly, I don’t really care about which Party wins- I care about the policies they’re likely to implement, and it scares me rather badly that National is actually managing to maintain such a lead with next to no policy of its own, purely through criticism of the current government. It’s much easier to criticise than to create, and all of National’s “major” policy announcements have been tired old saws or poorly thought out kneejerks.

    It would be nice to actually see something from them with substance given that they’re polling highest at the moment, but they seem to think that they can win the election without announcing any policy at all, which isn’t going to work for much longer.

  19. Dan 19

    You guys are too kind to the right. The momentum started a month or two ago. Take away the scandalous bias of the media and the unwillingness of commentators and bloggers to state the obvious, but the Nats without Key are history, and who would back Key now?
    Time for a change to Key who changes his mind according to the last piece of advice he was given?? Time for a change to privatisation, bulkfunding, increased doctors fees, $20 tax refund?
    When I skim read through some of the blogs of the right, I am absolutely certain that Clark and Cullen and all offer a far better future for New Zealand than the hollow men of English and Lockwood.

  20. Matthew Pilott 20

    Mike, Labour’s core principles do not involve increasing the proportion of tax taken from the public – show me where you think you’ve seen that.

    Then, contrast it with National’s prior policies on reviving ANZUS, reduction of government interaction in the market, diminishing influence of welfare systems, and so on.

    I will only be comfortable with tax cuts if they are from money deemed to be surplus to government requirements – I’m not sure that standard has been delivered yet – but Labour continues to do much in line with what I’d call core principles.

    Can you say National is doing anything in kind?

  21. gobsmacked 21

    About those “core principles” (Mike): another day, another flip-flop:


    Don who?

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