Trying to follow National policy is like playing that â€˜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 â€˜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 â€˜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.