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No legal power for looters’ bonus

Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, July 31st, 2012 - 56 comments
Categories: privatisation - Tags:

I missed this last week: Key is now conceding that he doesn’t have legal authority to give away shares for free in a looters’ bonus. In June, Key and English arrogantly dismissed questions from Russel Norman on the legal authority to give away hundreds of millions of dollars worth of shares to the looters. Last week, Key sheepishly admitted that Norman is right.

Here’s what Key said on June 20th:

Dr Russel Norman: When will he be seeking legal authority from Parliament to spend money in the form of a share give-away?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member wants to go to the Budget, he will see quite clearly laid out the Government’s programme, the anticipated return that the Crown will get, and the costs likely to be associated. That gives the Government, from everything that I can see, the authority.

Then, Bill English answered a written question on June 27th:

Dr Russel Norman to the Minister of Finance(27 Jun 2012): Has his office received advice on the legislative authority to gift Crown-owned shares in mixed ownership model companies to other shareholders in those companies as part of a shareholder loyalty scheme; if so, on what dates?

Hon Bill English (Minister of Finance) replied: On 20 June 2012 the member asked Oral Question Number 1 to the Prime Minister regarding what the member described as “a so-called ‘bonus scheme’ for people who buy shares” as part of the Government share offers. Later that day my office received advice confirming that many of the assertions in the member’s questions to the Prime Minister, and in the member’s press release of the same day, were incorrect.

Here’s what happened on July 24th:

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the share give-away as part of his asset sales programme that “If the member wants to go to the Budget, he will see quite clearly laid out the Government’s programme, the anticipated return that the Crown will get, and the costs likely to be associated”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : The words before the quote are “the members”, but I stand by my statement, which I made on 20 June. The Budget does set out the returns and costs from the mixed-ownership programme. Ministers have since made the decision in principle to offer a loyalty bonus. We are taking advice on how to treat this in the Government’s books—for example, whether we need to make a separate appropriation for it.

Dr Russel Norman: So is the Prime Minister confirming that in his answer to that question, when he referred to the costs likely to be associated with the asset sale programme, he was not accounting for the cost of the share give-away?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would reject the term “give-away”. In terms of the loyalty bonus, Treasury is working out exactly where that might be accounted. Overall, what it has said is that, for the total costs, the best estimates are about 2 percent of the proceeds, but that includes a lot of other factors. It will come back to us with advice on how it should be appropriated.

So….. Norman was right – National has not got Parliamentary authority to give away these shares. The looters’ bonus would be illegal without a new law and Norman made chumps of both Key English.


56 comments on “No legal power for looters’ bonus”

  1. CnrJoe 1

    Worst. Govt. Ever.

    • gareth 1.1

      Um no, I’d say the rogernomics government was much worse…. as it currently stands anyway…

    • Georgecom 1.2

      I can remeber attending a young nat AGM some years ago as an observer (meeting was open to anyone to attend). Young Nats kept nominating themselves for positions and putting it to the vote without a seconder. Took a leftie in attendance to point out to them some basic protocols of how to conduct an election. Seems like little has changed regarding the Nats understanding of process.

  2. Dv 2

    What would happen if the Nacts just ignored that they didn’t have legal authority for the bonus shares and went ahead any way

    • Lanthanide 2.1

      They’d be in trouble.

      But nothing that a retroactive law change couldn’t fix, or is more likely the case, they’ll promise the shares to come in 2014-2015 and then as part of the 2013 budget they’ll put in the law to make this legal.

  3. Bill 3

    Am I missing something? I can’t see where it is lack of authority is conceded. Closest I can see is what I would call an accountng detail ie how it should be ‘put through the books’.

    • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1

      How did they do it in Queensland ?- are we still catching up with Australia in how to write a budget !

    • bad12 3.2

      ”Ministers have since made the decision in principle to offer a loyalty bonus, We are taking advice in how to treat this in the Government books -for example, whether we need to make a separate appropriation for it”, unquote.

      To ”spend” money the Government must first ”appropriate” it which of course as you rightly point out is in effect to simply account for where that money will come from,

      I havn’t got the relevant Legislation in front of me, but, am pretty sure that if it aint been ‘appropriated’ by the Government in either the budget or other Legislation then the Government cannot legally spend it,

      Slippery is conceding this point to Russell Norman where He says that ”Treasury is working out exactly where that might be accounted.”

      And, ”It (Treasury), will come back to us with advice on how it should be appropriated”, the appropriation bit is gaining the legitimacy to spend the money,

      Me thinks Russell jumped the gun a little here,if He had of waited a bit longer a rather large spanner might have been made of such specially if the loyalty shares had of been given to the looters without there being an appropriation for them from the Parliament…

      • mickysavage 3.2.1

        I think it is section 4 Public Finance Act 1989.

        “Expenses or capital expenditure must not be incurred unless in accordance with appropriation or statutory authority
        (1)  The Crown or an Office of Parliament must not incur expenses or capital expenditure, except as expressly authorised by an appropriation, or other authority, by or under an Act. ”

      • Lanthanide 3.2.2

        “Me thinks Russell jumped the gun a little here,if He had of waited a bit longer a rather large spanner might have been made of such specially if the loyalty shares had of been given to the looters without there being an appropriation for them from the Parliament…”

        Doubtful. The treasury etc wonks would have picked it up eventually. If they’d picked it up, it could have been quite hush hush with the government passing the required legislation and pretending nothing was the matter. This way, Norman got them to admit publicly that they’d dropped the ball.

  4. “The looters’ bonus would be illegal without a new law and Norman made chumps of both Key English.”

    Key and English.

    You’re welcome 

  5. ad 5

    Great post Eddie. Dogged work from Norman.

  6. Wayne 6

    The whole style of calling the incentive a “looters bonus” is wrong. I know you dont like the asset sale process, but to call large numbers of your fellow New Zealanders “looters” simply because they will buy relatively small parcels of shares in the partial float is morally wrong. The issues do not require you to characterise your fellow citizens this way. It might appeal to the people who deeply oppose the sales but it is hardly likely to appeal to people for whom it is not the most pressing issue. And there must be many of these. Polls say around 75% oppose sales but the government still has collectively nearly 50% support, so there is the ambuiguity of the issue.

    • Kotahi Tāne Huna 6.1

      Yes, please don’t hurt the greedy unprincipled Quisling’s feelings.

    • Simon 6.2

      There is no reason to believe that ‘large numbers’ of New Zealand citizens will be able to buy shares… and looting does seem quite apt, these assets have been built up over a long period of time on the backs of all tax paying New Zealanders (including beneficiaries etc) and are now being transferred to those with cash for personal rather than communal benefit.

    • lprent 6.3

      The whole style of calling the incentive a “looters bonus” is wrong.

      Why not? It seems perfectly descriptive of the process to me. The incentive only applies if you’re able to purchase shares.

      A small proportion of people in NZ will be financially able to able to cough up for a $1000 block of shares. Even fewer will be able to cough up across all of the proposed assets sales. So on top of any dividend and capital gains they get from a minimal risk investment, they will also get a special capital bonus to buy them and hold them for a short period.

      The purported reason that the assets are being sold is to pay for the deficit. Much of the deficit was caused by the taxcuts that in nett benefited almost exclusively those same relatively wealthy people who are going to be able to buy the shares and get the bonus.

      However everyone in NZ actually paid for the value of those assets as both taxpayers and/or customers. In effect the government is doing a wealth transfer from those with the least means (but who have a stake in the state) to those with the most means.

      So effectively the looters with excess cash are being paid a bonus for their looting. Personally I’d be looking for a quick courts-martial, a wall and a firing squad for them.

      Polls say around 75% oppose sales but the government still has collectively nearly 50% support, so there is the ambuiguity of the issue.

      Support for a particular party is not for any one policy, it is usually for a range of policies (and frequently against other parties). It seems rather ludicrous that you’d try to equate one point with the other. People will quite happily oppose a particular government policy while voting them into power. Anyone who knows much about politics is aware of that – surely?

      • Fortran 6.3.1

        The Reserve Bank has said, in its report a short while ago, that New Zealanders – Mums and Dads have $114 billion currently invested in Bank Term Deposits.
        Perhaps the long term return in the SOE partial sales is a better investment, currently about 3.75% for 12 months, than in the Ausssie Banks.

        • Colonial Viper

          So let’s take public assets which earn good coin for the tax payer, and turn them into private assets which earn good coin for those with excess investment cash on tap?

          Great plan, John Key and his bankster mates would approve.

    • Draco T Bastard 6.4

      I know you dont like the asset sale process, but to call large numbers of your fellow New Zealanders “looters” simply because they will buy relatively small parcels of shares in the partial float is morally wrong.

      No it’s not, it’s perfectly accurate.

  7. tracey 7

    Wayne, do you mean like saying you are selling to ” mums and dads” is also wrong?

  8. Wayne 8

    Well, I would not call my fellow New Zealanders “quislings” or “traitors” on an issue that reasonable people can disagree on, and given the election result this is surely in that category – notwithstanding the strong feelings on the issue.

    • Wayne, you seemed to have forgotten that the writers of the Standard are horrible people. At least as horrible as those they decry. 

      Once you realise this you’ll sleep better, your skin will clear up and your hair will regain that cherished lustre lost after so many treatments.

      [lprent: Most people are ‘horrible’ in that they tend to be more interested in their own interests than those of others.

      In my experience some try to conceal it by acting like pious gits and masking their essential ugliness under a mask of manners. The more that they insist on such manners, the uglier that you find their actual motivations are when you look under the surface. In extreme cases of such hypocrisy, I tend to just label them with their true name “National party supporters” 😈

      I have to say that Wayne attracted my attention earlier with a pious plea to manners that was worthy of Farrar, early Pete George, and even your earlier self. If people hang around here for any length of time, the commentary on their comments tends to beat such saccharine hypocrisy out. You are a good case in point…

      But Wayne has had less than 10 comments so far. He will probably get the point at some point and we will see his true horribleness. Hopefully it will be somewhat more interesting and better informed. ]

      • Te Reo Putake 8.1.1

        I seem to recall statements like that are regarded as attempts at self martyrdom, TC. Not to mention how far from the truth you are, anyway. Why don’t you save the abuse for ranting over at KB. Isn’t that where you usually whine about how horrible the authors and commenters at the Standard are?

        • Pukeko

          Call the boys cause the gangs all here…… the gang to entertain you.

          • Te Reo Putake

            Nice casual racism, TC. You’re all (cl)ass.

            [lprent: Wasn’t TC unless he made a serious effort to shift routes. ]

            • TheContrarian

              A) I very rarely comment at Kiwiblog

              B) Ummm, casual racism? Please identify my casual racism. 

              • Te Reo Putake

                Ok, LP reckons the racist may not be you, TC. If that’s the case, I withdraw. But if you are interested in further reading on the misue of te reo, marty mars explains it pretty well.
                Very rarely comment on KB? You’re nudging 200 comments in the short time you’ve existed under this (mis)handle, pal. That’s pretty much a daily post on average. By the way, I still haven’t forgotten this pathetic whinge of yours on KB:
                “The Standard is a hideous place, filled with vacuous scumbags who just want to act like dictators. Worthless cretins”
                Of course, you may have been talking about yourself, I suppose.

                • Yeah but if you look at what I comment in you’ll see The Standard barely ranks a mention – but that’s alright, you can pad your opinion that I am some sort of serious KB poster in anyway you like buddy.

                  “LP reckons the racist may not be you”
                  May not? it isn’t and you have nothing to back it up with.

                  • Te Reo Putake

                    It’s not my opinion that you are a serious KB poster (whatever that may be). You are a figure of fun there, as well as here, so serious is definitely not the right word for your contributions. I simply pointed out you were wrong to say you rarely post there, because that is not the fact, according to time and DPF. You post regularly, not rarely.
                    ““LP reckons the racist may not be you”
                    May not? it isn’t and you have nothing to back it up with.”
                    Jeez, get over yourself. LP pointed out that it didn’t appear to be you and I accepted that. You are are now categorically saying it isn’t you and I accept that, too. I don’t need to ‘back it up’ you doofus.

                    • Compared to posting here I post rarely at KB and don’t have as much interest in commenting on KB unless something specifically piques my interest. I dislike the way the comments section operates, the conversations don’t flow very well over there, making it hard to follow a conversation.

                      I am far far more active on wiki’s than I am at any blog.

                      “I don’t need to ‘back it up’ you doofus.”
                      No, you don’t now – but if you wanted to maintain that I was the poster in question you would. But yes, as you have accepted it weren’t me then…yeah.

                    • Te Reo Putake

                      Cheers, cuddles all round then!

                    • Cuddles are good, but please refrain from tugging at my fur.

                • Pukeko

                  “You know that name I’ve been calling the Honourable Mr Winston Peters, Member of Parliament for Tauranga; Winnie Te Pukeko? Well, I’m afraid I made a big mistake and I have to apologise to all the pukeko out there; even the ones trying to scratch up our kumara scandals.

                  In the beginning they were quite flattered because the upright and most honourable Mr Peters is a sort of a handsome dude in his dark blue double-breasted suits eh. Ahakoa, he might be a bit on the short side to us, but to the pukeko he looks very tall and imposing. Just what the pukeko would like to be eh. And he makes a lot of noise too. So they adopted him on my recommendation.

                  But not long ago the Pukeko Council of Elders had a big hui, and high on the agenda was a review of the performance of their man on Te Hill, the most honourable Mr W. Peters. They talked far into the night but it did not take long before they became very agitated indeed.

                  You see, the kaupapa of Te Whanau Pukeko is kaupapa Maori. Tuturu Maori. But the unanimous opinion of the reporters from the Pukeko Gallery at Parliament was that their honourable Mr W.Peters didn’t even believe in kaupapa Maori, let alone kaupapa Pukeko. He was seen on TVNZ openly proclaiming himself to be an avowed “individualist”, and opposed to “tribalism” (or his version of it). He was seen to oppose every initiative to restore Mana Pukeko. He had even called members of the Pukeko Council of Elders “sickly black liberals”.

                  Long into the night they discussed what they could do about their predicament. There were some who called for compassion; and some who called for blood. There were some who said that maybe they could send him on a total immersion course in Te Reo Pukeko and mend his ways; there were some who said he should be totally immersed, kua mutu. There were some who wanted to send a taua to Te Upoko O Te Ika to bring back te upoko a Pita. No reira, the cooler and wiser heads eventually prevailed, and as dawn broke over the swamp, and the time came for all good Pukeko to once again face the harsh reality of life in Te Ao Freemarket, they made a decision.

                  Mr W.Peters was to be banished from the whanau, and would no longer be permitted to bear the honourable name of Te Pukeko. Ae, and as Te Whanau Pukeko bear the red mark of shame on their foreheads for stealing Tawhaki’s kaimoana, so they decided to give W.Peters his mark to bear forever as a sign of his faithlessness.

                  They have decreed that from henceforth he will be known throughout Te Whanau Pukeko as “Peacock Peters”.

                  Ka aroha!”

                  [lprent: You appear to be targeting a commentator and using a parody handle of their name. Too confusing. I have renamed you and added your old handle to auto-spam. So you are now a swamp hen. ]

      • McFlock 8.1.2

        We’re horrible? Awwwww – I guess an apology is in order…

        • TheContrarian

          No need to apologise, McFlock. We are all horrible people.
          Aside from me – I am right bastard but at least I am awesome and my grandma says I am the handsomest man in Wellington.

          • Pascal's bookie

            Your grandmother sux.

            • TheContrarian

              Insulting someones grandmother? You’re all class PB, all class.

              • Pascal's bookie

                Yeah well, my grandmother always said that ‘Civility is just the last ditch bullshit hides in when the guns of truth start pounding.’

                She was a hardarse like that. She also laughed at that light brigade poem, Reckoned, rightly enough, that “If you charge emplaced cannon with light horse, you get what you fucking deserve”. Which I keep meaning to get made up as one of those twee needle point picture thingies. Would look good in the hallway I think.

            • McFlock


          • mike e

            Conyra being reasonable and having a grandma who thinks your the handsomest man in Wellington,she must be completely blind or you must be Peter Dunne.

    • bad12 8.2

      Your making one hell of an assumption if you think i for one am ‘reasonable people’, 27 odd years of Neo-Liberal bullshit has left me far far from being reasonable…

  9. Wayne 9

    So if you are not reasonable, but don’t get your own way, what do you do next. For instance when your fellow New Zealanders buy the shares what do you do. You could threaten to nationalise, but that does not look likely from Labour.

    After all each Government gets to make changes and quite a few of them stick. One of the tests of a successful govt is how many of their policies becomes an accepted part of how things are. For instance Labour could not get elected in the UK until they worked out which parts of Thatchers reforms they should accept. Just as National did prior to 2008, in relation to the Clark govt.

    In any event you can be passionate about your policy and views without calling your fellow New Zealanders, looters, quislings or traitors.

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      They’re not “fellow New Zealanders” they are “traitors working for foreign investors and the parasitic investment banking cartel living within our own walls”.

    • bad12 9.2

      Umm after 2 seconds of thought, my answer (being unreasonable), would be to inform you that your a wanker and propose to myself to ignore from now on any of the utter shit you write as a comment…

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