Not Yours To Sell

Written By: - Date published: 8:11 pm, July 11th, 2009 - 26 comments
Categories: privatisation, supercity - Tags: , ,

Labour MP Phil Twyford is launching a campaign around his bill to protect Auckland’s community assets.

Phil Twyford’s private members bill, the Local Government (Protection of Auckland Assets) Amendment Bill, was pulled from the ballot last week. It will force a referendum before any of Auckland’s public assets are sold off. Criticism from the right is that there are no plans to sell off assets, and if true, surely means they have no real reason not to vote for it.

On a related note, it’s fantastic to see more from Phil Twyford on Web 2.0 style campaigning, and a focus on grassroots campaigning within the community. Twyford is a real asset to the Labour Party with his experience in these areas, and it’s great to see them realise the advantages with the use of Red Alert.

One thing I have enjoyed seeing from Phil Twyford on Red Alert is that he is not scared of putting ideas out there for discussion, even when he isn’t necessarily advocating the idea as policy. A good example of that was his post on Demeny voting, the idea that parents would get to vote on behalf of their children until they are old enough to vote for themselves. Personally I would be 100% against the idea, but it was clear Twyford wasn’t advocating the idea. He was acknowledging the real issues around inter-generational theft (like stopping contributions to the superannuation fund), and advocating discussion on ideas to fix the problem.

One of the few benefits of being in opposition is that Labour should have plenty of time to build up infrastructure for when they are in government. A blog by MP’s (and hopefully in future cabinet ministers) for putting ideas out there and getting instant feedback would be a useful tool in government, and hopefully help to keep Labour listening and engaging with voters. The difficult part will be encouraging more MP’s, and more voters to use it.

26 comments on “Not Yours To Sell”

  1. mike 1

    “and hopefully help to keep Labour listening and engaging with voters”

    Hate to break it to you rocky but labours problem is that they don’t listen to voters – thats why they got burnt last election and going by the latest poll its not getting any better. How long has goff got?

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      No mike, Labour does listen voters (maybe not as much as I’d like) but, unfortunately, the voters listened to the lies National were pedaling about Labour not listening.

      • Lew 1.1.1


        So, your argument is that the electorate turned against Labour, not because they felt like Labour didn’t listen, but because they felt Labour did listen, except That Nice Mr Key told them Labour didn’t, and he must be right because he seems nice and he grew up in a state house?

        Congratulations, you’re a True Believer.


        • felix

          If you look again, Draco never said the voters felt Labour did listen.

          So no, that’s not his argument.

          • Lew

            Felix, it’s not quite so simple because he mixed his tenses (‘Labour does listen’ in the present and ‘voters listened to the lies’ in the past) when clearly referring to the same thing.


            • ghostwhowalks

              Those cancelled tax cuts from National?

              Yeah right that was because they were listening to voters ?

            • Lew

              GWW, I’m definitely not arguing National are listening perfectly to the voters. But they are seen to be.


            • felix

              Ah I see now. And mike started it.

              And yeah, National do seem to be pretty good at being seen to be listening, although as far as I can tell, they’re not.

              Maybe they’re just not listening to the same people I am.

            • the sprout

              yeah National and Rodney are totally listening to Aucklanders about the Supershity 🙂

            • Lew

              sprout, yeah. Hide taking point on the supercity is a smart move by Key; the Chinese wall has so far enabled National to escape much of the criticism. Not that it should, but it’s harder to make the criticism stick.

              Contrast the s59 repeal, which despite being Bradford’s member’s bill, Labour was still seen to be responsible – even before it was adopted by the government. It resonated with other aspects of the Clark government agenda. That’s what’s needed for the supercity – make it resonate with the things people canonically think of when they think ‘National’. Twyford is doing well leading that charge.


        • Draco T Bastard

          That’s a rather convoluted bit of logic Lew that introduces – stuff that just isn’t there. I certainly never said anything about the electorate feeling that Labour listened. I said that the electorate turned against Labour, at least partially, because of what National was saying about Labour not because of what Labour was saying. Communication only works if it’s two-way and the electorate needed to listen to Labour to know that they were listening.

          Where was I being uncritical of Labour? In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m quite critical of Labour. Critical enough not to vote for them at least.

          • Lew

            DtB, the problem was that you argued voters abandoned Labour, not because of things Labour did, but because of things National said. That stretches credulity, and is part of a wider pattern of blame-shifting and excuse-making exhibited by lefties who just feel like Labour was cheated. It wasn’t; it was beaten fair and square.


    • Stop being a troll mike. I think if anyone’s not listening to the voters it’s the NACT coalition. Nobody wanted the Supercity yet they rammed it through anyway, nobody wanted increased spending on private schools at the expense of public schools but it looks like that will be happening too! And lets not forget Rodney Hide and his plans for local governance that if he gets his way will include the wholesale privatization of waters and libraries!

      How’s that change feeling New Zealand?

      • the sprout 1.2.1

        i didnt want the tiaras and knighthoods either, but to be fair i don’t think i was even asked.

  2. the sprout 2

    rocky, i agree with your summation of Twyford – he is an effective campaigner and is providing a much neded injection of vitality and willingness to try new media to get the message out.

    this bill is smart too, concentrating on frustrating what seems like the right’s primary reason for gutting Auckland’s democratic governance. (God knows their reason can’t be because they’ve carefully costed it, or because they know their new ‘plan’ will work, or because there was such a great demand for such a radical change).

  3. Camryn 3

    Leaving aside the issue of asset sales and focusing on the referendum bit, I think his proposed bill is a bit lopsided. If referendums are required to sell assets then shouldn’t they also be required before making investments that will lead to assets being created?

    Generally, I think I’m just not a referendum type… I think representative democracy works well enough without having to mix in direct democracy, especially when it’s half hearted anyway (e.g. applying only to some issues as in this proposal, or being non-binding and therefore nearly pointless at the national level).

    Perhaps a better solution would be requiring a supermajority vote for any “serious decisions” (including, perhaps, decisions on what decisions are serious) would be a better way? I’m sure asset sales would clearly fall into the serious category because they can’t be easily reversed.

    • The trouble with’ representative democracy’ and local body assets is that there usually isnt any.
      A lot of assets are in holding companies which have their own directors including a few councillors. Thus when an offer comes along to sell then the directors make that decision not the elected councillors.
      Public companies usually have to meet stock exchange requirements about a shareholders vote if they want to sell major assets, why not local bodies.

    • felix 3.2

      If referendums are required to sell assets then shouldn’t they also be required before making investments that will lead to assets being created?

      I think what you’re really asking here is “Should the government own assets?”

      • Ron 3.2.1

        Or maybe the discussion should be about referenda as a way of making important government decisions.
        I’m not a fan myself because I don’t think our system is good enough at completely informing voters about the issues. So, actually, too many voter decisions are made out of ignorance.
        I think our parliamentary process is well set up to deal with that fact.
        In the end I don’t believe that – for individual decisions such as assett sales – that just because more people want it then it’s the right thing to do.

        • felix

          Exactly what I was trying to hint at. These are questions of an overarching philosophy of the level of government participation in the economy, the general direction in which the government wants to take the country – questions which are usually answered at elections, not on a case by case basis. A mandate for the general direction is sought by competing parties every three years, not every time an issue pops up.

          The trouble is we now have a government who, despite having been elected under a promise of “no asset sales in the first term”, appear to be readying Auckland’s public assets for sale with no such mandate.

          This represents, on the issue of public ownership, a direction 180 degrees opposite that signaled by the voters on election day.

          You can argue about the technicalities of the wording of the promise and how it leaves plenty of room for interpretation by not defining what constitutes an “asset” (or a “sale” for that matter) and that spending your whole first term setting up the shop is technically not selling anything, but I don’t think the voters of NZ will see it that way. No asset sales means no asset sales, and “not in the first term” means we’ll talk about it later.

          In this context, is it any wonder that the concept of government by referendum seems so appealing to so many?

  4. Mark Webster 4

    The point is also that Auckland has about a third of the population. when are Aucklanders going to stand up for Auckland? Otherwise it’s all over or New Zealand. If National can totally take Auckland …

  5. NZtony 5

    While John Key goes on

    Trips to Hawaia,
    Trips to Samoa, dancing
    Selling his cast on trademe, and talking about cycle lanes:

    Here is what happens to allot of people.

    “Dozens of people are suffering really badly. They need a lot of support to get through this sorry mess because they’ve got the financial worries and the loss of security. For some people there’s no hope.”

    Gray said local authorities and lawyers who charged huge fees shouldered much of the blame.

    “The result is they don’t have enough money to fix their homes and they’re just dying a slow and miserable death in their rotten, defective homes.”

    Many were once successful businesspeople who were struggling to cope with the stigma of mental illness. “We’ve got high-profile people in executive jobs who won’t get help because of the stigma of depression – they fear how that will impact on their future and their career,” said Gray.

    He knew of one “very well-known businessman” who had been hit particularly hard. “He’s saying ‘I’m tough, but this has just brought me to my knees’.”

    Gray wants the Government to put more effort into helping homeowners fix their properties and offer help to people who aren’t eligible to go to the tribunal or can’t afford litigation.

  6. This is one of those lines of attack that works well in opposition but has flip flop written all over it if Labour gets back into Government.

    Why stop at referenda for selling local body assets? Where was Labour’s enthusiasm for “democracy” when it came to buying back Air NZ or KiwiRail? Why not have referenda on tax rates? You can’t choose to be “democratic” only when it suits.

    At least Labour seems to have learned a little from Teflon John – it was of course their intention to form a super city that kicked this off (although I do accept that Hide’s approach and changes to the original concept have caused some but not all of the angst). Still, Labour has been very quiet about what it’s actually for, apart from a referendum.

  7. Zaphod Beeblebrox 7

    Absolutely correct- people in glass houses shouldn’t through stones. labour have a chequered history with privatisations.

    If, as looks likely, the Transition Authorty appointees force the new council to sell Watercare (which will then be able use whatever charging system it likes), flog off the port and airport and load up the rating system to property value, poor people will have every reason never to trust National and ACT again. This is why Twyford is doing this.

  8. Nick C 8

    Can someone please tell me why we need referenda before the council can sell assets, but not before the council can buy assets? Or is this just an ideological bill which makes it hard for government to get smaller and easy for government to get bigger?

  9. I do agree that Twyford is perhaps opening a bit of a “can of worms” with this Bill and whether it means Labour is a big fan of referendums after all when it comes to big decisions.

    One could argue that privatisation is a special case, considering public opinion is generally against it, yet politicians have often gone ahead regardless. Perhaps a super-majority for the sale or purchase of significant assets would make sense?

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