One of the frequent criticisms of political journalism is that it is more concerned with the art or sport of politics – awarding politicians points for doing things that they judge to be good politics – than with the substance of their policies and how they handle issues. Case in point was John Armstrong’s piece:
“National’s strategy was simple. Act decisively. Deal with the problem in total in a day. Get it off the political agenda. Bury it, don’t just sweep it under the carpet. This meant making some decisions to simplify and thus expedite the payout by, for example, not worrying about such criteria as a depositor’s citizenship and tax residency. This will cost an extra $20 million.”
Armstrong frames that like it’s a good thing. But let’s put the same facts another way:
‘Questions over why every taxpayer is bailing out a small number of mostly rich investors (the average deposit in SCF was $45,000) out after they investing in a company that should never have received the government guarantee in the first place, have the potential to be politically damaging for National if the issue drags out. So, the Government ignored the rules of that guarantee and paid out all the depositors, including ineligible ones, at an additional the cost of $20 million’
That is an absolute scandal, an utter disregard for taxpayer. For purely political reasons, National just spent $20 million of our money.
It’s not the only fishy thing around SCF. We can argue till the cows come home over whether the whole bail-out was even legally required (Cactus Kate and others think not). We can argue about the giant rort that seems to have occurred with SCF bond buyers making more than a 40% return in as little as a day due to the Government’s decision to pay back SCF’s debt as well as its depositors. But, one thing is absolutely clear: this $20 million did not have to be spent.
National’s priority was to pay out its South Island supporters ( I read somewhere they’re worried they could lose Rangitata) and kill the issue. We’re being footed with the bill for National’s political expediency.
So, forgive me if I don’t congratulate Key and co for their crisis management skills.
Now, I’m no 3rd floor political strategist but if Labour ever gets their act together on this issue they might like stop with facetious claims that had National grown the economy faster SCF could have been saved and, instead, to ask why the guarantee was extended to SCF in April this year and why the Government went beyond the terms of the guarantee to the cost of $20 million.
In particular, they might like to look at section 6 of the Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme Act, bearing in mind that Bill English extended SCF’s guarantee on April 1:
Minister may give guarantee (1) The Minister may, on behalf of the Crown, give a guarantee in writing for a period that ends on or before 31 December 2011 in respect of any or all debt securities issued by an eligible entity if it appears to the Minister to be necessary or expedient in the public interest to do so.(2) The Minister may give the guarantee on any terms and conditions that the Minister thinks fit.
But then, I’m no 3rd floor strategist.