Where are the Greens and Labour on the South Canterbury Finance issue? Just looking at the sheer politics of the situation, this is something they should be all over. For Labour, this plays right into their ‘for the many, not the few’ theme (well, nominal theme). For the Greens, this is an example of the failure of unchecked international capitalism.
Incredibly, both parties snookered themselves in the opening move and have frozen up since.
The Greens’ Russel Norman said on Monday that the government should take a partial stake in SCF to prevent it collapsing. Which wold have been stupid, given what we already knew about how badly the company was being run. Buying out SCF entirely and putting it in Kiwibank’s hands might have been one thing, but being a partial shareholder in SCF would have been dumb.
Labour’s Phil Goff chose to use the SCF bailout on Tuesday to blame National for not making the economy recover faster. It was always a dumb and implausible angle. There’s no run in that line, it was never going to roll into a series of strikes on National, and it just doesn’t sound like something Goff would have genuinely believed. It sounded reactionary and opportunistic. And by trying to blame National’s economic handling, Labour has effectively said it absolves all the other players from blame.
Labour and the Greens should have started with ‘this is an enormous amount of taxpayer money. The Government needs to undertake an official investigation into how things were allowed to get into this position’. That’s a holding line while you work out the rest – the questions about why English extended the guarantee to SCF in April of this year, while his Treasury failed to kick SCF out of the scheme when it was in breach of the rules, how a few richlisters made millions off the bailout.
It’s not too late to ask these questions. And not only should they bloody well be asked in the interests of good government but any political party that wants to be the next government should be asking them.
Make no mistake, there is enormous public anger about the way the government could magic up $1.7 billion to help out its rich mates, when at the same time pleading poverty when cutting our vital public services. And there’s a lot of anger among media figures too – this is one of the few chances for Labour to get the media onside, rather than trying to bypass it.
The stage is set, the mood is perfect for being whipped into a storm of anti-National feeling. There are plenty of National voters who could be turned over this issue if Labour and Greens challenge both National’s management and the economic system underlying this disaster.
See, this is a great chance not just to make political attacks but to attack the system itself to ask why these things always end up with we (‘the many’) bailing-out the already rich (‘the few’).
With a little inspiration, Labour could argue that this shows the finance company system is broken and New Zealanders need somewhere safe to invest their money. Then, Goff could announce a policy for a Kiwi Future Fund, a publicly-owned investment vehicle that would buy New Zealand assets to keep them in Kiwi hands and give us the cpaital we need to develop, people could invest in the fund through Kiwisaver, Kiwibank, the Cullen Fund could put money in too. At a stroke, Labour will have seized the political agenda and left National looking like the party of bail-outs for its rich mates.
Will we see any of this? Or will all we hear be the silence of lambs who seem, against all logic resigned, to slaughter next year?
And don’t get me started about the pathetic response to Maurice Williamson calling Kiwis racist and the medical technicians’ strike. The first should be used to hound Williamson into the ground but all we got was a limp presser and the story didn’t even make the evening news. In the second, Labour should be laying the blame squarely at National’s feet – hell, if a sick woman in a hospital ward can do it on national TV, so can Labour.