Treasury papers reveal SOE sale list

Written By: - Date published: 7:51 am, August 25th, 2010 - 17 comments
Categories: privatisation - Tags:

Make no mistake: National is working on a programme of asset sales by stealth, where they force SOEs to pay the government special dividends (which it will probably use on tax cuts) and the SOEs pay for it by issuing bonds. The value of the public assets is privatised and we’re left with a shell.

What’s really interesting, though, is what is missing. Treasury admits that it is holding back 8 more papers on the topic of sell of government assets, including bonds issues, because they are part of work that is still “under consideration”. We have an idea of what is in one of these papers, it’s what got us doing these OIAs in the first place: detailed options, including ‘special dividends’/bond issues, that mean the government can sell public assets while appearing to retain them.

The cover letter from Treasury also tells us that two of the remaining papers are part of the work Treasury is doing on trying to understand why the public is so opposed to asset sales.

That tells us two things:

1) Treasury and the Government are totally disconnected from reality if they don’t understand why 80% of Kiwi oppose privatisation

2) they are preparing for an intense indoctrination programme to try to convince us that sales are good or, more likely, necessary for the fiscal stability of the government

At least now we’ll see it coming.

But I want you to take another look at the papers we do have. In particular, check out the slides.

What do you think the blanked out word on page 20 is?

“Agree broad classification of companies as [blanked out], growth, and infrastructure etc and focus companies on that end.”

I presume it’s the same word that is blanked out on pages 23, 24, and 26 (possibly, this is a different word).

It’s obviously some word classifying some of the SOEs (the last two slides with a word blanked out in the title list some SOEs). And it’s a word that the Government doesn’t want us to see.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the word is something that indicates they are top of the list for privatisation.

Get ready New Zealand, these companies are on the Govt’s secret list for sale in a second term:
Solid Energy
Kiwirail (I guess Key will have to forget his pledge never to sell it, again)
Public Trust

17 comments on “Treasury papers reveal SOE sale list”

  1. Pascal's bookie 1

    Isn’t this pretty clearly political, rather than policy, advice?

    I’ve never been a public servant, but I seem to remember being told that political advice was not their job.

    • innocent bystander 1.1

      No it’s not political advice. Treasury and CCMAU can provide free and frank policy advice to Government regarding its ownership interests either by Government request, regular monioring and reporting or as part of a broader work programme. If in their estimation changes to how Government manages its ownership interests includes driving SOEs harder in the interests of New Zealanders through the options outlined – this is still policy advice. Like it or not.

      Political advice refers to advice regarding winning or losing of elections etc…

      • felix 1.1.1


        The cover letter from Treasury also tells us that two of the remaining papers are part of the work Treasury is doing on trying to understand why the public is so opposed to asset sales.


        • innocent bystander

          Still policy advice, internal to Treasury, I’m afraid. The public are of course stakeholders as the ultimate ownsers of SOEs. Agencies need to take account of stakeholder concerns when formulating policy advice – or would you rather they didn’t?

          Public concerns and associated advice could include for instance:

          “The public will be concerned that if the owner of xxx SOE is no longer the state then prices may rise. Advice – put in place appropriate regulation and ensure contestability of supply to influence market prices.” None of that is political.


          • Pascal's bookie

            Fir enough.

            But if they were asked by a government a question like:

            Privatisation is really (80%) unpopular. How can we do it without it looking like privatisation?

            then would that question be one they should really answer, and would answers to such a question look like what these papers look like?

            • innocent bystander

              That’s not a question for the public service. A good public servant would say in answer something like “Minister we can advise you of options and their pros and cons for how private sector disciplines can be brought to bear on SOEs while retaining public ownership.” This is in line with the policy options outlined in the documents released under the OIA.

              The Government of course can at any time ask the public service to look at the pros and cons of privatisation. That is well within their right. But a good public servant would not in the public interest provide advice that is intended to deceive the public that they serve.

              The public service as part of their advice on the performance of SOEs could advise Government that, in some instances, privisation may be a viable option or the best option for government and taxpayers. That is within the grounds of free and frank advice. Like it or not. Conversely it could advise the opposite – that public ownership is better.

              Funnily enough many in the public service try to serve the public to the best of their abilities and with integrity. Unfortunately the public service cannot freely engage in public discussions to the degree politicians, the press, or the public can. Hence why politicians and the public often like to blame “bureaucrats.” Easy game when someone can’t readily talk back.

              • innocent bystander

                actually a good public servant would probably say something like “Minister we can advise you of the pros and cons of privisation but your political advisors will need to advise you on how to sell privisation to the public. We can however provide you with options that would retain public ownserhip but exert a greater degree of private sector discipline on SOEs to improve their performance.”

  2. swimmer 2

    This list sounds about right 🙁

  3. David Lloyd 3

    Asset sales will go ahead in National’s next term, this inevitable. NZ Post and TVNZ should be sold as both shadows of their former selves. Energy companies should not be sold, I believe they should be renationalised. Aside from Landcorp and Solid Energy the rest of the list is pretty uninspiring and will not bring much cash to the coffers.


    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Kordia, our state owned broadcaster, is uninspiring?

      None of those should be sold and we need to be renationalising a number of the ones that were sold in the 1980s/1990s.

      • David Lloyd 3.1.1

        Kordia OK. TVNZ is a sad joke, content on both channels is abysmal. I believe the dross that is screened is generally unwatchable and instantly forgettable, the only saving grace is most of it is a great cure for insomnia.


  4. KJT 4

    Just what we need. More burglary.

    Labour should, but they won’t. Just say straight out they will re Nationalise as they see fit without compensation.
    That would prevent asset sales.

    Banking and finance should be removed from the private sector too as they have proved they cannot do it properly.

  5. NickS 5

    Hah, so instead of realising the competition created by splitting up the state power company hasn’t worked, as the market is to damn small to maintain multiple power companies. National are going to privatise them, and likely spin it as creating more “competition”, where instead the actual outcomes will likely be rather large increases in power, and decreases in customer service, maintenance and investment.

    And why the hell are they selling of the Public Trust? Is it an attempt at modern performance art, given they don’t seem to trust the public?…

  6. Locus 6


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