What’s National’s real assets policy?

Written By: - Date published: 10:23 am, June 3rd, 2008 - 18 comments
Categories: assets, john key, rumour, slippery - Tags:

Isn’t this the one issue where we truly know what National will do? Didn’t John Key say ‘there will be no asset sales in the first term of a National Government (we’ll save that or the second term)’?

Yes, he did. But that goes against the deepest of National principles and caused real disquiet about his leadership, both amongst National MPs and its big business backers. Fortunately, Slippery John knows there’s more than one way to skin that cat.

Straight out buying and selling is old fashioned. Now, you keep ownership of the asset but you make that asset take a pile of money from a private financier, probably a foreign bank or consortium, in return for which the private money men make money off the interest (or rent, it’s all the same) they charge to the asset. So, now, the assets’ profits are flowing to them rather than to the public, just as if a sale had taken place. And, just as if he had sold the asset, Key gets a pile of cash with which to fund tax cuts for the rich.

You can dress this trick up in all kinds of confusing terms; use all kinds of fancy financial vehicles. Rumour has it that National is looking at the options of having the SOEs issue ‘strategic bonds’, or having them sell their assets, then lease them back from the buyers, or selling the SOEs altogether but leasing them back. In fact, they could just invent a new debt vehicle that no-one understands. And that’s the nice thing about finance, you can sale all the value out of an asset but still not break your promise to not sell assets. The people don’t want their assets sold but you can slip this kind of trick past them and they won’t even know.

So, Mr Key. Is this your real assets policy? Or are you prepared to rule out any kind of debt issuing by public-owned assets or any other means of extracting the capital value of the asset in return for its future profits under a National Government?

18 comments on “What’s National’s real assets policy?”

  1. Peter Nelson 1

    You will find out closer to the election matey.

    One can ask when is the election going to be held. Anyway, we might need assett sales as Labour will leave us broka again (remember 1990 and Clark’s lies)?

    BTW, what a spanking in the polls in the week end.

  2. Ted 2

    This is at best a loony conspiracy theory and at worst pig-fucking.

    [lprent: Please leave the bestiality at the farm gate]

  3. So, you agree that National does have a sneaky plan around assets?

    TNS was inline with the polls over the last 4 months. CB is a joke.

  4. Peter Nelson 4

    No, I do not know if National have a sneaky plan at all. I will take 15% margin then Steve.
    However we are heading towards broke with a $1.5bn trainset we own.

  5. Isn’t this what has happened to Transpower’s South Island national grid? It’s on a 100 years lease to US bank “Wachovia”. Nominally ‘we” still own it, but Wachovia hold the century-long lease on it.

    “Transpower may get out of disputed deal early”

    Transpower claims to own the SI grid here….and Wachovia claim to also own it as far as the US is concerned. Meanwhile, the money Transpower pays to Wachovia sits in a Cayman Islands account being drip-fed to Wachovia. But Transpower has guaranteed the money so if the Cayman Island entity should fold, Transpower would have to pay it again.

    Under National, is THIS to sort of shonky, tangled rubbish we would be looking forward to? We own it, but we don’t…and the money goes to a US bank (via a beach-ringed tax dodge) anyway?

    The taxpayers of New Zealand – the REAL owners – need to know….and well BEFORE the election. What of ours will National give away?

    Let’s have a referendum on THAT!

  6. This is at best a loony conspiracy theory and at worst pig-fucking.

    Given your predilections for all of the above, Ted, I’d say you’re in a unique position to judge that.

  7. Peter Nelson: There is good reason to believe the recent rail investment will be seen in future years as a wise one.

    Trucking operators are already feeling the pain as their business model comes under increasing pressure due to rising fuel costs. There will come a cross-over point where trucks will become too expensive to run around the country, unless trucks become larger and the trucking lobby is already agitating for even larger trucks to be allowed on the roads. I hope this does not happen, though Tony Freidlander’s (Transport Forum head and former Minister of Transport under Muldoon) connections to the National Party are strong. He’s the guy who lifted the 150km limit on trucks and allowed the highways to be filled with them, including those run by his family: Freidlander Transport.

    In the years ahead – 10 to 20 – Trains will see both investment and return and in the inflated dollars of future years. The price we paid today will be a pittance.

    Every sign says there is going to be an inflationary wave over the next few years that will rapidly shrink the dollars of today.

    Many conservatives tend to not understand the value of infrastructural investment. In Toronto, in the 1970s, they laughed at the (then pink conservative) government in Ontario for approving the construction of a subway line that had cows eating grass where the final station was proposed to be. Of course 30 years later, there isn’t a cow within miles and the public transport rail stations are focus of local investment and construction.

    I tend not to look for vision from the Right. They have more than enough trouble simply seeing things as they are…..never mind as they could be. Max Bradford’s energy reforms anyone?

    That isn’t an ideological assertion. It’s based on my life’s experience to date.

  8. hmm 8

    Fact: The National Party sees a lesser role for the government in the economy.
    Fact: National’s policy is to not sell off assets for the first term.

    That is National’s real policy. It may fly in the face of some of their MPs beliefs but it is their policy. What actual evidence do you have to doubt this?

    Many Labour MPs probably support higher taxation for the rich because of a belief in social justice/democracy – will you also be asking what is Labour’s real policy on taxation?

  9. Lew 9

    hmm: This is my thinking too. Failure to draft policy which adheres to either of these explicitly-stated facts should justifiably result in electoral ruin in 2011.

    That said, Steve’s point is that there are plenty of ways of doing away with state assets other than selling them, which haven’t been ruled out.


  10. If I may step into “Lew mode” for a minute (god help me).

    Using debt vehicles to drain state assets without selling them would allow National to say they had not sold them. An opposition would then be required to explain the complicated process by which the Nats had produced the same effect as sales and manage to communicate it through the mainstream media. Given a new National government would have a substantial media honeymoon period, I can’t see that happening in time for 2011.

  11. Pascal's bookie 11

    “An opposition would then be required to explain the complicated process by which the Nats had produced the same effect as sales and manage to communicate it through the mainstream media.”

    You mean they’d have to explain that the Tories privatised the profits, but held on to the debt?

  12. You mean they’d have to explain that the Tories privatised the profits, but held on to the debt?

    The problem with that line is (and again, forgive my Lew-ness) that it would still required people to join the dots and unless they have either a direct and visceral sense of it (which they would not for several years) or an economic and/or ideological framework they can apply to the situation then it simply wouldn’t happen unless the Herald et al scream it on their front page headlines. This would be highly unlikely to happen as National would get a honeymoon period with the media. As far as I can tell a National government could run a debt-vehicle model with little immediate political risk.

  13. Phil 13


    So, let me get this straight, you’re afraid National will run an SOE (that is; State Owned ENTERPRISE) like a business? Gosh, that is scary…

    Then again, I don’t see anyone, anywhere, complaining when TLA’s issue debt instruments to fund projects.

  14. Pascal's bookie 14

    I don’t think there are that many dots. Let the complicatedness of it all work for you. Sophisticated financial products are only slightly more popular than syphilis at the moment. Let the Tories explain why their ones are so lovely.

    You have to get National to explain why it is that what they are doing isn’t just the Enronisation of the public sector, sub-priming the assets that NZ has built up over lo these many years.

    Given that in order to do so they Nat’s will be in power, it’s a medium term prospect (2011). The short term strategy (stopping as much of it as you can)would be to hang it around the necks of their coalition partners. Force Winston, Dunne or the MP to either defend it to their voters, or put the kibosh on it.

    There is a reason that the Tories aren’t releasing any right wing policy. It’s not popular. If they try to implement it, force them to defend it. If they don’t introduce any right wing policy, the worst thing that can happen for the left is a little rest and rejuvenation. They’re stealing Labour’s positions because as far as the public is concerned, Labour has won the arguments.

    If they want to backtrack, MMP will kick them so hard in the teeth they’ll eat their boxers. Whether that’ll happen before or after lunchtime will be up to the minor parties.

  15. No Phil – I’m concerned (I’m not “afraid” of anything) that they will run them in a manner that transfers their value from me and other taxpayers into the hands of a select few. You know – like they did last time.

  16. Sophisticated financial products are only slightly more popular than syphilis at the moment

    PB – Try this. Go out onto the street and ask 100 people to explain the sub-prime crisis and how it relates to them. Then ask them what they think of “Sophisticated financial products”. Then ask them if they are concerned about their mortgages.

    I’d say you’d be lucky to get 1 in 20 who could explain sub-prime and most of them would be financially well-educated tories who would still endorse SFPs. I would also say most of them wouldn’t care two hoots about their mortgages if they even have them (well perhaps on investment properties for tax purposes).

    That’s the joy of the kind of voodoo JK has spent his adult live practicing – it’s the people that get cursed by it that don’t understand why. If they did JK and his trader mates would be fu*ked

    The price of cheese has cut-through in the real world. “Sophisticated Financial Products” does not.

  17. Rex Widerstrom 17

    Steve Withers suggests:

    The taxpayers of New Zealand – the REAL owners – need to know… Let’s have a referendum on THAT!

    Hear hear! And while we’re at it, let’s make it binding upon whoever is in government because on past performance I frankly don’t trust anyone not to blunder into the grossly under-valued sale of some asset my parents and grandparents helped fund, then be forced to go back cap-in-hand decades later to buy it back (also over-valued).

    Bottom line: when it comes to our property, the wisdom of crowds trumps the expediency of politicians, no matter what their hue.

  18. Phil 18


    “I’m concerned (I’m not “afraid’ of anything) that they will run them in a manner that transfers their value from me and other taxpayers into the hands of a select few. You know – like they did last time”


    1) Not afraid of anything except RWNJ’s stalking you… Harden up – you’re not that important.

    2) Like I said, TLA’s are doing this sort of bond issue all the time. I don’t see people complaining about a transfer of value. There are lots of reasons to think local councils are useless, but this isn’t one of them.

    Secondly, a point of order on; “sophisticated financial products”

    Residential Mortgage Backed Securities are not that sophisticated at all – really quite a simple product actually.

    I’ve noticed in the past that a lot of people get a mental block on topics – computers/IT is a prime example – and refuse to entertain the prospect of learning new things. Financial products (indeed, investment in general) is another.

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