The Watchdog

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Botany by-election result (the only ‘poll’ that counts) suggests that John Key/National have a problem over supporting asset sales.

18 April 2011

Interesting how the NZ Herald’s CHIEF Political Reporter’s analysis of the only poll that matters – an ELECTION result – in this case the recent Botany by-election, plus the election result itself, somewhat differs from these ‘opinion’ polls?

www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10710626

Botany byelection loss holds silver lining for Labour Party
By John Armstrong
5:30 AM Monday Mar 7, 2011

At last, Phil Goff has something to smile about.

Exactly why the Labour leader is smiling might not seem immediately obvious given that National’s Jami-Lee Ross won Saturday’s Botany byelection in a canter, securing almost double the number of votes of his Labour counterpart.

The answer is that everything is relative in politics. Labour did better than it hoped. National did not fare as well as it would have expected.

…………
It is questionable, however, how meaningful conclusions drawn from a byelection can be, let alone one as stifled by circumstances as this one.

Still, the debut of the New Citizen Party and National’s failure to lift its vote would seem to pour cold water on the possibility of National securing a majority alone.

The complicating factor is Saturday’s abysmally low turnout. However, the non-vote would more likely be weighted in Labour’s favour.

The 36.6 per cent turnout – half that of a general election – meant both major parties got fewer votes than at the 2008 election. Labour’s vote proved more robust. National’s vote halved from more than 17,000 to just over 8000. In comparison, Labour’s vote fell, but far less dramatically – from around 6500 to just over 4000.

The net result is: Labour increased its share of the candidate vote in the seat from 21 per cent in 2008 to 28 per cent on Saturday.

Moreover, it did so in the face of a number of handicaps – notably the party’s candidate, Michael Wood, committing one of politics’ great sins early on by saying he would not win the seat.
………………”

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Did ‘the polls’ before the Botany by-election predict the 36% turnout and the MASSIVE ‘no show’ of 9000 (former?) National Party voters?

DID THEY?

It’s a fair question isn’t it?

If I were a Labour Party member (which I am not) – I would ignore these ‘polls’ and keep campaigning on the issues – especially opposition to asset sales.

It seems that asset sales, especially of electricity assets, is HUGELY unpopular, and despite (shonky?) John Key’s best efforts to make this political ‘goat sh*t’ smell like honey – significant numbers of voters haven’t had a collective frontal lobotomy.

We have learned that what groups like the NZ Business Round Table are advocating, isn’t usually in the best interests of the majority of the NZ public.

Big business interests support ‘partial privatisation’, John Key/ National supports ‘partial privatisation’ (oops! the ‘mixed ownership’ model’.

Phil Goff/Labour thinks ‘partial privatisation is a ‘dumb idea’ – apparently so too do significant numbers of the general public.

Big business /National carry out a concerted corporate media campaign to help undermine Phil Goff/ Labour?

Darren Hughes / Phil Goff’s ‘handling’ of the Darren Hughes matter / Damien O’Connor’s ‘undisciplined’ comments/ the PNth intersection anti-asset sale picket ‘beat up’ …. etc.

I confidently predict that there will be constant ‘picking’ / ‘beat ups’ all through this election campaign, to attempt to undermine support for the main political party – Labour – which opposes what the majority of big business openly want – more privatisation of key public assets.

Where did we see this before?

Oh yes, before the 2008 election with the campaign to discredit and undermine Winston Peters and NZ First, so that they wouldn’t make the 5% party vote threshold.

The aim?

For National to get enough votes to govern alone.

Want to see the FACTS and EVIDENCE that I have researched to support my considered opinion?

https://waterpressure.wordpress.com

PRINTED BELOW:

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http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/business-supports-partial-privatisation-state-assets-nn-84414

NZPA | Wednesday January 26, 2011 | 10 comments

Business supports partial privatisation of state assets

Phil O'Reilly

Phil O’Reilly

Business leaders are optimistic that a government signal of plans to sell shares in several state-owned enterprises, while keeping a control of them, will be acceptable to voters.

Prime Minister John Key said the Government has asked Treasury for advice on extending Air New Zealand’s mixed ownership model to Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy.

Advice has also been sought on reducing the Crown’s 74.69 percent shareholding in Air New Zealand, while still maintaining a majority stake.

Business leaders today talked about the difference between partial privatisations and the privatisation of state business in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Key said his Government was “interested in what works, not in following any particular ideology”.


http://www.nzherald.co.nz/economy/news/article.cfm?c_id=34&objectid=10702162

Business leaders support partial privatisation of state assets

3:15 PM Wednesday Jan 26, 2011

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Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr

File photo

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Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr File photo

Business leaders are optimistic that a government signal of plans to sell shares in several state-owned enterprises, while keeping a control of them, will be acceptable to voters.

Prime Minister John Key said the Government has asked Treasury for advice on extending Air New Zealand’s mixed ownership model to Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy.

Advice has also been sought on reducing the Crown’s 74.69 percent shareholding in Air New Zealand, while still maintaining a majority stake.

Business leaders today talked about the difference between partial privatisations and the privatisation of state business in the 1980s and 1990s. Mr Key said his Government was “interested in what works, not in following any particular ideology”.

With broad public support and constructive participation by other political parties the policy had the potential to achieve widespread acceptance, Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O’Reilly said.

Business Roundtable executive director Roger Kerr said New Zealand governments were spooked by the issue of privatisation.

The roundtable has argued that there are myths about the 30 or so privatisations in the 1980s and 1990s and the country has moved in an opposite policy direction by buying back rail and Air NZ and starting Kiwibank.

He said the Government move was a step in the right direction but there were issues with partial ownership.

“All the economic research indicates that privately owned business on average outperform publicly owned ones. But partially owned state-owned enterprises can still be subject to political interference and the results are not as clear,” he said.

Employment and Manufacturers Association chief executive Alasdair Thompson said it was the opposite of selling the family silver.

“This is about realising the value from part of certain state assets and using the funds released to invest in even more valuable state assets.”

O’Reilly said that allowing New Zealanders to invest directly in a changed mix of state-owned assets was a policy that was both progressive and moderate.

“Broadening the pool of investment opportunities for New Zealand families is a key step towards a more vibrant economy.

“Greater involvement by more stakeholders also fosters accountability and better performance.”

Meridian Energy today noted the Prime Minister’s speech in a note to the NZX under the code for listed debt instruments.

“As with any company Meridian will continue to be guided by its shareholders expectations for the company,” Meridian said.

Solid Energy chairman John Palmer last year raised the issue of partial privatisation but was criticised by Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee for over-stepping the mark.

Palmer, who is also chairman of Air NZ, argued that Solid Energy’s situation was vastly different to the emotional discussion surrounding Kiwibank, and he talked about the merits of Air NZ’s ownership structure. The airline is listed on the sharemarket.

The National government has made it clear that it will not sell state assets in its first term and will signal any intention in election policy.

Palmer said there should be majority ownership of Solid Energy because it had some key national assets. The sale of new shares in the coal miner did not require the sale of the Government’s existing stake but would dilute it.

The Crown’s commercial portfolio contains almost $95 billion of assets, of which $55b is in commercially focused companies and $40b in investment funds, according to Treasury.

– NZPA

Read John Key’s full speech.


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_________________________________________________________________________________________________http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10702066

PM: Nats to sell parts of state assets

By Claire Trevett

2:36 PM Wednesday Jan 26, 2011
Prime Minister John Key before his state-of-the-nation speech in Auckland today. Photo / Greg Bowker

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Prime Minister John Key before his state-of-the-nation speech in Auckland today. Photo / Greg Bowker

Prime Minister John Key has announced plans to sell off parts of state assets and cut back on the rate of Government spending.

Mr Key delivered his state-of-the nation address at Henderson’s Trust Stadium this morning to a group of about 380 people, mostly from the business community.

Click here for the full text of Mr Key’s speech.

He said National was looking to sell off parts of major power companies Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy along with coal company Solid Energy using the mixed-ownership model under which Air New Zealand operated.

“In each case, the government would retain majority ownership and control, and the freed-up capital would be used to purchase other public assets, thereby reducing the government’s need to borrow,” Mr Key said.

“I am convinced that Air New Zealand would not be run as well nor provide as good a service to customers if it was owned 100 per cent by the Government.”

National had also asked Treasury to look into reducing Government shareholding in the national carrier, Mr Key said.

“No other SOEs are being considered and no decisions have been made,” Mr Key said.

“Our final policy will be decided prior to this year’s election and we will seeking a mandate from the electorate before proceeding with any change,” he said.

Any sell-off would be subject to conditions including Government retaining a 50 per cent stake in the company, New Zealand investors claiming a place at the “front of the queue” when it comes to shareholding and any freed capital going back into public assets, said Mr Key.

New Zealand State Owned Entities (SOEs) not caught up in today’s proposal include Metservice, New Zealand Post, Kiwirail and Ontrack, Landcorp and Crown Fibre Holdings.

SOEs are directed to operate successfully as a business and earn profit on par with private commercial companies.

Many former SOEs were privatised by Labour and National through the 1980s and 1990s, including Telecom and State Insurance.

Opportunities for ‘mum and dad’ investors

Speaking to media after his speech, Mr Key said he was confident there would be significant interest in buying shares in currently state owned companies, by New Zealand “mums and dads” as well as institutions with investment portfolios such as the Super Fund and ACC.

“There is a lot of New Zealand investment that’s looking for a home. I don’t think the issue is about whether we can find New Zealand-based capital.”

He said foreign investors would be able to buy in, but he had sought Treasury advice to make sure the first opportunity to buy in was directed at New Zealanders.

There were various ways of ensuring New Zealanders did get the best opportunity to buy, including a discount for “mum and dad” investors. Another possibility was collecting interest in the shares, which he expected would be oversubscribed, allowing greater flexibility to decide who bought the shares.

New Zealand was “severely at risk” that foreign lenders would stop lending to New Zealand or charge higher interest rates.

“We can’t underestimate what Standard and Poors are saying. They are saying they would downgrade New Zealand, putting up the price of interest rates, unless we get on top of debt.”

He said if New Zealand was borrowing less, it meant there was more to invest in other areas.

‘Hocking off the family silver’

The announcement of planned asset sales was met with condemnation by Labour SOEs spokesman Clayton Cosgrove.

He accused National of planning to “hock off the family silver to foreign pixies”.

“They’ve done it before. It didn’t work then though we were promised we would be better off. And it won’t work now. It’s a dumb idea.”

“These enterprises have a combined value of $11.75 billion, and earn Kiwis $700 million a year.

“If John Key’s economic plan consists of hocking off the family silver to the foreign pixies from whom he’s also borrowing $120 million a week to give tax cuts to the rich, then he’s living in a fantasy land.”

Labour Party Finance spokesman David Cunliffe said the mixed ownership model favoured by National would relinquish Government control of state assets while giving little in return.

Minority shareholder rights would dilute public influence in running the companies, while compliance costs of public listing would still be incurred, he said.

“Arguably ‘mixed ownership’ is the worst of both worlds, and certainly not the best.”

Putting the proposal to sell off parts of SOEs in a speech themed around saving and investing was misleading, said Mr Cunliffe.

“Dressing it up as a savings plan is at best a bad joke. Since when did flogging off assets amount to saving and investing?

“John Key says he is singing the saving song today, but the substance is the same old agenda of irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and flogging the family silver to pay for them.”

Cuts in Government spending

Mr Key said the asset sales would come alongside an up-to-$300 million cut in new spending assigned to this year’s budget – from $1.1 billion to $800 to $900m.

Mr Key said both moves were necessary to boost New Zealand’s economic performance and deliver jobs, higher incomes and better living standards.

“The way for New Zealand to get ahead is to sell more to the rest of the world. That means making some changes.”

Mr Key said the reduced spending would allow New Zealand to record a meaningful surplus one year earlier than projected, in the 2014-2015 financial year.

“The government simply has to get its finances in order if New Zealand is to achieve a long term improvement in its economic prospects.

“I have therefore challenged my Ministers to balance the books more quickly.

“Government spending will continue to increase each year in dollar terms but at a slower pace than the rest of the economy.”

$300m a week borrowing

Mr Key said the Government was still having to borrow an average of $300 million a week “to pay the bills”.

That has raised the national debt level to 85 percent of GDP, putting New Zealand on par with Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain, he said.

“That is very uneasy company indeed.

“We recognise that New Zealand’s level of foreign debt is our biggest vulnerability,” he said.

“In the worst of the recession, running a budget deficit was the right thing to do, as it gave much-needed support to the economy.

“Now, as the economy recovers, borrowing $300 million a week is unaffordable and is holding the economy back.

If debt remained at those levels, Standard and Poor’s would downgrade New Zealand’s credit rating, Mr Key said.

“This year the theme of the Budget will be savings and investment.”

Electricity prices won’t rise, says Key

Mr Key said he did not believe New Zealanders would face higher electricity prices as a result of private shareholders demanding greater profits from electricity companies.

He said the government had reformed the electricity industry and put controls on, including reducing cost increases of electricity generation.

He believed the companies would be more successful with some private capital. The government was “cash strapped” and could not invest in them to the same extent, restricting their growth.

He said while his critics would claim he was selling off the family silver, he believed the most important thing for New Zealanders was making sure the country didn’t go broke.

“I think the public will respect us for taking the tough decisions, but the right decisions for New Zealand. We’re really saying to New Zealanders, look, sometimes mum and dad change the mix of their assets. The car might be too big and they get a smaller thing. We’re looking to do a similar thing, but overall growing the size of New Zealand’s balance sheet.”

Labour’s promises were too extravagant and would mean they had to borrow, taking New Zealand down the same road as Ireland and Spain.

– with NZHERALD STAFF

By Claire Trevett | Email Claire

Partial asset sales a dumb idea, says Labour

http://tvnz.co.nz/politics-news/partial-asset-sales-dumb-idea-says-labour-4007707

Published: 1:01PM Wednesday January 26, 2011 Source: ONE News

Labour says hocking off the family silver to “foreign pixies” has been tried before and failed, and “won’t work now”.

Responding to a speech by Prime Minister John Key today in which he indicated the government is looking at partial asset sales, Labour’s SOE spokesman Clayton Cosgrove said talk of the partial privatisation of New Zealand’s biggest power companies shows Key’s lack of vision.

“They’ve done it before. It didn’t work then though we were promised we would be better off. And it won’t work now,” said Cosgrove. “It’s a dumb idea.”

Cosgrove said the enterprises have a combined value of $11.75 billion and earn Kiwis $700 million a year.

“If John Key’s economic plan consists of hocking off the family silver to the foreign pixies from whom he’s also borrowing $120 million a week to give tax cuts to the rich, then he’s living in a fantasy land.”

Key said in his State of the Nation speech today that the mixed-ownership model under which Air New Zealand operates – where the government owns most of the company but there is a minority of outside equity – gives the best of both worlds.

The government has asked Treasury for advice on the viability of extending the mixed ownership model to Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy, Key said.

But Labour Party leader Phil Goff believes New Zealanders will face higher power prices and cuts to essential services like schools and hospitals under Key’s plan.

“This isn’t an economic plan. It’s a recipe for disaster. Hocking off our assets to foreign buyers and slashing spending is vintage National,” he said.

“Mums and dads don’t have spare cash floating around to buy up shares,” Goff said.

He said low and middle income New Zealanders have been stung by the GST hike and now will face cuts to health and education while “paying through the nose to heat their homes once National sells off our power companies to foreign investors”.

The Green Party said Key’s announcement indicates a swing to the right which will damage the economy long-term and hurt ordinary New Zealanders.

“The gloves are coming off. John Key’s speech…signals National’s plan to privatise state assets in the next term,” said co-leader Russel Norman.

“Selling state assets to foreign corporations, which will inevitably happen under this plan, will drive up the current account deficit, send profits overseas and drive up costs for Kiwis.

“Our current budget deficit has been created by the government’s tax cuts and poor quality spending. John Key is now using his mismanagement of the economy as an excuse to sell public assets and cut important social and environmental spending,” added Norman.

Norman said New Zealand needs state assets to drive innovation and investment.

“If the government wants to create opportunities for Kiwi investors then it should look into State Owned Enterprises issuing investment bonds. This is a much better option than selling off the assets.”

More problems than answers

The Council of Trade Unions says partial privatisation plans will do little to address debt problems and will cause more problems than they solve.

“Inevitably we will see more of the bad behaviour of the private electricity companies and the commercially focussed SOEs intensify, with more price rises, reluctance to invest in new generating capacity, and reluctance to invest in a secure supply,” CTU economist Bill Rosenberg said.

“The partial sale would hardly dent the government’s debt but at a significant cost to the effectiveness of New Zealand’s infrastructure. Most of the shares will end up overseas owned, increasing New Zealand’s overseas liabilities. It just moves public debt to private debt.”

And Rosenberg said the announcement of a further cut in the government operating allowance is small in terms of debt levels but will put pressure on government services like health and education.

“If we want to provide investment opportunities to the public, Kiwi infrastructure bonds could be offered that the government uses for development purposes.”

Exciting news

The Employers & Manufacturers Association said trading up state assets “into even more valuable assets” is exciting news.

“This is the opposite of selling the family silver,” said chief executive, Alasdair Thompson.

“This is about realising the value from part of certain state assets and using the funds released to invest in even more valuable state assets.”

Thompson said the association is calling for an Investment Development Fund dedicated to infrastructure into which proceeds from asset sales would be channelled for Kiwis to invest in.

“This would allow us to develop our country using much more of our own money instead of borrowing it from foreigners,” he said.

Realistic policy

BusinessNZ is welcoming the focus on investment in the Prime Minister’s state of the nation speech.

Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said allowing New Zealanders to invest directly in a changed mix of state owned assets is a policy that is both progressive and moderate.

“Broadening the pool of investment opportunities for New Zealand families is a key step towards a more vibrant economy.

“Greater involvement by more stakeholders also fosters accountability and better performance.”

O’Reilly said the timeframe for the policy is measured and gives a good amount of time for public discussion.

“With broad public support and constructive participation by other political parties this policy has the potential to achieve widespread acceptance,” O’Reilly said.

__________________________________________________________________

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/john-armstrong-on-politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=1502865&objectid=10710626

Botany byelection loss holds silver lining for Labour Party

By John Armstrong

5:30 AM Monday Mar 7, 2011

At last, Phil Goff has something to smile about.

Exactly why the Labour leader is smiling might not seem immediately obvious given that National’s Jami-Lee Ross won Saturday’s Botany byelection in a canter, securing almost double the number of votes of his Labour counterpart.

The answer is that everything is relative in politics. Labour did better than it hoped. National did not fare as well as it would have expected.

Of some worry to National will be the bleeding of its votes to the New Citizen Party, which picked up 10.5 per cent of the total candidate vote and pushed Act into fourth place.

If replicated in electorates across Auckland with large populations of New Zealand Chinese, such splintering of centre-right support could see large piles of wasted votes if the new party fails to reach the 5 per cent threshold.

That could diminish the centre-right’s representation in Parliament by one or two seats – seats which may well be crucial for National to retain power.

It is questionable, however, how meaningful conclusions drawn from a byelection can be, let alone one as stifled by circumstances as this one.

Still, the debut of the New Citizen Party and National’s failure to lift its vote would seem to pour cold water on the possibility of National securing a majority alone.

Article continues below

The complicating factor is Saturday’s abysmally low turnout. However, the non-vote would more likely be weighted in Labour’s favour.

The 36.6 per cent turnout – half that of a general election – meant both major parties got fewer votes than at the 2008 election. Labour’s vote proved more robust. National’s vote halved from more than 17,000 to just over 8000. In comparison, Labour’s vote fell, but far less dramatically – from around 6500 to just over 4000.

The net result is: Labour increased its share of the candidate vote in the seat from 21 per cent in 2008 to 28 per cent on Saturday.

Moreover, it did so in the face of a number of handicaps – notably the party’s candidate, Michael Wood, committing one of politics’ great sins early on by saying he would not win the seat.

At a minimum, the result boils down to a psychological victory for Labour, one which Goff wasted no time milking by staging a lunch-time photo-opportunity yesterday at a cafe in Botany town centre.

His claim the result is a “significant swing” against the Government ignores National having won about the same share of the vote as it did in 2008.

Moreover, although such comparisons are questionable, there is not a big difference between Labour’s party vote in the seat in 2008 and its candidate vote this time.

As for Act, Rodney Hide may not know whether to laugh or cry. The party’s candidate, Lyn Murphy, got 671 votes.

That amounts to less than 5 per cent of the vote in the kind of seat where Act should be hitting double figures.

However, Act’s party vote in the seat was less than 5 per cent in 2008. The byelection result suggests that while Act may still be down, the party is definitely not out.

The party is holding its annual conference next weekend. It does so with a fig-leaf of electoral respectability – but nothing more.

By John Armstrong | Email John

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April 18, 2011 - Posted by | Fighting corruption in NZ, Human rights, Internationally significant information

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