Letter to the World

26 June 2012

Dear World,

Today the New Zealand Government passed a bill permitting the Government to sell property that does not belong to them. If an individual sells property that does not belong to them it is theft and constitutes a criminal offence. The Government today legalised the partial conversion of state assets against the will of the people of New Zealand.  
The Government claimed that they had a mandate to partially sell state assets because they campaigned on the issue for the year leading up to the last election in 2011 in which they were re-elected.  On election night, the National Party only secured 47% of the vote while 53% of those who voted did not support the National Party. New Zealand also suffered its lowest voter turnout in history signalling the lack of confidence our people had in the Government.
Public polls, protests, and multiple media streams have demonstrated the persistent opposition to the partial sale of our assets and the people of New Zealand will persist with their opposition until the Government listen to the democratic will of our people.
The Mixed Ownership Model Bill today passed its third reading meaning that it will become law after assented to by the Governor General. It passed its third reading by a single vote – 61:60. The balance of power, the one vote, was held by a Member of Parliament who represents a single electorate. In the months leading up to the passage of this bill, his electorate campaigned heavily against the sale of state assets and urged him to refrain from allowing this bill to pass. He did not listen. He chose to override the democratic will of his constituents and voted in favour of this bill.
During the Select Committee stage 1448 submissions were received.  Only 9 (0.6%) of those submissions were in favour of the bill while 1421 (98.1%) of the submissions were opposed to the sale of state assets. The Government abused its authority and position of a bare majority to ram through the bill knowingly and deliberately in the face of public opposition.
The people of New Zealand have made it clear that they wished to exercise their democratic right to a referendum and petitions for a referendum are currently in circulation. The Government refuses to hold off the partial sale to allow a referendum, arguing that a referendum has been held and it was called the election. This illustrates to the world that our Government is not only arrogant but is also anti-democratic. It is silencing our voices and suppressing our will.
This is a pledge to the world community to reprimand our government for its anti-democratic practices.
This is a pledge to boycott the purchasing of any shares the Government offers in respect of the partial sale of our assets.  The Government will embark on a multimillion dollar advertising campaign which will dishonestly and without claim of right represent to potential investors that they, the Government, have the consent of the rightful owners to sell 49% of shares in these companies.   If you purchase these shares then you do so against the will of the people who are the rightful owners and are simply an accessory to the crime against our people.
The Government has accused us of being xenophobic, we are not. The people of New Zealand value foreign investment and look forward to securing investments with foreign interests now and in the future but we do not want assets that were bought with our taxes to be sold without our consent.
Please help the people of New Zealand raise their voices against the anti-democratic practices of our Government. Please support us in keeping our assets for the benefit of our future generations.
You can support the people of New Zealand by sharing our message.
Thank you.
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Misfits of Economics & State Assets

The selling off of state assets debate is probably about to go viral as the Mixed Ownership Model passed its second reading. The realisation has hit home that the government is in a position to pass bogus law notwithstanding public opinion on the matter. The issue appears to be black and white, either sell them (right) or keep them (left). However, many New Zealander’s hold unfounded views that the sale of state assets is good for the economy either because they do not understand what the sale of state assets will mean or because they have been persuaded by an over enthusiastic right winged peer that selling state assets is good for the economy because John Key said so. Let’s have a look at the model and its associated flaws.

The Mixed-Ownership Model (MOM)

This model is designed to ensure that the Government retains a 51% share of each of the assets it intends to sell. That means that 49% of each company is up for grabs. The model is intended to provide ‘mum and dad investors’ the opportunity to invest in highly profitable companies that they might not have otherwise had the opportunity to do. However, the most a single shareholder can purchase is 10% in each company. This 10% cap protects each company from obtaining another controlling interest in the company, and pre-emptively safeguards against overzealous foreign investment.

Problem with ‘mum and dad’ investors
Firstly, mum and dad investors (small business) are rapidly becoming the working poor, so the likelihood of them being able to purchase those shares is slim to none.

Secondly, even if mum and dad make an offer, one that is in their price range, the Government will not sell if it does not meet their baseline. This back out clause is reassuring for those who oppose asset sales, however, it is somewhat a game changer for those potential ‘mum and dad’ investors who voted in the Government on the basis that the opportunity to invest was within reach. Game changer might be a bit strong, but the marketing was then certainly misleading.

Problem with foreign investment
There is nothing in the MOM that prevents investors from on selling to foreign investors. Now, I am not opposed to foreign investment in NZ provided investment is regulated and does not adversely affect the public.

In the context of the MOM, this essentially means that wealthy New Zealanders that can afford to buy shares in the state assets can buy the shares at a bargain price (remembering that the government has already expressed that they will sell below market value). They can then sell those shares for a profit to the highest bidder. Usually this will be a foreign investor. Now, if all shareholders sold their 10% to foreign interests, it simply means that the government would retain 51%, and the remaining 49% could be owned by foreigners. The impact on society here, is that as the government is the majority shareholder, must protect the interests of its shareholders and not the interests of the public. In order to create profits it could result in higher energy prices, fewer jobs for New Zealanders, and profits that would otherwise have returned to the domestic economy by retaining the assets will now go offshore into the pockets of foreign investors.

The short term injection of capital from the initial sale of shares will be spent to fund non-profitable infrastructure projects. Nonsense.

Problem for the taxpayer
Why the austerity measures in this year’s budget? Simple answer – to fund the tax cuts for the rich. This is not an attack on those who receive the benefit of National’s tax cut policy, but to point out that NZ simply cannot afford them. This is obvious from the mere fact that the government has undertaken austerity measures, which means, no new spending. So in order to fund infrastructure projects on an austerity budget, National’s answer is not to retract the tax cut policy to spread the wealth and invest in infrastructure while retaining highly profitable assets. No. Instead these misfits of economics insist on retaining the unaffordable tax cuts, selling off profitable state assets and making them available for purchase by those who already receive the benefit of the tax cuts enabling them the privilege of investing in highly profitable companies below market value with the future option to sell for a profit.

The MOM will be passed at its third reading by a one seat majority. Whatever happened to democracy? The mandate relied on is a fallacy which I have discussed in a previous post. Additionally, Act and United Future both campaigned on a deliberation with the public in respect of the MOM, so the bare majority that National and right wing commentators are calling a mandate is flawed.

National Party say less debt and more investment through the MOM. This is misleading. Whilst the government may not be borrowing more, the sale of state assets is not going to reduce debt in New Zealand and will instead cost the government more than its willing to publicly admit.

UPDATE: 
Government plans to spend up to $400m more on asset sales
The time has come for the National Government to be up front about the cost of providing a so-called ‘loyalty bonus’ to purchasers of shares in its asset sales programme, Green Party Co-leader Russel Norman said today.

On Q+A this morning, Tony Ryall joined John Key in expressing support for a loyalty scheme, such as the 1 for 15 bonus share that was offered to retail shareholders in Queensland Rail National who held their shares for two years, but would not offer any information on how much it would cost.

On a $6 billion sales programme, a 1 for 15 share bonus would cost the Government up to $400m. This would be on top of the $120m that the Government has indicated it expects to spend on middleman such as investment bankers and advertising companies, and the $100m annual increase to the Government’s deficit due to foregone profits.

“It is ludicrous that the Government is just a couple of months away from selling the first of our energy companies yet it still won’t tell the public how much it would cost”, said Dr Norman.

“Either they are trying to hide the truth from New Zealanders or, just as worryingly, they don’t know themselves…it is becoming clear that there are huge undisclosed costs that further undercut the economic case for asset sales…a loyalty scheme could cost as much as $400m, on top of sales costs that the Government conservatively estimates at $120m. That’s half a billion dollars spent on selling assets that Kiwis want to keep!…Additionally, Budget 2012 shows the net loss of profits cutting a $100m a year hole in the Government’s books. The plain truth is that asset sales don’t make sense for New Zealand. That’s why the vast majority of New Zealanders want the Government to drop this ideologically-driven policy,” said Dr Norman