National whinging about the referendum | The Jackal

20 Jun 2012

National whinging about the referendum

It was amusing to see the weaselly Bill English whinging about the Green party yesterday, because they're gathering signatures for the Save our Assets petition. I guess he doesn't really like the idea of the people having a say in what the government does.

Today, the NZ Herald reported:

The National Party has attacked the Green Party over its use of taxpayer money to collect signatures for a referendum on asset sales - but has not ruled out doing the same for its campaigns.

It's a bit hypocritical to attack another party for something you might do yourself. It's also a bit rich to complain that the Greens have spent a few thousand dollars to find out if the government has a mandate to sell our assets, when National has already spent $120 million of our money on the middlemen for the sales process.

The Greens' use of public money to pay signature collectors was permitted by parliamentary rules, but it was believed to be an unprecedented use of the Leader's Office fund.

Finance Minister Bill English criticised the spending during parliamentary question time yesterday.

"It is a bit odd that Greens used to support citizens-initiated referendums, whereas now we are paying for Greens-initiated referendums."

It's not just a Greens-initiated referendum; it's been organized by a coalition of Labour, the Greens, Grey Power, the Council of Trade Unions, Greenpeace and the Union of Student Associations.

Like it or not, the Save our Assets petition is going to gain the required amount of signatures and National will look pretty totalitarian if they don't allow a referendum on the issue to be held, which they will assuredly lose. That's because the government doesn't have a mandate to sell our assets.

The fact is that the Greens wouldn't need to spend any money if National wasn't rushing through the Mixed Ownership privatisation legislation without any concern for due process. They didn't even allow people to speak to the finance and expenditure committee against the bill, which is grossly undemocratic.

The committee only received 9 submissions in favour of the governments proposed mixed ownership model, while a whopping 1421 were against the proposal to privatise Genesis Energy, Mighty River Power, Meridian and Solid Energy.

A number of the submissions sited a loss of dividends, foreign ownership, under-investment in crucial infrastructure, higher electricity prices, a lack of social responsibility from privately owned companies and therefore increasing inequality, a loss of transparency because the companies will no longer be subject to the Official Information or Ombudsman Act's and a majority of New Zealanders being against the asset sales.

There's no good argument to sell our assets, and most people know it.