Why I am Against the Sale of New Zealand’s Assets
From Miriam Michal, ANFS Spokesperson Emerita
WHY WE SHOULD NOT LET THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT SELL OUR ASSETS, AND WHY YOU SHOULD VOTE AGAINST IT WHEN THE REFERENDUM IS HELD:
“A few people have asked me this question, so here is a summarised answer. I feel like I’m missing something really important, so if anyone else wants to add anything please go ahead.
“The people of NZ already own these companies, through paying our taxes and our rates. They have been built up by generations of New Zealanders. When they are partially sold to private entities, a lot of the money or revenue that these companies make will now go to fill the wallets of the people or corporations that can afford to buy the shares – not for the well-being of the whole country. This will continue to increase the wealth gap. We have to ask the question: is NZ for the people, or for private interest? Do we want everyone in NZ to benefit from these sales, or just the people who can afford to buy them? Only people or companies that have the spare cash to invest in these shares will be able to do so, as the shares will cost upwards of $1,000.00. Most of us in NZ do not have that spare money, and will therefore lose out on the opportunity to benefit from the sales. This will only increase the growing gap between the “haves” (wealthy) and the “have-nots”.
“The National Government does NOT have a mandate to do this, regardless of the fact they won a second term. We had the worst turnout at 74% of eligible voters in 2011 since 1880s – before women had the vote! Apart from that being incredibly sad and unhealthy for our democracy, it means that the government did not win a landslide victory, and so they cannot make these decision without greater support from the public. Media polls show that up to 80% of NZers don’t agree with asset sales. Almost 400,000 people have signed a petition to have a referendum about it. But John Key arrogantly dismisses the public as being ignorant.
“Selling these shares will bring some financial benefit, but only in the short term. This plan doesn’t actually make fiscal sense. All of the companies that the Government want to sell are profitable, and if we hold onto them we will continue to reap the financial benefits they bring. If we sell chunks of them, we will only get a one-off lump sum. We will not be able to continue to benefit financially from these companies if they are sold, in full or in part. The Business and Economic Research Ltd report into the financial viability of the plan shows the asset sales will not fix NZ’s debt problem, and will actually leave the NZ Government’s finances and the NZ economy more worse off. On this note, people should be aware that John Key tends to lump private and public debt together when he talks about the National Debt crisis. Public debt is essentially what the government owes, and private debt covers things like credit cards, overdrafts etc. JK actually admitted on Breakfast TV in January 2011 that government debt is low and private debt is high. Key said “New Zealand’s government debt as a percentage of GDP relative to the other countries is low, in other words we don’t owe very much…But the difference is New Zealand domestic consumers, mum and dad, they owe a lot of money. So on a combined basis we owe 85 per cent…” The thing that is so messed up about this is that these same mums and dads are the ones he says he expects to buy these shares (and people will get sucked into this because they want a piece of the pie), but when they can’t afford to live within their means as it is, they will only be increasing their own, private debt! Once more, the everyday kiwi gets jibbed, and the wealth gap increases.
“National says that the majority of shares will be offered to New Zealanders first, so that the revenue raised from the investment will mostly benefit NZ. How can this ever be guaranteed? Even if these shares are not sold directly to overseas investors, whose to stop the shareholders from on-selling to whoever they choose? John Key himself admitted that there was nothing stopping that from happening. If you look at the case of Contact Energy, which was sold in 1999, and whose majority shareholder at 51% is the Australian owned Origin Energy. Just over 75% of the shares in this are now held by only 20 companies. Even though this is not just about foreign ownership, it is important to remember that overseas investors will by nature not be as emotionally invested in supporting NZ communities and maintaining our beautiful environment. But, ultimately, being screwed over on your power bill by foreign investors will not feel any different to being screwed over by the Kiwi equivalent.
“Privatisation (when companies’ shares are sold to private individuals or companies rather than being owned by the Government/public) is not the best solution to fixing debt, despite what the free-market fanatics say. Why privatise something when the state may just have to rescue it again? Yes, there are some private sector managers in NZ that are efficient and productive. However, this cannot be guaranteed to happen for these assets. Look at the case of Air NZ for example – Air NZ is back in the hands of the government because of the disastrous management and foray of the previous owners into the Australian airline business. The state will be playing the same role of propping up the proposed asset sales programme, in order to reduce investor risk. A government that bailed out the people who gambled and lost in South Canterbury Finance’s dealings is probably just as likely to stick around to resolve any future problems faced by investors in the energy companies and in Air New Zealand – where there is already a track record of government coming to the rescue when private owners lose the plot.
“Energy is an essential part of our lives, and all New Zealanders should have a say in how it is managed. If these SOEs stayed under public / government ownership, the people of NZ will be able to have more of a say on how they should operate. When 49% of these companies are sold, it will be much harder for the Government / public to direct what happens with them. This is especially important as we are coming into a time where renewable energy and technologies should be invested in, to combat the growing environmental problems that the world is facing. Selling shares in these companies allows private entities (whether they are New Zealand or overseas individuals or corporations) to dictate our energy future. The renewable energy sector is growing rapidly internationally. We own the companies that have the critical mass, the expertise, and the capital to take advantage of that growth and create tens of thousands of good green jobs here in New Zealand. Privatisation will end that opportunity. NZ generates 60-75% of its energy from renewable resources. Meridian Energy, one of the companies that National is planning on selling, generates 100% of its energy from renewable sources! Even the government business website says that some of NZ’s strongest offerings are in renewable energy, waste management and transportation management. The government has no way of guaranteeing that the 49% investors will work to promote sustainability in these energy companies. This sell-off could damage New Zealand’s ability to build a more sustainable, more prosperous future When an asset is even partially privatized, then the rights of the private investors who buy shares become paramount, and the the need to be a good corporate citizen is sacrificed accordingly.
“Privatisation could mean an increase in the price of power. This is because private companies are obliged to create profit for their shareholders. The NZ Treasury Ministry of Economic Development data shows that privately-owned power companies charge 12% more than publicly-owned companies on average. This is a problem because there are many people in NZ who are already struggling to pay their power bills, and suffering because of it especially in winter time.
“There are unresolved issues with the commercial use of water and the rights of Maori under te Tiriti o Waitangi. There must be a framework to work out the interests, rights and responsibilities of tangata whenua over the water that is so much a part of their culture and identity, before these sales can go ahead. This does not mean offering special share plus deals to the iwi corporates that the Government chooses to talk to, this means addressing the concerns of all Maori, rich and poor.
“The Government said that they will still control 51% of these assets, and is proposing a 10% cap on the amount that any one company can own – this would ensure the government had greater control than any other shareholders. However, it is actually possible for an investor to split their bid into multiple ones through shelf companies, and then act together to make decisions further down the track. Labour, and even Don Brash believe that this is a political ploy used by National to temporarily reassure the public, but that foreign bidders are likely to see the ultimate outright sale of the assets as the only logical reason to want to invest in the first place.
“Our assets also include NZ’s legislation, that the Government feels they can just sell off in exchange for a back scratch. Our laws should not be for sale. What does it say about our legal system in NZ if the government is able to sell changes in the laws to firstly Warner Brothers and then to SkyCity, with the costs faced by New Zealanders? Cabinet papers show that John Key personally and directly intervened in the plans to build this convention centre, by putting a stop to other bids and plans for the centre to make way for Sky City investing, in return for relaxing gambling regulations which amounts to an increase in pokie machines, which studies show put people with gambling tendencies in a much more vulnerable position. According to Goldman Sachs, SkyCity could make an extra $42million a year off these people, and they only return 2.5% of its profits to the community. We are supposed to be getting rid of pokie machines, not increasing them. TV3 polls showed that 72% of NZers oppose this deal, and that 60% of National voters even oppose it!”
From Helen Kelly, President, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
“Its really important people attend the rally on Saturday. Selling the assets makes no sense – economic or social. Retaining the action against the sale is very important. We will soon have a referendum on the matter and it is important the Government knows that despite their crude rush to get the sales over with, we will not be deterred.”
From Martyn Bradbury, Blogger and Media Commentator
“I’m marching on Saturday 27th at the Aotearoa is not for Sale protest action for a number of reasons. My disgust at allowing those who have benefited most from tax cuts being subsidized to buy assets my mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, aunties, cousins, uncles and brothers have already paid for burns me with injustice but the main reason I am marching on Saturday is for my beautiful 3 year old daughter.
The promise of democracy is that we can look into the faces of our children and know they will get a better deal of it than we did. I refuse to look into her eyes and know she will get less than I did.
These assets are the economic sovereignty of our nation and selling them diminishes her future. I simply won’t be quiet about that.”
From Joe Carolan, an Organiser with Unite Union
“Margaret Thatcher was a brutal class warrior, who wielded power ruthlessly as I grew up under her rule as a teenager in the 1980s. She tried to smash the unions, she drove the living conditions of workers backwards, and she looted Britain’s state assets, selling off its electricity, steel, railways and telecommunications. She led a revolution that enriched her class, and her ideas spread across the world.
“Last week, Thatcher died, but we are still fighting a battle against her legacy. The sabotage begun by her acolyte, Roger Douglas, is today being continued by John Key and his National Party government. The privatisation of Mighty River Power is the beginning of an assault on what remains of state owned assets in Aotearoa, and it is vital that this attack is resisted on the streets. Because, as the once mighty Thatcher found out, when she lost the street to the Anti Poll Tax movement, she lost her Iron Crown.
“Its time we took the fight to the Tories, all across the world. Its time that we used our power with the same determination as Thatcher did. We should tell the rich and the speculators that if they risk their money gambling on the privatisation of state assets build up by working people, then they risk losing it all when these assets are renationalised. Renationalised, just as assets were in Bolivia and Venezuela in recent years.
“I attended the funeral of Folole Muliaga. We organised the protests outside Mercury Energy in solidarity with her family. She died because her electricity was disconnected, under a Labour government. When our assets are renationalised, it should not be under the failed Profit before People SOE model. Truly public assets controlled by the community, not the corporates, should provide cheap or free power, services and resources to the people, to ensure that the tragedy that befell Folole never happens again.
“Aotearoa is Not for Sale. The fight to take her back from Thatcher’s worshippers has begun.”
Paloma Ozier, Environmental Affairs Officer, AUSA
My name is Paloma Ozier and I am currently the Environmental Affairs officer for Auckland University’s Students’ Association. The National government’s plan to privatize our assets is abhorrent and will have inevitable implications for the future of New Zealanders.
Transferring publicly owned assets into the hands of private individuals reinforces the structure of our already unequal society, reiterating the fact that that our government is more concerned with pandering to the interests of an affluent few, rather than focusing on the overall public good.
It is crucial that these assets remain in our hands as a collective, not only to prevent the furthering of a neo-liberal agenda, which sees the State succumbing to corporate pressure, but also so that New Zealand retains its energy sovereignty and is able to democratically determine the importance of the development of renewable technology.
For these reasons I will be marching on Saturday.
Shane Malva, National Affairs Officer for AUSA
My name is Shane Malva, National Affairs officer for AUSA. I support and endorse the Aotearoa is NOT for sale national day of action on Saturday 27th April. I will be marching alongside other students, unions, mothers, fathers, and children in opposition to this governments deeply unpopular privatisation agenda.
I am proud of the student legacy of supporting and leading social justice campaigns that have influenced and altered historical events in our country and overseas. I believe this polarising issue will be one of the defining legacies of this government, and I’ll be marching to ensure it’s a failed legacy.
If this sale goes through, it will rob a strategic asset from future generations, widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Aotearoa is NOT for sale, not now, not ever.
An Auckland Nurse and member of the NZNO
“Why am I marching on the 27th of april?
“I was born in the late 1970s in South Auckland to 2 middle class parents who both came from families that where 6 generations deep. My family on both sides have built and fought and died for Aotearoa and created a great nation where few would go without.
“I was raised in the knowledge that I along with my generation would have access to clean water good food,good and free education and cheap housing and all the chances my family had been given. This all changed over night when I was 11 years old at the hands of Roger Douglas. In that moment my world changed.
“All the things I had been promised began to be stripped away from us, in the attempt to line the pockets of the rich. Now I sit at 35 years old and I have nothing ,no future,no chances except for wage slavery and impossible debt from an education that I had to pay for, where our leaders didn’t. I see our government ignoring the people and destroying our country so to make profits for investors. I see a government hell bent on punishing the poor.our enviroment and our children aswell as our freedom and it sickens me.
I in good conscience simply cant let our tyrannical leader destroy my sons or any kids future. I cant look in their eyes and say I did nothing. And that’s why I’m marching on the 27th
Why are you?
From Lisa Gibson, Glen Innes resident, Mana Movement Activist
“On Saturday the 27th of April 2013, I shall be participating in the Aotearoa is not for sale march. My reasons for doing so would probably be resonated by most if not all of the people marching along side of me on this day. I am against the selling off of shares in any of our state owned enterprises, that we the peolpe of NZ already own. These intended sales are not for the benefit of us the people of NZ but for the greed of the corporate rich who are trying to fool us all into thinking that this step is necessary and in our best interests …. These are lies. Over 300 thousand New Zealanders signed a petition asking for a referendum to stop these sales. This National led government refuses to listen to the people. It is now time that we must all take to the streets, take our power back and say NO to the destruction of our lives and the country in which we all reside … Should these sales go ahead, I support the Renationalisation of these assets. All political parties that are against the sales should send a clear WARNING to anyone buying these shares, that should they come into power at the next election, they are very committed into Renationalising any shares sold and that the loss will be to the buyer.”
From an Auckland Nurse and a member of the NZNO-
“I’ll be marching alongside other outraged New Zealanders on April 27th at the Aotearoa is NOT for sale national day of action not for myself, but for the countless number of ordinary kiwis who feel disempowered by this government.
Disempowered by a government hell bent on eroding the ideals that I believe New Zealanders hold dear. The ideals of being able to protest at sea, of being able to swim in oceans untainted by oil, tramp in mountains and national parks unspoilt by mines or private development, to earn a living where a fair days work means a fair days pay.
I will be marching for the countless number of kiwis living overseas who see no future in New Zealand because this government has taken us down a path of economic and environmental ruin. Where corporate interests trump those of ordinary hard working kiwis, and jobs are being shed almost daily in cost cutting measures, restructuring and outsourcing.
In National’s blinkered view of Aotearoa, every aspect is up for grabs, no stone is safe, no river uncontrollable, no mineral unexploitable.
But in the view of most, mine included, Aotearoa is NOT for sale. Not it’s land, mountains, oceans, rivers, minerals or people.
And that’s why I’ll be marching on April 27th.”
Stop Asset Sales?
On Saturday April 28th of last year, over 8,000 people marched through Queen Street in Auckland, insisting that Aotearoa is Not for Sale. The march was organised by a small group of grassroots and left wing activists, but attracted endorsement from the broader left, including the CTU, Greens and the Labour Party.
The anger that people feel against brainfade John Key and the National Government is increasing, month by month. However, there is also another problem in New Zealand today. The lack of any co-ordinated resistance to his policies on the streets or in the workplaces. Individual unions fight defensive struggles here and there. Speeches are made in parliament, but the hard work of building social movements to challenge the Government’s attacks is absent. At some stage we must say that the Emperor has no clothes.
The Emperor has no clothes. If parties such as Labour and the Greens would commit to renationalising privatised State Assets when they came to power, then the share flotations would be NZ’s version of the Facebook Flop.
And if these assets are renationalised, it shouldn’ t be back to the Profit before People SOE model, that killed Folole Muliaga in South Auckland. Her electricity was disconnected under a Labour Government. If Rio Tinto’s aluminium smelter in Tiwai Point wasn’t receiving such huge subsidies from taxpayers, the average working class electricity bill would be reduced by $80 a month.
This year, on Saturday April 27th, people will gather again to say that Aotearoa is Not for Sale. But this time we have a message too, to Labour and the Greens- Renationalise State Assets, and when you do, put People before Profit. There is no point in saying we should change Governments, if there will not be a change in policies.
To people who are angry at John Key and his rotten Government- If you want to see resistance to this rotten Government on the street, then join us. Help print and put up posters, spread the word via fliers and facebook, and bring your workmates, classmates, family and friends.
Aotearoa is Not for Sale.
There will be a National Day of Action on April 27, 2013 to protest Asset Sales.
FACEBOOK EVENT PAGES
Please watch this page for details of events planned throughout New Zealand.
For Your Information:
There are possibly 1000′s of bogus registrations on the government’s MRP pre-registration web-site. Both the Labour leader and the leader of the Greens were signed up without their knowledge. Another person named “DonKey” has also pre-registered.
The government is claiming, “Over 200,000 people have pre-registered in 10 days, while it took over six months to collect 400,000 signatures for the referendum.” At the same time, they are dismissing large numbers of signatures collected as being invalid, before they have even been validated.
The government is deliberately distorting the facts – all signatures on the referendum are collected BY HAND, which takes a long time, while anyone with an internet connection can plug in a false name on the website registration form from anywhere in the world in seconds.
In a shocking display of arrogance and disdain for the people of New Zealand, the government has said that no matter what happens, they will ignore the results of the referendum.
Send a powerful message to this government, by coming out strong on April 27!