Fran on Asset Sales

Fran O’Sullivan writes in the NZ Herald:

In his bones, Key will know that in the longer term the partial privatisation policy will prove very popular indeed, particularly if the sales are sweetened with a sprinkling of “popular capitalism”.

Australia’s Queensland Government – run by Labor’s Anna Bligh – did just this by offering incentives to mum and dad investors in a highly successful string of assets sales.

There were no brokers’ fees, a specified maximum price per share and a loyalty bonus to incentivise small shareholders to hold on to their shares, as well as a free parcel of shares for relevant workers; particularly with the float of Queensland Rail (now QR National) – the second largest IPO in Australia’s history.

 People did not like Telecom and NZ Rail being sold off entirely to large foreign corporates. But the floats of Auckland Airport and Contact Energy to local investors were actually relatively uncontroversial at the time.

But on this side of the Tasman, Labour leader Phil Goff – who was an integral member of the David Lange Cabinet that privatised many state assets – is hell bent on re-erecting Fortress NZ.

What I dislike about Goff is that he reneges on policies he previously promoted when he believes he can score a naked political advantage.

Hence at the 2005 election he blithely stood by while a fellow Cabinet minister made untrue allegations that the United States was writing New Zealand’s policy even though he knew full well that an American slagged off as a National “bagman” had partially under-written a New Zealand lobbying programme in the US capital.

The same bagman who has been our most generous donor to the arts. What shameful treatment.

So when Goff gets all pumped up and red-faced and hyperbolic, Key only has to dip into the recent history books to underscore the Labour leader’s hypocrisy.

In fact, the partial will provide an investment home for KiwiSaver providers, the NZ Superannuation Fund, iwi and retail investors. They will also release capital for the Government to reinvest in much needed new infrastructure and to help get the budget back into the black.

Labour is going into an election campaign which they say they want to fight on asset sales, yet their leader was once the most enthusiastic advocate for. Do they really think they will get much resonance?

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