The parliamentary purchased referendum achieved

January 4th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Olivia Wannan at Stuff reports:

New Zealanders will have their say on this year after a petition to force a reached the 300,000 signatures needed, campaigners say.

Since April, a coalition including Grey Power, the Council of Trade Unions, the Green Party and Labour have been collecting signatures for the petition.

They need 10 per cent of all registered voters, or approximately 310,000 people, to sign to force a referendum.

Grey Power national president Roy Reid said the group had collected more than 340,000 signatures, allowing for a percentage of signatures that did not meet the requirements under the Citizen Initiated Referendum Act.

It was inevitable they would get the signatures once the Greens used taxpayer funding to hire people to collect signatures. It makes an absolute travesty of a process which is meant to be about citizens initiating a referendum, not about taxpayer funded parliamentary parties purchasing one with taxpayer funding.

The hypocrisy of Labour and Greens in arranging the referendum is quite immense, when you consider their response to the last – on the anti-smacking law. A massive 85% of New Zealanders voted that a light parental smack for correctional purposes should not be a criminal offence, yet they voted against a bill which would have done exactly that a few weeks after the 85% result.

Now you can have a legitimate view that parliamentary parties should vote on the basis of the policies they were elected on, not on the basis of referenda. That is my view for example. But it is hypocrisy to promote a referendum on one issue, and insist the referendum result must be followed – while you continue to oppose implementing other referendum results.

So at some stage in 2013 there will be a referendum. It will achieve nothing but posturing as the policies a Government gets elected on out-trump a non-binding referendum. The end result will just be a few million wasted on a referendum.

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97 Responses to “The parliamentary purchased referendum achieved”

  1. Manolo (13,746 comments) says:

    More money wasted in another flawed initiative. In the same category as the creation of the Commission for Families, Whanau Ora, and countless quangos.

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  2. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    The 310,000 signed the petition because the assets generate returns higher than our debt cost.

    On selling them we pass on half the rising asset values to private owners – this will increase the amount of debt we have relative to the assets we hold.

    Some are confused (even the government changes its approach from time to time according to the political wind of the moment) as to the argument for the part privatisation – it is not to reduce our debt burden and it certainly will not do this. The argument for it is to provide a larger local stock market for investors and to bring private management into the running of the companies.

    When debt is ballooning as it is, asking whether this is worth the loss of 49% of the income earning assets is a valid question for the public to consider.

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  3. Redbaiter (8,801 comments) says:

    “It makes an absolute travesty of a process which is meant to be about citizens initiating a referendum, not about taxpayer funded parliamentary parties purchasing one with taxpayer funding.”

    So why don’t the National Party/ Parliament do something about such a travesty?

    Fixing stuff like this might be where legislative effort should be spent rather than in attempting to reshape our traditional culture with legislation nobody really wants.

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  4. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Consent to the sale of assets, that cannot easily be reversed, is a more important matter than a legislative one that parliament could review at any time – after a sufficient period to allow a determination whether the law change was working well.

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  5. Grendel (1,002 comments) says:

    bullshit SPC, people signed the petition becuase the greens scared them, or being socialists themselves, they like the idea of govt owning anything.

    i very much doubt that many of the people (including all the politicians who arranged it), understand the smallest iota of economics, let alone the partial leveraging of shares in a state run entity.

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  6. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    The referendum will be easy to ignore, making the whole CIR option even more farcical.

    The biggest problem with democracy in New Zealand is not the systems with have, it’s how they are abused and manipulated by political parties. CIR and MMP are designed by politicians and misused by politicians.

    But there’s no easy solution to this. Most people and groups of people proposing “people’s democracy” initiatives don’t actually think in terms of making things more democratic, they are blinded by their own agendas and want to manipulate democracy to achieve their own goals.

    I don’t think politicians will give up their power and their hold on the democratic processes easily.

    So I think the only way of people taking ownership of democracy is to set up small scale democractic systems, prove them and then grow them, where the only agenda is finding the best balance of democracy and leadership/governance.

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  7. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,752 comments) says:

    No worries SPC. Consent was granted back in Nov 2011.

    Time to get selling!!

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  8. big bruv (13,884 comments) says:

    “Fixing stuff like this might be where legislative effort should be spent rather than in attempting to reshape our traditional culture with legislation nobody really wants.”

    What legislation?.

    If you are talking about the gay marriage bill then you are wrong, the majority of Kiwis want it.
    If you are talking about the voluntary euthanasia bill then again you are wrong, the majority of Kiwis want this as well.

    The “traditional culture” you keep crapping on about no longer exists, what makes it all the more laughable is that you know bloody well that Kiwis rejected the stifled, religious based “traditional culture” years ago. It is only stupid old men like you who yearn for the days past when life was meant to be endured not enjoyed.

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  9. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Grendal, so the majority of the population don’t understand the issue well enough to make the decision. Nor the politicians – so who do you think decided on the policy?

    Or why was the policy determined on without understanding it – simply the opportunity to make an untaxed CG by buying cheap off the taxpayer and selling higher onto the market? A way of using capital to speculate? So those who have, will have more and those who have less get the higher power bill?

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  10. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Pete George, the Labour Party are trying out the democracy thing in house at the moment, but apparently it makes those in leadership and those in caucus a little paranoid because it gives others a vehicle to challenge their primacy. It’s not the democracy that’s the problem (Greens do fine) it’s the transformation (vested interest status quo etc).

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  11. Nigel Kearney (1,012 comments) says:

    The reason to sell assets is that the private sector will run them better than the government. The incentive to make profits by providing goods and services that customers want to pay for, leads to better outcomes than the incentive to avoid embarrassing the shareholding minister or to pursue other politically driven goals.

    Any other reason is flawed. There will be little real debt reduction as revenue generated will be determined by the value of expected future profits, which could also have been used to repay debt. Though the reduced debt will be up front rather than over time, so may be attractive to politicians who mainly care about the next election.

    National has a mandate to sell assets in order to reduce debt as they campaigned on that. But they don’t have a mandate to use asset sales just to temporarily prevent the debt blowing out even more that it otherwise would from their increased spending.

    I don’t see the problem with political parties using their taxpayer-funded resources for this sort of thing. They are doing it solely to gain a political advantage, which is what these funds have typically been used for in the past. But, they should have timed it better so the referendum would coincide with a general election.

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  12. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    I’m not one in favour of binding referenda, but I think indicative referenda can be a good tool of political pressure. However, the current law is bullshit. It is almost impossible to get 10% of the electorate to sign a petition, and if you can get 10% then the referendum becomes a waste of time, since getting the signatures in the first place is a clear indication of how the vote is going to go down.

    I’d prefer a flat 50,000 voters to trigger a referendum. You would get more of them happening, but they would be a lot more interesting as a consequence, and a lot more useful in terms of shaping public policy.

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  13. Kleva Kiwi (289 comments) says:

    SPC (1,794) Says:
    January 4th, 2013 at 9:51 am

    “If you are talking about the gay marriage bill then you are wrong, the majority of Kiwis want it.”

    Says who? Prove it. I think you will find most people are indifferent, and the people who ‘want’ it are outnumbered by the people who don’t ‘want’ it.

    “If you are talking about the voluntary euthanasia bill then again you are wrong, the majority of Kiwis want this as well.”

    Once again where is your proof? This is your ‘opinion’. Who is this established majority you speak of?

    Whilst your opinion may be entirely valid, it is just your opinion and not fact. Wether or not gay marriage or euthanasia bills are right or wrong, they are both social engineering bills being passed off as legislative. Both should be put to a public vote to gain support to pass or fail, and not pushed through by the politically motivated we have in office.

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  14. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    There’s been a ton of dishonesty in the anti asset sale campaign, as is evident by this from the Council of Trade Unions:

    The Keep Our Assets Campaign is a celebration of New Zealand ownership of our assets.

    We’re promoting a petition calling for a citizens initiated referendum on the Government’s plan to sell
    our power companies and Air New Zealand. A referendum is the best chance we’ve got to make sure
    the Government doesn’t sell them for a quick buck.

    – The Government’s plan to sell 49% is the first step towards full privatisation of our valuable public assets.
    – Our power companies are 100% Kiwi owned. We need them to stay that way for future generations.
    – If they are sold, profits will disappear offshore.
    – Privatisation will lead to higher power prices.
    – We can reduce government debt faster by keeping the assets.
    – Individual assets – like dams and wind turbines – can still be 100% sold into private ownership.
    – Majority government ownership is a myth; there’s no limit to the sale of dividend-collecting shares.

    http://union.org.nz/keep-our-assets

    Much of that is either unsubstantiated, scaremongering or straight out wrong.

    The CTU (and Labour and Greens) are not promoting an informed debate and vote, they are misusing the CIR to bullshit their own anti Government agenda.

    This is stink democracy.

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  15. bringbackdemocracy (427 comments) says:

    The response of MPs to the referendum on the anti-smacking law was appalling.
    87.4% voted against that law.
    http://www.elections.org.nz/elections/resultsdata/2009-referendum-result.html

    In the referendum to change to MMP only 85% voted for change. At the time Mike Moor said ” the people didn’t speak, they screamed”

    In the referendum on MMP 55% took part. In the referendum on the anti-smacking law 56.09% took part.

    It is to their shame that MP’s ignored the result of the anti-smacking referendum.
    MORE PEOPLE SIGNED THE PETITION TO FORCE THE REFERENDUM THAN VOTED TO KEEP THE LAW

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  16. redeye (629 comments) says:

    The 310,000 signed the petition because the assets generate returns higher than our debt cost.

    Those returns you speak off (our extraordinarily high energy costs) are nothing but taxation by stealth. Further they are a regressive tax as the hardest hit are the larger poorer families that can’t afford insulation and efficient heating systems.

    At least in the hands of private enterprise, when their owners demand a bigger return, they will be forced to improve efficiencies and not just slug the general pop.

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  17. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    It’s not the democracy that’s the problem (Greens do fine)…

    Greens do fine with democracy on an internal level, but they abuse democracy as much as anyone externally.

    They are abusing CIR, they are abusing the intent of parliamentary funding, and they try to manipulate their minority mandate to push their agendas, mostly in trying to stop things (like Government policy, roading, mining, oil and gas exploration and recovery).

    The way political parties abuse democracy (including the Greens) is a major problem.

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  18. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Kleva Kiwi, it was a post by big bruv you were responding to.

    If you want to see some polls on the marriage law reform. The following two show a majority in support fo the legislation proposed.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10856176

    http://www.3news.co.nz/Poll-shows-support-for-same-sex-marriage/tabid/1607/articleID/256909/Default.aspx

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  19. kowtow (8,439 comments) says:

    The fact that parliament can ignore referenda disgusts me,it is such a travesty,especially as the state continually boasts about being so democratic!

    bigot bruv claims parody marriage has majority support from flightless birds,

    there’s only one way that matter should be tested…… a referendum,not a NZ parody referendum but a real one. That’s democracy.

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  20. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    the Labour Party are trying out the democracy thing in house at the moment

    Yes, the party is trying more democracy but the caucus and leadership are shitting on that. A prime example of those in positions of power abusing the democratic process to maintain their power.

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  21. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Pete George, clearly you are biased, as to the arguments on the asset sales, because you are a member of a party that was the original source of part-sale of the assets idea.

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  22. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    It was inevitable they would get the signatures once the Greens used taxpayer funding to hire people to collect signatures.

    Mmmm, I’d say it was inevitable long before that. Ideological sloganeering has been ramped up by the Left to fill the void created by diminished economic literacy.

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  23. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Pete, you are simply objecting to the Green Party being active in their participation in the political process. It’s their job to be representative of those who voted for them and do this. Other parties can do this too – if they get sufficient hard-working MP’s.

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  24. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    @Nigel Kearney

    I don’t see the problem with political parties using their taxpayer-funded resources for this sort of thing. They are doing it solely to gain a political advantage, which is what these funds have typically been used for in the past.

    I have a big problem with it. Elections are for campaigning. Once elected MPs should be funded to contribute to running the country, not running extended political campaigns.

    But, they should have timed it better so the referendum would coincide with a general election.

    They are timing it exactly as they want to. They failed in the election campaign, so they are hijacking citizen’s democratic processes and misusing parliamentary funds to run an extended campaign up until they get funded to run their next election campaign.

    Far too much time and money is wasted on political campaigning when they should be representing their constituents in parliament and helping to run the country.

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  25. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    red eye, so your argument is that if the assets are 100% owned by the state, then paying for power is a tax, but if they are 51% owned by the state, then they are not?

    That when the government claims dividends (after tax off the SOE profit) it does so as a form of tax, but when the dividends are shared 51-49% with private shareholders this is otherwise.

    Is that the case for selling the shares?

    The idea that government 100% ownership means increasing prices and 51% ownership means greater efficiencies and thus lower future prices is a hope. Don’t bet on it happening.

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  26. Kleva Kiwi (289 comments) says:

    SPC (1,797) Says:
    January 4th, 2013 at 10:14 am

    The first link you quoted shows an unscientific poll that has little relevance other than to show the opinions of the people who read the article you linked. The 3news article just states a figure of 63% without any citation to the actual poll in question. I would imagine (being typical of 3 news) that the poll is just a masked loaded question.

    Both aforementioned bills (gay marriage and euthanasia) should be voted on by public referendum and not by elected officials. Even then I still maintain most people don’t care.

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  27. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    SPC, my views on democracy have nothing to do with my party membership, except that my campaigning on democracy is why a party asked me to join them.

    And it is not a “party that was the original source of part-sale of the assets idea”.

    I’m ambivalent about National’s soft partial asset sales policy, I don’t care whether it goes ahead or not – I have previously said I’d prefer maybe a couple of floats and then see how they go before deciding on any more. A compressed three year cycle policy on something this important is nuts.

    I’m far more interested (and always have been) in fair and practical democracy.

    I think Greens are abusing the intent of parliamentary funding (I don’t think any other parties should misuse it either) and they are abusing the intent of CITIZEN’S Initiated Referenda.

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  28. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    I said it before here, but it’s worth repeating:

    It is true that governments should not own commercial enterprises, and should stick to its primary role of maintaining a justice system, defending the country, and possibly providing a backstop of welfare, health and education (if we are being ideologically impure). But the fact remains that these assets are already currently collectively owned. Any sale of the asset does not benefit the owners, but goes straight into government coffers to be wasted. So you are left with no further control over the asset, for no financial gain. There is no personal dividend. There is no tax cut. No wonder people are pissed off!

    The government is doing the equivalent of stealing something you own, selling it, and pocketing the proceeds. It’s the equivalent of a tax. It empowers and enriches the government at the expense of the people, and there is nothing more left wing as an idea than that. If it stands to reason that governments should not buy or nationalise businesses, and that such action is either a gross abuse of public funds, or a gross abuse of power, it also stands to reason that they should not sell those same assets without any benefit to those who paid for them in the first place.

    To add to the clusterf*ck we have here, the government is not even selling the whole asset. It is seeking the worst of both worlds – a stake in the business, plus hocking it off to someone else. And who is that “someone else”? Who is being given priority in the sale? New Zealanders – the same people who supposedly own the asset! They are being asked to pay twice for it! Not only adding insult to injury, but also deflating the value of the shares.

    If National and the Right is struggling to defend the sales, it is not because they are not explaining them properly. It’s because they are a bad idea, and people can figure it out for themselves. So they should just stop.

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  29. Paulus (2,626 comments) says:

    I signed it at least a dozen times. I hope the my M Mouse and D Duck in obscure electorates count too.

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  30. redeye (629 comments) says:

    My argument is that under the current structure the government, not market forces, decide the amount we all pay for energy. And that can be called anything you like but for mine it’s simply taxation (Unless they run them as a not-for-profit).

    Under the proposed structure the government will just be another investor and the price of energy will then be decided by market forces.

    Further you can’t use the amount of revenue generated as an argument against because it’s not really generated. It’s just taken.

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  31. emmess (1,428 comments) says:

    I am not going to vote in this farce of a referendum and I urge others not to either.
    They will be lucky to get a thirty per cent turnout.

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  32. duggledog (1,555 comments) says:

    I for one am certainly confused.

    Why would I want an asset that is a conduit for the government of the day to tap into my wallet? Power prices went up enormously under the Clark administration.

    Also when do I get a dividend from this asset?

    What else should we do? Raise taxes or borrow?

    Will power prices really go up once there are partially sold assets? Electricity is simply a consumable. It can only be used by New Zealanders so if it becomes too expensive nobody will use it and it can’t be stored either

    My bet is that Key wants this shit done ASAP so he can go into the next election with dramatically lower electricity prices which ordinary kiwis can appreciate, and it won’t have cost them a cent.

    This had better happen anyway because I have a bet with the father in law

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  33. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    Any sale of the asset does not benefit the owners, but goes straight into government coffers to be wasted.

    BlairM – You’ve succinctly described my one and only objection to asset sales. Even if commercial enterprise could be run more efficiently in private ownership, the thought of capital being turned into increased state bloat (more state sector employees, more welfare, more pork barrel policy) is economic foolishness.

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  34. kowtow (8,439 comments) says:

    BlairM has nailed it there. Couldn’t agree with him more.

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  35. ChardonnayGuy (1,206 comments) says:

    The CIR Act was the fault of the Bolger administration. It should have been reviewed at the same time that we had the MMP review, given that there have been only four such potty plebiscites before this one. Referenda are expensive to hold and are a drain on the public purse during a time of severe recession, which divert essential expenditure that needs to be reserved for core social services like health and education. Instead of holding this referendum, Labour and the Greens really need to be elaborating how their proposed Capital Gains Tax will increase the tax intake and fund neccessary public expenditure. Repeal the CIR Act.

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  36. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Kleva Kiwi, the first link was to a Herald-DigiPoll survey – the on-site poll done recording choices by those reading the artiucle was a separate poll. The second was Colmar Brunton for TV 3.

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  37. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    redeye, how will changing the level of state/government ownership from 100% to 51% increase the function of the market in determining power prices?

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  38. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    duggledog, it is not John Key’s intention to go into the 2014 election with lower power prices, it is his intention to have people voting after having see their power company share price rise or having made an untaxed CG on-selling the share.

    There is no likelihood of power prices falling because of any change in ownership.

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  39. redeye (629 comments) says:

    but goes straight into government coffers to be wasted.

    Really? And I thought they were using it to pay another very important asset. Fibre optic. As someone who already exports my software development skills I’m delighted and don’t consider it ‘wasted’.

    I also don’t want to be indebted to the Chinese to the tune of another couple of billion so we can have that asset.

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  40. redeye (629 comments) says:

    redeye, how will changing the level of state/government ownership from 100% to 51% increase the function of the market in determining power prices?

    They will be competing. Unlike the current one owner structure.

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  41. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    redeye

    You are right to say that the money would not be simply wasted. But having fibre optic is not dependent on selling power company shares – the roll out is now and the power companies have not been part-sold. And the SOE’s generate returns sufficient to cover the debt cost of not selling them.

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  42. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    redeyer, they already compete as separate companies.

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  43. redeye (629 comments) says:

    Sorry SPC but for mine you can’t call it competition when the same owners demand the same dividend.

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  44. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    An interesting view from the left (from ‘Karol’, a new author at The Standard):

    I would say, among the general public that keeping assets like power companies has more support than the amendment to remove justifications for beating children (aka the so-called “anti-smacking bill”).

    The more people hear about the damage that will be done by the sale of power companies, the more government support will drop.

    That highlights one of the primary aims of the taxpayer funded campaign for a taxpayer funded referendum – to reduce support for the Government.

    Parliamentary funds being used to try and undermine parliament. Democratic processes being used to undermine our form of democracy.

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  45. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Pete, parliament is not government.

    And I do think that Peter Dunne was the source of the idea of partial sales of SOE’s.

    PS I was responding to your 10.04 am post earlier.

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  46. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    redeye, the market competition is in the prices offered to customers for their power. The SOE’s already compete on price for market share (they are limited by the power they generate or can buy on the market for this extra share).

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  47. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Roger Kerr always said that the idea for partial sale of the assets was Peter Dunne’s as they were part of United policy at the 2005 election – where 40% sale was United policy.

    http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2011/12/15/gordon-campbell-on-peter-dunnes-casting-vote-on-asset-sales/

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  48. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Kerr on the case for sale and United being the only party at the time with the policy in 2005.

    http://m.nbr.co.nz/article/privatisation-a-third-rail

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  49. Dave Stringer (188 comments) says:

    On Monday I drove from Auckland to Wellington on the “main hiway” State Hiway 1 of our beautiful land.

    I was shocked and stunned. The distance travelled on one lane each way stretches was, to say the least, disturbing. The number of such stretches with cross-roads was frightening.

    Traffic was sparse so we hoped for a quick journey, and used the (very accurate) cruise control on the car to maintaing the maximum permitted speed whenever possible.

    The journey was 621 KM. The time it too (without stops) was 8 hours 17 minutes. an average of just over 75Km/H.

    I did the trip from my brother’s house to my daughter’s back in 2010, it was cross country in England, and covered a distance of 591Km in just 5 hours 46 minutes. The journey was not all on Motorway, but it never involved less than 2 lanes each way, and (as I was travelling over-night) traffic was sparse.

    SO WHAT?

    The fuel saving was significant.
    The driver fatigue reduction was significant.
    The willingness to travel to see friends and family was high.

    IF THE ONLY WAY WE CAN AFFORD TO GET A DECENT 2-lane each way hiway between our major cities (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin,) is to sell some assets that are not for the public good, and use the funds to build roads (which are) then I say sell and get on with the job.

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  50. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    SPC – I’m not aware of Peter Dunne being involved in formulating National’s MOM bill. Are you confusing him with Don Brash or Phil Goff?

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  51. Michael (909 comments) says:

    Can those who “signed” the referendum check that they are legitimate. If, for instance, some crafty bugger independently got hold of the electoral roll and copied names across is there any check on this?

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  52. Pete George (23,559 comments) says:

    SPC, you’re talking about 2005 policies when 40% sale of some SOEs was UF policy, and National proposed selling part of Solid Energy. It’s hard to see how Dunne was tyhe source of the idea though, hadn’t Air NZ already become a mixed ownership SOE under Labour?

    I’d prefer 40% now but excluding Solid Energy.

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  53. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    He was the first to propose part-privatisation of the power comanies.

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  54. bringbackdemocracy (427 comments) says:

    Referenda should be binding. Ultimate sovereignty should rest with the people not self serving politicians.

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  55. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Dave Stringer, we pay for roads out of the petrol levy, so assess the cost of the two lane highways you want and set the petrol price accordingly. People pay for roads and power as they use them.

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  56. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    SPC there are a number of reasons to partially sell the assets and the left knows this but choose to ignore it and spew their own propoganda instrad. The last election Labour wanted to take even higher dividends to fund their policies so how do you think that would affect power prices (which went up over 70% under the last Labour government BTW)? They say it will raise prices yet were basically campaigning the last election on doing just that (irony much)! Also these shares will be sold into an investment fund so it is transparent. Finally people with money to spend (such as myself) will buy these shares and the money will be used for things (such as schools, hispitals etc) that the whole population will use (including people not so well off) so how can that be a bad thing? The dividends that the government won’t get have been grossly overstated.

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  57. unpcnzcougar (52 comments) says:

    bringbackdemocracy – They should never be binding as it would all turn into a farce. We could all vote for giving nurses and firefighters a pay rise. Citizens would bankrupt the country through these types of things. We have our chance to vote every 3 years.
    As an aside Switzerland had binding referendums, hence why women never got the vote until 1974.

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  58. Paulus (2,626 comments) says:

    If there is a referendum in 2013 the Greenpeace and Labour voters will be whipped in to vote.
    Like Len Brown’s election – KFCs and McDs
    Those who fail to vote will allow it to be overwhelmingly passed, like as happened in the formation of MMP.
    A majority from a very small electorate.

    Hopefully
    a. the Government will ignore whatever, and
    b. the sales would have been completed.
    The country voted in 2011 in favour of the policy
    So up yours

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  59. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Cunningham, why are reasons not to sell, propoganda, and reasons to sell, otherwise?

    1. If the money is placed into an investment fund, they will not be used to pay debt.

    100% of the divdends going to government, rather than 51%, would also fund schools and hospitals.

    2. Prices will rise either way, the resulting profit will either go to fund government or be shared out with private investors.

    3. If the dividends earnt by government are over-stated why would anyone want to buy the shares?

    The only change is that some of the rising value of the assets will now be shared by private co-owners. The reason why buying them is popular is that they will rise in value and the government will be worse off 20 years from now for not having continued to own assets that rise in value.

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  60. SPC (5,619 comments) says:

    Paulus, just admit it opinion polls show 2/3rd of the voters oppose asset sales.

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  61. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    I will buy these shares and the money will be used for things (such as schools, hispitals etc) that the whole population will use

    I’d like to believe this, but I can’t. The government borrows millions of dollars every week while continuing to expand the size of the state, while refusing to roll back the get-me-reelected madness that includes student loans and middle-class welfare.

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  62. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,752 comments) says:

    ..and yet John Key is the Prime Minister in 2013. Phil who?

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  63. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    @SPC,

    1. 49% of the dividends is not enough to fund the new asset investments – it wouldn’t be enough to pay the interest on borrowing to fund the new assets. The sale of 49% is sufficient to fund investments without borrowing, enabling those assets to be built now and without interest costs.

    And 51% is retained, giving control of these assets, along with half of the ongoing dividends.

    It is a win-win approach.

    2. Power prices are not guaranteed to go up under mixed-ownership. Competitive pressures are more likely to see those businesses focusing on operational cost reduction rather than raising prices.

    3. The dividends are not overstated, they have been, in some cases at least, inflated by one off special dividends – as a result of those businesses selling bits of themselves off. Goff got caught out over the dividend claims during the election campaign.

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  64. bringbackdemocracy (427 comments) says:

    unpcnztomcat

    The Swiss still have binding Citizens referenda, that’s why women got the vote.
    A democracy should be democratic.

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  65. ben (2,379 comments) says:

    What a beat up.

    Has nobody noticed that in the next 5 years the state’s total asset holdings will go up by around $30 billion net of these transactions?

    Which makes the energy being put in to interrupt these comparatively minor transactions rather disproportionate. Far from selling off the silver, the state is controlling ever more capital.

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  66. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    bhudson (3,039) the dividends are good but the left have overstated them and continue to use periods where they did sell off assets to pump up their cause. It is shameful but sadly not surprising.

    SPC where does the money go now? I have no idea do you? Do you get the dividend payment? The revenue from the sale will go towards assets this couintry needs and as a result, less money will need to be borrowed to pay for those essential assets. Do you actually believe that a Labour government would use the dividends from these companies to build this much needed infrastructure? At least we know this money will be used to better the country. At the moment it goes into a black hole.

    I am happy to buy shares knowing that the money will specifically be used for new hospitals, schools broadband, transport. Yes I will get a return, but I am not planning to spend it anywhere but here (save for my retirement) and there will be many people like me. I wqant somewhere to invest my money in this country.

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  67. eszett (2,408 comments) says:

    The Swiss still have binding Citizens referenda, that’s why women got the vote.
    A democracy should be democratic.

    Only in 1971!! As the last country bar Lichtenstein in Europe.
    Not a great example of the usefulness of referenda. Quite the contrary.

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  68. unpcnzcougar (52 comments) says:

    BBD

    No need to be rude. I am sure the women of Switzerland were delighted to gain the vote some 100 years after most of the western world.
    We vote every 3 years and give someone a mandate to carry out the policies they campaigned on.
    There is no such thing as a true democracy.

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  69. bringbackdemocracy (427 comments) says:

    Who campaigned on redefining marriage?
    We should have binding referenda

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  70. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    It’s amusing to see those in favour of asset sales justify going ahead in the face of majority opposition in a referendum (assuming that is the outcome) by saying the policy has a mandate because National was re-elected.

    At elections, parties put forward a raft of policies (they used to actually print and publish a manifesto, but heaven forbid there should be any permanent record of the lies they tell to get elected). People then cast their votes based on their feeling about that range of policies versus the policies of other parties.

    To claim they therefore support every single policy of the winning party is a nonsense akin to claiming that, because McDonalds is your favourite restaurant you must like every single item on the menu, even the insipid salads which are outclassed by almost every alternative offering, even the pre-packaged stuff in supermarkets.

    The difference is, McDonalds doesn’t stuff their salad down our gullets when we order a burger, madly claiming “But you must like the salad! You came here to eat, didn’t you?”

    The trouble is, that’s what politics does – you pick a restaurant but then you get served everything on the menu whether you like it or not.

    Now we have the technology to allow us to easily pick and choose – this could all be done electronically, but politicians won’t agree to implement it because it’d see the end of their monopoly on decision-making. We should, as Blair suggests, set a trigger of 50,000 – but 50,000 genuine voters, who could log on and use a PIN or digital certificate to “sign” a petition and then, as bringbackdemocracy says, make the result binding.

    Maybe, as unpcnzcougar suggests, we’d all vote for giving nurses and firefighters a pay rise. If there’s concern about voters voting the country into bankruptcy, make it that either each referendum had to be fiscally neutral, or a majority had to accept a tax increase.

    How to pay for it could be the subject of another question, with voters picking one or more options that generate savings equivalent to the cvost of the measure implemented in the referendum. Reducing MPs’ salaries to, say, the median wage x 2 would be a start. CEOs of SOEs to no more than the PM. Just think of the changes a fed-up NZ electorate would make…

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  71. eszett (2,408 comments) says:

    Who campaigned on redefining marriage?
    We should have binding referenda

    Why? The referendum on asset sales is not binding either.
    If you wish a referendum on same-sex marriage, feel free to initiate one.

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  72. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    People then cast their votes based on their feeling about that range of policies versus the policies of other parties.

    Except, Rex, the MOM policy was ‘front and centre’ in National’s policies. And was signalled from the time Election Day was announced (some 9 months notice.) It was not some little add on, hidden within a manifesto.

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  73. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    Rex Widerstrom (4,800) yes people may not like the idea but they did choose National based on their policies. The policies SHOULD NOT be viewed independently. There are things National campaigned on that rely on this policy and that is why the lefts argument is such a crock of shit. They would love National to shitcan the sales as they know it would force them to axe other policies due to not having the revenue generated from the sales or else they borrow and they criticise them for not reaching a surplus when they said they would. They would accuse National of going back on their promises.

    That is the thing that fucks me off so much about this. The left just don’t get it. Yet I bet if they won the election and people said they shouldn’t increase the dividends (which they proposed to do) as it would put up power prices they would tell them to fuck off as that money is needed to pay for their other crazy policies.

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  74. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    bhudson:

    I never said it was hidden, simply that different policies across an entire pre-election manifesto have different levels of support. In the end people vote because they feel more positive toward the general direction taken by party A versus parties B, C and D. That doesn’t mean they’re blindly in favour of everything party A wants to do.

    To use another analogy. A person may marry because he is in love with a great many things their partner says, does, and is. But given the choice, there’d be one or two things they’d probably change. We now have the ability to offer that choice, with minimal expense. Why shouldn’t we?

    Cunningham:

    So you’re saying that policies are inter-dependent and shouldn’t be viwed in isolation. I accept the inter-dependence argument (in the case of most issues anyway) but don’t see that that should rule out changing things by referendum.

    It simply needs to be stated, as I’ve suggested, that the net effect of a) axing one policy (in this case asset sales) would be either b) an increase in taxes (with amounts detailed) or c) the necessity to cut certain other policies (the ones you call crazy could be amongst those offered for deletion).

    Information would be given to people, who’d then make a choice based on a range of factors and not just “Ooo yes, more money for nurses and firefighters sounds good”. If you pick that option, question 2 asks you whether you’re prepared to pay $X more tax at your rate of income, or where you’d prefer the government to make savings to pay for it, or a mix of both.

    To vote for a) one would also have to select from b) and/or c) a set of options which raised taxes or cut spending by the amount of revenue expected to be lost by deleting a).

    Yes, it’s placing a great deal of responsibility on people’s shoulders. But we place a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of MPs, most of whom weren’t selected on merit and many of whom give every appearance of doing little or no work and thus having no grasp of the issues on which they nominally vote (the party vote having removed even that responsibility from their shoulders).

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  75. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    Rex Widerstrom (4,803) do you think your average voter is going to be arsed doing all the analysis? It sounds good in theory but in p[ractice, it is pretty unworkable. What would happen is that certain types of voters would go in and make the decisions. Also the media would (like they do now) skew the process by the way they cover it. To me there are some real dangers in the way you are proposing and it would more then likely not be a process indicative of what the country wants or expects. I think the system we have now is good but of course it has some flaws. There is no democratic process in the world that doesn’t!

    I am glad you agree about inter dependency as this is something that most people who are up in arms about this never consider. There would be unexpected consequences if we ask a party to just drop a major policy like this and rearrange everything else they are going to do on the fly as a result. It is unfair to people who voted based on the other policies they thought would occur as part of the election.

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  76. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    The Swiss still have binding Citizens referenda, that’s why women got the vote.
    A democracy should be democratic.

    Only in 1971!! As the last country bar Lichtenstein in Europe.
    Not a great example of the usefulness of referenda. Quite the contrary.

    It’s worse than that! That’s the Federal vote. The Appenzel canton didn’t allow women to vote locally until 1989. Yes, 1989!!!

    That’s what referenda do. It’s about the majority trampling the rights of the minority. Which is why they should never ever be binding.

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  77. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    @Cunnigham

    Well then if we implemented my other recommendation in relation to CIR (mentioned in other posts on the topic but not here), which is a multi-choice questionnaire on the topic of the referenda, successful completion of which entitles you to vote, we’d have the country run by whatever number of people took the trouble to be informed about the topic before making a decision.

    So, first you’d have to demonstrate that you had a basic grasp of the topic, then you’d get to vote. If your vote (in this instance “yes, stop the asset sales”) had an effect on other policies you’d have to vote on subsequent topics if your vote on the main issue was to be counted.

    Given that I find many commenters here (and in some other parts of the blogosphere) to be at least as well informed as the average backbench List MP – and usually moreso – I don’t see how “rule by a minority of well informed citizens” (still numbering many thousands) can turn out worse than “rule by a majority of uninformed unrepresentative MPs” (numbering less than a hundred).

    Of course if I had my way you’d need to pass a simple test before you exercised your franchise in a general election. If, for instance, you’re one of the 48% (of the last survey, taken in 2008) who still don’t understand that your party vote determines who’ll govern after years of trying to educate you, well tough luck.

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  78. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    BlairM says:

    That’s what referenda do. It’s about the majority trampling the rights of the minority. Which is why they should never ever be binding.

    Yes, those General Elections, where the majority get to decide who governs, are so damned undemocratic. Pity we didn’t appoint, say, Helen Clark as Empress, and then she could look at the results of subsequent elections and determine whether the rights of her favoured minorities would be affected by the outcome and, if they were, ignore it.

    As Emma Goldman (who also said “If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal) put it, “people have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take”. It seems we lack the intelligence, the courage, or both.

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  79. Cunningham (844 comments) says:

    Rex Widerstrom (4,807) Says:

    “Of course if I had my way you’d need to pass a simple test before you exercised your franchise in a general election. If, for instance, you’re one of the 48% (of the last survey, taken in 2008) who still don’t understand that your party vote determines who’ll govern after years of trying to educate you, well tough luck.”

    Well I couldn’t agree with you more. It grates me how many people just don’t give a shit about politics and issues facing the country. They say it is frustrating because politicians just lie but that makes it even more important to take an interest! People don’t know how lucky they are to have the opportunity to take an interest in how this country is run. Most people only take an interest on election day and only for what things they will gain rather then whether it is good for NZ or not. Quite sad really but a fact of life.

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  80. eszett (2,408 comments) says:

    Yes, those General Elections, where the majority get to decide who governs, are so damned undemocratic. Pity we didn’t appoint, say, Helen Clark as Empress, and then she could look at the results of subsequent elections and determine whether the rights of her favoured minorities would be affected by the outcome and, if they were, ignore it.

    Now you are being just polemic, Rex.

    A general election elects parliament, which includes the voices of the minorities,even if only as opposition to the government.
    A referendum, on the other hand, has merely a yes/no answer. Comparing the two is disingenuous.

    There are a number of reasons why a referendum is a bad instrument. Mostly because it is impossible too reduce complex questions to a yes/no answer. And secondly the reason why we have general elections is precisely to elect representatives to deal with these specific questions and not to bounce them back at us.

    This referendum is nothing but a populist measure by labour, greens and other opposition to asset sales which one day will come back to bite them, one way or the other. It only shows how incompetent labour and the greens are to exploit the public unease with asset sales for purely ideological reasons by other means. It is also why National fear such a referendum, because it may erase whatever slim mandate they had through the election for those asset sales.

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  81. Keeping Stock (10,337 comments) says:

    Barely 10% of voters have signed this petition. The silent majority has spoken.

    http://keepingstock.blogspot.co.nz/2013/01/the-silent-majority.html

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  82. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    eszett says:

    A general election elects parliament, which includes the voices of the minorities, even if only as opposition to the government.

    So provided the minority gets a say before they’re over-ruled by the majority that’s okay?

    Let’s take an extreme example. Let’s say NZF holds the balance of power at the next election and let’s imagine that he says a ban on further immigration is his price. And let’s imagine a party, we’ll say Labour so as to avoid nightmares plaguing a majority of readers, agrees but its minority MPs – Su’a William Sio, Raymond Huo, Kris Faafoi and even Rajen Prasad (we’ll assume for the purpose of argument he awakens long enough to comment), object on behalf of their respective communities but are overruled.

    They’ve done their duty as “voices of the minorities” so is that a democratic outcome?

    You’re working from the assumption that the majority are always a bunch of unfeeling brutes who, by virtue of their overwhelming numbers, want to trample the rights of the minority. Yet we’ve had “landslide” elections from time to time and no one has ever suggested outlawing the party which lost heavily. We’ve actually got a fairly good record as a nation for respecting minorities… after all, we were the first to accord women the vote after over 31,872 people signed 13 separate petitions collected by women’s suffrage supporters in 1893. Which suggests we’d use our referenda powers in a more enlightened fashion than the Swiss mentioned above.

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  83. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    @Keeping Stock:

    “Barely 10%” are all that are required to sign. Why would the organisers keep collecting when the referendum will do the job of polling the opinions of a far larger number?

    I could argue, with equal validity, that if they’d kept going and knocked on every door in the nation they’d have 90% signed up. Of course I’d be talking nonsense

    There will, of course, always be those who just don’t give a damn about anything as Cunningham notes above. Just try collecting for an unimpeachable charity (some childhood disease, for instance, not some controversial environmental mob) and see how many passers by indicate they couldn’t give a toss. But neither side can claim their support because apathy =/= approval any more than it indicates disapproval.

    So a referendum will tell us what a majority of those who can be bothered engaging want to occur. Hopefully the total turnout will be at least 51% or we’ll have soothsayers from both sides arguing that laziness and ignorance amounts to a ringing endorsement of their particular perspective.

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  84. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    I could argue, with equal validity, that if they’d kept going and knocked on every door in the nation they’d have 90% signed up. Of course I’d be talking nonsense

    Well, given that they have been working in earnest trying to collect signatures for some 9 months or more now, pretty much anything but small change over 10% would seem to be the best they could have achieved.

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  85. bringbackdemocracy (427 comments) says:

    Referenda are democratic. The 10% hurdle is a hard one to reach. In NZ there have been about 30 attempts to have a citizens initiated referendum and so far only 4 have reached the 10% figure.
    We should abide by the outcomes if we claim to be a democracy.

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  86. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    bhudson suggests:

    anything but small change over 10% would seem to be the best they could have achieved

    Which would mean that only 10% of the population (say 12% to be generous) will vote “no” to asset sales in the eventual referendum.

    Are you making a prediction you’re prepared to stake your reputation on, bhudson? :-D

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  87. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    Are you making a prediction you’re prepared to stake your reputation on, bhudson?

    I am predicting that the result will be meaningless for (at least) a couple of reasons:

    1. Participation won’t be high enough to provide an unequivocal result
    2. The question is being worded by opponents to the mixed ownership model and the final wording will create a natural bias to the a to-position, despite the ‘advice’ of officials [cannot recall off hand who/which office 'assists'.]*

    The referendum question will likely end up being something like “Do you support the partial sale of public assets by the government?” Which will naturally bias responses towards ‘no’.

    If the question were more along the lines of “Given current economic conditions and forecasts for the near future, do you support the government selling minority shareholdings in some State assets to help fund new assets such as broadband, hospitals and schools?” then the answer would be far more likely to tend to ‘yes’.

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  88. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    ^^ “to the anti-position”. Damn edit function

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  89. krazykiwi (9,186 comments) says:

    bhudson – given your suggested question, too many NZers would respond with ‘um it sounds, like, hard’ and ‘where’s a lotto shop around here’

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  90. eszett (2,408 comments) says:

    bhudson, isn’t the question already set in the petition to:

    “Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8141848/Asset-sales-petition-gets-its-numbers

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  91. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    bhudson:

    That too would be a leading question unless the proceeds were tagged to fund broadband, hospitals and schools rather than anything that might take English’s fancy.

    I’d then like to see – and it’s perfectly possible to do with current web technology – a question which simply asks “Do you support the government proceeding with its announced program of asset sales?” (with a list of the assets and their estimated value beside the question. Let’s say anticipated value = n).

    Answer “yes” and you’re done. Answer “no” and the systems then asks “The government had intended to use the proceeds to fund:
    – Broadband $x million
    – Hospitals $y million
    – Schools $z million
    (and so on)

    Please move the sliders beneath each one to indicate to what extent you would prefer the reduction in increased spending to affect each category” (x + y + z would have to = n)

    That way the government is forced to be honest about where the money will go and the punter is forced to face the entire impact of his or her choices.

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  92. Reid (16,442 comments) says:

    That way the government is forced to be honest about where the money will go and the punter is forced to face the entire impact of his or her choices.

    That’s brilliant Rex. Seriously. Using that simple concept to drive the idea home to Joe and Jane Sixpack that their choices actually WILL affect their school, their benefit, their take-home pay or whatever, is a brilliant insight into how to finally wakeup the people to the consequence of their choices.

    You could extend that concept into any number of micro or macro political choices, to the same effect, with one proviso. No made-up numbers. If a party wanted to use such a graph on their website or on any campaign, they must by law be guaranteed always to use the same source (e.g. Treasury) for their figures and the sliders must be audited and certified to accurately reflect the adjustments made by the voters.

    Finally, instead of being presented with a big thick book called “The Budget” with lots of big words, Joe and Jane could eschew their furrowed brows with a few simple sliders, pointing out that the more P that Joe smokes and the more housie that Jane plays, the more prison time they will get, the less they are going to get in benefits and the more wretched their kids lives will become, with every passing day.

    Etc.

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  93. adam2314 (377 comments) says:

    Have not bothered to read any of the above comments..

    I want to say …

    There are so many people who voted for St. John.. The first time because they wanted change… The second time because they gave him the benefit of the doubt.. ” Not enough time “..

    I think that St. John is pushing his luck if he thinks that he will receive those votes again with out some real action..

    NATIONAL SOCIALISM !!..

    No that is not a vote for Hitler or Mussolini.. Or even that Wonk in Christchurch..

    Why did Fonterra sell 40% of their new issue off shore when NZ money wanted to own it ??..

    Thus ensuring 40% of dividend money will leave this country..

    Madness !!.. New Zealand people wanted to buy at the same price as offered and taken by overseas people..

    It is over time for NZ’d to BUY BACK New Zealand..

    St. Johns last opportunity to impress..

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  94. bhudson (4,740 comments) says:

    @eszett,

    “Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?”

    Yes, a bit lazy of me not to have checked beforehand, but, as predicted, the question has no reference to the circumstances or reasons for the proposed sell down. (It also shows that I avoided the CIR pushers for some 9 months.)

    The lack of reference to circumstances/consequences risks responses related to an ideal position, rather than the reality of what happens if we don’t adopt the MOM. Correlating polling on the issues over the past year or more, and the election result, suggests there might be a significant number of people that would prefer not to sell down the assets, but accept that circumstances necessitate (or at least justify) it.

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  95. lcmortensen (38 comments) says:

    85 percent of New Zealanders didn’t vote “No” on the 2009 referendum – only 34.1 percent did (1.47 million of 4.3 million).

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  96. UpandComer (536 comments) says:

    SPC must be retarded. He thinks that this isn’t happening to prevent debt… that’s the whole point, and the other reasons he gave are very much secondary. SPC you idiot.

    as to bringbackdmocracy etc, it is not a referenda if it is being paid for by poltiical parties with taxpayer’s money, designed by the political parties. referenda are designed to represent the voice of ‘people’ not ‘parties’. If the nats put forward a referendum paid for by taxpayers money to abolish the Maori seats and also to mine in conservation areas and got 10 percent, you would shut the fuck up I imagine.

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  97. ChardonnayGuy (1,206 comments) says:

    UpandComer raises a good point, which is how much these so-called ‘citizens’ referenda actually cost. David, perhaps an itemised inventory of costs to the taxpayer could be the subject of a quite interesting future blog?

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