Hooton on asset sales

writes in NBR:

What Mr Peters may recognise, but does not, is that, before Mr Key suggested the share issues, most voters had never heard of Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis or Solid Energy, much less worried about their ownership structure.

Compared with disposable incomes, the local school competently teaching maths, grandma getting her hip replacement, the cops tracking down the local crims or even keeping Asian immigrants out, whether a Waikato River dam is owned 100% or 51% by the state simply doesn’t rate.

The actual policies of those who claim to oppose share issues prove it.

Through nine years of the Helen Clark regime, when a global economic boom fuelled massive fiscal surpluses, the government bought back not a single share in Contact Energy.

Nor did Phil Goff promise to buy back shares in Contact.  Nor does Mr Shearer promise to buy back shares in the companies Mr Key plans to list.

If it is OK for national symbols such as the Clyde Dam and the Wairakei geothermal network to be 100% privately owned – and majority foreign owned – how could it possibly matter that Waikato River dams will be only 51% government owned and perhaps 20% foreign owned?

Matthew gets it right on. The opposition is symbolic bluster.

While averse to nationalisation, Labour also argues that not a single share in any of the Crown’s $50 billion of commercial companies should ever be sold – in effect freezing more than $30,000 per New Zealand household in a portfolio that is a mere legacy of the tumult of the 1980s and 90s.

This is the perverse logic of Labour’s stance. They are basically arguing that the exact right number of power companies for the Government to own is three out of five. Not two, not four – exactly three.

The ideological opposition to the private sector means that we don’t have an intelligent conversation over what assets should be state owned and which should not. Instead we just have a die in the ditch defence of the status quo no matter how illogical it might be.

Arguments that the state must own 100% of “strategic assets” – a meaningless phrase, never defined – would suggest the government should nationalise all food production and distribution, something Labour is yet to propose.

In fact, an immovable asset producing a commodity involving no proprietary intellectual property would seem to be exactly the sort of thing where ownership is irrelevant.

Absolutely. There is a far stronger case for the Government to own Fonterra than a power company.

The are happy that their anti-asset-sale petition has won them tens of thousands of new email addresses to spam in election year.

And they used taxpayer money to collect them! I bet you everyone who signed that petition will get an e-mail from them if they gave an e-mail address.

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