In my Herald column, I look at the mixed ownership debate. Some extracts:
The first partial sale is schedule for the third quarter of 2012, so before 30 September. Labour and the Greens will hope the petition is certified before that sale occurs, as it will allow them to call for the sale to be suspended until after the referendum is held.
They will of course be ignoring their own very recent history, when in August 2009 a referendum saw 87% of those who voted, vote that a smack by a parent for correctional purposes should not be a criminal offence. By coincidence a bill was drawn from the ballot the following week which would have amended the law to do exactly that. Labour and the Greens joined all the other parliamentary parties (except ACT) in voting the bill down.
Then on timing on the referendum:
The Government will then decide on the timing of the referendum, so long as it is within the next 12 months. They will want the turn out to be as low as possible, so that it has a reduced political impact. Hence they could decide to schedule the postal referendum very quickly, say in December. Most people in December are busy doing other things, plus that would get the referendum (which would no doubt vote against the partial sales) out of the way.
The other option for the referendum is that the Government sets it as late as possible, so mid to late 2013. By then it is likely three of the four sales would have occurred, and the referendum would look even more pointless than it is.
If the referendum is held after say three of the sales have proceeded, it may get interesting. It may put pressure on Labour and Greens to say if they will vote with NZ First to buy the shares back if re-elected.