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Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part toru)

17 February 2013 3 comments

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SOEs

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Continued from:

 

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua)

 

NZ, Wellington, 13 February 2013 – At this point, there was some light entertainment – firstly from this chap,

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“John Key” – first tried to convince the crowd that he’s really a “nice guy”.  The response from the crowd was anything but ‘understanding’.

“John Key” then sang his now-famous version of the New Zealand anthem, which he said was now “partially privatised” – so minus every third or fourth word. Thwe song made bugger-all sense – much like asset sales themselves.

The anthem was missing the last line, which he said, had been “sold in it’s entirety, including the word ‘New Zealand’.

After “John Key” was ‘helped’ off the stage with accompanying boos and cat-calls, Energy campaigner, Molly Melhuish took the microphone.

Ms Melhuish spoke for Greypower. Like Geoff Bertram, she is also deeply knowledgeable about all facets of the energy industry, including pricing systems used for residential, commercial, and industrial sectors.

As always, listeners leave a talk by Ms Melhuish with a greater knowledge and insights into the electricity industry in our country,

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Ms Melhuish first explained a bit of the background of the  “Keep our Assets” campaign,

“… Greypower was essentially asked to front this campaign, and we said at the first strategic meeting of the ‘Keep our Assets’ campaign that we wanted to co-front it with the youth, so we found a youth group, it was the University Students Association.

Because we believe this campaign is about those older people. Surprisingly many of our members were involved in building those assets. We said they’re ours, we want to keep them.

But we speak to our grand-children and our grand-children recognise… they just don’t want them sold. So the Greypower group board as a group, supported this ‘Keep our Assets’ campaign, all seven zones.

There are a small number of individuals in our meetings who really believed John Key when he said ‘we have to sell the assets so we can  re-pay the debts’. Geoff [Bertram] told you how wrong that is, but people are conservative,  want to be safe, and many, or most of the people who still say ‘we have to sell the asssets’ do so because they believed [John Key]. John Key is a show pony, he’s… telling the story told to him by others. He’s  a used car salesman. Would you buy a used car off that guy? I wouldn’t.”

“…Just yesterday afternoon, I spoke to Mana Tawa… The very very first question I asked was ‘Why can’t we have solar power on our houses? Our family in the U.K., you know, they got money to put photo-voltaics [on our roofs] and they were able to pay it off on our power bills. She said, ‘Why can’t we have that?”

We could, but we have to vote for it.

We won’t under this administration.

Another one  said, when I bought my place in a retuirement village in Porirua, we were promised lower bills. We are now paying more for our little retirement village than I paid for a four bedroom house.

So you get a captive consumer and they  can hike power bills not twice, but four times!

Greypower now has a policy that says energy leglislation must say [that] all household energy and especially electricity must be provided in a manner that’s fair, sustainable, efficient, and reliable. That was the law in 2001- Labour changed the law to make that. [But] National government took away “fair and sustainable” [from legislation]. That is wrong.

What to do about it? Change the government!

The only way you will get a change is to change the government! Vote for it! Peter Love told you that  in the first speech; vote for change. Greypower sez vote for change. That’s your job – We Greypower can support it but it is your job to vote for change.”

And she’s right. The only way we can effect change is by the ballot in the Voting Booth. Deciding not to vote because of some half-arsed cliche about “all politicians being the same”  is defeatist garbage. It is  craven surrender to forces who welcome people giving away their vote because vested interests have persuaded you that “change is not possible”.

Change is possible. But not when cynicism guides your decisions.

Molly Melhuish was followed by Aotearoa Not For Sale activist, Frances, who spoke of her own ‘journey’ to  set aside her apathy and become active. Despite English being a second language from Frances, her words were truly inspiring. A million New Zealanders like her, and no government would dare risk selling our treasures,

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Frances first described the desperate conditions that afflict the poor or unemployed in other countries, where social welfare services barely exist, or not at all. She referred to the shame of someone loosing their job, and killing themselves and their entire family by mass-suicide – because the provisions that we often take for granted (or that right-wingers complain about), do not exist in their society.

“…I saw this country as a country so beautiful and with a humanity and the government with a heart [?] to looking after the poor and the under-privileged and  the vulnerable groups. But throught the years I don’t know what has happened, I was too busy looking after kids, young children, and being someone who didn’t speak very good english. I sort of stayed low and keeped quiet and don’t want to say much about nothing against   government. Although I do complain a lot at home if I say something, I see the government doesn’t do something nice to people.

But then I accidently walked through a public meeting … beginning of last  year and then that was about state asset sale. And I was so shocked about what ‘s going to happen. And I thought, well,  for the last 15 years my shower time from … ten minutes down to three minutes, because we need to have a budget for our power because the power bill kept going up.And then I cut my hair short so I don’t have to spend so much time [in the shower]. So all these things, and  I decided maybe this year I will not harass my kids to have a showers if they don’t want to because it’s just getting more and more expensive.

There might be more stinky people around the city.

And hey, we are from middle income family, and during the winter time we fight often … argue with my husband about whether we should have the heater on. And I just never thought  will  come to this day!

And now they’re going to privatise these companies and  sell to all those rich, only going to benefit the very rich few. Especially some foreign companies. And I was like,  that’s not right, I can’t afford to pay even higher bills.”

And I thought, what happened? … From me not paying attention to politics. I actually don’t like politics. I  want to just appreciate art and literature, but then from me not doing anything for so many years, what has this country become? Because a lot of people are like like me, they don’t like politics. They don’t want to take action; “I often give them moral support, I’ll  give you some  dollars, but you do the work. You go against the government.”

But then this time I realised what example I was setting for my children…

… But I feel great because I work with so many dedicated people and so many beautiful people, and  selfless. And they are wonderful. We are all trying to make this country a better place for us, for others,  for our children.

And for middle income like us, we struggle, and I just hate to think how the low income, how the  beneficiary actually survive. And this government keep taking things away from the general  public, from the  weaker and from the vulnerable group. …

… Being a housewife, what can I do? I go out to collect signatures because that’s  easy thing for me to do. It takes a lot and time and a lot of effort, but I’m glad I can make  contribution. And I feel everybody here can make contribution…

… And being at home I can teach my kids, say, well don’t believe everything you heard from the media. And don’t just listen to what people say, you watch what they do. Especially our Prime Minister.

Frances finished with these thoughts,

“We can all make a difference… I saw so many people on the street. Some  are angry but most  of them are so depressed because they think government will never listen, and they think what we are doing going to be  in vain, just not going to change anything.  And I say to them, I say, if you don’t make any noise for this, what do you think government are going do to us next?

I want to set  example to my children to say, if you really believe, and you have to believe, you can make a difference, you can change something. You just take actions and do whatever you can….

… But  we have to still have to pressure the government, we want our referendum now, not later!

… One day when my kids ask me ‘mum have you done anything to protect us from being attacked by our government’ then I can say, I have done something. And I hope we can all say that, say  we have done something to protect you from bad government policies.”

Amen to that, Frances.

Frances struggled at times with the English language  – but the message she gave was as clear and meaningful as words could possibly convey.

This blogger found her to be truly inspirational.

As clouds darkened the evening sky, and the southerly ‘breeze’ gave a ‘bite’ to the assembled crowd, there was final entertainment from Steve and  John,

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And finally, a rousing applause given to Richard, who shouldered much of the responsibility in organising the event,

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Meanwhile, further down the waterfront, others were more comfortable with their boutique beers and frothy lattes,

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Want to help?

Make a donation (any size) to: BNZ, 02-0560-0158770-00

Volunteer by contacting: saynotoassetsales@gmail.com

Go to: any of the Relevant orgs listed below.

Additional

TV3: Asset sales referendum likely (6 Feb 2013)

TV3: Govt under fire over Contact redundancies (14 Feb 2013)

NBR: Supreme Court to ignore govt deadline on water rights decision (15 Feb 2013)

Youtube: Say No to Asset sales in Aotearoa NZ.mov

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Relevant orgs

It’s Our Future

Keep our Assets

Aotearoa is not for Sale

Aotearoa is Not for Sale | Facebook

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Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua)

17 February 2013 5 comments

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SOEs

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Continued from:

 

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part tahi)

 

NZ, Wellington, 13 February 2013 – The first speaker was Peter Love; Te Atiawa, and Board Member of the Wellington Tenths Trust,

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Peter Love spoke of having to buy a bottle of water from the dairy – and yet Maori were castigated for trying to assert their own water rights. Holding up a plastic bottle of water, he said it’s not about “Maori owning the water”,

We have to make sure you don’t have to go into a dairy to buy this!

He spoke of countries such as China sending their workers into Pacific Island nations to build infra-structure and buildings for the locals, but for a price.  Peter Love spoke of powerful interests  seeking valuable resources  such as the fish in Cook Islands territorial waters.

He said asset sales would be a magnet for overseas investors,

They’re after our assets!”

Which is why“, he said, “we’re all here this evening challenging the government.”

Peter Love finished with a humorous touch,

My wife said, ‘hullo – don’t get arrested Peter...”

He encouraged the crowd,

“…Don’t forget, keep it up. Sign the petition against it. And we may have to call you again to go to Parliament.”

The next speaker was Peter Love’s mokopuna (grandchild), Kaira Ranginui-Love, of Te Atiawa, who spoke directly to the many young people in the crowd,

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Ms Ranginui-Love spoke with deep passion about her feelings for this country, and how others wanted a piece of our paradise,

I love Aotearoa! I don’t know about you but I absolutely love this country. I believe Aotearoa is Heaven on Earth…

… For many of you, Aotearoa has been a home for you and your families since the time of the settlers, and for others.”
 
“… But regardless of how we all got here and what we’re all doing here, I think we can all agree  what connects us is our love for Aotearoa.”

“We are very lucky to live here. We have the oceans, the rivers, the forests, the lands,  and all that dwell therein. So we must look after our country, and be the caretakers, for now and for the future generations to come. We need to be wary that we don’t allow our country to be exploited by those in a position of power. The National government, the National Party, they have an immoral agenda based on monetary gain only…”

“…Is this government listening to our views?”

“I think this govermnment blatantly  ignores it’s people and what they want. What we all want. No thought has gone into the rippling effect that this will have on our futures.”

“…We’ll have no say, and we’ll  have no rights. This referendum will help to stop the government from making a terrible mistake. Remember, everybody wants a slice of our country, our paradise. So it is time to stand up. It is time to fight for this generation and the generations to come….”

“…The time to act is now, before it’s too late.”

Next, the Mayor of Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown – a veteran campaigner against the privatisation of Wellington’s former “Capital Power” company in the 1990s – spoke of her thoughts on selling strategic assets that belong to the people,

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Mayor Wade-Brown welcomed people to the rally and acknowledged the hard work by organisors to set up the rally,

Let’s give the organisors a big round of applause!”

This week there’ve been a number of really important issues raised that resonate with all of us; leadership; jobs; a fair go; and a clean environment; public ownership of strategic assets. Those aren’t alternatives to each other, they go hand in hand.”

The Mayor spoke of Deborah Littman visiting Wellington and talking to Council (see: Mayor pushes to give hundreds a pay increase ) about how a living wage has in helped  many aspects of society in Vancouver and London, by raising incomes,

Low pay doesn’t help the local economy; low pay doesn’t educational failure, and low pay doesn’t help poor health. So the living wage is an idea to inspire us, it’s a journey, not an overnight transformation… … a living wage is good for the local economy.”

Mr Wade Brown referred to a Greenpeace economic report which outlined ambitious ideas for new jobs, new prosperity, and a clean economy. She outlined Greenpeace’s ideas for how huge wealth could be created for New Zealand by building an economy based on 100% renewable energy,  energy efficiency, and sustainable transport.

The mayor went on to describe one of her earliest actions soon after being elected to the City Council in 1994,

I voted in one of the earliest political decisions when I was elected on Council against the sale of Capital Power. And now the energy retail and lines businesses have been split up and sold and sold again  and it’s really impossible to assess what they would  be worth now.

But it could’ve been a huge help to the capital city as a basis for a smart grid, for electricity demand management, and for more manageble bills for people on low incomes. So I understand your concerns about selling of power generation companies.

More successfully, Wellington City Council voted against the sale of our Airport shares. Although one third does not give us control. But it does keep us in the loop and it gives us a considerable dividend that keeps your rates down.

And in the ’90s there were really truly mutterings -  I saw Cr Stephanie Cook here earlier and she’ll back this up – there were muttering about selling of our council social housing. It never did get to a vote, thank goodness... “

Social housing for vulnerable tenants was a social partnership, she said.

Mayor Wade-Brown then described Wellington’s water supply and categorically stated,

The basic public infrastructure should remain in public ownership and the charging policies and the conservation policies should be set democratically.”

She took a good natured ‘dig’ at Peter Love with the remark,

And I would like to add that you don’t need to buy in bottles because there are free water fountains along the waterfront.

Ms Wade-Brown told the audience that Council, in partnership with local Iwi, was bringing back alienated land to return to the Town Belt.

The Mayor added,

So local government faces the same financial pressures as households do, as you do,  as business does, and as central government does. But we’re not going to face those pressures by selling of our strategic assets. We won’t sell social housing, we won’t sell water infrastructure, we won’t sell the reserves that make this capital city so special.”

The mayor implored people to sign the petition – but not ten times,

It doesn’t help to sign it ten times, ok guys? If you’ve signed it, you’ve signed it…
… And tonight people are tweeting, blogging, using Youtube, and everything else to have your say. And that’s my main message; stand up and have your say, in the capital city!

Kia kaha.”

Next up – perhaps the country’s sanest, most common-sense economist – Ganesh Nana, rose to tell it from an economist’s  perspective.

Perhaps surprisingly, he wasn’t tied up and thrown into the harbour. Economists in the last thirty years have had a bad rep – perhaps only second to certain policians.

But Ganesh Nana is a rare breed of economist. He sees through the neo-liberal fantasy world of ideology and tells us that the dogma of the New Right simply does not work as ‘the label on the can’ promised,

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Ganesh Nana started by saying,

I’m an economist, ok, so I promise not to say anything about ‘The Phoenix’ or anything about cats…”

That elicited a laugh from the crowd and then he launched straight into the issue of asset sales and started by asking,

You might ask why would you at all be interested in hearing from an economist, and I ask the same thing; “why is anybody  interested in hearing from an economist given whate total mess we’ve made of the economy to date, but never mind… You guys should really be asking for an apology from the economists given the mess we’ve made...”

“… But I will apologise on my own behalf for not not actually shouting out a lot louder evertime we’ve made a wrong turn. So today here I am shouting out just a bit louder for making a wrong turn yet again.”

The audience warmed quickly to Ganesh Nana’s self-deprecating comments and clapped at his remarks. Only a lone heckler, yelling out comments he must’ve thought were very hilariously witty (mistakenly),  stood apart from the crowd.

Ganesh Nana continued,

From a business perspective; a business person’s perspective;  this is a very, very, very,  simple problem facing us, or a simple question; why would you sell an asset?

I ask you that question and from my own academic perspective or background, when faced with that question  I go to a dictionary and look up the definition of an asset.

It’s really quite simple… … you’ll find some words around something that is valuable and of use. And then I started to think as a business person or as an ordinary person why would I get rid of something that is valuable and of  use?”

He then asked,

“…These assets that the Crown have, [that] the government on our behalf, [as] taxpayers, are holding. Do they continue to be valuable and useful?

And if so why are we getting rid of them?”

… From a business perspective the only reason I’d get of an asset is if it suddenly became a liability.

That is, it required a lot of upkeep and it wasn’t paying it’s way, so it wasn’t really an asset. And then, yes,  you get rid of it fast.

But is anybody seriously trying to tell me that those electricity generation stations, and all the infra-structure around it,  is something that we, as a nation, ‘ain’t gonna’ need for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years?

Because if the answer to that is ‘yes’, then let’s get rid of it, because we don’t need it. But if we do need them, we need to hold onto them. It’s really quite that simple.”

Ganesh Nana was also adamant that not all economists follow the neo-liberal, monetarist line,

“…People who think that businesses or economists totally agree with getting rid of assets or following the market path, and there are lots of other reasons we could go into which are far too technical to go into tonight, about following the market and about how government shouldn’t be involved in assets; and shouldn’t be involved in the economy – those are smokescreens.

There are quite surprisingly some economists, myself included, who don’t follow that [ideology], and actually go back to the textbook… If it’s an asset, and it’s going to earn something over the future, you hold onto it for dear life. Because that’s what your future relies on!”

Ganesh Nana’s speech was well-received by the crowd. One could sense  that it was a relief for many who were listening,  that not all economists were wide-eyed free-marketeers demanding the dismantling of the State.

Ganesh Nana was followed by Geoff Bertram, Senior Economics lecturer at  Wellington’s Victoria University, and one who had been closely studying the energy sector. Mr Bertram understands the mechanisms by which our energy companies are valued and re-valued – and his simple explanations quickly reveal these valuations as clever, malevolent, rorts.

The same rorts used to drive up power prices on an almost annual basis,

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Now, the government’s aiming to sell off nearly half of some state-owned companies worth about ten billion [dollars], so it’s hoping to get a bit about under half… perhaps $4.5 billion from the sales from anybody prepared to buy the shares that they’re going to issue.

I’m going to talk tonight really about the motivation  that might lie behind those sales, and I personally think it boils down to two things.

The first is the desire of  the Treasury to get the money and run before certain things become very apparent about the way that electricity prices have been set over the last two decades.

And the second reason I think is to close off policy options that might remain open to future governments if the assets remain in full public ownership. Because while the assets are in full public ownership, it is possible to change the way they are managed and change the way that  electricity is supplied…”

Geoff Bertram then made an explosive accusation against the government which, if true, revealed a shocking reason why National is so hell-bent on privatisation of certain state assets,

“… It’s my view that probably the  most important political consequence of the part-privatisation of SOEs is to place private investors in those enterprises  and thereby immunise them against possible future policy that might reduce their value.

And since  I think an important part of an improved government policy would indeed reduce their value, I am opposed to the asset sales…

…The companies have a very high valuation. The reason why they have a very high valuation  is that they have successfully participated in a long-running rort to extract cash from residential electricity consumers by the inexorable driving up of prices of electricity.

That rort, has been possible, because government policy has allowed and has indeed supported the emergeance of a cartel of five, large, vertically-integrated, generator-retailers – three of whom are SOEs  – which have been able to operate without any effective regulation, at the expense of  consumers who were too vulnerable to protect their interests against price hikes.

And if you looked at the tracks of electricity prices over the last 20, 30 years you will have noticed that large industry has protected itself very successfully; commercial electricity buyers have done fine; residential who are the dis-organised, unrepresented, undefended, captive group of customers have seen their prices go up in real terms 100% since 1986.

And the main consequence of the electricity reforms has indeed been that doubling of the cost of electricity to ordinary  households. 

That’s a major cause of energy poverty; it’s been an important part in the growing  inequality of income and wealth in this country; and it’s something that a socially responsible government would,  in my view,  be taking serious action to reverse.”

The audience broke into heavy applause as the implications of Geoff Bertram’s comments sank in.

It is simply extraordinary that none of the media present at the rally that day has reported Geoff Bertram’s amazing – and disturbing – analysis of the energy sector and electricity pricing in New Zealand. Is what he’s saying boring?! Too complicated?! Risking opening a can of worms?!

This should be a prime-time story on TV3′s “Campbell Live” and Radio New Zealand.

Geoff Bertram continued,

“Just to put that doubling of the residential price in context. New Zealand’s pretty much on it’s own in the OECD and if you look at  the figures for other countries around the OECD, from 1986 to the present, the price of electricity to residential consumers  in OECD Europe, in Australia, and in the United Kingdom, is still the same as it was in 1986. In the United States, Japan, and France, prices are down 25% , compared to where they were in 1986, in real terms.  In South Korea they’re down 50%, compared to where they were in 1986.

New Zealand is the only only OECD country that has gone out there and driven up electricity prices 50%. We’re also pretty much the only country that doesn’t have a regulator in place, and where government doesn’t have any particular social policy relating to the pricing of essential services to the public.”

Geoff Bertram then explained what he called “the re-valuation game”, as it applied to electricity pricing in New Zealand,

And here’s how it works.

You take a bunch of assets with a given value, and you look at the existing price, to consumers of the product, and you say “well look, we can get the price up”; so you project  that higher price; you capitalise that; and then if you can get the price up the asset will be worth more; so then you re-value the asset; and then you go and use the higher value of the asset to justify raising the prices, and then you repeat.

And this is the circular process which has been going on in New Zealand now, in electricity, for more than a decade. It is completely legal under New Zealand law.

It is not illegal to profiteer or  to gauge captive customers in this country. [In] very few countries is that true.

And it’s consistant with New Zealand’s generally accepted accounting practice which basically tells you that there’s a rotteness at the core of accounting practices in this country.”

Geoff Betram further described how the ECNZ had sold power stations to the newly formed Mighty River Power, in 1999, at a considerable mark-up. In effect  government sold these power stations to itself and in the process pocketed a huge profit. To pay for those power stations, prices were raised, forcing captive residential consumers to pay more and more for their electricity. He added that we have been,

“…living under a government which for two decades has  become effectively  a corporate predator, in this sector, where once it used to be a social provider.

The applause that followed that statement was louder than before. People were ‘getting’ what Geoff Bertram was telling them. He continued,

Here’s the problem. Electricity was once an essential service provided to households at the lowest price, consistent with covering the industry’s costs. 

Since 1986 the sector has been corporatised and part-privatised, and it’s pricing has been driven by the quest for profit by giant companies that have the market power to gouge their consumers.

As the owner of three of those companies, the New Zealand government has therefore become a predator. And now the Treasury wants to cash in on that rort by selling out half the government’s stake.

What that means in terms of the options for the future for government to turn around and come back from the predator model and return to a social service approach  for energy supply, is being closed off.”

Geoff Bertram suggested that every household in New Zealand could be allocated 300kwh [kilowatt hours] of free power every month, and pay market rates for anything over and over used. He added,

But if you want to deal with energy poverty and get kids out of hospitals with asthma and other respiratory diseases and so on, one of the really good  things that you can do is get cheap energy into New Zealand households and that would be sustainable on the basis of the current government owned assets.

About 300 kwh free. [But if] you sell Mighty River and what’s feasible comes down to 200 [kwh]. You sell Genesis and what’s feasible comes down to 100 [kwh]. You sell Meridian and it’s gone…

What I’m saying is the contract  that supplies the Rio Tinto smelter down at Bluff, the old Comalco contract, is the contract New  Zealand households should have had from the start.

And it still could be done.”

Imagine, every household in the country, receiving a dividend of 300 kwh, each month. The positive benefits for low-income families, in damp, drafty houses, would be incalculable. Coupled with providing free meals in schools for children, it would be a major blow against child poverty in New Zealand.

But not if National get’s it’s way.

A new Labour-Green-NZ First-Mana coalition government must listen to people like Geoff Bertram, Ganesh Nana, et al, if we are to progress forward.

After Geoff Bertram, the crowd was entertained by Maarama Te Kira and Lucky Ngatuere,

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Following on from the entertainment, Jane Kelsey, Law Professor from Auckland University, addressed the Rally. Professor Kelsey is also one of the country’s acknowledged experts on globalisation, and a staunch critic of the TPPA (Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement), which is being negotiated in secrecy and condemned worldwide.

Professor Kelsey has also been the target of some fairly vindictive statements from the NZ Herald (see: Gordon Campbell on the NZ Herald’s attack on Jane Kelsey).

Professor Kelsey started by welcoming old friends to the rally,

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“…It was great to see lots of familiar faces from battles of the past, but it was also great to see so many young people here, because these battles are your battles for the future…

… I congratulate not only the organisor here, but  those who have been running the campaign  in Wellington gainst the asset sales, because it’s been a real inspiration across the country, and I know it’s being watched by people outside the country as well.

Some of those who are here will remember those battles we had in the mid 1980s when we were told that state-owned enterprises were simply a way of creating more efficient ways of keeping assets in  our hands. And we said at the time that it was a lie. And we knew it was a lie and they knew it was a lie. And we proved it was a lie and then they sold them off and then we had to buy them back.

Because as we predicted would happen, when you have private owners, especially private foreign owners, who have no stakes in our future, they will strip the assets. And thats what Bell-Atlantic and Ameritech did with Telecom and that’s what Wisconson Railways  did with the railways, and that’s what the [foreign ]banks that still own our banks, did with the Post Office Savings Bank and the BNZ and the Rural Bank, and so on, and we’ve been there and done that and we know what it means.”

At this point, Professor Kelsey held up a metre-square white board with heavy black lettering on it; ‘SAY NO’. It was a take on Winston Peter’s ‘NO’ sign from the Owen Glenn Donations affair in 2008. (see: Peters denies latest Owen Glenn allegations)  The placard provoked laughter from the crowd who obviously recalled the significance of it.

” They also know that the problem [for the neo-liberals] was that we were able to reverse some of those failed privatisations, and other things that failed. Like when they tried to privatise ACC. Like when they tried to de-regulate the electricity market. … So what they have is a new strategy designed to lock-in and make potentially irreversible the kinds of policies that they want to see rule in the interests of their cronies for the indefinite future.
These particularly  toxic legal products are known as Free Trade and Investment Agreements but they have nothing to do with trade, they’re actually investment protection agreements that make it almost almost impossible for us to be able to do the kinds of reversals of failed privatisations we’ve done in the past. We have a number of those agreements already.

And they are potentially causing some problems.
Some of you will have followed what’s happening with the tobacco companies, and their threats to sue over the introduction of plain-packaging tobacco. What we have now now is a particularly virulent strand of this this toxic disease. It’s known as the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, or the TPPA. We have other ways of describing the TPPA – Taking People’s Power Away. Toxic Profiteers Plundering Aotearoa.
What it’s designed to do, in particular in relation to investment, is to say ‘You have to open your doors without restrictions to the rights of foreign investors to be able to buy any of the assets within Aotearoa’.
Now, we already have an open door,  and they’ve already signed away the ability to reverse some of that.

But now they want to raise the thresholds even further, so that our ability to vet foreign owners is effectively taken out of our hands. But worse than that, once the foreign investors own the assets, these agreements give special guarantees to those foreign companies. They give guarantees that we will  not alter our future laws and policies in ways that significantly affect the value or the profitability of their investments.
So once we have – or they have – given away our assets, our ability to do anything to recover them is not only constrained by the kinds of threats that we’ve seen in the past and concerns about ‘crisis’ and ‘investor confidence’ and all of that other bullshit – we have threats from foreign investors under an agreement like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, that they will sue our government not only for the loss of the value of their assets but the for the loss of future profits from those assets.
…It will not be a case that will be brought in our domestic Court. It is a case that will be brought in a secret, off-shore tribunal, where there will be three Arbitrators who would sit on the Hearing who last week were acting for an investor, and this week are acting as a judge in the cases brought before them by an investor. There is no system of  precedent, there is no openess so we can see the documents, or even sit in on the Hearings. There may not even be a publication of their judgement at the end of it!
These kinds of secret offshore tribunals are  so discredited now that many  governments are saying  they won’t agree to deals that allow foreign investors to have those powers.  And the Australians have said in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement that they won’t agree to foreign investors having those powers.

Our government – when John Key was first asked about this – said, “Oh, well if the Australians don’t think it’s a good thing, it sounds a little bit off-beam to me, so I suppose we’d go where Australia goes”.

Then his officials officials briefed him and said, “Well, actually Prime Miniter, no, we’re going to agree  to foreign investors having these powers”.
So this Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is currently being negotiated. They want to try to close off the negotiations in October this year. The negotiations are all taking place in secret. We don’t get to see the final agreement until it’s signed off by the eleven countries negotiating it, which includes the US where the big foreign investors are based.
So, effectively the government is negotiating a Bill of Rights for foreign investors not only to enter and buy up this country, but to be able to threaten us in the future if we try to take back control of what is ours.”

Professor Kelsey invited the crowd to join in the campaign to oppose the TPPA, and pointed out information that was freely available on nearby tables. She warned the crowd,

“Join us in the campaign against the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, because so many of the things that we care about – We will not be able to effectively regulate in the future; we will not be be able to take back control of our future; if this agreement is passed. Parliament doesn’t get  an effective say on it. This is an agreement negotiated by the  Cabinet, it can be ratified by the Cabinet; and we have no say until it is a done deal.
We know that the Prime Minister is very good at secret done deals. We know that the Prime Minister is happy to do deals on behalf of his cronies. We know that the Prime Minister is prepared to sell out democracy, sovereignty, and tino rangatiratanga. And if we’re going to take back control of our futures then this agreement is a priority to stop this year, along with the asset sales.”

Professor Keley thanked the audience, who in turn cheered and clapped for her.

Meanwhile, Shane and Ariana (?) held aloft the anti-TPPA banner,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Next up, Bishop Justin Duckworth – the Anglican Bishop of Wellington. He had some very personal but salient anecdotes to share with us,

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aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Bishop Duckworth greeted the crowd and started with this story from his own family,

” I was sitting out before and listening to the speakers, who were awesome, and I was suddenly talking to a new friend, I met a new friend, and he was telling me he was a father like I was a father, and we were discussing our children, and I suddenly remember a story that happened between my wife and my teenage boy. Classic conversation went down about domestic chores. And my beautiful wife, Jenny was saying to my boy, “it’s your turn to do the dishes”.

And he sort of said, “No, I did the dishes last night”.

And then she said, “I vacuumed the floor.”

And then he said, “Well, I watered the garden.”

And then she said, “Well, I dropped you to school.”

And it was escalating. Until my wife finally busted what I thought was the argument to end all arguments. And she said this; “I gave birth to you.”

I thought;  that’s it. Argument stopped. How could you argue with that?

My teenage boy had this comeback, “And your generation destroyed the environment for us.”

Good line, eh?

And it’s true isn’t? It’s true that our generation not only did we destroy the global environment, but  we have also instigated the global recession as well. And I think that the issues that we are talking about today about asset sales; the reason why that this issue in particular hits our public so strongly, and we have such a good turnout to this rally, is that because I think it’s at the core of a whole lot of other issues.

And so, as a man of faith, as a follower of Jesus, I just want to tell you what concerns me. And these are questions I have, I haven’t got the answers, but these are just questions.

Around asset sales I have questions  around the lack of regulation already  in place in the assets that we own…

… I heard Geoff speak, and I also read his articles, the reports about his papers a couple of weeks ago.  I am concerned that that it is simply not fair, and not just …”

“If we were to sell our assets how less a control do we have? If we already have such limited control at the moment on the regulation of them, how much more limited will it be in the future?”

My second question I would have is this. Recognising… that the Kai Tiaki of New Zealand is Tangata Whenua’s Maori people, and the wairua of this country, the spirit of this country is held by that Kai Tiaki, by the Maori people. I would have questions around what happens if we start selling our assets overseas, what does that mean for the Kai Tiaki here?

“… Third question would follow on from the Greenpeace speaker [Bunny McDiarmid - no recording of her speech made; blogger's stuff-up], and that woud be this; What happens to the environment longer term if we lose responsibility and control of our power companies? What guarantees do we have whether actually our environment and our global climate change issues will actually be positively addressed by our country? I think there are huge issues there if we choose to sell our assets.”

Bishop Duckworth then concluded with this sobering anecdote – something personal, yet with global implications in how we treat each other,

“…Those of you who don’t know, my father was born in Burma – in Myanmar. A few years ago I went back with him; never visited before, me and my brother went back to Burma. Took my dad, visited a whole lot of wider family.

Once we were on a temple tour, as you do on these sort of trips. We were touring around these temples, and me and my brother, having a lot of sibling rivalry, we’d constantly compete to see who could get the best bargain for the little knick-knacks. You know that I mean? Those little things you buy constantly. So me and my brother were constantly competing for who could get the best deal  on knick-knacks.

One night we were just finishing another temple tour and this guy sidled up to me and was selling me hand-painted pictures of Burmese countryside. Now I’ve been around long enought to know what you can normally get these pictures for.

Normally you pick these pictures up for about three US dollars.
But I was militant that night. And I thought I’m going to prove once and for all that I can run the biggest, best bargain in the world. So I drilled that fellow down to get the best  bargain I could. And in the end I managed to get four pictures for five US dollars!

…We were getting a lift home, and I was showing the pictures to my brother and saying, “Look, I’ve got the best bargain ever!”

And the driver of our horse and cart leant over and asked, “Hey, um, what’d you pay for those?”

I said, “I paid five US dollars for the four of them”.

He sez, “Ohhh, it must’ve been a bad day.”

I go, “What do you mean?”

“The man musn’t have been able to sell anything that day, so he had to sell his goods at cost price, at least at cost-price,  just to buy rice for his family.”

And suddenly I realised what was just some crazy game, ideological game, for me, was actually  life and death for other people.

And my big questions I have around this issue is this; is this some crazy ideological issue that we’ve been driven  here, or is it actually about everyday people who are struggling, who need jobs, who need security, who need a future, and who need decent power.

And that’s my question.”

Ariana then troduced Maanu Paul, Chairman of the Maori Council, and  who was currently taking the Government to the Supreme Court over water rights. Maanu Paul had some interesting observations, and made a call to action,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Maanu Paul offered a greeting to the people at the rally, and then began with,

“When I was asked to come and speak, at this,  I asked, “who makes money out of this lot [asset sales] ‘?

And the answer was, we need to raise the consciousness of our nation in respect of our opposition to the sale of assets. The New Zealand Maori Council has had a long history of opposing the sale of our assets, beginning in 1986, when we established Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act, which we said, “nothing in this Act shall be contrary to the Treaty of Waitangi”.

And then we had the lands case in 1987 when we stopped the sale of state owned land. And then we had a negotiation with the Crown over the sale of the biggest man-made forest in the southern hemisphere – the Kaingaroa Forest. And then they sold the spectra. And  we had an argument with the Crown over who owned the spectra. It’s about the same argumwent as who owns the water.

And the government of the day said, ‘Maori did not know anything about the spectra’. And I shot back to them, ‘Neither did they. An Italian  fellow named Marconi knew about it, and the Poms didn’t know anything about it at all’.

The upshot is that they allocated us a portion of the spectra and now we’re a part of Two Degrees.

Finally we come to the sale of the dams and the capacity to generate power. The whakapapa so far tells us that the constant that is present in all this is that the Maori Council has ensured that state owned assets stay in this country.”

There was strong applause at this point, and with a smile, Maanu Paul continued,

“Thank you. Because I’m going to ask you to put your hands in your pockets, because you owe us.”

More good natured laughter, and Maanu Paul’s smile widened, as the audience understood the nature of his remarks. He explained,

“You owe us because if we didn’t take this government to the Tribunal, to the High Court, and the Supreme Court, our assets would’ve been gone, would’ve been sold by now.

That is the reality of what we’re facing. And so the Council is dedicated to ensuring that we leave the world a better place for our mokopunas. We leave the world a better place that wehen we were born to it. And the world we were born to was, as far as I was concerned, I had the right to go and fish in my foreshore in my foreshore and seabed… heh heh heh…

I had the right to swim in my rivers and my lakes and call them my own. I had the right to do what I wanted with my land without having it confiscated.

And all of these tell me right now, that those rights have been eroded. Those rights have been eroded because this government, and previous governments, have failed to properly honour the Treaty of Waitangi.”

At this point, Maanu Paul called for direct action of a sort that up until now had not been considered. His comments have been reported in the media, and this is what he said, verbatim,

“And so my  message today, to us, is quite simply, is that we need to do more than sign a petition. We need to do more than gather in Frank Kitts Park, and what we need to do is to sit outside of Parliament and demand that we maintain the control of our assets.

What I’m suggesting – and I don’t know whether my Council’s going to agree with me about  this – but what I’m suggesting  is that we have a Noho Kainga [sitting] on Parliament grounds!

And we sit there until a fellow called Winston Peters might have put a Bill in Parliament that says ‘we are wishing to maintain ownership of the assets that we paid for in the taxes that’ve been levied upon us in the name of the public good’.

The audience resoponded enthusiastically to this suggestion, and the feeling was strong that many would’ve upped and left for Parliament’s ground at that very moment.

Maanu Paul continued,

“And the reason I’m saying this to you is that simply because there is no protection of your assets paid for by your taxes, which were levied upon you in the first place, in the name of the public good.

And we are the public and we should have a Nono Kainga to protect to protect our public good.”

Maanu Paul then sang a new “public anthem” to the crowd. This blogger can report that  his singing is something to behold – Maanu Paul has an awesome singing voice. Firstly his song was rendered in Maori, and then for the benefit of those who don’t yet know the language (including this blogger), in English,

‘I am the water, the water is me,

Cascading down,

from Ranginui,

Enveloping all,

The environment,

I am the water,

the water is me.’

Ariana asked the crowd,  “Yes, yes, yes! A sit down at Parliament – who’s up for it?

The response was shouted from the crowd loud and in affirmation.

A new people’s action may be in the offing… Stay tuned, folks. This ain’t over – not by a long shot. Or by John Key’s lamentable imagination.

A new chapter is unfolding.

Continued and concluded at:

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part toru)

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Additional

TV3: Asset sales referendum likely (6 Feb 2013)

TV3: Govt under fire over Contact redundancies (14 Feb 2013)

NBR: Supreme Court to ignore govt deadline on water rights decision (15 Feb 2013)

Youtube: Say No to Asset sales in Aotearoa NZ.mov

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Relevant orgs

It’s Our Future

Keep our Assets

Aotearoa is not for Sale

Aotearoa is Not for Sale | Facebook

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= fs =

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part tahi)

17 February 2013 6 comments

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SOEs

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NZ, Wellington, 13 February 2013 – Set against an overcast early evening sky, and a chilly southerly, several hundred Wellingtonians of all ages, races, political affiliations, and backgrounds came together at Frank Kitts Park, on Wellington’s waterfront,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Their common unity of purpose was to oppose the partial sale of state-owned assets,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Electricity-dustry expert, Molly Melhuish, with others from DEUN (Domestic Electricity Users Network). Ms Melhuish (center, holding white clipboard)  is  intimately familiar with the working of the electricity industry in this country and was a key member in   campaigns to oppose electricity privatisation in the 1990s – including Wellington’s Capital Power.

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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The messages were simple, and to the point. From Labour,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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… to the Mana Party,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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The message for National  was clear – what’s ours is ours,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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This Wellingtonian understood the folly and false-economy of selling state assets which are money-making cash-cows. Right wing politicians know this – but their zealous obedience to neo-liberal dogma seems to over-ride any semblance of common-sense,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Many in the crowd were of an age to recall the sale of Telecom – something that was resisted by 93% of New Zealanders,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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Interestingly, at least one right-wing politician has belatedly realised that selling state assets was a mistake – see: Bolger: Telecom sale a mistake

Dedicated ANFS activist, Frances, had a very simple question for Dear Leader,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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ANFS activist, Athena, handing out leaflets to people in the crowd and discussing issues with them,

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Frank Macskasy   Frankly Speaking  blog  fmacskasy.wordpress.com  aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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With media filming the event, ANFS co-convenor, Ariana, opened the Rally with a welcome to the crowd and  an introduction of the speakers who had been invited to address the rally, with their thoughts on the sale of state assets,

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Frank Macskasy  Frankly Speaking  blog fmacskasy.wordpress.com aotearoa not for sale - 13 february 2013 - frank kitts park - wellington - anti asset sales

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The speakers came from a variety of backgrounds, and each gave their perspective on the issue of selling the people’s assets.

To be continued:

Wellingtonians rally to send a message to the Beehive! (part rua)

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Additional

TV3: Asset sales referendum likely (6 Feb 2013)

TV3: Govt under fire over Contact redundancies (14 Feb 2013)

NBR: Supreme Court to ignore govt deadline on water rights decision (15 Feb 2013)

Youtube: Say No to Asset sales in Aotearoa NZ.mov

Copyright (c)  Notice

All images are freely available to be used, with following provisos,

  •     Use must be for non-commercial purposes.
  •     At all times, images must be used only in context, and not to denigrate individuals.
  •     Acknowledgement of source is requested.

Relevant orgs

It’s Our Future

Keep our Assets

Aotearoa is not for Sale

Aotearoa is Not for Sale | Facebook

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= fs =

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