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Winston Peters recycles pledge to “buy back state assets” – where have we heard that before?

31 March 2014 5 comments

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Over the last two years (give or take), NZ First leader, Winston Peters, has stated on numerous occassions that buying back shares in the three energy SOEs (Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power) will be a “bottom line” in any post-election coalition deal.

On 20 June 2012, NZ First posted this statement on their website,

New Zealand First will use its influence on the next coalition Government to buy back our state-owned power companies which are being flogged off by National.

Rt Hon Winston Peters says New Zealand First is committed to buying back the shares at no greater price than paid by the first purchaser.

“State-owned assets rightfully belong to all New Zealanders but National is intent on handing them over to rich foreign investors.

“It is simply lining the pockets of the wealthy by selling off well-performing assets that already provide the Government with extremely healthy dividends.”

Mr Peters says it is only fair to alert potential investors that New Zealand First’s intention to buy back the shares will be part of any coalition negotiations.

“As things stand now, the assets will end up in foreign ownership which is an outright attack on our sovereignty. We are committed to repelling that attack.”

The pledge was repeated on 29 November 2013;

New Zealand First is the only political party that has said since the beginning that if the Government did go ahead with this idiotic decision, then when we are in a position to influence the next Government, we would buy back the shares at a price no more than that initially paid for them.

On ‘The Nation‘, on 15/16 March, interviewed by Patrick Gower, Peters repeated NZ First policy that a share buy-back, at a cost no greater than the original purchase-price, was a bottom line policy for his Party;

Gower: So that means buying Genesis back?

Peters: That’s right. At no greater price than they paid for it.

Gower: And does that mean buying back the other power companies as well?

Peters: It means exactly that. That’s what our position has been for some time.

Gower: So that’s a priority for you in any negotiations?

Peters: It is a priority, and it also has the blessings in terms of economic calculations from Treasury.

Taken at face value, Peters’ committment to buy back shares in the powercos seems more comprehensive and radical than either the Greens or Labour. Neither have committed to buying back shares in Meridian, Genesis, and Mighty River Power until the government books allow it.

But, can Peters’ pledge be taken at face value?

Can he be trusted to make good on his word to (a) make a share buy-back a bottom-line in any coalition deal and (b) actually follow through?

His track record on such matters is not good.

On 27 September 1996,  the then-Bolger-led National government sold the Forestry Corporation of New Zealand Ltd cutting rights to a private  consortium (Fletcher Challenge Forests, 37.5%, Brierley Investments Ltd, 25%, and Chinese state-owned company,  Citifor Inc, 37.5%)

This became a major election issue in  the lead-up to the first MMP election in  1996, with the Alliance organising a CIR petition to halt the sale.

NZ First leader, Winston Peters, pledged to buy back the cutting rights, stating on several occasions that any government he was part of would “hand back the cheque“;

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The game plan - what we're all playing for - NZ First buy back forest corp

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During the election campaign, Peters stated unequivocally his intentions that the privatisation of Forestry Corp would not stand under any government he was part of;

“I want to tell the Chinese buyers and I want to tell Brierleys that they had better not make any long-range plans because the day after the election is over we will be sending them an emissary to them them exactly what is going to happen, that is, that we are going to keep out promise, they can give back the asset and we will give the money back.” – Winston Peters,  Otago Daily Times, 1 Feb 1997 (on pre-election statement/promise)

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http://fmacskasy2.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/otago-daily-times-1-february-1997-winston-peters-asset-sales-forestry-corp-buy-back-hand-back-the-cheque.jpg

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On 11 December 1996, Peters announced that he would be entering into a formal coalition arrangement with the National Party, to form the first MMP coalition government.

Subsequently, Peters’ pledge to “hand back the cheque” and buy back the forestry cutting rights, was ‘quietly’ dropped;

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NZ First ignored chance to implement own policy

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“… NZ First did not make any attempt to include  in the [Coalition] agreement its policy of placing a 24.9% limit on foreign ownership of strategic assets.

Neither did they raise the NZ First promise to buy-back Forestry Corp, which was sold earlier this year to a consortium including Fletcher Challenge.” – Otago Daily Times, 16 Dec 1996

As Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister in the National-NZ First government, Peters had ample opportunity to implement his Party’s buy-back policy. It was a promise he could have kept. And should have kept.

Instead, NZ First opted to implement National’s policy of tax cuts on 1 July 1998. With even more tax cuts promised by then-Finance Minister, Bill Birch.

This was money that Peters could have allocated and spent of re-nationalising our forests – but was instead wasted on cutting taxes, thereby reducing the ability of the coalition government to implement a buy-back, as Winston Peters had promised.

If Peters holds the balance of power after 20 September, and if he forms a coalition with either bloc, he may well carry out his promise to buy back shares in our energy utilities.

Or then again, he might not.

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References

NZ First: NZ First Committed To Buying Back State-Owned Assets

NZ First: Our asset sales buyback promise – Radio Live Column

TV3: Winston Peters: Asset buy-back ‘a priority’

FAO.org:  Devolving Forest Ownership in New Zealand: Processes, Issues and Outcomes

Treasury: Income from State Asset Sales as at 30 September 1999

Wikipedia: CITIC Group [Citifor]

Wikipedia: Referendums in New Zealand

Otago Daily Times: Alliance quits quest for forestry petition

Otago Daily Times: NZ First ignored chance to implement own policy

Otago Daily Times: NZ First opts for National

Otago Daily Times: Further tax cuts unlikely before next century

NZPA: Birch pledges more tax cuts

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Be careful what you wish for - Key and Peters

Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 16 March 2014.

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National’s disdain for taking responsibility

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Continued from: National’s disdain for our credulity

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Groucho Marx  politicics

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When things go horribly wrong – whether by accident or negligence – we expect mishaps to be investigated. If a mishap is due to the latter – someone stuffed up –  we demand that those responsible be held to account.

This is what it looks like when people are held to account for their actions,

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Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain

Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Pacific Blue pilot fined, ordered to retrain

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Rena captain and officer jailed for 7 months

Acknowledgement: Waikato Times – Rena captain and officer jailed for 7 months

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Capital + Merchant's directors face judge

Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – Capital + Merchant’s directors face judge

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This is what it looks like when no one – especially when in a position of authority – is held to account,

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No blame for Pike River tragedy

Acknowledgement: Dominion Post – No blame for Pike River tragedy

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Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions

Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions

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It simply beggers belief and defies understanding that a Minister of the Crown – Simon Bridges, to be specific – could utter words like this,

At the time of Pike River there’s been serous systemic failures in the old Department of Labour, and as a health and safety regulator they were clearly dysfunctional and ineffectual.

But the problems were truly systematic and no one person was to blame.

Acknowledgement:  Fairfax Media – Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister

So  how on Earth has Bill Birch –  when he was Minister for Labour in the 1990s and was  the architect of de-regulation of the mining sector – gotten off so lightly in the media?

For Birch to say,

It raises the question of why weren’t they addressed if they were obvious deficiencies in the legislation – I don’t believe they were. I think systemic failure is more about people not putting the systems in place.

– is a travesty of everything that decent New Zealanders believe in.

Basically, what this “gentlemen” is saying is that because we, as a country, were lucky enough to get away with no disaster in our mines up until the day that Pike River Mine exploded in a flash of explosive methane – that his “reforms” cannot in any way be blamed?!?!

How in gods’ name does that make any sense whatsoever?!

Why on Earth has the media  not jumped all over this?!

The record of Birch’s “reforms” is readily available for those with the eyes to see, and the inclination to use those eyes.

As I wrote in an earlier blogpost on 29 October last year,

The gutting of the mines inspectorate and permitting self-regulation by mining companies,  had it’s genesis in the early 1990s – again the Bolger-led National government –  where Bill Birch introduced the so-called “Health and Safety in Employment Act”, in 1992.

Under the guise of  “eliminating red tape”, this dangerous piece of legislation allowed mining companies to self-monitor their own activities,

“39. Prior to the enactment of the HSE Act, New Zealand had a ‘mishmash of legislation’[5], in which the duties of employers and others tended to be set out prescriptively and in considerable detail. Under this regime, specification standards directed duty holders as to precisely what preventive measures they must take in particular circumstances. Such standards identified inputs, telling duty holders how to meet a goal, rather than health and safety outcomes to be achieved

42. In undertaking reform, New Zealand, like the UK and Australia before it, was strongly influenced by the British Robens Report of 1972. This report resulted in widespread legislative change, from the traditional, ‘command and control’ model, imposing detailed obligations on firms enforced by a state inspectorate, to a more ‘self-regulatory’ regime, using less direct means to achieve broad social goals

46. New Zealand embraced the Robens philosophy of self-regulation somewhat belatedly, but with particular enthusiasm and in the context of a political environment that was strongly supportive of deregulation. Indeed, in various forms, deregulation (and reducing the regulatory burden on industry more broadly) was strongly endorsed by the Labour Government that came into power in 1984 and by the National Government that succeeded it in 1990. The HSE Act was a product of this deregulatory environment and in its initial version was stripped of some of the key measures recommended by Robens, not least tripartism, worker participation and an independent executive. It was regarded, so we were told, as a ‘necessary evil’ at a time when the predominant public policy goal was to enhance business competitiveness…”

See: Review of the Department of Labour’s interactions with Pike River Coal Limited

The conclusion of this experiment in free market de-regulation lies deep within the Pike River Mine, with the entombed bodies of 29 dead miners.

Unfortunately, the architects of this de-regulation, Bill Birch Birch, Ruth Richardson, and Jim Bolger were never prosecuted for their part in this tragedy.

They should have been.

Of all the political Parties in Parliament, National holds itself up as the torch-bearer for “personal  responsibility”. Their website is littered with references to being the Party of  “personal responsibility (see: National’s Vision For New Zealand).

Where is the responsibility being shown here?

How can 29 people have been killed in a disaster that should never have been allowed to occur – and no one is responsible?

When ordinary people commit acts that endanger the lives of others, or even lead to death(s), the State is quick to hold the (alleged) perpetrators to account.

When acts of endangerments  are committed, leading to death(s), and the State is involved – it appears that  no one person was to blame”.

It’s a “systemic” thing.

Well, to hell with that.

I hold the following to account for the deaths of 29 men at Pike River Mine,

  • Bill Birch
  • Jim Bolger
  • the management of Pike River Mine
  • and the CEOs of the Labour Department from 1992 to 19 November 2010

Every one of these people should be prosecuted for varying degrees of malfeasance leading to manslaughter.

Or else, maybe, we should all just break the law whenever we feel like it,  and not be prosecuted?

We can say it’s  a “systemic” thing.

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2013.

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Previous related blogposts

Dear Leader Key blames everyone else for Solid Energy’s financial crisis

W.o.F “reforms” – coming to a crash in your suburb

References

Dominion Post: No blame for Pike River tragedy (11 April 2013)

Fairfax Media: Pike River report: Learn from tragedy – Minister (11 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  Calls mount for Pike River prosecutions (11 April 2013)

Radio NZ:  Lack of consquences over Pike disaster ‘unsatisfactory’ (13 April 2013)

 

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National recycles waste product very well

11 March 2013 7 comments

From Bill Birch, in 1999,

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Bill Birch Speech On Taxation IRD

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Note these two items,

 We aim to grow the economy by 10% in the next three years
 Create 100,000 new jobs

National’s track record in the three years leading up to the November 1999 election, and Labour’s track record from January 2000 onward,

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New Zealands Employed Person 1996 - 2003

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Pretty self explanatory really.

Fast forward eleven years and four elections later,

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Budget 2011 Govt predicts 170,000 new jobs

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 We aim to grow the economy by 4% by 2013
 Create up to 170,000 new jobs

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New Zealands Employed Person 2008 - 2013

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Again, self-explanatory,

Key facts – In the December 2012 quarter compared with the September 2012 quarter:

 The unemployment rate fell 0.4 percentage points, to 6.9 percent.
 The number of people unemployed decreased by 10,000 people (down 6.0 percent).
 The employment rate fell 0.8 percentage points, to 62.6 percent.
 The number of people employed decreased by 23,000 (down 1.0 percent).
 The labour force participation rate fell 1.2 percentage points, to 67.2 percent.
 The number of people in the labour force decreased by 33,000.

Source: Dept of Labour (MoBIE) & Statistics NZ

There we have it: 23,000 jobs lost.

And 33,000 fewer people in the Labour Force (left the country, given up looking for work, etc)

Bill Birch – meet Bill English.  Different Ministers of Finance;  same bullshit; more empty promises.

Any predictions for National in 2023?

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