Friday, January 4, 2013

The silent majority...

The combined parties of the Left, the student unions, CTU and Grey Power will be pleased to have finally got to their asset sales petition target; Stuff reports:

New Zealanders will have their say on asset sales this year after a petition to force a referendum 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.
After checking the figures at the end of 2012, Mr Reid was confident they now had the numbers to push through the referendum.
The petition asked if people wanted a referendum on the question, "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?"
Mr Reid said the anti-asset-sales coalition would continue to collect signatures over the new few weeks, before the petition was presented to Parliament when it opened again in the last week of January.
"I hope it will demonstrate to the Government that they can't sell the government's assets - they belong to the people of New Zealand," he said.
"Selling them isn't the Government's right." 

Mr Reid is absolutely wrong. It is the Government's "right" to do whatever the Government thinks is in New Zealand's best interests.

Unlike the Labour government of the 1980's, National campaigned strongly on the Mixed Ownership Model at the 2011 General Election. Labour and the Greens were just as strongly opposed. We all know how the election turned out.

Even if Labour and the Greens have got to their target of 300,000 signatures (which with the amount of parliamentary funding that has supported the campaign they most certainly should have), that still represents considerably less than half of the people who voted for those parties; 34.79%, to be precise. Add in the combined party votes of NZ First, the Mana Party and the Maori Party, and that percentage drops even further; to 28.14%.

On the other hand, 1,058,636 people gave their party vote to John Key's National Party, knowing that partial asset sales would happen. Add in the party votes for Act and United Future, and that tally gets close to 1.1 million; a clear majority.

The Left has made much of pre-election polls which showed what they called "overwhelming opposition" to asset sales. That, of course, was not borne out by the election result. John Key was able to form a government, and had the numbers to pass the Mixed Ownership Model legislation.

Despite wall-to-wall taxpayer funded propaganda from Labour and the Greens, despite nine months of collecting signatures and despite having hired people to collect signatures, paid out of the Greens' parliamentary funding, barely 10% of registered New Zealand electors have signed the petition calling for a referendum. Apply the maths to that; that means that 90% of New Zealanders HAVEN'T signed the petition for whatever reason. And even if half of all those who voted for the centre-Right parties opposed asset sales, as some on the Left have suggested, the number of signatures on the petition do not reflect that opposition.

Even if there is a referendum, it is merely symbolic. It is non-binding, and by the time that the petition is verified by Parliament, the sale of Mighty River Power shares will be underway (and probably over-subscribed), the sky will not have fallen and life will be proceeding as normal. 

The silent majority has spoken here, rather than a noisy, politically motivated minority including the political parties who have misused the Citizen Initiated Referendum process. That makes a pleasant change from those who wish to relitigate the 2011 General Election result in a clamour of white noise.

22 comments:

Left is right said...

The Labour Party had an asset sales petition stall between the Post Shop and the Warehouse on dole day in mid-December in a large-ish central Waikato town. Several of their targeted demographic signed in the few minutes I was nearby, so no surprises that the target was finally reached.

bsprout said...

Just a few corrections to your assumptions, KS:
- National received only 47% of the vote at the last election and only 74% of potential voters turned out, this is hardly a clear mandate for asset sales. Even with the support of Act and United Future there is barely 50% of voter support.
-This is a hugely contentious issue and deserves a clearer mandate than what currently exists, I would have thought at least 60% support should be necessary.
-Much of the details for the asset sales weren't known or promoted during the election campaign.
-Many people voted on the personality of the respective party leaders rather than policy.
-Both Treasury and prominent economists have questioned the long term value of the asset sales.
-Privately owned power companies charge more on average than the SOE's and once privatised there will be no facility for the Government to manage unnecessary price hikes.
-It is takes considerable effort and coordination to collect signatures for any petition, no matter how popular and I have found overwhelming support for this one. From my experience around 8 out of every 10 people I approach are keen to sign and many are National voters.
-The opinion poll that accompanied the article you linked to had almost 80% opposing the sales when I last looked.
-If the "silent majority" do support the asset sales as you claim, KS, then the referendum will surely support that. You should be saying "bring it on" rather than campaigning against the democratic process.

Keeping Stock said...

I disagree with your initial assertion bsprout. The moment that John Key was able to go to the Governor General and inform Sir Jerry that he could form a government was the moment that he had his mandate. Doubtless you voted to retain MMP, and that was MMP in action :)

Edward the Confessor said...

The people will get their say on this now won't they KS? We'll see just how popular it actually is. My pck is the Nats will lose their shaky self-proclaimed "mandate" to sell, but ignore it because it's good for their mates.

bsprout said...

Which is why, KS, there is so much angst in Chritchurch, in education and with the asset sales. This Government feels that they are able to disregard the public's views and do not have to properly consult once they are in Government. The democratic process shouldn't end after polling day.

While I don't support referendums being over used (they are expensive), on important constitutional issues and these asset sales there is definitely a place for ascertaining the level of public support.

It is also a flawed argument to compare the anti smacking referendum with the asset sale one as the situations are entirely different (as on Kiwiblog).

The anti smacking referendum was instigated based on a poorly worded question, especially as the concerns expressed were largely managed by the wording in the final bill (John key himself was involved in insuring there were protections against unnecessary prosecutions). The bill had been passed almost unanimously.

You seem to imply that paying a few thousand dollars for staff to count and collect in the signatures gathered mainly by volunteers is unethical and yet think nothing of the Government spending millions to promote the sales.

There is obviously little public support for the asset sales and few sound economic arguments, the Government should do the decent thing and forget them.

Edward the Confessor said...

bsprout makes excellent points. You seem to be in favour of an elected dictatorship KS. Why are you so afraid of giving the people a say?

Keeping Stock said...

Where did I mention the anti-smacking referendum bsprout?

Red Card said...

Yes!
A fresh opportunity for all New Zealanders to say what they think about National's asset sale plans. There's nothing as valid as an up-to-date, specific response and it's going to say 'no' loud and clear. National might try to bluster through, but it will sink them at the election.
Well done all those who worked for this referendum.

Quito Moss said...

If Key has a mandate to sell, this referendum will confirm that, eh KS!
Nothing to get your knickers in a twist about, the way Farrar is.
You're relaxed about the result, aren't you KS?

Keeping Stock said...

Farrar is right on the money with his title Quito - The parliamentary purchased referendum achieved. It is anything but what was intended when CITIZEN initiated referenda were legislated for.

And Farrar is equally right when he says this:

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.

bsprout said...

You didn't mention the anti-smacking referendum, KS, and I did say it was referred to on Kiwiblog. i just included it because it is often referred to elsewhere and I thought I would cover all bases before it was mentioned.

Your Farrar quote regarding the fact that Parties are elected on their policies, this is so obviously false. We all know that elections are now presidential style contests where the merits of the leaders out trump any policy. Key was largely regarded as someone who listens and is prepared to shift ground according to public opinion, this term has proved that to be wrong.

Most people feel that John Banks shouldn't still be in parliament, most think Parata doesn't deserve support, most people don't like what is happening in education and most people don't want the asset sales.

Crinian Joe said...

Most fascinating aspect of this referendum is the active involvement of Grey Power. They oppose it because they have the wisdom of age and experience and know that it's wrong.
That should make you stop and think, KS, about the rightness of the plan, but you won't admit that it's wrong, no matter who stands up and says, NO!
I trust the judgement of my elders. Grey Power are right on this issue. Key and National are wrong. The public will speak loudly and clearly.

Edwin Wigmore said...

I beg to differ bsprout on both moral and factual grounds.

First, if only 74% bothered to vote, then the 26% have no business in complaining. If they can't get off their backsides to vote, then don't to grizzle.

Second, electricity prices increased under Labour by over 70% in the last five years of their governing. Govt owned corps are not necessarily the cheapest and certainly are not reknowned for public conscience. Another example, a report on our health services while under Labour's rein showed it cost five times more to stay a night in a public vs private hospital, six times more to call a taxi etc.

Frankly, given that power prices almost doubled in five years when in public ownership I'd be quite happy to try an alternative.

Control: the government is retaining 51% ownership which still gives them power to change things, granted, it is not as much as if they had 75%.

Finally, the details most certainly were known of the asset sales. You just had to ask. If people were too lazy or apathetic then they deserve what they get.

Edwin Wigmore said...

That should be "six times more to call an ambulance" :-)

Edward the Confessor said...

Sorry Edwin, where was the moral argument in favour of asset sales in your little rant? All I saw were dodgy claims not backed up by evidence, and the assertion that people "deserve what they get" from their government for not finding out what's going on. That was the argument used by the Vogons when they destroyed the Earth. Obviously, therefore, you're an Act supporter.

"a report on our health services while under Labour's rein showed it cost five times more to stay a night in a public vs private hospital, six times more to call a taxi (sic) etc."

I'd love to see this. Got a link? No?

Keeping Stock said...

Edwin Wigmore is right on the money bsprout & ETC. Elections are decided by those who bother to vote. Those who turned out in November 2011 gave John Key a mandate to implement the policies that National had campaigned on.

Using those who failed to vote for whatever reason as a justification is fatuous at best, and disingenuous if I was being less charitable. I regard the right to vote as sacrosanct, and have lived by and passed on to my own children (who are both now voters) his mantra; if you don't vote, you can't complain.

As for bsprout's complain that "Much of the details for the asset sales weren't known or promoted during the election campaign.", I disagree entirely. National identified which assets were earmarked for partial sale, described what the conditions for sale would be, and even gave a hint to the enabling legislation by describing the Mixed Ownership Model, using Air New Zealand (partially privatised by Labour) as an example of how it would work. In contrast, Labour and the Greens' opposition bordered on hysterical, and was at times dishonest; no surprises there of course. Labour's opposition to the MOM is especially hypocritical given that it is still the party that has sold more assets, and more dollars worth of assets than any other government in New Zealand's history.

Bruce Aloisis said...

The reason for the public's distrust of Key's plans to sell our assets and their rising up to oppose them through this referendum, is that they recognise that they are being conned by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. The ever-shifting reasons given for the sales, the not-believable outcomes, the 'not even the best guess' predictions for the return expected all add up to distrust of both men and their party. To claim that New Zealanders knew what they were getting regarding the asset sales when they voted at the election is false. We know now that we were being fooled, that those in charge don't know what they are doing and that the deal we were promised is looking weaker and weaker by the day, that's the reason New Zealanders are saying 'enough!' and will call for a halt to the sales.

Brian Elliott said...

"Bruce Aloisis said...
The reason for the public's distrust of Key's plans to sell our assets and their rising up to oppose them through this referendum...."


This groundswell of public opinion has taken a very long time to make itself evident.
This rising up needed professional dissenters to coerce pen to paper.
Opposition paid for from the public purse.
This is a victory for the left in a year when scrabbling for relevance has been paramount.

Bruce Aloisis said...

"This groundswell of public opinion has taken a very long time to make itself evident."
Yes it has, but isn't it marvelous to witness! Good on you, New Zealand!
"This rising up needed professional dissenters to coerce pen to paper."
Call Opposition MPs "professional dissenters" if you wish, Brian. That's what they are and what they are supposed to do. Opposition - to oppose. "Professional" - paid for the service. That's what MPs who are not in Government are paid to do.
"Opposition paid for from the public purse."
Those parties are free to do what the wish with that money. The lack of challenge from the Government proves that your claim is false.
"This is a victory for the left..."
Yes, it certainly is, Brian. A major, telling victory.
"...in a year when scrabbling for relevance has been paramount."
They've won it now. The time between now and the election/referendum will be filled with further victories built upon this one.

Edward the Confessor said...

"Those who turned out in November 2011 gave John Key a mandate to implement the policies that National had campaigned on."

Except when there's a referendum on a specific part of that policy platform. If that gets rejected they lose their self-proclaimed "mandate". Only the hopelessly biased or those compromised by the thought of making money off the sale would argue otherwise

Leonard said...

Private hospitals don't have to buy or provide equipment or specialists for most of the medical work done in this country and in fact when something goes wrong have to send their patients to public.

What private do is a small range of services from which they can make a profit.

That doesn't make them better or more efficient overall - just picky and restricted in what they do.

That doesn't mean they don't do their limited range of things well and that they don't have their place but to compare in the way you have is nonsense.

Locally I notice quite a bit of their daily staffing is free polytech students as well. Cheap at half the price - alternatively you could consider that some of their staffing is funded by the tax payer via student allowance and loans.

bsprout said...

I just had another check on the stuff survey on the asset sales, over 1000 votes and still around 80% against. We definitely need a referendum.