Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Of Pete, paper tigers and powerless piles

Over at Your NZ Pete George blogs:

The asset petition will be presented to parliament today.
Many signatures, many people hoping to make a difference and stop the Government asset share floats. There’s been a lot of hard selling of the petition, especially by Greens and Labour in what is theoretically a Citizen Initiated Referendum.
Have people been sold false hope? Is this any more than a party PR push?
It has always been known that any referendum can and will be ignored, and the sales process will already be well under way by the time a referendum is possible.
This petition and referendum are likely to be nothing more than an indication of opposition to National’s flagship policy. And a means of taxpayer funded opposition party campaigning.
Some petition signatories may feel they have achieved something, but some may end up feeling over sold and under delivered by Labour and Greens.
The petition is a paper tiger, a powerless pile of paper.

Pete George is absolutely right in this regard. The petition itself was not demanding a stop to asset sales (or part-sales, to be accurate); it was simply calling for a referendum on the issue. 

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman is clearly spooked by the overwhelming response to the Mighty River Power share offer which has now seen 285,000 people pre-register in less than a week. 3News reports:

Green Party co-leader Russel Norman says the large number of people registering their interest in buying Mighty River Power shares should not be mistaken for public support for asset sales.  
The Government says more than 250,000 people have preregistered for shares in only 10 days, but it took the Opposition a year to collect enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue.

This is nothing more than bluster from Dr Norman. We could just as easily argue that there will be people who have signed his petition who support the Government's Mixed Ownership Model, and who want to see it endorsed by a referendum, especially a Political Party Initiated one.
Lew from Kiwipolitico got it right yesterday. This phase of the asset sales battle is over, and Labour and the Greens have lost it. And Pete George is right when he says "The petition is a paper tiger, a powerless pile of paper.".

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