Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: June 27

File photo / Glenn Taylor Photo / Supplied
File photo / Glenn Taylor Photo / Supplied

The Opposition parties are not about to give up on the anti-asset sales campaign despite the Government having squeaked through the sale legislation yesterday. And why would they? Not only do they have an issue that puts them onside with a sizable majority of voters, but the issue is proving incredibly useful in uniting Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First. And for a change, they have been disciplined about attacking the Government, not each other. This ability to work together and punish the Government's many weaknesses lately - especially over assets sales - has made their political alliance appear more formidable than ever. But just how united and effective is this new coalition?

For an insight into how things are going, both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes, this week's must-read article is Jonathan Milne's Unholy alliance: National's united opposition. Competitive tensions are still evident, particularly in Grant Robertson's comments about the Greens, and the real test will be to maintain the focus of their attacks through 2014. Like many relationships, as long as the going is good it will be easy, but if one party starts to gain at the other's expense then the alliance will cease being so cosy on the Opposition side of the House.

Naturally, there is already some feeling that the Greens continue to do better out of the anti-asset sales campaign than Labour - see, for example Robert Winter's blogpost, Greens marginalising Labour in the media?.

Labour is promising much more action on the asset sales, especially as the petition and referendum gather momentum - see Dene Mackenzie's Unrest predicted as petition grows and asset-sale moves proceed, but the Greens have also invested heavily in the petition's success. A successful petition and referendum for the parties has more, of course, to do with the next election than actually stopping the sales. While they can claim the class size and conservation mining backdowns prove National can actually be stared down, it is almost inconceivable that the Government would bow to a non-binding poll in which the result is pretty much a forgone conclusion.

The most likely fly in the ointment for the privatisation programme will probably come from 'the market'. Vernon Small's A Mighty flop might sink sales looks at the balancing act the Government must perform to ensure both taxpayers and the legendary (mythical?) 'mum and dad investors' aren't feeling ripped off after the sales. Even if the price is 'not too hot and not too cold' the normal profit-taking that often follows large floats bears political risk.

There are also the ever present dangers of successful court challenges, not only because they may delay the sales, but because precautionary measures to head them off, such as reserving shares for treaty settlements, are politically toxic - see Adam Bennett's Legal fight over asset sales likely. The Prime Minister seems confident that the challenges 'have no merit', but University of Otago law lecturer Jacinta Ruru disagrees - see: Iwi case over asset sale valid - Expert. The Government has been warned by the Maori Council not to try and play 'Maori off against Maori' to get around the challenges - listen to the RNZ interview, Maori Council decries one-off compensation for Tuwharetoa.

Inevitably there will also be stories like this one: Mighty River bosses get extra $220k for sell-off - which, along with yesterday's reports that the directors are looking to double their pay rate to $2,400 a day after the sale, will jar with the Government's theme of fiscal restraint.

There has also been a lot of odium heaped on Peter Dunne for providing the one vote needed for the sales - see TV3's Labour blames Dunne for close vote. Some got over-excited, however, with Labour MP Megan Woods proving that 'Godwins Law' (comparing your opponents to Hitler or the Nazis) is alive and well on her twitter account. Such references don't cause much outrage these days - just instant (and deserved) ridicule - see TV3's Labour MP apologises for Hitler tweet. David Farrar takes it all seriously and actually compares Hitler's mandate to the current government - see: Labour on Dunne and Nazis. Clearly the Labour MP lost the argument the moment she pushed send.

Finally on the asset sales debate, for a socialist critique of the parliamentary opposition to asset sales, see Tom Peters' article, Labour, Greens continue "Keep Our Assets" diversion. This points out some of the weaknesses and contradictions of those opposing the asset sales, including the point that 'the claim on the "Keep Our Assets" web site that electricity is currently "affordable" because "the publicly-owned companies hold the price down" is patently false'.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* Labour's latest staffing recruit is Julian Robins from Radio NZ's Parliamentary press gallery. This prompted satirist TV3's Ali Ikram (@aliikram) to tweet: 'If a Radio New Zealand reporter moves into PR for the Labour Party does that constitute a shift to the Right?'. David Farrar also commented that 'I think this is the 5th press gallery journalist in the last three years to join the Labour or Greens media teams' - see: Gallery to Labour. A subsequent blog comment did name, however, at least thirteen journalists employed by National.

* Scientific advice appears to have been put to the side in a decision to allow exploration in marine sancturies - see: Otago scientist 'ignored' in mining decision but the Dominion Post editorial thinks the latest proposals for surveying our potential mineral wealth are a good idea - see: It won't hurt to have a look. No Right Turn responds that such an attitude is akin to 'a child saying they want to count the sweets but not eat any' - see: More orcishness.

* The Government has been told by the Labour Department that new job opportunities are not likely to be suitable for those that National are looking to move off long term benefits - see: Low-skilled workers, women to miss out on Govt jobs - report.

*The horse may have already bolted when it comes to concerns about the Trans Pacific Partnership giving rights to overseas companies to sue our government, says Jason Krupp - see: Six deals give foreign investors protections and Foreign lawsuits already a threat.

* Who is the new Reserve Bank boss? is a good background article by James Weir about the man in charge of the money supply, while today's Herald editorial wants beating inflation to remain his number one priority - see: Bank chief should stick to old target.

* Business is booming for uber-public law firm Chen Palmer, leading to an expansion into Auckland - see: Mai Chen moves to Auckland. Chen's explanation is reported: '"The great thing is that the government keeps me in business," she said, with more regulation being introduced regardless of who was in power'.

* Reporting on Winston Peters' current 'furious, high-speed' style in parliamentary debates, Jane Clifton says that the New Zealand First leader no longer bothers to include spaces between his words: 'Mr Peters asked whether Prime Minister John Key had "misledthepublic" by "selectivelyusinganumberof-fourteenthousandonehundredandthirtyfive", when the real number was "fifteenthousandfourhundredandninetynine".' - see: Speedy Peters' row turns chow mein.

* Finally, the blogwars between Scott Yorke and Martyn Bradbury are apparently over - see Yorke's blogposts Oh Martyn, Must We? and The End Of The Affair. Yorke also reports on some tweeter correspondence between John Key and 'Peter Dunne' in #SwimAtKeys.

- NZ Herald

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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