Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: August 2

Gerry Brownlee is in a bit of a pickle after being forced to admit that he received advice on selling Christchurch's public assets to help pay for the city's re-build. Photo / APN
Gerry Brownlee is in a bit of a pickle after being forced to admit that he received advice on selling Christchurch's public assets to help pay for the city's re-build. Photo / APN

When you have a great idea sometimes you just want to share it so others can benefit from your wisdom. If selling prime assets to reduce debt is a good idea for the nation, then it must be a good idea for Christchurch too. Right?

King Gerry has been forced to admit that he has received advice on selling the city's public assets to help pay for the re-build - see Radio NZ's Brownlee admits receiving advice on Christchurch asset sales. What's more, he thinks it is a good idea because the city's 'rainy day' has arrived and that's exactly what they've been saving those assets for. Right? Almost certainly 'wrong' as far as most Christchurch residents are concerned, and the response from Corporate Services Manager Paul Anderson indicates the Council is aware of that political reality - see Radio NZ's Council confident it won't have to sell assets.

The Government faces an election in 2014, but the councilors face the voters next year and there probably won't be too many candidates asking for a mandate to sell off the airport, port or electricity lines company. The 'Peoples Republic of Christchurch' stood against the tide as other councils flogged off local infrastructure and there appear to be few local regrets about that. Rather than being a piggy-bank to be broken into when times get tough, the assets are generally seen as an ongoing source of revenue. Hence Labour's Lianne Dalziel says 'the council has held on to its revenue-generating assets for years to keep rates in check' - see Newswire's Christchurch assets could be sold - Labour.

Greens leader Russel Norman has suggested an alternative way to raise the extra cash: 'It's really reprehensible that central government should be trying to use the earthquake to push their ideological agenda of asset sales, onto the Christchurch City Council, when the people of Christchurch have over many years have fought long and hard to retain their assets," he says. All of New Zealand should help Christchurch pay for the rebuild through a national earthquake levy, says Mr Norman' - see Radio NZ's Greens against sales for Christchurch.

Convincing voters to sell in order to build a stadium and convention centre that are likely to be money pits rather than money trees, will be a very hard task. Despite this, both the Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce and the Christchurch Press think it is wrong to rule it out: 'That option, along with the strong involvement of the private sector in conjunction with the council and other options, must be open to proper financial scrutiny and careful consideration.' - see today's Press editorial: Reality of city plan sinking in.

The use of Brownlee's imperial powers may be the only way asset sales become a reality in Christchurch, but it would probably prompt another republican revolt.

Other important or interesting political items today include:

* It's blood sport time in Parliament at the moment as Trevor Mallard takes every opportunity to taunt John Banks over his campaign donations, this time using the SIS appropriations bill to take pot shots - see coverage and video here: Estimates Debate - Much Heat Little Light. Banks is by no means indispensible and Key will be aware of how much damage the Phillip Field and Winston Peters scandals did to Helen Clark's popularity says Vernon Small - see: Banks off the hook - for now.

* Everyone agrees the local body law on donations needs changing but that will mean the end of the huge level of anonymous donations both Auckland mayoral candidates received last time - see Adam Bennett and Claire Trevett's Review may end use of donor trusts. For a detailed analysis of how the likely changes would have affected the outcome for John Banks, see Andrew Geddis' One law for all!.

* Judith Collins has maintained she has nothing to hide from the investigations into the leaks from ACC. Can the same be said of ex-CEO John Judge who had his work and personal computers comprehensively wiped or replaced? -see Adam Bennett's Ex-chair's moves slow ACC probe, says Collins. Judge has responded to say that such 'pathetic' claims from the Minister 'are untrue and an attempt to "blacken" his name' - see: Ex-ACC boss denies Collins' claims.

* There's no harm in a little delay to the asset sales program says today's Dominion Post editorial: Key would be wise to delay asset sales. David Farrar isn't so sure. He paints a picture of the Government being involved in a very difficult game of poker - see: Will the Government delay?

* History has shown that power companies have rights to water that give them effective ownership, despite what the PM says, argues Alison MacTavish in Notions of 'ownership' challenged.

* Cue - Winston Peters. If the police also implicate some Chinese migrants collecting superannuation in the deal, he may spontaneously combust - see Newswire's Whanau Ora money used to buy drugs - police. National will be trying to remember why they thought the coalition with the Maori Party was a good idea.

* We can expect the first charter schools in 2014. The schools 'will be able to determine whether they operate under the National Standards programme and offer NCEA qualifications, or adopt an "alternative curriculum framework"' - see TVNZ's Charter school rebranding condemned as 'lipstick on a pig'. This is a much more relaxed approach to National Standards than for state schools where boards were threatened with mass sackings if they didn't implement them.

* Money has trumped other considerations with the implementation of the Gambling Act, according to researchers: 'The scale of profits from high-intensity commercial gambling has an unpleasant way of penetrating most political systems' - see: David Fisher's Academics say SkyCity deal goes against law. The statement by Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain that he 'had no responsibility for health-related aspects of gambling even though he was in charge of the Gambling Act' is revealing.

* Finally Does Public Broadcasting have a future in New Zealand?. That's the topic of two talks being presented in Wellington at the newly-launched Institute for Governance and Policy Studies tomorrow (Friday 3 August). Dr Peter A Thompson presents ('No Payment, No Piper, No Tune: The Political Economy of Funding Public Television in NZ'); Part of an ongoing series of talks.

- 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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