The public will get three more chances to pass judgment on the Government's asset sales despite Parliament being about to pass the enabling legislation. The first chance will be with our wallets when shares go on the market, and according to Herald on Sunday polling, nearly 60% of us would like to buy them - see: Most of us oppose selling NZ. Given the same poll also showed even more people oppose the sales in the first place it could be seen as contradictory, but as Green co-leader Metiria Turei commented: 'New Zealanders understand that these are shares in profitable, stable companies, but that is why they should stay in public ownership, not private ownership'. Or perhaps the poll figure simply indicates that the widespread opposition to partial privatisation just isn't felt very strongly.
The public's second chance to pass judgment on the asset sales policy will be in a possible citizens' initiated referendum. Russel Norman is claiming the CIR petition already has 100,000 of the 310,000 signatures required after only a couple of months. The Standard looks at how the Government could time a referendum to minimise the impact on the 2014 election, and concludes that late-2013 is the most likely date - see: Nats' pollster reveals asset sale plan.
The third chance will occur at the 2014 general election. Of course the Government would add that the public's most important chance to pass judgment was at the 2011 election when the policy was promoted and discussed. A blog post at the Standard disputes this claim, arguing that there were actually more votes for anti-asset sale parties than those advocating them (although the opponents ended up with one less seat in parliament) - see: About that mandate.
For the moment, the debate on privatisation continues. Today's Herald editorial argues that private input into the running of the companies will produce better results for the remaining public shareholding - see: Private stakes will ensure assets run well. But the Waikato Times acknowledges that energy analyst Molly Melhuish may have a point that it is power consumers who may pay the biggest price for the sales - see: Fair play over power prices. Arguably, the sales will deprive consumers from being able to 'vote' with their accounts by choosing the publicly owned companies that Melhuish claims charge on average 12% less than private companies.
A widespread and diverse spread of 'kiwi buyers' is so politically vital to the Government that they are willing to forgo millions in proceeds to ensure it, including a loyalty bonus scheme. A similar scheme in Queensland didn't work says Duncan Garner (see: Loyalty asset shares didn't work in Australia), and saw most investors ignore the bonus and sell for a quick profit. Such a scenario would be political disaster here as shares quickly accumulate into corporate hands and the Government would be accused of selling too cheaply.
If 60% of the public really is enthusiastic for buying the new shares then Winston Peters' promise to buy them back at the sale price could be politically disastrous says David Farrar in The HoS Poll. But, as Scott Yorke points out, saying you would like to buy shares and actually having the minimum $1,000 spare to do so are two different matters - see: No Great Surprises In HOS Political Poll.
Responding to claims of fiscal recklessness over the buy-back policy, Winston Peters says there is funding already available to bring them back into public ownership - see Claire Trevett's Peters: Use super funds to buy back state assets. Labour and the Greens both say the unknown financial situation in 2014 means they cannot commit to a buy-back.
Other important or interesting political items today include:
* The Government is still very much on the back foot over ACC as Phil Kitchin reveals more evidence that the Corporation's bottom line is taking priority over client needs. Senior ACC managers speaking at a Brisbane conference in November said 'the "low-hanging fruit" was gone but the job would get harder" -see: ACC's quota deal with Smith revealed'. Adam Bennett looks at figures appearing to show that getting clients back to work isn't the only solution the corporation has embraced in the past two years - see: More ACC clients going on to welfare. The ongoing revelations have many calling for change in culture, focus and funding base for ACC - see the Herald on Sunday's ACC culture change overdue, Matt McCarten's Launch inquiry to root out what has to be rotten, and Kirsty Wynn's ACC architect says people paying more in levies than they should.
* The Government's environmental record comes under attack after the Rio+20 conference (Minister blasts damning environment report) while Matthew Hooton takes aim at a 'rogue' diplomat who attacked New Zealand's record on carbon emissions - see: What Mr Key might have said to Mr Clemson. David Cunliffe's taken the opportunity to use environmental issues for another lengthy positioning speech - see: The Dolphin and the Dole Queue.
* There's more evidence today that social class has a real impact in the classroom, as research shows Auckland secondary schools manipulating their zones to exclude poor suburbs and even individual kids from poor areas - see: Enrolment zones skewed to exclude poor children. For Tapu Misa the growing disparities in our schools reflect the failure of market based education, quoting the PPTA in 2009: 'the application of market principles in schools has not so much encouraged individuality but produced a rigid consumer-driven conservatism' - see: Market model leaves schools to die. Meanwhile public schools are seen as prime targets for missionary work by some churches: Christians target schools in 'mission'.
* The National Government's recent performance is examined in different ways by Jane Clifton in Collins's moue, Fran O'Sullivan in Fashion designer's bold makeover for NZ, Tim Watkin in Surplus, what surplus? National's core brand at risk, and Rodney Hide's Battered govt staggers from credibility blows.
* Tau Henare is not guilty of censoring his Wikipedia page - see: Henare wins apology from Wikipedia over blocking.
* Steve Braunias delves into the NZ First leader's nightmares - see: The Secret Diary Of . . . Winston Peters.
* Finally, New Zealand politicians continue to be barely trusted by the public. The results of the latest Readers Digest annual trust poll about 100 public individuals is out, and it reveals that our ten 'least trusted' public individuals are: Brian Tamaki, Hone Harawira, Kim Dotcom, Douglas Graham, Michael Laws, Tariana Turia, Sir Michael Fay, Gerry Brownlee, Pita Sharples, Peter Whittall, and Winston Peters. It's also reported that 'Those at the wrong end of the list included Prime Minister John Key (70) and Labour Party leader David Shearer (83)' - see: Destiny Church boss tops list of least-trusted. Apparently the 'most trusted politician, at No47, was Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker', whilst the most trusted MP is National's Maggie Barry, the former TV presenter at number 49 out of 100.By Bryce Edwards Email Bryce