Matt McCarten: Poor foot bill for asset gluttons

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The Government is going ahead with asset sales, despite opposition. Photo / Jason Dorday
The Government is going ahead with asset sales, despite opposition. Photo / Jason Dorday

This week, the Government confirmed it really is going to flog off our family silver. The asset sales programme was on hold while the Maori Council went to court and gave stopping the sale a good shot.

Alas, the judges gave the auctioneers the green light.

Opposition parties say they have reached the required threshold to hold a referendum on the asset sales.

The Greens are sure 390,000 people have signed the petition, but irrespective we know New Zealanders overwhelmingly oppose the idea of the richest 10 per cent of the population buying something the rest of us already own.

John Key daren't wait for a referendum. His Cabinet rubber-stamps asset sales tomorrow.

New Zealanders were traumatised when our best public assets were hocked off under the reign of neo-liberals in the 1980s and 90s.

Before everything went, the masses revolted and ringleaders were dumped and exiled themselves into the Act Party.

How fitting that their annual coven was held last weekend in a rich man's land of concrete, paid for out of the proceeds of past asset sales.

The heart of the asset criminal beats eternal. So with a softer, smoother salesman as Prime Minister, they'll take half now. They'll get the rest later.

Gluttons aren't capable of stopping until they get the whole cake. The mom and pop investors, if they actually exist, can fight over the crumbs.

However, just when you think it's a grab and no give, the Government generously announced on Wednesday that the minimum wage will move 25c an hour in April. Full-time workers get an extra $8 a week after tax.

I'm not sure where this figure fits into John Key's public commitment that he has a cunning plan to catch up with Australian wages real soon.

Now that the Maori Council has done its bit trying to hold up asset sales, the Maori Party, in a rare display of independence, stepped up to condemn the sale and the 25c pittance for poor workers.

They boasted militantly that the minimum wage had to rise to a whopping $16 an hour now.

On the basis of the Maori Party's new staunchness, here's good advice to them on how to survive at the next election. Withdraw from the coalition unless the Government agrees to a $16 minimum wage, and unless asset sales are put on hold until the referendum is held.

Assuming the Maori Party are just kidding, as I think they are, I'm left giving advice instead to you, the poor worker. When you get your $8 extra in your pay packet, don't spend it all on a coffee date.

You'll need it when your power bill rises so the new owners can make a quick profit on their power shares. After all, when the greedy get needy someone has to pay. Why not the poor?

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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