Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Vote to save last of family silver

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John Key - he charms us with his fetching smile and soothing words to ebb our resistance away. Photo / Mark Mitchell
John Key - he charms us with his fetching smile and soothing words to ebb our resistance away. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Dad tells his family he's selling a number of rental properties the whanau owns through a family trust, which their ancestors have built up over generations.

This genius informs his beloved that he'll use the asset-sale money to pay off household debt. Given the properties earn a healthy 8 per cent return that already services the debts, there's an uproar.

His children and grandkids point out that while he's the family boss, he is only a trustee. It's their heritage he's selling. They predict that once he has sold off the first round of assets he'll just keep selling until there's nothing left.

They observe that he gets the money now to spend, but when everything's hocked off he'll be long departed to the next world and they'll be left with no assets and no income.

He comes up with a new, modified plan to sell only half of the assets - and only to their friends and neighbours.

To bribe the dissenters he offers not to pay off debt, but instead use the proceeds to renovate their bedrooms and the kitchen. Even the toddlers know that once half is sold to someone else, you will lose control. The new part-owners will need to see a return on their investment, so prices will go up and eventually the remaining assets will go.

Some of the family organise a petition to allow the extended whanau to vote on whether the family silver gets hocked off.

But Dad insists he's the boss and pushes ahead before a referendum is voted on.

So, how is our genius Dad's cunning plan going? Here's the update.

John Key confidently predicted sales would raise more than $7 billion. It's not completed yet but already we are down $1.2b.

Key promised the cost of sales would be $120 million - it's $250m so far and rising. Nice consultancy work for the inner circle.

Key said 250,000 "mums and dads" would be queuing up per sale. Half of that number turned up for Mighty River, a quarter for Meridian and less than 3 per cent for Air New Zealand.

Rumours are rife that the Genesis sale is being abandoned because of a lack of punters; 98 per cent of New Zealanders haven't bought a single, individual share.

But even among those who have bought in, a close examination reveals the bulk of shares are going to a few hundred wealthy individuals and companies.

On the Government's own terms, it's been a disaster. It was never about prudent financial management, but ideology and political ego.

It's also cronyism - Key gave $30m to Meridian's biggest customer so they wouldn't jump ship before the sale.

The referendum to oppose this Government's asset sale programme closes this Saturday. It's too late to save the assets already on the block. The critical thing now is to prevent any more from being sold. That's why you must vote.

Don't think for a minute that once the power companies and our national airline go then KiwiBank and NZ Post won't soon follow.

If the Government thinks New Zealanders have given up opposing asset sales, then roads, water and TVNZ, followed by city council assets and everything else, will get hocked off to the wealthy.

Exaggeration? Unfortunately not. That was always the agenda of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson. They were too disliked to pull it off.

Our current Prime Minister is the perfect suitor; he charms us with his fetching smile and soothing words to ebb our resistance away.

Wake up, patriots! Mail your referenda ballot today. If you don't have one, phone 0800 36 76 56.

You owe it to your children.

Vote "No".

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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