Thursday, November 28, 2013

So much for the copper tax

Since the Commerce Commission ruled against the government's plan to subsidise Chorus' profits by letting them charge extortionate and unwarranted broadband prices, the government has been sabre-rattling and threatening to legislate. But the minor parties have just blown that plan out of the water:

New Zealand First, the Maori Party and United Future are all vowing to oppose any legislation which would overrule the Commerce Commission on broadband pricing.

In what appears to be a series of coordinated releases this afternoon, all three parties have said they would respect the regulators determination, which would see the price of wholesale broadband drop from December 2014.

NZ First IT spokesperson Tracey Martin said in a statement that the party supported the commission's final recommendation on pricing, and opposed ''any deal that puts the interests of a publicly listed company ahead of New Zealand families and businesses''.

"We will vote against any legislation that seeks to overrule the Commerce Commission's final pricing recommendation or that tries to delay its implementation from 1 December 2014," she said.

Which means that there's simply no majority for legislation. Cheaper broadband is here to stay. As for the government cronies in Chorus, they'll have to actually work for their money, rather than just engaging in lazy rent-seeking.

But apart from enjoying the government's discomfort, its an interesting development, because it suggests the minor parties have finally learned to count. Without Peter Dunne, National no longer has an easy majority - they have to work for every vote. And on some things - e.g. RMA "reform" - they are no longer going to be able to get their way. The question now is whether they throw their toys and call an election to avoid such democratic "instability", or whether they simply make Peter Dunne a Minister again so he goes back to being a reliable footstool.