Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National will give ACT what it wants

The news today (insomuch as there is any) is that National is negotiating with ACT over privatising ACC to get its preferred changes through. The grumbling about a party which won 3% of the vote getting to dictate policy has already started, but its worth remembering that during the election National campaigned on exactly ACT's policy: privatising the work account for the profit of the insurance industry - something John Key was thoughtful enough to remind the press gallery of yesterday. So, while everyone is distracted by the dance, the outcome isn't really in question. National will give ACT what it wants, because they want it too.

Meanwhile, there's a telling omission from Key's criteria for privatisation:

Mr Key said if the ACC work account was opened up to competition, National would "need to be convinced that there were benefits both to the Government and the private sector".
Who's missing? Only the most important stakeholder: the people of New Zealand, who depend on the scheme for cover. But the reason we're missing is because we're the group that won't benefit. An independent review in 2008 found that there were no gains to be made from privatisation. That means that any benefits to the government and the private sector - and Key's former employers Merrill Lynch are on record as estimating they'd make $200 million from privatisation - have to come out of our pockets, in the form of higher premiums and lower entitlements. Key and ACT are plotting to screw us over, while their rich Aussie mates laugh all the way to the bank.

This is not something we should tolerate. Like Auckland's assets, ACC is not theirs to sell - or to privatise, "open to competition", or however else they want to spin it. It is there to provide a service to the people of New Zealand, and it is the governments job to ensure that it keeps providing that service. There is no question that we can afford it - the current "crisis" is entirely manufactured, born of temporary changes to interest rates rather than any real problem (the scheme notably is still taking in far more per year than the long-term cost of claims; at worst the current problems threaten the date at which it is considered to be fully funded, not whether it will be, and certainly not its ability to provide cover). National's moves to undermine and privatise ACC are a fundamental betrayal of trust and a theft from the people of New Zealand. And we should hold them accountable for it.