Monday, July 18, 2011

Privatisation undermines transparency

The National government is planning to part-privatise our state-owned electricity companies and Solid Energy after the election. This is a regressive measure, which will see de facto ownership of these companies move offshore, allowing rapacious foreign owners to abuse their oligopoly position to extort windfall profits - just as they did with Telecom. But it won't just be money and control we'll lose - we'll also lose oversight. Despite the government planning to retain a 51% silent share as a PR measure, these companies will be removed from the coverage of the Official Information Act. So, while we'll own them in theory, we won't be allowed to know what they're doing.

This is going in exactly the wrong direction. We need more transparency, not less. And if the government or a local body directly owns a significant part of a company (for example, Air New Zealand), then it should be fully subject to the OIA regime.