Thursday, February 23, 2012

A backdown or a fudge?

The government has announced that it will retain a Treaty clause in its planned privatisation legislation:

"Cabinet is yet to decide the exact details of the new legislation, but in the interests of working towards a satisfactory solution we've indicated to the Waitangi Tribunal and the Iwi Leaders Group the direction of our thinking.

"Subject to Cabinet decisions, the Government intends to include a provision in the new legislation reflecting the concepts of the existing section 9 of the SOEs Act. This preference was clearly expressed to us at the consultation hui."

Its hard to tell if this is a backdown or a fudge. A provision is not the same as the provision, and given John Key's reported comment that the obligations would not apply to the private shareholders, the replacement will be weaker. The current section 9 applies to all actions under the Act, including the actions of the SOE. From Key's comment, it seems that the new clause would apply only to the crown in an ownership capacity, making it much weaker. Hell, unless it overrides the legal rights of other shareholders, it will mean precisely squat.

Until we see the actual legislation, we can't know whether the government has actually listened, or is simply trying to pull the wool over our eyes. But given their past practice, I think it is more likely to be the latter. The question now is whether the Maori Party will fall for it, or whether they will stand firm and insist that all obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi are protected in the new law.