Monday, March 05, 2012

Privatising away our rights

The government has introduced its privatisation legislation, which will see 49% of our state-owned energy companies sold at a loss to foreigners and National's rich mates. Their "elegant solution" to the Treaty problem? Carry over the existing Treaty clause to the part of the Public Finance Act governing mixed-ownership companies, with a clarification that

For the avoidance of doubt, subsection 1 does not apply to persons other than the Crown
Which means that it will not apply in any way to the new, mixed management. While protections for land will likewise be carried over, there will be no protection for water or geothermal rights, the transfer of which will prevent them from being used to settle Treaty claims over those assets, and effectively rob iwi of their redress. Way to go Māori Party for protecting their peoples' rights. You've done a really good job there.

Meanwhile, under mixed ownership, the former SOEs will have no obligation to behave in a socially responsible manner or be a good employer, no protection against asset-stripping, and will not be subject to the OIA or Ombudsman Act. Bill English thinks standard sharemarket disclosure requirements are enough, but all they give us is financial data. Meanwhile, Timberlands-style attempts to manipulate the government and people of New Zealand - their owners and shareholders - will no longer be able to be exposed. Neither will they be accountable to Parliament. From an accountability and transparency perspective, it will be as if they had been sold completely.

The government has a one-vote majority for this legislation, and that vote is Peter Dunne's. So, if you live in the Ohariu electorate, and oppose this measure, then drop him a line, either by email, letter ("Peter Dunne MP, Parliament Buildings, Wellington", no stamp required), or phone ((04) 817 6827). Dunne needs to know that if he backs National on this, it will be the end of his political career. The worry is that he's already decided to end it, and therefore no longer cares what voters think.