Friday, June 08, 2012

Here we go again

The government is ending select committee consideration of its asset sales legislation six weeks early, in preparation for ramming it through under urgency:

Opposition parties say contentious asset-sales legislation could be passed under urgency because the Government fears the momentum that a citizens-initiated referendum is gaining – and the Government isn't ruling it out.

Parliament's finance and expenditure committee yesterday finished its deliberations on the Government's Mixed Ownership Bill to enact its plans to sell up to 49 per cent of state-owned power companies Mighty River Power, Meridian, Solid Energy and Genesis. The committee has spent the past month hearing from about 100 people mostly opposing the bill, after a total of 1400 written submissions were received.

Labour and the Greens claim National MPs on the committee outnumbered them to force an end to deliberations six weeks early and after only an hour of discussion. The bill was due to be reported back to Parliament on July 16.

Committee chairman and National MP Todd McClay said he expected the bill would now be reported back next week.

As noted above, the reason is pretty obvious: to get the bill passed before the referendum campaign can get enough signatures, and so present the public with a fait accompli. In the process, they're not even pretending to consider submissions. The message to the public is clear: the government doesn't care what we think. So, as we did with mining in national parks and school class sizes, we need to send them the sort of message that they can't ignore, and which puts them in fear of their political lives.

Meanwhile, the referendum campaign will continue, and it will get its 350,000 signatures and force a vote. Which will provide a clear public mandate against this looting of the state. It may not stop the first asset sale, or the second (though iwi may throw a few spanners in the works) - but it will ensure that the next government enacts strong protections against such asset stripping.

(And who knows, if the signal is strong enough, maybe Labour will grow a pair and promise that stolen assets will be renationalised at a loss to the thieves. Here's hoping...)