Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The National garage sale coming soon

New Zealand is on the road to recovery, the Treasury said today. That means that job loss will slow and the economy will contract by about a third of what had been previously expected. Good news, right?

Not if you’re part of the National Party-led Government. Already having cut spending, and planning more cuts, Finance Minister Bill English has been using the Treasury report to continue preparing New Zealand for a massive sell-off of state-owned assets. In the last election, the party promised that there would be no sale of state-owned assets (apart from the sale-by-stealth of ACC) during a National first term.

But they continue to argue that they “must” sell off the family jewels. Among the things that English thinks the government should sell off to the highest foreign bidder is Kiwi Rail (because, we all know how well that was run the last time foreigners owned it…), TVNZ (because TV3 is clearly the best TV there is) and NZ Post because by selling off the post office National gets bonus points among right-wingers for also selling off Kiwibank to foreigners—leaving TSB as the only bank of any size in New Zealand not owned by foreigners.

If one is feeling charitable, one can say that the National Party is a laissez-faire conservative party—they believe that government should do as little as possible, apart from making things easier for big business, and it should own virtually nothing. In the past, this antique attitude led them to avoid using tax policy to encourage national goals, meaning later governments had to spend money to fix problems that even a tiny bit of government action could’ve prevented.

I’m not charitable, of course, and I would argue that many of the National Party caucus are not really laissez-faire but, instead, corporatist—interested only in promoting the interests of big business, especially foreign corporations.

Either interpretation can explain why National is hell-bent on selling off everything that’s not nailed down—and things that are, too. As they continue to try and prepare the New Zealand public for their inevitable garage sale of the people’s property, National will deliberately distort the situation to make their case. We must not let them get away with it.

No comments: