Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The deed is done

Yesterday, the New Zealand Parliament did as expected and passed the National Party-led government’s bill to sell state-owned assets. In the end, a proxy gave National 61 votes to the total opposition’s 60. This was always a given in a Parliamentary system in which nearly all votes are dictated by the party which votes as one.

Labour campaigned on this issue in the last election and lost, so National claimed a “mandate” to sell assets. They’re wrong. EVERY public opinion poll shows that mainstream New Zealanders oppose these asset sales by huge margins. The opponents of asset sales released the graphic above showing how parties that opposed these asset sales actually won more votes that the parties supporting asset sales—not that any of this mattered in the end.

I think Labour lost this issue when National Party Leader John Key claimed in debates with then-Labour Party Leader Phil Goff that what National was proposing was similar to the way in which Air New Zealand is owned. Key pointed out that Labour wasn’t proposing that the government buy back the shares it didn’t already own. Goff never answered that, never had a retort or even an explanation, and he lost the ideological battle through that failure.

But Labour, together with the Greens, mounted a valiant fight. A hopeless fight, maybe, quixotic, even, but valiant. What they didn’t count on was that the one-man “party” Peter Dunne would vote with the government. But he, like the lone Act “party" MP, are Tories at heart, so there was never any real question of how they’d vote. Added to National’s 59 MPs, the result was always a foregone conclusion.

In any case, that’s all over now. Labour can pledge to repeal the law if they win government, they can even pledge to buy back whatever state-owned assets have been sold by then, but ultimately voters will decide if they still care about it then, and I’m not sure they will: The election is in 2014.

National is playing a weird game now. Still claiming their non-existent mandate, they’re also saying, essentially, that mainstream New Zealanders are too stupid to understand the scheme (which is why we opposed it). Maybe they’re just too arrogant.

Democracy means, first, winning elections. Then, it should mean doing what you say you’ll do. National has done both. Now it’s up to Labour and the Greens to do the same, or else, get ready for more assets sales in a third National term.

Elections have consequences.

1 comment:

d said...

What I don't understand is...if so many people were against asset sales, why did they re-elect National?