May 4th 2012: hikoi reaches parliament


Analysis to come.

Wellington event: VUW Not For Sale

The Aotearoa Not for Sale hikoi is arriving in Wellington on May 4th and we’re going to meet up on campus and after a few speeches, march down as VUW students to join with the hikoi as a whole.

11:30am May 4th, Hunter Courtyard

Workers Party leaflet: Aotearoa Not For Sale – to local or foreign capitalists!

Workers Party members are actively supporting the “Aotearoa is not for sale” hīkoi. Indeed, we believe we need to go further than just keeping assets in public hands, we want to push forward for workers’ and users’ control of those assets.

Whilst a number of political parties have pledged their support for the campaign, we must be on guard that the campaign does not become side tracked by an excessively Parliamentary focus. The ongoing struggle of the Auckland wharfies against casualisation (the first step towards privatisation) shows the most effective way to oppose the government’s asset sales plan. The last thing capitalist investors want to deal with is a bolshy workforce. The campaign by Glen Innes residents against state housing sell-offs is another inspiring example.

We must also guard against the strong element of xenophobia around “foreign ownership”, particularly against Chinese ownership of NZ assets. We in the Workers Party are socialists and internationalists, and regard the arguments about “foreign ownership” as a dangerous distraction that threatens to undermine our struggle against privatisation. The problem is private capitalist ownership of public utilities, whether those capitalists are New Zealanders or “foreigners”.

Furthermore, there is a particularly nasty history of anti-Chinese racism in New Zealand, which dates to the development of immigration controls in this country. Immigration controls originated from a “White New Zealand Policy” that was initially concerned with keeping out Chinese people.

(For more information, see our pamphlet on Open Borders)

We support the actions of Ngāti Rereahu who occupied one of the Crafar farms in February, demanding the return of their ancestral whenua. But we would have supported the action regardless whether the land was in NZ private, “foreign” or Crown ownership.


Rising prices and privatisation: the need for people’s power

Ian Anderson

Rising power prices have made headlines in recent weeks, with hikes of up to 10% beginning on April Fool’s Day. These increases hit low-income workers the hardest, with prices rising 48% for domestic users between 2000 and 2010 – compared to only 9% for commercial users.

Power prices are also topical due to the government’s plans to further privatise power generation, already corporatised by the Fourth Labour Government. National plans to sell 49% of Mighty River Power to private investors, although some commentary suggests that the law will actually allow more shares to be sold, providing the extra shares do not carry voting rights. Bill English has flagged further privatisation of Genesis and Meridian Energy.

National’s plans are generating tensions with iwi, both with investors and flaxroots Maori. Hapu say their rights to use and protect waterways are eroded by sale to power companies, while iwi investors are concerned that they will lose out. Cabinet has indicated that Treaty grievances will not apply to private shareholders, and that if any shares are required for a Treaty settlement, the Crown will have to buy them at market rates. Surveys say 88% of Maori oppose asset sales, compared to 75% of the general population.

Right-wing commentators suggest that privatisation will drive down prices. However Tim Hunter, deputy business editor at Fairfax Media – hardly a communist – argues that power prices will only head upwards. Hunter asks, “which of these opposing forces will emerge victorious? The hunger for higher margins, or the restraint of competition?” To answer this, he points to two recent examples of increased competition; Powerswitch, a government initiative that successfully led to more consumers switching power companies, but had no overall impact on prices; and the deregulation of electricity in Victoria, which has led to 13 competing brands, 11 competing owners, and higher prices than New Zealand. Even as an investor who stands to benefit from privatisation, Hunter questions the prevailing myth about competition.

The Ombudsmen, independent parliamentary investigators, have also questioned the government narrative. During the election last year, the Ombudsmen found no evidence for National’s claim that assets would be 85-90% owned by Kiwi “mum and dad” investors, and of an anti-monopoly 10% cap on ownership by any one investor. More recently the Chief Ombudsman, Beverley Wakem, criticised the government’s plan to remove the companies from Official Information Act requirements: “They will carry on the same operations as they do presently which have significant scope to impact on individuals and communities and the environment. It’s not just about commercial interests, the impact of these companies goes much wider than that and all of those interests ought to be protected.”

In fact, we could apply the Ombudsmen’s logic to all capitalist operations: margins are placed before externalities, profit before people. Most commercial operations are spared the accountability of Official Information Act requests, because their bottom line is more important. This corrupt saga underlines the importance of public ownership, control and oversight.

A hikoi opposing asset sales, under the slogan “Aotearoa is Not For Sale,” will leave Auckland’s Britomart on April the 28th and reach parliament on May the 4th.

State-owned assets: No to confiscation, yes to collective control

Police Minister Judith Collins, broadcaster Paul Holmes, State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall, Prime Minister John Key and MP Peter Dunne

Ian Anderson

The National government has introduced plans to sell 49% shares in state-owned enterprises to private investors. Many on the left call for “New Zealand ownership,” but the real issue here is corporatisation of resources; whether by Kiwi or international investors.

National describes their plans as a “mixed ownership model,” claiming they’ll cap investment by any one company at 10%, and that 85-90% of shares will be held by Kiwi “mum and dad” investors. However investigation by the Ombudsman reveals that Treasury has no evidence for these claims. Only a small minority of investors will benefit from these sales. [Read more…]

Leaflet: No to asset sales

If assets are in private hands, whether foreign or New Zealand owned, they only care about three things – (1) profit, (2) profit and (3) profit.

-Hone Harawira

State-owned enterprises, originally introduced under Rogernomics, are a backdoor to privatisation. Run primarily for profit, they don’t care about:

  • Cost of living: cutting your power off if you can’t afford to pay.

    strike against Solid Energy contractor

  • Workers’ rights: contracting out employment to avoid accountability. 1000 mine workers went on strike in 2009 against sub-contractor HWE Mining.
  • Ecological destruction: Solid Energy is the largest coal mining company in New Zealand.
  • Tino rangatiratanga: they carry all this out on enclosed, confiscated land.

By selling controlling shares in State-Owned Enterprises, National plans to remove further barriers to smooth, unaccountable business operations.

Ombudsman investigation revealed no evidence for National’s claims of a 10% cap on shares held by any one company, or 85-90% control by ’mum and dad’ investors. With greater control by private business, social and ecological impacts will be externalised.

One million non-voters, the lowest turnout since women won the right to vote, is no mandate for this.

Yes to community control
In the short term we must organise to stop asset sales.

In the long term, we need workers’ and consumers’ control of public utilities.

If you agree, get involved.

pdf here

Auckland hui on asset sales: “One million non-voters is not a mandate”

Mike Kay

The Auckland Māori consultation hui on state asset sales took place yesterday at Tainui’s Airport Novotel under heavy police and Māori warden presence. The hui revealed universal dissatisfaction from Māori about the government’s plans, but also exposed important class divisions within Māoridom itself.

In his opening presentation, Minister for SOEs Tony Ryall stated that the controversial Section 9 will stay in the SOE Act, and that the government had “got the message on that.” Section 9 provides that “nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.” Whilst the audience made it clear that Section 9 should also apply to the new legislation enabling partial sell-offs of state assets, the debate that followed rapidly broke out of the bureaucratic parameters that the government had laid down for the hui.

A Mana Movement member asked Ryall what guarantees that, after these sell-offs, the government wouldn’t sell more. His response was that the government only had a mandate to sell a 49% stake in each of the power companies, and the rest of its stake in Air New Zealand. The questioner replied that they were already privatising further by selling off state housing in her neighbourhood of Glen Innes. Ryall reiterated that the general election had given them a mandate, whereupon a Workers Party member interjected that “one million non-voters is not a mandate!”

[Read more…]

Rally: For Public Assets

If assets are in private hands, whether foreign or New Zealand owned, they only care about three things – (1) profit, (2) profit and (3) profit.

-Hone Harawira

2pm Wednesday, February 15
Te Puni Kokiri – Ministry of Maori Development
Corner of Lambton Quay & Stout Street, Wellington