The Eye of the Fish

Maximus
September 4, 2013

Spend $8million

I’m puzzled. Within days of each other, two announcements are made. Spend $8 million on a referendum for all New Zealanders to have their say about Asset Sales – John Key says it is a Waste of Money. That’s despite it being a issue which quite clearly a majority of New Zealanders think is a bad idea, including Maori and Pakeha, Left-Wing and Right-Wing (admittedly it’s more a Don’t Sell at All, vs Don’t Sell Now, its Bad Timing), Rich and Poor (ok, so the 5% of the country who are really rich may think it is a good thing, but the rest of us in the middle-poor bracket all think it is a really dumb idea, and we can’t afford it anyway). So actually, a referendum on this subject sounds like it would be a really good thing, as it affects so many people. Jonkey keeps saying that we have already had a referendum on this, and that was called an election. Actually, no John, we had an Election, and that was not a referendum on Asset Sales. A referendum will give a clear signal of the true state of play – that we may want National in Government because Phil Goff was so bad as a leader, but that as a country, there really is no desire for selling off assets (especially, in effect, to rich foreign corporations).

But the second announcement of spending nearly $8 million was about the Pike River “rescue plan”. Now, to be honest, that really IS a waste of money. I’ve kept off the topic of Pike River until now, because it is such a sensitive subject, but the bullshit over this subject has to stop. It was pretty clear from an early time that the 29 men in the mine were dead, and if we are speaking bluntly, then their bodies are not going to be pretty to look at. Partly because they have been dead for 2 or 3 years now (although, even more bluntly, maggots etc will not have been able to get down that far into the mine and so will not have had a chance to strip the bodies down to bare bones), but also because there is a good chance that they were either blown into little pieces, crushed to a thin flat shape, or set on fire. If you want to bring trauma back into the lives of the Pike River Mining families, then sure, go ahead, risk more lives of people living by getting them to bring out blackened, twisted, rotten, flattened lumps of what used to be human bodies. If you want to give them a undisturbed rest for all eternity, then leave them there, entombed in the mine. Walk away.

There is an argument by some people that the Pike River mine was heavily compromised by being underground, and it would have been all safe if only it had been open-cast, and that it can still be safe to mine now, by using open-cast. They blame the Green movement for insisting that the mine, in the middle of Conservation land, should only be developed if it could be done underground. They say that this insistence on preserving the natural landscape in the South Island is what compromised safety, and that the 29 men died as a result of that. I think that nothing is farther from the truth. The thin seam of coal is buried far below the surface – over 100m deep if i remember right – and to open cast that would have meant a massive mining scar on the landscape, with the removal and disposal of thousands and thousands of tonnes of rock. Massive despoilation, and open cast mining is also not without a high death rate.

Let’s spend $8 million on something useful. Not an effort to uncover dead rotting corpses.

Julian
4 - 09 - 13

This post seems off the blog topic to me. How about that Brooklyn wind turbine, huh huh?

starkive
4 - 09 - 13

Support from an affected party:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/pike-river-mine-disaster/9122376/Couple-want-son-to-stay-in-mine

John
4 - 09 - 13

I think you have misunderstood John key when he says it’s a waste of money. He is not saying it’s not a big issue for a lot of people, he is saying that as a nonbinding referendum he is going to do whatever he wants and that it is going to be a waste of $8 mil regardless of the vote.

denny
4 - 09 - 13

A cynic would argue that Labour came up with the concept of asset sales and the result of selling cheaply and buying back something drained and buggered for more was their contribution to the debate so it is a bit rich them taking any moral high ground. If we, as a country want to live beyond our means, not mortgage our children’s future, pay more in taxes, mine the buggery out of the country or stuff it up with more dairy farms, I can understand why it sounds like a good idea.

Why don’t we make politicians and public servants, legally liable for their personal stuff ups that end up costing us all?

Maximus
4 - 09 - 13

Julian – totally off blog topic, yes. But it just seemed like no one is saying the obvious… am i the only one thinking this way?

Re Brooklyn wind turbine – that made me laugh! They fought against it for years, apparently, and then got used to it, and then complained over the last couple of years when it wasnt going. Now it has been fixed, and is going again, just about 99% of people think it is fantastic!

Looks like they want to start the whole process over again…

Maximus
4 - 09 - 13

John – (is your surname Key ?) – no, i have not misunderstood John Key at all, he is just being perfidious, and willfully obfuscating. He knows full well that it is indeed a HUGE issue for a very large number of people. But i do agree that he is going to do whatever he wants anyway.

But it is a cynical sell-off. Key deliberately says that the sales will be to “Mum and Dad Kiwi investors.” But, I’d say that it is fairly obvious that is exactly the opposite group that he wants, and that actually the sale of our assets is precisely targeted at foreign corporations. It is important for him to get foreigners in, because they have to buy NZ dollars to pay for their share of the shares, and we need that foreign exchange, so we can buy more crap from China.

If he sells to Kiwis, all that means is that money is coming out of some other investment, somewhere else in NZ. As a potential source of foreign funds, kiwis are a dead end – a dead duck, if you would rather. But, to placate the voters who feel uncomfortable that foreigners are owning part of NZ, it is completely set out as if it is going to be you and me, and Mrs Jones and Mr Rapunga down the street, who will own these shares in perpetuity. In reality, of course, any Kiwi investor will be looking to make some money on their dough, and so will sell them off as soon as they have a 10% or 20% price rise, and the buyers will again be offshore. Over a relatively short period of time, nearly all 49% will end up offshore.

JC
4 - 09 - 13

It may well be an issue for a huge number of people, but you certainly have no clear basis for saying “clearly a majority of New Zealanders think is a bad idea”. Where did you get that from? I would say that the best evidence we have on that is the previous general election, which supports the opposite. I acknowledge that the election is not a perfect measure as it takes into account other factors, but its a heck of a good indicator and a line has to be drawn somewhere. If a party cannot carry out its election mandate then what can it do?

What’s the problem with selling the minority intersts anyway? The way people talk about it you would think that we are getting nothing in return. Its important to remember that the whole point of selling is to free up capital to invest in other assets (not for expenditure). Diversification – how is that bad?

AB
4 - 09 - 13

In a complete change of topic, totally unrelated to anything, isn’t the new TV show “Under the Dome” really just a rehash of the Simpsons Movie?

Maximus
4 - 09 - 13

AB – I haven’t seen it yet, but, yes!
JC – a brief google search reveals that Polls a year ago were showing 62% of Kiwis did not support asset sales. A more recent comment online (one news) said: “ONE News has conducted four polls in the last year and each time voters were asked if they support the asset sales policy. In the latest poll only 28% said they did compared to 32% in July.”

Also “And the whole situation seems to have reflected badly on the Government according to responses to the latest ONE News Colmar Brunton poll. Only 3% said they thought the Government had handled the process ‘very well’ while 25% said they thought it had been handled ‘quite well’. However 47% said ‘not that well’ and 31% said ‘not well at all’. The rest were not sure.”

I rest my case…

Anthony
4 - 09 - 13

Ive been thinking about your comment at the end of your post “Let’s spend $8 million on something useful.”
I can accept that an effort to recover bodies is not a sensible use of funds. But what would you, or others, propose as a more useful use of government funds? How would a relatively small sum of $8 million actually do a maximum of economic good?

JC
5 - 09 - 13

Damn polls… ah well, Government knows best(!)

starkive
5 - 09 - 13

Although the respective underlying issues are hardly comparable, isn’t there a pretty close parallel in the brouhaha around the (anti-)smacking polls/petitions? I have pretty clear recollection of telling any child-beaters I came across that the government was empowered – compelled, in fact – to do the right thing regardless of non-electoral public opinion. How can I now say that polls and petitions should reverse government decisions which (to say the least) are hardly without prior warning?

Interestingly, some of those thwarted wooden spoon enthusiasts would tell you that the 2008 General Election result was fuelled by the consequent indignation of the self-righteous.

lindsay
5 - 09 - 13

On the topic of governments being empowered. When’s someone going to raise the issue of Obama firing US missiles at Syria. But only for a maximum of 3 months (according to today’s news.) There’s a disturbing interview with Robert Fisk on the TV3 website, apparently.

Guy
5 - 09 - 13

Lindsay – best thing ever that I heard last night – some Scientists are proposing that USA should do a massive airdrop on Syria, not of bombs, but of little sachets of antidote to Sarin. Readily available apparently, would cost less than the cost of a single cruise missile, and would completely negate the effects of tyrant Assad. Jobs a good un !

Why don’t politicians just do it?

Julian
6 - 09 - 13

Imagine how much worse our Government would be with a four year term.

Maximus
6 - 09 - 13

Starkive – i feel that the over-riding factor at play here is the right to the personal self – the right for the state not to make laws which govern what we do to ourselves, but that it has the right to make law on what we can or cannot do to others. Therefore I believe that the state is right to enforce the Do Not Kill Other People doctrine, but that it does not have the right to say Do Not Commit Suicide – surely what I do to myself is my own business.
How that relates to Do Not Sell State Assets is, I’m afraid, a mystery, but I’ll have a try: its not for John Key to sell. Its not for National to sell off Meridian or Mighty River – its not for Labour to sell them off – its not for anyone to sell them off. You cannot sell something that does not belong to you. It’d be like you proposing to sell off the Film Archive just because you were the Director at the time. Clearly, its not yours to sell. Same for the State Assets – they’re not for sale. Put down the Asset John, and walk away!

starkive
6 - 09 - 13

You won’t get an argument from me about the essential wrongness of asset sales. My querulousness was about the assertion that an opinion polls or referenda should trump government decision-making – especially when it comes from members of a would-be government who know full well they would never want to be bound by the same stricture.

KLK
22 - 09 - 13

The polls should be taken with a grain of salt because they asked an irrelevant question. These aren’t sales of assets, they are sales of minority interests in assets. It’s an extremely important distinction.

“do you agree with the government selling minority interests in state assets, provided they retain control over those assets through a majority interest”

Ask that question and (assuming people understand it) you’ll get a very different result.

James
24 - 09 - 13

Little late on this topic but I have to say I slightly disagree with both of your opinions stated.
Firstly about the sale of state owned assets. I have no problem with a referendum for this and I feel it will be a lot more even that many people make out as those opposing the sale seem to be by far the loudest, being the majority or not. Economically as a country it makes perfect sense to sell, or partially sell several state owned assets. We have over $250 Billion in debt and no clear way to significantly reduce it. If you look at 3 of the SOEs they are all effectively in competition which from an purely economic standpoint is incredibly inefficient as it is almost a monopoly situation with Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy and Mighty River Power (recently floated) all owned by the government. Thus sale, or partial sale, should create greater competition in the sector.
Secondly the Pike River rescue plan, I don’t think we should have an opinion on this at all. It should be between the Pike River families and the government, it they have decided they want the bodies for closure the government should help achieve this (within reason).
My two cents anyway.

James
24 - 09 - 13

Little late on this topic but I have to say I slightly disagree with both of your opinions stated.
Firstly about the sale of state owned assets. I have no problem with a referendum for this and I feel it will be a lot more even that many people make out as those opposing the sale seem to be by far the loudest, being the majority or not. Economically as a country it makes perfect sense to sell, or partially sell several state owned assets. We have over $250 Billion in debt and no clear way to significantly reduce it. If you look at 3 of the SOEs they are all effectively in competition which from an purely economic standpoint is incredibly inefficient as it is almost a monopoly situation with Meridian Energy, Genesis Energy and Mighty River Power (recently floated) all owned by the government. Thus sale, or partial sale, should create greater competition in the sector.
Secondly the Pike River rescue plan, I don’t think we should have an opinion on this at all. It should be between the Pike River families and the government, it they have decided they want the bodies for closure the government should help achieve this (within reason).
My two cents anyway.

On the topic of government spending no one seems to talk about the $36million that the government spent to fund the Americas Cup! Admittedly if we do win and the Americas Cup comes back to NZ it will reap economic benefits but that is still a risk. What gets me is how the sport of yachting can get $35million of funding with a small number of nation wide participants where as a sport such as basketball, played widely, does not get a cent of funding from the government.
Rant over haha

Go Team NZ!