An ode inspired by National's mixed ownership programme, to the tune of 'Five Little Monkeys"... And a few thoughts about the sales and the Supreme Court
Five state assets going on the block
Airline prices fell and so did one's stock
Don't sell Air New Zealand, the people said
Bill replied "Hmph, I'll sell the other four instead"
Four state assets going on the block
One went for lignite and only hit rock (bottom, that is)
"Now we can't sell that one," Bill and John said
"But don't admit the goal of seven billion's shred"
Three state assets going on the block
But Tiwai wants a discount or might close up shop
There go millions the markets said
But Tony says "it's cash for schools, we'll push ahead"
Two state assets going on the block
The court says yes to MRP, Bill says right let's rock
"It'll pay for that Puhoi road... just," he said
"Tell Tony to sush about the schools or we're dead"
One state asset going on the block
"We must sell something to get us out of hock...
And those markets and voters don't know squat," John said
"We won, you lost, eat that, it's time we led"
No state assets yet on the block
2014's on its way... tock, tick, tock
Will one or two sales help the stock exchange or debt?
Bill just shrugged: "We're doing what we said".
Hmmm. I enjoyed that. Yesterday's Supreme Court ruling has been well-picked over already, with everyone repeating well-rehearsed lines and the public un budged in its majority opposition.
The simple maths most folks do is to look at the quick cash these assets will deliver versus the long-term dividends, they think about the fact we're selling low in the economic cycle, in increased cost of power and what those dividends could mean for their kids, and they think it's daft to sell.
But the fact remains that the process has been impeccable and is a testament to our political system. National sought a mandate at an election, won, and is now inacting what it promised (or perhaps a little less). It hasn't over-reached. Opposition parties damning it and insisting it has no mandate are only making themselves hypocrites and making a rod for their own back to be used when they get into power.
We must allow governments to lead when in power and sometimes do the brave and unpopular thing. If you believe that, and I do, you can't say National has no mandate. A government can't seek a majority for every policy and can't be ruled by referendum.
So National went to the polls, has explained at length, taken its time, consulted with affected parties and then went to court when they couldn't agree. They said they would accept the ruling of the country's highest court.
That's a textbook process, even if the outcome is deeply flawed. National's acted impeccably in doing the wrong thing.
It's wrong by the Opposition's standards of public ownership and retaining dividends. But it's also wrong by its own standards, because the timing is wrong, the price won't be as high as it might be, it won't spark the stock exchange into life (it was already on a roll prior to the announcement yesterday), and the few assets left to be sold means the government is unlikely to reach the profit targets mentioned.
Oh, and it will soon be clear to everyone -- because it's not yet -- that "mum and dad" investors means KiwiSaver funds.
The trouble for National is that politically they've hitched themselves to this wagon regardless of water rights, Rio Tinto, market slumps and even the mismanagement of Solid Energy.
The sale plan is badly damaged and anyone in the private sector would be stepping back, looking at how five has become one or two, and reviewing the whole exercise. But this is one of the few policies on which National has decided to look decisive and brave. They've backed themselves into a corner and now will look weak -- and worst of all like bad economic managers - if they were to do the sensible thing and taihoa.
As for the court decision itself, I tend to agree with Andrew. It's the right decision. But history may well look back at this case as the end of Maoridom's asset sale protest and the beginning of its water rights claim.
And I can't help but wonder at the bit where the Supreme Court over-turned the High Vourt and said it could review the sale of shares. Greater legal minds than mine can comment on this, but that reads like a promisory note to me... This is a court that's not afraid to be activist and may, on the right occasion, be willing to challenge the supremacy of parliament.