Asset sales really a transfer of wealth from the many to the few


JohnKey_460x231Treasury’s release of investor details for the Mighty River Power sale just show how concentrated the ownership of half the company has become since last month’s float.

From 100% ownership by 100% of New Zealanders Green Party analysis shows that half the retail shares went to just 13,000 people and organisations, with 10 per cent of the retail shares sold to a mere 400 investors who put in nearly $250,000 each on average. Altogether the 113,000 retail investors amounted to less than half the number anticipated by the government.

As Russel Norman put it, “National said that 113,000 ‘mums and dads’ had bought Mighty River Power shares. Now, we learn that companies, trusts, and financial institutions were counted by National as ‘mums and dads’.”

With the largest of the generator/retailers, Meridian, next in line for sale, it’s impossible to see anything other than even greater concentration of ownership occurring. As Mighty River Power shares traded below their float price there are already calls from some for a sweeter loyalty deal – in other words a bigger subsidy – for those who buy in next time around. There is talk of splitting the sale into at least two chunks.

All of this gives us more time and even more reason to make a referendum on the asset sales count. We have just five weeks to get the last 16,500 valid signatures needed to force a referendum on the government’s asset sales programme. And there are no more chances after this one.

Not only is the programme failing in its own terms (attracting non-investors into the share market – none of the other justifications for sales made any sense at all), its continuation in the face of the failure and public opposition to privatisation adds to the lengthening list of ways in which the government is using a one vote majority Parliament to play without democracy:

• Writing to other parties to say that it would set up a process to discuss the recommended changes to MMP and then a few months later saying it won’t make any changes because those same parties hadn’t been able to reach a consensus (even though not a single discussion had been convened by the Minister)
• Criminalising protest at sea
• Legislating over the rights of parents of adult disabled children to go to court for the remedies that three consecutive court decisions had said they were entitled to
• Legislating to lock in increased gambling opportunities at Sky City for 35 years without any of the existing checks and balances and giving Sky City the right to sue a future government for restoring current or new controls
• Promising to veto 26 weeks paid parental leave even if a majority of MPs vote for it
• Much of what’s happening in Christchurch

Whether or not the government holds the referendum before the next sale, or the one after that; and whether or not it heeds the outcome; the referendum does present it with a serious political problem.
Despite its continued primacy in opinion polls, the inevitability of the political equivalent of the second law of thermodynamics is starting to take shape around the government. Russel Norman’s brutal description of the government at the Green Party conference last weekend tested this narrative. The commentary that followed from those who disagreed did not refute his substantive critique, but only the Muldoon analogy.

TDB Recommends

Some have labelled the petition effort for the referendum as futile in the face of the government’s determination to sell on. Think again. The government has two options in the face of a growing concern at its anti-democratic disposition. One is to box on regardless, in which case the success of the petition and the referendum will give hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who sign and then vote even more reason to turn out in 2014. The other is to listen to the people and to stop. I’d call that a win-win.
Download it now, sign and post it back by 30 June:


  1. Asset sales really a transfer of wealth from the many to the few

    That was it’s purpose. National really are taking us back to the time of feudalism.

  2. George Carlin summed it all up long ago:

    “I’m talking about the real owners now, the big, wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians; they’re irrelevant. The politicians are put there to give you the idea you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long-since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the State Houses, the city halls. They’ve got the judges in their back pockets. And they own all the big media companies, so they control just about all the news and information you get to hear. They’ve got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them! That’s against their interest. That’s right.

    You know something. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting f***ed by a system that threw them overboard thirty f***ing years ago. They don’t want that.

    You know what they want? They want obedient workers! Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork, and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the poor pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime, and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now they’re coming for your social security money. They want your f**king retirement money. They want it back, so they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street. And you know something? They’ll get it. They’ll get it all from you, sooner or later, because they own this f**king place. It’s a Big Club. And you ain’t in it. You and I are not in the Big Club. By the way, it’s the same big club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe; all day long beating you over the head in their media, telling you what to believe, what to think, and what to buy.

    The table is tilted, folks. The game is rigged. And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. Good, honest, hard-working people -white-collar, blue-collar, it doesn’t matter what colour shirt you have on- good, honest, hardworking people continue –these are people of modest means- continue to elect these rich c**k-suckers who don’t give a f**k about them. They don’t give a f**k about you. They don’t give a f**k about you. They don’t care about you at all. At all. At all! And nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care. That’s what the owners count on.”

    The situation in NZ is little different from that in the US, as described by Carlin.

      • I would agree with George Carlin, and in Afewknowthethuth’s final sentence I would substitute the word ‘little’ by the word ‘no.’ There is no difference. And it was Roger ‘Let ’em eat cake’ Douglas and Ruth ‘Why give ’em cake?’ Richardson and the rest of the time serving self-satisfied kleptocrats who betrayed their trust, betrayed their country and betrayed their fellow citizens like the goddam traitors they are. Nothing has changed since.

        John ‘We want to have our cake and eat yours too’ Key is of, and represents. the same class of people who looted the Common Weal, robbed ‘Mum and Dad’ Kiwis of their livelihoods, their dignity and their birthright, enriched themselves at the expense of the nation’s wealth.

        When he says his (mal)-Government gained a mandate to carry out its policy of theft, he lied in his teeth. Even winning 100% of the vote does not award the occupiers of the treasury benches to do as they please. A mandate to govern yes. But that mandate extends only so far as the consent of the people will allow.

        The people have not consented to asset sales. I consider the National Party a criminal organisation that ought to be charged under the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and under whatever Act the laws of treason can be found.

        What I would like to see is any political party do demonstrate the size of their cojones (or ovaries) and state categorically that they would repeal the privatizing legislation in respect of Mighty River and Meridian; that they would confiscate and re-nationalise those enterprises; and further, that they would repeal the retroactive legislation enabling the illegal surveillance, search and seizure by GCSB and the Police, at the same time bringing criminal charges against that organisation and against John Key as aiding and abetting those crimes.

        There’s my gage. Who will pick it up?

  3. John Key rose up the ranks of the financial world in the 1980s when businesses with assets and cash were bought by “corporate raiders” who stripped them of their assets and then left them to die. In a way, John Key etc are now asset stripping everything of value that is still owned by New Zealanders.

  4. “Companies, trusts, and financial institutions were counted by National as ‘mums and dads’.” And corporations are people.

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