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Russel Norman: Keep it Kiwi Speech

Keep it Kiwi Speech
Dr Russel Norman MP, Co-leader of the Green Party
November 23, 2011

Thank you for coming along today.

The ownership and use of state assets has become a defining issue of this election.

The Green Party has been clear that selling our power companies is short-term thinking and we oppose it.

We think the economic arguments for sale that have been put forward by the National Party are weak, and expose the limits of their economic vision for New Zealand.

To recap, if we sell the assets now we lose their economic return forever. We also lose control of a strategic component of our economy.

National have come up with the most expensive way ever devised to pay for new infrastructure, selling assets earning 18-22% per annum instead of raising debt that would cost 4-6% per annum.

Furthermore, if the Government wants to maximise sale revenue, it will have to sell the assets to foreign owners to get the price they want.

Foreign ownership will remove profits from the New Zealand economy, and create further structural imbalance in our economy.


Repeating the same mistakes made with Telecom

In new analysis prepared by the Green Party and being released today it is clear that National is planning to sell state assets at the time when they are likely to start returning significantly higher dividends to the public purse.

While total dividends received from the four energy SOEs were $1.7 billion over the last three years this would have been higher had it not been for high levels of capital investment in new plant and other assets over that period.

In the past three years, Genesis, Meridian, Mighty River Power, and Solid Energy have doubled their investment in new plant and equipment from $1.7 billion in 2006–2008 to $3.4 billion in 2009–2011.

Now that the earning potential of our SOEs has been enhanced through this capital investment, the Crown can expect to see considerable growth in dividend streams from this point on.

Treasury makes this point explicit in their last 2010 Annual Portfolio Report. They say the Crown should now expect to receive higher returns.

We have seen this before. Like our energy SOEs, Telecom had invested significant amounts of capital in building a modern telecommunications network in the years before privatisation.

In the years following Telecom’s privatisation, dividend streams for its new private owners doubled, then tripled within six years.

History now seems to be repeating itself with our energy SOEs. National has allowed the taxpayer to build up the asset, only to then on sell it to the benefit of others.

Withholding information on sate asset sales

Unfortunately, a thorough analysis of National’s proposed asset sales is difficult due to the purposeful withholding of critical information that should be in the public domain.

Today I have renewed the Green Party call for the Treasury to release documents relating to the sale of state-owned assets prior to the election. The public need to know what information the Government has on this issue.

We think this information will reveal the weakness of the Government’s asset sale proposals. Why else would they want to keep it secret?

Today I am issuing a firm challenge to John Key: Instruct Treasury to release the information we are requesting. Show us your plans.

If he is so certain of the National Party’s asset sale plans then he should have no hesitation releasing this information it to the public. If he refuses, then he has something to hide.

This morning I have also written to the Ombudsmen’s office requesting they rethink their provisional decision to withhold information relating to National’s plan to privatise state-owned assets post-election.

The Ombudsmen needs to pay attention to their own words, and I quote ‘the constitutional importance of ensuring that the electorate is informed’.

The public’s right to be well informed in the week leading up to an election must be paramount and the Ombudsmen must come down in favour of the public interest when making their final decision.

The alternative plan for our SOEs

The Greens have an alternative plan to National’s short-term thinking.

The Green Party wants to use our state assets to stimulate new green jobs and drive our transition to the new green economy. We are the only party this election promoting smart, new ideas about how to unleash state assets to build a richer New Zealand.

The global market for renewable energy technology is forecast to reach an annual value of $590–$800 billion by 2015.

New Zealand is uniquely placed to secure a piece of this market, with more than half of our electricity already coming from renewable sources.

We have expertise and experience in producing renewable power and managing grid systems reliant on renewable power. We have a number of publicly-owned energy companies that provide the critical mass to engage with the global market.

These publicly-owned energy companies can become large-scale exporters of renewable energy technology. Selling the assets will hurt jobs today and tomorrow.

Our plan will keep them in public ownership, ensuring that their profits, headquarters, and research and development (R&D) stay in New Zealand.

Our post-election position
So the position of each of the parties on this issue is critical.

The polls tell us that New Zealanders are overwhelmingly opposed to the privatisation of their energy companies.

Whoever leads the next Government must listen to New Zealanders on this issue and keep our assets in public ownership.

To ensure voters are heard on this key issue, the Green Party will make keeping our public energy companies in public ownership a top priority in any post-election negotiations; they are an essential part of our vision for a clean, green economy that works for everyone.

A party vote for the Greens is an effective vote for those voters who want to put a stop to asset sales.

If Labour is able to form a Government after the election, then we would work with them to keep assets in public ownership and develop their green job and export potential.

We have been clear for some time this option is our preference.

We have always said that it is highly unlikely we would give National confidence and supply.

But a strong party vote for the Greens will increase our mandate to campaign on this issue and stop the assets being sold.

We will work with the majority of New Zealanders, like we did with mining of our national parks, to stop the Government’s agenda, even if we are not in Government.

If nine Green MPs along with the New Zealand population can stop mining, double that number of MPs working alongside every day New Zealanders can stop this too.

The more Green MPs New Zealand has after Saturday the better chance our country has of keeping our assets in public hands.

Once our assets are sold they are gone forever. We cannot allow a second term National Government undertake such a fatal attack on our economy and our economic sovereignty.

The Green Party have long been a stable force in New Zealand politics. The Green Party will be a constructive force building a new green economic future for our public assets in the next three years. Voters on Saturday will determine how strong we are.

If you see a positive role for our public assets in New Zealand's future, your best choice is to Party Vote Green.

ENDS


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