No to Asset Sales - Hone Harawira   10 Feb 2012

In respect of proposals to sell shares in assets held by the government on behalf of all NZers, MANA opposes plans to get rid of Treaty protections (Section 9 of the State Owned Enterprises Act), or to draft new legislation that will either leave Section 9 out altogether, or introduce new clauses that reduce the authority of the Treaty.

Section 9, which says that “Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”, is the ONLY clause that gives our Treaty rights over state owned assets, any protection at all.

Removing Section 9, or drafting new legislation that reduces its protections, is therefore unacceptable.

The government consultation presentation poses three questions which are multilayered gobbledygook, with twists and turns and references back to the point of pointlessness, and in a language that is deliberately hard to understand.

172 years after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Crown is still using a foreign language to try to bamboozle Maori.

I choose instead to focus on the basic issues at stake here:

1. Proposals to sell assets that include lands, waters and other resources yet to be settled through the Treaty claims process should not proceed until such claims have been properly concluded.

2. Assets owned by the state on behalf of all New Zealanders should not be sold to pay off a debt that was created not by NZ citizens, but by bad governance and a devotion to economic values which lead to “the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer”.

3. Assets whose value has been created through the hard work of generations of NZers, many of whom were Maori, should not be put up for sale where their value can be stolen away from us by cash-rich overseas investors whose primary objective is not the public good.

4. Electricity assets should be held by the government in trust on behalf of all NZers, for the benefit of all NZers, at a price we can afford, and with 100% reliability.

Those values have already been seriously undermined by turning them into semi-commercial enterprises. They will be lost to us forever if the shares are offered on the open marketplace. NZ interests, through the 51% shareholding held by the govt will be reduced to being just a majority shareholder in a commercial enterprise geared to maximising profit.

5. Those profits will flow from a reduction in costs through staff cuts or wage cuts, and an increase in prices. Electricity prices will eventually go up and up and up and up … and we will have no way of halting the rise.

6. Treasury advice that “the main ‘harm’ from keeping the Treaty of Waitangi clause for electricity privatisation is that foreign investors would not understand it, which would ‘create uncertainty and have a negative effect on investment in the companies’ ” confirms what most Maori already know - wiping out the Treaty clause is to make the share offer more acceptable to overseas investors.

7. And to clarify the issue of iwi involvement in the buying of shares, let me point out that iwi corporates buying shares is not the same thing as Maori benefitting from them. In fact, the reverse is the case.

Iwi corporate investors buy shares for the same reason as other corporate investors – to make profit. And when that profit comes from price rises, the people who will be hurt the most will be those who are suffering ever-greater levels of poverty, be they Pakeha, Pacifica, or Maori.

Section 9, the Treaty clause, was specifically included in the State Owned Enterprises Act to ensure Maori rights under Te Tiriti o Waitangi would have ongoing protection in regards to any development of SOE assets. In this instance, it also provides cover for all other NZers with an interest in ensuring state owned assets remain in the hands of the state, and not in the hands of foreign investors.

I stand alongside the people of Tai Tokerau and the majority of NZers in opposing government plans to privatise state owned assets, and I urge the Maori Party to join in that opposition by walking out on a government that continues to deny Maori aspirations and destroy Treaty dreams.

(Mana Party)

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