Report by Mark P. Williams
A national rally was held tonight in Frank Kitts Park for the Say No To Asset Sales national campaign.
Speakers included Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Maanu Paul from the Maori Council, Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland, Dr Geoff Bertram from Victoria University of Wellington, BERL Chief Economist Ganesh Nana, Justin Duckworth the Bishop of Wellington, Peter Love from Te Atiawa, and his granddaughter Kaia Love, and representatives from Greenpeace and Grey Power NZ. Musical interludes were provided by Tribal Rizing, Lucky Ngauere and guests.
A wide variety of arguments against the government’s proposed assets sales were put forward by the speakers, addressing the issue in ethical, political, economic, ecological and social terms. Across the range of speeches, clear lines were drawn between partial privatisation and the economic problems facing ordinary New Zealanders; the range of knowledge and variety of approaches was a powerful counter to the government position.
The diverse speakers were unified in their calls for empowering New Zealanders, saying that the various privatisation policies of the government would only serve to increase longer term problems for ordinary people, rather than acting as a solution. Each put forward a case for further democratic action.
Peter Love of Te Atiawa opened proceedings with impassioned personal appeals to take collective ownership of New Zealand’s resources. He countered the Prime Minister’s repeated assertion of the government’s position that no-one owns water, by saying that New Zealanders ought instead to say that everyone owns water. He was then followed by a passionate presentation from his granddaughter Kaira Love, appealing to shared identity and love of New Zealand’s environment.
Mayor Celia Wade-Brown gave a local government orientated perspective, calling for a return to a philosophy of social provision. She argued that sustainable development in New Zealand went hand in hand with strategic public ownership of national assets. She spoke of the need for a living wage and praised Greenpeace’s recent economic report.
Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland gave a stirring speech about the importance of assets when considering New Zealand’s trade policy. She linked the privatisation of assets and their subsequent stripping to the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA). She suggested some alternative acronyms for New Zealanders to consider the economic implications of this particular trade agreement: ‘Taking People’s Power Away’ and ‘Toxic Profiteers Plundering Aotearoa’.
Ganesh Nana, Chief Economist at BERL and Geoff Bertram of the Institute for Governance and Policy at Victoria University of Wellington questioned the validity of the government’s fundamental position on assets sales.
Ganesh Nana forwarded the basic question of ‘Why would you sell an asset?’ arguing that the government’s reasoning was inherently flawed. While Geoff Bertram proposed ways in which government ownership of assets as a possible solution to improving the problems of energy poverty and preventable childhood diseases linked to poor heating in New Zealand homes.
Justin Duckworth, Bishop of Wellington raised a series of ethical questions.
Maanu Paul from the Maori Council spoke briefly about the role played by the Maori Council in protecting state owned assets and the importance of checking government power. He also called for a sit-in on Parliament grounds in opposition to the partial privatisation of State Owned Enterprises. He concluded with what he described as a new national anthem, which he sang in Te Reo and then English, whose refrain was ‘I am the Water’.