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April 29, 2008 | by  | in Online Only |
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The P word

Tonight I attended the Business Roundtable forum on Policy — where the question of privatisation was specifically addressed. There were three speakers, Roger Kerr (of the NZBRt), Grant Robertson (Labour Wellington Central Candidate), and Dr. Roderick Deane (Former state services commissioner, and ex boss of three out of four of NZ’s best companies).

Much fun was had by all. Roger started off by doing a brief presentation of the issues at hand, canvassing the current climate in NZ, and reflecting sadly on the countries poor attitudes to privatization. Grant Robertson followed, giving a good account of the other side of the debate, reflecting on how the left have dealt with the reforms of the 1980’s and how a Labour party, that wrought then, has also come to terms with what it achieved. So far things were interesting, but fairly ho hum.
Then Dr. Deane spoke. Starting of with a measured pace, he began to softly reflect on the merits of privatization, and then he began to debunk many myths around the subject. With each word his energy and passion grew — until finally he erupted, with a cry of “bullshit” he launched into a harsh critique of governmental policies, and regulation. Implicit in his presentation was the idea that the 1980’s reforms that he helped lead New Zealand through, had not gone further enough. And by the looks of many nodding heads in the exclusive, but varied crowd he was being readily agreed with. In an odd rhetorical question he asked “who here really likes government” upon which a firebrand from young Labour cried “I do!” — which was then replied with a retort from an astute member of the crowd “that’s because the government doesn’t pay taxes.” Chuckles were had by all.

However all was not smiles. True to form those leftists had caught whiff of the session and had come en mass. Young Labour had a contingent to support (or listen to) Grant. To Grant’s credit he did recognize the importance of the market system, and was open to the idea of private partnerships with government in some particular areas. Joel Cosgrove also made an appearance, as did his beard. Which by now is larger than Karl Marx’s original one.

After the speeches, a discussion soon arose. Grant came under heavy fire from the friedmanites in the crowd, who pushed him to point to efficient public services (he cited vehicle testing NZ), or to propose ones that if he had too he would sell off. His answer to this started a verbal fight between himself, and his co-panelist Dr. Deane. Miaow…

The ACT party candidate for Otaki — Victoria University’s own Peter McCaffrey, emerged from the back, and began politicking with Grant as well. It had something to do with the fact that Peter is annoyed at having to pay twice for freeview thanks to sky TV. Election winning stuff. Other questions fielded involved the hypocrisy and alleged xenophobia of Labour’s Auckland airport legislation, the problem of investment in NZ’s telecommunications industries and private support for Nuclear Power.

All in all it was a very interesting night, and one that perhaps has reignited the issues of private ownership, and the inter-relationship between the market and Government. Look out for more details in print. Until then, here is the Milton Friedman choir.

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About the Author ()

Conrad is a very grumpy boy. When he was little he had a curl in the middle of his forehead. When he was good, he was moderately good, but when he was mean he was HORRID. He likes guns, bombs and shooting doves. He can often be found reading books about Mussolini and tank warfare. His greatest dream is to invent an eighteen foot high mechanical spider, which has an antimatter lazer attached to its back.

Comments (8)

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  1. Alli says:

    Generally spot on. Though I think you misquoted the taxes story… and failed to mention Dr Deane’s lovely red shirt and tie ensemble.

  2. peteremcc says:

    Yeah, I think the comment was: “thats because you don’t pay taxes”.

    As for Freeview, here’s a FAQ on Freeview overalll:

    And there’s a good article on the issue with sky here:

    Note, i’m not saying I agree with the articles suggestions, but it does highlight the ludicrous situation we’re in at the moment.

  3. Grant says:

    Hi Conrad, glad you enjoyed the night, as did I. One clarification, my answer about naming an efficent SOE related to Kordia, the former BCL, which was part of TVNZ. The discussion about Vehicle Testing NZ was when the guy asked me if I thought it was a good thing that it was government owned. If I looked a bit perplexed at that point it was because I was not sure that it was government owned. I checked afterwards and In fact it isn’t- it was privatised in 1999. In any event what I said was that ownership of something like VTNZ needed to be considered on its merits, and I noted it was an efficient business.


    Grant Robertson

  4. Points Noted Grant — Thanks for the clarification. I also, was skeptical about the gentleman’s question regarding Vehicle testing stations. It seemed a rather odd example.

  5. //Joel Cosgrove also made an appearance, as did his beard. Which by now is larger than Karl Marx’s original one.//

    Good one Conrad, attack the man not his ideas. I actually asked what I thought was decent question, that I didn’t think was answered too well.

  6. You are insinuating that having a beard is a bad thing Joel. Not me. There’s no need to be self-deprecating. Who knows, perhaps there is some strange biblical Sampson-esque complex with Communists and facial hair.

    Fortunately im not in a position to comment.

  7. Graeme says:

    I also, was skeptical about the gentleman’s question regarding Vehicle testing stations. It seemed a rather odd example.

    Really? If it were true it would be a really good example of a WTF? state asset.

  8. But it wasnt true. And i was skeptical of his assertion that it was true.

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