About six members of an audience of more than 200 at St
Paul's Cathedral yesterday evening approved of the idea of
government asset sales before a debate on the subject.
Only four, including National Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, who was
a panel member in the debate, supported them by the end.
But despite the one-sided nature of the affair, both sides of
the argument came through.
The evening was advertised as "informed, provocative debate"
on the question: "If you were Prime Minister, would you sell
New Zealand's assets?"
Hosted by the University of Otago Centre for Theology and
Public Issues, and the cathedral, it involved four
"witnesses" giving their views.
New Zealand Institute of Directors vice-president Stuart
McLauchlan said his organisation backed the idea of good
He argued having the Government owning and being in charge of
51% of assets that were partially sold, and private
enterprise 49%, would give that result.
The privatisation of railways had been a "disaster", but the
Air New Zealand model, where the Government owned most of the
asset, had worked well.
Presbyterian Support Otago chief executive Gillian Bremner
said the sale of state forests meant forests like Naseby,
which used to be open to the public, were no longer, showing
the public lost more than just the ownership of a company.
University of Otago politics professor Robert Patman argued
there was a new international civil society, which would
place more scrutiny on "crony capitalism".
He borrowed the catch-cry of the Occupy movement, saying the
"99%" would eventually get sick of such policies.
Dr Geoff Bertram, of Victoria University, also spoke.
The six-member panel included former Labour MP Pete Hodgson,
who said the 49% owners of assets had rights, meaning the
Government would no longer fully control its assets.
Mrs Dean responded the Government needed the money for
schools and hospitals.
Borrowing money would become more expensive and leave New
Zealand open to an economic situation like that of Greece or
Other panel members were political columnist and commentator
Chris Trotter, Prof Paul Hansen, of the University of Otago
Department of Economics; and Green Party co-leaderMetiria