Sunday, April 26, 2009

Selling off the bases

Who would sell off their house and then rent it back from the new owner? Well maybe if you can't pay the mortgage, but what sensible person would liquidate an asset to take on a bill?

That is what the Government is proposing to do with our military bases. Announcing the first defence review since 1997, Minister Wayne Mapp and ACT's associate Minister Heather Roy said both parties support 'public-private partnerships'. PPP's are usually about getting the private sector to help build things, like the Orewa toll road. This is more like flicking off public assets to your mates.

It kind of reminds me of the Big Sell-Off of the 1980's and 90's. That, of course, is part of ACT's raison d'etre, but I didn't think Wayne Mapp was that kind of guy. He's too cuddly, like Mole from 'Wind in the Willows'. Still, while Wayne Mapp was not an MP when National took office in 1990, much of National's front bench were key players in the liquidation sale. Whether or not Mapp is an ideologue of the same ilk, he is certainly a compliant team member. His willingness to be appointed 'Political Correctness Eradicator' by Don Brash clearly demonstrated that.

Is it just a coincidence that the review panel includes the chair of the Business Roundtable? Rob McLeod is an strong advocate for more private sector involvement in those things usually provided by democratically accountable bodies, such as town planning, education, health and roading. The review of taxation that he led in 2001 notably called for special low tax rates for foreign firms and capping taxes for the super rich. It also let corporations off the hook for their environmental costs, by ignoring ecological taxation issues. His appointment is a pretty clear indication of what the Government wants out of the review.

Now maybe I'm just not economically savvy enough to understand why selling off capital assets is a good thing. I don't understood the wisdom of currency speculation and futures trading independent of the needs of actual production either. Bundling up sub prime mortgages and selling them as securities never made sense to me, even when they were making money rather than knocking holes in banks. I guess I'm unsophisticated.

Certainly too unsophisticated for the influx of Aucklanders into Hamilton last weekend. Like many of my friends I had to flee the city to escape the V8's. I realise that watching car racing is popular, I just can't figure out why.

Much more interesting to me are the attempts by Hamilton City Council to green the V8's. As an MP when Hamilton was first proposed to host the race, I met with then Mayor Redman to talk about how we could make the V8's less damaging. The council had been working on a number of ideas already and we were able to come up with some good proposals.

Last year, the council spent most of its efforts 'baselining' the event, to understand what the full environmental impacts were. It wasn't so much the races themselves as the travel of spectators, the rubbish, water runoff, energy uses etc. This year I look forward to seeing the council publicly report on what it did to actually reduce those impacts.

I'm a simple small businessman, but it seems pretty obvious to me – liquidating capital, whether built or environmental, is a recipe for failure.

1 comment:

Chad C Mulligan said...

In a previous life I worked with Wayne. In military terms, " I would hesitate to breed from this specimen".