National tries to loophole its own privatisation promises

National, having campaigned on not selling off or privatising state assets in its first term, has now moved its prisons policy from case-by case private management to full-blown private management for every prison. Here’s a hint, National: Putting prisons under private management is still privatisation even if you don’t sell them, and you knew the public simply did not want privatisation right now. Putting something off the table means you need reasonably robust plans for not doing it. Clearly your plans were not robust.

This is of course ignoring the fact that National is trying to salvage the disaster that was Labour’s softer version of their own vengeance-based incarceration program. But even just breaking their most crucial election promise is enough to make this move all sorts of stupid.

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6 thoughts on “National tries to loophole its own privatisation promises

  1. Don’t agree that contracting out is ‘privatisation’, but agree that National are likely to be incompetent with managing the conflicting interests in the private market.

    When a state ‘asset’ or perhaps more correctly ‘liability’ is privatised, it has to be done with full political awareness, full understanding of conflicts of interest, and sound judgement based on experience in ethical business. Only way to make it work for all the people.

    There is such a thing a socially-responsible private sector business – how else do we get so many ‘green’ products nowadays??

  2. Prisons are both assets and liabilities. I mentioned them as assets because that’s what John Key referred to them as, and ideally prisons COULD be used as assets if we saw them as a way to restrain our most violent offenders rather than a magical solution to the drivers of crime.

    I think it’s entirely possible that they see no good way out of our present prison situation, and so they’re going to put private managers they don’t really care in charge and set them up for a failure they can blame on somebody else. Setting things up to fail is what I really object to, and it’s a common thread behind many incidences of “privatisation”.

    There is such a thing a socially-responsible private sector business – how else do we get so many ‘green’ products nowadays??

    Indeed, but putting private managers in charge of every state prison does not imply National’s being particularly fussy about who they pick, especially seeing that if they were they’d have trumpeted that fact themselves.

  3. yup mostly agree with you on that Ari – but come at the problem from a different angle..I just don’t think privatisation is bad per se, just that National are not likely to have the wisdom to have good outcomes..

  4. I think privatisation almost always ends up badly because it’s never set up with the same goals that we give publicly owned institutions, and it starts being thought of as a money tree for investors rather than a civic duty.

    I have no problem with the idea of private management or competition against the state sector in theory, just in the large majority of practical cases.

  5. I used to assume the same thing Ari, but the problem with public services is that they often cost taxpayers, quite honestly, shocking amounts of money – and require a small clique of people to make decisions as to what the majority will receive by way of service, and how can they know what is best for all?

    I think government should be there to act as a watchdog and enforcer for the consumer so that big business can’t go about raping the population – if we could muster the political will to actually address practical solutions to the problem of profit & company structure – and make taxes much, much lower, the freedom of people to choose, I think, would give us a much better society & be good for ecology.

    Why good for ecology? Because honestly, most people care about the environment.

  6. – and require a small clique of people to make decisions as to what the majority will receive by way of service, and how can they know what is best for all?

    The answer is that they can’t, but they do the best they can- just like a private business does when it tries to sell you a product.

    Except if private businesses produce something that’s adequate but not ideal, they often make money. If you do the same in government service you get blamed by the public and your minister for not doing well enough 😉

    While a large amount of money goes in, I think the public service manages to do quite well, even though parts of it suffer the same bureaucracy issues that many businesses do.

    It’s especially hard because a lot of the services they provide are things that are very easy to devalue because the public tend to think things these things just happen and don’t actually require tax dollars. But they do 😉

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