Telecom kiwishare gone by lunchtime

The Telecommunications (TSO, Broadband, and Other Matters) Amendment Bill – that’s the one that is supposed to give us ultra-fast broadband – is being debated in Parliament today.  It has been to Select Committee, and submissions heard and considered.  But now IT and Communications Minister Steven Joyce has dumped a twelve page Supplementary Order Paper [PDF] to the Bill on Parliament.

The SOP won’t go anywhere near a Select Committee, and there will be no opportunity for public scrutiny or submissions.  One of the main impacts of the SOP will be to abolish the kiwishare.  This was a statutory obligation imposed upon the original privatisation of Telecom 20 years ago.  It restricted foreign ownership, and ensured free local calling.

Under the SOP, the restriction on foreign ownership will be gone.  The free local calling provision is supposedly protected.  But there will be a new and far less robust mechanism than the previous statutory requirements. The mechanism to do this will not be a special rights share, but according to the Ministry of Economic Development [PDF] will be:

…a combination of constitutional requirements on the company, a small parcel of ordinary shares held by the Government, and a Deed between the company and the Government.

So there will be no protection of free local calling in statute law.  The constitutional requirements and the Deed will be able to be reviewed by any future Government  without any reference to Parliament.  And if Don Brash and his Actoids are part of a future Government, you can bet the farm on free local calling being gone by lunchtime.

This is a disgraceful abrogation of democratic process.  If Steven Joyce wants to make changes as significant as this to a Bill that has already been reported back from a Select Committee, he should refer it back there for a further round of public submissions.

And wouldn’t the whole process of getting a decent broadband service across the country have been so much easier if we had never privatised Telecom in the first place?

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7 thoughts on “Telecom kiwishare gone by lunchtime

  1. so all this was all done before 12pm? i dont see how the time of day it was passed is relevant?!

  2. @Joe 6:57 pm

    Sorry, I don’t get the intent of your comment. The Bill hasn’t been passed. It is that the Government has introduced major amendments, including serious attacks on the foreign investment and free local call provisions, without any of us having the chance to have any input to those proposals, that is my concern.

    Once a Bill has been reported back from Select Committee, there is no formal opportunity for further public input. Doesn’t stop the big corporates though, because they just arrange a cozy chat with the Minister to try to get a deal no-one else has the chance to have input into.

  3. The Hollow Men – Don Brash and Steven Joyce. Conspiring again to rip off the people of NZ to the benefit of big business. Who would have guessed?

  4. @Daniel Farrell 8:31 pm

    I wish it were like Fitzgerald v Muldoon, but unfortunately it is not. Fitzgerald v Muldoon was a case of the Executive (ie Muldoon and his Cabinet) attempting to over-ride a law passed by Parliament.

    This is different in terms of process. It is Joyce (backed by Key) introducing substantive amendments to a Bill after the public have had the opportunity to have input into it and after a Select Committee hearing that input has made its recommendations to Parliament.

    I agree it is horrendously undemocratic. But unfortunately, unlike Fitzgerald v Muldoon, it is not something the Courts have any jurisdiction over.

  5. Looks like National are clearing the decks for the TPPA. Looks like there will be no restrictions on foreign ownership allowed. That gives us a strong hint as to how the assets sales program will go under National. The “Mums & Dads” won’t be living in New Zealand.

  6. And where is this reported in the media? Or will attracting attention to this lack of due process be arrogantly laughed off as ideological propaganda in an election year? Can’t wait for more business column inches on how NZ is missing out because we’re not selling ourselves off fast enough.

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