Chorus, the Commerce Commission, and the Common Good

The government has told us repeatedly it can’t intervene in decisions of private companies or even State Owned Enterprises. It said it couldn’t possibly direct KiwiRail to build its rolling stock at Hillside Workshops, even though KiwiRail is actually owned by the government and hundreds of jobs were lost. It says it certainly can’t ensure that aged care workers receive a living wage, even though the government pays the full cost of service provision and has to top up the low wages with the likes of accommodation supplements and working for families tax credits.

However it appears that the government can intervene to make sure Chorus shareholders don’t miss out on any dividends. It is considering simply overruling the Commerce Commission decision that found Chorus was overpricing its copper wire network and consumers were paying too much for the internet services.

It would appear that the criteria for government intervention is very simple; privatise the profits and socialize the losses. Profits before people in other words. The government is only prepared to intervene if company profits are threatened. Massive job losses, starvation wages, and consumers paying over the odds don’t warrant any action other than a bit of hand wringing and a plaintive, “we wish there was something we could do but there isn’t”.

The hypocrisy of the government stance on intervention aside, we ask the question “Why was our telecommunications network sold in the first place? If the government is going to give interest free loans and bail outs and consumers have to pay more than necessary for services, why on earth are we letting private shareholders make money out of it?”

It is obvious that telecommunications is an essential public good and should have stayed in public ownership. If nothing else we should learn from this mistake. No more public assets must be sold.

The Alliance hopes people will give the government a clear message to stop selling our essential services in the upcoming referendum on asset sales. Just vote ‘No’.