Dear Mr. McCarten
You seem to be a bit up yourself, lately.
Your column in the Herald on Sunday absurdly compares the recent life-threatening, regime-changing protests overseas with the history of New Zealand left-wing protests. You even manage to include an entirely prospective protest against “asset sales”. Aside from the fact that this comparison is rather insulting to those who have risked life and limb opposing oppressive regimes, you seemed to have overlooked the fact that the vast majority of recent protests have been against unelected undemocratic regimes – excluding the rather ridiculous “occupy” movement which appears to have no real purpose at all. This particular point is at the heart of asset sales.
Firstly, let me point out that the term “asset sales” is somewhat disingenuous. Assets are not actually being sold are they? What is being sold is the minority part of the government’s shareholding in certain SEOs. It is not possible for “John Key’s rich overseas mates” (not your words, but some from our friends at the Standard) to gain a controlling interest in these companies. In addition, the government has only about a 75% shareholding in Air New Zealand so it is very difficult to envisage that somehow a 51% shareholding is intrinsically bad, isn’t it?
Secondly, you quote the bogus statistic that “Two out of three New Zealanders” oppose asset sales. This is nonsense. You base this disinformation of a couple of ad-hoc polls run by two partisan newspapers – which asked the bald question “do you oppose asset sales” in a climate where Labour had just spent months instilling fear into the population about another possible fire-sale of assets à la the last Labour one. The fact that you cannot see that this makes the results of said polls utterly unreliable speaks volumes about your own prejudices.
Lastly, you seem to think that protesting is some form of ad-hoc democracy. It certainly can be – if the protesters are a sizeable chunk of the population and all agree on the same solution. Ten percent of the population would be a reasonable rule of thumb for this sort of protest. Of course, you would attract the government’s attention with considerably less than 500,000 people, but we are talking about a protest that is part of democracy, not advocacy. In case you misunderstand this last point let me be clear. We have recently had elections. However much you may have disliked the result (and castigate the people who did not vote – as if they would have voted for Labour instead of National – go figure), there is no doubt that this was a proper democratic result. The people have stated that they prefer National’s package to Labour’s. National’s package includes asset sales as an integral part of their package. It is a little hard to believe, after many months of Labour campaigning on this, that people were unaware what they were voting for. Unlike you, I choose to believe that people voted rationally and that they were not confused about partial asset sales. That is, they democratically voted for these share sales.
So, Mr McCarten, by all means have your protests and make the point that you are unhappy about this. But let us not conflate this with a popular rising of the people. This will be a bunch of noisy activists pretending that their opinion is the right one – and that the recent democratic election of the current government was somehow a colossal mistake made by very, very stupid people. Do not be disappointed if we do not come and we do not care.