Peter Dunne wants a debate on future limits for what state-owned assets should be allowed to be sold off, saying Kiwibank, Radio New Zealand and water should be no-go areas.
The call from the UnitedFuture leader comes as the November 26 election quickly approaches, with National and Labour at loggerheads on the issue following National's plan to sell off up to 49% in four energy companies, and part of its stake in Air New Zealand, if it wins another term.
Dunne, who has served as Minister of Revenue for successive governments, said to this point there had been no proper debate on the issue other than National saying 'yes' and Labour saying 'no'.
“New Zealanders, I believe, are not definitively pro-asset sales, but under certain conditions, it is no longer the bogeyman issue that Labour would have you believe,” Dunne said in a speech to the Auckland Rotary Club.
United Future would support a government with a "reasonable centrist path," he said. That meant although he agreed to some assets being sold off, there were three absolute bottom lines Dunne would never agree to being sold.
“Kiwibank is in every sense now a national institution, whether you bank with it or not. And in a market full of Australian-owned banks, and an increasingly fraught and troubled globe, it is both a symbolic and practical statement of our economic sovereignty. Collectively, it is ours pure and simple. It must stay that way," Dunne said.
“Secondly, Radio New Zealand exists in an increasingly commercial media marketplace, and it is more important than ever to have a voice that does not bend to the dollar, to ratings, to external forces. Every nation needs its own voice and we need to afford that voice our collective protection," he said.
“Thirdly, and one that I feel particularly deeply about, is water. I do not intend to wait until it is on the asset sales agenda. I do not believe New Zealanders would ever – or should ever – accept a sell-off of the supply of the water, or any of the aspects around it."
Will he matter?
Dunne's comments come as minor parties position themselves for post-election coalition deals. UnitedFuture is not likely to get any list MPs into Parliament on Dunne's electorate coat tails, and if the leader himself loses in Ohariu-Belmont then the party would disappear from Parliament as it is polling well below 5%.
In August, Dunne told interest.co.nz it was very unlikely UnitedFuture would go into coalition with Labour due to Labour's capital gains tax policy - a tax Dunne did not agree with.
The first decade of Dunne’s political career was as a Labour MP between 1984 and 1994, before he left to become an independent, joining United Future a year later. Dunne has been Revenue Minister since 2005, firstly under Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark, and now under the John Key-led National government.
Despite those connections early in his career, it was a “different Labour” back then, Dunne said in August.
“The biggest problem we have [now] is the policy mix. We’ve always taken it from the point of view of, have we got policy compatibility with Labour or National, and if we have, well and good, if we haven’t, well you can’t do a deal,” he said.