UPDATE MAY 30:
Grey Power says it is very pleased the organisation’s citizen’s initiated referendum (CIR) question against selling state assets has been approved by Parliament’s clerk.
President Roy Read says his organisation and others, from Forest and Bird to the Council of Trade Unions, can now petition for the 307,000 signatures needed.
Read believes that signature gathering, which began at the Aotearoa is not for sale rally in Auckland on Saturday, could be completed in three months.
“There’s a hang of a lot of interest now and the quicker our response, the more notice the Government might take.”
Green MP Gareth Hughes says he is also pleased that a broad coalition can now campaign for the CIR with an approved question.
Two leading voices in Grey Power say their organisation fully supports tomorrow’s Aotearoa-is-not-for-sale protest in downtown Auckland – and that they’ll be there too.
The protest group, currently on a hikoi to Parliament from Northland, is against the partial selling off of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), like Meridian Energy and Air New Zealand.
“Those assets were built up over the years with taxpayer money, much of which came from our members’ generation paying tax throughout their working lives,” says Grey Power national president Roy Read.
“Our membership voted unanimously to oppose this sell-off at our AGM, so we’re acting on the behalf of members across the country.”
Grey Power also submitted a citizen-initiated referendum petition question, which is waiting be approved by the Parliament clerk.
Pavan Sharma, from the Paliamentary Clerk’s office, says his office has until June 8 to approve Grey Power’s petition question, although they understand that there is growing interest in the issue.
Read believes the petition will find the 304,000 signatures needed to pressure the Government to hold a referendum on the issue, because of the number of organisations and communities against the sell-off.
Both Read and Grey Power’s northern zone director Bill Rayner, from Devonport, will be at the rally at Britomart.
“We’ve been invited to speak,” says Rayner. “Our approach [the referendum] is more subtle and ongoing than the hikoi but we’ll be there.”
“It’s [the protest movement] sort of blown up recently. We don’t have these networks of Twitter and Facebook so we have been publicity muted,” he says.
Rayner, a former National Party staffer, admitted that although Grey Power tends to be quite conservative”, the group was comfortable in the company of the Mana Party and Occupy Movement activists.
“The issue [of asset sales] has created a climate in the community which involves many more than politically minded people,” he says.
Protest organiser Miriam Pierard says she can accommodate Grey Power members and their endorsement shows the diversity of opposition to asset sales.
“We want to build a really strong inclusive movement that can continue to fight for change in the coming months as the Government gears up to sell off our SOEs”, says Pierard.
Read says the protest and their referendum petition could turn the tide against the Prime Minister.
“He thinks he has a mandate, but any government has to sniff the winds of the day and have a long term outlook.”