The Crafar Farms: How much can John Key be trusted?

The Crafar Farms: How much can Prime Minister Key be trusted? 

Commentator Bryce Edwards’ assertion that there is a clear left-right divide over the Crafar farms sale is quite wrong. Right across the political spectrum New Zealanders are overwhelmingly against the sell-out of our land to Chinese investors. And no, it is not xenophobia or racism. Nor is it the same as dealing with any other foreign investor. Only commentators ignorant of the lessons of history and of what may ominously loom ahead could claim anything so naïve. Dealing with extraordinarily wealthy individuals and companies backed, and even financed by a Communist Chinese Government seeking to gain a foothold in a very desirable country is another issue entirely.

The Prime Minister’s “understanding” too, that less than 1% of New Zealand land is owned by foreigners, was not able to be verified by the Overseas Investment Office, claiming that too many variables are involved for it to be able to confirm his claim.

 Stupid is as stupid does. For the Nelson Mail to claim there is no reason to block the Crafar farms deal – “Where is the  fuss?” shows a breathtaking degree of ignorance. For the Dominion Post columnist Richard Long to call those who object – “politically and economically blinkered shriekers” –  is an arrogant dismissal of most of the rest of the country who disagree with him – many obviously far more aware of the potential dangers of this honey trap. A genuine democracy requires government with the consent of the majority of the country. Long apparently has little respect for their views on this crucial issue.

Tracy Watkins’ political analysis shows more caution, though she, too, has failed to investigate what may be an increasingly important issue – where do John Key’s loyalties really lie?  This is a Prime Minister who has overruled the wishes of so many New Zealanders in areas that count, and is determined, as with asset sales, for example,  to continue doing so. A considerable majority in this country is well and truly, for very good reason, against Key’s determination to proceed with selling off our assets. Once gone, they are gone. And the consequences are obvious.

A strong majority has also been against several other crucial issues which have steered us in damaging directions during the term of the recent National government. What has happened to us as a people that what the National Party leader decides against the wishes of the majority, is now regularly imposed on us?

In his usual overruling fashion, Key says that the sale of the Crafar farms  “well and truly exceeded” all the conditions they had to meet under the law. These are not the words of a man reluctant to see New Zealand land pass into dubious and very possibly dangerous foreign hands. Because, of course,  we would be utterly naive to assume for a moment that Pengxin are not watched, if not manipulated by that same  tyrannical Communist Chinese Government which so regularly turns upon its own people, if they dare to protest against its high-handed actions.

Nor can even one Hong Kong-fronted “private” Chinese investment firm operate without the consent  – ( if not the active involvement – possibly including the financial interest ) of the Chinese Communist Party, which,  like any autocratic government,  could appropriate its assets at will, under any suitable pretext. In this case the result could be that the Communist Chinese government would then own New Zealand farmland.

How ignorant really, is John Key, of this possibility? And if our present Prime Minister well knows this – and of the  Chinese government’s  very active inroads into the Pacific area,  its search for bases and its very keen interest in Antarctica, should be we asking  if he has another agenda – which is not that of the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders? Is it possible that he regards his temporary prime ministership as basically a stepping stone on the way to his next career move?

For there is no doubt that Jonathan Coleman and Maurice Williamson would not have been the ones who gave the final approval to the Pengxin sale. Key dominates and controls all the decision-making of the National Party – and the implications of this should concern us. What we now know about National Party MPs,  from their  lamentable record in this last Parliamentary term,  is that none of them are willing to make a stand on principle when they do not believe that a proposed policy  is right –  and that no minister would undertake such a decision, with its worrying implications, without John Key deciding for him or her.

However, the corruption of politics of principle sounds the death knell for any democracy. The result is inevitably the moral bankruptcy of any government that operates without these. And the foremost principle of democracy is that the government must genuinely represent its people –  a principle for which the enigmatic John Key apparently doesn’t give a fig.

Where was the consent of the people when 85% of New Zealanders said no to the attack on families underpinning the infamous anti-smacking legislation? Too bad, said Key, in essence. What I say goes.

The question why…why has this obviously egoistical  and determined individual’s possible long-term agenda never been properly questioned…should be asked of a largely supine media. Why did the incoming Prime Minister so very readily endorse that damaging, demonstrably anti-democratic decision by an outgoing leftwing Prime Minister who already, during her tenure, exhibited the same determination to have her way – no matter the damage to the country?

Moreover, if John Key is allowed to keep riding roughshod over New Zealand, we are going to lose more and more of our country. He maintains, in relation to the Crafar farms sale that “the government  could change the law if he felt”  (notice that he…)  that “ an unacceptable amount of farmland was being sold to foreign buyers, but he did not feel that was the case.”

 No matter what viewpoint one might have with regard to flogging off our assets,  so that the annual revenue from these  will no longer flow into our coffers, for the benefit of all New Zealanders,  it should by now have struck any media analyst worth the role that for this undoubtedly opinionated individual to claim that such vital decisions are for him alone – and not for the people of New Zealand as a whole –  should be eliciting a national protest.

A hugely important question needs to be resolved. Are we in fact dealing with someone of overweening ambition, obviously under-educated  – (his embarrassingly poor diction rather a giveaway) – and, particularly,  historically and philosophically – where  it matters far more? What ambition drives an individual deciding even in his youth that he wanted to be Prime Minister? With seemingly no discernible talent from his school record to back this up, Key has instead a gift for self-promotion – and that personal charisma which makes him expert at a folksy, manipulative self-deprecation…plus that smarm-and-charm which female reporters in particular respond to. And yet, that phrase, bestowed by colleagues… “the smiling assassin”?

Contrary to the Prime Minister’s claim – no, we don’t “have  pretty tight conditions on sales in this country”. The OIO,  possibly constrained by inadequate terms of reference, has reportedly rubberstamped nearly every application in recent years, including to wealthy foreign buyers promising  whatever it takes to get their  application accepted, and subsequently walking away from their  undertakings – these apparently not followed up. Such sales have no genuine benefit to us, nor to our children long-term.

Moreover, à propos of Key’s statement that it is not for the government to say that a liquidator should accept a lower price by selling to a New Zealander – then it is time for the debate about whether it should  – if our government truly represents New Zealanders, their best interests and their own decision-making  – the very essence of a democracy, which we demonstrably no longer have.

It is being claimed that Shanghai Pengxin does not even meet the criteria for overseas investment in New Zealand. The Crafar Farms Purchase Group points out that it does not have experience in dairying, “which is why they (sic) are trying to use the New Zealand Government’s own SOE, Landcorp, to put the veneer of a Kiwi face on this deal. The fact that Shanghai Pengxin does not have this dairy farming  experience makes them nothing more than a passive investor…”

It is not that New Zealanders  now stand at risk of being priced off their own land. It is well past that: it is already happening. How does any farmer compete against overseas billionaires with a determination to outbid them to pick off our best assets and iconic places? John Key’s stated concern that when he goes to the very many Chinese functions that he is invited to as Prime Minister “ he is not keen on them feeling they are not welcome in New Zealand” – is not only a facile challenge he has levelled at Opposition Leader David Shearer, but highly inadequate as a motive for failing to scrutinise the implications of these land sales.

Is this part of his reluctance to tell the Communist Chinese Government  (so very recently torturing and butchering citizens in Tibet who will not observe the Chinese New Year holiday this murderous regime is trying to inflict on them) that it is not welcome to take up ownership of New Zealand land…because that is possibly what we may be faced with in the future.

What is the crux of this matter – and what are the important questions to be asked?

First, regardless of Key’s overconfident assertions, New Zealanders at large don’t doubt that the world is watching what is happening. More and more Chinese (and other wealthy foreign) interest is being drawn be to this country, and the applications to buy up New Zealand territory will be turning from a trickle to a flood.

When the Hong Kong Chinese bought into Vancouver, after the hand-over of their island to mainland Communist China, the people of Vancouver were very soon priced out of their prime waterfront homes, views, and even streets – now given Chinese names.

There is no reason what ever to think that we are not facing the same. So why then  aren’t  we learning the lessons of history? Again, how much history does the former wheeler-dealer Key even know? Reportedly, Owen Glenn was recently anxious to warn our insouciant Prime Minister of China’s move into the Pacific, and the too-convenient loans being offered to Pacific Island governments.  The Americans have shown increasing concern, and the fact that China has long had its eye on the Antarctic, where it has no territorial presence, should also perturb us.

Knowledgeable historians – (and Chinese residents who formerly fled this oppressive regime to emigrate to New Zealand and who are well aware of the realities facing us) are perturbed at our government’s seeming lack of concern about these issues – or rather the Prime Minister’s lack of concern:  evidently the Prime Minister is now virtually the government. 

  • What if this prime dairy farming land does pass into the control of Communist China  – which will then own a foothold in New Zealand?
  • Should we be concerned about the gradual virtual commercial  colonisation of New Zealand by Chinese interests in particular?
  • Why are New Zealanders not being the ones to decide these issues?

What is now concerning many New Zealanders is what qualifications John Key has to support his determination to override New Zealanders on matters of national interest?

Given his previous job as, basically as a money shifter, internationally – betting on trading currency –  his past experience consists of risk-taking, of gambling. But his lack of wider experience and his narrow professional background, with a degree in Commerce, does not give many far more aware New Zealanders any confidence in the prospects ahead. What are the implications for a country where its leader has become virtually autocratic – with seemingly little knowledge of the usual consequences, historically,  if  his gamble is wrong?  And how should we regard a long-time ambitious  leader with a naive expectation that in the important issues he is the one who knows best?

Tyrannical may seem too radicalised a verdict. But what when we are now having to contend with an individual who, in spite of his soothing promises,  rides roughshod over the views of by far the majority , which Key now has a record of doing in crucial areas? We should be constantly aware of that first watershed, his overbearing ignoring of the over 85% of New Zealanders who with good reason, opposed the anti-smacking legislation.

Our punitive carbon trading taxes? And yet this Prime Minister must well know that there has been no significant global warming since 1988,  after a period of acknowledged natural warming by those scientists not constrained to propagate a self-serving myth for their own funding purposes. The discredited ENRON’s promotion of the global warming beat-up led the way for politicians to impose yet more taxes, and our Key-led government rushed to be head of the pack – while in Australia, Labor leader Julia Gillard has been rechristened Gilliard for her pre-election lie that she had no intention of implementing such a policy – a promise she broke very soon post-election.

In practical terms, it is now almost impossible to escape the conclusion that we have no New Zealand parliamentary government genuinely involved in cooperative decision-making. Instead, we have a very determined Prime Minister whose personal decisions none of his Cabinet dare oppose – because it is common knowledge a substantial number of National Party MPs did not support either the anti-smacking legislation – nor the Emissions Trading Scheme – and the same probably goes for the watershed racist legislation that Key is backing, underpinning the move to encourage a damaging tribalism and separatism,  handing over coastal  property and control rights to iwi with no genuine claim to these –in spite of the usual assertion that this was not going to happen.

The Prime Minister’s actions suggest that his ambitions after the electoral death undoubtedly looming (by which time some of the damage his tenure has done to the country will be as irreversible as that of the equally autocratic Helen Clark)  have for some time lurked elsewhere. Does he see for himself a top United Nations job, Sir John Key in a behind-the-scenes,  tit-for-tat arrangement first set in place when he enthused about Helen Clark’s managerial capabilities – enabling her to begin to fulfil her own ambitions, long perceived to be on the world stage.

Is Key’s eye firmly fixed on the celebrity circuit ahead, with his apartment waiting in London; opportunities to shine on the world scene; meeting up with the “William and Kate” he over-familiarly referred to post-wedding? Could it possibly be that Key is predominately focused on the approval of the top UN makers and shakers, and that,  having already admitted he does not intend to stay in government in Opposition – he is already operating far ahead of the recognition of most media commentators?

If so, and given his pattern of insisting on his own thinking and planning predominating; given that our electorate MPs no longer represent the wishes of their own electorates, right throughout the country – but, for their own survival sake simply endorse whatever decisions their leaders inflict on them – then we have to urgently evaluate how much reality there is in the notion that New Zealand any longer has a democratic government.

If,  as is now the case, we quite obviously don’t have one, then the only practical way forward, the only way of controlling the impositions of politicians like John Key – like Helen Clark before him – is going to be the 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand movement.

The hour is more than late – but not only are aware New Zealanders joining to help us – See – our movement has now been taken up on the other side of the Tasman. Headed by the well-respected and formidable Emeritus Professor David Flint, in the launching of an Australian version of direct democracy (where the people of the country themselves make the decisions on the directions ahead)  it provides generous website recognition for our first thinking in this area.

Thank you for inspiring us over the 100 days.”

 “….The Citizens’ Veto is a vote by the electors to repeal an Act of Parliament, or some other form of legislation. To trigger this, a prescribed minimum number of those on the electoral roll, would have signed a petition calling for a vote on the proposal…

(This proposal was especially  inspired by the New Zealand 100 Days movement, which would require a public scrutiny of all new legislation during 100 days during which 50,000 could petition for a referendum.)

As with the Christchurch protesters, the way ahead in New Zealand, too, will open up, as enough individuals begin to stand up to be counted

 © Amy Brooke – Convener.