Judith Collins, John Key, & what is China up to? The 100 Days.

That money talks, I’ll not deny. I heard it once: it said goodbye.” Richard Armour.

That money talks is certainly being increasingly brought home to those New Zealanders who have begun to feel disenfranchised in their own country.

Goodbye to whom – or to what? For our young family folk it’s to the dream of being able to afford their own home, regardless of the fact that the usual pre-election bribe from National this time round will be the belated promise of more affordable housing.

To other New Zealanders, it’s goodbye to our own farmland and the best of our scenic countryside increasingly being sold to overseas interests with far more money than our people can hope to offer.

For many small businesses, it’s goodbye to being profitable in competition with overseas manufacturers and traders undercutting ours with their low-wage workforce. The empty shop fronts on even the main streets of New Zealand towns now tell a story the government has apparently no intention of listening to.

But it’s a welcome, rather than a goodbye, if overseas investors are wealthy enough to buy their way into the country, making promises that nobody is going to subsequently check. This has passed being a perception to become a reality. Prime Minister John Key may well regret his stated concern that New Zealanders should not become tenants in their own country…He is certainly doing very little to prevent it. On the contrary.

Immigrants from Communist China topped our immigration figures last year. Economists hasten to say that the demand for housing in places like Auckland is not just a reflection of Chinese or Asian immigrants. But there is a very good reason to reject the usual-rabble rousing accusations of racism to examine why New Zealanders should be concerned at the increased interest from China – and what is now regarded as a form of commercial colonisation of the country by this Communist giant.

A recent issue of The Economist (April 26- May 2nd) highlights the present flight from China – what is regarded as “the greatest and most consequential wave of immigration in modern Chinese history.” Some are leaving good jobs for where the air and water are less polluted. “Others want ‘an emergency exit hatch’ should the Chinese economy get into trouble or the police come knocking” – hence the investment in the Auckland housing market in particular by non-residential Chinese, some buying up multiple properties to lease to New Zealanders, among others, driving up rent. Tenants in our own country?

What is happening in New Zealand is happening elsewhere, with the number emigrating large enough to be felt in their host country… About 80,000 each year are gaining residency in America, and Chinese also make up the largest group of immigrants in Australia, with 80,000 arriving in the three years to 2012. New Zealand, with its much smaller population and land size, is likely to feel the impact far more than, for example, Italy, where the number of Chinese long-term residents almost doubled in two years to 120,000 by the end of 2012.

“The queue to get into some countries is growing longer as they raise barriers in response to Chinese migration… Canada, for example, recently suspended its money-talks, investor-visa programme with an estimated 45,000 Chinese nationals on the waiting list. Chinese residency can be bought in Portugal, Italy and Greece – without their having to live there. In America, or Canada, the Chinese arrivals must generally stay in-country to qualify for citizenship -‘Immigration jail’ Chinese émigrés call it.”

Many of China’s most wealthy, according to The Economist report, have no plans to leave but want to have the option, so are buying up property in other countries. Some of its richest people with foreign passports and foreign bank accounts are the family members of corrupt officials who are also trying to leave, with experts estimating they are doing so in greater numbers because of the current anti-corruption drive.

We would be very naïve to discount the possibility that we are being targeted by what is now being regarded as a mass migration wave. The consequences for a small country like New Zealand are highly problematic. In Vancouver, the prime waterfront housing sites have long been taken over by immigrant Chinese to the extent that Canadians can no longer afford to live there, with street signs now in Chinese. Chinese immigration has reportedly transformed what was once an Anglo-Celtic working-class Sydney suburb of Hurstville: most shop signs are now in Chinese. Long-time Chinese New Zealanders are concerned, including a former Tiananmen Square protestor, pointing to a new Chinese Party in this country which owes its allegiance to Beijing.

What should concern us is that we New Zealanders have been excluded from any consultation process about the future of our country, vulnerable because of its size, to the money-talks process. And when the relationship between money and government becomes too convenient – as with the largesse of donations made to political parties – then it is little wonder that New Zealanders feel disenfranchised. It has become an actual fact.

It should be ultimately, up to the people of the country to make the decisions concerning its future. But the pragmatism of politicians prioritising their own interests prevents this.

Minister Judith Collins recently misled the House and the Prime Minister in relation to her dealings with the Chinese company Oravida – where her husband is a director.

Arguably this would once have automatically been seen as a matter of principle and a sacking offence, particularly given her prevarication and perceived arrogance. The fact that John Key has bent over backwards to not sack her should have us asking why – would Key’s dismissal of Collins have offended the Chinese – and did they let him know this?

Is the Prime Minister’s constant wooing of Communist China preventing his taking on board the very real risk to this country of too close an accommodation with an undoubtedly brutal, oppressive regime? Although the government is anxious to minimise this fact, the evidence is there that New Zealanders are being outbid in our own country, that, like it or not, our houses, our farms our businesses, our vineyards and our scenic assets –let alone our vital industries- are being sold to the highest bidder, increasingly to overseas owners whose individual or corporate wealth far exceeds ours.

An emasculated OIO has no mandate to consider the disadvantages to New Zealanders of these bids for foreign ownership. According to Minister Nick Smith, the character test is regarded as sufficient. Very few New Zealanders would agree with him – not when among the Chinese arriving are high-ranking members of the Chinese Communist party, some of whom will have obtained their wealth through political corrections and corruption. The disgraceful reality of wealthy Chinese businessman Donghua Liu gaining residency in 2005 when Labour Associate Minister Damien O’Connor approved this, against official advice, was paralleled in 2011. This time it was by National’s Immigration Minister, Nathan Guy. The familiar scenario of officials’ advice being ignored because of lobbying from Building and Construction Minister Maurice Williamson and from John Banks, then Mayor of Auckland, again strongly suggests that money talks.

When it does, the perception of concerned New Zealanders is that it says Quack quack… particularly given the fact that coincidentally Liu happened to donate thousands of dollars to the National Party – and that he owns properties with a registered valuation of about $30 million…including the Boulevard Hotel in Epsom, the first stage of a planned 70 million property development. The opening ceremony was attended by John Key and Maurice Williamson. Moreover, When Liu recently faced charges over domestic violence issues, Williamson, as MP for Pakuranga, inappropriately contacted the police in what is widely viewed as an attempt to intervene.

The wealthy Shen Zhao, who regularly donates to the National Party, now interestingly enough, has the largest stake in Kim Dotcom’s Mega, the data storage and encryption company. Under this present National government New Zealand is now being regarded as a ripe plum ready for the picking. China is not naïve and is traditionally regarded as keeping its enemies even closer than its friends while it uses them.

We, on the contrary, are naive if we entertain the belief that the Communist Chinese government, recently forging new bonds with Putin’s Russia, is well-disposed towards the West. As long as it serves its own interests, it will maintain its links with this country. For example, UK cheese has now been totally banned as a Chinese import, at least temporarily, and American beef was banned some time back, in both cases with supposed health issues cited. However, beef was still imported from countries with greater risk issues, and the beef ban looks to be removed – not only because of the growing demand from middle-class Chinese, but as a quid pro-quo for China being able to export chicken to the US – even during the current avian bird flu scare. If China gets up to speed in areas where New Zealand presently excels, we can expect a change in trading policy.

A recent article by journalist Claire Trevett had John Key in Hong Kong spreading his good news about New Zealand… “Speaking to expat Kiwis at the plush Hong Kong Country Club, Mr Key reprised them of his visit to China, including the deal to allow direct currency conversion between the NZ dollar and China renminbi.

“You can now convert New Zealand dollars into renminbi, if you are of such a mind to do so.” (In fact swap agreements have been signed with more than 20 countries.) “So, life after politics, I might go back to the foreign exchange markets and smack around the renminbi. Maybe not.”

To the non-politically aligned observer, John Key’s not inconsiderable egoism, and his apparently unshakeable self-esteem, serves as a good example of why the education establishment’s obsession with making New Zealanders feel good about themselves – to the point where nurturing one’s self-esteem is all-important – has been damaging. Although he’s been described as boorish, and a clodhopper, an impregnable sense of self-worth apparently persists.

Key’s cracking his usual jokes and saying he is “incredibly proud” of his daughter may be natural enough, when being pounced on by reporters. However, many New Zealand parents would think there are far better things to be proud of in the real, hard-won achievements of their own children, and would be considerably concerned for any of their daughters opting for such an exhibitionist, highly sexualised self-presentation. But then we are dealing with a performer, a Prime Minister who certainly isn’t above making sexist comments, progressing from describing Liz Hurley as “hot” and envying Shane Warne his relationship with her, then seemingly thinking to expand this line of thinking by adding that actress Jessica Alba “looks pretty hot” and that Angelina Jolie “was not too bad either”. When taken up on this, Mr Key was fine with what he had said. But then our Prime Minister is always fine with what he says, and seems to regard himself as irresistible to women. E.g. “I think she’d be thrilled… If you go back and look at my recent history of rankings I think you will find that Liz Hurley’s been quite high up.”

Can’t we do better than this as a country? Is this really an individual who speaks for us, for New Zealand parents? Is this a man to represent family values, in an age where the prevalence of pornography right throughout the Internet, and the dead-end cult of the celebrity, threatens to destabilise so many of our young? While the glib Key, a gifted self-publicist, has what the Irish call “ the gift of the gab” how much do his projected values represent those of the Mums and Dads so blithely invoked when promising New Zealanders that National Party policy will benefit them?

How much understanding does this individual – whom many concerned New Zealanders would regard as deficient in the values needed to preserve the best of our culture – actually have of the very real issues facing this country – those he so blithely dismisses – including what others, better informed, see as the prospect of a very real threat from China, moving aggressively down into the Pacific?

An interesting assessment is found on media commentator Brian Edwards’s blog. And while many will recall what was then regarded as Edwards own confrontational style of interviewing when dealing with those defending traditional values, there will certainly those who would find it hard to argue with his view of John Key’s modus operandi.

“John Key is a better actor than David Cunliffe. With endless repetition, the role he is playing – amiable, easy-going, in charge but still just one of us – has become second nature to him and, in the process, less recognisable for what it is. An actor and real person have merged.

“I suspect that Key may in reality be the most focused and ruthless Prime Minister New Zealand has seen, the total pragmatist. When principle and pragmatism collide, principle invariably gives way. By comparison, the oft- derided Rob Muldoon was a naive idealist, his bullying manner obscuring a genuine man of the people, genuinely concerned for the ordinary person. You might not like Muldoon’s principles, but he stuck to them.”

Edwards goes on to say that he ceased to believe in John Key as a man of integrity because of the arrangement with Sky City “the shonkiest and most socially irresponsible political deal I can remember in my half-century living in this country.”

Other family-minded New Zealanders do not forget John Key deciding he was entitled to forbid good, responsible parents from exercising their own judgment with regard to discipline their children. When over 85% of those polled rejected the proposed legislation, the measure of Key’s arrogance was his ignoring the wishes of the country – as he has done in other areas where he has had no political or moral mandate to centre-stage his own.

Edward’s added: “How does he get away with it ? By minimising the significance of anything that might seem to reflect badly on him or his party: by dismissing, rather than dealing, with criticism. If you watch Key responding to journalists’ questions on the TV news, you’ll see that he almost never gives a sustained or detailed answer to anything. Instead, he shrugs off the question or criticism as something of little importance. His answers effectively range from, ‘Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ to Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it. It’ll be fine.”

But New Zealand is not fine if, dominating his Cabinet, we have a highly ambitious individual focusing on his own future prospects rather than on safeguarding this country. Some think we are already in real trouble. Moreover, Key’s practice of contacting his favourite bloggers to pass on and receive information can be regarded as a dubious practice. Inevitably, as he will be well aware, favoured media feel an increased sense of self-importance at the Prime Minister’s keeping them close, and flattering gossip columnists gets Key even more folksy mileage. Why would they rock the boat? But does the question of undue influence raise its ugly head – and whether it is appropriate for a Prime Minister to contact and use chosen media in this way?

What are we up against, those of us who believe in democracy? The perception that Big Money and the National Party have become very good friends indeed is as damaging to the country as the perception that the Labour Party is a damp squib and will cost us all, with its punitive lurch to the Left. But then, what if National is costing us all with a Prime Minister’s natural affinity for where the money is coming from? And when it is coming from Communist Chinese-backed investments, we need to remind ourselves that Communist juggernaut will cosy up to New Zealand only as long as it suits those controlling it.

Moreover, the comparison with Nazi Germany and the question whether we would also so conveniently have traded – ( ignoring issues of conscience) – with such a country, imprisoning, torturing and executing its dissidents, is a fair one. The second question: whether we would have allowed such a country to infiltrate ours to the extent that this is happening is overdue to be asked.

Should we avert our eyes from the fact that a March 14 article by Beijing reporter Gillian Wong (we should salute her courage) highlights the brutality used by this corrupt regime? For example, a local Chinese official refusing to confess to wrongly alleged bribery had his legs forced apart by Communist Party interrogators until his left thigh bone snapped. He faced a living hell in prison, saying it was not a life lived by a human being. He also recalls being punched, being dragged on the floor by this hair, having to smoke 10 cigarettes at once with his face near lit coals, having his face pressed into water in a sink until he thought he was drowning. Four teeth were broken when his face was slapped with shoes. “On at least three nights they pinned him down and force-fed him faeces and urine with a spoon. They dubbed the meals, ‘American Western Feast and Eight Treasures Porridge’ “.

How much has really changed in China since the Cultural Revolution, when old scores were similarly settled by those who bore grudges?

Cooperation between New Zealand police and parliamentarians is not new. Former National Party Prime Minister Jenny Shipley’s office saw to a visiting Chinese delegation being shielded from protesters concerned about human rights in Tibet. Dinner guests were kept waiting 90 minutes by an annoyed Chinese delegation, and protestors were moved back by police crossing the barriers to push them back and conceal them behind a bus.

When our present Prime Minister attends functions at the Chinese Embassy in Wellington he does not bring up such embarrassing issues like imprisonment, torture and even execution of dissidents. Key likes to ingratiate himself with the Chinese. Yet already, Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose hand John Key smilingly shakes, is reportedly behaving even more oppressively, increasing the number of detentions of those who push for political change and protest censorship.

The well- substantiated recording that members of the Falun Gong have long been imprisoned and tortured with their organs removed for transplant while they are still alive has elicited no protest at all from the New Zealand government. While the US has been charged with ill treatment of terrorist suspects, the Western media, including New Zealand journalists – remain remarkably silent about the brutal beatings, lashings, the months-long hooding, and the force feeding of hallucinogenic drugs There are numerous other records of torture. With its Communist government under strong pressure to fight long-established corruption within its ranks, several thousand people are estimated to be secretly detained in a year under an internal system separate from state justice.

With an election looming, New Zealanders face Hobson’s choice – which is no choice at all.

The dominance of political parties dominated by a determined leader imposing his or her personal wishes upon the country (as happened with Labour’s Helen Clark) is not a satisfactory state of affairs for adult citizens in a country where individual freedom should be respected.

Yet what chance do we have of changing what has become a virtually corrupt, demonstrably undemocratic system where list MPs for whom nobody voted wield power that the electorate did not give to them?

Change is coming. It needs to reach a tipping point to be effective – if New Zealanders want to win back their own country in line with democratic movements now gaining momentum overseas as in the UK, with UKIP challenging the entrenched Tory and Labour Party’s coalitions virtually controlling the country – as in Sweden, also instituting democratic reforms along the lines of Swedish citizens themselves having the final say with respect to legislation.

The first step for New Zealanders working towards politically coming of age is to decide whether or not they are willing to support legislation too often inflicted upon the country (with the behind-the-scenes deal-making of the political parties). Their most powerful weapon is to refuse to give a party vote to the major parties – or to those solely representing ethnic minorities, divisively acting in their own interests only.

Refusing to give a party vote denies major parties the power they need to dominate the country and to then ignore its wishes on vital issues – as National did with asset sales.

Voting for an MP who undertakes to properly represent his or her electorate, rather than to  follow the party line, ensures that individual MPs are well aware to whom they owe their allegiance. In what is called a representative democracy, this should be to their constituents, to the democratic process…not to a political party of closed ranks.

Ultimately, the most important thing to bear in mind – for New Zealanders to win for themselves the legitimate right to make important decisions concerning this country – is to insist on what the Swiss people themselves fought for and won – that 100 Days period putting a stop to all legislation passed by Parliament – until New Zealanders can check it out – and themselves say yes or no. This is the one concept that can offer us the very real prospect of a route to that prosperity that Switzerland so well demonstrates.

We need your email support – to spread the good news of this very practical way to claim back this country, now being taken up by a parallel movement in Australia, acknowledging our prior initiative.

We need your financial support, too – to be able to advertise its possibilities more wisely – and with each donation dedicated to just this.

Please join us, to help  – remembering that every little bit counts.

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©Amy Brooke – for The 100 Days – See  www.100days.co.nz  – The 100 Days – Claiming Back New Zealand – what has gone wrong and how we can control our politicians. Amy Brooke.

Available in any good bookshop, online from Kindle, or directly from http://www.hersmagazine.us/contents/en-us/d14.html#p164