John Key – prioritising Communist Chinese interests?

Is John Key prioritising Communist Chinese interests – rather than those of New Zealanders?

 a) Why is the Overseas Investment Office basically powerless?

b) Is there any point at which no more New Zealand land and housing, etc.  can be sold to far wealthier foreigners – a stop put at say, at 25%… 50… at 70%…or at nothing? Or do we have no realistic protection at all against the theoretically possible, near sell-out of this country?

(I’m still waiting for the promised reply from the OIO on this query.)

c) And what about our National-led government’s morally bankrupt silence as China imprisons and kills its own – including targeting Christians? What about a long-imprisoned, 94 year old Catholic Cardinal – regarded as  a saint – recently dying, unacknowledged – having spent 53 years locked up in a Communist Chinese prison? (See more details in a soon-to-come journal entry.)

Isn’t it high time that John Key’s apparent preference for favouring Chinese interests over those of New Zealanders was questioned? Isn’t it also high time that what can be regarded as an over-close, if not fawning association with an essentially repressive Communist country, which tolerates no dissent or opposition from its own citizens, is seen for what it is – a morally bankrupt move on our Key-dominated government’s behalf?

The Nelson Mail’s recent editorial (March 2, 2015) Foreign land register sensible move – did a very good job of stating what the Prime Minister obdurately refuses to recognise – what this is costing us. The Mail highlighted the open slather land sales to offshore speculators; the fact that Kiwis are being shoved off the first rung of the housing ladder by far wealthier overseas buyers – especially those from Communist China; and to its credit, it noted New Zealand First leader Winston Peters’ describing the Overseas Investment Office as a rubber stamping machine, with all 189 applications for overseas ownership of New Zealand lands having been approved in the last two years. It pointed out an obvious first step for this country is to establish a foreign land register, and that with current technologies, this should not be an overly taxing task.

Across the Tasman, the Australian government is implementing or planning measures in response to Australians’ foreign ownership concerns. Yet nothing is being done in New Zealand, although “New Zealand farms are being snapped up by the world’s super-rich as boltholes to escape anger over rising financial inequality.” One of the world’s leading fund managers, Robert Johnson, who heads the Institute of New Economic Thinking, was reported in the Dominion Post as telling a standing- room-only session in Switzerland that our farms, homes, and land are being bought so the rich can flee here in the event of uprisings. In other words, we are a soft touch. His claim was backed by Stewart Wallis, Executive Director of The New Economics Foundation…”getaway cars, the airstrips in New Zealand and all that sort of thing… I think the rich are worried.”

The one point that the Nelson Mail skirted over was the question why, “For all of his populist instincts, Prime Minister John Key appears curiously out of touch with the public on land ownership by foreign investors.” Why indeed?

However, John Key’s “populist instincts” appear largely to consist of his constantly smiling refusal to address the concerns of more aware New Zealanders, dismissing them when he states he feels “relaxed”or “comfortable”. And in the majority of instances, this is enough for too many journalists to back off querying how really relevant is the fact that this former money-trader feels “comfortable”?

As an obviously highly determined individual, our present Prime Minister must have learnt early the value of projecting charisma, constantly presenting himself as unfazed to a fan-following among those media cheerleaders who undertake no hard thinking… as to why his former colleagues called him “the smiling assassin”. But then, as Henry Ford famously noted, “Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.” And the fact that some of our highly self- regarding media commentators very obviously fail to engage in hard thinking can reasonably be regarded as contributing to the continuing lack of in-depth assessment of what our politicians are up to. Yet this is a very necessary safeguard for any democracy to survive.

However, the word democracy, as applied to New Zealand, is rather an optimistic description of what this country has become in recent years, in the hands of ideologically programmed Prime Ministers and ministers bent on getting their own way.

It can well be argued that Key’s victory, as a very astute politician, is to present himself as middle of the road, and moderate…when in reality, far from being moderate – or guided by the views of the majority – John Key is a very tough, determined individual who has, on issues that count, simply inflicted his own point of view on his Cabinet and on the country.

The infamous anti-smacking legislation? John Key ignored an over 85% warning from the rest of the country – and did as he pleased. The costly and utterly unnecessary Emissions Trading Scheme – also opposed by many in his own cabinet? – as was the discriminatory Coastal and Marine Area legislation, and the short-sighted asset sales, which will also cost taxpayers more in years to come. We can include the basically racist preferments and special provisions made to prioritise those of part Maori-descent (no matter how attenuated their genetic inheritance) over that of the majority of New Zealanders – even when these flie in the face of the unbeatable democratic principle of equal rights for all.

And now New Zealanders are to pay probably scores of millions of dollars in promotion and advertising because John Key has decided he wants the flag changed. And what John Key wants, apparently John Key gets… although he has very probably bitten off more than he had planned to chew on this one issue, at least.

It is highly doubtful that the Prime Minister is, as the Nelson Mail ponders, simply “curiously out of touch with the public on the question of land ownership by foreign investors”. Rather, it appears to be another issue where John Key once again wants his own way. What we should be asking is why – why is he not prioritising the interests of New Zealanders themselves and protecting this country from the worrying land and housing grabs – and the commercial colonisation of this small country by far wealthier overseas buyers gaining far too easy access to our assets?

In essence, why is the Key government refusing to implement any effective controls to safeguard us from the predatory moves to which we are being subjected? Again, why?

It’s not as if the Overseas Investment Office is against protecting New Zealanders interests. Reading between the lines of the OIO’s own website, * it seems as if it has long waited in vain for the opportunity to do just this, but is hamstrung by the obdurate refusal of our own government to take any genuine notice of New Zealanders’ concerns in this area.

“Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is not currently doing any work to investigate or create a register of foreign-owned land in New Zealand.  We have, however, done some preliminary work following interest over recent years.  This included looking simply at what might be required if the government were to consider implementing such a register. There was no directive from Ministers, and no expectation to report back.  We will continue to monitor developments around the world in terms of land and property registers. – See more at: http://www.linz.govt.nz/news/2014-12/overseas-ownership-land#sthash.zzrbxXaY.dpuf

In other words, the ball is very definitely in the government’s court, and we are being fobbed off. If the Australian government can propose a check on foreign property buyers, a register of foreign land and property ownership, tougher rules for purchases of rural land – and stricter penalties for those who break the rules – we need to demand better answers from our government than to be fobbed off by John Key feeling “comfortable” – and Bill English, his tediously-compliant lieutenant, badmouthing as “xenophobic” those who raise concerns about why Key’s government is so set on doing nothing.

In this regard, the issue has been raised that building an accurate picture of the level of foreign ownership of land and houses could breach the Privacy Act and Bill of Rights. Sheer nonsense, as the whole point of reasonable laws is to accommodate common sense – and if the Australian government can manage the restrictions it intends to propose, there is no valid reason why this would not be possible here. Yes, buyers could structure ownership to hide nationality – and undoubtedly are already doing so. However, a competent government is able to take measures to prevent obfuscation and to require transparency in areas of national interest. Why does Bill English say we can’t have a register of foreign buyers – when Australia can manage just this?

What are the things the government doesn’t want to know? What about the recently reported item that wealthy Chinese-based buyers are paying big money for Canterbury homes…that local real estate agents are travelling to China to cash in on its global property-spending boom…? Why are both New Zealand and Chinese New Zealand land agents advertising on specialist foreign websites, with “Bayley’s general manager Pete Whelan describing the buyers as mega rich”?

What about our housing shortage, with those unable to afford to buy a home of their own now facing rising rents of up to 10%? Why is immigration reaching record levels, argued to be “explosive and huge” when Auckland’s house prices are already going “gang-busters” – as reported by Dominion Post columnist James Weir?  The torrent of migration hitting a new record high of 58,000 to the end of January will more than obviously swamp the number of new houses being built – and the government doesn’t want to know about this? “Auckland will not be able to cope” says NZIER principal economist, Shamubeel Eaqub, with “rental auctions, homes leased to the highest bidders”.

Moreover, the banks themselves are warning that “significant deals done at ridiculous” prices for New Zealand property could spell disaster…and that the high praise prices foreigners are paying for New Zealand property – including housing, commercial buildings and farms – are worrying bank executives, as the KPMG annual survey of banks and other finance institutions has found” – reported by columnist Rob Stock. The banks themselves are acknowledging the fact which the typically relaxed John Key apparently doesn’t want to know… that “the risk for New Zealand is that while all this money comes flooding in and creates over-inflated prices, New Zealanders are forced to buy at these over inflated prices”.  This leads leading to a sense of hopelessness among some young people about ever owning a home. Moreover, “New Zealand’s debt to the rest of the world remains high, leaving it vulnerable to global funding shocks”.

New Zealanders are hurting. The Minister of Finance should know that it is unpardonable and insulting to us as a people to dismiss these hugely important concerns as xenophobia – as he has. He should also know that “an International Monetary Fund report in 2013 showed that New Zealand and Norway had the greatest deviation in house price to income ratios from historical trends among several advanced economies… more than 60% above the normal rate.”

Is the Key-led government simply incompetent? Or is there a personal agenda at work here? It would not be the first time that an apparently folksy, charismatic, but basically very determined government leader has over-ruled those asking well-overdue questions. Moreover, in spite of his repeated assertions, Key’s National Party did not increase its overall showing in the last election. If the number of both registered voters and those who did not register are factored in, National gained the support of only 31% of the country – something that should not be forgotten whenever the Prime Minister blithely claims that the country has given him a mandate to govern.

New Zealanders who want to claim back our country because of the deterioration in genuine democratic participation–due to pressures from a dominating government – know it is not enough to grumble – then crumble…

In this age of the electronic possibilities for protesting, or for insisting on democratic participation, it takes very little time and energy to send an e-mail to a political representative, to a government department, to a minister and Prime Minister – to ring up a talkback show, or write a letter to the newspaper.

 To do nothing, when the issue is so important, is the inexcusable option.                                                            *

© Amy Brooke. Convener – the 100 Days – Claiming back New Zealand – www100days.co.nz