When he was running for re-election, John Key said he opposed selling the Crafar farms offshore: “I am concerned about the risk that New Zealanders become tenants in their own land”. Now he has won what is very likely his last term, he doesn’t give a damn about the farms going into foreign ownership and our publicly-owned farming company literally becoming the tenant of the land.
It looks clear from Key’s pre-positioning that the Overseas Investment Office has approved Chinese government-linked Pengxin’s bid to by the farms and ministers will rubber stamp it.
The result would be our net international investment position (the money will owe offshore and the assets foreigners own in NZ – effectively what we owe to the rest of the world) would go up even further from its already dangerously high levels. Every year, $18m and more would flow out of this country as profits for Pengxin for being nothing more than landlords on our land. Every year, we would have to borrow more from overseas to cover this increase in our current account deficit.
This is what happened to countries like Greece – they got in a position where the assets they still owned wasn’t enough service their debts (although most of the debt they built up was public, here it’s private). Why on Earth are we going down the same path?
It’s not good enough for Key to glibbly comment that Labour sold farmland too. Yes, they did. And that was a mistake. Labour’s realised it. That’s why the overseas investment policy they announced before the last election is to reject all foreign applications to buy New Zealand farmland by default, unless substantial economic gains to New Zealand would result – reversing the current rules. That’s why Labour’s new leader, David Shearer, is leading the fight to keep these assets in Kiwi hands.
Labour has learned from the past and is now offering a real alternative. National is content to let more and more of our assets slip into foreign ownership, sending more of this country’s wealth overseas as profits for foreigners, and making us more heavily indebted to the rest of the world. In fact, not only are they content to do this, their one big policy this term is to sell at least $2 billion worth of public assets into foreign hands.
The grim irony of this is that, if you went to China and asked to buy some of their farmland or part of their electricity network, they would laugh at you. They’re not foolish enough to give up strategic assets on which their economy depends to people who have no vested interest in the success of their country and are only out to make a buck at their expense, so why should we be?