It’s alright when he does it

Written By: - Date published: 2:12 pm, May 7th, 2008 - 64 comments
Categories: assets, john key, Media - Tags: ,

A reader sent us this letter to the Herald’s editor, which the Herald has refused to print.

When the government moved to block the sale of Auckland Airport to the Canadian Pension Fund, the Herald’s editorial proclaimed that anyone who didn’t want foreign ownership of our strategic assets was xenophobic.

Yesterday, John Key played the xenophobic line in opposing the buyback of Toll when he said ‘Labour has been prepared to deliver the Australian shareholders of Toll a quarter of a billion dollar windfall at the expense of struggling New Zealand taxpayers’.

Will we now see an editorial condemning Key for appealing to xenophobia?

I thought not.

Guess we can’t expect better from the Herald’s editorial line. Which is a shame, because they have some really good reporters.

Key went out of his way to inject the xenophobic angle in other media too. On TV3, he said ‘…they’ve given this windfall to the shareholders.., Australian shareholders, of Toll…’. He’d obviously been told by his media advisors to put that angle in his lines and when he forgot it he backtracked.

[PS. Confusion reigns in National. In the press release quoted above John Key is called ‘Party Deputy Leader’]

[Update: The Nats have obviously taken note and have corrected the press release to “Party Leader” (shouldn’t that be ‘co-leader’?). Happy to help out fellas and if you’re ever looking for some policy advice, you know where to come.]

64 comments on “It’s alright when he does it”

  1. Billy 1

    Criticising giving taxpayers’ money away to foreigners is hardly xenophobic.

  2. mike 2

    So the Herald refuse to print one of the thousands of letters they recieve because they are biased? Now you are shooting the messenger for what they are not printing. Hilarious

  3. higherstandard 3

    Nothing xenophobic Steve, assuming the majority of Tolls shareholders are Australian Key’s comments were a statement of fact.

    If I was the Herald I wouldn’t post it just to embarass whoever wrote it.

    Strange post indeed.

  4. higherstandard 4

    Feck I meant I wouldn’t print it as it would just embarass the writer

  5. Dim (was dime) 5

    this blog is quite funny… usually i hang at kiwiblog.. the mood is a bit different there.. although i guess with so many labour screw ups, his job is easier.

    anyway, the govt overpays by 230mil… and the response is “the herald didnt print this letter?” hahaha

  6. I think it’s that Key makes a point of highlighting that the owners of Toll are foreign – in fact he goes out of his way to repeatedly mention it. That’s the play on xenophobia.

    when the government doesn’t want a strategic asset to fall under foregin control that’s xenophobia, when Key goes out of his way to highlight that the owners of a company are foreign, that’s not.

  7. higherstandard 7

    Steve if you want something outrageous to how about the children being taught out of a container in the Sth Island

    A very long link

    Now this is a disgrace !

    [lprent: fixed up your link – you missed the h in http]

  8. Billy 8

    Dime, I encourage you to stay. I find the dialogue here a lot more constructive that at Kiwiblog, and guys like r0b and Matthew Pilott are always willing to engage in well reasoned, robust but not abusive debate. They are always wrong, of course…

  9. Sam Dixon 9

    test2

  10. Sam Dixon 10

    Billy – beleive the bullshit if you want but the price apid was in a fair range. Toll had put hundreds of millions into the comapny since it bought it and its making a profit. A company is worth more than the book value of its assets. Key and Prebble know that but they lie about it anyway becuae they’re hoping people like you are too ill-informed and will believe whatever they say.

  11. Helen Clark is the best Prime Minister Australia has ever had. Not content with driving tens of thousands of our best and brightest to Aus tralia, she is now presiding over a government that has exported hundreds of millions of OUR dolllars over there as well. To add insult to injury the Toll team were allowed to retain the only profitable part of the business and receive RENT FREE access to facilities for 6 years.
    This is quite simply the inept business decision Cullen has ever forced upon us. Never take a knife to a gunfight…. Or as we shall all now say, Never take an art history teacher and amateur economist to a business meeting.
    But lets look on the bright side, we can now pour hundreds of millions of dollars into a business that most of the country has no access too.

  12. Billy 12

    Sam, if they overpaid why is it xenophobic to point this out?

  13. Dim (was dime) 13

    billy.. think ill stay around for a couple of days.. will educate some lefties 🙂

  14. vto 14

    The AIA ‘strategic asset’ issue was just a big load of political-decision-making bullshit that did a lot of harm and no good (except, Clark and Cullen are hoping, to labours voter base).

    It was the type of decision that makes me angry i.e. made purely on the basis of what is good for votes instead of what is good for NZ.

  15. vto 15

    Ha ha Mr Dime, that’s what I’m trying to do… he he

  16. Tane 16

    It’s quite simple. Key is running lines aimed at arousing xenophobic sentiment. His responses will have been carefully chosen for him by his advisors, and they will be telling him to point out that it’s “Australian owners” who have been paid out every time he criticises the purchase. The hope is that Kiwis are so incensed about taxpayers paying money to Australians that they’ll oppose bringing rail back into public hands.

    This is blindingly obvious to anyone who knows how these things work. Steve’s point is fair – if the Herald is going to call the Govt “xenophobic” when it opposes in principle the idea of foreign companies owning our strategic assets, then they should do the same when John Key deliberately exploits xenophobia to oppose buying back core infrastructure.

  17. higherstandard 17

    Thanks LP – apologies for my technical ineptitude I’ll get the kids to show me how to shorten links in future.

    [lprent: just write them like this

    <a href=’http://mylink.htm’>Text I want to display</a>

    The ‘a’ tag is the anchor point and it is closed by the ‘/a’ tag. The href contains the link, and the stuff between the start a and /a tags is what you want people to see.

    Note to myself – write a page on html for comments]

  18. HS. just read that article. So there’s a school that is insisting on enrolling children from outside its zone when it doesn’t have the rooms to teach them all, and the Ministry is saying ‘we can’t fund you to build rooms for kids from outside zone otherwise we may as well not have a zoning system’.

    We do have a zoning system, the school is choosing to disregard it, and they’re ending up putting kids in the shipping container to get taught. It is a disgrace, the Board of Trustees should resign and the school should only enrol from in-zone.

    However, we, as a rule, don’t usually cover local political issues like rogue boards of trustees. we’re about national and international politics.

  19. higherstandard 19

    Sam D

    “Toll had put hundreds of millions into the company since it bought it and its making a profit.”

    Not according to the authors here – Toll are evil and ran down the railways appallingly.

  20. insider 20

    Hang on, one of CUllen’s key excuses for this was the continuing paying of subsidies to Australian shareholders and he thought it better they should be paid to NZers…

    If involves a massive shift of wealth from taxpayers and taking on of risk, I think it is reasonable to note the flows are between countries.

  21. higherstandard 21

    Tane

    How is it xenophobic of Key to have preferred having Rail under foreign ownership ??

  22. Steve: I read the press release on the National Party website and indeed it does look like an appeal to xenophobia.

  23. Tane 23

    How is it xenophobic of Key to have preferred having Rail under foreign ownership ??

    HS, the xenophobia is being used to convince the public that Cullen didn’t just pay too much for the railways, he paid it to Australians. Look at that release and see how many times he mentions Australia, and how he tries to contrast Australian shareholders with Kiwi taxpayers.

    It’s clumsy, I know, but when even the Dom Post is backing the rail buyback I don’t imagine there’s much to work with. John Key can’t exactly come out and admit he’s opposed in principle to public ownership of assets now can he?

  24. Phil 24

    Normally I don’t laugh out loud at the stuff you guys post, and I try to keep to a minimum of leet-speak, but…

    ROTFLMAO!!!!!!!!1111one

    Seeing you try to pin xenophobia on to that statment is a delight to watch

  25. vto 25

    Tane, you are no doubt right. What I see though is National playing the same cards as the other parties – Cullen appealed appallingly to xenophobia with AIA, Winston Bjeikle-Peterson does it all the time.

    I have wondered for a while why the Nats don’t accuse Labour of the same things – helps nullify any accusation. Examples – flip-flop, xenophobia, public-private partnerships, etc. I suspect you may find that flip-flop has lost any link to the Nats because it gets used against labour too. And rightly so.

    Re the Herald’s apparent lack of ‘equality’, diddums.

  26. Tane 26

    vto, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with all this, whether or not we call it xenophobia. Well, I mean in principle I do, but I don’t think it’s a hanging offense.

    I just think it’s a double standard for the Herald to call one party on it and not another.

  27. Billy 27

    Tane, pointing out that the government is using New Zealanders’ money to overpay Australians for an asset is not xenophobia. It’s pointing out stupidity.

    Being nice to foreigners does not require us to give money away to them, surely.

  28. Tane 28

    Of course it can be rationalised away, that’s the great thing about dogwhistling. But there’s a reason Key’s advisors will have expressly told him to mention Australian shareholders at every turn, and it’s to play on xenophobia.

    Again, I don’t think it’s a big issue. But let’s not kid ourselves about what’s happening here.

  29. Dave 29

    Letters to the editor are an avenue of providing opinions, not telling a newspaper concerned what to do or where to write about certain issues. That’s probably why it was ditched. Why dont you ask the letter writer to resubmit it as an opinion, not as a suggested direction.

  30. BeShakey 30

    My take on this isn’t so much that Key is xenophobic (I might like him, but I don’t believe every nasty thing said about him), but that he can’t get his story straight – in one case not letting NZ money flow out of the country is xenophobic, in another letting NZ money flow out of the country is xenophobic.

    The actual value of the company is an interesting question (although its a differet one to what most people are going on about which is whether it should have been bought). As already noted the book value of the company isn’t necessarily the value it should be bought for. Toll sank a lot of money into turning the company into one that could turn a profit. The government may also take into account a range of factors, some of which are only relevant for them, for instance climate change, and the effect on safety and maintainence of moving freight from road to rail.

    (Long post I know), but lastly – it surely isn’t a conspiracy for the Herald not to publish a letter that is sent to it. The quality of the paper would probably improve if they took that approach much more often than they do.

  31. Billy 31

    It wasn’t published because it makes a stupid point. It is just not xenophobic to criticise a government decision to give money away to foreigners.

  32. I’m not saying they have to print everything that’s sent to them. I just gave a platform to someone they had denied because I thought the point about xenophobia only applying to opposing the flow of NZ money to foreigners when the Government does it, not when National does it, was interesting

    On the value of Toll – obviously the Govt gets a whole lot of extra value out of owning the whole rail system than Toll had in just owning part of it. This will allow the government to upgrade the whole transport system; not just run a rail company.

  33. Tane 33

    It is just not xenophobic to criticise a government decision to give money away to foreigners.

    His advisors seemed to think it’d strike that note.

  34. slightlyrighty 34

    So Key highlights the ineptitude of the Government, illustrating it with the fact that toll shares rose a total of 235 million, while the NZ taxpayer stumps up 665 million.

    Now Key is not against foriegners doing well, but the cost paid by we, the taxpayer, is too high. To accuse him of xenophobia as a result of these statements is drawing a ridiculously long bow. Given Key’s past dealings in business, particularly with multinational companies, makes this a patently ridiculous assertion.

  35. r0b 35

    Dime, I encourage you to stay.

    Me too.

    I find the dialogue here a lot more constructive that at Kiwiblog,

    Me too.

    and guys like r0b and Matthew Pilott are always willing to engage in well reasoned, robust but not abusive debate.

    Why Billy, I never knew you cared! (Aren’t you already spoken for?)

    They are always wrong, of course

    And black is always white, and water is always dry, it’s a funny old world.

    Anyway, Xenophobia. With the blessings of The Herald I personally got accused of being a racist for opposing the Auckland Airport sale. But according to our resident righties John Key should be immune to even being challenged on his own use of the “damn foreigners” card? Oh please. Genuine issue, great post, Herald as usual.

  36. Billy 36

    r0b, you’re wrong.

  37. Tane 37

    Given Key’s past dealings in business, particularly with multinational companies, makes this a patently ridiculous assertion.

    Again, you make the mistake of thinking Key’s public statements come from what Key thinks. They don’t. He’s given lines by his advisors, who write them into his press releases and tell him what to say in interviews.

    I don’t understand how people can find this so hard to comprehend.

  38. billy.. think ill stay around for a couple of days.. will educate some lefties

    Dime – It’s spelled “I’ll” (note the capitalisation of “i” and the contractive apostrophe). Also ellipses have three periods in them not two. But y’know bro, stick around to educate us some more and you might learn to punctuate…

  39. slightlyrighty 39

    So let me get this straight. Key raises issues because the Government bought back the railways FROM foreigners, and he is somehow against foreigners?

    Or would it be more truthful to point out that John Key has a good understanding of the value of foreign capital to the NZ economy and that John Key would have preferred the status quo, with a lesser level of government investment?

    Isn’t that what the press release is saying when it states

    “Labour could have achieved its goals on rail by negotiating a proper subsidy with Toll.

    “Instead, Labour is wasting up to a billion dollars so Helen Clark and Michael Cullen can have a train set.

    John Key would have aimed for a win-win situation. What he is saying is that the NZ taxpayer, whose interests the government should be representing, is a loser in this transaction.

    [let’s get this straight, he’s not against foreigners, he’s playing to xenophobia as a political tactic on the advice of his media people. SP]

  40. Billy 40

    ‘sod, it’s “bro'”.

  41. Billy – I’ve told you before the abbreviation has evolved into a word in it’s own right and therefore no longer needs the apostrophe…

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/bro

  42. I meant “its” – I blame you for that Billy.

  43. Matthew Pilott 43

    John Key would have aimed for a win-win situation. What he is saying is that the NZ taxpayer, whose interests the government should be representing, is a loser in this transaction.

    Of course the reason that trains aren’t efficient in new Zealand is due to a couple of decades of neglect (although it appears Toll were better than their predecessors), once the proper money is spent teh system will be worth having. While roads have been improved and truck technology has increased vastly, we have what must be a 1950’s system.

    So I can see why people are sceptical, but it doesn’t take too much imagination to see why a single powerful and efficient unit pulling goods over the most shallow gradients possible, in the straightest line that could be engineered, would be more efficient that thousands of motors labouring up hills and around corners.

    Key would just prefer to highlight that we had to buy the system of AUSTRALIANS. (yes slighyltrighty, just because he’s highlighting that the money is going to foreigners, and not the goods, doesn’t exempt the statement from being xenophobic – nor should it)

    Onya JK. So much for ‘Ambition’! The only loser is National, with their inherent distrust of the organisation they seek to control!

  44. Matthew Pilott 44

    They are always wrong, of course

    Billy, you’re right, as am I. Just don’t forget that some are more right than others…

  45. gobsmacked 45

    Got to share this gem with you folks:

    Sunday Star-Times, March 23:

    “Next up is the rail system, which Cullen is negotiating to buy back into government ownership. When asked by the Sunday Star-Times where National stands on the issue, Key repeatedly said he didn’t believe the sale would go through. But he says if it does happen, his finance spokesman Bill English has made it clear National would sell off rail again.”

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4449266a6160.html

    So, wrong, and wrong. Ouch.

  46. Well spotted gobsmacked. A typically astute move by Cullen. I know, we will pay so much for this worn out dinosaur of a business that when they sell it for what it is worth we will be able to give them a really big serve for selling it for less than we paid for it.
    In the meantime, Cullen has ensured that Kiwi transport operators are at a disadvantage due to the 6 years free rent given to our mates from the unbelievably lucky country.

  47. Bill – you’re an idiot.

  48. higherstandard 48

    Sod you’re an ass

  49. Matthew Pilott 49

    HS, you’re some form of mosaic.

    How pretty.

  50. Billy 50

    ‘sod, you have already conceded that “bro'” needs an apopstrophe:

    Pretend polling

    Surely you are notflip flopping.

  51. I must’ve been drunk.

  52. lprent 52

    Looks like there is a use I hadn’t expected from the identicon’s.

    ‘sod I never realised what looked like violet question marks and circles before. But personally it looks more like brain tissue after attack from prions to me.

  53. Ari 53

    The taxpayer is the loser, for sure, but only because the rail system was sold in the first place instead of simply having its management structure changed.

    Steve is right to point out that Key is doing some nationalistic dogwhistling, (I don’t think being a little nationalistic is necessarily wrong, but I do think that if it’s a principled position he should simply be able to come out and say directly he has a problem with buyouts from foreign owners.) and doing so far more xenophobically than the blocking of Auckland Airport. Note that Labour did not mention the owners of the airport at all and just focused on the policy issue of independent transport infrastructure- wheras Key deliberately emphasises the nationality of the recipients of the buyout. If he really cared about keeping this cash in the New Zealand economy, he’d have given some good alternatives for it. But he doesn’t seem to have much to offer apart from tax cuts anyway, so…

    The fact is that key transport infrastructure doesn’t always work in private hands, because there are conflicts of interests when companies perform diversification in the same industry, (like Toll did by having both rail and truck shipping businesses) and because the infrastructure exists to be a public service- not necessarily making a profit itself, but making it easier for other individuals and businesses to do so, and recouping the losses to pay for the service from taxes. As long as there is independent and accountable management, I don’t see any other reason to worry about nationalisation of transport infrastructure.

    Hopefully public ownership will speed up electrification of urban rail networks, lead to proper carriage/engine upgrades and replacements, and give bus networks some viable competition in order to improve the state of public transport in the country. That would be a win for everyone- decreasing the need to maintain expensive cars, freeing up the time during the commute to work allowing people to read on the train/bus, and making our Kyoto commitments easier to meet.

    Key is in the difficult position of having publicly commited to building kiwi infrastructure… and then having the government do a better job than him at it, and making sacrifices to do so that he wouldn’t consider. When he actually starts showing that sort of commitment to make hard decisions with a sense of responsibility, I’ll start taking him seriously as a Party leader.

  54. Dean 54

    “let’s get this straight, he’s not against foreigners, he’s playing to xenophobia as a political tactic on the advice of his media people. SP”

    Steve, is refusing to sell shares in an airport versus selling controlling interest in a Wellington power company xenophobic?

    I’d just like some clarification.

  55. redbus 55

    We’ve got pictures now.

  56. Occasional Observer 56

    Steve Pierson: Shark-Jumper Par Excellence.

  57. Dim (was dime) 57

    robinsod – HAHAHAHAHA

    dude, we are posting comments on a freakin blog.

    but i should have epected a comment like yours, afterall, we are on a labour site and most of you are teachers..

  58. lprent 58

    Dime: I can see that you haven’t picked your name correctly. It should be DIM. In fact if you don’t fix up your level of comment, I’ll change all of your comment’s psuedonym to DIM. That should demonstrate I’m a programmer, not a teacher.

  59. Dim (was dime) 59

    hahaha love the left, always resorting to name calling. its just too easy 🙂

    good to se you following the government example though!!!

    your end goal is to change dimes behaviour, so instead of offering a carrot,,,, you offer a stick! priceless!

    change whatever ya like… computer teacher 🙂

  60. Matthew Pilott 60

    Dime, sysop is the stick – I think the Labour site and ‘teachers’ (which btw is a pretty odd thing to say)comments might have been noticed.

    P.S what carrot? Would it work if he said “I shall say nice things about you if you do X”?

  61. r0b 61

    hahaha love the left, always resorting to name calling. its just too easy

    That’s right Dime, and the Right never call names (like say Klark, KKKullen, Liarbore, Labiaour, feminazi, socialist lickspittle), hu huh, never happens.

    your end goal is to change dimes behaviour, so instead of offering a carrot,,,, you offer a stick! priceless!

    Excellent point Dime. Kinda like National’s promise to stick young offenders with Bootcamp. What sort of carrot do you think National should be offering to troubled youth instead Dime?

  62. Daveo 62

    Maurice Williamson today:

    “On the one hand, Labour gifts an Australian corporate a quarter of a billion dollar profit but in the same breath, refuses to re-build the 80-year-old Kopu Bridge immediately.

  63. Dean 63

    Rob:

    “That’s right Dime, and the Right never call names (like say Klark, KKKullen, Liarbore, Labiaour, feminazi, socialist lickspittle), hu huh, never happens.”

    Yeah, it’s all pretty stupid.

    At least you’re not denying that the left do the same though.

  64. r0b 64

    No, there is fault on both sides. But in all seriousness, the Righties are the worst offenders:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/thepress/4402999a13135.html

    you get the feeling that if the blogosphere was an ecosystem, the far-Right bloggers would be bottom feeders.

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