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National’s cargo cult mentality

Written By: - Date published: 11:49 am, March 18th, 2009 - 32 comments
Categories: economy, national/act government - Tags: , ,

newzealand120Over the weekend I pointed out that National’s plans to review the Overseas Investment Act would lead to even more foreign control of New Zealand and, ultimately, even more of our national wealth sucked offshore to pay the dividends of overseas shareholders.

Murray Horton from the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa weighs in today, comparing National’s reliance on foreign investment – or more accurately, takeovers – to a desperate cargo cult mentality.

One glaringly obvious fact about the National/Act government is that it has only a passing acquaintance with reality. It seems to have escaped its notice that the global capitalist economy is undergoing a major crisis and that retrenchment and sheer survival are currently higher priorities for many of the very transnational corporations whose dominance of that economy has got us into the mess we’re in. Investing in NZ, regardless of how much easier it is made, is probably not on top of their To Do list at present. The global economic crisis is the reason that foreign investment in NZ nearly halved in 2008 (as compared to 07), not because of ‘red tape’ in the approval (read ‘rubberstamping’) process.

The Government’s actions in this area (as in so many others) are further evidence of its desperate cargo cult mentality. The original cargo cultists in the Pacific were so impressed with the ‘cargo’ that came from the sky during WW2 that after the Americans had long gone, they built ‘airstrips’ in the bush and patiently waited for the ‘cargo’ to come back and solve all their problems. That’s what the Government is doing with this proposed law liberalisation building the airstrip and waiting for the cargo to come back out of the sky and solve all our problems.

It shows no recognition of the fact that dependence on open slather foreign ‘investment’ (‘takeover’ being the correct word), free trade agreements and globalisation, by both National and Labour governments, has done nothing except turn NZ into a branch office economy, a country which has been recolonised by transnationals. Globally, the dominance of that voodoo economics has landed the world into the deep hole from which it is currently trying to escape. Countries such as the US are facing this painful reality, however reluctantly, and are re-evaluating previous policies (which is why it has indefinitely postponed negotiations with NZ on the proposed Free Trade Agreement another example of the cargo cult mentality). Not NZ though it thinks that even more of the same, only ‘better’, is the answer. Very similar to a drug addict who suffers withdrawal symptoms and insists that the best solution is to give him more drugs so that he can do it all over again.

The full piece is here. Worth a read.

32 comments on “National’s cargo cult mentality ”

  1. BLiP 1

    The ananology under estimates John Key’s understanding of and deliberate preparation for the clearance sale of the country. While the cargo cultists’ actions were based on a primitive faith system, Key knows for a fact that his mates are lining up offshore to stroll into Aotearoa New Zealand and start grabbing bargains once ACC, public transport, health, justice etc are fraudulently marked down as damaged goods as a result of the National Party policies.

    A more accurate analogy would be that of an organised gang preparing a heist, and John Key is the “man on the inside” undoing the hinges on the back door as the rest of the gang back the truck up.

    • Yep,

      You’ve got it in one.

    • Ari 1.2

      I dunno BLiP, as much as I disagree with John Key I do get the impression that he really does think what he’s doing is best for the country. Could be his media image I suppose, but I long ago learned that if you want to have a clean debate, it’s best not to question people’s motivations too much anyway.

      • BLiP 1.2.1

        I disagree but take your point about questioning motivations. It just gets so frustating . . . there seems not other possible answer

  2. Kevin Welsh 2

    This is just fucking great.

    Marry the above with Simon Powers changes at the Commerce Commission (see here http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/is-rebstocks-replacement-a-fox-hen-house-81920) and we have a continuation of selling this country down the corporate river.

    • Bill 2.1

      Commerce Commission shake-up and an Overseas Investment shake-up?

      Wouldn’t be setting the stage for an end to current crisis when capital, having been bailed by us and our future generations, will smoothly concentrate into fewer hands and be possibly stronger than ever?

      Seems we have two options. Embrace a future where capital has an ever greater vice like grip on human activity or get out on the streets and up the political anti to a level that makes the price of that future too high for all the wanna-be corporatist architects.

      Are howls of “Enough!” anywhere on the horizon?

  3. rave 3

    Well what are we going to do about it then?
    Do we sit back like dazed possums as they pump the place empty?
    Possession is 9/10s of the law blah blah. I say we grab everything and hold onto it. If we don’t want TVNZ privatised we should all dump Sky.
    Kiwirail taking over the profitable Auckland rail is headed for privatisation, so we have to figure out how to hold onto the train set.
    All the major corporates sucking out our labour are ripe for socialisation. Just have to convince people that its more in their interest to grab hold of the wealth they produce than going fishing.

  4. rave 4

    Redbaiter has gone the way of all bait.
    The righties are all rushing around buying up property and shares, betting on which privatisation will come and when, and going fishing.

  5. Nevermind that the electorate chose to go in another direction.

    Nevermind that when the “people” have taken direct action, a clique end up gaining the benefits at the expense of the people.

    Nevermind that when such action is taken, the people usually end up choosing capitalist options to improve their own status.

    Nevermind the bollocks – great album!

    • Quoth the Raven 5.1

      We shouldn’t be critical because National won the election. Is that it? We should just acquiesce to the powers that be.
      Nevermind that the article criticises “both National and Labour governments.”

      And this is all about state-corporate plutocracy so don’t talk about a clique ending up gaining the benefits at the expense of the people.

      • Daveski 5.1.1

        QTR

        My comment (tongue obviously firmly planted in cheek) was referenced to the comments above that proposed taking direct action. I don’t care how passionate your views are, but taking direct action shouldn’t be seen as the option in a democracy. The people elected a National-led government within the limitations of MMP – get over it.

        I don’t care who you criticise – it’s the view that if you don’t get your way your should take action should be the anathema of any reasonable political perspective.

        Likewise, the “people” never seem to win when direct action is taken. It all makes for good slogans but self interest is rampant in all politics, left or right.

        • Quoth the Raven 5.1.1.1

          I don’t care how passionate your views are, but taking direct action shouldn’t be seen as the option in a democracy.

          You know what direct action is right? Are you saying people shouldn’t protest, strike, engage in boycotts &c because we have some nominal democracy? Where does this leave Martin Luther king &c?

          Did the people never win when Gandhi or Martin Luther King or the abolitionists took direct action? Your statement is bizzarre.

          What we’re talking about is not taking action for people it is people taking action themselves. That is what direct action is about doing something yourself not getting someone else to do it. It is about the power of the people not cliques. Small cliques running things is exactly what we have and it is exactly that which people like me and Rave (radicals) oppose.

          This is beyond just National winning the election. This about whether representative democracy can actually ever deliver to the people and just like Gandhi and others who oppose representative democracy and wish for real democracy not just a myth, I’m not just going to get over it. But I think that’s another discussion.

          • Daveski 5.1.1.1.1

            Just have to convince people that its more in their interest to grab hold of the wealth they produce than going fishing.

            Sounds like Ghandhi or MLK doesn’t it?

            I would have thought you would have read the comments above rather than dismissing my comments out of hand. My comments were directed at these types of actions, not strikes and boycotts.

            So let me get this right? Elections are pointless because you and rave know what’s right for the people?

  6. Snail 6

    Enzed the bolt hole — does this term still have currency — whereby those cashed up and out of the financial mess they made elsewhere shall be ‘invited’ into..

    what kind of haven would that make kiwidom..?

  7. Greg 7

    We seem to be forgetting the other side of foreign investment. The side that creates jobs, allows new companies to be formed etc etc. As I understand it, the benefits of foreign invest far far outway an isolationist approach.

    Oh and Quoth…….. I did a post from cantab uni the other day, when I went to log in your details came up. Small world eh.

    • Shaun 7.1

      Foreign Direct Investment can be through Greenfields investment or through acquistions. Greenfields investment is the kind that is usually more beneficial to the recipient country, it can create new jobs not just for the workers in a factory for instance but also for the construction industry.

      Now as I understand it NZ has not had a high degree of Greenfield investment relative to acquistions. Acquisitions are often disasterous for jobs, the owners of the business being acquired benefits but the workers do not. The new owner may shut the NZ operations and move all the technology and Intellectual property to their home country. The new owner may keep the NZ operation going and we still have jobs but the profit flows overseas and contributes to the current account deficit.

  8. Rex Widerstrom 8

    I’m glad Murray Horton has made mention of the fact that it’s been both National and Labour governments that have followed this path. Although I was accused on the earlier thread of trying to set up a strawman by mentioning that the sell-off has gorwn progressively worse every year (and linking to CAFCA’s site to prove it!) I was doing no such thing.

    Foreign ownership of NZ is something to which I’m implacably opposed – indeed it’s what caused me to cross the divide from journalism to politics and is one of the primary issues that keeps me engaged with politics to this day. It’s also something I’ve personally campaigned against as both a talkback host and a political flunky.

    And it’s this experience which has led me to the conclusion that those of us who care about this issue will not bring about change by changing our vote to Labour or encouraging others to do so, because we’ll be swapping Tweedlegreed for Tweedlegreedier when it comes to foreign cash.

    And by the way, I’m still waiting for Jum to justify his assertion on that thread that I personally “used outright lies, misinformation, the NZ BusinessRoundtable owned and Tui breweries, the misogynists, the religious zealots and the rednecks to sell us out”. Well?

  9. As an Asian-New Zealander, Anti-foreign investment rhetoric smacks of racism.

    That could just be the taste of Winston Peters though…

    • Tane 9.1

      Francois, there are some who are economic nationalists and racists. Elements of NZ First fit that bill in my view, and that’s why I don’t have a lot of time for them.

      But my concern, and CAFCA’s, has nothing to do with race. It’s about neo-colonial exploitation and loss of local democratic control over our economy.

      Of course, that’s not to say ‘our capitalists’ are any better than theirs. If you read this blog regularly you’ll see I don’t buy into any of that.

  10. Jum 10

    Rex Widerstrom

    You can quote numbers at me all you like, Rex. Read my post properly. I said ‘Not much went the way of private ownership (that wasn’t already under private ownership) under her watch.’ I did not say Labour didn’t sell anything. The only thing I should have made clear was the size of the assets I was referring to.

    There is also the earlier international agreement that caused problems e.g. around the airport sale to Canadian pension fund because NZ could be sued for attempting to stop the sale. “That’s what the previous government found when it tried to block the Canadian pension fund’s buy up of Auckland Airport. Treasury said the Government couldn’t pass legislation to keep the airport in New Zealand hands. It had to use the farcical situation of claiming the strategic asset was ‘sensitive rural land’ so it could use a loophole in the Singapore-New Zealand FTA.”Herald

    I have a huge respect for what Murray Horton has been doing for so long, especially his postcard campaign. I have kept about 50 of his earlier publications, which make grim reading.

    Your earlier ‘skirt around the waist’ comment made me angry – words like that are usually part of the righties’ arsenal and that’s what made me react. They have little regard for women’s rights.

    However, I referred in that post to ‘you righties’ and the later ‘you’ was still directed at you righties, so there was nothing personal in it. I have no idea who you are so it would not be possible for me to say you ‘personally’ had lied or worked alongside BR, Tui, rednecks, religious zealots. The jury is still out on the misogyny part.

    • Rex Widerstrom 10.1

      Thanks for the clarification. I’m not a “righty”, as my stance on asset sales hopefully confirms. So when I read:

      You already knew NZers were stupid tho’ didn’t you, Rex. That’s why you used outright lies, misinformation, the NZ BusinessRoundtable owned and Tui breweries, the misogynists, the religious zealots and the rednecks to sell us out.

      …I tend to read it as referring to me. I find labels unhelpful in something as nuanced as policy so I’ll refrain from suggesting an alternative definition. I’ll agree with the Greens one day and Act the next if I feel they’re sticking to their principles and the particular policy could work. I see little to gain from dismissing someone’s useful idea today because I happen to disagree with one they had yesterday.

      Certainly the Clark government sold less in the way of major assets than National, but that’s because there were hardly any left to sell after previous Labour and National governments had got through with them!!

      Murray Horton is right – neither “major” party can take any pride in their record on this issue. In fact the only one I can recall CAFCA praising was NZF circa the mid-90s, when it promoted foreign investment policies I helped author and when everyone from Jim Bolger to Helen Clark was calling us racists.

  11. vto 11

    As far as I can tell these proposed OIC rule changes will simply make it easier for non-residents to own land in NZ.

    These types of owners are not ‘foreign investors’ they are people looking for a bolt hole or holiday pad in NZ. They are worthless to NZ.

    Foreign investment can still easily happen without underlying land ownership having to change hands – ever heard of leases?

    It is fundamentally flawed to allow non-residents to own land in NZ. Tenant communities equal weak communities.

    Why on earth are the nats doing this? It seriously makes no sense. And I am 100% against it.

    • BLiP 11.1

      Wonder if its to help out companies like F&P who are currently looking for a “cornerstone” investor to buy its Auckland land?

  12. Quoth the Raven 12

    Daveski – I don’t see anything wrong with Rave’s statement. You said “I don’t care how passionate your views are, but taking direct action shouldn’t be seen as the option in a democracy.” – strikes, protests etc are forms of direct action. Strikes, factory occupations, sit ins &c are the kinds of things Rave is talking about. Like the workers in the US who recently occupied a factory to get the money owed to them (severence pay, vacation pay, insurance). See here: Victory at Republic! Further than that he’s talking about collectivisation.

    So let me get this right? Elections are pointless because you and rave know what’s right for the people?

    Strawman all you like Daveski you can’t win an argument that way.

    • Daveski 12.1

      QTR – agreed that the phrase “direct action” is ambiguous. What I was reacting to was that because someone disagrees with political decisions/directions, it doesn’t justify taking action beyond the norms of a democracy which is how I interpreted rave’s and bill’s comments.

      “Collectivisation” – I’d be interested in what you mean by this. A democracy by its very nature needs to accept and even foster healthy dissent. However, it also means acceptance of legitimate decision making which is the concern I have – the implication is that because you disagree with a a decision, it legitimises taking any action YOU can justify. Hardly democracy at work.

      • Quoth the Raven 12.1.1

        I was presuming that Rave was implying this. People have different conceptions myself by collectivisation I’m talking people voluntarily coming together to collectively, so cooperatively in common, own something like a farm or business. So effectively worker control run democratically without hierarchical mangement i.e, worker self- management. I don’t think we’ll see this happen anytime soon in any individual business here, but I just make the presumtion that Rave would be talking about that. Collectivisation does not mean just state collectivisation which something some righties seem not ever to understand. Nor can they understand how people could possibly manage their own affairs without some deferal to superiors. Me and Rave I believe, if I’m to be presumptuous again, have the same ideal of a stateless society we just have different ideas about some issues. People coming together to make decisions for themselves without deference to superiors seems fairly democratic to me. This is about people making decisions themselves that to me ought to be more legitimate than people making those decisions for them. It seems to me that you’re saying just accept the status quo and acquiesce to the powers that be.

      • Pascal's bookie 12.1.2

        What I was reacting to was that because someone disagrees with political decisions/directions, it doesn’t justify taking action beyond the norms of a democracy which is how I interpreted rave’s and bill’s comments.

        The norms of democracy are a pretty shifty bunch of things Daveski.

        Without speaking for either Rave or QtR, direct action is reliant on certain understandings of ‘democracy’ for it to work.

        If you think that a law is unjust, and (this bit is important), you are prepared to accept the consequences of breaking that law, then law breaking becomes a symbolic and practical form of protest. The idea behind direct action, passive resistance and the like, is that individuals collectively decide that a law is illegitimate so refuse to follow it.

        No one can be forced to take direct action. No one can be forced to resist. But if enough people do so, visibly enough, then the State is faced with two options. Give in, or enforce the law. The point of the protest is to make the state enforce the law. If that is not politically viable for the state, then the protest will succeed. If it is politically viable, the protest will fail, and the protesters will face the consequences of breaking the law.

        What will make the state’s actions politically viable will be the amount of support the protesters can muster. If enough people sympathise more with them than the state, (to the point that the state cannot enforce the law), then the law has been shown to be illegitimate based on democratic principles.

        The dissenters are not really imposing their view on the populace, but testing the legitimacy of the state or it’s law on a more fundamental level.

  13. Jum 13

    Rex Widerstrom
    It sounds like you have done far more work than me in trying to protect our assets so I withdraw and apologise.

    No doubt I will become more objective on politics over the coming months…but never in favour of National or Act when it involves women’s rights or assets!

    Inequality is a sign of a weak society. We also know about countries being occupied and the sense of powerlessness that pervades that society – the spoils of war being the ultra example.

    New Zealand especially believes in the individual ownership of land. Even HousingNZ provides a security for those unable to afford to buy. Therefore, overseas ownership of New Zealand is wrong for Kiwis.

  14. Jum 14

    Vto
    Quite right. What should also concern us are these overseas landlords having a say in our political processes. How long do they have to live in NZ each year to be able to vote? What are their personal beliefs? Look at our present PM. All that time spent overseas in a ‘real’ job. Does he have any ‘real’ loyalty to New Zealanders or is he working for a global master, apart from himself?

    Opposite us a Hong Kong family bought the house; the English speaking son and grandmother stayed in NZ him for education and the money making adults stayed in Hong Kong and kept the profits there. How does that help us increase wealth in New Zealand? Even the son’s education was free and the grandmother’s health care was subsidised because they were permanent citizens.

    Since this government and any future one by the sounds of it will be hell-bent on selling us off overseas, there should be definite rules in place.

    Leasing is better than selling.

    75% of all profit should be legislated to stay in New Zealand whether by actual NZ Mum and Dad shareholder dividend, infrastructure improvements, employee redundancy contract safeguards, super/Kiwisaver plans and a sweetener for employers/owners with free leasing for the first 5 years, but paying the same taxes as employees and minimum stay of 10 years or reinstatement of full lease charges.

    But, there must be thousands of ways to keep our wealth in New Zealand. It just needs more thought and not this constant business over people policy.

    Is it true that some large private companies have never paid rates since private ownership was invited from overseas with the selloffs in 1980s/90s? How much of their profit is going back overseas? What has NZ actually gained from them apart from jobs?

    Government seems to think any other country’s wish list is more important than New Zealand’s future wealth and growth. Global interests already seem to control our domestic rights of ownership. What went wrong?
    Keep the wealth in NZ I say. Then we can repay the debt we owe outside NZ.

  15. Rex Widerstrom 15

    Jum:

    Thanks. And you’re quite right. I can recall one of the first lessons in Form 3 economics being on the fact that land was a finite resource. It’s a basic tenet. Of course those in favour of foreign ownership scoff and ask “What are they going to do with it, take it away?!” but in effect the answer to that is “yes”… they’re going to take away our right to decide what happens to our own country. And fair enough too, from their perspective… we all expect to do what we want with our quarter acre (subject to planning laws). So don’t sell it in the first place.

    When huge multinational miners are satisfied with leasing their mine sites from Australian state governments one hardly has to be a rampant anti-capitalist to see it’s wrong to sell chunks of NZ offshore.

    Ownership of intangibles like publicly held NZ companies is worth considering on a case-by-case basis but where it involves assets built and paid for by generations of Kiwis and publicly owned, there can be no justification, ever. If there’s a convincing reason why the government can’t operate them (the need for capital investment, say) and these things are so attractive, then tender out the rights to operate them.

    NZ First’s entire focus on immigration was an attempt to close the loophle through which foreign business people were becoming permanent residents and even citizens with no intention of living in NZ and with no loyalty to this country’s best interests, but merely as a way of circumventing foreign ownership restrictions. Yet it was this that got all the focus and not the primary policy, on foreign investment. I always found that ironic…

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