Just over six weeks to go until the next election and we have our first major campaign issue. Not what some young people said about John Key but foreign ownership of our land.
With regards to that other issue I am bemused that it is even thought to be worthy of cover. The video emerged two weeks ago without comment. Suddenly two days ago when the Government needed to distract attention what some young people said became a big issue. It is not as if there was anything illegal in what they were saying. And I must admit developing occasional bouts of Tourette’s myself when the Prime Minister’s name is mentioned.
It is a strange world we live in when someone who receives large amounts of public money for being a media celebrity and who is hosting the most important political debate this year calls David Cunliffe a moron and this is not reason to do anything, let alone disqualify him for clear bias, but a few young kids use the F word and the media goes into a moral melt down.
The land ownership issue goes to the core of our country’s economic sovereignty. Basically if we do not have restrictions eventually we will all become tenants in our own land. New Zealand is far too small to counter the economic power of larger overseas countries and because of our pleasant climate, our beautiful countryside and our benign political system I expect New Zealand to become more and more popular as other parts of the world succumb to environmental devastation.
The ability of New Zealanders to retain our land under our control is one of those basic ideas which underpins our way of life. The loss by Maori of most of their land devastated Maori society. The inability of young people to afford to buy homes in Auckland is something that is placing greater and greater strain on extended families. And even Federated Farmers realise that having young farmers being priced out of the market will have a long term adverse effect on farming communities.
This is why Labour’s and the Green’s policy to restrict foreign ownership of farmland is on the right side of political opinion and why the Government is struggling. Stephen Joyce’s behaviour last weekend is no accident. His and National’s aggression levels go up when their desperation levels increase.
And this is why they have pushed onto a compliant media the proposal that Labour will veto the Lochinver station sale and open the Government up to a damages claim.
The line is simplistic and refuses to properly describe Labour’s actual position. And this week on Morning Report despite Guyon Espiner’s best attempts to stop him from doing so David Cunliffe clearly set out the real position. If the sale has received Overseas Investment Office approval and Ministerial consent then nothing can be done. If the OIO has not made a decision then the Government will change the criteria, which it is able to do and the result will likely be that the application will be declined. If the OIO has made a decision and a ministerial decision is required the Ministers will need to make the decision undoubtedly in accordance with the policy as it is at the time of the decision.
Cunliffe emphasised that to succeed the application would have to show significant benefit over and above the benefit of local ownership.
Labour has been criticised for potentially upsetting trade partners. The funny thing is that many, many countries have restrictions if not outright bans on overseas individuals and entities owning local land. This includes China, which I understand only allows leases to be granted.
It is not as if Labour’s position is radical. Even Federated Farmers is expressing concern at the Lochinver sale and wondering if the benefits justify allowing the sale to happen.
Labour’s position is obviously crafted to ensure that an adverse decision on the Lochinvar Farm proposal will be robust. National’s desperation in misrepresenting the position and distracting attention is evidence they know they are on the wrong side of this issue.