Why Didn't Labour Do Something About Foreign Investment When It Was In Power?

Monday 18 October 2010, 7:49AM
By Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa

The Campaign Against Foreign Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) congratulates Labour for seeing the light and announcing a policy that recognises the glaringly obvious fact that unrestricted foreign “investment” (meaning takeover or economic recolonisation) is a disaster and for starting to take some painfully modest steps towards rectifying that (should it be returned to office). CAFCA would never be so cynical as to suggest that this is a classic ploy by an Opposition party sensing a vote winner and desperately trying to curry favour with public opinion, which is way ahead of the politicians on this issue.

The obvious question is – why didn’t Labour do something about foreign investment when it was in power for nine whole years? Oh, I forgot, they did – they made that foreign takeover easier. For example, this was the Government that trumpeted Shania Twain’s purchases of South Island high country stations as signaling a “smarter” kind of rural land sales to foreigners. Helen Clark made sure that she got into the photo opportunity with the singing superstar when a walking track through her hobby farm was opened.

If Labour’s actions on land sales to foreigners were feeble, its policies on foreign investment overall were outright criminal. Literally days before the 1999 election which brought it to power the threshold above which official permission was required for foreign takeovers of NZ companies was increased from $10 million to $50 million. As soon as Labour was in Government CAFCA wrote to every Labour MP urging that the threshold be returned to the previous limit. Not one Minister or Labour MP had the courtesy to reply to us. And in 2005 Labour further liberalised the Overseas Investment Act – one detail was that threshold was increased from $50m to $100m (and Michael Cullen wanted it to be raised to $250m; only public opposition, including from within his own caucus, prevented that).

Phil Goff’s policy announcement says nothing about Labour’s continuing addiction to “free” trade, which goes hand in glove with unrestricted foreign investment. Indeed NZ’s Free Trade Agreements usually include an embedded investment agreement. Both Helen Clark and Goff declared the 2008 FTA with China to be the pinnacle of their trade policy. And, guess what, the investment agreement in that with regards to Chinese companies is the reason why Natural Dairy can bid for the Crafar Farms, the very same proposal which is the trigger for the current public upsurge of opposition to foreigners buying NZ land, specifically dairy farms.

Nine years of actions in Government speak louder than a few meek words in Opposition. Is Phil Goff now going to admit that he and Labour were wrong to sign that FTA and its accompanying investment agreement with China? We challenge him to declare Labour’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership currently being negotiated with a number of countries, and which he, when Labour was in power, proclaimed to be the means to effect an FTA with the US, which is held up by both National and Labour as being the Holy Grail of trade agreements. Once that is signed US agribusiness transnational corporations will vacuum up NZ dairy farms with impunity. Will Goff then be wringing his hands? Come out and admit you were wrong, Phil, and turn Labour’s back on the road to ruin and recolonalisation represented by unrestricted foreign investment and “free” trade. You will pick up a whole lot more votes as a result.