Auckland Airport, Privatisation and Asset Sales - Lead Story in Latest Watchdog

The article below is the lead article in the most recent Foreign Control Watchdog. If you are interested in subscribing to Watchdog and receiving your very own copy every four months then email for details on how to join.

Happy Reading

But Don’t Stop Now, There’s An Awful Lot More To Be Done

- Murray Horton

It is extremely encouraging that the Government has decisively vetoed the tenaciously sought takeover of Auckland International Airport by the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board. That whole saga, with its many twists and turns is documented elsewhere in this issue by Quentin Findlay (following on from his cover story in Watchdog 116, December 2007, online at For once we can chalk one up for the good guys and savour the victory. The Government deserves congratulations for finally growing a backbone on this issue and saying “enough is enough”. Equally, John Key is to be commended for pledging not to flog off any State assets in the first term of a National government.

But our congratulations and commendations are strictly limited in scope. Let’s start with National, because all the polls say that it will win the election this year. Honest John has only committed National to no asset sales in its first term. So, unless he’s saying that National will be a single term Government (and there never has been such a beast) then, obviously, all bets are off in any subsequent term. This latest flip flop (there have been so many that we nominate him for the Olympic gymnastic team) is driven by the same motivation as everything else Key has said and done since becoming National’s Leader – the all consuming desire to win the 2008 election, no matter what it takes. It certainly doesn’t represent any change of political or philosophical direction for Key – in the same TVNZ Agenda interview (13/4/08), he committed National to more public private partnerships in education sector infrastructure and to more help for private schools.

In the case of selling State assets, Key is simply trying to stuff the cat back into the bag that his Deputy, Bill English, let it out of in 2007 when English announced that National would partially privatise some of the remaining State assets. This caused a widespread outcry which, combined with public opinion running strongly against the attempted sale of Auckland Airport (first to Dubai, then to the Canadians) convinced Key to drop this particular hot potato. Or, at least, get it off the agenda until he’s safely ensconced in power.

New Regulations Have Positive National Implications

The Government’s new foreign investment Regulations, announced in February 2008, do toughen up the 2005 Overseas Investment Act, at least as far as it affects strategic assets on sensitive land. They were specifically drafted to put the final decision on any sale of Auckland Airport firmly into the hands of Ministers and taken away from the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), the fastest rubber stampers in the land. It is ironic that the two Ministers who vetoed the airport sale did so under the existing provisions of the Act and did not cite its new Regulations. Naturally, the OIO recommended the sale, as it has done every single time a comparable situation has arisen (the OIO has never seen a foreign “investor” it didn’t like, turning down only a small number of would be rural land purchasers in recent years. No corporate takeovers have been refused since the 1980s). To their credit, the Ministers ignored the yes men who, I have no doubt, would happily welcome Robert Mugabe if he turned up looking to buy a nice little retirement place.

Michael Cullen, the Minister of Finance, made clear that these new Regulations have implications for any other proposed sales of strategic assets on sensitive land. No list of such assets has been published and Cullen has said that there won’t be one, so the Government obviously intends to deal with them on a case by case basis. There have been signs that the Christchurch City Council, via Christchurch City Holdings Ltd (which has moved from being a holding company to an active player in the market) has not given up its plan to flog off the Lyttelton Port Company, which was thwarted first time around in 2006 when an attempted sale to a Hong Kong transnational was brought to a graunching halt. The Keep Our Port Public coalition (, of which CAFCA is part, and which had been quietly lying on the seabed for the past two years, resurfaced to warn that the City Council has been buying up Port Company shares and has now passed the critical 75% mark. This means that the legal structures are now all in place to enable a sale, usually by way of a merger, without having to reach the 90% shareholding mark needed to effect a full takeover (the use of this alternative and controversial method to sell or take over a company has been used by transnational corporations and their local collaborators in several changes of corporate ownership in recent years).

So, what is going on behind the scenes? Is there another transnational suitor being wooed? Bearing in mind that the attempted 06 sale was sprung on the people of Canterbury out of thin air, we have a well founded suspicion that this is not all just being done for fun. If the boneheaded Council, now headed by “business friendly” Mayor Bob Parker, does have another go at flogging off the publicly owned Port Company, we, and plenty of others, will demand that the Government immediately invoke these new Regulations to stop it.

Dangerous New US Investment Agreement Must be Stopped

Once the Government decisively stepped in to block the Auckland Airport sale, there was outrage, veering into hysteria, from the usual suspects on the Right, in politics, the media and business. One of their main gripes was Labour’s inconsistency on the issue of foreign investment. CAFCA agrees with them, but for diametrically opposite reasons. The Government is sending out contradictory signals – it canned the Canadian takeover in the same week as it signed the groundbreaking and highly controversial Free Trade Agreement with China (and not long after Helen Clark attended the opening of the walking track through Shania Twain’s Otago property, presumably because she’s a “good” Canadian investor). This is the same Government which rammed through that 2005 Overseas Investment Act, a law championed by Michael Cullen, and one which makes the wholesale takeover of the country by transnational corporations even easier than what it already was (see any issue of Watchdog from 2003-05 inclusive for details of the law and CAFCA’s campaign against it). We are delighted that Labour suddenly feels the need to toughen up that Act a bit and, in an ideal world, would hope that this marked a change in direction, a recognition of the bullshit that is the foreign “investment” scam - but we have no doubt that it was done for the same base, election year, power seeking reasons as National’s pledge on asset sales.

After all this is the same Government which has just opened up the existing free trade agreement with Chile, Singapore and Brunei (known as the P4 – P for Pacific) to add an investment agreement to it and, much more ominously, include the US. Now a Free Trade Agreement with the US is the Holy Grail for the colonial mentality of both Labour and National. It hasn’t looked remotely likely, but this could achieve it by the back door. If that happens, then any remaining NZ “restrictions” on foreign investment will be at threat, as the US has made it clear for years that it regards those as “barriers to trade”. That means any “restrictions” on foreign ownership of land, airports, strategic assets, fisheries, the lot. See Bill Rosenberg’s article elsewhere in this issue for details. But it’s a very dangerous move, which is flying under the radar at present and one which will lead to the complete elimination of any remaining protection of NZ as a sovereign economy rather than simply as a South Pacific branch office. The P4 investment agreement proposal needs to be stopped in its tracks, for the sake of consistency, if nothing else.

Privatisation By Stealth

CAFCA is very pleased that political and public attention is focused on privatisation and asset sales. It reminds everyone that although Labour put a moratorium on sales when it came to power in 1999, it hasn’t done anything much about making good the tremendous economic and social damage done by two decades of asset sales and privatisations by its Labour and National predecessors. It renationalised ACC, because that was a campaign promise, but it only renationalised Air New Zealand because the airline went broke. It had the chance to renationalise the railways a few years ago but blinked at the last minute and only bought back the national track network. Now it is in negotiations to buy back the lot from Toll, its Australian owner, which wants to get rid of it but the price is the sticking point. Why is the Government haggling over the price it will pay to buy back stolen property? It bought the track back for $1, we say give Toll $2 (to allow for the inflation that we are currently hearing so much about).

And Labour only acquiesced to the creation of the highly successful Kiwibank (the leadership sneered at it) because that was a promise to Jim Anderton, a vital coalition partner. Indeed Labour has gone rapidly backwards in 2008, announcing a reversal on its previous policy and enthusiastically plunged into public private partnerships in projects for Auckland roading (the biggest roading project in NZ) and affordable housing. It was for exactly that reason, and because of Bill English’s 2007 announcement that a National government would partially privatise State assets, that CAFCA organised the March 2008 Privatisation By Stealth Conference, featuring Bill Rosenberg, Laila Harre, Sue Newberry and myself as speakers (you can read some of the papers online at

We aimed to alert people that privatisation can be brought about by many covert or apparently innocuous means. “Privatisation is like dismantling a bomb — it must be done very carefully, for wrong decisions can have nasty consequences. There are obstacles to be overcome, arguments to be rebutted, proponents to be mobilised, and opponents to be thwarted” (Emanuel Savas, an adviser to Reagan and Thatcher, quoted in his 2000 book “Privatisation And Public-Private Partnerships”).

Reclaim Our Assets

Recognising the overwhelming public opinion on this issue, both major parties have made some small halting steps and reluctant promises. That’s good but it’s only a very small start, there’s an awful lot more to be done. There’s 20 years worth of mess to be cleaned up. Let’s have a systematic, wholesale reclaiming of those assets so that they can once again work for the benefit of the New Zealand people, their rightful owners. To give just one example of what could be achieved, John Minto in his Press column (14/4/08, “Tertiary student debt a $10b boil that must be lanced”) said: “Another practical way to pay for free tertiary education would be to renationalise Telecom. The massive profits from this single company alone would have covered the student fees for everyone these past 20 years had it not been sold by the same politicians who brought us student debt. Somehow, it is more important to the Government for wealthy shareholders to share Telecom’s spoils among themselves rather than return it to the community”. Telecom was the most notorious asset sale and, not coincidentally, it is the only transnational corporation to have been a finalist in every single annual Roger Award since the Award’s creation in 1997, winning it for the second time, in 2007 (for space reasons we have not included the 2007 Roger Judges’ Report in this issue, but it is enclosed as an insert. You can also access it online at

Make Foreign Control Central Election Issue

Of course asset sales and privatisation are only part of the problem albeit a very high profile one. Both major parties are enthusiastic peddlers of the foreign “investment” scam and it is that whole subject – namely who should own and control New Zealand, and for whose benefit should this country be run – which must be front and centre this election campaign and which should be the subject of a national dialogue at every level of society. This is far too important to be left solely to politicians whose only motivation is to win or hang onto power. If they did get serious about sorting out this problem, that really would be a genuine and substantial philosophical shift. It’s a big job to get through to them but politicians are acutely sensitive to public opinion in election year. We’re talking about the need to make good the grievous mistakes of the past, substantially improve the present and ensure that the future is one in which the New Zealand people are in charge of our own country.

More Job Cuts - More Jobs Going Overseas

More and more we are seeing New Zealand jobs move overseas.

The latest in a long string of them has been the ANZ Bank accouncement that over the next year or so they will be moving a significant amount of their work to Bangalore, India. This would affect around 5% of staff or between 400 and 500 people. This would be the largest offshoring of jobs ever in the New Zealand Banking industry.

Take action now. Please click here to send a message to ANZ National CEO Graham Hodges opposing the offshoring of New Zealand jobs.

ANZ National can afford to keep the jobs in New Zealand. This offshoring would happen at a time when ANZ National’s profit is going up. It has increased by 76% since 2004, and their after tax profit in 2007 was $1.168 billion.

ANZ National would be starting a race to the bottom on wages. ANZ Australia, which pays better than ANZ National, have said that the cost per Indian employee is roughly half the Australian equivalent. Such a move goes in the opposite direction of Finsec’s Better Banks campaign, which calls for more investment in local jobs.

Whilst the bank has said they will try to redeploy all staff, we say that the best way of guaranteeing everyone a job is not to offshore these positions.

Take action now and send a message to the bank not to send good Kiwi jobs offshore Please forward this message on to your networks, friends and family and encourage them to send this important message too.

Government Buys Back the Rail - Bout Bloody Time

This is a little delayed as I was distracted with the goings on in Blenheim over the last week so did not have regular internet access.
The news that the Government had bought back the railways was welcomed with a sense of irony considering the railways were orginally sold off, albiet by National, in an environment created by the radical Labour reforms of the 1980's. It's a wierd world we live in when Roger Douglas reappears on the political landscape. Is it even wierder when we buy back a national asset for $665 million?

Below is a CAFCA's response to the (re) purchasing of the Railways

But Says $2 Would Have Been Fair Price

The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) congratulates the Government for renationalising the railways from Toll. This restores to public ownership a vital part of the national infrastructure that should never have been sold in the first place.

But we think that the $665 million price paid is scandalously high. It is double what the woeful Wisconsin Central and its local collaborators paid to buy the whole lot (including the track network) from the National government in 1993. It is two thirds higher than what this Government could have bought the whole lot back for, in 2003, except that Labour got cold feet and let Toll buy the trains and ferries, while the Government simply renationalised the track network. Now the whole railways has been belatedly, and very expensively, repossessed from its foreign owners - who no longer want it and who couldn’t make a go of it, because that would mean spending money, rather than simply asset stripping and profit skimming.

CAFCA notes that the Government paid $1 to buy back the entire track network in 2003. Allowing a very generous 100% for inflation, we say that the Government should pay Toll $2 to buy back the trains and ferries. Why should the New Zealand taxpayers fork out hundreds of millions of dollars for something that should never have been taken from us in the first place? Rather than lining the pockets of an Australian transnational corporation, that $665 million would do a lot more good alleviating the poverty in which more than 180,000 New Zealand kids have to live, to give just one example.

We’ve regularly said that the bipartisan sell off policy pursued by both Labour and National governments has turned New Zealand into the $2 Shop of the South Pacific. Therefore, we can’t think of a more appropriate price than $2 to pay to buy back one of the key parts of the national infrastructure. We’re even prepared to put up the money.

And the Government once again stands accused of inconsistency in its policy towards foreign control of New Zealand. Just last week Dr Cullen said that it won’t intervene to stop the sale of Vector’s Wellington retail lines network to a Hong Kong transnational because it had already been in foreign ownership twice before. Hello – so why has it, a week later, bought back the railways from its second lot of (hopeless) foreign owners? Electricity is a sector that is crying out for direction and planning, in the national interest. The pending sale of Contact Energy, to yet another foreign owner, as a byproduct of the takeover of its Australian parent, is a further illustration of how this most strategic of infrastructure assets has become the plaything of transnational corporations. All this while the long suffering public is being warned, yet again, of the possibility of blackouts this winter because of the unplanned, profit-driven structure of the electricity sector.

The Government has correctly blocked foreign ownership of Auckland Airport and renationalised the railways from foreign ownership, but it must keep up the good work and act decisively to restore the electricity industry to being one which operates in the national interest.

CAFCA - ABC What's the connection?

Readers may be wondering why all the Anti Spy Base stuff has been appearing on the CAFCA blog. The Anti-Bases Campaign or ABC as it is more commonly known is CAFCA's sister organisation. Murray Horton is the organiser for both groups. Murray plays a crucial role keeping members up-to-date with relevant current events and formulating press releases from ABC and CAFCA issues arise that these groups have a position on. Murray's main job however is getting Foreign Control Watchdog (CAFCA publication) and Peace Researcher (ABC publication) our regularly. These two publications are two of the few publications to have stood up to the test of time and much of the credit for this is owed to Murray. Murray is also most famously known for his epic obituaries. It is my intention that this blog may become a record for all of the obituaries written for both Peace Researcher and Watchdog since their inception. Morbid as it may seem, it is the obituaries that I (and I am sure many other people) look forward to the most when a new Watchdog is out.

So there's the explanation as to why you'll see both Anti Bases Campaign information and issues appear on this blog.

ABC interview on TV 3 Breakfast

ABC spokesperson Murray Horton was interviewed by TV3 breakfast on Thursday about the Waihopai Anzac Ploughshares.

A link to this interview:


Those arrested during the action on Wednesday morning will be appearing in Blenheim court on Monday 5th May. It is important that these activists receive loads of support. A solidarity vigil is organised for outside of court on Monday. It would be great if as many people as possible could make it down/up/across.

We all aim to meet at Seymour Square at 9:00am

It would be great to see as many people there as possible.


Wednesday morning when i did my perusal of the stuff website to my delight I found an article headed - 'Protesters Deflate Waihopai Dome'. I went on to read about the brave effort of the Waihopai Anzac Ploughshares activists.

This was an amazing act and the the images of the deflated dome are incredible. You can see images of the action at both and http://

I think that this might be the first ploughshares action ever in New Zealand. It certainly has got the attention of the media. It is incredibly important that New Zealanders are reminded of the Spy Bases hosted on New Zealand soil. The bases are created and maintained at the expense of the New Zealand worker. We pay our taxes and these taxes are spent on spy bases we know absolutely nothing about - except that they are aiding the American war machine. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died at the hand of America, yet we as a country continue to aid them in their efforts. As the ploughshares activists point out in their statement below there is a huge descrepency between New Zealand not sending troops to iraq, when we are playing a direct hand in the war by allowing these bases on New Zealand soil.

New Zealanders need to stand up and oppose these bases. It is wrong that they are here. We have blood on our hands as long as we tolerate their existence. If you are interested in learning more about the bases and opposition to them then visit

The Anti Bases Campaign (ABC) is a Christchurch-based group with links and members all over Aotearoa/New Zealand. We concentrate on the foreign military and intelligence installations in New Zealand. There are three - the US "Deep Freeze" military base at Harewood (Christchurch Airport); and the "NZ" intelligence gathering installations at Tangimoana (Manawatu) and Waihopai (Marlborough), which are simply outposts of American Intelligence. We have specific demands on all three – that Harewood be demilitarised; and the others closed ASAP. We demand the abolition of the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), which operates Waihopai and Tangimoana. We have built up information on the whole gamut of the ongoing US-NZ military and intelligence relationship.

ABC puts out a regular publication - Peace Researcher. If you would let to join ABC and receive Peace Researcher email

The statement below was released by the activists on the morning of their action.


They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift sword against nation; and there shall be no more training for war. Isaiah 2:4

Waihopai Spy Base Penetrated
This morning, 30 April 2008, we entered the Waihopai Spy Base near Blenheim.
Our group, including a Dominican Priest, temporarily closed the base by padlocking the gates and proceeded to deflate one of the large domes covering two satellite dishes.
At 6am we cut through three security fences surrounding the domes - these are armed with razor wire, infrared motion sensors and a high voltage electrified fence.
Once inside we used sickles to cut one of the two 30-metre white domes, built a shrine and knelt in prayer to remember the people killed by United States military activity.
We have financed our activities through personal savings, additional part-time employment and a small interest-free loan from one of our supporters.
We are responding to the Bush administration’s admission that intelligence gathering is the most important tool in the so-called War on Terror. This war will have no end until citizens of the world refuse to let it continue. The ECHELON spy network including Waihopai, is an important part of the US government’s global spy network and we have come in the name of the Prince of Peace to close it down.
The base is funded by New Zealand tax payers and located on New Zealand soil which makes New Zealand a target through our association with the UKUSA intelligence cooperation agreement.
Five years ago the Clark government opposed the US-led invasion of Iraq. Yet at the same time the Bush administration was using the National Security Agency’s ECHELON system, of which Waihopai is an integral component, to spy on UN Security Council members so it could more easily swing them in favour of an invasion.
There have been over 100 Ploughshares actions over the last twenty years around the world. Ploughshares direct actions are linked through the common factors of: entry to locations connected to military activity, Christian prayers and most involve some form of property destruction.
- - - - -
About Waihopai & ECHELON
Green MP Keith Locke quoting the Anti-Bases Campaign claims the base has cost New Zealand up to NZ$500million since 1989. The base intercepts electronic communications throughout the Pacific region including New Zealand and is often staffed by personnel from US agencies.
In 1996 researcher Nicky Hager published an expose on Waihopai and New Zealand’s strong links to the USA-led ECHELON network of six similar spy stations around the world. The United Nations launched an investigation in 2003 to claims that ECHELON had been used by the US government to eavesdrop on UN diplomats and Security Council members. A report published in 2000 showed that ECHELON had also been used by the US to gain commercial advantage for US corporations.
Information gathered at Waihopai is transferred to the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) in Wellington and fed unseen directly to Washington DC.
Messages of Support
Updates & Original Statement
Ploughshares F.A.Q.