CAFCA Opposes the Sale of New Zealand Islands - The Herald

An international island broker is marketing 20 island and waterfront peninsula properties around New Zealand to foreign buyers.

And his chances of making a sale are looking up, with the Government promising to make it easier to sell to overseas investors.

Farhad Vladi told the Weekend Herald he had been cautioning rich overseas buyers against investing here unless our laws changed.

Mr Vladi, in Auckland from Hamburg last week to speak to clients of law firm Hesketh Henry, said rules in New Zealand had the effect of actively discouraging foreigners from buying our islands.

"There's a resistance. We have learned that for so-called sensitive land, foreigners are not welcome," he said.

Islands are classified as sensitive and buyers need Overseas Investment Office permission to buy, although most applications are approved.

Mr Vladi tells buyers that New Zealanders prefer foreigners to invest in commercial properties.
However the rules could soon be changing after the Government announced this month it would overhaul the rules and reform the Overseas Investment Act 2005.

Finance Minister Bill English said the legislation was cumbersome and the rules were often difficult to interpret. The law on selling islands to aliens could be in for a big shakeup.

"Current rules are complex and processing a sensitive land application involves the assessment of 27 criteria and factors. The process is too long and too uncertain," Mr English said. He wants sensitive land re-defined "to ensure that only land of particular significance or importance to New Zealand is screened."

He also wants the act changed to better reflect the importance of foreign investment to our economic growth.

One of the most expensive properties on the Vladi Private Islands website is a 9 million ($21 million) coastal horse ranch one hour south of Auckland on the Firth of Thames at Orere Point. The 86ha clifftop property has 2km of coastline, its own private tarsealed roads, rolling farmland, stables and various houses.

For $18 million, foreigners could get a 134ha rural "island-like property" on a Bay of Islands peninsula opposite Opua with half a kilometre of coastline.

Mr Vladi is marketing the 37ha Motukawaiti Island in the Cavalli Islands with "price on request". Pakatoa Island near Auckland has been for sale for years, with owner John Ramsey of Crusader Meats understood to be asking for about $35 million.

For $5 million, foreigners could apply to buy the 61ha Puangiangi Island east of d'Urville Island in the Marlborough Sounds. All attempts to sell part of Roberton Island in the Bay of Islands have failed lately. A 2.6ha tip of that is on the Vladi website for US$4.5 million ($7.7 million).

Murray Horton, secretary and organiser of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa, is incensed at Mr Vladi's attempts to sell the properties and said it was precisely brokers like him who wanted the Government to overhaul the law.

"Allowing islands to be flogged off to become someone's personal plaything is especially egregious because they are such an iconic part of the national landscape. Where do we stop? Shall we allow Great Barrier or Waiheke to be sold? How about Rangitoto? Perhaps Stewart Island?" he said.

Speculation about sensitive land changes touches a raw nerve with people like Mr Horton after the debacle over Gisborne's Young Nick's Head which was occupied by Ngai Tamanuhiri to protest at an attempted sale to foreign owners. Canadian rock star Shania Twain's purchase of the lease to 24,700ha of rugged and scenic farmland near Wanaka for $21.4 million also sparked an outcry resulting in her opening public access to 29km of tramping tracks and huts.

Mr Horton is worried. "New Zealand already has one of the most liberal foreign investment laws in the world. If the door is left permanently unlocked with a sign saying 'come on in and help yourselves', this proposed law change will simply remove the door - and probably sell that as well," he said.

Article from the Herald - Opposition to the Overseas Investment Act

The Government's review of overseas investment rules has been welcomed by the New Zealand International Business Forum (NZIBF) which says not much investment has been coming in over recent years.

"Inward foreign investment can provide capital, expertise and offshore distribution to help New Zealand companies grow and create jobs," said NZIBF executive director Stephen Jacobi.
"Anecdotal evidence suggests that some foreign investors are deterred by our procedures even though most applications are in fact approved."

Jacobi said a review would help streamline procedures to ensure New Zealand was in line with international best practice.

But news of the investment review has not pleased all, with some saying it will only increase the chance of New Zealanders being exploited, rather than helped by overseas money.

Finance Minister Bill English announced the review yesterday, saying it was intended to make the process quicker and less complex.

"The current processes are cumbersome and complex. It takes a long time to make decisions because all the applications have to be measured against 27 different criteria by a pretty legalistic standard," said English.

The Government wanted to retain the opportunity to protect assets and land that it believed needed to be protected, but reduce the cost and complexity of decision making.

He said the Government was not being overwhelmed by applications for investment and this was likely to get worse during the international recession.

- NZPA understands that applications are down 7 per cent.

Law firm Chapman Tripp has also welcomed the review saying while it was important sensitive and culturally or historically valuable land was retained, unnecessary barriers should not be put up to foreign investments that could help the economy.

Green MP Kennedy Graham said simplifying rules was not necessarily a good thing and he was concerned the changes would make it easier for foreign investors to buy up pristine land for uses like golf courses or mining.

"The Government and Act Party seem intent on greater foreign ownership of New Zealand for the sake of uncritical economic growth," said Graham said.

Foreign investment often meant profits going offshore and New Zealand was at risk of being exploited rather than getting the productive investments it wanted, he said.

Spokesman for a group that opposes foreign investment, Murray Horton of Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa, said New Zealand already had one of the most liberal foreign investment laws in the world.

"If the door is already left permanently unlocked, with a sign saying "Come On In and Help Yourselves", this proposed law change will simply remove the door (and probably offer it for sale as well)."

Horton said the current global financial crisis might mean the Government's review would not make any difference.

"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. "

The global economic crisis was 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."

Any moves by the new government to further liberalise our overseas investment rules were likely to be locked in to future free trade agreements (FTAs) and so leave a "permanent open-door to foreign investors", according to the anti-corporate globalisation group Arena.

Spokeswoman Jane Kelsey said FTAs such as those recently signed with China, Thailand and Singapore contained "significant provisions around services and investment that promise that New Zealand won't ever tighten up its foreign investment rules".

"Governments don't just give foreign investors free rein for decades ahead, they also give the investors the right to sue the government directly in a secret international court if they regulate
in ways that reduce the invertors' profits."

When Government decides it isn't such as good idea they are told they can't restrict foreign investment because of an FTA, said Kelsey.

"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."

"At a time when stressed foreign firms are maximising their profits and taking them back home (or collapsing), and when New Zealand maintains a significant current account deficit driven largely by repatriation of profits to overseas interests, why on earth would we want to further open up our investment regime and lock the door on ever going back," said Kelsey.

Greens on the Current Review of the Overseas Investment Act

NZ for Sale? For Sure, says English

The current review of overseas investment rules, particularly those around sensitive land suggests that the ACT Party is unduly pushing National Government policy, said Green Party Overseas Investment spokesperson Dr Kennedy Graham.
No part of New Zealand is off-limits in the Government’s upcoming review of overseas investment rules Finance Minister Bill English confirmed today.
Mr English told Parliament in a reply to questions from Dr Graham that land defined as sensitive, such as the seabed and foreshore, would be included in the Government’s review of overseas investment rules.
The Overseas Investment Act 2005 tightened the law on what parts of New Zealand could be purchased by overseas investors – including off-shore islands and any part of the seabed and foreshore.
The policy difference between ACT and National in 2005 was palpable, as Dr Graham pointed out in Parliament today.
At the time John Key thought there was a "genuine concern – and I think a warranted concern from New Zealanders – that we do not want to become tenants in our own country. I think the long-term future for New Zealand is not that of a bunch of people running around serving lattes to foreigners who own our country."
In 2005 ACT stated that foreign investment is "overwhelmingly favourable" for New Zealand and that there is "no evidence that foreigners make poor landowners."
"John Key's view in 2005 was sound," said Dr Graham. "We do need to be careful with our foreign investment. But his 2008 policy is being pushed by his strange ministerial partnership.
Allowing more overseas millionaires to buy precious parts of New Zealand will do nothing to stimulate the economy.
"New Zealand doesn’t have a capital gains tax therefore the Government will gain nothing whatsoever from the sale of land. If an overseas citizen sells their little slice of New Zealand to another overseas citizen, no New Zealander will benefit.
"This review looks guaranteed to do nothing to stimulate the economy but appears more and more a sop the extreme free market dogma of the ACT Party. New Zealanders will gain nothing from this review other than a few more ‘Keep Out’ signs on land they once had access to," said Dr Graham.

Gordon Campbell on the Oversight of the SIS

This evening the new members of Parliament’s committee on the security and intelligence will meet for the first time. John Key, Rodney Hide, Tariana Turia, Phil Goff and Russel Norman have a rare chance to transform one of Parliament’s most embarrassing pieces of tokenism into a oversight committee that is fit and willing to deal with 21st century realities in security gathering and analysis.

To date, this committee has been a joke that meets for only about an hour a year. It lacks the powers of a select committee, and has essentially served as a mechanism by which the SIS and the Prime Minister can keep senior parliamentarians on board with their own agenda on security. In return for being sworn to secrecy, the MPs on the committee get absolutely nothing in return. They don’t get to scrutinise the SIS Director’s version of reality or check his files for accuracy, they can’t summon other witnesses, and they can’t publicly divulge what they have been told.

Such restraints are the relics of a bygone era. Around the world, the events of 9/11 and the Iraq invasion have exposed the shoddiness of much intelligence information and the extent of its overt politicization. At the same time, more and more domestic legislation is taking on a security dimension. Therefore, Parliament needs to play a far more active role in querying the security and intelligence dimensions of legislation. If it was properly resourced - and if it made contact with similar committees in Canada, the UK and Australia – this committee could play a very useful role as one of the state’s few oversight mechanisms on the performance of the security services.

The immediate task before the committee though, is how to handle the SIS spying on Members of Parliament. In his recent report to the Prime Minister, the SIS Inspector-General Paul Neazor recommended - as Scoop had advocated - that such files should be closed once an MP is elected. However, Neazor went on to say that a formula was needed if and when the actions of an MP required such a file to be opened.

Subsequently, Prime Minister John Key – in his capacity as Minister of the SIS – has indicated that he could arrange this in consultation with the Speaker.
This is really not good enough. Plainly, neither the public nor Parliament would be happy if any Prime Minister was allowed to arrange SIS surveillance of his fellow parliamentarians on the simple say so of a Speaker whom he has appointed. Because such spying would infringe on the work of Parliament – and especially on the constituency work of parliamentarians - it needs a much wider, multi-party mandate.

Therefore, the committee members should press tonight for it to be the body that considers and validates any such action. It should not be left to the Prime Minister in a secret arrangement with the Speaker, to give the greenlight to such surveillance. Robert Muldoon, during the Colin Moyle affair, stands as evidence of how a Prime Minister can abuse his access to secret information in order to destroy an opponent’s political career.

Being an MP is a unique occupation, and it requires special treatment. Parliament is the heart of our democracy and should be placed beyond SIS scrutiny. In the normal course of their work, MPs are required to be in contact with people from all walks of life. Their role as arbiters in community disputes and between the public and the bureaucracy requires them to be free to do that work unfettered by being spied upon by the security agencies.

In turn, members of the public need to know they can bring issues to an MP’s attention, without fear of such contact tainting their case by placing them under SIS suspicion. After all, the SIS is free to open a file on private persons of concern, but it should not be allowed to maintain a file on an MP directly - except under quite exceptional conditions that Parliament itself, via its multi-party committee on such matters, has mandated on the basis of evidence placed before one of its meetings.

The new committee is stacked 3 :2 with government appointees. Fittingly though, Tariana Turia has the swing vote. Domestically Maori activists have received an undue degree of SIS attention. As a result, Maori MPs are more likely to be in contact during their constituency work, with people whom the SIS view with concern. For both those reasons, Turia should be at pains tonight to ensure that it is the committee – and not the Prime Minister and Speaker – who gets to authorise any future spying on parliamentarians in general, and on any members of her caucus in particular. An assurance needs to be sought by the committee that any files on current MPs will be closed, immediately.

In future, security and intelligence issues are likely to play a far more important role in legislation. As soon as next week, the Immigration Bill may return to a House that is far different from the one that dealt with this legislation last year. Labour is in opposition, and the Maori Party are now in government. Turia and her caucus will have to decide whether they want to back and to own legislation that will give immigration officers far wider powers of search and detention of Pacific Islanders and Maori, while allowing the bureaucracy to operate under a much thicker blanket of secrecy.

Can Labour credibly oppose this immigration legislation that it fashioned and shepherded through Parliament – despite the misgivings of some in its caucus about the draconian powers it bestows on officials and the state? Since then of course, the Immigration Service has been its own worst enemy. There has been a cascade of revelations about the Immigration Service and its lack of accountability – especially within its Pacific division. This alone should require and justify a rethink by Labour about the wisdom of this Bill, and the desirability of Pacific Island, Maori and migrant communities to the state’s arbitrary exercise of power.Turia of course, should be especially concerned about the Maori Party choosing to rubber stamp this particular government Bill. Only a few years ago, Turia drew attention to the perils of using secret information against an accused – and at the time, she likened the treatment of Ahmed Zaoui to the treatment of Te Whiti in the 1880s. In both cases, Turia argued, people were being denied due process, with their fate decided by an Executive that had ‘necessarily….been influenced by political and economic considerations. That was precisely the case with Te Whiti. He was denied access to the courts. The parallels are strong.”

How can Turia now possibly turn arounbd, and support a Bill that will give immigration officers enhanced powers of detention and search, when she knows so thoroughly the content of the West Coast Protection Act of 1882, and the way that piece of legislation was used against her people ? “ The said Te Whiti and Tohu, or either of them, shall not be tried…[but] it shall be keep the said Te Whiti and Tohu, or either of them, in custody at such place as the Governor thinks fit.,..” And to be re-arrested at will.

Maori and Pacific Island communities may need to remind the Maori Party about the content of the Immigration Bill, and the lessons of past and recent history.
The security threat over Afghanistan

The security concerns do not begin and end simply with immigration issues. Thanks to Helen Clark, New Zealand’s role in the war on terrorism has been cleverly tailored to minimize the security threats to this country. We did not take part in the invasion of Iraq, and our role in Afghanistan – once the UN forces had displaced the Taliban government – was limited to reconstruction work in the country’s most peaceful region, and to providing a few desk officers in Kabul.

That may now be about to change. The UN has signalled it wants troops from a wide spectrum of member countries to help with the August election in Afghanistan, and President Obama is switching his military and nation-building focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. Australia has already publicly stated that it expects to be asked to contribute more troops. Are we expecting a similar call –from the US for our special forces, and from the UN for a regular troop contingent to police the Afghan elcction ?

If so, what do the SIS and GCSB consider would be the security repercussions for New Zealand of our more active and visible role in the wider war within Afghanistan ? Tonight, the committee should be readying an invitation to SIS chief Warren Tucker for him to give them a briefing on this situation. Party leaders need to have such a perspective – preferably before the call for such a deployment decision arises, and not afterwards.

Other issues the committee should address ? The availability of personal files. Under a general policy of greater openness, what steps are the SIS taking to make personal files more fully accessible ? Can the public – and archivists and historians – expect that the SIS will release its files into the public domain more quickly and thoroughly ? In other jurisdictions like the US, files from the 70s and 80s are being released. Here, the SIS is only grudgingly and partially releasing information from the 1950s and 1960s. Why is it dragging its feet ?

In other words, there is plenty for the committee to seek from the security agencies – that is, if it wants to be more than just a passive audience whenever the SIS decides to pop in for a cup of tea. Patently, the SIS need close oversight. It was only when foreign experts, like Colonel Mohammed Samraoui came here to testify for Ahmed Zaoui that the outright errors and shoddy analysis carried out by the SIS were exposed - at the cumulative cost of millions to the taxpayer, much damage to the country’s reputation and considerable suffering to all involved. Someone needs to hold these people to account.

All, in all, it should be an interesting committee meeting tonight. Even Rodney Hide, who paints himself as such a staunch foe of waste and unfettered state power, should be willing to give the committee some teeth.

More SIS Files - this time Trade Unionist Paul Corliss

Transport Worker (Rail and Maritime Workers Union), March 2009

Our esteemed ex-industrial officer, Paul Corliss, has just been “gifted” most of his SIS files. They make interesting and revealing reading – most of which comes as a surprise to Paul.

Apparently the SIS have not just taken a cloak-and-dagger, and boring, interest in my activity within the wider trade union movement (e. g. the FOL and the NZCTU) and in my political protest activity (e. g. opposition to foreign ownership in NZ or the 1981 anti-apartheid arrests) but have closely followed my alleged ‘career’ with the constituent unions of the later RMTU – over some two decades from 1974 to the 1990s.

It appears bizarre but clear that among earlier railway workmates there was at least one SIS ‘informant’ (possibly called “LAWRENCE” - whether Christian name or surname is unknown to me) reporting me as a “troublemaker to railways management” when working as a shunter and an official of the National Union of Railwaymen. That explains why I never got promoted to Station Agent at Opua!

It additionally alleges then National President of the NUR, George Finlayson, had claimed SUP influence in the Canterbury NUR.

Whacko, I say.

Among a wide range of material, the files note our most excellent protest when, in 1983, we (some 250 rail workers) physically prevented Minister of Railways George Gair’s attempts to enter the Christchurch railway station and demanded his ministerial resignation.

Much of the declassified material (most stamped ‘Secret’) relates to union activities, all of which were publically discoverable to anyone with a subscription to the daily papers or an ear on the radio.

They then followed me onto the wharves at Lyttelton when I took up my job as secretary of the Harbour Workers Union, but don’t appear to have pursued my industrial officer activity with the Rail & Maritime Union from 1995 onward. Perhaps I had become ‘too establishment’, not making enough trouble?

Dr Tucker advises, in his pleasant and personalised 4 page covering-letter, that the SIS are with-holding a further six reports on me, on the basis that their release could “enable the identification of secret sources of information”.

Access to my file occurred as a result of a ‘user-friendly’ PR campaign, (including declassification of historical files) entered into by recent appointee to the SIS directorship, Dr Warren Tucker. To become a “subject of interest” to our spy agency, the Security Intelligence Service, I believe one of the pre-requisites is to “pose a demonstrable risk to the security of New Zealand”. The debate about Big Brother and freedoms in a democracy require more space than the Transport Worker provides.

As far as I am aware, I have never been a member of any organisation that has plotted to overthrow or terrorise New Zealand … though I must admit to having been occasionally tempted! I have been a member of several legal organisations that have attempted, sometimes successfully, to dissent with and change many aspects of the way New Zealand operates politically and industrially.

Perhaps surprisingly, I am not, and have never been, a member of any political party. While there are surely one or two people who don’t particularly like me, I am not an ‘enemy of the state’. I can only just manage to spell ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘Osama’. Are these sufficient reasons to make me subject to covert surveillance and monitoring as a “suspect” individual?

Apparently so.

SIS spying on MP's

Below is an article about the spying on MP's by the SIS

Editorial: MPs are not above suspicion

The Dominion Post
Last updated 05:00 23/03/2009

Green MP Keith Locke should be used to intelligence agencies taking an interest in his activities. One of the Security Intellligence Service's predecessors first opened a file on him in 1955 when he was 10 years old. Nevertheless, Mr Locke is entitled to feel aggrieved about the SIS's scrutiny, The Dominion Post writes.

Mr Locke, the son of well-known communists Elsie and Jack Locke, has a long history of championing dubious causes. Even he admits he was wrong to hail the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

But there is nothing on the public record that shows Mr Locke has ever presented more of a danger to the public than to himself.

The material added to his file since he became an MP in 1999 suggests there is little, if anything, in his private affairs for the public to be concerned about either.

According to Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Justice Paul Neazor, it includes: a note of a discussion he and another MP had with the service, a reference to a parliamentary speech, four newspaper clippings which Judge Neazor found to have no security significance, a document related to an overseas trip taken by the Green MP and the programme of a symposium at which Mr Locke spoke.

Judge Neazor also reported that he had found one "certainly unprofessional" notation that lent weight to Mr Locke's belief that at least some of the material on his file had been gathered because of his critical stance in Parliament towards intelligence issues.

That is a bigger cause for concern than Mr Locke's misplaced sympathies. The SIS has powers denied other organs of the state because of the serious nature of its responsibilities, but it is not entitled to use its resources to gather intelligence for political purposes in this case to embarrass or belittle a critic.

An outraged Mr Locke says the service should be prohibited from holding files on sitting MPs, that there should be no surveillance of MPs, except to support a criminal investigation, and that MPs' communications with constituents a broad concept that encompasses every New Zealand resident for list MPs such as him should be off-limits to the security services.

He goes too far. The SIS may have wasted time and resources monitoring his activities, but there is no reason why MPs should be treated differently from the rest of the population.
As Judge Neazor rightly points out, any regime has to take account of the "unpalatable" possibility that an MP might involve himself in activities that endanger national security.
Judge Neazor's suggestion that the security services be required to seek the permission of Parliament's Speaker before collecting information on MPs strikes the appropriate balance between parliamentary independence and security.

Parliamentarians should be free to go about their duties uninhibited by the security agencies, but the law has to guard against all eventualities.

Mr Locke should consider whether he would want members of an extreme Right-wing organisation given the protections he advocates, should it gain representation in Parliament.

Finlay McDonald on Overseas Investment Act

Bending over backwards for foreign coin

By FINLAY McDONALD - Sunday Star Times

Last updated 13:19 22/03/2009
When governments announce a "review" of some piece of policy or legislation you know what it really means: we're out to change this but, for appearances' sake, we'll go through the motions of inviting submissions and "opening it up for discussion".

If you doubt this, just wait for the "outcome" of the government's review of our overseas investment regime.

When I heard Bill English announce it, I almost laughed. After all, New Zealand already has one of the most liberal foreign investment regimes in the developed world. Claiming it needs further liberalisation is akin to saying bullrush has too many rules.

Or as Murray Horton of the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa put it with characteristic wit: "If the door is already left permanently unlocked, with a sign saying 'Come On In and Help Yourselves', this proposed law change will simply remove the door - and probably offer it for sale as well."

As usual, though, the cheerleaders of deregulation were pretending such an overhaul was vital for the public good. The head of the New Zealand International Business Forum offered this piece of highly researched wisdom: "Anecdotal evidence suggests that some foreign investors are deterred by our procedures even though most applications are in fact approved."
Say what? So just in case there are some impatient buyers out there who won't even form an orderly queue to snap up the local bargains, we should get that rubber stamp moving still faster . . . so sorry to have kept you waiting, sir!

And rubber-stamping it is. Before it was folded into Land Information New Zealand, the Overseas Investment Commission acted like a hotel doorman, ushering in everyone from billionaire kleptocrats shopping for scenery to multi- nationals in the market for repatriated profits.

In this the commission was ably assisted by laws designed to ease the process. The previous Labour government's Overseas Investment Act in 2005 bumped up the threshold for foreign buyers needing official approval from $50 million to $100m. If there was anything positive in that legislation it lay in marginally increased protection against foreigners buying land of "special heritage or environmental value". This was largely a sop to that annoying sentimental streak in many New Zealanders, who don't like the idea of flogging off bits of their birthright to any old Tommy Suharto, let alone Dick or Harry.

But while land sales have immediate symbolic resonance, it's the wholesale buying up of our commercial assets that the system has truly enabled. Since we put out the welcome mat in the 1980s, nearly half the sharemarket has fallen into foreign hands and nearly all of our major companies are substantially or totally foreign controlled. Billions in dividends and profits have flown offshore since.

Overseas investment rules are themselves part of a bigger picture - free trade deals and our bipartisan commitment to Gatt form the framework within which we are almost obliged to hustle for foreign money. The textbook justification for this, of course, is that capital, expertise and access to bigger markets flow in with the cash. Jobs and growth are created, we become part of the great global economy whose benefits should be obvious to all.

In truth, the massive hikes in foreign investment and ownership over the past decades have done little to improve our lot. New Zealanders have become increasingly indentured to foreign masters, working harder and longer for less. This is the process the current government wants to make even more "efficient".

So where's the outcry? Maybe the Maori Party will draw another line in the sand over mana whenua - if they're not too busy doing private prison deals with their new mates, that is. Don't expect much noise from Labour. It would be an act of considerable philosophical contortionism if they were to repudiate the essence of the very legislation they nurtured to its present state.
No, unless public sentiment is roused sufficiently by the prospect of another Auckland airport or similarly strategic asset being put on the block, review will duly become reality and, by the time the global economy picks up again, our overseas investment express lane will be open for business.

Australian PM Attacks Right To Protest At Pine Gad Spy Base

Australia: Rudd government attacks right to protest at Pine Gap spy base

By Mike Head - wsws.org20 March 2009

Without any publicity or public debate, the Rudd government has pushed through parliament a law to step up the protection of the joint US-Australian military spy base at Pine Gap in central Australia, ensuring that protesters will face up to seven years' jail if they go near or even photograph the facility.

Under the seemingly innocuous title of the Defence Legislation (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2009, the legislation passed by the Senate on March 11 also seeks to prevent protesters from arguing in court that the base plays a critical role in the aggression and war crimes committed by the US and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

Previously, the legislation required the defence minister to declare Pine Gap, or any other area, a "prohibited area" if "necessary for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth". Now the Act itself defines Pine Gap as a "special defence undertaking" and a "prohibited area" necessary for the defence of Australia, stopping anyone charged under the Act from challenging the "purposes" of the base in court.

Anyone entering or flying over the base (or any other area that the defence minister proclaims a prohibited area) faces up to seven years' imprisonment. The same penalty applies to someone who makes or obtains "a photograph, sketch, plan, model, article, note or other document of, or relating to" the base, or anything within its perimeter.

The immediate purpose of the legislation is to negate a ruling by the Northern Territory Court of Criminal Appeal last year throwing out the main charges against four Christian pacifists who protested at Pine Gap in 2005. The four had entered the perimeter of the base with the avowed purpose of conducting a "citizen's inspection" to highlight the facility's role in enabling missile attacks on the people of Iraq.

For the first time in history, the Howard government, through its Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, invoked the obscure Defence (Special Undertakings) Act 1952 to prosecute the antiwar demonstrators for entering a prohibited area. Jim Dowling, Adele Goldie, Donna Mulhearn and Bryan Law were originally tried and convicted in the Northern Territory Supreme Court in June 2007. Even though the judge had barred the defendants from arguing that the base was used for aggressive war-making, not "defence", a jury took five hours to convict them, reflecting public opposition to the Iraq war.

The four faced jail for up to seven years for entering Pine Gap and another seven years for taking photographs in the area without authority. The Howard government, through the prosecution, called for their imprisonment for endangering national security. Instead, the judge fined them between $450 and $1,350 each, a total of some $3,500. The protesters refused to pay the fines and served time in custody for nonpayment.

When the Director of Public Prosecutions appealed against the leniency of the sentences, the government's legal operation backfired. The four were acquitted because the higher court found that they had been wrongly denied their right, under the 1952 Act, to challenge at their trial whether or not the declaration of a prohibited area was "necessary for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth".

The four had intended to produce evidence and expert witnesses to prove that the base was not defensive and that the Australian government was involved in "crimes against humanity" because data from Pine Gap was being used for lethal purposes against civilians, right down to the Apache helicopter gunships that attacked homes in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
The wider purpose of the federal Labor government's newly passed Bill, which has amended the 1952 Act, is to intimidate and stifle protests against the controversial 40-year-old base and the Australia-US military alliance in general. Pine Gap's role has been significantly enhanced in recent years, firstly through its capacity to guide US missile attacks in the Middle East and Central Asia, and secondly through its part in the so-called missile defence shield being developed by Washington to ensure that it has first-strike capacity against its nuclear rivals, notably Russia and China.

With its 14 giant white domes and 12 other antennae, and more than 800 US and Australian staff, including from the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Pine Gap is one of the most important intelligence facilities in the world. In addition to monitoring and directing missiles, it receives signals from spy satellites and conducts eavesdropping of telephone calls and other telecommunications.

Because of Australia's geographic location, Pine Gap provides unique coverage of a part of the planet that is necessary for a global satellite monitoring system and also includes some of the most hotly contested strategic locations in Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific region. The base is one of three similar facilities around the world, with the other two at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado and Menwith Hill in Britain.

When Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon first introduced the amending Bill last December, he emphasised the facility's "collection of intelligence" and "provision of ballistic missile early warning information". He echoed the Howard government's last defence minister, Brendan Nelson, who told parliament in September 2007, on the fortieth anniversary of the base, that it was part of the US ballistic missile early warning program and could supply information to Washington's anti-missile shield project, which is proceeding despite opposition from Russia and China

Fitzgibbon added that those exercising their democratic right to protest against the base were "mischief makers" or had "more sinister intent". Fitzgibbon declared that Pine Gap was of "such sensitivity and importance to Australia's defence and external relations" that it was essential to "deter" such people.

During the brief debates in parliament, government MPs insisted that the Bill was not about infringing on the right to peaceful protest. In fact, that is its sole purpose. Anyone trying to break into the base or disrupt its operations could be charged with a range of other serious offences. They include trespass and damaging property under the Commonwealth Crimes Act (the Christian pacifists were also convicted on those charges), and sabotage, espionage and terrorism—charges that carry punishments of up to life imprisonment.

By launching the unprecedented prosecution of the four pacifists under the 55-year-old Defence (Special Undertakings) Act, the Howard government underlined its devotion to the US military alliance, and willingness to trample over free speech and other basic democratic rights. By closing the legal loophole revealed last year, the Rudd government has demonstrated it is no less committed to the same agenda.

In parliament, the Australian Greens opposed the amendment, and cast the only votes against it in the Senate. Their spokesman Senator Scott Ludlam said it represented "an erosion of the democratic rights of which Australians are proud". However, Ludlam suggested that if the base was truly necessary to "protect Australians," then its role could be legitimate. He specifically objected to the fact that Australian MPs were denied information about the base that was freely available to members of the US Congress.

Whether the base is effectively controlled by the US, or is, as successive governments have claimed, a joint facility, Pine Gap directly serves the military and strategic interests of the Australian capitalist elite, which depends heavily on the US alliance in order to dominate its own sphere of interest in the Asia-Pacific area. Together with the deployment of Australian troops to Afghanistan, Iraq and the Persian Gulf, Pine Gap is a critical part of the bargain with Washington that enables Canberra to throw its weight around the region. This is no less the case now that Rudd has replaced Howard, and Obama has replaced Bush.

Greens Press Release on Overseas Investment Act

Dr Kennedy Graham

The Government seems keen to put the 'For Sale' sign up on land that is currently off-limits to foreign investment, said Green Party MP Dr Kennedy Graham.
Finance Minister Bill English this afternoon attacked the rules around foreign investment as too complex for business. Of particular concern to Mr English was the fact that processing a sensitive land application involves the assessment of 27 different criteria and factors.

"There is a reason that rules around overseas investment in sensitive land is complex – we don’t necessarily want overseas investors buying large chunks of pristine New Zealand land and turning them into golf courses or amusement parks – or coal mines" said Green Party’s Foreign Investment Spokesperson Dr Graham.

"The Government and Act seem intent on greater foreign ownership of New Zealand for the sake of uncritical economic growth. However, when New Zealand firms fall into foreign ownership, dividend payments flow offshore further worsening our current account deficit. "

"Passive investment into New Zealand should not be confused with productive investment. The former simply exploits our country's productive capacity doing nothing to enhance our productivity. New Zealand if anything actually needs smarter foreign investment rules not weaker ones as National is proposing," said Dr Graham.

The recent jobs summit and the calls for regulatory reform were given as major reasons behind the latest push to weaken regulation around what land foreign investors can purchase in New Zealand.

"Which criteria does the Government want to weaken? Is it the criterion that protect indigenous fauna and wildlife or is it kiwi jobs and technology that will be sacrificed for the sake of overseas investment?" asked Dr Graham.

"Perhaps the Government would like to drop protections relating to public access having just mooted a proposal for a nationwide cycleway?"

"I acknowledge the Government’s desire to attract investment in the belief that this is good for the New Zealand economy. But that desire has transformed into a fetish. It needs to be resisted."

Government is Reviewing the 2005 Overseas Investment Act

Below is a press release following the Governments decision to review the 2005 Overseas Investment Act.


News that the Government plans to urgently review the 2005 Overseas Investment Act, with a view to further liberalising it, comes as no surprise. Nor was it any surprise that the Prime Minister made the announcement at the Act Conference. This is another example of the Act tail shaking the National dog (or maybe that dog was wolf in disguise). Key campaigned on a policy of changing very little from what was the status quo under Labour and since winning power has systematically set about changing as much as possible. Along with moves towards privatisation in areas such as ACC, infrastructure and prisons, emasculating what is left of an “oversight” regime for foreign investors is part of that process.

New Zealand already has one of the most liberal foreign investment laws in the world. If the door is already left permanently unlocked, with a sign saying “Come On In and Help Yourselves”, this proposed law change will simply remove the door (and probably offer it for sale as well).

But the ironic thing is that it may not make any difference. 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.

It has already been pointed out that under the free trade agreements to which NZ is already party, such as with China, any further liberalisation of the foreign investment law cannot be reversed under any future Government. And it is truly ironic that the front man for this proposed liberalisation is Bill English who, as recently as December 2008, declined a proposed $250 million foreign investment proposal (namely the takeover of NZ Steel Mining Ltd, a subsidiary of BlueScope Steel Ltd, by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd). Why? “Because CKI did not meet the Overseas Investment Act 2005 criteria of substantial and identifiable benefit which was relevant to the acquisition of business assets which included sensitive land” (Bill English press release, 17/12/08, “Purchase Of NZ Steel Assets Declined”). Those were exactly the grounds used by Labour to stop the Canadian purchase of Auckland Airport in 2008 and they are exactly the grounds that English says the proposed liberalisation is aimed at removing. Funny therefore that he, as the Minister of Finance, had no hesitation in using them to block such a huge proposed foreign takeover only three months ago.

We need more of that sort of pragmatism exhibited by the Government, one which puts the national interest first, and less of the ideological wet dreams of those within its ranks who are still stuck in the 1980s.

John Minto's Blog - Roger Award

John Minto wrote about the Roger Award in his blog on the herald. John's blog is definitley worth having a read of - check it out at

ASH - Roger Award Press Release

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) NZ
British American Tobacco recognised as NZ’s worst corporate citizen

British American Tobacco (BAT) is the worst transnational company in New Zealand after receiving the annual ‘Roger’ Award at a ceremony in Auckland.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says this confirms that New Zealand is waking up to the sustained public relations campaigns by the tobacco industry.

“New Zealanders are now starting to wonder why they tolerate a company that not only kills 4000 kiwis a year, but takes money away from the country as well,” said ASH director, Ben Youdan.

Organised by the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA), the Roger award is presented to any corporation that is 25 per cent or more foreign controlled and is judged to have the most negative effect on economic matters, people and the environment.

“ASH made this nomination because half of BAT’s best customers will die as a result of smoking their products, so we considered they need to be recognised for this contribution to our society,” said Mr Youdan.

Mr Youdan says that the corporate social responsibility reports that the company produce are designed to convince people that the company is caring and responsible when the opposite is true.

“Cigarettes are the only legal product on the market today that when consumed exactly as this company intends will likely kill you, but they’re unlikely to mention this death toll in their glossy reports” said Mr Youdan.

BAT is actively opposing measures that would see a ban on the display of tobacco in shops where children and former smokers can see them via the New Zealand Association of Convenience Stores (NZACS) of which BAT is a premier member

For further information please contact:

Ben Youdan, director, ASH NZ: 021 733 444

2008 Roger Award

Okay - so i'll admit it has been forever and a day since I have udated this blog! My apologies - perhaps updates will coincide with breaks at university - though it is still my intention to update as things come along.

So first thing I need to tell people is the winner of the 2008 Roger Award. To find out more about the Roger Award visit This years winner was British American Tobacco. A worthy winner that has been nominated every single year. And one I am personally very pleased to see win.

Every year an event is held to announce the winner of the Roger Award. This years event was held in Auckland and featured music from the Electric Car, addresses from Murray Horton and Geoff Bertram (chief judge), as well as a great powerpoint display and presentation from ASH - the anti-smoking lobby group. It was a great night and I don't say so just cos I helped to organise it.



The full, extremely detailed, Judges’ Report is available at, follow the Roger Award links.

Finalists: ANZ; BAT (British American Tobacco NZ); Contact Energy; GlaxoSmithKline; Infratil; McDonalds; Rio Tinto Aluminium NZ (nominated under its former name of Comalco); Telecom.

Criteria: the transnational (a corporation which is 25% or more foreign-owned) which is worst in each or all of the following: Economic Dominance - Monopoly, profiteering, tax dodging, cultural imperialism. People - Unemployment, impact on tangata whenua, women, children, abuse of workers/conditions, health and safety of workers and the public, cultural imperialism. Environment - Environmental damage, abuse of animals. Political interference - Cultural imperialism, running an ideological crusade.

Judges: Geoff Bertram, Wellington, a Victoria University economist; Brian Turner, Christchurch, immediate past President of the Methodist Church and social justice activist; Paul Corliss, Christchurch, a life member of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union; Cee Payne, Dunedin, Industrial Services Manager for the NZ Nurses’ Organisation and health issues activist; Christine Dann, Banks Peninsula, a writer and researcher; Bryan Gould, Bay of Plenty, a former Waikato University Vice-Chancellor. The winners were announced at an event in Auckland on March 2.

The Judges’ Statement on BAT says: “Its product kills 5,000 people every year and ruins the lives of tens of thousands. It perennially refuses to take responsibility for the social and economic consequences of its activity, while maintaining a major public relations effort to subvert the efforts of the Government to reduce cigarette consumption”. It is “a conspicuously bad corporate citizen”. The Financial Analysis reveals that BAT NZ’s 2007 profit after tax was a staggering 81% on opening shareholders’ funds, and a questionable borrowing and reinvestment arrangement with other BAT companies outside NZ that allows BAT to reduce its NZ income tax liability by $10 million per year, while hypocritically posturing as a socially responsible corporation.

Rio Tinto Aluminium was runner up because of its “single act of political intimidation”, threatening to close the Bluff smelter if the former Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme went ahead. “Business New Zealand and (CEO) Mr O’Reilly merit an Accomplice Award for their major PR contribution to sustaining the New Zealand government’s spineless record on non-regulation of monopolies and failure to control foreign investments into key sectors of the local economy”.