Full Set Of Historical "Foreign Control Watchdog" Now Available Online

Just when you were wondering what you are going to read during the holidays, we’ve come to the rescue, advising you of a fascinating treasure trove newly accessible online.

Thanks to Lynda Boyd, who has laboured long and hard to upload a complete set of historical issues Foreign Control Watchdog, covering the years 1974-99 (Watchdog went online that year and issues from 1999 onwards can be read at www.converge.org.nz/watchdog).

To access these oldies but goodies, just click on this link:


The introduction includes instructions on how to use the site. One thing to bear in mind is that each old issue is a big document (even though we had the scans reduced in size), so be patient when waiting for the individual issues to download. One bonus is that, unlike the issues online at the actual Watchdog site, these old ones come complete with illustrations – such as there were in those days.

Readability quality varies, affected both by the scans having to be reduced to make the individual issues a manageable size, and their sheer age (the very first ones are classic old gestetenered newsletters).

The set is not yet quite complete – there are still three very old booklets to be uploaded (one being our famous Comalco comic) - but it’s complete enough for the world to be told about it.

I know that people will find this site both fascinating and currently useful. For example, in my own case, I have used or cited material from 1985, 1990, 1996 and 1998 issues in articles I have written for 2009 issues. And, apart from anything else, they’re a bloody good read.

Happy New Year!


There really is a Santa Claus. And he has been revealed to be the most unlikely of people, namely the Commissioner of Inland Revenue. Just in time for Christmas IRD has persuaded the Big Four Australian-owned banks – ANZ, ASB, BNZ, and Westpac – to recognise the futility of attempting to dodge payment of the astonishing $2.2 billion of taxes that, between them, they avoided via deliberately complicated structured financial transactions. So that’s how they rode out the recession, by not paying nuisance costs such as taxes. Not an option for the rest of us mugs who have to pay our taxes, whether we like it or not.

The Big Four only faced up to the inevitable after two of them had been to court and lost, with the judge in one case describing what they did as “a rort”. This massive tax dodging is one of the main reasons why three of the Big Four – ANZ, BNZ and Westpac – are among the nine finalists in the 2009 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand, the winner/s of which will be announced in Wellington on March 11. Since the Roger Award started in 1997 this is the first time that three companies in one such vital sector of the economy have been finalists at the same time.

This is theft from the NZ taxpayer on a truly monumental scale, particularly at a time when the Government is cutting back public spending and dropping unsubtle hints about more beneficiary bashing. This huge shortfall in tax could be used for health and education. NZ taxpayers are the guarantors of the deposits of these banks. Yet we get no say in their running, let alone ownership. The taxpayer needs to be directly represented on the boards of each one of these Aussie banks that we’re underwriting with our money. And, if that doesn’t do the trick, nationalise them.

Tthe news just keeps getting better. The taxpayer got another Christmas present this week with the announcement that the quarterly current account is in surplus for the first time since 1988 (after 21 years of an increasingly dire current account deficit). Why? Partly because the Big Four banks had set aside money to repay their illgotten gains. But also because the profits of transnational corporations are down and therefore less money is being sucked out of the country in the form of repatriated profits.

Commentators have been at pains to assure “the market” that this is a one off due to the recession and the normal scenario of tens of billions of dollars leaving NZ and a soaring current account deficit will resume as the economy “improves” (for whom?). But this unusual convergence of circumstances, just in time for Christmas, has given New Zealand workers and taxpayers a tantalising glimpse of what this country could actually be like if it wasn’t run as a branch office of the transnationals (and bled dry by tax dodging Aussie robber banks in the process) – money would actually stay in the country, where it could be used in the national interest. What a thought.


The nine finalists for the 2009 Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation Operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand are (in alphabetical order): ANZ, BNZ, Infratil, Newmont, Rio Tinto Aluminium NZ, Rymans, Telecom, Transpacific and Westpac. There are two finalists for the Accomplice Award – the Business Round Table, and the Auckland City Council and its officials (as part of the nomination of Transpacific Industries).

Telecom, the winner of the 2007 Roger Award, is the only transnational corporation (TNC) to have been a finalist every year since the Roger Award started a dozen years ago (although it has only actually won it twice). In 2009 it was nominated primarily for its shabby treatment of its phone technicians, whom it is forcing into becoming self-employed contractors who will have to carry the costs and risks previously borne by their employer when they were wage workers. Transpacific is the only one not to have featured before, at least not under that name. In recent years it bought out Waste Management which, under its previous owners, was a finalist one year. All the rest have previously been finalists (and BNZ and Westpac were joint winners in 2005). This tells you something about these corporate recidivists. In fact this is such a strong field that the defending champion, BAT (British American Tobacco NZ), which won the 2008 Roger, couldn’t even make the finalists.

ANZ was nominated very specifically for its role in the ING frozen funds scandal, which is a continuation from 2008, when it was also a finalist for the same reason. BNZ and Westpac are there for a variety of sins but first and foremost because they have been found guilty of massive tax avoidance in a case that Inland Revenue has brought against all four Australian-owned banks (ANZ and ASB are yet to have their day in court). The total amount of tax avoided is more than $2 billion. Infratil is there again, as it was in 2008, because of union bashing (specifically for locking out Auckland bus drivers by its NZ Bus subsidiary. Last year it was for NZ Bus locking out its Wellington workers. Do you detect a pattern emerging here?). Newmont Mining, which was last a finalist in 2003, is there for the same reason – the appalling impact of its gold mine which has left Waihi with a huge hole in the middle of town. Rio Tinto Aluminium (which is still better known by its former name, Comalco), the 2008 runner up, was nominated for a range of reasons, but primarily for being the biggest corporate bludger in NZ vis a vis its power price; and for the huge amount that the public will have to pay for every job at the Tiwai Point smelter because the Government is making taxpayers carry the burden of NZ’s carbon emissions, and pay for the biggest carbon emitter in the country. Rymans, which people mistakenly think of as being New Zealand-owned (the same mistake is made about Infratil), has been a finalist once before and for the same reason – it is a prime example of the for profit retirement home industry and it treats both workers and residents poorly. Transpacific was nominated for its takeover, aided and abetted by the Auckland City Council and its officials, of the excellent locally owned and run rubbish and recycling operation on Waiheke Island.

The criteria for judging are by assessing the transnational (a corporation which is 25% or more foreign-owned) that has the most negative impact in each or all of the following categories:

Economic Dominance - Monopoly, profiteering, tax dodging, cultural imperialism

People - Unemployment, impact on tangata whenua, impact on women, impact on children, abuse of workers/conditions, health and safety of workers and the public

Environment - Environmental damage, abuse of animals

Political interference – Interference in democratic processes, running an ideological crusade

The point needs to be made that the likes of Fonterra are not eligible for nomination (we always receive nominations for it and this year got more than usual). We have no doubt that there is a place for an award for the worst New Zealand owned transnational (of which Fonterra is the prime example) and even for the worst company in NZ (Fonterra would probably be a prime contender for that too). But the Roger Award is not the place for either of those. Nor is it the place to judge the worst transnational corporation in the world, although some nominators would have it so. It is for judging the worst TNC operating in NZ (and NZ alone) in the year in question. Some might criticise that as a narrow focus but it is a formula that has worked extremely well for the now very well established and credible Roger Award.

The judges are: Paul Corliss, from Christchurch, a life member of the Rail and Maritime Transport Union; Christine Dann, from Banks Peninsula, a writer and researcher; Bryan Gould, from Bay of Plenty, a former Waikato University Vice-Chancellor; Joce Jesson, a Senior Lecturer in Critical Studies in Education, University of Auckland and an activist in various community organisations; and Wayne Hope, Associate Professor, Communications Studies, Auckland University of Technology. The winner(s) will be announced at a Wellington event in March. The Roger Award is organised by the Christchurch-based groups, Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) and GATT Watchdog. Bad luck to all the finalists and may the worst man win!