In May the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) wrote to the Overseas Investment Office: “In light of the recent finding by a British Parliament Select Committee that Rupert Murdoch is “not fit” to lead a major international company, and in light of the fact that Murdoch’s News Ltd owns 43.65% of the shares of Sky Network Television Ltd, when is the OIO going to review, in terms of the Overseas Investment Act and accompanying Regulations, whether all of those in control of Sky are of good character and, if not, require Sky either to divest or Rupert Murdoch to relinquish any control of News Ltd?”.
This week we received the OIO’s considered decision from Annelies McClure, OIO Manager. Basically it boils down to saying that the OIO is not bothered about a British Parliament cross-party Select Committee finding that Murdoch is not fit to lead a major international company. The most extraordinary reason given for the OIO being satisfied with the “good character” of Murdoch and the other individuals exercising control over News Corporation is that he and they told the OIO that they are of good character, in the form of statutory declarations to that effect. In other words, the OIO takes his and their word for it, with no independent checking required. What a bloody joke!
CAFCA has documented the OIO’s long history of going to extraordinary lengths to rubberstamp the “good character” of all sorts of dubious characters in control of overseas companies whom it approved.
OIO’s Rupert Murdoch decision is just the latest proof of its role as a ... doormat
It was a hopeful sign that the OIO, backed by Ministers, turned down the original bid by Natural Dairy (fronted by May Wang) to buy the Crafar Farms, because it wasn’t satisfied as to the good character of the people involved. CAFCA is also very pleased that the OIO has, very belatedly, taken our advice and is taking court action to divest May Wang’s company UBNZ of the four Crafar Farms that it bought without OIO permission in 2010. But this is the only case we’ve ever seen where the OIO has actually declared prospective foreign investors to not be of good character and therefore ineligible to join the garage sale that passes for foreign investment policy in this country.
The OIO’s Rupert Murdoch decision is just the latest proof of its role as a doorman (actually a doormat would be more accurate) for the transnational corporations and overseas individuals inexorably buying up, and profiting from, New Zealand companies and land. What we need is a bouncer. And, more fundamentally, we need a foreign investment law with teeth, one that states that these people are guests in our home and are here on our terms, a law that needs to be backed up by politicians who put the national interest ahead of their starry eyed infatuation with “globalisation and the open economy