Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Political round-up: Farmland and foreign investment

Shane Jones.  Photo / Ross Setford
Shane Jones. Photo / Ross Setford

Does communism have the answer to New Zealand's dilemma over foreign investment in farmland? A New Zealand businessman in China made a suggestion over the weekend that the New Zealand Government should adopt the Chinese policy of leaseholding farm land instead of selling it read the transcript of the Q + A interview with David Mahon here or watch the interview here. This idea has even gained the support of the anti-Crafar sale group, Save the Farms. See: Businessman wants NZ land leased, not sold.

The idea is also endorsed by Tim Watkin in his blogpost, Foreign ownership - time to learn from other countries. After surveying how a number of other countries deal with the issue of foreign investment in farmland, Watkin concludes that nationalisation and leasehold albeit with farms acquired via the market might be 'a middle-ground between the rubber-stamping the Overseas Investment Office currently engages in and the complete ban the Greens and New Zealand First support'.

But in terms of the immediate question of whether the National Government should sell the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin, Watkin says, 'Of course it should; and it will. As the law stands, it's right and proper'.

The David Mahon interview was also useful for the refutation of the common objection to the Crafar sale that says we should not sell land to Chinese investors, because the Chinese Government doesn't allow New Zealand investors to buy land there. Mahon explained that, in fact, the Chinese Government doesn't allow anyone to buy land. Another misconception put to rest is the idea that we risk becoming 'tenants in our own land'.

As I explained on Q + A, this is a ridiculous slogan because, in terms of productive assets, New Zealanders are already 'tenants in our own country' in that something like 99 per cent of us don't own significant business assets. See the transcript of the panel discussion on David Mahon interview here.

There's a continued focus today on the relationship between money and politics, with the release by the Electoral Commission of the 2011 election candidate donation disclosures (very well covered by Claire Trevett's article, Who bankrolled MPs' campaigns). The most interesting disclosures appear to involve Pita Sharples and Shane Jones.

Joshua Hitchcock asks further questions about these in his blogpost, Campaign Donations Revealed, especially this one: 'First, why did Sealord Group donate $10,000 to Shane Jones' failed Tamaki Makaurau campaign? Shane Jones is the former Chair of Te Ohu Kai Moana, the same organisation which owns 50 per cent of Sealord and is responsible for managing Maori fisheries on behalf of, and in conjunction with, Iwi. It is not a good look for the commercial arm of Te Ohu Kai Moana to be getting involved in Maori politics. The Labour Party have been busy accusing the Government of cronyism these past few months, it is an inconsistent argument to run when Shane Jones is taking money from his former commercial and professional mates running Sealord and Te Ohu Kai Moana'.

Money, politics, and influence are also being discussed in relation to Green MP Holly Walker's private members bill that seeks to regulate lobbyists - see Kate Chapman's Greens' bill rips veil off lobbying and Claire Trevett's Long time lobbyist lobbies against lobby law.

It's an apt debate at a time of heightened discussion about cronyism, especially with regard to the Government's proposed SkyCity casino deal. Fran O'Sullivan is particularly scathing of this deal in her column, SkyCity centre deal smacks of cronyism . Not only does she say that the deal with SkyCity 'verges on being immoral and smacks of crony capitalism', she adds that it is a 'sweetheart deal', 'iniquitous', and that it amounts to 'cheque-book legislation'. Blogger Cathy Odgers has written a series of posts in response to this vein of criticism see: SkyCity PR Inept - Bring on the SBW! Part I , Part II, and Part III .

The Greens are obviously benefiting from leading the opposition to issues such as the SkyCity deal, the Crafar farm sale, and even the ACC scandal. The latest Roy Morgan opinion poll puts the party on a remarkable 17 per cent support (their 5 per cent increase possibly being related to the 5 per cent loss by National) and this is discussed by John Hartevelt in Greens thriving despite lack of influence on Nats. He suggests that the party is now shifting in a more radical direction, especially with the arrival of ex-Alliance cabinet minister Laila Harre as the Greens' Auckland leader.

Similarly, Chris Trotter sees the employment of Harre as very significant, see: Harre move lays down Greens' test for Labour. The consensus seems to be that Harre will push the Greens leftward, and this will increase the pressure on Labour in the competition for traditional working class voters. This is an argument that Matt McCarten also makes in his column, Labour losing sight of its working class roots, and he warns Labour that it could become eclipsed by this party on the rise.

Meanwhile the plight of the National Party is discussed in John Roughan's column, National defies the pundits, as well as in The Nation's examination of the shake-up within National video. National's rising star, Simon Bridges, is profiled in Audrey Young's Young, bright and aiming for the top and The Nation's Political star Simon Bridges discusses his future.

The state sector and the Government's reforms are in the news a lot at the moment and are the subject of analysis by John Armstrong (Commission fiddles while its cred burn;), Tracy Watkins (A very serious state of affairs;), and Keith Ng (Some of My Best Friends are Consultants;).

Armstrong says that the State Services Commission has become more of a lapdog than a watchdog, Watkins has a detailed discussion of Murray McCully and the Mfat reforms, and Ng discusses the role of consultants in the reform process. The following items also reflect the degree of scrutiny being applied to the state sector: Claire Trevett's State house agency spends big on travel, John Hartevelt's Thousands spent on whanau gatherings, and Neil Reid's MPs question top-heavy pay scale at TVNZ.

Other important or interesting political items today include the following:

Kate Chapman reports that Labour's private member bill to extend paid parental leave might have a parliamentary majority in Government on the spot with parental leave.

David Beatson calls for a debate, and clarity, over the future of public service television in Putting the Public Service TV Pot back on the boil.

The latest on the Affco industrial dispute is detailed in James Ihaka and Simon Collins' Meatworkers in lockout battle.

The situation of Christchurch's red-zone refuseniks is examined in Ben Heather's Red-zoners in dire straits families.

Colin James asks whether, post-global financial crisis, capitalism and capitalists can have a moral purpose see: Companies, grow some fit morals.

The New Zealand Herald has compiled their list of NZ's Twitter top 50 see: Part I and Part II.

Politico tweeps include: Claire Trevett (@CTrevettNZH), Patrick Gower (@patrickgowernz), Felix Marwick (@felixmarwick), Gareth Morgan (@garethmorgannz), Toby Manhire (@toby-etc), David Slack (@DavidSlack), John Campbell (@JohnJCampbell), Liam Dann (@liamdann), and Robyn Malcolm (@robynmalcolm).

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 20 Dec 2014 13:41:05 Processing Time: 394ms