Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

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

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: January 26

The debate on the future ownership of Crafar Farms is growing heated. Photo / Christine Cornege
The debate on the future ownership of Crafar Farms is growing heated. Photo / Christine Cornege

Being 'tenants in our own land' was a good campaigning line for John Key last year, but he may get sick of being quoted on it very soon. It seems that appeals to xenophobia and patriotism are now increasingly used as an electoral tool by all shades of politicians.

David Shearer is just the latest to play that card in the chase for popularity. Certainly Duncan Garner praises David Shearer for taking the Government to task over a 'sensitive and politically difficult' issue (see: Crafar farms must stay in NZ hands - Shearer), but being seen to support Michael Fay buying up strategic assets may not be the fresh look for Labour that Shearer is after.

With the final decision on the Shanghai Pengxin bid for the Crafar farms looking imminent, there is plenty of debate on the political implications. John Hartevelt has a good summary of the possible outcomes - see: Crunch time in Crafar farms saga. In an earlier article Hartevelt says the Government has no real choice but to accept the Chinese offer if it meets the OIO criteria, as it has made a big deal of beefing up the regulations and the whole Crafar saga has dragged on far too long - see: What to do with the Crafar Farms?

It's a no brainer according to David Farrar and Fran O'Sullivan. Farrar makes the point that if the Chinese bid was rejected and Michael Fay was successful, he could turn around in a few months and sell the farms one by one overseas pocketing the $40 million they would have saved on their lower bid - see: The Fay strategy.

As Fran O'Sullivan pointed out yesterday, Michael Fay has long used patriotic sentiment to enhance his business dealings with government: 'It's all part of the carefully orchestrated "patriotic" campaign that Fay is spearheading to wrest the ownership of the Crafar farms his way. But it will be interesting to see whether Fay - who spent a good deal of time out of New Zealand as a tax exile in Switzerland - still carries the sway he used to enjoy with previous Governments.'

John Pagani has an alternative solution - the publicly owned Landcorp is already managing the farms and could purchase the assets itself - see: Keep the Crafar farms in NZ hands. Pagani makes the point that the reason that New Zealand has to sell land is part of a vicious circle of foreign investment that sees far more profits flow offshore than flow back. The Pagani proposal would actually be an excellent fit for Labour, tapping public concern on foreign ownership of land and it's policy of public ownership of strategic assets. According to John Hartevelt, he Chinese bid appears to be dependent on Landcorp managing the farms, and the state owned company has the power to at least create an opportunity to bid themselves by scuppering the Chinese proposal.

Today has seen the latest instalment of the Teapot Tapes saga - with the online release of a rogue audio version of the recording. Fairfax has confirmed the authenticity of the recording, and suggests that its release has been planned 'to coincide with Key's first major speech of the year in Auckland this morning'. Key's actual speech has confirmed that the public already suspected: that his government is going to struggle to return its finances to surplus by 2014-15 - see: Govt plans for return to surplus on a knife edge. Related to this, Brian Fallow reports on a Treasury analysis showing that there doesn't seem to be any real gain to be made by taxpayers with National's partial privatisation plans. He says 'It's a lot of trouble just to ensure some New Zealanders own more of these enterprises, while the rest own less' - see: SOE sale solution in search of a problem.

In other news, the remnants of the Auckland Occupy protest have been evicted from Aotea Square this morning - see: Twenty arrests as Occupy tents removed. TV3 has footage of the chaotic scenes.

Finally, David Farrar has blogged the third installment of his series analysing split voting at the 2011 election - see: National candidates picking up Green voters. You can find the first two posts here and here.

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Bryce Edwards

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

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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