Maybe favouring NZ businesses isn't quite so crazy as theory suggests.

In the shadow of high-level dudgeon among the political heavyweights, this week I focused my energies on interviewing some of the lesser luminaries of the election race.

I met people who do not have the benefit of glitzy marketing campaigns or ruthlessly efficient right-wing cabals. But they believe with such passion in radically transformative ideas that they subject themselves to the rigours of the candidate selection process - all with little hope of more than a handful of votes apiece.

Read also:
Dita De Boni: Capital can build people too
Dita De Boni: Privatisation triumphs again

In Nelson, Richard Osmaston of the Money Free Party believes we live in such plentiful times that everything should be free; Independent Amanda Vickers in Otaki believes we shouldn't outsource the creation of money to private concerns (banks) and won't rest until our monetary system is reformed; and in Maungakiekie, Felicity Coggan (Communist League) has been a communist for the past three decades, never wavering in her belief that working people will one day move towards revolution and an overthrow of the capitalist system.


It is easy to write off such people as kooks. But it's harder to do that when meeting them face to face, as they are all intelligent, empathetic people.

And really, are they any more deluded than the various Dirty Politics players? Are their ideas more nutty than the insistent mantra that the global marketplace will provide the solution to all and every problem facing the world?

As just one example, the former Labour and current National governments have endorsed foreign concerns owning and operating our vital infrastructure, all in the interests of free trade. In some cases it works; in others, it's just a cost to industries and the public. Poor, unloved KiwiRail is an example of the latter. The company has just posted an almost $250 million loss, attributed in part to "crippling" write-downs in the value of its assets.

Those are assets that could have been maintained locally, but (short term) cost containment saw everything "offshored" with woeful results - European ferries fell apart and couldn't be fixed in Singapore, Chinese-built carriages were found to contain asbestos, and some trains from Korea had questionable brakes. Those are all problems that feed into a downward spiral for the company - a trajectory that could have been reversed had there been any political will to "favour" domestic suppliers.

Novopay is another example: a system that required overhaul, but seemingly no local company was considered good enough to provide the solution. Four foreign bidders were shortlisted. The winner? An Australian company that promised the earth on the smell of an oily rag, with an inevitable inability to produce the promised product.

The Novopay debacle is particularly galling when you consider that a company based on the North Shore, AMS, has been doing complicated payroll management work for decades, with an entirely local workforce and plenty of glowing testimonials, but didn't make the shortlist.

AMS has, in fact, been quietly paying half the public health workforce - about 40,000 people - for the past two decades. It's the largest payroll in the country - exceeding public education by $1 billion - and with thousands of iterations of pay. A provider that is already doing the work, and based on our back doorstep. Perhaps it wasn't flashy enough.

Analyses by Treasury itself seem to indicate that good local providers are every bit as cost effective as well-marketed offshore applicants; how sad that we don't allow ourselves to follow common sense and maintain sovereignty over our suppliers. Perhaps we have been listening too long to the logic of lobbyists thrust into our commentary by an effective right-wing cabal.