Home > Dollars & Sense, The Body Politic > Is this man a complete fool?

Is this man a complete fool?

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5 July 2010

As a general and broader principle I think New Zealanders should be concerned if we sell huge tracts of our productive land.

“Now, that’s a challenging issue given the state of the current law and quite clearly it’s evidentially possible and has been achieved that individual farms can be sold. Looking four, five, ten years into the future I’d hate to see New Zealanders as tenants in their own country and that is a risk I think if we sell out our entire productive base, so that’s something the Government will have to consider.” – John Key

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26 January 2012

What ministers are looking at is: Does the bid by this Chinese entity meet the regulations. If it does, they have no grounds to turn it down because if they do turn it down, then they would be subject to judicial review and they would almost certainly lose.”

“If we saw a significant buy up of New Zealand farms then the Government’s response would likely be to further toughen the regulations or the Overseas Investment Act. But at this point, we’re not really seeing that.”

A deal between Pengxin and Landcorp “could be” a good commercial proposition for the state-owned company. – John Key

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It appears that the John Key of July 2010 is not the same John Key of January 2012. Somewhere along the way, aliens have abducted the 2010 John Key and replaced him with a doppelganger. Dang dastardly, these aliens. (Please take away that damned  clone. And you can keep the original.)

The following story is full of “Keyisms” – half-truths, mis-representations, and fudging the issue,

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Full Story

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Some of his statements are breath-taking in “bending” the truth,

Prime Minister John Key says he would not have a problem with state-owned Landcorp running the 16 Crafar farms under Chinese ownership. That would “not necessarily” be a case of New Zealanders becoming “tenants in their own land”, he said.”

Whut?!

Prime Minister, the definition of “tenant farmer” is as follows,

A tenant farmer is one who resides on and farms land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management; while tenant farmers contribute their labor along with at times varying amounts of capital and management.” – Wikipedia

Ergo; if Shanghai-Pengxin (or any other foreign investor) owns the land, and Landcorp works the land – then Landcorp is a tenant farmer.

Is there any part of that simple truism that escapes our Prime Minister?

If so, I can ask some school children to draw him some pretty pictures in coloured crayons, a-la “Seven Days“.

John Key then says,

He “had a feeling of what might happen”. “

Yeah. I bet he does.

Key goes on,

“The Government is not in one sense the arbiter of the decision about yes or no for foreign ownership of the existing Crafar Farms – that is a recommendation from the Overseas Investment Office. What the Government’s role is to determine whether the Overseas Investment Office followed the law properly,” Key said. “

To maintain the rural theme of this blog-piece: Bovine excrement!

The OIO’s rules are crystal clear,

Estimated decision times

There is no statutory timeframe within which an application for consent must be decided. However applications generally fall into one of three categories according to complexity with category 3 being the most complex. These categories provide a guide for how long it may take for a decision to be made:

  • Category 1 applications, where the OIO aims to make decisions within 30 working days from the date of registration. Examples include:  (a) applications for consent to purchase significant business assets,
    (b) “sensitive land” decisions delegated to the OIO by Ministers that don’t fall into the categories below,
    (c) variations to existing consents
  • Category 2 applications where the OIO aims to make decisions within 50 working days from the date of registration.  Examples include:  (a) “sensitive land” applications for consent requiring Ministerial consideration e.g. the purchase non-urban land greater than five hectares in size, where it includes or adjoins other sensitive land, such as conservation land, reserves etc
    (b) applications for exemptions.
  • Category 3 applications, where the OIO aims to make decisions within 70 working days from the date of the registration.  Examples include:  (a) applications to acquire an interest in fishing quota,
    (b) applications that involve special land being land that includes foreshore or the bed of a river or lake,
    (c) where the applicant intends to establish a purchasing programme such as a series of land acquisitions in a specific area for a specific project,
    (d) applications in respect of which a third party submission has been received by the Ministers or the OIO,
    (e) applications where the Ministers or the OIO have decided that consultation with third parties is appropriate in considering whether or not to grant consent.

Note that these targets apply to high quality, well prepared and analysed applications, and excludes the time where the OIO is waiting for the applicant to provide further information and the time for Ministers to consider and make decisions on relevant applications.

Source

So John Key is trying to pull a fast one in attempting to evade responsibility for any decision making on this issue.

Applications for “sensitive land” requires ministerial consent. It’s there, in black and white (and highlighted in red). If Key doesn’t understand the workings of the OIO, he has no business being Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Key waffles on,

“What ministers are looking at is: Does the bid by this Chinese entity meet the regulations. If it does, they have no grounds to turn it down because if they do turn it down, then they would be subject to judicial review and they would almost certainly lose.”

No, Prime Minister. Parliament is sovereign. Parliament makes the rules – not our Chinese (or American or Australian or German) cuzzies.

If we don’t want to sell our land – we don’t have to. Just as the Chinese Government has the ‘smarts‘ to have precisely the same laws in place in their country.

If you are telling us that we have lost control over the sale of our own land, to a foreign power, then we are in serious trouble,  Mr Prime Minister.

The Government had spent “a long time tightening up the law” around foreign ownership of land.”

Has it? Has it really?! Because I’ve emailed the government on precisely this issue and have yet to receive a reply of any description.

There is no indication whatsoever that this government has “tightened” any aspect of “foreign ownership of land”. (Except in JohnKeyland.)

Labour had negotiated the free trade agreement with China, which had given the Chinese the same rights to invest in New Zealand as the British, American, German or Australian investment.

In which case, Mr Prime Minister, why are the Chinese able to deny foreigners from buying land in China?

We cannot say we are not going to accept a bid because someone is Chinese. We can say it’s because they don’t meet certain regulations and conditions in the Overseas Investment Act but we can’t say it’s because they’re Chinese.”

Which is why many critics are also opposed to German, American, Australian, etc, buyers of our farmland. The German buy-up of Southland is also cause for concern.

We always have the power to disagree with the Overseas Investment Office but we couldn’t disagree because we don’t like the ethnicity of a buyer. We’d have to say it doesn’t meet these regulations or these terms.”

There was “a degree of subjectivity” in the tests but it was “for the most part, pretty clear cut“.”

There are plenty of reasons why Government can decline an application. Economic. Social. Environmental. Ethnicity is a straw-man argument which only John Key seems to be dredging up.

“If we saw a significant buy up of New Zealand farms then the Government’s response would likely be to further toughen the regulations or the Overseas Investment Act. But at this point, we’re not really seeing that.”

The sale of the Crafar Farms was “a significant transaction in terms of a one-off purchase” but in the overall context, it was not.”

One wonders what constitutes “a significant buy up of New Zealand farms“? Any sensible person would look at sixteen farms as being fairly significant.

If not – what is “significant”? 17 farms? 20? 50? Half the country?

A deal between Pengxin and Landcorp “could be” a good commercial proposition for the state-owned company.

With that stastement, John Key has just made a complete 180-degree ‘flip flop’, from decrying being a tenant in our own country – to being a “good commercial proposition”.

This is the man who is our Prime Minister. One who changes his values and position on issues, to suit circumstances and monetary gain. The term “amoral” only barely describes a politician of Key’s nature.

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