Home > The Body Politic > “Spin me a brain exchange”, said Dear Leader!

“Spin me a brain exchange”, said Dear Leader!





This was one of National’s election hoardings in 2008,



National made a big deal of New Zealanders migrating to Australia. Essentially it became an election issue, with John Key painting  our population loss to Australia as a “vote of no confidence” in the incumbent Labour government.

As Key said,

The brain drain worries the hell out of me. I have no doubt we can kiss goodbye to at least half of you in the next five to 10 years.” – John Key, 31 May 2007

See: Business students host National Party leader

When the going gets this tough, is it any wonder that Kiwis look longingly at our Aussie cousins?  Our Aussie cousins, who get paid a third more than us for doing the same job.  Our Aussie cousins, who have been given a tax cut in every Budget for the past five years and who will continue to have their taxes cut for Budgets to come.

Too many Kiwis are looking at those stats and choosing to join their cousins across the ditch.  We have to give them better reasons to stay. ” – John Key, 29 January 2008

See: SPEECH: 2008: A Fresh Start for New Zealand

Key and the Nats made a nice little ‘song-and-dance’ about the brain-drain to Australia. They  pledged to voters  that, once elected, would set about enacting policies to encourage New Zealanders to stay and help build our economy.

So, how did it work out?





Hmmmm, it’s only been a year for Dear Leader and his cronies colleagues. Let’s be fair and give them more time…





Uh oh. Still not looking terribly ‘flash’, is it? Well, it’s only two years since the Tories were elected on a promise to engage with New Zealanders and create a country that, as Dear Leader Key said in January 2008, “we have to give them better reasons to stay“.

Maybe next year?

Let’s wait and see…






Oh well. Maybe next year?





Well, that seems to have flopped. Majorly flopped.

So what is National’s response to such an utter  failure of their policies? What new initiatives did Dear Leader and his well-paid, well-staffed Ministers come up with?

This is their master-stroke solution,



So this is National’s  ‘Plan B’? Instead of calling the mass exodus of New Zealanders a  “brain drain”; lamenting the loss of our “best and brightest”; National’s spin-doctors (paid out of yours and my taxes) have re-labelled the slow de-population of our nation as a “brain exchange”?!

Damn clever these spin-doctors, eh?

Just imagine; the re-spinning of all our social and economic problems can be overcome in precisely the same ‘clever’ way. Just slap something with a re-label, and hey, ‘bob’s-your-aunty’.

As Dear Leader Key tells us,

Yup, we started that debate, but the truth is our population has been rising. At the very minimum you could say it’s a ‘brain exchange’ because there’s quite a lot of bright people arriving into New Zealand.” – John Key, 7 October 2012


Except, it’s not ‘sorted’. Nowhere near ‘sorted’.

Key is correct; New Zealand’s population continues to “grow”. But only because the rest of the global human population is only too willing to migrate to New Zealand from various Third World nations; poverty-stricken societies; and hell-holes like Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, etc.

This blogger has no problem with immigrants – my own parents escaped from an Eastern European nation after the Red Army rampaged through the capital city, shooting and killing.

This blogger, does, however, have a problem with a Party that was elected to power on certain promises – and has failed spectacularly at every level to make good those promises.

It is my contention that New Zealanders have ‘jumped the ditch’ – not simply because of the lure of jobs and higher wages in Australia – but because, as a nation, we have failed to instill a sense of belonging in many of our young people.

Since the tsunami that was Rogernomics swept away many of our old values, and replaced our sense of nationhood with an odious philosophy of individualistic Me First, it is my contention that we have taught this generation to ‘follow the money’. Citizenship; a sense of belonging; and valuing and being valued,  is way down on a list of priorities for many folk. Or non-existant.

I share this with the reader,

A Victorian-based Kiwi with a student loan debt, who did not want to be named because he did not want to be found by the Government, said he did not intend to pay back any of his student loan.

The 37-year-old’s loan was about $18,000 when he left New Zealand in 1997. He expected it was now in the order of $50,000. The man was not worried about being caught as the Government did not have his details and he did not want to return to New Zealand.

“I would never live there anyway, I feel just like my whole generation were basically sold down the river by the government. I don’t feel connected at all, I don’t even care if the All Blacks win.

“I just realised it was futile living [in New Zealand] trying to pay student loans and not having any life, so I left. My missus had a student loan and she had quite a good degree and she had paid 99c off the principal of her loan after working three years”.

See: Student loan avoiders told to pay up

I offer this salient piece of advice to Dear Leader andf the National Party; if we expect committment from New Zealanders – then, as a nation, we must show committment to our young folk, and to each other.

That involves old fashioned concepts and values such as pride in our country. Not just our flag or rugby team or latest successful movie by Peter Jackson – but pride in a nation that invests in each citizen with universal, free education; food in schools programmes; decent housing; comprehensive free healthcare for our young people; fair wages sufficient to raise a family on;  everyone paying their taxes (no exceptions for capital gains, sorry),  and ensuring that no one is left behind.

Our Scandinavian cuzzies have achieved this model of society. Even we used to have something similar once upon a time.

Building a sense of nationhood, therefore,  is not about building personal fortunes or buying the latest consumer gadget.

After thirty years of experimenting with the doctrine of Individualistism and Me First, I think it’s fairly obvious that it has failed us. We may have state-of-the-art flatscreen TVs – but our kids are not watching them with us. They’re skyping us from Australia, or where-ever.

If we want a sense of nationhood, it cannot be purchased; imported; traded on the sharemarket; sold; or commodified. It is something deep and innate within us that has to be nurtured by a sense of belonging.

And judging by the exodus from these islands, you really have to ask yourself how strong that sense of belonging is, any more.

The final wave goodbye from many of our fellow Kiwis,






Exodus to Oz continues unabated (27 Feb 2009)

Kiwis move to Aussie in record numbers (29 Sept 2010)

Kiwi exodus to Australia nears record levels (23 Nov 2011)

Kiwis still flocking across Tasman (23 June 2012)

Key changes tack with ‘brain exchange’ tag (7 Oct 2012)



= fs =

  1. 8 October 2012 at 10:50 pm

    A very good thought provoking post Frank. If only Big Norm could rise from the grave.

    • 8 October 2012 at 11:09 pm

      Funny thing, Peter. I’m reading a book on Norman Kirk now, written by his secretary at the time. I wonder how the public would’ve taken a Kirk-led Labour Party vs a Key-led National Party???

  2. Taura
    8 October 2012 at 11:11 pm

    So…. How is it a brain exchange? Clever people leave, none come in return?

  3. Taura
    8 October 2012 at 11:18 pm

    Oh. Hang on. I do believe he misspoke. What he meant to say was ” go on. Get out. Then my banking masters can come and destroy your lands with impunity”

    • 8 October 2012 at 11:22 pm

      Taura – I guess if NZ is de-populated, it’s easier to sell the country as “untenanted”..

      • Taura
        8 October 2012 at 11:27 pm

        Yep. Then they can truly say no one owns it

  4. 8 October 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Great advice Frank, we can but hope they might head it. Somehow I don’t think they see the same big picture we do though.

  5. Murray Olsen
    9 October 2012 at 12:29 am

    Big Norm wouldn’t get a word in with the Labour Party of today. He might even have joined Hone in Mana.

    • 9 October 2012 at 2:25 pm

      You may be right, Murray. Today’s creature is light years removed from the Labour Party of the 1970s…

  6. Dv
    9 October 2012 at 12:49 am

    >>So this is National’s ‘Plan B’?
    Major flaw in the argument Frank. To have a plan B they had to have a plan A!!!
    That is trouble with building a ‘plan’ around sound bites. They eventually bite —- in your bum!

  7. Priss
    10 October 2012 at 10:07 am

    Frank, people aren’t stupid. More and more I’m hearing National voters muttering in disgust at what their prime minister is doing. At least one Nat supporter said to me he’ll never vote for Key again.

    I guess if you treat people as stupid they’ll eventually turn off and look elsewhere for answers.

  8. HawP
    10 October 2012 at 11:15 am

    Count me in as a FORMER National Party voter.

    Never again.

  1. 13 August 2016 at 10:23 am
  2. 18 August 2016 at 8:01 am

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