Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 

Overseas Investment Laws and Policies

BRIEFING NOTES FOR GREEN PARTY CAUCUS 14/3/OO

- Murray Horton of CAFCA

Overseas Investment Laws and Policies

Firstly, we congratulate the Greens on having articulated a progressive policy on foreign control, as outlined in your booklet “Thinking Beyond Tomorrow”.

There have been a number of Overseas Investment Amendment Acts, Regulations and Ministerial instructions given to the Overseas Investment Commission (OIC) since its creation in 1973. Their cumulative effect has been to weaken any form of effective controls and oversight. For instance, “national interest” is no longer a factor to be considered in approving foreign investment, except that involving land or fishing quota. Detailed analyses of several of these Acts are available from CAFCA (NB: these submissions date back several years, and often do not cover the final versions of these Acts).

You could call for a freeze of, and an inquiry into, the whole body of laws that directly cover foreign investment. There are a raft of secondary laws to back them up, such as various tax measures.

Just before the 1999 election, the threshold at which OIC consent is required was increased from $10m to $50m. This needs to be drastically scaled back – in 1973, it was $500,000; then $2m; David Caygill increased it to $10m.

The OIC – we believe that it needs to be shaken up, subject to the same sort of scrutiny as WINZ or TVNZ. It needs new appointments, maybe new permanent staff, and a new emphasis – ie scrutinising carefully, and regulating, foreign investors, with the facilities, staff and political will to do follow up investigations and enforcement. Even under existing laws, especially those relating to land and fishing quota, there is a lot more it could do, other than be a rubber stamp. The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the actual workings of the OIC (as opposed to its official information function). There is no effective oversight of the OIC itself. There is no role for public submissions or consultations.



A detail of the Greens own policy needs correcting. According to the Press (10/12/99), your policy says: “Companies which are more than 49% overseas owned should not be allowed to own land here”. Since the original 1973 Overseas Investment Act, the legal definition of overseas ownership has been anything above 24.9%. You need to get your policy into line with what has been law for nearly 30 years.

Specific things that the Greens can do:

- Act on CAFCA’s call for a Select Committee Inquiry into, and the seizure of, the NZ assets of the Suharto family and cronies. Such an inquiry would focus public attention on the “good character” or lack thereof of foreign investors approved by the OIC.

- Toughen up the “good character” requirement that the OIC currently rubberstamps. Insist that the OIC actually investigate it. Look to US states which have “bad boy” laws governing whether or not they will allow corporations to invest there. “Thinking Beyond Tomorrow’s” insistence that land ownership remain with NZ citizens or permanent residents fits squarely with this. Enforce rigorously the existing national interest criteria: require evidence of claims, change balance of proof for approval (currently “criteria applications must meet should be interpreted in a manner which facilitates rather than impedes investment” and “proposals that satisfy the investment criteria should be approved unless good reason exists to refuse them” – letters from Birch and Luxton to Chairman of OIC, 3/3/99).

- Actively support the annual Roger Award for the Worst Transnational Corporation in NZ. The 2000 Award will be announced in Wellington (in early 2001). Think about one of your MPs being a judge/guest speaker at the announcement. Get the announcement made at or in Parliament. Help publicise it.

- “Thinking Beyond Tomorrow” says: “We support the international move for a charter of responsibilities for international investors”. CAFCA offers its Corporate Code of Responsibility as a working model. This is an excellent basis for new, toughened laws regulating foreign investors in NZ. It should also apply to contracts accepted by central and local government.

There are a number of other areas which need specific legislative attention:

- the ownership provisions of the 1996 Fisheries Act need to be brought into force. - local ownership/control of Air New Zealand needs to be enforced. - restrictions on overseas ownership of NZ news media need to be restored. - the 1998 Electricity Reform Act had a devastating impact on local control of electricity supply

Underpinning all this is the need for information – the 1982 Official Information Act and its various amendments need attention. For example, it hasn’t kept pace with the corporatisation revolution – whole sectors have disappeared from its purview; it has a prohibitive scale of charges, especially for electronic media such as floppy disc; the balance of public interest for disclosure has too little weight.

You can help us. The Greens can shed light on the subject by asking Questions under privilege – once or twice, in recent years, the libel laws have prevented us and the media pursuing specific foreign investment projects.

International trade agreements – CAFCA and GATT Watchdog hold volumes of detailed information on GATT/WTO/APEC. We call for a total freeze on all NZ’ s international trade agreements, while a thoroughgoing review and public consultation is held on our nation’s involvement in “free trade”. We need an independent cost/benefit analysis of the practical effects of “free trade” on New Zealand. We absolutely don’t need yet more trade pacts with the likes of Singapore, ASEAN or the US. The slogan at the WTO’s Seattle Millennium Round protests was: “No New Round, Turn Around”.

The Greens need to emphasise the environmental disadvantages of WTO membership and “free trade” in general.

You need to formulate policies that would deal with problems such as there being no tariffs in place to protect proposed new regional development.

The previous Government made specific commitments to APEC under NZ’s Individual Action Plan – eg that ACC would be privatised and SOEs continue to be sold. The present Government needs to be pressed into revealing what are its IAP commitments to APEC.

Labour needs to be reminded of its election promises that run foul of various international commitments – the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), for instance, restricts things such as the proposed Industrial Development Policy and NZ quotas in broadcasting; both WTO and CER severely constrain safe food policies.

The above are the laws and policies that directly relate to foreign investment and globalisation. There’s a whole plethora that indirectly relate, being aimed at “making the NZ economy attractive to foreign investment” – the Employment Contracts Act is but one. Think of any area of social policy and you’ll run into that mantra.

Above all, we need you to speak out and say that the WTO is bad for the world and open foreign investment solves nothing. You can be very influential in changing the climate of opinion on these matters, to break down the consensus of silence.

Regarding the SIS, which as been given a whole new brief to investigate opponents of the prevailing economic orthodoxy, we recommend that it be scrapped; that the GCSB be abolished and its Tangimoana and Waihopai spybases be closed; that NZ quit the covert UKUSA Agreement which dictates our junior membership in the Cold War Western intelligence club; and that Christchurch Airport, the site of an American military base since the 1950s, be demilitarised.

We are happy to supply considerably more detailed material on all of the areas on which we’ve briefly touched.

------------------------

CAFCA Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa PO Box 2258, Christchurch email: cafca@chch.planet.org.nz


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On Sir Michael Cullen’s Tax Reform

To ordinary wage and salary earners who (a) watch a slice of their gross income being taxed every week via PAYE and who also (b) pay GST on every single thing they buy, there has been something quite surreal about the centre-right’s angry and anguished reactions to the Tax Working Group’s final report... More>>

 
 

89 Cents An Hour: Govt Plans Fix For Minimum Wage For People With Disabilities

IHC is delighted that the Government is looking into replacing the Minimum Wage Exemption (MWE) with a wage supplement to ensure people with disabilities are paid at least the minimum wage. More>>

ALSO:

Te Waihanga: New Independent Commission To Tackle Infrastructure Issues

The New Zealand Infrastructure Commission – Te Waihanga – will be established as an Autonomous Crown Entity to carry out two broad functions – strategy and planning and procurement and delivery support. More>>

ALSO:

Auckland Action Against Poverty: Motels Profit From Housing Crisis

A single motel which charges up to $1,500 per week per room has received over $3 million worth of Government funds to provide emergency assistance, despite never having a Code Compliance Certificate – an offence under the Building Act – and receiving a series of longstanding complaints from occupants... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Alleged China Relations Crisis

If New Zealand’s relations with China are ‘deteriorating’ then you still need a microscope to detect the signs... More>>

ALSO:

Environment: Government To End Tenure Review

“Tenure review has resulted in parcels of land being added to the conservation estate, but it has also resulted in more intensive farming and subdivision on the 353,000 ha of land which has been freeholded. This contributed to major landscape change and loss of habitat for native plants and animals,” said Eugenie Sage. More>>

ALSO:

Bell Tolls: Big Changes, Grand Mergers Planned For Vocational Training

“At a time when we’re facing critical skill shortages, too many of our polytechnics and institutes of technology are going broke... More>>

ALSO:

Sallies' State Of The Nation: Progress Stalled In Reducing Inequality

The report shows a lack of tangible progress in key areas including record levels of household debt and a growing gap in educational achievement between poorer and more well off communities. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • PARLIAMENT
  • POLITICS
  • REGIONAL
 
 

InfoPages News Channels