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Govt saves the facade - but sells-off the building

Govt saves the façade - but sells-off
the building and the business

The Green Party is accusing Finance Minister Michael Cullen of a giant con job in the way he's portraying the "first principles" review of the Overseas Investment Act announced today.

"Today's announcement has very little to do with keeping our land and sovereignty in New Zealand hands and everything to do with chasing after that elusive free trade deal with Washington," Green Co-leader Rod Donald said.

"Make no mistake: we want greater protection from overseas ownership for 'iconic' sites of historical, cultural or environmental interest. In fact, this was one of a raft of recommendations from Green and Government members of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, more than two years ago.

"This, however, is now being used as a smokescreen to mask the Government's real agenda: lifting the restrictions on overseas investors gobbling-up New Zealand companies by removing consideration of such purchases from the Overseas Investment Commission (OIC).

"Is it just a coincidence that one of the major demands from our trading partners during the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations was to scrap the OIC, allowing foreign firms and individuals unrestricted access to New Zealand property and businesses?

"Or is it a coincidence that one of the very first US free trade deal demands on Australia was to 'reduce or eliminate' restrictions on overseas investment in Australia?

"The OIC has turned down just two per cent of overseas investment applications over the last five years, but the fact that it has been so ineffective at keeping foreign hands off our silverware is all the more reason for tightening the rules on foreign investment, not for allowing a free-for-all.

"Foreign investors aren't coming here because they like the culture," said Rod Donald. "They like the profits they can make and take away, without any regard to the well being of their workers, the community, the environment - or our current account deficit.

"If foreign ownership of TranzRail was such a good idea, why did the Government have to buy it back?"

ENDS

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