by Don Franks

“What we need is an outright ban on foreigners owning land or houses in New Zealand, a tough capital gains tax to drive local speculators and investors out of the housing market and a massive state house building programme to meet the housing quality and affordability crisis where it’s having its most devastating impact – on low income New Zealand tenants and families”.

propertyThe author of the above is long-serving left activist John Minto, writing in The Daily Blog on July 13th “National playing the reverse card on housing”.

I think John is wrong here and his main proposition, actioned, can cause workers nothing but trouble.

I don’t have a problem with John’s second and third points – although, frankly, this side of a socialist revolution they’re just rhetoric.

“Driving local speculators and investors out of the housing market” has a nice Jesus cleansing the temple ring, but so long as private property is lawful, capitalists will be capitalists.

A massive state house building programme for low-income families sounds worthy and decent, but which builder will sign up for it while better returns are to be made housing the super rich?

Still, John’s two points are valid visions for a progressive future, his first one is not.


“What we need is an outright ban on foreigners owning land or houses in New Zealand”


Well, presumably, because if a foreigner gets to own a piece of land or a house in New Zealand, then New Zealanders are deprived of those items.

People who were born here, or have become New Zealand citizens, become disadvantaged. Surely that’s unfair?

Not in my book. The notion that you have some claim on particular bits of the earth because you were born near them has some popularity, but no logic.

Our times and places of birth are accidents, no more worthy of entitlement than the feudal divine right of kings.

The achievement of New Zealand citizenship merely means a person has managed to get their card stamped by the capitalist state, not very difficult if you have enough means to grease the wheels.

Which is what the debate really should be about.

The only people, foreigners or kiwi, able to own land or houses anywhere are those with enough money. There are bona fide New Zealand citizens owning more land than they can ever work and more houses than they can ever occupy. There are hard-working illegal immigrants who will never own more than a change of clothes. What really divides people is riches and poverty.

That division is easier to see when poor people are standing up for  themselves in big numbers.

In New Zealand today, successive governments have whittled the union movement down and gross inequality has become widely socially acceptable.

In such a crazy political climate, shadows can sometimes look real.

  1. Phil F says:

    John, unfortunately, made a similar point in a TV debate in the run-up to last year’s election. Representing the Mana Party, he reckoned immigration was a key factor in driving up house prices in Auckland. Winston Peters must have been pleased.

    This kind of stuff points up the fact that we have almost no consistently anti-capitalist left in this country. We have an anti-National Party left and a nationalist-left but not an anti-capitalist left of any significance.

    It should not be hard for the left to point out that what is driving house prices up is a shortage of housing, which is due to both the government not building houses and to capitalist businesses (landlords, speculators and construction companies). For instance, as Don says, companies prefer to build houses for the rich than for the rest of us.

    Unfortunately, it seems really, really hard for most of the left to point out this simple, straightforward *anti-capitalist* argument. Instead they play the NZ nationalist card, which simply serves to hold back the development of class consciousness and divide workers along ethnic and national lines.

    It’s especially unfortunate when someone like John Minto makes this argument because he has a good reputation – for good reasons – and that serves to legitimise people with awful records on workers’ rights who are nationalists and simply anti-Chinese.

    All more evidence that we need a *new left*, an anti-capitalist left, one which is based on the class interests of workers, the development of class consciousness and an internationalist perspective.


    • Thomas R says:

      I’m not so sure Phil, arguments about housing made from actual anti-capitalist perspectives have been articulated a bit this year – though admittedly with less of a readership than The Daily Blog sadly.

      Very true that Nationalism on the NZ Left seems to be more and more prominent these days, or I’m just feeling more attuned to recognise it perhaps.

      • Phil says:

        You’ll notice I said “most of the left”. There always have been people on the revolutionary left who challenge NZ nationalism and anti-Chinese racism.

        In terms of the soft left, I had an interesting experience on The Standard blog last week. I mentioned the anti-Chinese racism of the early Labour Party and Savage’s concern about NZ becoming a ‘piebald nation’.

        Very quickly chunks of my posts were deleted. An ignorant buffoon who uses the moniker TRP said my facts were “bullshit allegations” and that he thought I “had made it up” because he’d never heard any such thing and couldn’t find such stuff on google scholar!

        Someone who comments regularly found the url to my PhD thesis on the White NZ policy (I didn’t realise Canty Uni library had digitalised it). I responded that the relevant material was in chapt 9 (ie anyone could go look at it) and I also put in the link to a book on NZ-Japan relations which happened to mention Savage saying NZers didn’t want a ‘piebald New Zealand’ and I gave what page it was on (again, anyone could click on the link and check). The doofus censor at The Standard responded by banning me and then claiming that I wasn’t supplying evidence!!!

        Then after that awful Twyford stuff, the same person did an article congratulating Twyford!

        Who moderates the moderators at The Standard?

        This kind of disgusting protection of anti-Chinese racism has prompted me to do a public talk on the Labour Party’s anti-Chinese racism. It used to be absolutely blatant; now it’s more the dog-whistle variety but sometimes fairly blatant.


  2. Daphna says:

    This blatant racist campaign of Labour shows it is now comfortably to the right of National. There seems to be an utter disregard, among those Labour supporters who are excited at the prospects of a rise in the polls, for the impact it has on Chinese and other Asians living here. A woman I know (of Taiwanese origin) said she had not heard the word chink for years, now it is back in common use since Twyford launched his attack. She said the change in attitude was being felt and it was ugly.

  3. Phil F says:

    I think I will write something taking The Standard to task for its, at best, ambivalence on the issue and, at worst, its allowing its most obviously right-wing moderator to cover up the anti-Chinese racism of the early LP.

    The Standard is a soft left blog, so I don’t expect them to be unequivocally opposed to the Labour Party racists, but there is a section of its readers who don’t support, condone or favour covering up for the Labour racists.

    I think Labour’s traditional anti-Chinese racism is another reason why people serious about fundamental social change need to oppose the Labour Party and give it no support whatsoever.

    This includes the unions that are currently affiliated to it. A number of unions in the early 1900s had appalling attitudes to the Chinese, including Chinese workers, in New Zealand. Now’s their chance to make up for it by disaffiliating from Labour.

  4. Daphna says:

    I haven’t heard of any unions criticising Labour’s racist campaign. Pretty awful really.

    • Thomas R says: really shows how out of step Labour are, would be great if the EPMU took note and sought to deaffilliate

    • Phil F says:

      I will be pleasantly surprised if any unions criticise Labour’s anti-Chinese racism. I wonder whether even Little’s pledge to keep the 90-day trial period, just make it a bit ‘fairer’, will draw any union fire/ire.

      Could, nevertheless, be a good time to promote some kind of disaffiliation campaign. . .

      • Thomas R says:

        “Stand Up!” have been criticising it thus far that I’ve seen but that’s about it. (based on their twitter). The CTU Youth Wing that is, I didn’t know they existed

      • daphna says:

        Another thing unionists can do is stop inviting Labour Party MPs and representatives to their gatherings. Why would you have a Labour MP speak at a workers’ meeting? You’d be as ill advised to as inviting a National MP.

        The illusions in Labour are very disabling for the union movement. Already Helen Kelly and others are saying well Labour may be proposing the 90 day law be the same as it was before (when Labour was in government). The trouble is Labour wasn’t any good then, and it’s worse now!

  5. Phil F says:

    One of the chief functions of Labour is to lower expectations. It can rely on its supporters in the unions to help out. Labour lowers the bar and then its supporters quickly adjust to the lowered bar and try to get everyone they influence to join in lowering horizons. All the while telling us how really, really awful National are!!!!


  6. Thomas R says:

    Good lord, an article I thought was pretty uncontroversial that Ian and I wrote is stirring up all sorts of grumpy commentary from facebook ‘progressives’ and it really hammers home, to me, how deep the currents of nationalism run in this country. Incredible.

  7. Phil F says:

    One of the things that brought together the original WP group, the group around *revolution* magazine and a layer of independents was staunch opposition to NZ nationalism in all its guises, whether political or economic.

    The left (in the broadest sense of the term) is thoroughly infected with kiwi nationalism and a key barrier to the development of class consciousness. That’s why revolutionaries need to politically prioritise challenging it and choosing campaign issues – like Open Borders – which allow us to challenge it and foster anti-racism, anti-national chauvinism and a spirit of solidarity, internationalism and class consciousness.

    I think it would be great if a picket of Labour HQ could be organised. It would be great if there could be pickets of key Labour offices all over the country, but Labour HQ might be a good place to start.


    • Daphna says:

      Today the Colmar Brunton poll shows Labour is up 1% and National is down 1%. Meanwhile the Greens are up 3%. NZFirst is still on 7% and Little has gone down as preferred PM to 8% while Key is on 40%. Labour’s dog whistle doesn’t appear to have given them a boost. While the ‘left’ may be horribly prone to nationalism the general populace maybe less backward.

      The old WP that we were part of did a good job of highlighting Labour’s racist past and bringing to light Labour’s role as the instigators of the Dawn Raids in the 1970s. Even Judith Collins was pointing up that past in a newspaper column today. Labour certainly isn’t a lesser evil, it’s a backward party of capitalism.

  8. O'Shay says:

    I personally can’t take the issue of home ownership seriously. The media constantly bombards us with so called sob stories about young middle-class ‘Kiwi’ couples who can’t make their way into the property market. When ever I see these stories I think to myself why should I pity them. They’re not destitute and most likely they’re not renting substandard houses that are putting their health at risk. Also as a socialist I’m more concerned with the universal right to decent housing, rather than some kind of nationalist entitlement to own private property. Good article.

  9. Admin says:

    O’Shay said: “I’m more concerned with the universal right to decent housing, rather than some kind of nationalist entitlement to own private property.”

    Yes, excellent point O’Shay.

    I also think a number of people buy homes for security precisely because capitalism doesn’t and can’t provide decent housing. The capitalist market can’t/won’t do it and nor will a capitalist government, including one pretending to represent the working class.

    For the first time in my life, I bought a house this year. The main reason I bought it was for security in my old age – I’m approaching 60 – because I simply can’t trust capitalism to help me in my old age. It’s a modest place – I paid $172,500 for it and have to do some work on it – but it will see me out.

    If I was sure I would have the universal right to decent housing I wouldn’t have bought it but used the money for political purposes and personal pleasure in my old age.

    At the same time, it was once a norm, certainly an expectation, that working class people would be able to own their own homes. My grandparents married in the late 1920s, were poverty-stricken in the Depression and at the end of it my grandfather got a job in the railway workshops for the rest of his working life. My grandparents, on one wage, were able to buy a nice house in a pleasant working class suburb and I think they had it paid off by the time they were in their fifties.

    My mother gave up paid employment when my older brother was born and my father was, variously, a soldier, a wharfie, a tram driver, a factory worker and, for the longest time, a rubber mill worker. My parents were mortgage-free on one wage by the time they were in their fifties.

    My mother’s disillusionment with Labour – they were both very active members – began before my father’s and the starting point was when the Labour MP they had helped to get elected was buying up houses all over the place, which he then let out. At that time young working class couples simply couldn’t get mortgages, while this Labour Party prick owned over a dozen houses. He had all those rents coming in on top of his MP salary and perks.

    Today, it is even harder for working class people, even with two wages, to own a home outright. So the falling rates of home ownership in New Zealand are also a reflection of capitalism’s inability to meet human needs. And the system’s inability to guarantee the provision of decent housing for all is the icing on the cake.

    What a clapped out system.

    And the fact that capitalist parties like Labour resort to anti-Chinese racism to provide cover for the system is evidence of their total moral and political bankruptcy. Meanwhile, anyone on the left who plays with the same kind of anti-Chinese nationalist populism really should hang their head in shame. Not that I expect they will, of course.