Cafca Forces Overseas Investment Office To

Lift Cloak Of Secrecy On Its Approvals


The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) has had a relationship with the Overseas Investment Office (and the Overseas Investment Commission before that) dating back to the 1980s, when we waged a five year long campaign just to get any access to its data at all

With almost no exceptions the OIO always withholds some Decisions from its monthly batch (in some cases it is the whole Decision; in the great majority it is just the “consideration” i.e. how much was paid). CAFCA routinely appeal all such deletions to the OIO; once again, with very few exceptions, it upholds the deletions. We then appeal those to the Ombudsman, usually three months worth at a time. Those had been piling up and we had received no verdicts from the Ombudsman on any of our appeals for several years. In 2015 the Office of the Ombudsman decided that it wanted to meet with CAFCA (which had put in 100 appeals) and which was tying up its valuable time and resources.

We duly met with Ombudsman Professor Ron Paterson in Christchurch, a year ago. He agreed to urge the OIO to release the “considerations” of a large backlog of deleted Decisions which we had appealed. The OIO has subsequently released to us a great wodge of previously withheld Decisions, complete with the considerations, spanning the period 2012-14 inclusive.

To be precise, the OIO has released to us 88 Decisions which had previously had material withheld; it has decided to withhold four Decisions indefinitely, and will review another 16 after a specified period of time (it has told us when that will happen, in every case).

More significantly, the OIO has now decided to institute a whole new regime relating to the cloak of secrecy thrown over foreign investment applications to it (the new regime actually started as from May 2015 but we have only just been informed of it by Professor Paterson).

To quote his letter to us: “If the OIO determines that there are good grounds under the Official Information Act for withholding the information, the applicant is advised that the information will be withheld for a period of one year or until such time as the information becomes public (whichever is earlier). If the applicant considers that the information should remain confidential beyond the specified expiry date, the onus is on the applicant to write to the OIO explaining why that is the case. The OIO will then reconsider the grounds for withholding”.

“With these actions, the OIO has effectively changed its starting position with respect to information that is deemed confidential when a Decision summary is released – that is, confidentiality is maintained for a specified period rather than indefinitely. The onus is on applicants to contact the OIO if they consider that there are good grounds under the Official Information Act to withhold the information after the expiry of the specified period”.

This is a definite improvement on the OIO’s position up until now (i.e. throwing an indefinite cloak of secrecy over all or part of its monthly Decisions).


CAFCA thanks Professor Paterson for his work on this. And we pat ourselves on the back for continuing to hold to account this very publicity-shy, rubber stamping part of the State’s foreign investment “oversight” regime.

CAFCA is fundamentally opposed to the whole “come on in and help yourselves” message to foreign investors from Governments led by both major parties.


That being the case, the Overseas Investment Office has not seen the last of us just yet. We will continue to appeal most Decisions that are fully or partly withheld.

Flogging The Country Off To Foreign Owners

Does Nothing To Reduce NZ’s Debt


A common justification for flogging off NZ, particularly its publicly-owned assets

In a word: nonsense


But don’t take our word for it. 

Here what the Old Master of privatisation, Sir Roger Douglas himself, had to say (in a book praising him and his mates for privatising State forests):
"I am not sure we were right to use the argument that we should privatise to quit debt. We knew it was a poor argument but we probably felt it was the easiest to use politically"
("Out Of The Woods", Reg Birchfield and Ian Grant, 1993).

He was right that it was, and is, a poor argument

Here is the relevant extract from CAFCA’s newly updated Key Facts.

Foreign ownership does nothing to improve New Zealand's foreign debt problem. In 1989, total private and public foreign debt stood at $47.5 billion, equivalent to about two-thirds of New Zealand’s Gross Domestic Product, and worth $86.4 billion in March 2015 dollars. As of March 2015, it was $246.2 billion (or $270.9 billion including derivatives), equivalent to 102% of New Zealand's Gross Domestic Product despite being helped out temporarily by $20.2 billion of insurance claims for the Canterbury earthquakes and all of the asset sales and takeovers.

The full Key Facts complete with sources (meticulously researched and compiled by CAFCA’s Bill Rosenberg), can be read here.
 

What Export From NZ Is Bigger

Than Seafood & Milk Powder Combined?

 
The answer: 
 the exported profits of transnational corporations

 
Proving that foreign “investment” actually sucks out more money out of New Zealand than it puts in.

Here is the relevant extract from CAFCA’s newly updated Key Facts:

Transnational corporations (TNCs) make massive profits out of New Zealand. These can truly be called New Zealand's biggest invisible export. In the year to March 2015, they were $9.0 billion. Over the last decade they have averaged more than the combined exports of seafood and milk powder. In the decade 2006-2015, TNCs made $77.5 billion in profits from New Zealand, an average rate of profit after tax on their shareholdings of 12.5% (12.0% in the year to March 2015). Only 26% was reinvested (only 15% in the year to March 2015). Profits have averaged twice the increase in foreign direct investment holdings each year.
Little more than a vehicle to asset strip the NZ economy
Another $7.9 billion left New Zealand in the year to March 2015 made up of investment income from debt and smaller shareholdings (portfolio investment), making a total $16.9 billion. Over the last decade this has averaged more than the combined dairy and forest product exports. More than two out of every five dollars of the $16.9 billion went to the owners of New Zealand’s banking sector: $6.9 billion. The investment income from overseas ownership of the banking sector (“Deposit taking corporations”) after taking account of its small investment income from abroad, accounted for four out of every five dollars of New Zealand’s current account deficit in the year to March 2015: $6.5 billion compared to $8.1 billion. The investment income deficit (income on New Zealand investment overseas less income on foreign investment in New Zealand) has been greater than the current account deficit for all but two years since 1989, which further increases New Zealand’s foreign liabilities.

The full Key Facts complete with sources (meticulously researched and compiled by CAFCA’s Bill Rosenberg), can be read here

Unleashing GCSB To Spy On Kiwis

One More Step On Road To Police State


The Anti-Bases Campaign is appalled by the recommendations made in the newly-released Intelligence Agencies review.

The authors have proposed overthrowing a basic tenet of spy operations in this country and paved the way for a massive expansion in surveillance of NZ citizens.

This is just another retrograde step on the road to a police state.

Previous restrictions on domestic spying by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) are to be removed; the basic democratic protection against the spies turning their cutting edge mass surveillance machinery on domestic life is to be eliminated.

The report justifies the increasing power of the agencies by proposing more transparency and oversight.

Michael Cullen: 'exemplifies the inadequacy'
Ironically, Sir Michael Cullen, the key author of the report, is the man who exemplifies the inadequacy of trying to monitor these organisations as he was the person who, when he was in Government, continually gave false assurances denying illegal activity in the past.

The glaring deficiency in the review is the complete lack of consideration of the activities of the Five Eyes system which are the major part of the GCSB activities. 


The super-secret group carries out operations designed to give Washington the means to manipulate political, economic and diplomatic activities around the world.

NZ’s part in this is despicable and reprehensible.

Any suggestion that oversight by a handful of Kiwi commissioners will reveal the truth about the operations being carried out by Five Eyes is laughable.

New Zealand, instead, needs to follow the example of Canada, one of our four Big Brothers in Five Eyes. Canada has suspended sharing Canadians’ metadata with its Five Eyes partners until it is satisfied about safeguards.
 

NZ can only restore its reputation in the world by closing down the Waihopai spy base and pulling out of the Five Eyes system.


Plus it needs to close down the SIS and transfer its functions to the Police who (theoretically at least) have to justify actions in a court of law.

Latest Watchdog

OUT NOW

Your Summer Read is Available

Foreign Control Watchdog #140  December 2015

 

Download as PDF
 Download or read online

TPPA Every Bit As Bad As We Said It Would Be   
 by Jane Kelsey here


2015 Roger Award Finalists Named 
by Murray Horton here


Overseas Investment In New Zealand: How Much, How Good?  
by Bill Rosenberg here


The Biggest Leak In History Reaches New Zealand 
 by Nicky Hager here


Technology, Labour And Welfare In The 21st Century 
 by Mike Treen here


The Dock Of The Bay: The Coming Shakedown Of The New Zealand Port Sector 
 by Victor Billot here


Agriculture, Trade, Industrialism, And The Future: Contesting The Neo-Liberal Agenda 
 by Dennis Small here


2015 Annual General Meeting Minutes  
 here


CAFCA/ABC Organiser Account: Financial Report For Year Ended 31 March 2015  
by James Ayers here

Reviews by Jeremy Agar & John Ring here

  • The FIRE Economy by Jane Kelsey
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes: a film by Russell Brand & Michael Winterbottom
  • The Villa At The Edge Of The Empire by Fiona Farrell
  • Petals & Bullets by Mark Derby
  • GMO Myths And Truths by John Fagan, Michael Antoniou, and Claire Robinson
Obituaries by Bill Rosenberg & Murray Horton here

  • Peter Conway
  • Moses Havini
Dalziel And Cameron: The Mayor & The Neo-Liberal Ideologue 
 by Jeremy Agar here


Who Is Gerry Brownlee’s Handmaiden? 
 by John Minto  here

It’s Our Future: TPPA News Bulletin #80


In this Bulletin:

  • NZ to host TPPA signing on 4 February 2016
  • Poll shows Kiwis against the TPPA
  • TPPA looking shaky offshore
  • Treaty of Waitangi challenge continues
  • Groser buys more time on OIA
  • Local Government resolutions
  • The Trade and Climate Change nexus
  • And Good Riddance Groser!
  • And there are lots of ways to take action – Sign a petition to the Governor-General; declare your place a TPPA Free Zone; tell Labour you want them to be clear about opposing the TPPA; planning for the regional tour; say good riddance to Tim Groser; and prepare for anti-signing action on 4 February.

TPPA Latest

National government plans to host TPPA signing on 4 Feb

The NZ government has offered to host a ministerial meeting of all 12 countries to sign the deal. We believe that will happen on 4th February next year. The government is hiding behind the same old secrecy, but Fran O’Sullivan says it is in Auckland. Put the date in your diary. More details about actions to come!
Kiwis against the TPPA
In successive polls, Kiwis have rejected the TPPA. A stunning TV3 Reid Research poll revealed that a majority of NZ voters reject the TPPA. The coverage said that 52% rejected the TPPA (some people didn’t have an opinion, and the rejection was over 60% of those who expressed an opinion). 73% of Labour supporters were against it (is Andrew Little listening?), 84% Greens and 87% NZ First. Even 23% of National Party supporters were against the TPPA. That’s an amazing result especially as it came after a month of media carrying the government’s PR and spin while we couldn’t see the final text. Then last week, 97.5% voted no to TPPA in an online referendum run by the people’s ‘Real Choice’.
TPPA looking shaky
The TPPA is looking very shaky in the US – it is being opposed by senior Republicans and Democrats, including some of those who voted for Fast Track Authority for the President. It is also opposed by front-running political candidates from both parties. As a result, the vote may be postponed until after the US elections (in November 2016), they might try to re-open negotiations or it may never be approved. It is important to know that there are still many ways that this agreement can be defeated.
Waitangi Tribunal challenge set for March 2016
The Waitangi Tribunal has granted an urgent hearing on the TPPA in mid-March. It will focus on 2 questions: does the Treaty of Waitangi exception really protect Maori as the government says it does, tested against several scenarios; and what process should the Crown be adopting with its Treaty partner in relation to the TPPA.
Gear up for the submissions process
If the government signs, the TPPA will be sent to a Parliamentary Select Committee for review. The government can ignore what the committee says but it is still a really important way to send a message to both National and Labour. The committee doesn’t have to call for submissions but it will. It may also hold hearings around the country if there is enough demand. We are already preparing guides for submissions, Again, watch this space.
Groser fobs off Official Information Act obligations
The High Court ordered Trade Minister Groser to revisit his refusal to release TPPA documents under the Official Information Act. He waited to the last possible minute to say he wasn’t going to appeal, but couldn’t decide what if anything he would release until 5 February 2016 – the day after he aims to sign the deal. The Court recognised this was really frustrating but didn’t have enough basis to order the Minister to act more promptly, So the cat and mouse game of secrecy continues.
Local Government Action
TPP Action in Dunedin on the 14th December and both Upper Hutt and Porirua on the 16th December addressed the respective Councils in regard to the Greater Wellington Regional Council decision of 4th November and following the 18th November letter to all Councils. Jen Olsen with the support of Sir Alan Marks (Wise Response) and Stuart Mathieson and a few more in the public gallery spoke to the Dunedin meeting. Here is the news story from the Otago Daily Times.
The Trade and Climate Change nexus
As expected, the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed without any clauses to stop climate actions from being blocked by trade agreements like TPPA. The contrast between the two agreements demonstrates the real priorities of government and big business. The Paris Agreement on climate change has 31 pages, and its actions are largely voluntary and non-binding. The TPPA has 6194 pages and contains thousands of binding and enforceable provisions. The result? Trade rules as this article shows.

There was a meeting of international trade and climate campaigners on Paris, together with Naomi Klein, to coordinate strategies and build a longer term campaign for transformational change. More on the global campaign to come later.
Analysis of the TPPA text
Jane Kelsey and Barry Coates are coordinating a series of research papers, revealing the details buried in 6000+ pages of the TPPA text. These research papers are authored by leading academics or experts, peer reviewed and referenced. They are a credible source of information. Be warned, they are not light reading! Short advocacy papers will be prepared by Action Station on the basis of the research, for release in January. See the release of the first papers here.

A guide to the TPPA’s processes: The first expert paper from Jane Kelsey explains the processes in NZ and the US if the TPPA is signed, how the US can pressure other countries to make more concessions, what has to happen before the agreement can come into force, and how its processes can fetter our regulatory sovereignty.

Legal analysis of investment chapter: The expert paper on investment by Amokura Kawharu provides a technical assessment of the chapter and how it increases the risks New Zealand faces under the TPPA.

Research papers on Labour, the Environment, Local Government, Economics, Internet/E-commerce, Health, Public services, Finance and te Tiriti are underway and will follow in December/January.
Good Riddance Groser
The Minister of Trade has sold us out in the TPPA negotiations (and in climate negotiations). As a reward, has been posted to an important diplomatic post in Washington. Gordon Campbell’s article here suggests we will be a diplomatic disaster in the role.
Take Action!

Petition to the Governor-General
A petition has been launched to request that Governor-General commands the government to hold a binding referendum on the TPPA. It is clear that a majority of the population of our country don’t want the TPPA – we need to keep up the pressure for a referendum of the most important issue facing our country (not the flag!). Sign on to the petition. There is a full explanation of the petition and resource materials here.
TPPA Free Zones
Declare your home a TPPA Free Zone, or get your workplace to do so, your community centre, marae, youth centre, sports club, or wherever. This has been a powerful way to build a movement in past campaigns against nukes, the MAI etc. Download the logo here.
Pressure on Labour
A strong opposition to the TPPA needs the largest opposition party to be active and consistent. See Jane Kelsey’s open letter to Andrew Little here explaining how the TPPA abjectly fails ALL of Labour’s five tests and click here for information on how to contact your Labour MP. We are planning a postcard campaign in the New Year to ensure that Labour doesn’t vote for the TPPA in the Select Committee and in Parliament.
“Stop the Signing” Tour
We have plans for a speaking tour in the 10 days leading up to their proposed signing on 4 Feb with Jane Kelsey, Barry Coates, and hopefully a leading activist from the US. We will be in touch with local organisers and send out details as soon as details are settled.  The dates are likely to be in the period 25-31 January in major cities.
Summer of Campaigning
I hope you’re able to take action at beaches, in parks, at events, and in your communities over the summer. Look out for the next Bulletin after the New Year with more actions to come to build a strong voice across our country against the TPPA. Have a great Xmas and New Year!
Send any suggestions or feedback to me at barrycoatesnz@yahoo.com and please let me know if you can help out with our planned website re-vamp and design of campaign actions.

TPPA – it’s not over. Don’t sign!

TPPA in the News


  • As if the TPPA isn’t bad enough, leaked documents from the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations reveal a further push to undermine democratic rights.