Tranz Rail buyback: why they did it

– John Edmundson

On May 5 this year the Government announced that it had completed negotiations with Toll Holdings to repurchase the rail and ferry business sold by the Bolger National government in 1993. For some, this has been seen as a great blow against the post-1984 neoliberal onslaught, characterised by a string of restructuring and asset sales carried out by successive Labour and National governments.

There is no question that the decline of rail in New Zealand has been a sorry tale. Prior to the 1984 election, Richard Prebble toured the nation, stopping in at railway workshops around the country, promising to “Save Rail”. Once in power, he revealed what that actually meant. NZ Rail slashed staff and services. Thousands of workers, and many communities, were devastated by the reforms.

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Internationalist response to FTA needed

– John Edmundson

The New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed on April 7 is the first free trade agreement China has made with any developed Western country. It is an historic deal for the Chinese government in its push to be fully accepted into the capitalist club.

The deal is historic for New Zealand too, for the simple reason that China’s economy is by far the largest that New Zealand has ever signed such an agreement with. With a growing middle class already numbering over 100 million, China offers a huge market for New Zealand businesses, particularly for luxury goods and services.

Reaction to the FTA has been mixed. Opponents of the agreement have ranged from the Green Party on the left, to New Zealand First on the xenophobic right. The CTU, eager to cosy up to Labour in the lead-up to an election that Labour is uncertain of winning, has come out in support of the agreement.

The critics of the FTA have claimed that the agreement in some way condones the poor human rights record of the Chinese government. This objection has become more strident with the recent Chinese crackdown on Tibetan protests.

The New Zealand government and the FTA’s supporters have countered with the point that New Zealand trades with all sorts of countries with all sorts of human rights records. In fact, government-led boycotts of countries over “human rights abuses” have a dubious record, with the independence of small, weak countries often being threatened by countries in the imperialist world on spurious grounds.

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Foreign ownership – a vital issue for the left?

The announcement today by the Labour Government that it will veto the bid by the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board to take a 40% stake in Auckland airport has met with strong approval from some sections of the NZ left such as the Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) and the Green Party. But why are these groups so fixated on the issue of foreign ownership, when even under local ownership Auckland Airport is run just like any other profit making capitalist business and has over recent years been the scene of numerous incidences of industrial action by its workers fighting for better wages and conditions?

Below we reprint an article from the October 2007 issue of The Spark which looks at the nationalist crusade against foreign ownership of Auckland airport in greater detail:

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