Dr Liz Gordon – Putting us first

By   /   August 13, 2018  /   32 Comments

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I got to thinking that, while the government is doing a lot of things, I have yet to hear any sign of a ‘buy New Zealand’ strategy emanating from Government.  Aren’t we over neo-liberalism enough yet to know that it is good business to make and buy our own stuff?

The late MP Rod Donald used to begin his talks with a question: what was the single event in our (recent at that time) history that changed the balance of trade between Australia and New Zealand? The answer was simple. By removing the manufacture of Aulsebrooke’s biscuits from New Zealand back to Australia, the trade balance was upset from being slightly in NZ’s favour to significantly in Australia’s.

I’m not sure how widely known that is.  It seemed at the time to be a very defining thing. All we had to do was eschew Australian biscuits and eat Griffins and other NZ brands and we would save the bilateral trading deficit.

The came to mind recently when the Cadbury factory in Dunedin closed and production moved to Australia.  If we eat a lot of biccies, we also eat a lot of chocolate. It is therefore fairly obvious that this move would make Australia richer and New Zealand poorer in trade terms.  Not to mention, of course, the jobs that were lost here.

I got to thinking that, while the government is doing a lot of things, I have yet to hear any sign of a ‘buy New Zealand’ strategy emanating from Government.  Aren’t we over neo-liberalism enough yet to know that it is good business to make and buy our own stuff?

The hint of truth that comes out of Trump’s dirty mouth is that we need to support our own people and products if we are to prosper as a nation.  This does not require us to be racist or xenophobic. It is not about being better than other places, but using our natural resources to benefit our nation economically.

As well as goods, I think we need to do more to promote the use of services that do not extract profits from New Zealand and ship them overseas. Part of the reason NZ is relatively poor is that we create surplus value that is then sucked out of our economy all the time.  The banks are the best example of that. Really, everyone should be doing their banking at Kiwibank, which is a great bank and retains the profits here. Best thing that Jim Anderton did. I mean, why would you not?

Thus New Zealand is good for making profits for Australian business owners and shareholders.  Is there any scope for turning the tide and bringing those profit dollars for use in New Zealand?

The first thing is we could promote goods made here.  And I don’t mean by importing pig meat from Canada then passing it off as ‘kiwi’ bacon (did you know around 80% of our bacon is imported?).  I am talking about stuff which is made here from NZ materials for us and our industries, such as tourism. I am not averse to importing raw materials if certain things cannot be sourced here, however, as long as it is declared (unfortunately it appears we will never be able to grow cocoa, for example). New Zealand makes great things, and we as consumers should be conscious at all times to support our producers.

The second thing is to promote new small and artisan industries, new ownership models (e.g. collective, Treaty partnership, iwi) and new approaches to industry.  Shane Jones’ regional development fund should be used to underpin new kinds of industry for the modern age – carbon neutral or positive, focus on lifestyle industries and, where possible, owned by its communities.

Finally, if this is the first year that climate change is really showing its face, then NZ needs to orient itself towards that future.  The world is stuffed full of people fighting to exist in deteriorating conditions. We are fortunate that we have many of the conditions that others would love.

That includes Australia. Always dry, much of Australia may be uninhabitable in a century as droughts become more frequent (much of the country has been in drought since around 2000).  This year alone appears to be nearly apocalyptical in some areas with starving cows, rampant kangaroos (read about it!) and failing crops.

We face our own difficulties too, with erosion and flood and so on.  All I am saying, really, is that in all the blather about being focused on international trade deals and exports and imports etc, our own people and circumstances must not be forgotten.  We could well do with a focus on supporting our own economy, using our own renewable resources, creating our own jobs, owning our own enterprises and trading in our own best interests.

A government-mandated ‘buy NZ’ campaign would be a good start.  Just sayin’.

 

Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research.  Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).

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32 Comments

  1. Gosman says:

    For a nation that relies heavily of exporting to make money don’t you think it would be the height of hypocrisy to call for a buy NZ made campaign while at same time promoting our exports around the World?

    • Mike the Lefty says:

      What a load of rubbish!
      The hypocrisy is in promoting our exports around the world whilst continuing to buy imports ourselves!
      Honestly Gosman, I know its a Monday but where is your head man!?

      • Sam Sam says:

        For the mentally challenged types. Exports make middle class welfare more likely in the same way lowering the minimum wage makes middle class welfare more likely – the middle class and government would have less money to pay for stuff.

        This is not an argument against special needs programmes.

      • CLEANGREEN says:

        Gosman most of the time wants to sell NZ to the lowest bidder without a care.

        Liz is so right and we need to begin producing wolllen carpets again as we lost ournmillls to China and India during the gosmans own liberalist Ntional government selloff.

        Woolen carpets do not cause global pollution as the plastic carpets we only make here now so when we throw the plastic carpets away guess where they go and how long it takes to break those plastic carpets down again?

        250 years at least we are told it takes to break down the ‘nylon’ carpets and no-one has even considered this as the new threat to our environment, as all plastic and nylon must be stopped now before we are all screwed.

        http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/03/22/the-toxic-dangers-of-carpetingare-the-carpets-in-your-home-or-office-a-health-hazard.htm

        The Toxic Dangers of Carpeting:Are the Carpets in Your Home or Office a Health Hazard?
        by SixWise.com

        Walking across your soft, wall-to-wall carpet with bare feet may seem pleasant enough, and we won’t deny that it does feel cozy, but there are some unpleasant and downright dangerous things about carpeting that deserve attention.

        In America, we love wall-to-wall carpeting–in fact, according to the Carpet and Rug Institute more than two-thirds of American floors have them–despite the fact that they contain toxic byproducts that are released into our homes and even inhaled and absorbed into our bodies.

        Carpet Samples

        It looks innocent enough, but carpets are made from synthetic fibers that have been treated with toxic chemicals that outgas into your home.

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        Almost all carpet is made from synthetic fibers and those fibers have been treated with synthetic chemicals that “outgas” into your home. Here’s a list of some carpet “ingredients”:

        Petroleum byproducts and synthetics (polypropylene, nylon, acrylic)
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        Vinyl or latex
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        After being exposed to these chemicals and breathing them in or absorbing them through the skin, some people may feel symptoms such as headache, dizziness or nausea right away.

        But often times, no symptoms are felt. In the long-term, however, no one knows for certain what the effects of these chemicals may be. The EPA has said that no cause-and-effect relationship between carpet emissions and health problems has been proven. However, says Mark Gold from Holistic Healing, “Please pay attention to this warning: Sucking down toxic chemicals may seem okay now, but you may pay a very heavy price in the future.”

        For instance, carpets may contain:

        Known carcinogens such as p-Dichlorobenzene. These chemicals may also cause hallucinations, nerve damage and respiratory illness in humans.

        4-PC, the chemical that gives carpets their distinctive “new carpet smell” and is associated with eye, nose and upper respiratory problems.

        Mothproofing chemicals, which contain naphthalene.

        Fire retardants with PBDEs, which may cause damage to thyroid, immune system and brain development functions in humans.

      • Gosman says:

        Do you understand the purpose of trade ?

      • Gosman says:

        Importing is the point of Foreign trade. Exporting is only necessary because people want to import.

    • Not at all, Gosman. If other countries can produce the goods they need, cheaper than us, and with less carbon-emissions in transport, then that is free market logic and environmentalism, at work, right?

    • Draco T Bastard says:

      We could always stop exporting.

  2. RosieLee says:

    I’d love to be more proactive about buying NZ made. So how about we have more visible country of origin labeling? On everything. Went to buy some wine the other day. Makaraka on special. Sounds NZ and has a picture of a pohutukawa flower on the label. Guess what – “Wine of Australia” in fine print.

  3. UpsideDown says:

    Sounds good on the face of it but it’s a recipe for paupery.

    Our market is too small for us to compete with the more efficient competition from overseas. So what you’re really saying is that we would have to raise tariff walls to compensate.

    As soon as we put up walls other countries return the favour and before you know it our formerly successful exporters get forced out.

    The bottom line is the NZ market is too small and to get wealthy with high wage levels we need to access overseas markets. Stuff that up and we all get poorer.

    The one caveat that may change this is if the price of transport in the form of carbon pricing makes it prohibitively expensive to ship goods. Still a complete disaster for NZ exporters and general wealthy levels but it might allow for more import substitution businesses take root.

    • Draco T Bastard says:

      Our market is too small for us to compete with the more efficient competition from overseas.

      It’s not more efficient. In fact, from some of the videos I’ve seen it’s significantly less efficient because of the lack of automation.

      An automated factory in NZ is just as efficient as an automated factory in China. Engineers design them in such a way that the efficiency is the same no matter the size as well.

      The only thing that makes it cost less to import is because many of those countries that we’re importing from have lower real wages and far worse working conditions going all the way down to outright slavery.

      So what you’re really saying is that we would have to raise tariff walls to compensate.

      What we should be doing is trading only with countries that meet our own standards.

      The bottom line is the NZ market is too small and to get wealthy with high wage levels we need to access overseas markets.

      This is wrong, In fact, it’s complete and utter bollocks. If we actually developed our economy we’d still have the same products available – they’d just all be produced here from our own resources.

      Trade doesn’t produce high wages as the stagnating and even declining wages of the last thirty years proves.

      Still a complete disaster for NZ exporters and general wealthy levels but it might allow for more import substitution businesses take root.

      International trade is actually unsustainable.

      • Sam Sam says:

        Whether it’s looking at adjustment assistance, retraining, education or wage and income assistance of some kind we are not delivering on things that people want. I think we all need to listen more and understand what those anxieties are and solutions maybe to these trade issues. We’re already into the second reading of the TPP-11 and its generated huge interests, much more than it has with past FTAs. As a consequence trade is being held up as a source of problem and I think there are problems in global(isms) institutions. WTO is under-utilised, OPEC couldn’t control Iran which threatens to send oil prices the other way, higher. So yeah, there’s a lot of anxiety that isn’t always directly related to trade. Former trade ministers Todd McClay probably wouldn’t even have a position on any of this causing even more anxiety while he was negotiating his parts of TPP-11 for the National party and now we’ve got Trade minister David Parker ratcheting up Labours trade negotiations from behind the 8ball.

        Trade can provide broad benefits if more people understood it. A lot of people look at falling jobs market particularly in manufacturing and really we are looking at changes in technology and that’s really what I think the anti-trade guys are anxious about. Another big part of the destruction to jobs and wages is the digital revolution. The digital revolution is spreading across the entire globe so taking a contrarian position on trade while trying not to get run over in almost every aspect of life so there is that. So there is this great need for people who are not only financially literate but digitally literate in there jobs and not just guys who are in Silicon Valley and places like that, but in every business. More and more ways business are becoming more dependant on the digital economy. On the micro level it seems like every week some ones coming up with a new Eftpos / cash machine so suppressing the free flow of capital across state lines becomes very expensive very quickly when you’ve got guys changing the way trading is done. And the problem I see is a huge mismatch between the skills demanded of the digital revolution and the skills supply where we’ve got people using high tech computational technology vs labouring work. There’s still a need for labourers but not to the same extent as in the past and IMO in the future labouring is going to be a smaller and smaller percentage of the working population.

        Obviously these issues, particularly the one about manufacturing was particularly important to international trade because they were important to the general public and the response from the left and the right is we need to be more aggressive in defending trade positions even if slightly opposed but defending New Zealand’s interests and promoting New Zealand’s interest. In terms of defining what New Zealand’s interest are and how we might trade around these weakening global institutions it’s a little sketchier especially the prescriptions you, Draco are giving. And a little sketchier again when the left or right side warriors try to give trade prescriptions. But I think one of the things we are likely to see from the Labour lead coalition government is a more aggressive trade policy and we’ve already had aggressive-dumb and we are trying aggressive-smart. The challenge is dealing with more aggressive personalities. So Trump I think is getting lucky, Trump got lucky with North Korea, Turkey is in a recession, Spain is depressed, Italy depressed, UK, Germany, these are some big countries so we are going to face more aggressive trade policy, they’re our allies and Turkey if they don’t stop Erogon the Stronk may actually get chucked out of NATO, the chances of Erogan turning around is very low but we need to figure out fast if we are aggressive smart or aggressive dumb.

        • Draco T Bastard says:

          WTO is under-utilised, OPEC couldn’t control Iran which threatens to send oil prices the other way, higher.

          The WTO was there to eliminate the need for bilateral FTAs. To ensure that everyone was working to the same conditions and had the same rules. It failed largely because the US had dominance in it and largely because it’s anti-free market. Of course, so are the FTAs. Both are all about forcing trade rather than allowing free-trade.

          A lot of people look at falling jobs market particularly in manufacturing and really we are looking at changes in technology and that’s really what I think the anti-trade guys are anxious about.

          Developing the economy means getting rid of the jobs that people don’t want to do. The ones that are more chores than a career path. We shouldn’t be looking at hiring more apple pickers – we should be developing ways to ensure that we don’t need apple pickers (Which is happening BTW. Another few years and there won’t be apple pickers).

          Trade can provide broad benefits if more people understood it.

          Trade is expensive and its debatable if we can even afford it. The resources we have in our country are limited and if we export them all then won’t have any left which means that we will be poor. Nauru has already done this. We’re doing our best to export them as fast as we can with the inevitable result of dire poverty for all of us. We won’t even have any money because the income from all the export is going to foreign nations while our foreign debt is massively increasing.

          On the micro level it seems like every week some ones coming up with a new Eftpos / cash machine so suppressing the free flow of capital across state lines becomes very expensive very quickly when you’ve got guys changing the way trading is done.

          Actually, controlling monetary flows across state lines is really easy. Don’t properly it could even help bring about a rational economic system.

          And the problem I see is a huge mismatch between the skills demanded of the digital revolution and the skills supply where we’ve got people using high tech computational technology vs labouring work.

          That is a problem which is why I push for free ongoing tertiary education. Everyone should be going to uni every five to ten years to keep up and do some research.

          Obviously these issues, particularly the one about manufacturing was particularly important to international trade because they were important to the general public and the response from the left and the right is we need to be more aggressive in defending trade positions even if slightly opposed but defending New Zealand’s interests and promoting New Zealand’s interest.

          And it’s all from a couple of misunderstandings. Increasing international trade doesn’t bring about prosperity but poverty.

          The reason why China has become the manufacturing engine of the world in because of increased productivity. Productivity is now so high that it takes very few of the world’s population to provide everything we need. So, utilising the old Economies of Scale from the 18th century the capitalists moved manufacturing to the cheapest place – China. This resulted in those jobs no longer being in places like NZ resulting in a decrease in jobs and increasing poverty.

          The first misunderstanding is that increasing productivity brings about higher wages. This is a load of bollocks. Increasing productivity must bring about lower wages as it lowers demand for workers in that field. This is a Good Thing.

          The second misunderstanding is economies of scale. The delusional belief that making bigger factories improves efficiency. It doesn’t. In fact, big factories increase inefficiencies as it induces ever more need for transporting raw resources. It really is rather ridiculous to cut wood in NZ, ship it to China and then have the completed product shipped back to NZ for sale.

          The third misunderstanding (it’s an extension of the second really) is that factories need to be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week to be efficient. This is only a requirement for the bludging shareholders.

  4. Katie says:

    Yes, the majority of us would like to buy NZ made (or majority sourced) products but it boils down to 2 things.

    1) The cost. Face it, NZ food stuffs are nearly always dearer than imported, especially things like tinned fruit and frozen veg. Why buy Watties peaches when the Australian, Chinese or South African are way cheaper? Kiwis are known to be the most price sensitive shoppers in the world and we have to be, given how ripped off we are by supermarkets. NZ non-food items are nearly always dearer than imported items as well. And I’ve been able to find NZ books cheaper on Bookdepository cheaper than buying locally. Most of us just don’t have the financial means to routinely support local goods even though we want to.

    2) The ongoing refusal of cowardly governments NOT to let us know country of origin of what we’re eating. This “packaged in NZ from local and imported ingredients” tells us nothing. And when “Kiwi Bacon” isn’t NZ pig at all, well… it’s easier just to boycott pork products altogether (they’re too expensive anyway, especially freerange). Plus, there’s the ethics. While Talleys frozen veg are 100% NZ veg, the way they treat their workers is appaling, so do we really want to support an unethical business?

    Face it, we’re screwed whatever choice we make.
    But go Whittickers chocolate 🙂

  5. Katie says:

    A bit of trivia as well, I’m related to Esther James who was the original “Buy NZ Made” advocate in the early 1930s, walking the length of NZ, and also from Melbourne to Sydney to promote the cause (google her for more info if you’re interested). She was a bit mad but she had a point, and her locally made shoes did pretty well!

    I also still own an NZ made skirt bought 30 years ago (still fits!) which is in excellent condition despite years of washing, storage etc. Quality and made to last. There’s no way I could afford locally made clothing these days.

  6. Rickoshay says:

    cant afford local made goods, is a condemnation of our previous governments, kiwis are wage slaves to foreign ownership, what about a 70% tax on profits leaving NZ, force reinvestment on the foreign owned banks, what about the banking cartels Tax haven bullshit here?
    Are we happy to be the drug barons, corrupt politician and super richs offshore hidy hole?
    You know if Key set it up its a nest of corruption

    • Joe22 says:

      Absolutely. A “Bank Profit Export Tax” of 50% would take in $2billion at the stroke of the pen.

  7. Richard says:

    Spot on Liz. We’ve made so many bad trade deals. We’ve let so many countries take advantage of us.

    Make NZ Great Again!

  8. Johnnybg says:

    To be effective this will need to be done in conjunction with moves too; reduce unneeded & environmentally degrading imports (those freaky tariffs the liberal elite hate); drastically boost our manufacturing industries (talking subsidies here folks); stop sending all the best & most healthy produce overseas for wealthy foreigners to benefit from (e.g. Manuka honey); focus on becoming less export orientated & dependent on the rest world for our survival; progress economic & land reforms that would make cooperative enterprise more attractive; create, develop, implement & evolve ideas & practices for a more sustainable, localised & self sufficient way of life for all. Sound good? Sure does to me.

  9. Liz Gordon says:

    Great responses everyone. See, we have almost held a gummint summit on trade and goods without having to go through all the bureaucracy. Go Daily Blog!!!

  10. David G. says:

    Kiwi made whenever I can. Natural products whenever I can, second hand goods I say yes. I think most of us get into the habit of fast and cheap, over items that are a little expensive but last alot longer. It takes time to choose these things over mass produced overseas things but they are there. Just make the effort, or make it yourself with local ingredients.
    What we need is a ‘kiwi made’ directory in stores. Colour coded price stickers in the supermarkets. We need an online register of made in nz products and links to those company websites.
    Ironically here’s something the Australians have one over us too…
    https://www.kiwishoponline.com.au/

    Btw…
    Shout out to McKinley shoes of Dunedin. Great service and product!
    https://mckinlays.co.nz/