Waatea News Column: Professor Jane Kelsey’s valedictory lecture


Last week, one of New Zealand’s most important public intellectuals, Professor Jane Kelsey gave her valedictory lecture at Auckland University.

Attempting to evaluate the impact of her career on New Zealand Politics is difficult to achieve in one column.

The sheer level of important groundbreaking fights she has led and championed have shaped the very fabric of New Zealand’s civil rights.

Her campaigns against neoliberal globalisation and the power of trans nationals over our economic sovereignty, her fight to have the Government recognise the Treaty, her fights against the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and free market dogma alongside her numerous books critiquing deregulated capitalism mark her as one of our great Public Academics whose peers are Dr Moana Jackson, Dr Ranganui Walker and Bruce Jesson.

Her role has been to champion the rights of those invisible to existing power structures and to provide space for their lived experience. Her importance to progressive politics makes her a global cultural treasure who must be platformed as often as possible because the insight and oversight she brings to the hegemonic structures of power in our Democracy are simply unparalleled.

This may be the end of her University career, but Professor Jane Kelsey’s importance to the debates at hand means she has a far longer journey still to travel.

Kia kaha Jane.

First published on Waatea News.

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  1. Her book the FIRE economy is a must read for KIWIS comments from AMAZON
    ” Every thinking New Zealander, and anyone else who wants to see what New Zealand has turned itself into, will benefit from reading this excellent analysis of the current state of the New Zealand economy, and how the neoliberal practices NZ governments have enabled in the last 25 or so years have disestablished the necessary structures of governance, exposing people to the inevitable results: leaky houses, collapsing mines, unlivable and high-priced rental accommodation, pathetic emissions standards, unsustainable farming, below-living wages and so on, plus a natural environment that continually pays with its life for the profits of corporations and viability of business, while those who profit from deregulation and speculation continue up the spiral of wealth. There are enough facts and figures to satisfy the hungriest seeker after the cold, hard realities. If you want considered, well-researched, and very readable academic writing which outlines on every page what it means to base an economy on FIRE – Finance, Insurance and Real Estate, read it. ”
    ” The Fire Economy: New Zealand’s Reckoning by Jane Kelsey is a solid work of research that shows the impact of a deregulated, neo-liberal economy upon New Zealand society. Finally, here is a work that clears away the delusional myth-making of a south pacific paradise and presents instead the uncomfortable reality of a society on the edge of impoverishment. The book is divided in two; Part 1: Fire – outlines the ideological mechanics and justification for the scorched earth policies of Finance, Insurance, Real Estate while Part 2: Embedded Neoliberalism, gives an incisive and lucid explanation of how that ideology was surreptitiously implemented.

    Irrespective of what government is in control (what is generally being described these days as the false paradigm of choice), it was finance minister of the labour party, Roger Douglas (1984-88), that set the deregulation, privatisation ball swinging in earnest. Forever smug, Douglas considers the neoliberal policies still an “unfinished business” and is proud to plagiarise what is essentially Milton Friedman economics into Rogernomics. The present Prime Minister, John Key, has continued with the wrecking ball of neoliberalism; the widening chasm of net wealth falling off a cliff under his stewardship. Like Douglas, Key has delusions of grandeur as well, actually trying to turn the country into a financial services hub of the south pacific to compete with the likes of Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan or tax havens of the Caribbean, but even these launderers of ill repute look wearily at the complete absence of sound finance in this land. As for the banking sector, (doubtful that it is possible to save after the suppression of wages), savers have no insurance, the Key government has tried to pass the buck onto the Australian banks that dominate 86% of the banking sector. Debt levels are mountainous, the housing market inflated beyond belief and depression is in the air. Contrary to popular belief, New Zealand is no longer God’s own and never was. While Muldoon quipped that the number of economic exiles leaving the country for better standards of living across the ditch in Australia raised the I. Q. of both countries, this land that was our land has now become a refuge for the rich, even the Iwi have become corporatized!

    Jane Kelsey has written a no holds barred critique of reality illustrating where New Zealand truly does sit in this global scheme of things and while I wouldn’t place any faith in the damning reports of the Neoliberal agenda emanating from within the International Monetary Fund (IMF) itself, (one of the main pillars of the international crime syndicate); you certainly can take notice of this book and the reckoning it places before all who care to read it. “

    • @fantail…
      Why does your comment come with a funny smell…?
      “An old style academic…” What might a new style academic be like? Every paper the new-stylers pre-record would to be vetted and would come with a jingle, a kick back from the banking industry and some banal advertising?
      “… Probably grateful to be retiring!” Grateful to whom? And for why, do you think?
      Prof Jane Kelsey is exactly the type of person others would work in the darkness to derail. A highly intelligent, very well educated woman with good intentions and a powerful presence amongst the rats in the woodwork might certainly inspire gratitude in her retirement though not from her, but from Them.

      • Likely so Cb but what I meant was, she would probablybe looking forward to retirement after the hellish woke battlefield that tertary education has become over the last few years.

        Lest I created doubt, I think Jane Kelsey is fabulous and that they she is part of a dying but much needed breed.

  2. The result of NeoLiberal economics:
    Poverty is not a partisan issue

    Rather than short-term unfocused quick fixes, bipartisan support for substantial long-term transfer policy reforms is needed urgently to share the inevitable pain of reduced living standards, writes Susan St John

    I met a young man this week, who welcomes the cost of living payment arriving over the next three months. He had dropped out of university recently to find employment. He could no longer survive the student life of debilitating poverty, living in an expensive, dark, damp hovel with several flatmates which, in the long weeks of lockdown last year, turned into months of despair.

    Learning highly technical subjects remotely in overcrowded conditions gradually undermined his mental health. Happier now in a modest service job, he mourned his lost university experience but reflected on his gratitude for the $350 cost of living payment.

  3. Prof Kelsey won’t ever retire. Even if she isn’t widely prominent she will still be thinking and trying to assist the principled and practical amongst us towards what will be beneficial and needed by us all. Thanks for your work inspiring us to keep trying to limit hegemony and hubris Professor Jane.

    Prof Jane might feel this song from Blood Sweat and Tears strikes a peal of her bell.
    They sing And When I Die – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=la9Iy0RTvCI
    It sounds a depressing song but it’s one with hope still alight.
    I hear that’s it’s cold way down there,
    yeah, crazy cold way down there
    And when I die and when I’m gone,
    There’ll be one child born and
    a world to carry on, to carry on

  4. As one who suffered through her class at Law school, good riddance to this condescending hypocrite, endlessly criticizing the world order from the comfort of her cozy, taxpayer-funded sinecure.

    • Thank you Sean — I have mixed feelings about the Professor, Fire Economy was okay, but after she received a huge Government study grant (bribe) she belted up…

    • Sean You seem to fall into the group that have been encouraged by their background and authority role modelling, to question everything that doesn’t come out of the mouths of their own people, fathers or cohort. It must be very hard for you to hear something outside of the parameters of your own cohort’s beliefs and prejudices.

    • Seriously? All your comments boil down to is picking at the weaves of New Zealands social fabric

      What the fuck has any of you done to weave it back together?

    • I never heard her lectures but I’m told by someone who had to that she was incredibly dogmatic and brooked no questioning of her conclusions or views.

      • Ada – I saw her on TV once, Campbell Live, giving John Campbell “the death stare” once he asked about any potential biases from her sources…

        She received $900,000 to do “research” from the Government, her “research” was reviewing other left leaning academics papers/articles over the last 30 years regarding NZ society — then agreeing with them = Fire Economy…certainly not $900,000 worth of research…no insight, no new developments, nothing really to report on.

      • Honestly, how likely is it a student has anything to offe beyond a recycled establishment trope that she hasn’t demolished 100 times before?

        • The Magician — Her research was not original…she merely repeated what others researchers found, then summarized it…therefore a bit of a hack

  5. Ada Your description of what you feel was wrong about Prof Jane sounds like the way you think yourself. I would be very obliged if you would stop your little barbs and critiques under what I say.

    I find the short thrusts at others where nothing useful is added, and people carrying on a personal jousting as a poor way to spend their brainpower and a misuse of this blog. TDB is one of the few sites in NZ where people can discuss the urgent matter of where our country and society is degrading and try to work out why and what can be done to conserve the good,

    If you don’t agree with me, please just ignore me and I will suffer your rejection. I hate the habit of ambushing and detracting an individual commenter by some people who set themselves up in judgment. This happened on The Standard and I didn’t expect to see it here. I certainly dislike hate-speech proponents. I do try to limit my hates to practices and just a few of the truly mean and vicious.

    This blog works when we add something to the discourse, and we need free speech though with certain limits. Please don’t make sly digs at attempts to understand behaviour and the driving forces behind people of interest, because thinking about them helps to learn what to expect from them, and sometimes helps to learn about ourselves. What drives you to keep niggling on at me?

    • And now you’re summarising me based on “sounds“!
      “you feel was wrong about Prof Jane sounds like the way you think yourself.”

      Stop the pop-psychology where you gift yourself the wisdom of seeing into the minds (and souls) of others who take a different opinion. I note you don’t mind-read people you agree with.

      While mind-reading might give you something to write in a post, it is on the same level as sensing auras. It doesn’t add to the solving of problems you wish TDB to be for.

      • Right Ada just ignore me. I don’t spend precious time thumping out thoughts on my keyboard to get into wrangles with negative commenters about style and preferences. Martyn can sort me out if I get too far off track.

    • Thanks Prof Jane. Cheers. The quaint Irish wish might be right to quote for you.

      May the road rise up to meet you.
      May the wind be always at your back.
      May the sun shine warm upon your face;
      the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
      may God hold you in the palm of His hand.


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