Orewa 3: The Orewa-ing

by Lord Sutch

Some of my best friends are racist

On Saturday morning I was rung by a friend who is a huge political nerd. He is also right wing. He was excited.

“Did you see the Nation?” He asked. Voice broken with breathlessness, palms no doubt sweaty. I hadn’t, I explained. I try to have the weekend off from politics.

“Phil Twyford went racist” he said, “it’s a genius move, but of course the bleeding hearts of Twitter are enraged”.

I’m not going to relitigate what was said by Labour’s spokesperson for housing, there are heaps of other people who are far better qualified than me who have already talked it over. I’ve been waiting a few days because I’ve been thinking of the politicking behind this move.

Phil Goff tried this. He delivered his “Nationhood” speech five years ago. He was openly criticised for it by then Labour Party President, Andrew Little. Who coincidentally is now the Labour Leader. Except it wasn’t the Labour Leader who detonated a race-based grenade. It was a mere spokesperson. A far more disposable individual. Smart move Labour.

Hamish Rutherford wrote a fairly astute piece asking if this was Labour’s Orewa attempt. But I think this is more than that. It’s a nuanced and calculated gamble. And a mighty big gamble at that.

What I think this all is, and I could be giving Labour far more credit than it’s due, is a risk to try and make headway on an issue it believes is very real and very problematic.

It’s been trying to beat National with the housing crisis for sometime, but it hasn’t been able to get any cut-through. I think they’ve put their heads together and decided that they need to make it far more explosive. And they certainly succeeded. By playing the race card you’re guaranteed to get at least some attention. Just ask Winston. And so for the first time in…well I don’t know how long, I think people in Te Awamutu will be talking about a Labour policy. They will be thinking about a Labour move. And they will probably agree that there is a problem in Auckland.

RacismI’m assuming that Labour has realised it’s going to lose people over this, but they’ve probably focus tested this shit and found there’ll be a net gain. Yes some people will be appalled by the way in which they’ve forced the housing crisis into the national discourse, yes the way in which they’re backing National into a corner has included some awful statements and possibly woeful analysis of some shonky data, yes the Greens will likely benefit from this, but I think Labour is counting on winning a few of those hallowed Middle New Zealand voters from National to compensate. And I expect they’ll probably succeed.

So we reach a very Machiavellian question here. Has the means justified the ends (if the ends is 1. a solution to the housing crisis and/or 2. a shift in support to the left)? Not for me it hasn’t. I’m wholly uncomfortable with using tactics like this, because even if it is a problem, even if there are literally millions of off-shore Chinese based speculators buying into our market, what Labour has done is incite. They’ve painted a mighty big target on the Chinese. And this means all Chinese. The Chinese who are living here and have been for years. The Chinese whose families were gold miners in Otago 150 years ago. And those Chinese are within far easier reach than the Chinese speculators who live in apartments in Shanghai and speculate from afar.

And this is a country where people were taking the keys off Chinese folk and being applauded for it.

So I shudder to think how Chinese people are being treated around the country. I hope I’m wrong. I hope that there isn’t any race-based abuse happening. But why take the risk?


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Han Li July 14, 2015 - 10:02 pm

I agree with you, absolutely crushed that Labour is deciding to run this as a deliberate tactic. As a Chinese New Zealander, my heart truly aches reading some of the comments on social media trying to defend this, and people saying it’s not racist because of ‘statistics’. Deeply saddening.

Kristina July 15, 2015 - 12:04 am

I hear you, Han. From a fellow Chinese NZer, it makes me sad too.

Vaughan Little July 14, 2015 - 10:58 pm

there’s a global crisis unfolding, with hot money flooding out of China into the property markets of law abiding countries. hitting them hard.

Labour has done us all a huge service by putting this on the radar.

to ask you a question in return: if you wanted to help rescue a seriously distorted property market, if you wanted to highlight the role of foreign speculation – a major driver of prices, not just one amongst many as the mandarin times editorial deviously stated – how else could you do it?

Labour has shown real imagination here in tackling a tough issue. detractors note: it’s working.

plus, and I’m getting tired of repeating this, to identify the 9% office Chinese aucklanders as perfectly legitimate in their investment behaviour, to say “it’s not about you, you guys are ok”, shows up the “race card” agenda as the farce it is.

Kristina July 15, 2015 - 12:02 am

Vaughan, it doesn’t matter if you say, ‘You guys are ok.’ Racists on the street don’t differentiate. Chinese look the same whether they’re the ‘good’ type or the ‘bad’ type. There’s a long history of discrimination against Chinese in NZ and this is just the most recent. Doubtless there will be more, since we Chinese make a meek and therefore safe scapegoat.

All the (invariably white, non-Chinese) people saying, ‘Bold move, raises an important issue, nothing against the type of Asians I approve of’ – what you are saying is that you just don’t care that Chinese people in NZ have to put up with racist shit from politicians, media, and ‘fellow’ NZers – on a regular, recurring basis. ‘If someone else has to pay the price, *shrug* so be it, at least it’s not me, amirite?’

And in the end, that lack of support is perhaps what hurts the most.

ObjectiveReality July 15, 2015 - 12:00 pm

Also, while foreign “hot money” is a legit problem IMO, “foreign” is much broader than just China. We really need a way to get reliable info on how much of our housing stock is being bought by non-resident people globally.

I agree with the article that this is probably a gamble by Labour to get those questions being asked and put the government in a tough spot over it, but doing it by deliberately singling out an ethnic group is pretty gross.

Flat Eric July 16, 2015 - 12:20 pm

Ah, yes, its not rascist when the left do it. Its not rascist when its a ‘real issue’ that ‘needs to be debated’. Making it about race is ‘a right wing agenda’.

I call b*llsh*t on that. I will never give Labour my vote again.

The Ruminator :: Farrar vs polls vs spin July 21, 2015 - 3:07 pm

[…] also went up three per cent. This is a net gain of four per cent for the centre/left bloc. In my earlier post on this whole awful yucky mess, I forecast that Labour would lose some votes to the Greens and they knew they would. But that they […]


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