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Race to the Bottom

I’m getting pretty sick of the government we currently have here in New Zealand. When they were first elected I was actually fairly positive about them. I really was – check back through my blog and you will see it’s true! But now they just seem to be getting worse and worse and indulging in more typical conservative right wing actions.

The latest, of course, is this shambles involving the making of the movie “The Hobbit”. The prime minister personally negotiated with a team from the movie studio and finally managed to persuade them to make the movie here. But it’s cost the country tens of millions, plus some sort of dodgy deal regarding employment law, and a clear signal that New Zealand is prepared to back down if enough money is involved.

It’s disgusting. New Zealand has had a proud reputation of standing up to bullies in the past but now we seem to take orders from people like Warners and the hideous Peter Jackson. What happened to our brave stand against US arrogance when we refused to allow them to bring potentially nuclear powered ships into our ports? Back then we had some pride and morality. Now that seems to take secondary importance to making a few bucks.

In fact it doesn’t even look like New Zealand will come out ahead on the deal anyway because the tax and marketing hand outs (and it is just corporate welfare) our government has agreed to will probably add up to more than any income coming back to the film industry.

But shouldn’t the PM be applauded for making this deal which has brought work for the people in our film industry? Not really. First, there is the theory that Warners were always going to make the movie here and have just made the threat to leave so they could get better control of negotiations. It’s hard to say whether that is true or not but it seems to make a lot of sense to me.

Second there is the morality of the situation. Should the leader of our country be making cheap deals like this anyway? It’s really quite embarrassing, especially when he was obviously outwitted by the scumbags Warners sent over. And it doesn’t do out country’s reputation much good. Anyone seeing the movie will be reminded about how low New Zealand has sunk rather than what a great tourist destination it is.

Finally there is the message the deal sends. An employment lawyer interviewed on the topic put it rather well when he called it a “race to the bottom”. Instead of New Zealand being a good place to make movies because of the expertise available here, or the scenery, or anything else, it’s because we’re cheap. Just like a third world or ex-Soviet country. Thanks a lot Mr Key. Just what we need!

OK, I agree the unions have made a mistake and have been out-maneuvered on all fronts during this debacle. But I think their rather ill-considered actions have just been used as an excuse by both the movie studio and the government to drive down already poor conditions here.

Sure we might have go the Hobbit movie but I think if we look at the big picture this will be just another ignorant and unimaginative move by a government with no real ideas at all.

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