The Nation edited transcript: Lisa Owen interviews Steven Joyce
Lisa Owen: So while National’s well ahead in the polls, it’s not been a year without its challenges. National’s campaign chief and, of course, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce joins me now. Good morning.
Steven Joyce: Every year has its challenges, Lisa.
All right. Well, briefly, to start off with, what do you think are National’s proudest ac
Okay. Well, last time you were here on the show, you were talking about encouraging foreign investment – growing foreign investment.
Yes, that’s right.
Now, how vital is that? Because you had someone standing by to invest $88 million in Lochinver Station, and you told them to go away. The Government told them to go away, even though the Overseas Investment Office said you could do the deal. How do you square that one away?
Well, firstly, international investment is very important – international and domestic investment. It is very important, but that doesn’t mean all of it goes through, because we do have a test, as you know, a sensitive land test, the ministers have to apply. They have to do it on their own. They get advice from officials, but, actually, they have to make the call, and, as we know, these things have been litigated quite a lot in the past, so it’s quite a lot of weight to carry. And if you’re going to have a test, that means one or two of them won’t get through. And in this case, this one did not meet the test. The two ministers decided that it wasn’t sufficient—
But just a couple of months ago, you were here saying it was crucial to get investment, you wanted more investment, and the Overseas Investment Office said, ‘Yeah, you can do this deal.’
Well, they said on balance, but don’t forget the ministers actually have to make the decision. In this instance, they can be legally reviewed if they make the wrong decision, so they actually do have to take advice. They took advice from the officials, and they took advice from an economist – an agricultural economist. They took advice from a range of sources because they’re very aware that this particular one, as with other ones, can potentially be litigated before the courts, and they’re wanting to get it right.
But when Labour said it would block this deal, you said that was xenophobic, so by your own measure—
No, I said their general attitude to international— No, I said—
By your own measure, you must be therefore be xenophobic too.
No, I said it’s their measure is that they don’t like Chinese investment.
No, no. No, it was—
I mean, these are the guys that—
No, it was specifically in relation to Lochinver. No—
Let me have a go.
No, I want to get this right. It was specifically in relation to Lochinver, and you said—
No, it was in relation to their international investment.
I was there too. ‘A little xenophobia from Labour to start the day’ is what you said.
That’s right, because actually they are against Chinese investment. The other ones have been out there — and you saw it on your clip — saying that Chinese-sounding surnames should not be able to buy property in Auckland.
But you did exactly what you accused them of doing.
No, that’s not correct at all. What we did is apply the same test that we apply to everybody. The test has not changed. And actually, most New Zealanders know that we do apply a test of economic benefit. It has nothing to do with the particular country that people are from. We’re not the ones here saying, ‘If you’ve got a Chinese-sounding surname, you shouldn’t buy property in Auckland.’ We’re actually saying ‘If this brings an economic benefit to New Zealand, you’re in,’ and it’s irrespective if you’re Chinese, American or whoever.