Above: Labour housing spokesperson Phil Twyford has released data showing that a number of Auckland house buyers have “Chinese-sounding” names. What else it shows is a matter for debate.
Labour’s revelation that Chinese buyers appear to be dominating the Auckland property market has been attacked as racist and xenophobic.
More than one online commentator has rightly compared the release of data showing a disproportionate number of buyers having “Chinese-sounding” names, to Hitler’s policies towards the Jews. When you think about it the parallels are obvious. Both Chinese people and Jews have from time to time to time owned real estate, so really it’s just a matter of time before Labour announces a policy of extermination towards all Asian peoples.
The most concerning thing about the data release is that it has been all too effective. People who usually berate Labour for being “too PC” seem to be generally in favour of banning foreign buyers of real estate, if the online comments sections of the main news sites are anything to go by. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some sort of racism going on here. I’m all for screaming “racism! racism!” at every opportunity available to me. Sometimes the label is warranted, and sometimes it’s just a really effective way to shut a debate down, but it’s always good fun either way.
Accusations of racism aside, it is entirely possible that offshore buyers are indeed driving up real estate prices to the point where owning an Auckland house has become an absurd dream for most people. It’s even possible (as Labour’s data suggests) that most of this offshore speculation is coming from Asia, thanks to aggressive marketing campaigns targeting places like China, Singapore and Hong Kong, and thanks to the vast amounts of money looking to exit China. On the other hand, there may well be a perfectly innocent explanation for why people with “Chinese-sounding” names are buying up so much property. Perhaps the descendants of Labour Party legend John A. Lee really like their real estate.
Maybe Labour should have waited until there was perfect data showing a full breakdown of our real estate buyers by country of residency, before raising the issue. Like a register, for example. A register National refuses to put in place. Now Labour stands accused of fuelling racial hatred by highlighting an issue that, if left unaddressed, may well fuel racial hatred.
But spare a thought for the liberal left. We don’t like this at all. We much prefer it when Labour does something noble and principled and then gets absolutely shat on by the voters. Remember “I’m sorry for being a man”? When we heard those stirring words our hearts were filled with joy and we all swore it would be a defining moment in the 2014 election campaign. Well we were certainly right, though not in the way we intended.
But we simply couldn’t bear it if Labour did something that had an odour about it, and it ended up being ridiculously popular with the voters. No, it’s much more fun being disliked by the public, because they’re all nasty rednecks, and those peasants haven’t seen the true path towards the socialist utopia that God in his almighty wisdom has privileged us to glimpse. We who inhabit the blogosphere, the Twittersphere and the online world know all too well that if a policy is popular then there must be something wrong with it. It probably doesn’t reflect true “Labour values.”
The issue is certainly causing ructions within the Labour Party. Long-time stalwart Phil Quin has resigned his party membership in disgust over this issue. At least we think it was this issue. To be fair, there were hundreds of others he could have chosen from. Quin’s loss will be especially felt by right-wing bloggers and newspaper editors looking for copy on “what’s wrong with Labour,” but whether the departure of this colossus will shake the party to its foundations remains to be seen.
Some might argue that reasonable people could disagree on whether or not Labour’s announcement was cynical and racist. But that would be a deeply misguided view. There can be no debate on this matter, and I intend to label anyone who disagrees with me on any aspect of this issue a racist, and so should you. Please bear that in mind if you are considering submitting a comment to this post attempting to refute any of my arguments, though extraordinarily weak and badly thought-out most of them happen to be.