I neither expected nor wished to receive a formal response from Labour to my resignation. It's unpleasant watching grown-ups lie through their teeth, and I've seen enough of it for one lifetime. Anyway, Nigel Haworth, the party's president, wrote to me. This is the crux of his argument:
To refer to Chinese purchasers in such an analysis is not racist. Given, as others have also pointed out, that China is today engaged in massive international investment, much of it strategic, and is also the home of vast, and increasingly mobile, cash assets, it is right and proper for New Zealand to consider the potential impact of those assets and investment on New Zealand housing ownership, or, indeed, on other aspects of our economy. If it were Singaporean. or German or other investment that seemed to be dominant, it would be equally proper to name its source economy (for example, much as has been done since the Second World War in relation to US investment flows).
It reveals a deep disconnect between Labour and its critics on this issue.
Nobody has said it's racist to state that mainland Chinese are investing heavily in the property market, or that it's not "right and proper" for the New Zealand government to devise a policy response to the vexed challenges of housing affordability and foreign ownership. (Haworth's eagerness to deliberately misconstrue an opposing argument in order to more easily knock it down led me to assume that Rob Salmond, a master of that tactic, must have drafted the email, but he assures me it is all his own work).
The issue at stake relates to the stunt Labour employed, i.e. trawling through lists of buyers and counting up Chinese sounding surnames. This is not a considered assessment of "the potential impact of those assets and investment on NZ housing ownership"; it is a rough as guts guesstimate designed to drum up fear among "Kiwis" of a Chinese takeover of the NZ property market, throwing an entire ethnic group under the bus in the process. (Keith Ng has torn shreds off the reliability of the data, and I can't recommend his posts on the subject highly enough).
By claiming that Labour would treat Germans and Singaporeans the same, Haworth exposes yet again the flawed approach to this issue. How exactly would Labour tally up Singaporean surnames to distinguish them from Chinese, Indian, Malay and English names? And how about the Germans? What algorithm would Rob Salmond come up with to pick on them?
There aren't enough white babyboomers alive to convince me that Labour's tactics were anything but a transparent exercise in race-baiting. Haworth and co. know it, too, which is why they resort to rebutting arguments that nobody's made.