Bob Jones’ wisdom from the 1970s

After reading some of Sir Bob Jones’s latest musings, and being a wannabe minor property capitalist, I was looking forward to reading some of his previous books. A little research left me surprised that he has written 23 published novels, essays and non-fiction writings, not including his various newspaper and blog columns.

Well, luck happened upon me and while browsing a particularly well-stocked antique (junk) store in Mangawhai, I was fortunate to locate a number of his dusty old tomes. Sir Bob would possibly be amused that his books are still being sold for the princely sum of $5.00, as if you were to ask him, I suspect he would say that they are mostly outdated and barely relevant.

What I have found however is that even back in the olden days, Sir Bob was an extremely good historian, a clear thinker and possibly a clairvoyant/oracle.

While reading through his various verbal meanderings, I found myself highlighting portions that resonated with current happenings in the political landscape. (The fact that I found myself doing this was quite discerning as I recall as a young lad, thinking that my dear old Mum was quite mad for doing exactly that!)

So as an example I would like to highlight an excerpt from Sir Bob’s classic work, ‘New Zealand the Way I Want It.’ (Whitcoulls Publishers, Christchurch, 1978), which goes some way to demonstrating that the New Zealand Labour Party really has no new ideas, just re-hashed, previously failed, idealistic, socialistic theories.

Did, the early ’70’s Labour Minister for Housing call his effort Kiwibuild too?
From chapter 10, New Zealand’s Sacred Cow – The building Industry, page 123.

“Their respective attitudes to the building industry point up one of the few radical policy differences in the two main parties. Both are rather too extreme, National being perhaps heartlessly pragmatic and Labour recklessly compassionate.

Nevertheless, in the short term at least, there can be little doubt which party offers the most joy for the industry and that is Labour, although the cost to the country as a whole might well be considered irresponsible.

My own view is that Labour’s general attitude arises less from compassion and more from ignorance. Following a public address in 1977 in which I described the building industry as New Zealand’s economic sacred cow, the current affairs television programme?Prime Time?organised a debate to consider my claims.* Various industry spokesmen, plus the Minister of Housing, Eric Holland, and Labour’s former Housing Minister, Bill Fraser, were guests. All those present agreed with my claims, except Fraser, who amazingly persisted with the preposterous assertion that there was a housing shortage.

That is self-evidently untrue, as I had been protesting since the myth was first propagated and established in the public mind by the outrageously fraudulent 1972 Labour election campaign.? Currently we have almost one million housing units in New Zealand, that is, one for almost every three people, and unless there are vast numbers of people somehow living in two or more houses, clearly we have a surfeit rather than a shortage of homes.

Yet in 1973 the Labour Government ran amuck with this bogus crisis created by their election propaganda. Thousands of building worker immigrants were brought into the country, rent controls were introduced, property trading was effectively made illegal, limits on new house sizes of 1500 square feet were introduced and by the time they were through Labour were on the verge of creating a reality out of their own fiction.

The chickens of this uncalled-for tampering began to come home to roost by 1975 as an enormous pool of unsold and unwanted houses accrued. In an effort to cover up this embarrassment during an election year the Labour Government began a bail-out policy of massive State purchase, leaving the builders laughing, at the taxpayers’s expense, all the way to the bank.

*One amusing consequence of that claim arose when, in endeavouring to make the point that most construction work could be categorised as luxury expenditure, I said somewhat theatrically that should we behead every carpenter the next day it would be at least ten years before New Zealand would experience a housing shortage. Within a week I received half a dozen letters from carpenters’ wives abusing me for proposing the execution of their husbands who, they all assured me, were worthy and decent citizens”

So is this what we will see after the current government’s plans come to fruition? A glut of unwanted housing, and builders laughing all the way to the bank?

I for one know of a group house builder who is set to do pretty well out of KiwiBuild. He’s not laughing as he knows it’s not great for the country but he knows it would be stupid to turn down the work.

As an aside, I found the postscript interesting. Perhaps one of those carpenters’ wives gave birth to a certain Renae Maihi?

Although this post is not intended as a book review, Sir Bob’s books are relatively easy to find in secondhand bookshops and are full of amazing insights. Even forty years on, they seem particularly relevant to me.

I shall endeavour to find time to present you all with more of Sir Bob’s pearls of wisdom.

Remember, however, if you don’t like holding musty old hardbacks, you can obtain access to Sir Bob’s latest musings by subscribing to Whaleoil at a Silver level subscription or above.