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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 2. 13th March 1974

Farce and fear at Landlords' meeting

page 5

Farce and fear at Landlords' meeting

"You can't come in here, you're from the Tenants' Protection Association," was the greeting which Grub (our photographer) and I received when we fronted up to the Landlords' Association Annual General Meeting last week. We had to say we were there as journalists, which caused a disgruntled "oh well, I suppose you've got a right to be here." All the other media were welcomed—the Landlords' Association is after all the publicity it can get, but preferably good publicity. We were the only ones asked to show our press cards.

The first part of the meeting was formal. The only apology was from Ken Comber, M.P., which seemed appropriate. The presidents report included a couple of pathetic touches. Landlords' fears that the proposed superannuation fund would be used by the government to compete with the landlord. It's quite encouraging that landlords are trembling about Labour's intentions, even though the T.P.A. is singularly unimpressed with Labour's performance in housing. President Rippin also noted plaintively that the recent Rent Appeal Bill does not contain any of the Landlord's Association's submissions.

Pat Rippon

Pat Rippon

A member of the Christchurch Landlord's Association had come up specially for the meeting. He presented a report that largely dealt with rent books, which his association is publishing. "We would like to clear up any misunderstandings rather than have a head-on collision with the T.P.A.". The rent books were the landlords' latest move to improve their image, he said. "We want to get in first before the T.P.A." He was rattled. At least a couple of other speakers mentioned the T.P.A. and one speaker admitted the Landlord's Association was set up to counter the T.P.A.

Election of officers came next. It was a farce from first to last. "Well," said Pat Pippin, "I'd like to call for nominations for the position of president." A voice nominated Rippin for re-election. There was a silence for thirty seconds. "Well," said Rippin, "If there are no further nominations, I'll declare nominations closed." This was greeted with friendly derision. Pat got flustered. "I'm quite willing to stand down. I've got a lot of work to do. Are there any further nominations?" More laughter. Silence Rippin re-elected.

The same with the position of secretary and treasurer. Then came elections for the committee of seven. Nominations flooded in, with the help of Pat's frequent "Don t be afraid to stand up and nominate yourself."

He added that last year the press had claimed the 1973 landlord's elections were a jack-up and he didn't want anyone saying that again, looking pointedly in my direction.

Despite his good intentions, chaos took over and a jack-up ensued. After about five nominations a member noticed that few of the old committee were being nominated, so he nominated the lot. Soon the number was up to twelve, and someone else suggested that they should elect the lot and be done with it. It was eventually pointed out that, to do this, a change in the constitution would have to be made. A great idea thought the meeting, until it was pointed out that 14 days notice has to be given before an A.G.M. involving constitutional change.

"Well," said Pat, "We'll elect the old seven, co-opt the new five, and next year we'll announce the constitutional change in good time," all the while beaming at himself for his ingenuity.

Landlords ain't dumb—well, not all of them—and after many more minutes of procedural chaos it was pointed out that people were being told how to vote, and this wasn't very democratic. Never mind, the voting went ahead anyway, and everybody got elected or co-opted, or something. What the hell; everybody was happy, who cares about democracy!

Eventually, the highlight of the evening came—Muldoon spoke. Publicity for him, publicity for the landlords—what a publicity coup! (Strangely, the next day's papers reported only Muldoon's remarks and neglected to mention the shambles passing for democracy in the elections. Someone's protecting somebody here!) Muldoon mouthed on about Labour's failings, accrediting them with stealthily introducing a capital gains tax by giving it another name and sneaking it into section 88Aa of the Land and Income Tax Act.

In fact, as any lawyer will tell you, section 88Aa is nowhere near to being a capital gains tax, and anybody who thinks the Labour Government would have the principles or the courage to introduce such a necessary measure is suffering from severe delusions brought on by Social Democracy.

Muldoon proceeded to flagellate himself and the landlords with shocking statistics of property price increases. He blamed them all on Labour's "inexperience and prejudice" forgetting to mention that in fact they are an unavoidable result of rampant monopoly capitalism. The landlords were suitably appalled, which was the biggest farce of all. In fact all of them are profiting from the inflated prices, and any increased costs they invariably pass on to their captive tenants, They know this, and Piggy must know this, but all of them went through this public flagellation for whose benefit I don't know.

Photo of Robert Muldoon

Last year under a heading "The Mentality of the Landlord", we reprinted a letter from the Landlord's Association to the Ombudsman which had come into our hands. In distress they wrote that they felt as the Russian kulaks must have felt before they were liquidated in the 1920s.

"The Socialist witchdoctors have smelt out a capitalist nest which they are proceeding to destroy before they have even considered providing alternatives for the services we provide for a wide section of the the public," they wrote. Many of our readers thought the letter was in fact satire concocted by us, so pathetic was the landlords' paranoia. It wasn't, the letter was real, and after this meeting I am once more a-mazed at the mentality of the landlord.