Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 22. 1973
Bob Jones: Nextdoor to No-One
Bob Jones: Nextdoor to No-One
Last week Roger Steele interviewed Wellington property financier and millionaire, Bob Jones. Mr Jones has recently been indulging in his flair for controversy by making some comments on the notorious Rama Rent Strike. The bulk of the interview centres around the Rama dispute, but as the reader will discover, Jones incorporates some remarkable opinions on a wide range of topics. Some of the emboldened quotes are extracted from the interview as printed. Others occurred elsewhere in the conversation and are not, we feel, taken out of context. The interview took place at the Jones palace in Lower Hutt pictured above.
Well, do you want my comments on Rama?
Well we may as well get into Rama, yes.
Well perhaps I could tell you my history with Rama. I got into the act because I was asked to deliver an address which I did at the landlord's association's inaugural meeting. I deliberately deferred from becoming too actively involved because its not really my field. But nevertheless I've had the odd contact with people like Rippon and I said to them about March 'what's the story on this Rama fellow' and there was sort of general muttering and so on and I said 'is he a member?' and they said 'oh no, he's not 'we probably wouldn't have him' and this sort of thing and that settled that. Now like everyone else I assumed that Rama was a villain and I left it at that. And it came up again with Tizard in Auckland, he said "What about the likes of Rama, there are some around' and I said 'What's the story on Rama?' still rather naively and innocently assuming that he was a villain. He said 'I don't know...... but where there's smoke etc....' And I kept on asking this question and I started getting a little bit curious because I couldn't ascertain from anyone exactly what this fellow had done. There were only general sort of mutterings about high rents and nocturnal bloody visits to collect it and so on. So I went down and watched the court case which is how I got interested in this Patterson thing.
Well, can I just finish what I was saying then because I must say that I am not qualified to speak on specific Rama situations for the reasons that I outlined. Rama's son, not the articulate sophisticated one, not Peter, but the other one, who's a fruiterer came to the box after he had watched His father go through a grilling and he was pretty bloody nervous and bewildered when he went into the box. Were you there?
You'll no doubt recollect that what I'm saying is a fair assessment of what took place.
Yeah, but may I point out that he was no more inarticulate than the tenants themselves.
Yes that may well be true. In fact I would probably agree with you if you can assess these things on face value. From what I could see of what I assumed were the tenants standing in the back then I would agree with you. Young Rama got into the box, and when Irvin Hart got up there was a sequence of questions that went something like this: He said "Do you have spare keys to the flats?" and the bloke looked bewildered and lost and shook his head and the Magistrate roared at him and said "Answer the question". He said "no" and the next question, "How do you get into the flats?" and he answered "with spare keys" and he was roared at and bawled at by the Magistrate. Any reasonable human being would have realised that he was scarcely lying. Now we've got to give them a bit of bloody credit; if you wanted to lie you'd do it a little less blatantly than that. And the whole thing was a fiasco.
I spoke to Amanda Russell outside the Courtroom and she seemed to be a bit upset by Patterson's performance although she conceeded that... as a matter of fact her words to me were that the man was a in regard to his performance with Rama. But this started to get me interested so I then really got into it. I delved into it and started to make enquiries about Rama but I couldn't get much from anyone... I asked Amanda for instance, I said "look what does this fellow Rama do?" because I certainly wasn't going to learn anything from that particular court case. You know "where is he guilty?" and she said "well he's not too guilty, we just don't believe in private property, we don't believe in the existence of landlords and so on; we've got to make an example of somebody."She's entitled to her beliefs but I think she is the sort of person that runs around preaching brotherly love as well and I think that from what I could see there wasn't really very much understanding here. Now I kept making enquiries; the fault may be that I wasn't enquiring in the right places, but I wasn't able to ascertain exactly what he did that was wrong Now, if you look at your own publicity, the stuff you sent me the other day, there was some Rama material in there. If you look at that, it's abusive, it's derogatory, but it doesn't tell me one thing about this man, what his crimes are.
In the current situation I really don't have to push even if I wanted to. You can't help but get richer and richer ...
Well I think I had better intervene at this point because I think that you're misrepresenting Amanda there. Because she can cite case after case ...
I'm not misrepresenting her, I'm just telling you what she said.
Well let me just tell you about the latest Rama case. It concerns the flats in Laurence St. In February he signed the girls up for a six—month lease that would run out in August. They wanted to carry on and he wanted to draw up another lease which is legally unnecessary, further he wanted the girls to pay an extra $25 for the drawing up of the second lease although they had paid $25 for the drawing up of the first. The girls didn't want to pay this extra money so they got a legal opinion that said it was unnecessary and illegal. When Rama came around to collect the money for the new lease they refused to pay it and he gave them three days notice, again illegal because he's got to give a month's notice...
Okay, okay... now lets look at the other side of the picture then. Obviously there have been incidents and that's probably a pretty charitable word to describe them in your view but you are probably better informed about these incidents than I am because I've generally sought to find out but I haven't been able to do so. You see I've asked Amanda Russell. You say I'm misrepresenting her but I'm not misrepresenting her. I'm telling you what she told me. I asked Rosenberg (Chairman WPTA—ed) whom I met for the first time at Parliament and I said to him "Look this Rama thing bothers me. It seems to me that it's a bit bloody unfair." He expressed sentiments some what like Amanda Russell had to me, he said "sure, we had to take on somebody, we had to get our message across that we don't approve of landlord relationships" Now I'm looking at it from Rama's point of view. Look at the man himself, he is a man who worked seven days a week for forty years, a simple uneducated Indian, in this country where Indians are not liked. You know, if you've got the option of buying from an Indian or a Chinese you buy from the Chinese, and so on. There's something slightly distasteful about Indians to most New Zealanders. He is a simple man who worked his guts out for forty years flogging fruit up and down from a van in Wellington. Now I'm sure he couldn't have done that if he wasn't an honest dealer. For forty years he did that. Now legally, apart from technicalities such as you've just quoted, there's a general consensus that he does nothing legally wrong. You people say that it's a moral criticism, this is basically it, isn't it?
We have innumerable legal criticisms as well. Rama has exacted God knows how much in administration fees and key moneys and...
Well then if you want to discuss it from a legal point of view, what about the fact that these people are legally squatting?
Well, they've got into a situation where they've tried to negotiate with their landlord and he failed to negotiate and so they went on strike, eventually. Well, surely everybody's got the right to strike?
No, see that's where you're wrong.
I have never visited a dictatorship without feeling that it's a good exciting place to be in. You have the feeling that the people find it exciting too. Life is a lot fuller and a lot richer....
Do you deny unions the right to strike?
No, but a tenant doesn't have the right to strike. He has the right to bloody well reject the property, in other words not to accept it. The legal situation, at the moment, whether you like it or not is that the landlord may offer his property at any rent. So if all the problems stem from a dissatisfaction with his rentals then looking at it coldly and harshly, they shouldn't accept his properties.
What if there's nowhere else to go?
That's beside the point, just looking at the legal position. If you condemn this man on moral grounds as an unscrupulous, high charging landlord, lets look at him and discuss the morality aspect; now morality must be a personal judgement, you'll concede that?
Fair enough, for the time being.
Well, look, just to explore that one, just a little bit, there's always gong to be areas oí disagreement between people. I admire people who are moral people and a moral person in my view is someone who acts according to his conscience. It's conceivable that Hitler was a man to be highly admired in terms of killing six million Jews, because he had the courage to do so. A lot of people don't like Jews, they've been a popular target for many centuries, but Hitler had the courage to carry out his convictions.
Well that's where our definition of morality ...
Well I'm seeking out an extreme situation ...
........comes into direct conflict because according to my definition a moral man is someone who acts in the interests, not of himself but in the interests of his fellowmen, the interests of the broad masses of the people ...
That's your definition of morality, but then where do you get when someone has an entirely different definition. That's why I say, that when you're arguing morality you inevitably come back to the fact that it has to be a personal judgement. It's either a personal judgement, or a judgement on the mass level and that's where the conflict is.
I don't particularly want to get out of New Zealand because its a healthy place to live in for someone like me. If I shifted to the South of France I would become a vegetable, so its a self imposed discipline to live in New Zealand.
Yes I see, now if you say that morality is behaviour that is consistent with popular behaviour and popular sentiments then that disallows the man who has beliefs which aren't popular, such as your own in this country, so does it make you an immoral person in political terms?
It brings us into conflict.
I mean you have no doubt that in terms of your political ideology you are right and that your judgement on these things is highly moral but on your own definition of morality, you are behaving immorally because your sentiment are not those of the majority; I'm sure you'll concede that.
If it can be argued to me and I can be convinced that my actions are not in the wider interests of people then I will cease to act in such a way.
I wonder if you would though?
Even on your individualistic morality you come into conflict and ultimately even on your individualistic concept of morality you've got to resolve the inevitable conflicts.
I say that when you throw this thing around long enough I say that you must come back to the fact that morality is a personal judgement, and that a moral man is the man that acts according to his conscience...
There's been so many crimes committed as you've cited yourself throughout history by people who act according to their own conscience rather than ...
But offsetting that there's been so many good things done by people who have acted according to their conscience against the then current popular sentiment. What I'm driving at, if you look at this man Rama in terms of his background, he is probably a highly moralistic man. Certainly on mv particular terms of morality he would be ...
He cites God, he thinks God's on his side.
Yes I know he does. Now this is supposition, but I'm sure that he's been taught on his mother's lap and thereafter that the ultimate thing in life it to work hard, save your money and invest it. I'm suggesting that if Rama had been born in China he would have achieved the ultimate in personal success that his capabilities allowed him to. He's that sort of man. He obeys the dictates of society, he doesn't question them. He's not the sort of man that can understand or cope with a change of Government and a complete change of sentiment in the country. He'd be bewildered by it. He wouldn't be able to comprehend it. If they pass a law, "The Bob Jones Act" and grab everything I've got, well I can cope with that because I can understand it. I have the capabilities to understand for instance that 'Might is Right' and that when they've got control then anything goes.page 11
The implications of what is happening are such that there is going to be a revolution my option is to stay here and participate in it..
Rama couldn't comprehend that sort of thing. What he was doing. I'm suggesting, was legally correct and in his terms morally correct.
Morally correct in the terms of the capitalist economic system maybe but the moral conflict is between what he believes is right and what the tenants believe is right.
Well that's probably just a mass assessment of the situation. I'm sure that you won't deny this, that Rama's tenants in the mam would be bewildered by this conversation. They wouldn't know what the hell we're talking about. They would be organised by some people that have those beliefs.
Well they could understand the conflict between the individual and the capitalist and their own interests as workers, as people who just want to have stable accommodation. They also work hard — you said Rama works hard, however he got in first and he's now manipulating them financially
You say manipulating them financially, well I think that's a complete distortion of the picture, he is being manipulated financially by them, surely.
The people are taking power into their own hands.
Well that's a rather idealistic dreamer's assessment of this situation.
But its realistic in that its costing Rama thousands of dollars.
The true position is of course that a small group are organising the people as has always been the way and always will be the way.
In the TPA we've always tried as hard as possible to get the tenants themselves making the decisions. The tenants themselves formed the Hutt Valley TPA and have taken over the policy making in the Rama strike. So we're not actually manipulating them.
Now you people do preach brotherly love a lot, now what about a bit of brotherly love for Rama What about a bit of consideration for that particular man; and elderly, inarticulate Indian who would have no comprehension of this particular situation. He must be bewildered by it. Now what do you want to do? Do you want to break him financially, now that's a straight question. Do you want to do that?
Yes we want to break him financially, but we also want to break every other person that is exploiting people in this society and we want to get on to the Rippons and the Cornes. [Two well known Wellington property speculators — Ed]
Yes, but now you are using the word exploiting. Now if you use the word, not in its unpleasant connotation, but just the factual description of the word exploiting then its the profiting by the existence of other people by the application of skills or money or special situation then, good God, you are going to be attacking a hell of a lot of people.
We certainly are. We're attacking the whole ruling class as we see it.
The Labour Government for instance says that they don't approve of people that take property and add nothing to it, this is now their qualification on this speculators tax as they call it, and sell it for a profit. Now so far they've identified people in property doing that, a very tiny handful. What about retailers, that's exactly what a retailer does.
Well, we agree that they should be attacked too. The mark ups that are going on are disgraceful. But what about exploitation? I mentioned the "administration fees" and that sort of thing. There's also the fact that whenever tenants left Rama's places he invariably raised the rent and he also gave the tenants to understand that it was their legal obligation, if they were going to leave, to find new tenants for him, which is simply not true.
Certainly, well all right., accepting that abuses have occured in discussing this Rama thing. Now you obviously have some influence with TPA so I assume you are a member. Are you genuinely interested in resolving this thing or are you more interested in breaking Rama?
I'm interested in resolving the relations of all tenants.
Well I'm sure that I could organise Rama to resolve this thing if we had a round table conference and agreed on certain actions and rents and everything else and took his affairs away from him and put them in the hands of a land agent to handle rents, administration and so on. Are you interested in doing so?
Do you realise you can't arbitarily set the rents that the legal situation is such that he may set his rents and that you have the power of appeal under the current regulations?
We believe that we're under a situation here where the law no longer protects people and the people have to take the law into their own hands. But we're certainly interested in attempting to reach a settlement. The facts of the matter are that the tenants are suffering all the time, they suffered....
They aren't suffering too much now.
No, but they suffered when he flogged all their furniture and all their entertainment facilities and so on.
But he didn't do it because he wanted to flog their furniture. There was a reason for it, just as he collects rents at midnight for a reason because they're not bloody well home any other time.
Well that's actually not true. They were home when he came round to take all the stuff. The wives were home. Admittedly the men may not be home at certain times, but....
You see, you put us in this situation. I mean I had to force the Landlords' Association to take this Rama thing up. They wanted to play it very carefully, and it was an unpopular cause. It's just I had the feeling that a very serious injustice was being done to an elderly Indian and I still think that's happening. I mean, I accept what you say, that there have been abuses, but I feel that you've gone too far now in the other way. It's vindictive and it's nasty.
I'd like to clear this matter up. Now we utterly reject the charge that our attack on Rama is a racist attack. It's not. The facts of the matter are...
But he is a good target, isn't he?
When we set up the TPA it so happened that the most number of complaints that we got were about Rama.
But now we're getting into Mr Rippon, slightly, we're....
How do you feel about attacking someone like Rippon, for instance? I mean, would you feel confident? Would you do so? You've got to be practical and realistic....
We most certainly do. We've already achieved one or two small victories against Mr Rippon. On the other hand, we have suffered the odd defeat against him.
What I'm driving at is that you're dealing with a man that is capable of organising people to use physical force if necessary, so he's a more difficult target. Rama was in splendid isolation. Nobody wanted to help him. Even the police refused to carry out their legal obligation on Rama's behalf, as you know.
One of the things that would be helpful to the Maori people would be to have a Muldoon as Minister of Maori Affairs. There's been too much soft-soaping. You need a Cabinet Minister who would tell the Maoris that 'you're all a pack of lazy bastards'.
I think we're very good to the Maori. We're too good. There's too much of the 'free cars for Maoris' attitude around.
Well, we feel that the principles involved in our attack on people like Rippon and co are identical to the principles behind our attack on Rama.
Rama nevertheless, is a much easier target, or has been.
But Rama's tenants are a much easier target for a landlord too.
You see, Rama's a fool to have tenants like that. Am I not correct in saying that largely his property is acceptable property. He's not a rackrenter or anything, he's not dealing with slum property. Substantially, it's reasonable property, isn't it?
No. His biggest property, Lewick Flats, is a slum.
Yes, so I hear. That's one property, but substantially it's reasonable property, is that a fair comment?
The property at Upper Hutt is okay, but Lewick is an ugly place, Fergusson Drive's a horrible place and King's Crescent, where he tried to exact the arrears, is another slum. But, about the tenants themselves, we've been criticised for attacking Rama because he's an Indian, hut the fact is that we would attack a landlord like him whatever race he happened to be. We attack all exploiters. I think that we have effectively repudiated the charge that our attack was a racist one. I'd also like to make the point that most of Rama's tenants are Polynesians, some of them are actually Indians, and they themselves are leading the attack. So I think that in itself makes non sense of.....
The shame about communism is that it never took place as Marx planned it. He planned it for Germany and it would have suited the German temperament.
Well, It's probably a little bit of a distortion to say they are "leading" the attack. I mean are they..... leading the attack, or are they The "mentality of the landlord" ...... I see you have reference to me in here. You called me a speculator. Now I don't think there's anything wrong with speculation. It serves a useful economic purpose. Dealers do. Dealers are always disliked in any community, but we'd miss them if they weren't there. I'm described as a speculator. What else do you say? "Bob Jones would stoop to such bullshit as "the services we provide for a large section of the public." Well, that's wild supposition isn't it? You've never heard me say that. [Referring to Salient, June 15, page 11 - Ed.]
What does it say there? "Bob Jones wouldn't stoop to such...."
Oh, I'm terribly sorry. Well you're quite correct actually, because the reason I wouldn't... and I don't think it's bullshit... it's usually said with the inference being that that's the prime motive for being a landlord. Well, it's not. Now, that's precisely why I wouldn't do that. But, you see, you describe me as a speculator. Now I'll repeat this, to my mind the speculator serves a useful purpose, but you've done no investigation of that, in fact, I don't engage in that sort of activitiy.
Still, you do buy up fairly cheap property and develop it.
No, no. You see, what I do — and I don't spend terribly much time in property matters — I probably average half an hour a day just in business matters, on management and so on. But in the interests of accuracy, the answer is no. The economics of buying expensive property and developing it happen to be a lot better than buying cheap property. Cheap property is cheap, because it's nasty property. It pays to buy the best.
But nonetheless, you take risks?
Well, that's sort of a loose definition of a speculator.....
Well, I don't see it as a speculation.
....a person who takes risk with property. But perhaps our term isn't exact. How would you describe yourself?
Well, the most accurate term is to say I'm a 'property investor" because that's what substantially I have been engaged in.
Trying to control inflation by price control is like trying to cure elephantiasis by putting a plaster cast around it.
Salient: You have been quoted as saying that you were thinking of seeing if some physical force could be applied to tenants.
Jones: If the need arose certainly. I accept as you say that the Rama strike didn't begin because he was an Indian and a prime target but that it began because your motivation was something you genuinely believed in. But nobody came to Rama's assistance and the thing got out of hand to the extent that it did and you found you could get away with it. Nine months have elapsed and people have sat there and not paid any rent. I have the impression that this is a situation that the tenants are finding very attractive for the obvious reason, and that their wish is for it to continue and not be resolved. Now if that is the case and if Rama is unable to recover possession of his property which he is rightfully entitled to do, legally and morally in my view, and if he is unable to do so and the police refuse to do so then we would have to take his property. He says he's not able, that he's gone in and said to some of his tenants 'if you won't pay rent then leave' and they said 'throw us out.' Well, I'm not going to stand by and see Rama get bankrupted, I'll make sure that he is backed up with sufficient force to throw them out.
So you'll bring down some of your heavy weight boxing friends?
Well I don't know who I'll bring down but they would be available I'm not seeking that situation, I would far rather ......I mean what do you suggest Rama do?
Well I think that your understanding of the situation is incorrect. At the moment it may look as though the tenants' situation is attractive to them in so far as not paying rent but most of them, as far as we know, are putting rent away.
As far as you know, have you investigated that?
We've investigated, yes.
But as far as I'm concerned, that's not the point. I don't think they should have been paying the full arrears either because that would be inconsistent with their belief that the rent was too high in the first place. Now if formerly, they've been paying their $25 or $35 a week rent for their flats and they've been working five days a week with overtime, or six days a week, in order to pay off their rent and they've been scraping and scrimping in order to buy things and if suddenly they're in a situation where they were paying no rent who's to blame them for spending a bit of the money they've worked for?
Nobody's to blame them but it would be inconsistent with what has been said, that's all.
Fair enough. Well this matter will be resolved when we finally get round the table and negotiate.
Well when is that going to be done?
Well as far as we are concerned its basically Rama who's being holding us all up.
Well, Rippon rang me this morning and I said, because I'm going away. I'm going off to South America in a fortnight, and I suggested to him that I think I have some influence over Rama and I suggested to him that he ring Amanda Russell which he's done and try and set up a meeting and let's see if it can be resolved, now whether it is genuinely wished to resolve it or whether the more attractive proposition is for the tenants to carry on not paying rent.....
Well I'd like to correct that impression too because....
Well clearly there has been a lot of misunderstanding.
......stressing that it is largely the tenants who are organising the strike, the continuing strike, it has been brought to our notice, there have been a few tenants who have wanted to opt out because all they want is secure accomodation.
What have you done about it? Have you allowed them to opt out?
We are not in a position, we don't actually have the power to say you can opt out or you can't opt out. We have never stood in their way.
No. But have you tried to influence them?
We haven't tried to influence them, no. The other tenants, may have tried to influence them, that's their right.
I was told this morning that Rama recently let a couple of properties about a fortnight age a couple of flats and that the Tenant's Protection arrived I think over the weekend on their doorstep and suggested that they join the rent strike. It does sound as if you are onto a good thing here. Now you make reference to the heavy weight boxers, well that's colourful and dramatic or melodramatic, but what other recourse of action has he had — you say its a battle.
He has one other recourse of action and that's to negotiate.
Well let's just remember that the legal position is that he doesn't have to. Just because it means that these people have a problem it doesn't mean that I'm unsympathetic to their problem. But we're discussing Rama's situation. The legal position is that he doesn't have to.
Damn the legal position.
All right if you say damn the legal situation let's remain consistent with that attitude. If Rama is able to gain the support of 20 heavy weight boxers, who will not have to do anything illegal anyway, they merely have to stand there when he takes possession of his flats and protect him. Look it's not a situation that I relish and I've got no bloody wish to help a man who is a villain, whether you believe that or not, its true. If he is standing over these people, look I'm quite sure that what you say is true about these incidents that have occured in the past, I do believe you but the thing is that I also believe that the reason that he's done this is consistent with his whole background and upbringing and attitudes. Perhaps you don't have to be sympathetic but perhaps you can understand it. He's surely had his lesson. Now what I want to do is get his affairs out of his hands because I'm sure this sort of thing doesn't happen generally. I mean there's been the suggestion that this type of property has been subject to this type of abuse, that its almost a norm. That's the feeling you get when you read the paper, particularly just after the elections. Now I've told you there are 200,000 rent properties in New Zealand. If there was any merit in that suggestion we'd hear a lot more about it. The average landlord-tenant relationship is a reasonably amicable one.page 12
That's just why we've attacked the Rama situation because its not an amicable one. And that's the one concession that he could well have made, and he hasn't made. Even though he's human and deals with a whole lot of other human beings he's refused to talk to them and refused to negotiate with them.
All right, look. I've sought to find the facts about Rama and been unable to and I'm quite sure that what you say is correct, but as a result of that you people swung the pendulum completely the other "way and so you are equally guilty. You are equally guilty of all the charges that you lay against him. This sort of thing for instance [referring to Salient 13—Ed] your cartoons of Rama and his picture all over the place and the description of him, it's unkind and it's a distortion.
The only picture we've ever drawn is of a man sitting on a housing empire, that's not a racist cartoon, its not an anti-human cartoon. It's just a picture of a man who's sitting on an empire and is determined not to let it go.
Is Rama's property noted for the number of rats in them?
Yes, the Lewick Flats in particular are slums.
I think there's a lot of misunderstanding here, I don't think that you probably appreciate the problems that confront him. I think that the proper course of action is to try and get around the table and not fire abuse but get to the bottom of it and find out the sort of things he was doing and really don't matter much anymore anyway. We can get his property out of his hands and I think that if I can persuade him to do that....
Into whose hands?
Into an agents hands, somebody to act on his behalf.
Well, we want his properties to go into the government's hands.
Oh, that s, that's you see you say you want that, but do you believe that's likely to come about?
Not in the immediate future, although there are....
I have that 'trespassers will be shot' sign in my driveway because its a case of absolute need. I'm a bloke that likes my privacy, I'm funny about that, I'm a bit of a recluse. There used to be so many people coming into this place and driving around just gaping. So I put up that sign. They still didn't believe me. One day there was a Volkswagen crawling around at about two miles an hour. He left at 200 miles an hour after I fired one or two shots at his car.
....well we must talk about the immediate future.
....there are certain promising signs, for instance in London the Labour majority in the council there want to take over all privately owned accommodation and this will happen
Yes but you say that the Labour Council, want to in London but they're not impowered to do so. They can't pass laws to do so. This would require legislation from Parliament and Parliament doesn't want to in the foreseeable future.
But in the New Zealand situation, I think there are 16 branches of the Labour Party who put this very same resolution at their conference.
Yes and how was it treated? Well you don't have to answer that because I know the answer but do you see any signs, do you genuinely see the possibility in the next three years of that sort of legislation?
I don't care if it takes thirty years or fifty years. As far as we are concerned, if I can project some of what you call our 'hysterical' talk into this conversation, Rama and fellow landlords are a historically doomed class, and more and more people all over the world are coming to realise this.
Well yeah, possibly, you're possibly correct that they're a doomed class. I'd probably agree in the long term they are a doomed class but you see you talk of them as a class. They're not a class of people really, they're people who have saved some money and are putting it into property, the only sensible thing to do having saved some money. The other option is to bloody give it away.
What's so unsensible about giving it away?
Well that's a bloody good idea for the recipients.
What's so unsensible about having an economic system in which you actually don't make profits?
That's an entirely different question of course isn't it?
Well that's what we are aiming for.
I gather that but the fact remains that we are in such a system and....
We aim to overthrow it.
Well I know that but I think you're an awful long way away from that and I think further that you are not doing anything that's going to gain you any support. I think whilst the landlords are a doomed class, so's your ideology. I think that the end result may be the same but will come about through different means.
I don't think communism is a doomed ideology.
If you want my opinion on that, communism is a doomed ideology. I think that the end effect will be substantially the same, but its a doomed ideology. People get too fanatical about communism I mean, I once got fanatical about communism. The thing that seems to distort one's picture is that the people who don't make it in this type of society and there are very few people suffering, the people who encounter hardship are not really encountering hardship through the system but through personal circumstances. That's my view of the thing, and by all means help them. But I don't see anything terribly wrong with the system.
I was in Tashkent and I ran across some students who were boasting about conditions in Russia, you know, paying only one rouble a month for a heated room and that sort of thing. But when it came down to it they were pretty bored. There's a terrible frustration and gloom about the place. This has nothing to do with the economic system or ideology, it's a criticism of the sort of dull minded people in government and the life they impose.
But what often causes these so-called personal circumstances?
Things like run away husbands, that sort of thing, I'm talking about, you know, wife left behind.
Well, what causes unsatisfactory marital relationships? You don't believe in the old original Sin that people are basically bad do you?
No, no that's got nothing to do with it. I've been married unsuccessfully. We all make mis takes in a marriage and the husband shoots through and leaves the wife with three kids,all of a sudden she's in terrible bloody financial, strife. These are the sorts of people who are suffering hardship. In our political system the bit that worries me most of all is that you're not allowed to bloody well practise medicine, you can't design buildings, you can't do anything anymore, and rightly so, without the proven qualifications and yet the most important area of all, that of Government, any bloody man, any bloody man can participate in and unfortunately the system is so geared that mugs do. I think its a shocking thing, I mean, you've only got to look at the Parliamentary system and the sheer stupidity that is spoken in Parliament frequently. The absolute ignorance of a great number of the members and cabinet ministers, and I'm not referring just to the Labour Government because many of their predecessors were equally stupid, makes me think its a terribie bloody system. But I don't see any reason why we can't continue with roughly the same system. There are other areas that bother me to. There should be a degree to qualify members for parliament. Its the most important area of all so there should be a university degree. And it should be the most difficult of all.
Well there is a university degree in political science.
Yes but that's got nothing to do with reality.
Well, take a country where politics is far more sophisticated, where you don't get in unless you're not only highly intelligent but also have million of dollars to back you up — the United States. Look at the sort of mess that they get into.
Yes but they do have aspects of their system that I wish we could borrow from. For instances one of the things that I find appealing about their system is the fact the Government having gained power does call upon outside individuals of proven ability and gives them the equivalent to cabinet positions. But I don't really believe in democracy anyway. Democracy's not applied in any other area so I don't see why it should be applied in the political area.
You're an expert on certain aspects of business dealings — would you like to be in government?
Not in this system. Trudeau I think made the most fitting comment when he was being interviewed by Edwards. Something I've always remembered was when Edwards endeavoured to embarrass him with that glib question to embarrass all politicians "What makes you think you're so special? Why do you want to be prime minister?" Most people have difficulty answering that sort of question but I think he handled it well, he said "Being prime minister is the most exciting job in Canada". I think its a bloody good answer. Government is an exciting thing to be in, not in this country because being in government in this system is largely frustrating. I mean look at Kirk there's a man that's achieved the ultimate presumably in his aspiration and I don't think it would have been worth it to have to go through the frustration and disappointment and time, unless you're religious and believe you'll live for ever, you only live once. And to have to waste so many years of your life to achieve that, its just not on. Look at blokes like Bassett and Frank O'Flynn. They're probably so busy that they haven't got time to think about it, but nevertheless, they must be a little disappointed with the time they have to waste because of the system. The sheer frustration of going through this bloody nonsense which is the debating chamber, sitting at the back there and having to sit there hour after hour and finally getting up and having their say and they're not allowed to read from notes for instance, this sort of thing, it's just so time wasting.
You haven't wasted much time in getting to the top in your practical field, have you fulfilled your ambition?
Well I don't have any ambitions to get to the top in business, business really doesn't interest me, believe it or not.
What are your ambitions?
I wish I knew. At the moment I'm involved in lots of things, but I don't know what I'll do yet. I really don't know what I'll do, but I don't spend much time on business, I spend about half an hour a day and its just overseeing. I don't push, I don't get out there and look for more and more properties, there's an optimum bloody amount. In the current situation I really don't have to push even if I wanted to. You can't help but get richer and richer, in the inflationary situation that we're in which is covered up by government. When it first started, I wrote an article in the Dominion two years ago predicting exactly what would happen, and put it in terms of the property owner. It was one of two parts and I never wrote the second part because I had so many people ring me up and say 'what's this bloody nonsense' and so on. Nevertheless it was embarrassing although I knew what was happening and what would happen and all one had to do was go out and buy some millions of dollars worth which is easy to do when you know how, of the right type of property. You can finance them 100% and two years elapse and you've doubled the value of the thing. Now government's been lying about it, its like Topsy, it just grows you don't have to do anything, you know I don't get out and push for more and more property.
I don't think anyone's inherently lazy but a bit of a spanking, even a verbal one, might be a good thing for the Maoris... the modern Maori is a disgrace. Ministers of Maori Affairs go around the country talking about what a noble race they are. They aren't. They're a disgrace.... Its not so much their character, the most harmful thing to the Maori is the way the Government treats them... There's nothing wrong with being lazy but they shouldn't expect society to support them.
[unclear: What] do you think causes inflation?
I [unclear: think], on the object of inflation, the major concern to me it the fact that because of the system of getting government, that are [unclear: pritty] universal throughout the world, most countries are governed by ignorant men, This is the thing that worries me most about [unclear: infcion] because I think what's going to be [unclear: rorded] as a major event of the 20th century [unclear: be] historians is the inflationary cycle that's just [unclear: strted], it's going to carry on over the next ten years. I must look at things as well from a selfish point of view and I'm looking at my personal decisions of getting out of New Zealand, [unclear: lion't] particularly want to get out of NZ because its a healthy place to live in for somebody [unclear: Iie] me. If I shifted to the South of France I would become a vegetable, so its a self imposed [unclear: decipline] to live in New Zealand. Sometime in the next two or three or five years I'm going to have to bloody get up and out if I want to [unclear: potect] what I have.
I can see what took place in France in the [unclear: Ire] 18th century happening throughout the [unclear: wistern] world because of Inflation. People do not realise what is happening because [unclear: governments] are hushing it up. They are issuing statics talking about an 8% increase per annum [unclear: building] costs over the lest two years, well I [unclear: now] the facts of the matter that it has been [unclear: 100%] over the last two years. The social implications of this situation convince me that here is going to be a bloody revolution. There must be, and the ramifications of that are [unclear: intresting] too. I am also convinced that the [unclear: possible] outcome of such a revolution will not [unclear: be] what you blokes hope it will be but will be [unclear: an] extreme right wing control. I think we have a replica in the western world right now of exactly what took place in Germany in the [unclear: 0s] and 30s. The German Mark related something like three or four marks to the US dollar, [unclear: Eighteen] months later the rate of exchange as 60 million marks to the US dollar and you are no doubt familiar with the social [unclear: nplications] of that situation. We're not going to see a four to one situation extend with [unclear: intation] to the 60 million to one situation, but [unclear: is] like killing someone by boiling them to death whether you drop them in a vat that's heated [unclear: of] 300 degrees or 3000000 degrees the effect [unclear: of] the same. The social implications of what is [unclear: appening] are such that there's going to be a [unclear: evolution]. I'm convinced of it and my option [unclear: is] to bloody stay here and participate to the [unclear: evolution] which I would probably do if I thought I was going to be on the winning side [unclear: are] seek a haven and I'm not sure where the [unclear: havens] will be. They'll be there, there will be [unclear: economic] havens. This situation is looming but don't think it need occur.
They are issuing statistics talking [unclear: about] an 8% increase per annum in building costs over the last two years, well I know the facts of the matter and it has been 100%.....
Governments are not doing anything about [unclear: nflation], but to get back to your original question on what causes inflation, its an economic cause and if you look at the economic history of the western world since the war you see the cause of it. Prior to the war here were almost no trading nations in the world in the sense that their economies were either totally or substantially dependent on international trade, but after the war you had a tremendous boost to world trade and you had economies becoming more and more dependent upon that sector of their economies related to world trade. Now it got to the stage at the end of the fifities that quite a number of economies were totally or substantially dependent on international trade. In other words if you took the inter national trade sector out of their economy you'd have massive unemployment and all sorts of breakdowns in that society. Now logic of the situation is quite clear that if you've got 20 countries all seeking an export surplus in monetary terms, and indeed that was the case, I mean you think back to the early sixties the export or die slogan that hit Britain and in turn hit all other countries, you're seeking something that's not possible because they can't all have a surplus. If somebody's got a 10 million dollar surplus somewhere there's got to be a 10 million dollar loss. So you had all these countries in the western world seeking the impossible. Now it didn't matter before the war because no country was totally or significantly dependent on international trade. This is why the American economy is absolutely immune — despite the fact that their current trade financial deficit and their overseas exchange are a mass of disturbing figures it can never effect their economy because their economy is so big, and it's so complex they can close off their external sector and carry on. Do you follow what I'm driving at? You have the situation where all the countries are seeking the impossible — it survived for a period of time but in the early 70s it reached a stage where the losing countries, and England predictably was the first, found themselves in an impossible situation with staggering bloody deficits that just could not be caught up with. So what did they do? They devalued, the quick, easy and only rememdy. Now as soon as a country devalues the eventual effects of a devaluation are to restore the trade balance. But still the same bloody object — in fact it reached a hysteria when it was really stepped up — 'Buy Britain, buy the home grown products' 'Export or Die' and special incentives the problem was just made worse and worse and worse. So it went on to France now you remember the financial crises in France, and so on, its like a bouncing ball its being passed, this evil thing, its being passed from one to another. One country after another takes turns to be on the losing end and she devalues.