Guest Post: Is it corruption or a different operating system?

February 24th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Jadis:

While it may come out that Australia have been using illegal tactics against local New Zealand suppliers I suspect something else may be going on.  From my years of experience working with (and against) lobbyists, politicians and corporates on either side of the Tasman, New Zealanders have a slightly different way of operating than our Australian cousins. 

At a very simple level, Australian politicians, lobbyists and corporates seek to ‘win’ by being aggressive and often bullying their opposition into submission.  It could be suggested that Countdown’s people are an example of this.  The interesting thing is they don’t think they are doing anything wrong or unusual because this is the norm in their Australian environment.  Some in the New Zealand commentariat may even think “New Zealanders need to harden up!” It becomes interesting when we look at what the usual New Zealand operating system might be.    

New Zealand politicians, lobbyists and corporates are more likely to use diplomacy and manipulate positions behind the scenes – not obviously right in front of you (or in the media like the Australians so often do).  I’ve enjoyed talking down Australian counterparts explaining to them that being a bully is not how you get a ‘win’ in New Zealand.  Indeed the best wins are the ones where the opposition may not even realise that levers were manoeuvred in various ways – against them. 

Sure, New Zealanders have to put their own ego aside but fordo so for the “greater good” and yes, bottom lines.  It is amazing just how much can be done using fairly polite and diplomatic ways.  It is no surprise that the likes of Rt Hon Helen Clark and Chris Liddell are at the top of their games in the world because… you know what, they aren’t pricks to deal with but still (in some clever way) get their own firm position implemented.  I’d also argue that Rt Hon John Key adopts similar techniques – being very clear of his own position while adopting multi-level approaches to solving the problem.  You don’t get the moniker of ‘Smiling Assassin’ for no reason.

There is a very good reason that New Zealanders are often at the front of deals (for various multinationals) in Asian countries.  We are respectful, we gather information and we look for ways to work together and not necessarily against each other.  Of course, the good operators also know how to crush the opposition using those same techniques.

So, that leads me to the Americans.  Like it or not their way is still via the chequebook and you know what… they are good at it.  They also have size on their side.  Kim Dotcom does not employ clever and calculated German techniques to getting his own way.  He uses the good old fashioned American chequebook.  Of course this only works as long as you have dollars in the bank.  How long can a person promise that people can be paid for helping him?  Or that he has any ability to help them in return? 

27 Responses to “Guest Post: Is it corruption or a different operating system?”

  1. igm (2,474 comments) says:

    What game is Clark top of? I should think building a huge empire of deviants and losers, on a somewhat larger scale than that which it had in NZ, at taxpayers’ expense. If, as you say, it is on top of its foul game, then let it be, but don’t ever bring the thing back here!

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  2. Mobile Michael (984 comments) says:

    Interesting that Countdown are playing to their strengths in negotiations. Pay up, or we’ll find someone else. And good luck finding a replacement buyer for us. Interesting that Pak n Save beats them in price surveys as well, and don’t pull this stuff. Maybe Countdown aren’t getting the best deal from their suppliers as they know to keep something in reserve for later demands.

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  3. KiwiGreg (3,589 comments) says:

    As someone who has in the past sold to both, they are equally tough at different times and different ways. Missing from the whole debate (conveniently for Labour) is the end result of all this “beating up” is cheaper prices for consumers.

    Bottom line- if you cant make money selling to supermarkets there will be someone beating your price who can…

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  4. RRM (12,581 comments) says:

    Bottom line – If you can’t win in a race to the bottom, maybe try direct marketing your product over the internet instead?

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  5. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    Sorry, but this reads like the usual Kiwi sanctimonious self-aggrandising punching-above-our-weight drivel.

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  6. Nostalgia-NZ (6,434 comments) says:

    I like it, while it may not be the universal approach in every situation Jadis points out the very common aspect of interchanges with Aussies in particular and the subtle, expansive approach of JK, Clark and others of achieving a deal in the face of being ‘pushed around.’

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  7. Colville (3,123 comments) says:

    Aussies just dont understand NZ or NZers.

    Over 20 odd years I dealt with a number of Aussie national companies that came to NZ with grand plans of taking over the services (air con and building services) industry.
    They all wanted to import the Aussie way of doing things (no employee loyalty, screwing suppliers and not paying bills) and all of them failed. It wont stop another company trying it in a few years when our construction industry is booming tho.

    I think this lack of understanding is why Progressive is losing market share to Foodies. Foodies have a smarter team and a better model (Pak and Saves are run by owners, 4 squares are training stores)

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  8. kiwi in america (2,687 comments) says:


    I enjoyed this post a lot because I’m doing business with Kiwis, Aussies and Americans all the time and I see the business cultures starkly side by side. Your assessment is right. Kiwis are far more consensus building, diplomatic, more likely to seek win win solutions and negotiate mostly in good faith and always with humour and pleasant informality. Australians are just plain outright ruthless to deal with – they’ll be as friendly as Kiwis to your face but then they’ll try and rip your throat out and then sell their own grandmother! I can see why Countdown’s owners are surprised at the backlash because standover tactics like that are common in Aussie. Fortunately we have a unique product that customers are vying to install so we have the upper hand in most negotiations there. It’s why so many NZ business people fail in Australia – they think because Aussies speak somewhat like us, play the same sports and have very similar cultures that Australian business people are like us – they are not!!

    I enjoy doing business with Americans. Yes money talks and they are not averse to using the chequebook to get their own way. But Americans love the deal – they are anxious to find excellent ways to make money. They cut to the chase quickly, they analyze things much more quickly and efficiently than most other cultures because business/entrepreneurship/deal making is in their collective DNA and has been for generations. They are polite and professional, they are up front and mostly don’t play games (like the Chinese), they make decisions quickly (unlike the Canadians and the Japanese), once their lawyers paper the deal up their way (to cover off as many litigation avenues as possible)they stick to the deal (unlike the Indians) and their easier access to large amounts of capital mean the good ones can deliver the funds even on big deals quickly.

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  9. Ben Dover (526 comments) says:

    Bottom line – if you can’t or don’t know how to operate on both sides of the Tasman

    you are not very good at what you do.

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  10. freethinker (776 comments) says:

    The missed point is using bully tactics to extract money after the deal is done is blackmail if the threat is we won’t deal with you again. Turn it around the other way lets say farmers unionised and decided that following a harsh winter they would bully Countdown into paying more for Lamb sold the previous Autumn to make up for their winter losses with the threat that non payment would result in no Lamb would be sold to Countdown. Sure this would be slated as Bullying Unions but if a private Co does it – no different!

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  11. Jack5 (9,299 comments) says:

    Thank you Jadis. You’ve demonstrated how brilliant we New Zealanders are, especially Helen Clark! The 4.5 million Dale Carnegies of world trade!

    We show the Aussies, the Asians, and the Americans how to do business. They don’t get it, do they?

    We’re so smart, we haven’t had a balance-of-payments surplus for 40 years! We’re so smart we set out to become a technology leader about the same time as Israel, but while the Israelis succeeded spectacularly on an international scale we’ve struggled and our agriculture dependence remains unchallenged. In fact we’re all but totally reliant on milk!

    Colville in his post above talks about the difficulties some Australian companies have had in NZ. What about our companies in Australia? There have been a string of stumbles. Telecom was a notable one.

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  12. tvb (5,517 comments) says:

    Bullies though often objectionable bastards are upfront and honest whereas the softer clever approach while more pleasant often involves being sneaky. NZ cannot be bullies as we are just too small. We have to be clever and easy to deal with.

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  13. Nigel Kearney (1,991 comments) says:

    If there is an ongoing relationship of goods and services changing hands for cash, then a request for money like this is not corrupt or bullying. It is the equivalent of reducing the amount they are willing to pay in the future, which of course nobody would complain about. A company’s reasons for wanting to make it retrospective may be simply a bargaining strategy or there could be accounting implications.

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  14. david (2,348 comments) says:

    It is always risky painting a whole country with the colours of the few you might deal with but Jadis has it pretty much right on the button.
    Australians live to win the battle but often lose sight of the war. They rant and crow about today’s small win and strut like peacocks but are mostly silent and sullen when they lose. Working in Sydney when they won the Bledisloe at the turn of the century was an example of in-your-face boasting and slagging of the beaten opponent day after day after day.

    Generally however there is no strategy behind their approach except that winning today’s deal is the most important feel-good thing you can do. To get this win they will happily break the law, cut throats (their own included) empty wallets and just be all-round bastards to people who they will never persuade to deal with them again.

    I have seen them destroy their own industry chasing an ultimately worthless deal just to say they won. Sad really but, trite as it may sound, consistent with the origins as a penal colony where survival was often dependant on your ability to steal a small loaf of vread.

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  15. anticorruptionnz (251 comments) says:

    I think that your definition of corruption is some what lacking

    what count down is doing is not corrupt they are merely Australians supporting Australians , so they have no right to complain if Nz’ers choose to reciprocate in supporting NZ

    It would be corruption if the backhanders were taken by government officials and made the Aussies pay them a back hander to get their product into the country

    Corruption is when councils turn a blind eye to their managers using their infrastructure and resources for private pecuniary gain
    Corruption is when Mayors receive money from on unidentifiable and possibly non existent trust so as to evade the law.
    Corruption is when people have a secret about an official which can use for leverage and their benefit

    NZ is riffe with many forms of corruption but countdown choosing to charge to put items on shelves is not one of them , try putting a brochure into the Information centers run by ATEED it will cost you over $2000 just for a very simple tiny flyer

    I am happy to say that I have chosen to support KIWI as much as possible Lets look after our own and expose the corrupt.

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  16. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    Pfft .. Poor David. That post says more about your own twisted and bitter view of reality than anything about the Ozzies. The ones I’ve met have all been jovial and genuine, and indeed have demonstrated a better understanding of Kiwis than they are generally given credit for. I can only assume your turn of the century Bledisloe experience was a case of you getting everything you deserve.

    [DPF: try not to be a fuckwit. This is a guest post from Jadis. So using it to sneer at me will get you banned]

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  17. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    sorry David. I grovelingly apologise. Please don’t ban me, please, I beg you, I’m on my knees licking your shoes sparkling clean, please no, don’t, please don’t …

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  18. David in Chch (595 comments) says:

    DPF: I think Dean was replying to the post by “david” at 9.28 am. I should add that I actually have to agree with “david”.

    Dean: I have actually seen the Aussies destroy much of their undergraduate geological education. The “professional” organisation that gave accreditation to the universities that met their “standards” pushed for so many courses, especially theoretical courses that had little direct relevance, and so little practical experience, that the enrolment in geology in Oz dropped and most of those departments disappeared into mergers with geography and environmental science departments. The NZ universities looked at the proposed accredited programme and said “No way is that practical!” and stuck to the basics. And so most of the geologists and geophysicists in the Aussie mineral exploration industry are not Australian. A lot of them, if not most of them, are Kiwis. And it was all because the “professional” organisation said that if the Aussie universities didn’t toe the line, they would lose their acceditation. They toed the line – and their departments disappeared because the changes were too onerous to sustain. So the accreditation became a moot point – there is almost no one left to be accredited.

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  19. Jack5 (9,299 comments) says:

    David in Chch makes a good point about Australian geology education. So sad for a great mining nation. He can add to the Kiwi geologists, Filipino geologists. Most of the latter are good, too, if we overlook their role in the great Bre-X scandal.

    Again, however, we need to look at the position in NZ. We have two of the world’s best applied-agriculture universities, in Massey and Lincoln. They have been diluted by the PC and Green surges, down playing the importance of agrilculture studies and research in this country still so heavily dependent on farm-product exports.

    Massey now offers bachelor’s degrees in social work, in Maori visual arts, in teaching Maori, and in sport and exercise. At Lincoln, the old courses in agriculture engineering are gone, but you can study philosphy, design, recreation, tourism, and Maori planning and development.

    Even in NZ mining, the Otago Mining School was once well known internationally, but the university lost interest, and Canterbury University declined the change to take it up and add it to its fine engineering school. It went to Auckland city, well away from the coal and gold mines of the South Island.

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  20. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    Every geology student should be made to study maths, physics, and chemisty (my least favourite subject!) as part of their degree. I’m not sure what you are implying about Oz geology students. I just did a quick peruse of the various Uni websites and found an abundance of degrees in geology to be had.

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  21. David in Chch (595 comments) says:

    Dean: The proposed programme was a _five year_ programme, with not just the basic physics, maths and chemistry that every science student should have, but also more advanced courses in those subjects, computer programming, and so on and so forth. And yes there may still be geology degrees listed, but from within broader earth science departments, not so many specific geology or geological science departments. And so the numbers of geological science graduates in Australia cannot meet the demands of industry.

    And Jack: The School of Mining has disappeared at UA as well. However, Otago geology is strong and healthy, as is geological science at Canterbury.

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  22. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    David in Chch: yes, I forgot about computing! Obviously required for modelling and simulation. Also some stats should be thrown in there too. So quite a lot to fit into a 3-year degree. I’d say 5 years -masters length -would be the minimum. There may well be a shortage of geologists in Oz, but I guessing there’d also be a higher demand. You are telling me that the majortiy of geologists in Oz are Kiwi? If that factual, or just a hunch? Given the good money available I’d have thought European and American graduates would be available in greater numbers than Kiwis?

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  23. David in Chch (595 comments) says:

    Dean: The modelling and simulation tends to be higher end stuff done by people with Master’s degrees. I meant the basic BSc geology grads. We don’t have much of a mining industry here, number 1. Number 2, Kiwis, especially young Kiwis, are mobile. They want to travel, earn some dosh, and so on. 3rd, the Americans (and Canadians) have their own relatively robust mining industries, although I am aware of a number of Kiwis who have gone to Canada. I didn’t say that the Kiwis were in the majority, although I am aware of some Western Aus exploration companies where 5 out of 6 geologists are Kiwis, the majority of those from Otago and Canterbury. I am aware of American, Canadian and European geoscientists working in Oz, but usually at the higher level positions, not at the basic BSc level positions.

    The Master’s, we keep telling our students, should be considered the professional level degree, BUT so many of them take the basic degree and go looking for work. They are tired of classes and, frankly, WINZ will no longer support a student through a Master’s degree! So they look at the cost vs what they can earn as basic field geologists or core loggers and go for the dough.

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  24. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    David in Chch: yes, that’s a good point you make about the cost of education these days. But one thing that we have now that we didn’t in the old days of free (relatively free anyway) Uni education is the internet. It is simply fantastic. Some of the lectures available on youtube are unbelievable. I’ve not searched out any geology ones, but the physics ,mathematics and Stats are great. I only wish they’d been available in my day.

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  25. David in Chch (595 comments) says:

    That’s is a point about the internet lectures, Dean, BUT those are not accepted on a CV unless actually part of a formal degree. Saying “I watched a bunch of internet lecture videos” won’t get you far. In addition, there is nothing that can replace seeing the rocks in context, and understanding the full picture. That is why New Zealand geological science students do well – we still have a strong tradition of field training and experience. Fewer and fewer US universities are doing field camps because of costs and the insane litigious culture there. The uni administrators are crapping their pants over H&S issues, whether real or imagined.

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  26. Ben Dover (526 comments) says:

    Why is Italy and Greece like the way they are

    that could be an answer

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  27. Ben Dover (526 comments) says:

    Have you ever done

    ANYTHING IN AUS? – Seriously

    Do you know anything about the economic history of Australia?

    Do you actually realise what the next decade holds as far as challenges?
    Not just for Aus but the region?

    Have you ever attempted to get anything in NZ done
    from Australia?

    Jesus woo hoo


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