NZ Labour: more racist immigration controls

Philip Ferguson PLF13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Fri Jul 4 20:33:42 MDT 2003


The Labour government here has just rushed through more racist
immigration controls.  They appeared from nowhere and were rushed
through in a day, without any chance even for public representations.
One of the most interesting/draconian aspects is that people's chances
to appeal decisions to courts have been removed.

Below is an article from the 'NZ Herald', the country's major paper.
Dalziel is Lianne Dalziel, Labour's minister for immigration and one of
their (many) odious yuppies.  Dalziel traditionally presented herself as
well on the left of the party.


John Armstrong: Peters' race card trumped by canny Dalziel

05.07.2003


First shroud your announcement in mystery. Then promote it as the most
sweeping change in policy in a decade. If that does not grab people's
attention, nothing will.

Thus did the Government engineer a publicity splash on Tuesday with an
overhaul of immigration rules to stop highly qualified people ending up
in low-skilled jobs. And, without saying as much, start stemming inflows
from Asia.

Word spread around Parliament that something big was in the offing. So
big, opposition parties would be granted a rare official briefing.

The secrecy surrounding Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel's
late-afternoon announcement was argued on the grounds that there would
have been a last-minute rush of applications under the old rules before
legislation implementing a cut-off point could be passed by Parliament
sitting under urgency that night.

Still, the cloak-and-dagger behaviour enabled the Government to get its
message up in neon lights.

Effectively, it was saying: "You may think immigration is out of control
- that the wrong people are coming from the wrong countries in the wrong
numbers and settling in the wrong place. We are bringing it under control."

Well, sort of.

Labour is obviously and acutely vulnerable on the vexed issue of race.
And immigration is the second leg of the double after the Treaty.

Just as the latter provokes a clash between Labour's Maori and non-Maori
constituencies, the public backlash against immigrant numbers runs smack
into the economic imperatives driving them.

Maintaining a balanced workforce in the face of serious skill shortages,
New Zealanders moving overseas and an ageing population inevitably
necessitates a compensating influx of migrants.

However, Labour is also trumpeting immigration as a key component of its
showpiece "growth and innovation strategy" through mounting a "talent
hunt" for migrants who can contribute to the wealth of the nation.

These economic drivers have prompted the Government to maintain the
annual number of immigrants at 45,000 - not far below levels which
provoked so much unease among voters.

While Labour might claim economic kudos - the policy revamp has been
warmly received in the business world - the numbers mean Winston Peters
is correct when he says Labour cannot win the political argument over him.

The best it can do is to contain it. And it is doing so both overtly and
covertly.

Out goes the general skills category for migrants, under which people
who secured enough points were automatically granted residency.

In comes the "invitation only" skilled migrant category, which will
require would-be immigrants to register their interest after meeting
health, character and English language requirements.

Some will be fast-tracked residency if they have job offers.

A two-tiered approach will see others given up to two years to show they
could get relevant jobs. Only then will they be granted residency.

That is designed to puncture the perception that many immigrants go
straight from the airport to the dole queue, even though the numbers are
quite small.

Pressures on Auckland's infrastructure are also being addressed by
awarding bonus points to applicants with job offers from outside the
metropolis.

Overall, the new policy gives the Government far more control by giving
far more discretion to immigration officials. The price of that could,
at best, be inconsistency in the application of the new rules, and, at
worst, corruption.

In scrapping the general skills category, the door will shut to tens of
thousands of people already in that queue, forcing some already living
here, but still seeking residency, to leave.

However, clearing the backlog would have delayed implementation of the
new skilled migrant category by two years - thus increasing the time-lag
by which the new policy could be shown to be paying dividends until well
after the next election.

Some non-New Zealanders will suffer in the process.

The Government will not suffer from appearing tough.

To the contrary. Peters, for one, should be applauding elements of the
new policy. However, the NZ First leader is hardly going to congratulate
the Government for taking the heat out of his most potent issue.

In the same vein, the Government is not going to offend its more
politically correct elements by admitting just how the revamped policy
will likely alter immigration flows both in number and in source.

For starters, the 45,000 target for the next three years is now
"indicative" - an admission, perhaps, that there will be difficulty
attracting that number.

Labour Department briefing papers to Dalziel last year warned that a
shift from passive acceptance of residence applications to active
recruitment of skilled migrants using more rigorous selection criteria
could mean "an acceptance of lower flows".

Officials also told Dalziel that the ageing workforces in most developed
countries meant New Zealand had to expect increased competition for
skilled labour.

That required New Zealand to market itself as a destination for
migrants, and money was set aside in this year's Budget for doing this.

But the indications from this week's announcement are that the marketing
will be done in North America and Europe - not Asia.

Those who register an interest in applying for residence will also be
assessed according to, so far, vague criteria measuring their "ability
to settle and contribute".

Add far stricter English language requirements to the mix and you begin
to get the picture - a white or, at least, whiter-looking one.

Dalziel denies the new policy is biased against Asians. Those of Asian
extraction, such as the National Party's Pansy Wong, think otherwise.
And it will suit some in Labour for that impression to gain currency.

In Dalziel's defence, the existing policy was not working. Constant
tinkering failed to rectify its inherent flaws.

Officials were flagging the need for a review before Peters started
making his three-fingered salute on the election trail.

Dalziel has been hinting for months that a fundamental change in policy
was under way. By acting now, she has avoided the risk of being accused
of panicking later.

Her colleagues should thank her for that.



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