Winston Peters stoking immigration fears

For years Winston Peters has played on racism and xenophobia in promoting much tighter controls on immigration and property ownership. Some of his policies and ideas are absurd.

Nation needs smart immigration, says Peters

When NZ First originally sounded the alarm years ago, other parties accused it of being racist and xenophobic, he said.

“We took all that crap from them and all of a sudden now they’re saying: Oh, maybe they’re right.

“Well, of course we’re right on this issue. We are not anti-immigrant.”

But Peters knows how to play on anti-immigration fears and especially of prejudice against some nationalities. He often plays an anti-Asian card.

And he’s often not right on the issue. He issued a media release on Friday – Immigration Invasion Means Disaster For Many Kiwis – the heading alone is deliberately designed to inflame fears.

Speaking to a Hutt Valley Grey Power meeting this morning, the Rt Hon Winston Peters accused the Government of “betraying New Zealanders” and any chance of improving housing and infrastructure in Auckland, with an immigration policy that will bring in net 41,000 migrants a year.

The Auckland housing market is hobbled by lack of supply, not any “betrayal” of “New Zealanders”. And the the immigration policy doesn’t “bring in net 41,000 migrants a year”.  Since dropping off a high of 42,500 in 2002 it has averaged around 10,000 until the current surge to possibly just over 40,000, but it is predicted to drop off again.

And the current surge is mostly due to economic problems in Australia plus a growing economy in New Zealand that has far fewer Kiwis heading across the Tasman and more returning. Immigration policy can’t control that.

“Even Treasury has warned of the extra demand, inflationary pressure and higher interest rates from such a policy.

“There are serious concerns in New Zealand that so many areas of critical under investment are being totally ignored whilst the doors are thrown open even wider to mass immigration.

The “doors” are not “being thrown open even wider to mass immigration”. The door is always open to New Zealanders to come and go as they please. There’s been little change to controls on new immigrants.

“What National plans is to bring in more than the population of Wanganui every year, the mass majority of whom will go to Auckland, choking the already overloaded system, driving wages down even further with artificial competition for employment and resources.

He’s partly correct in that the immigration plan for many years is to allow 50-60,000 new immigrants a year into New Zealand. That is in part designed to get more skilled workers into the country. But this is usually offset by New Zealanders going overseas. As recently as 2012 there was a net migration loss.

Net immigration gains are designed to contribute to economic growth and boost employment and wages.

“No government has the right to sell its people out like this. The National Party is trading away our future and our birthright, along with our land and our assets.”

“History will condemn this Government because it has inflicted the cynical values of spiritually and morally bankrupt Wall Street traders on what was once the greatest country on earth.

“Don’t blame the immigrants but the silly politicians who enable all of this to happen.

“In September New Zealanders will have their last chance to stop this unfocused invasion where the National Party, at enormous cost to New Zealand people, plays host,” said Mr Peters.

On The Nation on Saturday journalist Andrea Vance:

This is perfect timing, these Treasury documents, these forecasts are perfect timing for Winston, it plays absolutely to what he is saying. And it is dog whistle politics but immigration is an issue that really gets people talking. People are worried about house prices and it does feed into, you know, a nasty streak really in politics.

Bernard Hickey:

And he can also take it beyond this social aspect, he can go beyond the issue of we don’t want these people coming here. He can now say it’s not just about the people, it’s about what it’s doing to our economy, and if you’re in Gore or Palmerston North and your interest rates have gone up, your kids can’t get there first home loan, he can say to them “that’s because of all these people coming in to Auckland”.

But one of Peters’ policies is to make these immigrants go to the provinces for five years, places like Gore and Palmerston North. The problem won’t just be “up in Auckland”, he wants these immigrants to live next door to the people he is trying to promote fears to.

It’s been reported that Peters says this policy would be a bottom line in any coalition deal. On The Nation both Bill English and David Cunliffe said they wouldn’t support the policy.

Peters’ pledges of bottom lines need to be looked at with some scepticism but he will campaign on the fears regardless. And apart from the dictatorial aspect of forcing people not to live in certain places the policy has significant flaws.

  • Some immigrants want to join family already living here, forcing them to live in separate areas would be draconian.
  • A lot of immigration is granted on the basis of work skills and qualifications in occupations we need to boost, but jobs for the highly skilled are far less likely to be in smaller cities and towns.
  • How would you stop people from commuting to larger cities, or owning a rural crib but also owning a city apartment?
  • How would you stop people working or doing business at least partly in the large cities?

And how would this be policed? Give immigrants regional passes and arrest them if they are found outside their designated area? Deport them for visiting their children?

The impracticalities of the policy won’t stop Peters from promoting the fears and prejudices. That’s how he campaigns. It’s absurd but it might work for him, he only needs one in twenty voters to buy his bluster.

 

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