English talks with Trump

US President Donald Trump and New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English talked by phone today.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Bill English speaks with US President Donald Trump

The White House said the aim of the calls are to “promote an America First foreign policy.”

English is about the 15th leader Trump has spoken to since his inauguration.

The New Zealand Prime Minister has given more detail on his phone call with the US President Donald Trump, describing Trump as “warm, civil and very thoughtful” during a call which ranged from immigration bans to the Super Bowl.

He said the call…was “a warm and friendly conversation.”

“He has a more casual attitude to diplomatic relationships than is usual, but he conveyed his enthusiasm for meeting at some stage in the White House … ‘well, if you’re passing by’.”

Despite the warm offer, English said he was unlikely to get there before the September election. “I’d imagine it will take some time for the new administration to bed in, and then we’ve got the election campaign. I wouldn’t anticipate getting there this side of the election.”

He said Trump appeared to be positive about the relationship with New Zealand. “He thinks it’s a fantastic place. He likes the idea we are a long way away so therefore we aren’t under the same pressures as everybody else.”

So no dramas here.

Trump versus Judge Robart

Gezza posted:

Surprise, surprise – the DOTUS wants to direct all three branches of government.

The US’s first attempt at a ‘benevolent’ dictator, anyone?


Fox News: Trump calls judge’s halt on immigration ‘ridiculous;’ says will be’overturned!’

U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle ruled that Washington state and Minnesota had standing to challenge Trump’s executive order on immigration. So he issued the temporary, nationwide restraining order based on his opinion that the states showed their case is likely to succeed.

Trump issued the temporary ban following his winning campaign promise to further protect Americans from radical Islamic terrorism.

The State Department confirmed Saturday that it has reversed the executive order’s provisional revoking of visas, saying, “Those individuals with visas that were not physically cancelled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”

The agency said it also is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security and their legal teams and will provide further updates as soon as information is available.

A purported 60,000 people from the affected countries have had their visas cancelled since the ban took effect last weekend.

The New York Times first reported Friday night that airlines have been told by the government to begin allowing these travelers on planes to the United States.

And Qatar Airways announced on its website Saturday that it has been directed by the U.S. government to permit formerly banned passengers to board U.S.-bound flights, as a result of the judge’s ruling.

Trump and his administration have tried to circumvent the normal legal checks on the power of the President, but and some battles have been won, but the war looks to be far from over.


US versus Iran

Is Iran taking advantage of a chaotic transition to a Trump led White House? Is Trump diving into a snake pit that they are nowhere near prepared to assess properly? Both?

With Trump being so gung ho and super sensitive to being challenged, and without coming close to a fully staffed and well advised administration, the US is very vulnerable to being sucked into something that could be very difficult to extricate itself.

Diplomacy by Twitter continues (if you can call it diplomacy):

This is potentially very scary stuff.

As is this:Press Secretary Sean Spicer Falsely Accuses Iran of Attacking U.S. Navy Vessel, an Act of War

National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday said he was  “officially putting Iran on notice” following the country’s ballistic missile test and an attack on a Saudi naval vessel by Houthi rebels in Yemen (the Houthis are tenuously aligned with Iran’s government but are distinct from it).

The White House press corps wanted to know what being put “on notice” entailed, and Spicer responded by claiming that Iran’s government took actions against a U.S. naval vessel, which would be an act of war. “I think General Flynn was really clear yesterday that Iran has violated the Joint Resolution, that Iran’s additional hostile actions that it took against our Navy vessel are ones that we are very clear are not going to sit by and take,” he said. “I think that we will have further updates for you on those additional actions.”

Major Garrett of CBS News quietly corrected him, saying “a Saudi vessel,” and Spicer then responded almost inaudibly: “Sorry, thank you, yes a Saudi vessel. Yes, that’s right.” He did not in any way address his false claim that it was an Iranian attack, however.

Pentagon spokesman Christopher Sherwood confirmed to The Intercept that the attack was in fact conducted against a Saudi warship, and that the Pentagon suspects Houthi rebels. “It was a Saudi ship – it was actually a frigate” said Sherwood. “It was [conducted by] suspected Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen.”

Fox News initially misreported that a U.S. ship was somehow the target — which is perhaps where some of the confusion in the White House originated.

Spicer is being informed by Fox News? Next thing he will start believing Breitbart – actually it could be Stephen Bannon pulling his strings anyway.

Inaccurate news, false news, false claims, tweeting from the hip, a very inexperienced and disorganised White House, countries in the Middle East with histories of escalating provocations.

What could go wrong?

Yemen raid reality check

The US raid in Yemen targeting members of Al Qaeda has inflicted civilian casualties as well, including children and a US commando.There has also been reports an American girl may have been killed.

Acting tough with the US military has it’s risks.

Al Jazeera: US admits civilians ‘likely’ killed in Yemen raid

Civilians were “likely” killed in a US commando raid in Yemen over the weekend and children may have been among the dead, the US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) said.

“A team designated by the operational task force commander has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen January 29. Casualties may include children,” CENTCOM said in a statement late on Wednesday.

Yemeni officials had previously said 16 civilians – eight women and eight children – were killed in the raid in the southern province of al-Bayda, but CENTCOM did not provide any numbers.

The civilian deaths appear to have occurred when US aircraft were called to help the commandos as they conducted the dawn raid that US officials said killed 14 members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

“The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist US forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions, and US special operations members receiving fire from all sides to include houses and other buildings,” the statement added.

Officials were conducting an ongoing “credibility assessment” to see if there may have been additional civilian casualties in the intense firefight, it said.

Since the January 29 raid, Washington has faced questions as to whether an eight-year-old American girl was killed during the firefight.

New York Times: Raid in Yemen: Risky From the Start and Costly in the End

Just five days after taking office, over dinner with his newly installed secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Trump was presented with the first of what will be many life-or-death decisions: whether to approve a commando raid that risked the lives of American Special Operations forces and foreign civilians alike.

President Barack Obama’s national security aides had reviewed the plans for a risky attack on a small, heavily guarded brick home of a senior Qaeda collaborator in a mountainous village in a remote part of central Yemen. But Mr. Obama did not act because the Pentagon wanted to launch the attack on a moonless night and the next one would come after his term had ended.

With two of his closest advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon, joining the dinner at the White House along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Mr. Trump approved sending in the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, hoping the raid early last Sunday would scoop up cellphones and laptop computers that could yield valuable clues about one of the world’s most dangerous terrorist groups. Vice President Mike Pence and Michael T. Flynn, the national security adviser, also attended the dinner.

As it turned out, almost everything that could go wrong did. And on Wednesday, Mr. Trump flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to be present as the body of the American commando killed in the raid was returned home, the first military death on the new commander in chief’s watch.

It may have been that Trump did little more than rubber stamp a planned incursion in this case, but “two of his closest advisers, Jared Kushner and Stephen K. Bannon” doesn’t give me a lot of confidence.

At least one US casualty plus significant embarrassment may not dent trump’s confidence he can sort eliminate Al Qaeda and ISIS, but it shows that it is not a simply thing to do, even on a small scale like this.

Trump versus Australia


Donald Trump is trying to talk tough, with one of his latest targets being Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but mixed messages are making a mockery of Trump’s so-called toughness. Perhaps he should start getting tough on his inconsistencies.

Dumping on one of the USA’s closest allies seems to be quite stupid.

Washington Post:  ‘This was the worst call by far’: Trump badgered, bragged and abruptly ended phone call with Australian leader

It should have been one of the most congenial calls for the new commander in chief — a conversation with the leader of Australia, one of America’s staunchest allies, at the end of a triumphant week.

Instead, President Trump blasted Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull over a refu­gee agreement and boasted about the magnitude of his electoral college win, according to senior U.S. officials briefed on the Saturday exchange. Then, 25 minutes into what was expected to be an hour-long call, Trump abruptly ended it.

At one point, Trump informed Turnbull that he had spoken with four other world leaders that day — including Russian President Vladi­mir Putin — and that “this was the worst call by far.”

When the phone conversation was leaked (in itself a notable thing to have happened) Trump turned to Twitter.

It may look like a dumb deal, but Trump’s way of dealing with it is dumber.

Since then he has continued. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph: Donald Trump ‘upset and angry’ over refugee deal discussed with Malcolm Turnbull

US President Donald Trump has continued his public stoush with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull by declaring he needs to make “tough phone calls” because nations are taking advantage of America.

At a speech in Washington DC overnight, Mr Trump said the world was in trouble but he was “going to straighten it out”.

“When you hear about the tough phone calls I’m having, don’t worry about it,” Mr Trump told the audience. “Just don’t worry about it.

“They’re tough. We have to be tough,” he said. “It’s time we have to be a little tough folks.

“We are taken advantage of by every nation in the world virtually. “It’s not going to happen anymore.”

On top of this there has been conflicting information from trump’s administration.

From RNZ in US ‘taken advantage of by every nation’ – Trump

The tweets threw more confusion about the status of the controversial deal that Australia made with former President Barack Obama late last year.

The United States would resettle up to 1250 asylum seekers held in offshore processing camps on Pacific islands in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. In return, Australia would resettle refugees from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The swap is at odds with Mr Trump’s executive order last week suspending the US refugee programme and restricting entry to the United States for travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer and the US Embassy in Australia have both said Mr Trump would honour the deal. In several media appearances after Mr Trump’s tweet, Mr Turnbull reiterated that he believed the deal stood.

“He is saying that this is not a deal he would have made, but the question is will he honour that commitment? He has already given it,” Mr Turnbull said.

Not surprisingly there has been a lot of criticism. Stuff details some in US media, congressmen stunned Donald Trump has picked a fight with Australia

I don’t know that Trump has deliberately picked a fight, it could be just his normal boorish arrogant behaviour.

Lawrence O’Donnell, the left-wing commentator and host of MSNBC’s The Last Word, lambasted the president for insulting Turnbull, “while having no idea that Australia has stood by us like no other ally, marched into battle with us where no other ally would go, including Vietnam, something Donald Trump would have known if he had served in Vietnam and heard those men beside him with those Australian accents, men who saved the lives of American troops”.

David Gergen, a former presidential adviser to Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, who is now an analyst for CNN, accused Trump of bullying a friend.

“Are they playing some sort of game in the White House – how many countries we can they alienate in 100 days? The list is in double digits now,” he said on the network.

“We have never had a president in my memory who has bullied our friends in this way, especially heads of government.”

Kevin Madden, a former adviser to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said people had long expected that Trump, a mogul and reality television star known for his combative, impudent manner, would eventually conform to some level of political protocol, but that a pivot of that nature was never going to come.

“He’s just not going to change but that’s what’s problematic,” he said on the same CNN panel.

“Here we have in instance where we are already alienating one of our closest allies just over a phone call … just the tone of it was what’s already caused some consternation.”

Dealing with Trump will be difficult for probably every country. he seems to think he can abuse any one and any country he likes. He may end up isolating the US far more than he envisaged.

Deliberately or not Trump is making America grate.

Sessions facing Senate following Attorney general sacking

Yesterday Donald Trump sacked acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she refused to defend his presidential order on refugee and immigration in court.

Today Jeff Sessions is facing the Senate and faces a vote on whether he can become the new Attorney General. This is likely to be contentious, with allegations that Sessions has been closely involved in aspects of Trump’s presidency.

USA Today: Sessions faces Senate vote, as Trump throws DOJ in chaos

The Senate Judiciary Committee was poised to vote Tuesday on the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general, just hours after President Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates when she refused to defend his controversial refugee ban in court.

Sessions, who has helped shape the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration stance, is expected to pass on a strict party-line vote, though it was unclear whether Monday’s events, which cast the interim leadership at the Justice Department into turmoil, would alter the committee’s action.

Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, opened Tuesday’s meeting, asserting that Sessions played no role in the president’s controversial executive actions.

“Some on the other side have raised concerns about whether Sen. Sessions was involved in drafting or reviewing the executive orders,” Grassley said. “It’s not clear to me why it would be a problem even if he had been involved.  But the fact of the matter is he wasn’t.  In his written responses to Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sessions stated for the record ‘neither I, nor any of my current staff’ had a role in formulating or drafting the executive orders.

“Sen. Sessions has assured us that he will enforce the laws fully, fairly, and independently,” Grassley said. “These answers, combined with his life of public service and his experience working with each of us, assure me that Senator Sessions will make an outstanding Attorney General.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel’s ranking Democrat, answered Grassley with a repudiation of Sessions’ nomination, suggesting that the nominee would act as “an arm of the White House” and would carry out the president’s ”destructive policies.”

She cited Yates’ firing, saying that the acting attorney general demonstrated the “guts” necessary for the job by refusing to defend Trump’s order.

“I have no confidence Sen. Sessions will do that,” Feinstein said.

There are doubts that Sessions can be independent enough of Trump.

Washington Post: Trump’s hard-line actions have an intellectual godfather: Jeff Sessions

In jagged black strokes, President Trump’s signature was scribbled onto a catalogue of executive orders over the past 10 days that translated the hard-line promises of his campaign into the policies of his government.

The directives bore Trump’s name, but another man’s fingerprints were also on nearly all of them: Jeff Sessions.

The early days of the Trump presidency have rushed a nationalist agenda long on the fringes of American life into action — and Sessions, the quiet Alabam­ian who long cultivated those ideas as a Senate backbencher, has become a singular power in this new Washington.

Sessions’s ideology is driven by a visceral aversion to what he calls “soulless globalism,” a term used on the extreme right to convey a perceived threat to the United States from free trade, international alliances and the immigration of nonwhites.

And despite many reservations among Republicans about that worldview, Sessions is finding little resistance in Congress to his proposed role as Trump’s attorney general.

It looks like the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee will ensure Sessions becomes their next Attorney General.

From immigration and health care to national security and trade, Sessions is the intellectual godfather of the president’s policies. His reach extends throughout the White House, with his aides and allies accelerating the president’s most dramatic moves, including the ban on refugees and citizens from seven mostly Muslim nations that has triggered fear around the globe.

The author of many of Trump’s executive orders is senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, a Sessions confidant who was mentored by him and who spent the weekend overseeing the government’s implementation of the refu­gee ban.

The tactician turning Trump’s agenda into law is deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn, Sessions’s longtime chief of staff in the Senate.

The mastermind behind Trump’s incendiary brand of populism is chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who, as chairman of the Breitbart website, promoted Sessions for years.

Interesting times in the US.

ISIS try to capitalise off Trump

This isn’t surprising – ISIS and Al Qaeda are trying to capitalise off the actions of Donald Trump in immigration and refugee restrictions targeting Muslim countries.

There was always going to be a risk of escalation.

The Independent: Isis hails Donald Trump’s Muslim immigration restrictions as a ‘blessed ban’

Al Qaeda, Isis and other jihadi groups are thrilled with US President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration targeting Muslim countries, describing it as proof that the US is at war with Islam.

The new legislation signed by Mr Trump on Friday temporarily suspends the US’ refugee programme and bans citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) from entering the country on the grounds of national security.

Isis-friendly channels on the Telegram messaging service described the ban as “blessed”, echoing how the US 2003 invasion of Iraq was called a “blessed invasion” for reinvigorating anti-US sentiment in the region.

One user greeted the news of the “Muslim ban” as “the best caller to Islam”, hoping it will draw Muslim Americans to their cause.

Several posts suggested that the prediction of Anwar al-Awlaki – a US-born al Qaeda leader killed in Yemen in 2011 – that “the West would eventually turn against its Muslim citizens” was coming true.

Of course this may be exactly what Trump wants – here’s a real risk he will use this as justification for strengthening his restrictions and perhaps increasing US military attacks in the Middle East.

Some in the US, and ISIS and Al Qaeda and other jihadi groups, seem to want an all out war between the West and Muslim countries.

This is a high risk game. If it does blow up big the only certainty is there will be unintended consequences, and it could get very ugly for many parts of the world.

Trump appointees baffled and incensed

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is reported to be incensed about being out of the loop on Donald Trump’s moves on immigration, and Rex Tillerson, nominated as Secretary of State is reported to be baffled – and that’s before Trump sacked the acting Attorney General Sally Yates for putting a spoke in his immigration policy executive orders.

Yates said in a memo on Monday that she was “not convinced” that Trump’s order was lawful, nor that its defense was consistent with what she described as the department’s obligation to “always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

Yates claims she is ordering the Justice Department not to defend the executive order because it is not “wise or just.” This is quite significant. I am not aware of any instance in which the Justice Department has refused to defend a presumptively lawful executive action on this basis.

SECOND UPDATE: Some have asked what I think AAG Yates should have done, given her views of the EO. My answer is simple: Resign, and then publicly explain her reasons for doing so. If Yates believes that the President’s various comments about a “Muslim ban” undermine her ability to defend (or oversee the defense of) an executive action that OLC concluded (and she does not dispute) is “lawful on its face,” she should have stepped down as Acting Attorney General.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I also recommend Jack Goldsmith’s parsing of Yates’ statement here.

Acting attorney general orders Justice Department attorneys not to defend immigration executive order

There are some questions about the legal basis of the acting Attorney General’s refusal to defend in court Trump’s refugee and immigration ban, but the President sacking the top law official has raised eyebrows dramatically. An essential element of a healthy democracy is to have an Attorney General able to act independently of Presidential influence.

Some are suggestion the US could be heading for a constitutional crisis.

And the AG is not the only high profile sacking on the same day.

Fox News: Trump’s new acting attorney general will enforce immigration order

The White House said late Monday that the country’s new acting attorney general pledged to “defend and enforce” the laws of the country shortly after President Trump fired the former seat holder who refused to enforce his order on immigration.

Trump fired Sally Yates, the acting attorney general and an Obama appointee, dramatic fashion after she refused to defend in court his refugee and immigration ban. The Wall Street Journal reported that Yates learned of her firing Monday evening in a hand-delivered note from the White House’s Office of Personnel.

The firing came hours after Yates directed Justice Department attorneys not to defend the executive order, saying she was not convinced it was lawful or consistent with the agency’s “obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right.”

In a statement, Trump said Yates had “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States.”

Accusations of ‘betrayal’ have again been suggested as similar to a ‘1984’ world.

He named longtime federal prosecutor Dana J. Boente as Yates’ replacement. Boente served in the Eastern District of Virginia and will remain in the seat while Congress considers the confirmation of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., which could happen next week.

Sessions could also be a contentious appointment. It is thought that he has been heavily involved in a ‘shock and awe’ approach to executive orders.

A lot of concerns have been expressed about how this is happening.

Trump’s order has faced condemnation from executives at top companies, including Goldman Sachs and Coca-Cola.

It could impact on many businesses through disruption to employees.

At least three top national security officials – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Rex Tillerson, who is awaiting confirmation to lead the State Department – have told associates they were not aware of details of the directive until around the time Trump signed it.

Leading intelligence officials were also left largely in the dark, officials told the Associated Press.

Mattis, who stood next to Trump during Friday’s signing ceremony, is said to be particularly incensed. A senior U.S. official said Mattis, along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford, was aware of the general concept of Trump’s order but not the details. Tillerson has told the president’s political advisers that he was baffled over not being consulted on the substance of the order.

I wonder how often top officials will be fired for not doing what Trump wants.

It could be that trump is just trying to stamp his power on proceedings, but past experience suggests there is likely to be ongoing chaos and mayhem.

After a chaotic weekend during which some U.S. legal permanent residents were detained at airports, some agencies were moving swiftly to try to clean up after the White House.

When Fox is this critical of Trump’s administration it should sound serious warning bells. It is more than just the left wing over-reacting.

Trump best at disapproval

Donald Trump likes to be the best at things but this is one record he may not trumpet – he is by far the quickest President to reach majority disapproval – 8 days.

Gallup poll: Approval 42%, Disapproval 51%

The Hill: Poll: Trump reaches majority disapproval in eight days

A majority of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s work during his first week in the White House — breaking a record of how long it generally takes the majority of Americans to disapprove of a president.

On Saturday, 51 percent of Americans disapproved of Trump, a Gallup poll found.

It took just eight days to reach these ratings. It took at least several hundred days for the majority of Americans to disapprove of past presidents.

A Rasmussen poll over a similar period had Trump’s approval at 53% and his disapproval at 47%, with other polls varying.

The current RealClear Politics average is 43.5% approval, 45.0% disapproval.

However it’s early days, It will take a while to see whether Trump’s radical approach to the presidency is going to be popular or not in the US.

Reactive refugee quota demands

One of the reactions to the US immigration restrictions imposed recently has been to demand an immediate increase in New Zealand’s refugee quota.

Some of those making these demands have previously demanded a decrease in overall immigration.

It has become common for demands based on news events, both national and international. It is not a good idea to rush into implementing knee jerk policies – especially considering the irony of the strong criticism of Donald Trump rushing his new restrictions.

Mr Little has described the US policies as bigotry, and the Greens say New Zealand should speak out when “injustice” occurs overseas.

Both parties have reiterated their pledge to double New Zealand’s refugee quota, currently set at 750.

It was Labour and Green policy to increase the refugee quota anyway. Little and James Shaw – see  Greens would double refugee quota as priority – is using the Trump media attention for opportunistic attention seeking.

It’s not just opposition MPs grandstanding by making refugee demands. Peter Dunne via The Spinoff: NZ’s response should be loud and clear: what is happening in Trump’s America is an outrage

We need not just to boldly condemn the current US approach, but to act, by doubling in our refugee quota, argues Hon Peter Dunne.

And in a Stuff editorial: New Zealand must condemn President Trump’s bigotry

With condemnation of Trump’s action around the world, we would be in good company to oppose his policy in any way we can. Reviewing the quota of refugees accepted into New Zealand would be a good place to start.

While Trump’s immigration restrictions have been rushed (deliberately) and poorly implemented, and are highly questionable,  he made it fairly clear during the presidential campaign and since then that he would do something like this.

And there is quite strong support in the US for Trump’s poll, according to a poll.


While President Donald Trump’s executive order blocking immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations sparked protests and confusion across the U.S., almost half of American voters are in favor of blocking immigration from “terror prone” countries, according to a newly released poll.

“American voters support 48 – 42 percent suspending immigration from ‘terror prone’ regions, even if it means turning away refugees from those regions,” states a press release from Quinnipiac University, which questioned 899 people by calling their landline and cell phones in early January.

The poll reflected the strong anti-immigration and anti-refugee views held by Trump supporters in Northeastern Pennsylvania, a region that was crucial in the president’s surprise victory last year.

While many find the policy repugnant, and there have been some awful examples of ‘collateral damage’, the US can do what it wants to.

Bill English was slow and slack in responding yesterday, and while he said it wasn’t something that would happen in New Zealand, he was more too diplomatic for some critics who don’t have to try to work with Trump and the US.

Immigration can be a tricky thing, and changes to our policies shouldn’t be rushed every time opposition MPs and media demand it.

NZ Herald has a different slant in Time for a kinder immigration debate

Donald Trump built his presidential campaign around the idea that illegal immigrants were the cause of America’s woes.

Now he has acted on that idea, bluntly and with chilling consequences for many innocent people whose only crime seems to be coming from a country he does not favour.

It is vital that New Zealand doesn’t follow this path towards radical policy change based on unfounded fears.

This country has been experiencing record immigration.

The gain of more than 70,000 long-term arrivals in the year to November surpasses the raw numbers arriving at the height of the colonial era in the 19th century.

So there is something to talk about. The face of New Zealand is changing.

But there is an ever-present risk of xenophobia and outright racism in raising this debate.

To point the finger at immigrants themselves for the pressures that population change may bring is either lazy or cynical.

If there was a sudden increase in refugee quota other MPs would be trying to make an issue of it, like Winston Peters. And if refugees happened to have Chinese sounding names and wanted to buy property Labour might make an issue of it.

There seems to be good grounds for more Government research on the issue. Just as there are good grounds to debate current policy in the coming general election.

But we should be wary of politicians who look to make gains by targeting any one segment of our population based primarily on who they are and where they come from.

New Zealand should strive to be better than that. We have a chance to show the world there is another path.

Doing things well usually takes time rather than responding to every knee jerk demand.