Chinese sounding names revisited

In 2015 Labour got blasted for their claims that data of Chinese-sounding-names proved some point about housing. Most of what I remember is the mess Labour made of it.

Russell Brown has some new information on this that looks bad for both Labour and for the media that ran their story.

At Public Address – Harkanwal Singh: What really happened with those Chinese-sounding-names

The 2015 publication of what has become known as the the “Chinese-sounding-names” story on Auckland home ownership was, says Harkanwal Singh, “a really pivotal moment for me, working in a New Zealand newsroom. Because that’s when I realised that things don’t have to be true to be published.”

Singh was working as the New Zealand Herald’s first dedicated data journalist and was at the meeting where Labour Party MP Phil Twyford and party researcher Rob Salmond brought in their data – which they said showed a hitherto unsuspected level of Chinese foreign ownership in Auckland housing.

“They said ‘we’re not being racist’ as they handed over the data set,” he told Jogai Bhatt and I at last Sunday’s Orcon IRL.

Singh’s questions over the data delayed publication by a week. During that week he contacted Auckland University’s Thomas Lumley and Edward Abraham of Dragonfly Data Science (“the best statisticians in the country”).

“And I went back to my editors and I said, look, you should publish it, but you should say that Labour is saying this – and the statisticians are saying that it’s not true.”

His suggestion was not taken up by his editors.

“The story ran with the headline ‘We have Chinese buyers’ and and all I did was add some bullet points which said ‘this data is wrong’. But they were published on the fifth page, inside, in a little box, so no one really saw them.

“It was hugely problematic and as a immigrant and as a person of colour, I saw a huge problem with it. But no one else in the newsroom saw any problem with it. And when I approached senior journalists I was told ‘it’s a great story’.

“I think it’s still not been addressed and no one’s really addressed how they went about doing it. And it’s a huge issue of data literacy if you’re just going to publish analysis done by political parties for their own goals.”

Concerns of a data expert were ignored in the race to make headlines. This is a stain on the Herald as well as on Labour.

Video of the whole interview:

While this was poorly done by Labour and by the Herald there could be valid concerns about who was buying and financing properties that stoke the price surge.

James Ting-Edwards in comments:

Attachment

Among the sad parts of this story is that the “foreign money” conversation could have happened without anti-migrant language or dog-whistles.

David Hood had a good go at telling that story here (with the graph above), drawing on data to show a divergence between the rise in NZ house values and domestic borrowing. That “magic money” came from somewhere, and is a legitimate domestic policy target regardless of its source in terms of countries, geopolitics, or cultural ties.

He quotes a key paragraph:

Is all the magic money offshore capital? We just don’t know. There is a lack of evidence of it coming from other parts inside the New Zealand economy, and given the hundreds of billions of dollars, a local source would be somewhat obvious. We also know that in other countries, with more internal housing markets, household debt does not just match the pattern of house value, the amounts add up to the same in gains. In New Zealand there is a 300 billion shortfall.

Proper investigations by Labour and the media may have found the answers.

Instead they went for dog whistling using dodgy data.

Phil twyford is now Minister of Housing, and NZ Herald continues to promote click bait headlines and sack journalists.

Peters plays media with racist taunts

Winston Peters may have had a reasonable point to make about a Herald item today on immigration, but his attack on two journalists with Asian sounding names was widely criticised and deplored.

The Herald has responded with a statement from the editor.

The original Herald article: Top source countries for migrant workers are not Asian

A rise in work visas has been the driving force behind record immigration numbers but the main source countries are not from Asia.

A Herald analysis into immigration data found work visa arrivals increased from 16,787 in 2004 to 41,576 last year.

The top five source countries for work last year are the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, South Africa and the United States of America.

The United Kingdom, which made up 16.6 per cent of work visas issued, has twice as many as those of Germany on 8.8 per cent.

Australians do not require visas to work in New Zealand – the Statistics New Zealand
figures however shows people coming from Australia as their last country of residence.

A response from the journalists: Why Winston Peters got it wrong: The Herald responds to his attack on our journalists

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters today released a media statement about the Herald’s coverage of work visas and the top five source countries for work visas last year. The statement’s opening paragraph read: “New Zealand Herald propaganda written by two Asian immigrant reporters stating the top five source nations for work visas are not Asian is completely wrong and based on flawed analysis, says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.” Here is the response from those reporters, Harkanwal Singh and Lincoln Tan.

A decent way to address a contentious issue by Michael Reddell: Which countries did Essential Skills visa grantees come from in the last year?

News on another immigration record: Record migration puts squeeze on housing, roads and the Government

Related video: Watch NZH Focus: Net migration to New Zealand has hit another record