Nation – immigration and banking

On Newshub Nation this morning:

Immigration – Lisa Owen asks Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway about Labour’s plan to reduce immigration by 20-30,000 and what the effect will be on our economy.

Banking – Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr talks about lifting the lid on New Zealand banking practices and which areas concern him most.

Q&A – workplace relations and employment law

Iain Lees-Galloway looks one of the Labour MPs who has managed the transition from Opposition to ministerial responsibilities in government very well. He is interviewed on Q&A this morning.

Lees-Galloway is ranked 13th in Cabinet.

A recent media release:

The Government’s draft strategy for improving the health and safety of New Zealand workers over the next 10 years has been released, with submissions now being called for, says Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway.

His responsibilities:

  • Workplace Relations and Safety
  • ACC
  • Immigration
  • Deputy Leader of the House

He has managed to keep a low profile on Immigration given Labour’s promises to significantly reduce immigration, but net migration numbers have barely moved. There is no indication this will be covered in the interview. However there’s a close relationship between employment and immigration, and there have been a number of recent reports of labour shortages in various parts of the country.

Unions currently represent about 17% of the workforce. The Government has no intention of making joining a union compulsory – Lees-Galloway says that the need for freedom of association is a key reason for this.

It’s a good interview, Lees-Galloway sounds like he knows his stuff, tries to explain rather than avoid answering, and comes across well.

He is asked about immigration numbers, and he diverts here to say he isn’t focussed on numbers but in making sure they get labour into ‘the right places’.

Pushed on getting immigration numbers down he waffles around it and eventually falls back on “getting immigration better”.

Welfare overhaul announcement ‘imminent’

Jacinda Ardern has said that an announcement on aims to overhaul welfare delivery is ‘imminent’, but it will rely on yet another working group so any decisions are likely to be quite a way down the track.

Some (Greens especially) have proposed a much more generous ‘no questions asked’ welfare payment system.

The Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement stated:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

That is toned down from what Metiria Turei promoted before crashing during last year’s election campaign, in a policy labelled ‘Mending the Safety Net’:

We will:

  • Increase all core benefits by 20 percent
  • Increase the amount people can earn before their benefit is cut
  • Increase the value of Working For Families for all families
  • Create a Working For Families Children’s Credit of $72 a week
  • Remove financial penalties and excessive sanctions for people receiving benefits
  • Reduce the bottom tax rate from 10.5 percent to 9 percent on income under $14,000
  • Introduce a new top tax rate of 40 percent on income over $150,000 per year.
  • Raise the minimum wage to $17.75 in the first year and keep raising it until it’s 66 percent of the average wage.

Our welfare system should provide effective support for people who need it, while they need it. The social safety net should stop families from falling into poverty and guarantee a basic, liveable income. That’s what it means to live in a decent, compassionate society.

Punishing people through benefit sanctions, cuts, and investigations has not worked. Rather than giving people ‘incentives’, it traps them in a cycle of poverty and puts children’s wellbeing at risk. Children suffer when the welfare system punishes their parents, and in the long term, so does society. It is never ok for the government to use poverty or the threat of poverty as a weapon.

The Green Party’s plan will ensure the people on the highest incomes pay their fair share and those that need help are treated with respect and dignity.

That last paragraph looks like code for a major redistribution – one could wonder if it aims at ‘fair share’ being equal share, no matter what work one does or doesn’t do.

Stuff: Welfare overhaul working group details leak out online

Details of the “imminent” Government overhaul of the welfare system have emerged in online job listings.

The job listings show the Government is setting up a welfare overhaul “expert advisory group” supported by a secretariat of officials from different departments.

The listings for a project manager and strategic communications advisor were posted in March of this year on the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) website.

In the job description MSD write “the Government has committed, through the Labour/Greens Confidence and Supply Agreement, to overhaul the Welfare System. This work will be led by an independent group of Experts, supported by a Secretariat of officials from MSD, the Treasury and Inland Revenue.”

The listings have emerged as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said an announcement on the welfare overhaul is “imminent”.

Ardern has made clear that some sanctions would remain after the overhaul.

She said a culture change was needed at Work and Income, but acknowledged that “by and large” case managers did a good job.

“Culture change is difficult. We are coming in after nine years of there being an expectation that there be a singular focus on reducing benefit numbers and of course we want people in work, we want people who are seeking work to be able to find work, but I think it has tipped over into a space where it actually denying people who need help the help they need,” Ardern said.

This reform could be a real test of Labour versus Green aims.

Greens want a radical change to generous state assistance as a right and a choice. This may meet some resistance from people who pay tax, but is likely to be supported by those who can’t work, and also by those who don’t want to work.

If I was offered the option of a comfortable income from the Government I would be very tempted to retire early.

We already have sustained high immigration because we don’t have enough New Zealand workers for a number of industries. If we have more of a choice to not work would higher immigration to compensate be acceptable?

Welfare reform is a big and contentious issue.

There is no doubt that the current system has serious flaws and is punitive, but it will be difficult – and potentially very expensive – to make major changes.

For the Greens to get what they want it will involve much more than welfare reform – their wish list would require…

  • welfare reform
  • tax and revenue reform
  • employment reform
  • serious reconsideration of immigration

…and probably more

If it ended up how some indicate they want it too it would involve a radical shift towards virtual socialism.

Pope on World Day of Migrants and Refugees

The Pope has spoken about immigration in a special mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

Reuters:  Fear and doubt should not determine response to immigrants, Pope says

Mutual fears between immigrants and their new communities are understandable, but must not prevent new arrivals from being welcomed and integrated, Pope Francis said on Sunday in a special Mass to mark the World Day of Migrants and Refugees.

“Local communities are sometimes afraid that the newly arrived will disturb the established order, will ”steal“ something they have long laboured to build up,” he said, while “the newly arrived … are afraid of confrontation, judgement, discrimination, failure.”

“Having doubts and fears is not a sin. The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection.”

…he said newcomers must “know and respect the laws, the culture and the traditions of the countries that take them in”.

Migration and immigration have been an essential part of human history. As the most isolated country in the world New Zealand has been totally reliant on immigration.

Some care has to be taken over the numbers and types of immigrants allowed to move here, but our isolation makes this relatively easy to control.

Hostility and rejection are impediments to a healthy society.

Communities, meanwhile, have “to open themselves without prejudices to (newcomers’) rich diversity, to understand the hopes and potential of the newly arrived as well as their fears and vulnerabilities”.

Communities here are generally open and welcoming to newcomers here, with only isolated attacks and a bit of moaning on the sidelines.

Changing faces and population growth

I think that Duncan Garner has had a go at this before, but here he goes again: Dear NZ, how do we want to look in 20 years?

 I went to Kmart on Wednesday to buy some new underpants and socks.

Now, normally this outing to the mall wouldn’t be a big deal but this one fast became a nightmarish glimpse into our future if we stuff it up.

As I started walking towards the self-pay counter I saw a massive human snake crawling its way around the self-service island near the middle of the store. And it snaked and snaked and snaked. The snake was massive.

I wondered what the attraction was? It wasn’t immediately obvious. Then it was. The self-service counter couldn’t cope.

It couldn’t cope with the pressures of the people. The dozens of stressed faces making up the human snake were frustrated too.

I looked around, it could have been anywhere in South East Asia.

I wasn’t shocked – we have reported this for three years – we have targeted immigrants, opened the gates and let in record numbers. This year’s net gain of migrants was 72,000.

Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads, otherwise known as Kmart’s self-service counter. Every four minutes and 51 seconds New Zealand’s population grows by another person. We are growing faster now than compared to any other time in our history. And faster than most countries in the world.

New Zealand’s population grew by 100,400 to the June 2017 year.

This is not an opinion column designed to be deliberately inflammatory on race grounds, flimsy grounds or any other grounds.

But do we have any idea what we’re doing here? No.

Predictions show we will have 6.3 million people by 2038. There’ll be more Asians than Maori. Is anyone leading this debate on how big we should be? No.

Does it matter? You bet it does.

Garner raises two main issues here.

Many will probably focus on “Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads…”

It makes a big difference where this particular K-Mart was. I went to The Warehouse and New World last night. Both were a completely different picture. Both were remarkably uncrowded – I went straight up to a counter and got served at both. And it was a typically Dunedin mix of faces, nothing like Garner’s K-Mart description.

I think the more important issue is population growth. How big should the new Zealand population be allowed to grow?

Over the last few years population growth has been running at about 70,000 per annum. That doesn’t sound much, but if that was sustained over fifteen years it would be over a million more residents.

Population growth isn’t even over the country. Auckland is obviously facing the biggest growth problems. I happily choose not to go to Auckland if I can help it, the traffic is often diabolical, and when I have gone to Auckland in the past for non-work reasons I usually choose to get out to less populated places.

I actually work a lot in Auckland (as well as in Australia, South Africa, the UK and the US) but fortunately, with today’s technology, most of that work is done from an office in Dunedin. World wide networks now operate far faster than inter-office networks of a couple of decades ago.

Twenty years ago, even fifteen years ago, if I wanted data from a client I would tell them how to zip it onto a diskette – or often many diskettes – and put it in the post.  Now I connect directly and work or copy data.

So in some ways population concentrations are not needed. Working from a distance has never been easier in some lines of work.

But there has been a tendency in the last few centuries, and especially over the last half century, for people to flock to and inflate the populations of major cities, turning them into mega cities, while provincial cities like Dunedin chug away slowly.

Perhaps Garner and others in media could work remotely. But they choose to join the overcrowding in Auckland. That is their choice, so I am not entirely sympathetic to their complaints about population.

But back to immigration and overall population growth.

People are lining up to come here because we are the last paradise on Earth.

Our small population is our winning card. Let’s not lose that.

Everything we do we must ask ourselves this question: Will this make our country better for those living in it now?

If the answer is no then we must pause, stop and think again. Your great-grandchildren will be so grateful. And it’s our legacy.

But there’s little sign that the new Government is pausing, stopping and thinking again. There were varying signals about immigration in the election campaign, but there has been little sign of major change or rethink.

On the beehive website this is the only Press release from the Immigration portfolio:

Building occupations added to skill shortage list

It will be easier for the building industry to find the workers it needs to help address New Zealand’s housing shortfall, with seven building-related occupations being added to the Immediate Skill Shortage List (ISSL), Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced today.

“Employing skilled migrants will meet the immediate demand for people with the skills required to rapidly increase the number of houses in New Zealand.”

The focus is on bringing in more builders to build more houses to cater for the growing population.

When Garner wants to buy more undies and socks in the future he will probably find little has changed.

Maiden speech – Golriz Ghahraman

A big maiden speech from Green MP Golriz Ghahraman, with strong references to immigration and patriotism and refugees.

She talks of hardships involving war that most of us who have always lived in New Zealand have very fortunately not had to experience or suffer.

My parents.

Both strong, Iranian feminists. You lost everything. You lost your friends, your family, your professions and your language, because you weren’t willing to raise a little girl in oppression.

Thank you.

Closing comments:

Mr Speaker.

I stand here as a child of revolutionaries, as a child asylum seeker, as a international human rights lawyer, as an activist, and as a Green, and my standing here proves New Zealand is a place where a nine-year-old asylum seeker, a refugee, a girl from the Middle East can grow up to one day enter Parliament.

It proves the strength and the goodness of New Zealand’s values.

We all should be grateful and proud that Golriz can become an MP in New Zealand, and speak openly and passionately about her past and about her passion to bring about positive change.

Full draft transcript:


Mr Speaker, I congratulate you, and I look forward to your guidance in this House. I acknowledge also that we stand on land that was neve ceded, so I have acknowledged tangata whenua.

I begin by acknowledging what a breathtaking honour it is to sit among this Green caucus. It’s a dream. I also acknowledge those who’ve sat among you before now, in particular Catherine Delahunty and Keith Locke—you spoke to injustice wherever it happened, and, to someone like me, that meant a lot. Mojo Mathers, you taught me and us all that we are far more than our labels. And Metiria Turei, for baring your scars to highlight the pain of others, I thank you.

But today I also want to acknowledge those who tell me every day that I don’t belong here, that I should go home where I came from, that I should have been left to die, or that I have no right to criticise any politician in the country or take part in public life, because this isn’t my home. Some of them call for rifles to be loaded—it gets frightening.

I’m numb to it because that actually is the reality for those of us in this country from minority backgrounds if we do stand up and become visible. I want it noted that it’s also the consequence every time someone in this House scapegoats migrants, every time a TV presenter is allowed to ask the Prime Minister when our Governor General is going to look like a Kiwi and sound like a Kiwi and that Prime Minister just laughs, every time we call refugees “the leftovers from terrorist nations” for our political gain. We feel it on the streets; we can’t shed our skin.

Patriotism that seeks to quash dissent and divide us is archaic. It’s dangerous for our democracy. We can’t tolerate that. It’s antithetical to our culture. I love this country, but a love of this country—patriotism—means expecting the very best for her. It means fighting for the country we know is possible. So I criticise leaders who fall short, I protest, and I fight for equality and justice, because that is what loves looks like in public—that’s Dr Cornel West; that’s not me. So today I stand here proud and determined because today is about democracy and equality—values that New Zealand embodies, stands up for so boldly.

I am a child of revolutionaries. My parents faced tanks for democracy, at gunpoint fought for human rights. They faced torture to take back their country’s resource from imperialists, from dictators, and from corrupt corporate interests and put it back in the hands of the people. The Iranian revolution was one of the biggest popular revolutions in modern history. Everyone was out on the street—students, communists, socialists, and Islamists—fighting against inequality.

But their revolution was hijacked, and ultimately my life was shaped by one of the most repressive regimes in modern history. Everyone knew someone that disappeared into a torture chamber for speaking out; everyone knew a woman flogged for disregarding Islamic dress—and that wasn’t our culture, even for those of us who were Muslim. Everyone feared their phones being tapped; that was my childhood.

But it was also just the backdrop to a bloody eight year war we fought against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. I remember the bombs and the sirens, running to a basement and just waiting, but mostly I remember kids my age who stopped talking from the shell shock. I still don’t know what happened to them. Then scarcity set in, because America was on Saddam’s side and we were sanctioned. We had to use coupons to buy food. Years later, we realised that the West had backed both sides of that war—sold weapons to both sides.

That is what refugees are made of.

I feel a kinship with first nations people, with tangata whenua, because we too have been alienated from our land and our resources by imperialism—by wars that we did not profit from. We share the same degradation and prejudice; I want us to work closer together. Migrants, refugees, Pasifika people, tangata whenua—we have far more that unites us than that which divides us. I want Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be a living constitutional document in this country, leading policy, even on immigration.

My mum was a child psychologist, but she never worked because she didn’t believe in taking religious exams, especially in a mental health field. My dad was an agricultural engineer who worked on research trying to extract energy from plant sources—Green to the core. So let’s remember that our values exist in all cultures. The Middle East, just like the West, has fierce feminism, environmentalism, Government selling us off to multinationals, and—yes—religious fundamentalism. I want us to amplify the voices in all cultures who speak of democracy and equality above those who would silence them.

When that repression got too scary, my family and I fled. We landed in Auckland Airport and the fear was palpable. I can still feel it now. I was nine years old. We didn’t know what would happen if we were sent back, but we weren’t; we were welcomed here. That warm welcome is my first memory of my homeland. New Zealand recognised our rights and our humanity; that’s what that was, though I didn’t know it then. My second memory is that this country was so green. Those two vivid first impressions are going to lead my work in this House.

I became a lawyer—I never intended to do that, but I wanted to make human rights enforceable. The criminal justice system leads on human rights in our system. The most frightening thing that I’ve seen in about 15 years of being a lawyer all over the world is the sight of a 13-year-old child sitting behind a very large table awaiting his trial for murder at the Auckland High Court. I was part of his defence team. He’d thrown a rock over an overbridge, tragically taking another young life. He was tried as an adult because our system requires it. He suffered from mental illness, as do most people that come through our justice system. He was brown. He was from South Auckland. His family was so poor that they shifted houses every so often just so that they could have electricity for a while. He didn’t have a lot of schooling, because of that, and his Child Youth and Family file was the stuff of nightmares. Our most vulnerable.

The front lines of our justice system is where I learnt about unchecked prejudice. That’s what turned me into a human rights lawyer, and I focused on children’s rights. But it was living in Africa, working on genocide trials for the UN, where I learnt how prejudice turns to atrocity. It starts with dehumanising language in the media. It starts by politicians scapegoating groups, as groups, for social ills—I think that every time I see it happen here. I saw it in Rwanda and Yugoslavia, and when I prosecuted the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia—holding politicians and armies to account for abusing their power, and giving voice to women and minorities, because we are always most viciously attacked by abusers. These experiences have instilled in me a commitment to human rights that I first got as someone who has seen the world without them.

Human rights are universal. We don’t have fewer rights because of our religion, because of where we were born, or because of who we love. We don’t have fewer rights because we had our children out of wedlock, or because we’ve been charged with a crime. We don’t have human rights because we are good, but because we are human—there is no such thing as the deserving poor or the good refugee.

Human rights are indivisible. We have a bundle of rights. We can’t realise one without the others—you can’t say we have a democracy or free speech unless we also have the right to education, and we don’t have the right to education unless the kids we are teaching have food and homes. For too long, for about 10 years now in New Zealand, our very democracy has been undermined because too many of our rights—our economic, our social, and our cultural rights—have been breached. I want to entrench those.

Finally—and of most interest to this House—human rights are enforceable against Governments. These are our obligations. This our mandate to govern. We can’t privatise them away. They are not charity—people don’t have to beg.

I want New Zealand to get back to a culture of expecting this from us, and none of that is inseparable from the environment. Protection of people’s rights and nature’s rights are intrinsically linked. Just ask the people of the Pacific—our neighbours—whose homelands are being drowned out because of waste pollution consumption that they have not participated in or benefited from.

One of the greatest threats to both human and nature’s rights right now is subjugation of our democracy to corporate interests. A rampant market on a finite planet cannot exist. New Zealand must lead by example on this, as we have done before. We’ve stood up against status quo interests on the world stage, and I want us to be that righteous little nation again.

I never intended to run as the first ever refugee MP, but I quickly realised that my face and my story meant so much to so many, so my fear of tokenism dissipated. I had such an outpouring of support from all over New Zealand and the world—even Trump’s America—and I remembered getting notes and emails from my female interns, mostly of minority background, back in the UN, telling me what it meant to them to have someone like them forging that path. Some of them are carrying that mantle right now. I realised then that it was important for that process to have a former victim of governance by repression and mass murder stand up in those courtrooms, which are normally dominated by Western men.

So this is a victory for a nine-year-old asylum seeker. But it’s also a victory for everyone who has ever felt out of place, who has been excluded, or who has been told that she has limits to her dreams.

For getting me here, I thank the voters. You’ve humbled me for ever. You voted for diversity and fairness and nature this election when you voted Green.

I thank our Green activists and our staff, especially our Auckland staff. You worked harder and harder as things got harder this election. You will inspire me for ever. To my campaign team—especially Ron and Daniel, who are up there—and my second, political family, the Chalmers clan, I’m so happy you are here. Your support is life affirming to me.

My parents, both strong Iranian feminists—you lost everything. You lost your friends, your family, your professions, and your language because you weren’t willing to raise a little girl in oppression—thank you.

And to maybe the most political person I know, although a very large, loud white boy—my partner. Thank you for stopping me mid-rant—it seems like a lifetime ago now—when I was lamenting the loss of activism in politics and some of my favourite MPs. I was saying, “Who’s going to be the candidate that will stand up to the GCSB? Who’s going to be the candidate who will be the new Keith Locke?”, and you said, “You will be that candidate.”—and I was. We’re both political, we are both adventurers, but you are also patient. I thank you for that, and for love, but mostly courage, on that day and every day.

I stand here as a child of revolutionaries, as a child asylum seeker, as a international human rights lawyer, as an activist, and as a Green, and my standing here proves New Zealand is a place where a nine-year-old asylum seeker, a refugee, a girl from the Middle East can grow up to one day enter Parliament. It proves the strength and the goodness of New Zealand’s values.

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Right leaning NZ First voters may be disappointed

Going by comments here, at Kiwiblog and at Whale Oil during the campaign there may be a few right leaners who voted for NZ First who may be more than a little disappointed with their choice.

Most notably Cameron Slater promoted voting for NZ First heavily, thinking they would push National right on selected issues (despite most NZ First policies being far more to the left).

Winston Peters is very experienced at pandering to potential voters on populist issues, knowing that as a smaller party he will never be able to deliver. This looks especially true by the look of the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement.

Not with National

It was common to see people saying they would vote NZ First to reduce National’s clout in a right leaning government.That NZ First decided not to do a deal with National is neither surprising nor good news for right leaning  supporters.

Maori seats referendum

One of Winston’s bottom lines/promises was to have a referendum on the Maori seats to ‘eliminate them’.  This policy was eliminated by Labour, who couldn’t countenance losing their grip on all seven Maori seats..

Immigration

Winston has campaigned for years on drastically lowering immigration numbers, often erroneously and deceitfully describing what we had as ‘mass immigration’. Jacinda Ardern has stated that Labour immigration policy remains intact, that will mean some reduction in numbers but nowhere as drastically as Winston promised.

The UN resolution on Israel

This was an issue pushed hard at Whale Oil but no one else cared about it, but has made it into the coalition agreement:

Record a Cabinet minute regarding the lack of process followed prior to the National-led government’s sponsorship of UNSC2334

This is just a criticism of the process used, of not referring the decision to sponsor the resolution to Cabinet. It does nothing to criticise or oppose the resolution.

Smacking referendum

Family First press release on 28 september: Anti-Smacking Law On Coalition Table

In a speech in March in Northland, leader Winston Peters said; “We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.” He then further clarified his position in an interview on Newstalk ZB saying that this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are “far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians. This position was backed up by senior MP Tracey Martin.

It may or may not have ever got onto the negotiating table, but neither Labour nor Greens would have supported it.

Climate change

All of NZ First, Labour and greens supported much stronger action on climate change, and it was included in both the Labour-Green deal and also the Labour-NZ First agreement:

Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission, based on therecommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

If the Climate Commission determines that agriculture is to be included in the ETS, then upon entry, the free allocation to agriculture will be 95% but with all revenues from this source recycled back into agriculture in order to encourage agricultural innovation,mitigation and additional planting of forestry.

It even allows for agriculture to be included in the ETS.

Anyone thinking that a vote for NZ First would deliver a more right leaning government may now be ruing their judgement. However the outcome was fairly predictable so they shouldn’t be surprised.

On immigration “Labour’s policy remains absolutely unchanged”

One notable point of difference between Labour and and NZ First was on immigration, especially how much to reduce immigrant numbers by.

Incoming Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has indicated very clearly in an interview on The Nation that “Labour’s policy remains absolutely unchanged”.

Lisa Owen: So part of that is also immigration numbers, the number of people coming into the country and demand. And you and your coalition partners are kind of at odds on that when you look at the policies. Winston Peters wants a considerably higher drop in numbers than you have specified, and the Green Party actually withdrew their policy around immigration at one point. So where’s the sweet spot? If Winston Peters wants 10,000 people a year – and we’ve got about 73,000 – and Labour were saying maybe cut it about 30,000, where is the sweet spot?

Jacinda Ardern: The sweet spot is acknowledging that we have pressure on our infrastructure. And I think, actually, that is common ground between all parties that will form this government because there is undoubtedly strain based on the fact that we have had a government that’s entire growth agenda has been based on population growth rather than focusing on making sure that we move to a productive economy.

Lisa Owen: But when your agreement comes about–

Jacinda Ardern: Our view is that it is about the settings. It is about making sure that we are meeting the skills gaps that we have – and we do have them in New Zealand – meeting those skills gaps by making sure that we are undertaking those work tests, by making sure that our export education industry isn’t exploiting people, and by making sure that people on temporary work visas aren’t exploited either. That’s the area we’re focused on, and there’s agreement there.

Lisa Owen: So when the deal comes out and we look at it, will there be a number? Will we look through those papers and there’s a number that you’ve agreed on?

Jacinda Ardern: You’ll see that Labour’s policy remains.

Lisa Owen: In terms of the numbers, not just the contest? Because you’ve always talked about quality of people coming in and raising the quality and skill level, but what about the number coming in? Will there be a number?

Jacinda Ardern: Labour’s policy remains absolutely unchanged. As a result of these negotiations, our policy remains.

Lisa Owen: So no shift in numbers, no shift towards Mr Peters’ 10,000? You’re exactly where you were prior to the election?

Jacinda Ardern: Labour’s policy remains in place.

Lisa Owen: And the numbers of immigrants coming in will be unchanged?

Jacinda Ardern: Will be the same.

Recent and current net immigration is just over 70,000 per year.

Policy comparisons from the campaign:

Labour:

  • Ensure that businesses are able to get genuinely skilled migrants when they need them. This will include introducing an Exceptional Skills Visa for highly skilled or talented people and introducing a KiwiBuild Visa for residential construction firms who train a local when they hire a worker from overseas.
  • Strengthen the Labour Market Test for work visas so they are not being used for jobs Kiwis can do, and make our skills shortage lists more regional so migrants coming in under them can only live and work in areas where there is a genuine skills shortage.
  • Require courses for international students to be high-quality, remove the ability to work for international students in low-level courses except where the work is approved as part of their study, and remove the ability to get a work visa without a job for those who have completed study below university level.
  • In total, these changes are estimated to reduce net migration by 20,000-30,000. Without these changes there would be up to 10,000 more houses needed and up to 20,000 more vehicles on our roads annually.

Details: http://www.labour.org.nz/immigration

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has confirmed she remains committed to their policy, likely to reduce net migration by 20,000 to 30,000 a year. The party says that will be achieved by cutting student visas for tertiary courses considered to be “low value” and susceptible to being used as a back door for immigration.

The party says it will also introduce a stricter labour market test, to ensure employers properly seek to hire Kiwis before recruiting from overseas, and require skilled migrants to stay and work in the region their visa was issued for.

Labour argues it is time to take “a breather” on immigration to allow the country to play catch-up on infrastructure, including roading and housing, and stop wages being kept low.

New Zealand First:

  • Make sure that Kiwi workers are at the front of the job queue.
  • Attract highly skilled migrants by reducing numbers to around 10,000 per annum.
  • Ensure that immigration policy is based on New Zealand’s interests and the main focus is on meeting critical skills gaps.
  • Ensure immigration under ‘family reunion’ is strictly controlled.
  • Increase the residency rules around NZ Superannuation from the current 10 years to 25 years.
  • Increase, the Permanent Residency qualification period from the current two-years.
  • Make sure effective measures are put in place to stop the exploitation of migrant workers with respect to wages, safety and work conditions. In Christchurch and elsewhere there is evidence of exploitation of migrant workers.
  • Develop strategies to encourage the regional dispersion of immigration to places other than Auckland and the main centres.
  • Substantially increase the minimum English requirement.

From http://www.nzfirst.org.nz/immigration

NZ First leader Winston Peters has vowed to drastically reduce net immigration well below what Labour wants, to a net migration level of around 10,000 a year. Unemployed Kiwis will be trained up to take jobs as the tap is turned down, Peters says, and the number of older immigrants limited, with more bonded to the regions.

His message to voters who want a big drop in immigration levels is that Labour can’t be trusted, given they had only recently called for sizeable cuts, and National will continue the “economic treason” of “mass immigration”.

Green:

  • Maintain a sustainable net immigration flow to limit the effects on the environment, society and culture
  • Make it easier for some family members of new migrants apply for residency

https://www.greens.org.nz/page/immigration-policy

On refugees:

  • Progressively increase New Zealand’s refugee quota to 4,000 people per year after six years, and properly fund asylum seeker and refugee services.
  • Establish a programme for church and community groups to sponsor an additional 1,000 refugees per year.
  • Create a new humanitarian visa for people displaced by climate change in the Pacific.

https://www.greens.org.nz/policy/fairer-society/welcoming-more-refugees

Proposed capping migration at 1 per cent of population growth, but later abandoned that policy, with leader James Shaw apologising for focusing on numbers, saying he was “mortified” at accusations by migrant groups that the Greens had pandered to anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Other source: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11907957

 

Examining the Russian media war

A very interesting article by Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times that claims Russian influence in what has become known as fake news, used to promote discord and protest and to interfere in elections in countries around the world.

Examples are given of interference in Germany over immigration, in the UK over Brexit, and in the US election.

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War

How the Kremlin built one of the most powerful information weapons of the 21st century — and why it may be impossible to stop.

…Steltner found the phone calls he received that morning confounding. They came from police officers from towns far outside Berlin, who reported that protests were erupting, seemingly out of nowhere, on their streets. “They are demonstrating — ‘Save our children,’ ‘No attacks from immigrants on our children’ and some things like that,” Steltner told me when I met him in Berlin recently.

The police were calling Steltner because this was ostensibly his office’s fault. The protesters were angry over the Berlin prosecutor’s supposed refusal to indict three Arab migrants who, they said, raped a 13-year-old girl from Berlin’s tight-knit Russian-German community.

Steltner, who would certainly have been informed if such a case had come up for prosecution, had heard nothing of it. He called the Berlin Police Department, which informed him that a 13-year-old Russian-German girl had indeed gone missing a week before. When she resurfaced a day later, she told her parents that three “Southern-looking men” — by which she meant Arab migrants — had yanked her off the street and taken her to a rundown apartment, where they beat and raped her.

But when the police interviewed the girl, whose name was Lisa, she changed her story. She had left home, it turned out, because she had gotten in trouble at school. Afraid of how her parents would react, she went to stay with a 19-year-old male friend. The kidnapping and gang rape, she admitted, never happened.

The allegations were false, but Russian news agencies kept publishing them, promoting protests and discord over immigration in Germany.

Officials in Germany and at NATO headquarters in Brussels view the Lisa case, as it is now known, as an early strike in a new information war Russia is waging against the West. In the months that followed, politicians perceived by the Russian government as hostile to its interests would find themselves caught up in media storms that, in their broad contours, resembled the one that gathered around Merkel.

They often involved conspiracy theories and outright falsehoods — sometimes with a tenuous connection to fact, as in the Lisa case, sometimes with no connection at all — amplified until they broke through into domestic politics. In other cases, they simply helped promote nationalist, far-left or far-right views that put pressure on the political center.

What the efforts had in common was their agents: a loose network of Russian-government-run or -financed media outlets and apparently coordinated social-media accounts.

And this is effective. This is evident in New Zealand where ordinary people, especially those with conspiracy tendencies or with strong views about things like immigration or politics, pick up on and amplify the messages – which is of course one of the aims.

After RT and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum.

Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.”

I wouldn’t rule out other countries either, like North Korea, from the Middle East – and the US, who are also one of the main targets.

But all of this paled in comparison with the role that Russian information networks are suspected to have played in the American presidential election of 2016.

In early January, two weeks before Donald J. Trump took office, American intelligence officials released a declassified version of a report — prepared jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency — titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.” It detailed what an Obama-era Pentagon intelligence official, Michael Vickers, described in an interview in June with NBC News as “the political equivalent of 9/11.”

“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the authors wrote. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.” According to the report, “Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The intelligence assessment detailed some cloak-and-dagger activities, like the murky web of Russian (if not directly government-affiliated or -financed) hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole gigabytes’ worth of email and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign.

But most of the assessment concerned machinations that were plainly visible to anyone with a cable subscription or an internet connection: the coordinated activities of the TV and online-media properties and social-media accounts that made up, in the report’s words, “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”

The assessment devoted nearly half its pages to a single cable network: RT. The Kremlin started RT — shortened from the original Russia Today — a dozen years ago to improve Russia’s image abroad.

But it is not simple to isolate and combat.

Plenty of RT’s programming, to outward appearances, is not qualitatively different from conventional opinion-infused cable news.

Its fans point to its coverage of political perspectives that aren’t prominent on mainstream networks — voices from the Occupy movement, the libertarian right and third parties like the Green Party. The network has been nominated for four International Emmy Awards and one Daytime Emmy.

This makes RT and Sputnik harder for the West to combat than shadowy hackers.

 RT might not have amassed an audience that remotely rivals CNN’s in conventional terms, but in the new, “democratized” media landscape, it doesn’t need to.

Over the past several years, the network has come to form the hub of a new kind of state media operation: one that travels through the same diffuse online channels, chasing the same viral hits and memes, as the rest of the Twitter-and-Facebook-age media.

In the process, Russia has built the most effective propaganda operation of the 21st century so far, one that thrives in the feverish political climates that have descended on many Western publics.

It is a long article but worth reading if you have any interest in international propaganda and information wars.

As stated it is not just the use of news organisations, it is the use of social media as well. Facebook is gradually admitting how they were used during the US election campaign.

Reuters: Facebook says some Russian ads during U.S. election promoted live events

Some of the ads bought by Russians on Facebook last year promoted events during the U.S. presidential campaign, Facebook Inc said on Tuesday, indicating that alleged meddling ahead of the 2016 election went beyond social media.

Facebook said in a statement that its takedown of what the company last week called Russian-affiliated pages included shutting down “several promoted events.”

Facebook declined to provide details of the promoted events.

Facebook, the world’s largest social network, said last week that an operation likely based in Russia had placed thousands of U.S. ads with polarizing views on topics such as immigration, race and gay rights on the site during a two-year period through May 2017.

The Daily Beast, the news website that first reported on the promoted events posted on Facebook, said one advertisement promoted an anti-immigrant rally in Idaho in August 2016.

The rally was hosted by a Facebook group called “Secured Borders,” which was a Russian front and is now suspended, according to the Daily Beast.

In social media they commonly target people who want to believe certain things and  spread issues that have dubious merit.

Ardern not keen on being likened to Trump

Jacinda Ardern’s rise in New Zealand keeps getting international attention.

Wall Street Journal: Immigration Politics Turns Upside Down in New Zealand Election Campaign

Center-left party’s plan to cut immigration helps narrow the gap with conservative government

A tightening election race in this U.S. ally has its roots in anxiety over immigration and the rise of a leader who wasn’t even her party’s first choice when campaigning began more than a month ago.

New Zealand voters will go to the polls on Sept. 23 to decide whether Bill English’s National party should remain in government after nearly nine years or be replaced by the opposition Labour Party headed by Jacinda Ardern, a 37-year-old former president of the International Union of Socialist Youth.

Ardern may not be keen on that being pointed out so prominently.

Ms. Ardern’s rapid ascent owes much to tapping into growing unease about affordability, particularly among young voters, and feeding off a global backlash over immigration.

I think this overstates how much of a part immigration is playing in Ardern’s rise and  Labour’s resurgence. Winston Peters keeps playing the anti-immigration card and he and NZ First are slipping in the polls.

Ms. Ardern wants to cut the annual net migration figure by up to 30,000 people a year to help more New Zealanders find work and own homes, as well as to take the pressure off infrastructure—especially in the commercial capital Auckland, which is often clogged with traffic.

No mention of Donald Trump but in a tweet promoting the article:

NZH followed that up: Jacinda Ardern takes offence at being compared to Donald Trump

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern says she takes offence at being compared to Donald Trump by The Wall Street Journal.

The publication made the comparison in a tweet promoting an article about Labour’s rise in polling under Ardern’s leadership.

Asked about the tweet today, Ardern said she proudly stood behind Labour’s policy to double the refugee quota.

Ardern is adept at diverting from the point.

She did not delve into Labour’s immigration policy which the party estimates would reduce net migration by 20-30,000 a year. That policy was announced by former leader Andrew Little but Ardern has not changed it.

“Our policy has remained the same for the last several months. I have made no change to that policy. Yes, we have infrastructure issues in Auckland and we know we need to address those – we need to build more houses.

“We wouldn’t be having this conversation if there had been proper planning upfront by the current Government.

“That’s another reason I absolutely refute the statement that was made there. And everyone who I think has been watching this campaign will know that what was said there was absolutely false. And, frankly, offensive.”

The Trump comparison was made by a journalist who was reporting from “quite a distance from the campaign”, Ardern said.

Trumps targeting of some groups of immigrants and the measures he is taking, including building a wall between the US and Mexico, is some distance from Labour’s immigration reduction policy.