Government to sign controversial UN Migration Compact

This looks a bit like a decision dumped at the end of the parliamentary year knowing that it could be controversial – Winston Peters has announced that the Government will support a UN Migration Compact after getting advice it won’t compromise New Zealand’s sovereignty.

If there is no problem why make the announcement now? Perhaps Peters thought it might compromise his and NZ First’s strong anti-immigration stance prior to them getting into power. That had already fizzled somewhat.

NZ First immigration policy (prior to last year’s election) included:

  • Stop the knee jerk annual immigration planning and start working on ten year and 25 year plans.
  • Create a new organisation to protect the integrity of New Zealand citizenship known as the Immigration Inspectorate.
  • Create an “undesirables” category, to ensure those from dangerous and unethical regimes are red-flagged before they get here.
  • Remove the capacity for New Zealand to even consider for refugee status, those with terrorism related convictions in other jurisdictions.
  • Make the Refugee Status Appeals Authority more directly responsible to Parliament.
  • Make DNA testing compulsory when any doubt exists over immigrant/refugee family relationships.
  • Refugee family reunification will be limited to spouses and immediate dependent siblings.
  • Consult New Zealanders about the make up of those coming here.

Peters has avoided talking about this UN Migration Compact until making this announcement, let alone consult with New Zealanders about it.

In particular:

  • New Zealand First will meet UN refugee obligation but believes humanitarian benevolence has been abused by family reunification policy.

NZ First’s tough stance on immigration seemed to be the attraction to voters, but things was whittled down to this in immigration in the Labour-NZ First Coalition agreement: As per Labour’s policy, pursue Labour and New Zealand First’s shared priorities to:

  • Ensure work visas issued reflect genuine skills shortages and cut down on low quality international education courses.
  • Take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students

The NZ First Party itself still wanted more vetting of potential immigrants. From their conference in September: NZ First members want migrants and refugees to sign to core values:

A remit to introduce a Respecting New Zealand Values Bill for migrants and refugees was passed by party members despite some opposition, and will now go to the caucus for policy consideration.

These values would include respect for gender equality, legal sexual preferences, freedom of religion and a commitment not to campaign against alcohol consumption.

New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell helped draft the bill and read out its intentions.

“New Zealand is a tolerant society. Our tolerance means that if an individual wants to immigrate to New Zealand, they must accept, respect and adhere to the tolerance our society expects,” it said.

“Immigrants must agree to respect New Zealand’s values and to live a life that demonstrates that they respect New Zealand values.”

From a NZ First announcement two days ago: Common sense approach to immigration welcomed

The Government is taking serious action on the immigration system to make it work better for New Zealand businesses and the regions.

Today’s announcement proposes introducing a new framework for assessing all employer-assisted temporary work visas and replacing the Essential Skills in Demand Lists with Regional Skills Shortage Lists.

“New Zealand First celebrates the end to the previous Government’s open borders approach which did not adequately address our skills shortages and put significant strain on our infrastructure,” says Mr Mitchell.

Also two days ago from Todd McClay, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Peters’ still hiding stance on Global Compact:

Winston Peters’ continued refusal to make a decision and tell the public what New Zealand’s position on the United Nations Global Compact on Migration is shameful, National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“This morning the Prime Minister confirmed that a final decision is yet to be made on whether New Zealand is signing up to the Global Compact on Migration or not and we are all waiting on the Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, to make up his mind.

“It beggars belief that the Foreign Minister is still considering what New Zealand’s decision will be.

“The Government has been negotiating this agreement since February, and the Minister signed off on our negotiating position then. The Minister also received a final draft in July, and New Zealand attended the adoption meeting in Morocco last week and yet New Zealanders are still being kept in the dark.

“This is a serious matter. When New Zealand commits to frameworks such as these on the global stage, it is the public’s interests at stake.

“But even after weeks of questioning by National, the Government seems no closer to providing information on whether they will commit us to this United Nations framework

Also two days ago in Parliament’s question time  Labour’s David Parker spoke on behalf of Peters (Peters was in Washington):

10. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Has he made a decision whether New Zealand will sign up to the United Nations global compact for migration?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member continues to display a fundamental misunderstanding of the diplomatic processes that apply. There is no document to be signed; there is a vote.

Hon Todd McClay: Why has the Government not yet been able to make a decision, given he has had the draft text of the UN compact since July?

Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, because we are carefully checking all of the facts, including the irresponsible and incorrect assertions that this somehow curbs the sovereignty of countries that vote for the compact.

Hon Todd McClay: Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirm that the Government have been negotiating the compact since February, they’ve had the draft text since July, adopted it in Morocco last week, and are actually just keeping Kiwis in the dark until after Parliament has lifted for the summer recess?

Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, no. I can confirm that the gymnastics of the Opposition, who signed up to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Stop telling lies.

Hon Todd McClay: Was the Prime Minister correct on NewstalkZB this morning when she said that it’s Winston Peters who would be making the decision to sign the UN compact later this week and not Cabinet?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen the transcript of that interview, and that is an improper characterisation of it. [Interruption] It’s an incorrect characterisation of it.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he agree with the statement that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, made to media that the problem with these non-binding agreements is over time they become binding; and, if so, will he inform his Cabinet colleagues of his long-held position on UN agreements?

Hon DAVID PARKER: …The first point to make would be that I’m sure that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was speaking in respect of treaties. This is not a treaty. The second point I would make is that the reversal by the National Party on its earlier position is desperate, opportunist flip-flop, which appears to show that the National Party takeover by Judith Collins is just about complete.

This demonstrates the contentious nature of the UN Compact on Migration.

Yesterday’s announcement:

Government legal advice says UN Migration Compact doesn’t compromise sovereignty

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand will support the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after being satisfied fears about the document are unfounded.

“The Government would not support the UN compact if it compromised New Zealand’s sovereignty or could in any way take precedence over our immigration or domestic laws. But the compact does not do that,” said Mr Peters.

“The Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have provided legal advice which confirms this UN cooperation framework is neither legally binding nor constraining on this country setting its own migration policies.”

Specifically the legal advice has stated that:

  • The compact is non-legally binding and does not create legal obligations;
  • It does not establish customary international law;
  • The compact should not be taken to give the legal instruments referred to in the text as having any binding effect that those instruments do not already have in international law;
  • It reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine national immigration policy and laws and that States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migratory status;
  • The compact does not establish any new human rights law, nor create any new categories of migrants, nor establish a right to migrate.
  • The compact in no way restricts or curtails established human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

“The legal advice from Crown Law is not surprising but is important advice in debunking falsehoods or misguided perceptions being spread about the implications of this framework,” said Mr Peters.

“We are aware that the statements of other countries voting in support of the compact, such as the United Kingdom, are underpinned by legal advice supporting their positions.”

“In the end, New Zealand will be voting for a cooperation framework that was clearly set out at the start of the compact’s negotiations process in 2016 when the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted by all UN member states, including New Zealand under the previous government,” said Mr Peters.

“New Zealand is voting for the Compact because we support greater efforts in controlling migration issues while also being confident our own sovereign decision making isn’t compromised,” he said.

Reaction from Simon Bridges from NZ to vote in favour of UN Migration Compact (NZH):

National leader Simon Bridges has said the compact treats legal and illegal migration in the same way.

“There is no automatic right to migrate to another country without that country’s full agreement, a view which the UN’s Global Compact on Migration seeks to counter.

“While not binding, the compact could restrict the ability of future governments to set immigration and foreign policy, and to decide on which migrants are welcome and which aren’t.”

Newstalk ZB (audio): Misinformation around the UN migration compact is wrong

“It does not mean that you have a right to migrate, it does mean that your sovereignty is in any way compromised, and it does not mean that this overrides or prevails over the immigration law of any one country.”

The Free Speech Coalition says the UN Compact for Migration prohibits all critical speech of open-border migration, and encourages reporters to be educated on migration terminology. They say that’s unjustifiable in a free society.

But Peters says they haven’t read the whole thing.

“It begins by saying this, this and this, and it reaffirms that the media have the utmost right to practice their trade, free without fodder from politicians or governments.”

Peters says that in their statement to the United Nations tomorrow morning our time, they will be making it clear how New Zealand is interpreting the compact.

Countries can interpret the compact however they like? That seems odd.

And does it leave it open to future New Zealand governments to re-interpret it?

Signing the UN Compact is probably not an achievement that Peters will be campaigning on next election.

Some questions about the TPP

Brendon Harre has posted about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and asks a number of questions about aspects of it.

Some questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

I have an open mind regarding international trade.

…broadly I am in favour of free trade reforms if the beneficiaries are spread throughout society.

I am not sure if the TPPA fits into the beneficial category for the ordinary person. I am not sure if trade and democracy are working together like they have in the past or against each other. I have some questions -not just for the supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership but also to those that oppose it.

He posts quite a bit of detail so go to his post to see that, but here are his questions.

Trans-Pacific Partnership and Chinese Free Trade Agreement

  • Would someone who is familiar with both the US based Trans-Pacific Partnership and New Zealand’s earlier trade agreement with China explain how they differ and how they fit together?
  • Does the TPPA allow the US to set the global trade rules to benefit its multinational companies?
  • When President Obama says the TPPA will allow the US to set the trade rules for our region is that true?
  • Is the TPPA the best vehicle for New Zealand to avoid being squashed by the fists of China or the United States?
  • Would the World Trade Organisation be a better instrument?
  • Are trade agreements the best tool for achieving non-trade objectives – international peace? In Europe, peace has been the driving force for ever closer unification, but that has led to a governance and economic crisis within the Euro-zone.


  • Why is that one treaty between the Crown and sovereign peoples -Maori tribes, the adjudicating court is not binding on Parliament, while another treaty -the TPPA the adjudicating court is binding on Parliament?
  • In the future, if New Zealand wants to reassert Parliament’s right to sovereignty over the Investor State Dispute Settlement court -will it be able to -or will New Zealand be like Finland and find it difficult to reclaim lost aspects of sovereignty?

Investor State Dispute Settlement

  • Why do foreign owned companies need to use TPPA-like investor dispute processes against democratic countries which already have the -rule of law?
  • What are these hundreds of cases about?
  • Has the ISDS system gone rogue?
  • If the ISDS system does go rogue what can we do about it? Have an election and throw the buggers out?
  • What safeguards does the TPPA put in place to protect our Parliament and democracy, so it is unimpeded in determining the public interest?
  • Or are we on a slippery slope between democracy and corporate plutocracy?

Some good questions and fuel for discussion on the TPPA.

Details about Brendon’s questions: Some questions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Brendon has put his questions to anti-TPPA organiser Barry Coates at The Daily Blog but says he is aiming more at ‘pro-TPP people’:

I wrote an article about the TPP from a centre-left perspective that contained a series of questions. It was directed at both sides. But I mainly want answers from the pro-TPP people because they have done such a poor job answering basic questions.

I think that quite a few anti-TPP people have also done a poor job of answering basic questions too.

Treaty and Maori sovereignty

In a followup to yesterday’s post Korero about Te Tiriti o Waitangi here is a guest post on the Treaty of Waitangi and Maori sovereignty from Dr Scott Hamilton.

Alan Wilkinson claims that ‘It is perfectly clear that the Maori signing the Treaty knew and accepted that they would have to obey British law from that time on.’

As someone who has spent too much time in musty rooms reading nineteenth century documents, I want to ask whether Alan’s confidence in his interpretation of the intentions of the men who signed the Treaty might be misplaced.

Anyone who has studied the behaviour of the British Empire in the nineteenth century ought to be able to appreciate the difficulty of the idea that the British were very interested in imposing their laws and institutions on a small and strategically unimportant colony at the bottom of the world inhabited by a well-armed indigenous people. The British were masters of indirect rule. Even in India, the jewel in their colonial crown, they often ruled by giving local factions a large degree of autonomy.

And anyone who has read about nineteenth century Maori society is also likely to be incredulous at the idea that the proud and tooled up rangatira of Nga Puhi and so many other iwi would surrender their mana to a handful of British bureaucrats who lacked much armed backup and had repeatedly promised them that the Treaty of Waitangi wouldn’t mean a surrender of sovereignty.

If Alan thinks that everyone accepted that the Treaty meant Maori had ceded sovereignty in the nineteenth century, and had agreed to follow British laws, and that it is only relatively recently that a new interpretation has developed, then he should jump on Papers Past or read Keith Sinclair’s classic book Origins of the Maori Wars, and look at what the leaders of the colonial governments of NZ were saying when they waged war against Maori in the 1860s.

Colonial Premiers like Alfred Domett, who presided over the invasion of the Waikato in 1863, absolutely despised the Treaty, and continually described it as an irrelevant document. They held this view because, according to the Maori who had set up the King Movement and other ‘rebellious’ organisations and also according to the colonial office in London, the Treaty really did allow for Maori to exercise legal authority within their rohe.

The British would hardly have inserted article 71 into the Constitution Act of 1852 if they believed that the Treaty was incompatible with Maori legal autonomy. Article 71 states quite clearly that Maori tribes may run their realms and make their own laws if the British governor or the colonial assembly agrees.

Vincent O’Malley has pointed out that in 1861, when Governor Gore Browne sided with the land-hungry settlers in the colonial assembly and prepared to start a war to suppress the de facto state the King Movement had established in the Waikato, his superiors in London rebuked him, and urged him to use article 71, and let the Kingites run their own affairs and make their own laws.

Like the American constitution, the Treaty is a document that inevitably means different things to different people at different times. It is up to us to decide what the Treaty means today.

But the question of what most Maori and the British Crown and settlers thought the Treaty meant in 1840 and for decades after is relatively easy to answer. We only have to look at what Maori and British and settlers did and said to see that they believed that the document did not extinguish all Maori sovereignty, and did not preclude the possibility of Maori making their own laws.

PS Let me just offer a link to something I wrote a couple of years back in response to Kitty’s claim that ‘Maori were not the first people here anyway’:

Labour: ‘Say no to the TPPA’

Has Labour been convinced enough by Jane Kelsey and Lori Wallach that the US will not ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement to swing to all out opposition to it, punting on it not going ahead anyway? If so what if the US pulls out but the rest of the countries go ahead?

Labour have now jumped on the petition bandwagon. Political petitions are not designed to achieve change, they can’t.

They are aimed at proving a level of support for a stance.

And they are a means of email address harvesting.

There’s at least one other anti-TPPA petition running. Splitting them will split the numbers to an extent, and due to the possibility (and probability) that some people will sign both petitions the number of signatures added together will be meaningless.

But this cements Labour’s definitive opposition to the TPPA.

Sign the petition: Say no to the TPPA

The TPPA undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty and is a threat to our democracy. National has overestimated the benefits to New Zealand and negotiated it in secrecy.

Under the TPPA:

  • Our Parliament would not be allowed to ban overseas speculators from buying up Kiwi homes. Other countries, including Australia, negotiated an exemption from this clause but National failed to do so for New Zealand.

  • Foreign corporations could sue the government over policy changes seen as affecting their businesses.

  • New Zealanders’ access to life-saving drugs could be restricted as our laws are tilted in favour of US pharmaceutical companies.

Labour cannot support the TPPA as it stands and will seek to renegotiate it in government to get a better deal for New Zealanders — one that doesn’t undermine our sovereignty.

Are you with us? Add your name.

The petition:

To John Key and Cabinet:

Protect the democratic rights of New Zealand citizens. The TPPA is an attack of New Zealand’s sovereignty and democracy. That’s something that should never be traded away.

Claiming “the TPPA is an attack of New Zealand’s sovereignty and democracy” is both strongly claimed and strongly disputed.

Current number of signatures: 15,786


Little on defying the TPPA

Here’s the interview of Andrew Little on Radio New Zealand where he says he would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement.

Labour says it will defy TPP

The Labour Party leader Andrew Little says his party would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership in Government.


The Labour Party leader Andrew Little says his party would defy the Trans Pacific Partnership in government.

An international agreement on the trade deal was reached late last year and now has to be ratified by each country’s government. There are reports it could be signed in New Zealand next month, two days before Waitangi day.

Note that signing is a step before ratifying – see TPPA process corrects claims of lying.

Mr Little says National has the numbers to pass the legislation without Labour. Andrew Little doesn’t intend to abide by the agreement if elected to government next year.

The interview:

RNZ: Once the ink’s dry on this how would a Labour government actually be able to flout it anyway?

Andrew Little: One of the provisions in the TPPA that most concerns me, I raised this in all the meetings I had  in Washington DC at the end of last year, is the part of the agreement that says that countries who are party to it will not be able to pass laws to restrict land sales.

So of we decided that there were too many Americans or too many Australians or too many Chinese or whoever buying up New Zealand farmland and we wanted to put restrictions on that then we wouldn’t be able to pass laws to do that.

The USA and Australia are party to the TPPA but China isn’t.

Andrew Little: That seems to me just an absolute contravention of our sovereign right to have a Parliament that passes our laws.

The funny thing is of course when you look at it, when you look at the agreement, at least three countries have got exemption from that provision, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore, and when I asked about the issue when I was in Washington DC I was told that actually New Zealand didn’t even ask for an exemption to that provision.

So we’re stuck with an agreement that would prevent a future New Zealand Parliament from passing a law that the New Zealand public might want to have.

The same must apply to many international agreements New Zealand has made. If a future New Zealand government wanted to pass a law that was in breach of an agreement then they would breach the agreement and would have to be prepared for any consequences, including the possible need to withdraw from the agreement..

RNZ: But if Labour was elected how would you actually defy this, how would you not go ahead with the bits that you don’t agree with?

Andrew Little: So the point I’m making, I’m getting to, is the Labour Party has a policy  that we would restrict or put in place restrictions on land sales, because we know that New Zealanders are concerned about the amount of land that is falling into non resident foreign ownership. And so we will proceed to do that.

But what I I guess they’re making clear (that part wasn’t clear) made clear in my meetings with officials of the administration at the end of last year and what I think is important for New Zealanders to do both around the time of the signing next month that happens then and during the course of legislation in our Parliament here is for New Zealanders to make very clear that they don’t agree with those parts of the TPPA that compromise our sovereignty.

I don’t know what Little means exactly by “compromise our sovereignty” but any international agreement made by New Zealand can affect what we can then do if we want to abide by those agreements.

It may be a ‘sovereign right’ for a future Government to pass legislation that breaches the Geneva Convention, or any other international agreement that we are signatories to, but it may not be very smart.

We need to send that signal very clearly so that when there is a change of government it won’t be a surprise to other members of the TPPA and we will proceed as if we will do what’s in the best interests of New Zealand.

Labour may be faced with a decision to decide whether it’s in our best interests to abide by international agreements or to breach or withdraw from the agreements. If they want to further restrict foreign buyers of land here it could involve more agreements than just the TPPA.

RNZ: Why such a strong opposition from Labour now?

Andrew Little: Ah well our opposition to anything that compromises our sovereignty is nothing new, we’ve made that pretty clear. I was pretty clear in my speech to the Labour conference at the end of last year is that  you know it is simply something we would not contemplate or would not agree with and we would defy it and I’ve made that clear to various American authorities I met with at the end of last year. I’m making it clear now.

You know I just I am stunned, I was stunned to hear when I was in Washington DC that they are where lining up the 4th of February as a date for the Ministerial signing of the agreement, and I said to some of them, I said are you nuts?

If Little knew last year about the plan to sign the TPPA on February 4th why is it suddenly big news now?

This is two days before our national day, the day we celebrate our national identity and our national authority. Why on earth would you set that aside as a date to sign an agreement that is so controversial and is not particularly popular in New Zealand. And was met with a sort of dumb silence.

So you know they will go ahead and do what they want. It just demonstrates a level of arrogance around this whole thing.

I think what’s important for New Zealanders um you know because there is a level of concern about it, that we send a very clear signal and take every opportunity to do so, that those things that undermine the sovereign right to our New Zealand Parliament, um we have to you know tell the other parties of the TPPA it’s not acceptable and we won’t abide by it.

What Little should be asked is if this not abiding by agreements that he or Labour don’t find acceptable could apply to any international agreement made by New Zealand.

If Labour is establishing a precedent of breaching agreements (or threatening to breach agreements) they don’t agree with I think this should be made very clear. And Little should say whether it could apply to any agreement they don’t think is acceptable.

RNZ: Is the Labour caucus behind this? Goff? Shearer? Are they with you?

Andrew Little: Ah, well, they it Labour Party policy is the policy of the Labour Party, both the you know the rank and file and the caucus and we’ve had discussions in caucus about it and indeed the party at conference and at all levels have discussed this and they’ve been pretty clear um and so you know that’s the stance um that that we’re taking.

I’ve made it very clear as leader the the approach I intend to take and that will no doubt be the subject of ongoing discussions but I’ve been very clear and I think that’s the approach we need to take.

Little has made it clear he wants to take a stance on defying or breaching the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement but has not made it clear to what extent he would take that, on the TPPA or potentially on any other international agreement.

And what seemed clear from his lack of clarity in that last response is that he may not have the full support of the Labour caucus and that expects discussions to be ongoing.

I’m not sure that Little or his advisers have thought through the implications of appearing to take a strong stance on a small part of the TPPA might have.

This has the potential to undo the dampening down of caucus dissent that Little appears to have achieved last year.

It also has implications for Little’s credibility as a potential Prime Minister, both on a national scale and particularly internationally.

Threatening to defy international agreements is no minor matter.