Monday, May 26, 2014

Who is Labour pandering to?

Well this certainly has been an interesting week especially if you are a person who wants to move to New Zealand for a better life or think that people should have a chance to come here for a better life. First there was this random story based on very dubious numbers that Māori hate Asian Immigrants. Then there was the cry of the “boat people” coming to NZ on their battleships to take over the country. And now the idea that migrants are to blame for the housing crisis echoing a poll that shows most Kiwis want to restrict immigration. 

It is one thing to restrict home ownership from foreigners. I can understand that. And by foreigners I mean people who are not citizens or residents of New Zealand and people who do not live and work in New Zealand (so I don’t even mean people on working visas, I mean people who have no connection to New Zealand at all). Although despite news stories about faceless foreigners from faraway lands buying up our houses, I have yet to see any definitive numbers to that back that assertion. But that is completely different to blaming migrants for NZ’s problems. New Zealand already has pretty modest immigration numbers (in my opinion) and immigrating to NZ is harder than many many other western countries including arguably the United States. When people move to New Zealand, they come here to work here, to contribute, and to eventually become Kiwis. Immigration allows our little country to import skills and labour which we otherwise would not have.

Our schools and hospitals are not burdened by migrants, they are burdened because of the way we have allocated our resources. The government has gone to great lengths to contract out our public services which costs much more. The government has siphoned out public resources into private entities and individuals. Instead of coming up with policies that require investing in primary healthcare (let’s remember the under 13 doctor’s visits are not going to kick in until much much later), investing in public education (instead of funding to private schools and now Charter schools), instead of investing in public transport (roads, roads, roads), instead of planning for the future (every policy is tagged to the next electoral cycle), the easier thing to do is to pick on migrants because 62% of New Zealanders think immigration should be restricted.

Our leaders have forgotten how to lead. Instead of correcting public perception with facts, our political leaders choosing to use the flawed perception to create flawed policies. If we had used public perception to guide us through universal suffrage or civil rights, I don’t think we would have the laws that we did, when we did. Instead now we have the Labour Party – the progressive party of this country calling for migration restrictions while the National Party is claiming to roll out the welcome mat for the immigrants, with John Key saying "New Zealand is a country that has been built on migration. We've done very well out of it and I think we should be very cautious about taking knee-jerk steps," He even referred to themselves as the “progressive” at the end of his budget speech echoed in this tweet on Budget Day:  


If Labour thinks that National is “stealing” their leftwing progressive policies and then turning around and calling Labour “far-left” to scare the voters – that is exactly what they are doing. But that does not mean that Labour has to go to the “far-right” to get those voters back. This election is more about leadership than it is about policy but that does not mean Labour should just adopt whatever policy they think the voters want to hear about to deflect from its leadership inadequacies. I can guarantee it – restricting immigration will not solve the housing crisis for the simple reason that migrants did not cause the housing crisis. The economic factors including inflated values, the lack of investment social housing, the inadequate tax restrictions on investment properties has led to this. The 3News story says, "84 percent of NZ First voters want immigration restricted. Sixty-eight percent of Labour voters agree, along with 58 percent of Green Party voters". Those are pretty high numbers. The National-specific numbers, however, are missing from the story. 

I like many of Labour’s policy ideas. But this story deflects from all of those great ideas. I have previously blogged on Labour's election strategy here and here. We deserve a government that is inclusive, progressive, transparent and accountable. If the Labour-Greens coalition is the answer to that, I don’t think their name and previous reputation is enough to get them over the line. I certainly don’t think pandering to populist views on race will get them over the line either.

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