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Speaker: Low-quality language on immigration

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  • Russell Brown,

    Thanks Jogai. I think you’re right, it’s more careless than measured – Louisa Wall somehow slipped over from talking about low-quality tertiary courses to apparently talking about low-quality people – but it’s really not okay. Language matters a lot in this area.

    It was a shame the crazy weather deprived us of the chance to put that to them in the concluding panel, so I’m really glad you wrote this.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    I keep thinking this so I have to say it: the combination of the label "Golden Dawn" and politics, especially the politics of immigration, is an unfortunate one.

    Google is not your friend here: https://www.google.co.nz/search?q=golden+dawn

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • Lynn Yum,

    I was talking to my parents who went yumcha the other day, they say that most of those working there are foreign students. I pointed out to them that is probably because only foreign students can afford to do that kind of low wage job. Given that minimum wage cannot even cover rent and living expense in Auckland, only those students already with their rental covered as part of their study here can afford to take those jobs.

    My point is, it is the system that is bonkered. It is the immigration system that allows those minimum wage job to appears to be viable, but it really isn't, especially in Auckland. The system that allows this exploitation is the villain here, not the students. So yes I agree with Jogai. "Don't hate the player hate the game."

    And yes TOP's slogan always strikes me as odious. For them immigrats are just GDP numbers and nothing more. No they are not. They are people.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Moz,

    I keep thinking this so I have to say it: the combination of the label “Golden Dawn” and politics, especially the politics of immigration, is an unfortunate one.

    Oh, you're not the first to say so. But the name predates the Greek neo-Nazi party (it's an Aleister Crowley thing). Its full title is The Golden Dawn Tavern of Power.

    Locally, it's a rock-solid brand. The Ponsonby bar that hasn't been overrun by the hordes from the Viaduct.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    I thought this was the really interesting quote

    The politicians all agreed immigration was crucial to a thriving Aotearoa.

    I'd happily triple our refugee quota (or more) because it's the humane thing to do.

    But why is immigration "crucial"? Yes we need some immigration, if for no other reason than to balance emigration. But the idea that it's a good way to create some kind of utopia or improve our economy, that I just don't understand. How about we try and improve the society we have instead of using immigrants to provide some kind of panacea (and yeah I know our GDP increases lately have derived almost entirely from immigration).

    If you view immigration as an economic tool (like all good neo-libs do) then you ultimately end up making value judgements on the quality of the people you let immigrate. Play with the words all you like that path is inherently inhumane.

    I'd be far more comfortable using immigration as a tool to increase diversity than as a tool to increase NZ's wealth. How about a quota system that demanded a certain percentage from every part of the globe?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4449 posts Report Reply

  • Harkanwal Singh,

    Thanks for the post Jogai.

    I think it’s an important discussion to have and rather than lay out concrete policies, parties seem to fall into a trap of things like ‘low quality’, or ‘Chinese-sounding-names’. It seems the priority is not to come up with policy backed by evidence, but rather to say things for votes.

    The ‘low quality’ argument is rather strange, because I’d be curious if we would accept Kiwis to be judged under the same criteria when we are migrating to other countries. Also, when we judge humans by quality, I think we all know where that leads.

    I came as an international student and I agree that reform is needed in the area, but the language used by political parties is not constructive. It’s demeaning. An arbitrary way of deciding that we need only tertiary-educated students is not very helpful either.

    Policy is important in this area, but before we get to that how about a bit of human decency.

    Auckland, New Zealand • Since Aug 2017 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Harkanwal Singh,

    when we judge humans by quality, I think we all know where that leads.

    It's in a way worse, because we know that we have no way to accurately judge quality. Fraudsters are the obvious example, often people think they're excellent for years until they get discovered we find out they've been living a lie all this time. If we had some kind of "human quality measurement tool" immigrants would be well down the list of places to use it. Politicians spring to mind as good test subjects.

    The problem of (mis)use of bad measurements sort of flows from that and is sort of dependent on it.

    My preference is to first accept immigrants we desperately need (the "really really skilled immigrant" category), then those we have an obligation to (former colonies in the Pacific, those we've invaded), then those with connections here (family reunion), then refugees. But I think using immigration to cover up problems with the government's economic theories is a disaster. Per capita GDP is the least awful of the measures they use, but GDP is almost as problematic as "immigrant quality" (see, I dunno, Marilyn Waring's "Counting for Nothing" from back in the 1970s as one example).

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The recent Smart Talk at The Auckland Museum event on immigration is well on topic -- and the whole thing is worth a listen

    Chaired by Noelle McCarthy and featuring writer and broadcaster Ali Ikram, researcher and Maori spokesperson for the Migrants and Refugee Rights Campaign Dr Arama Rata, filmmaker Roseanne Liang and Massey University’s Professor Paul Spoonley, who is heading a six-year research programme looking at the impacts of immigration and diversity.

    "Nothing is less convincing than a New Zealander looking up from a butter chicken pie made by a Cambodian baker, complaining about immigration”

    Well said Professor Spoonley, and it's funny because it is also true.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Harkanwal Singh,

    I came as an international student and I agree that reform is needed in the area, but the language used by political parties is not constructive. It’s demeaning. An arbitrary way of deciding that we need only tertiary-educated students is not very helpful either.

    I’m fine with the idea of obliging PTEs to demonstrate that they reach a reasonable standard and and are not in fact visa rackets – but my sense is it’s not necessarily that simple. It does seem relevant that the current set of problems seems to have kicked off in 2013, when NZQA loosened oversight.

    Policy is important in this area, but before we get to that how about a bit of human decency.

    Absolutely.

    I was appalled recently when Trevor Mallard went off an a rant on Back Benches about seeing Indian students working at the service station, as if they were the problem rather than who was possibly exploiting them.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Moz,

    My preference is to first accept immigrants we desperately need (the “really really skilled immigrant” category), then those we have an obligation to (former colonies in the Pacific, those we’ve invaded), then those with connections here (family reunion), then refugees.

    It is a little ironic that National hasn't copped more flak for holding down the refugee quota and indefinitely suspending the family reunification category. I think they've done it by basically not talking about it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Moz,

    first accept immigrants we desperately need (the "really really skilled immigrant" category)

    My issue with this is the reason we need them is because we've failed to educate residents to fill those roles. Sure in an emergency get them as immigrants but surely you'd be trying to fix the system that failed to train enough in the first place.

    Ironically one reason we are seeing these issues in the health system is the sharp rise in population due to immigration.

    To be honest I'd be happiest with your list in reverse order :) but that's probably just me.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4449 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I think they’ve done it by basically not talking about it.

    Perhaps, but more pertinently National haven’t blamed our problems on immigrants.

    I’m not sure if Louisa Wall’s words were careless or measured but I’m not sure either is any better. It comes after quite a long series of statements from Labour in a similar vein. If they can be so consistently careless about such a sensitive issue that’s remarkable. But it’s more likely to have had a bit of thought behind it.

    Even now, given the opportunity of new leadership, Ardern can’t bring herself to emphatically reject the Chinese sounding names episode and although still sticking to Little’s numbers on immigration reduction claims it’s not about numbers.

    Since Nov 2016 • 331 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    While it can be difficult to talk about immigration without rehearsing unhelpful patterns, every area of policy should be responsive to the practical needs and preferences of our communities.

    Our failure to allow for growth in the systems that support immigration and social change is linked to the linguistic and ideological frameworks that have dominated national conversation. Our policies have hurt New Zealanders in ways that statistics and misjudged turns of phrase will never fully capture.

    The ‘low quality’ argument is rather strange, because I’d be curious if we would accept Kiwis to be judged under the same criteria when we are migrating to other countries.

    When I sought to work in the UK I could only apply under the Highly Skilled Migrant Program, which limited entry to those who met certain educational and professional criteria.

    I think Kiwis are fairly accepting of these sorts of constraints.

    Nothing is less convincing than a New Zealander looking up from a butter chicken pie made by a Cambodian baker, complaining about immigration

    As luck would have it, I wolfed down an award-winning chicken, cranberry and cheese pie in similar circumstances just a few days ago.

    Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov, in reply to Neil,

    the Chinese sounding names episode

    What would have been ironic would be Labour having actively opposed the suspension of the family reunification category – which was tailored in part to help accommodate Chinese people - while simultaneously campaigning against the Chinese name cohort buying houses.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Neil,

    Even now, given the opportunity of new leadership, Ardern can’t bring herself to emphatically reject the Chinese sounding names episode

    That was lamentable. It was a perfect opportunity to renounce the whole stupid thing, and she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t want to throw Twyford under the bus or something, but I think it’s almost her only false move as Labour leader.

    The weird thing is that Labour's migrant MPs and candidates did actually have a role in drafting its policy – but no voice in its communication. That's a real failure.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    Incidentally for anyone wishing to sign the petition for reinstatement of the family reunification Visa (with dramatically reduced terms) here’s the petition.

    As I understand it, only the Māori Party currently supports this.

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Neil, in reply to Russell Brown,

    under the bus or something

    Light rail.

    She's a bit stuck. A strongly worded statement now would stand in contrast with her silence at the time.

    Since Nov 2016 • 331 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    My issue with this is the reason we need them is because we've failed to educate residents to fill those roles. Sure in an emergency

    By "really, really need" I was thinking more of the emergency than the current approach of "why train people, we can import them". The latter is bullshit, the former is pretty unavoidable. There's also a "paying for talent" aspect, we import expensive livestock and plants to improve local stock so why not do the same for people? Admittedly I'm thinking Nobel Prize winners rather than the rugby players that some might prefer, but I think the idea is sound.

    To be honest I'd be happiest with your list in reverse order :) but that's probably just me.

    To me "we came to your country and made a problem/disaster" takes precedence over other refugees. Aotearoa isn't as bad as some, but we have our share of locals who took great risks to help our UN missions or soldiers then got shafted. I think that's far more shameful than the indirect "shame about the war in Yemen {shrug}" stuff.

    The family reunion approach works better than raw refugee intake I think. Once one family of refugees has got to the point where they can persuade the system to let them bring in family you have a whole lot of helpful things in place. New New Zealanders are arriving to a place they know a bit about, people they know and who know them, they have social and financial resources to help them get started, and so on. I see it as an unofficial extension of the refugee program in that sense (I suppose I should mention at this point that my recently-ex partner is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees so I am both somewhat aware of how this works, and biased towards it. Her step-sister with husband and kid arrived this way, for example).

    I presume NZ has the same problems with exploitation of vulnerable workers as Australia does? Over here one common scam is "you can only legally work X hours, so we pay you X hours at minimum wage. You work all the hours we want or we will dob you in for working more than the legal hours". The awesome thing is that it actually works that way in practice - if the company admits to breaking that law the worker is deported and the company asked if they would perhaps consider thinking about making a policy telling staff not to work more hours than their visa permits.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    That was lamentable. It was a perfect opportunity to renounce the whole stupid thing, and she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t want to throw Twyford under the bus or something, but I think it’s almost her only false move as Labour leader.

    Then again, I was more shocked that Susie Ferguson let Ardern pull a classic "I'm so sorry if anyone was offended" play unchallenged, that typically lands people in the burn ward. To be diplomatic, not exactly Morning Report's finest moment.

    And we just own that the problem with factually dodgy AF dog-whistling isn't the comms strategy. You can polish up a turd and put it in a pretty box, but it's still crap.

    When I sought to work in the UK I could only apply under the Highly Skilled Migrant Program, which limited entry to those who met certain educational and professional criteria.

    The irony being that a year ago, we were in London -- a city whose economy would collapse as it drowned in its own shit if every migrant was sent home tomorrow. As so often happens, it's easy to throw around "low-quality language" on the people you choose not to see. Certainly didn't see any English Roses pushing the cleaning cart in our hotel -- but I sure could have brushed up on my Polish conversation if I had any.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Lynn Yum,

    That Labour hanging the Chinese out to dry is the reason I'm NOT going to vote Labour, for the first time EVER.

    Incidentally, that kind of "research" was done in Vancouver. This comes from a Guardian article that is probably not shared nearly enough in NZ:

    Last year [2015], Andy Yan, a respected local urban planner and academic, took Vancouver’s most expensive neighbourhoods and looked for buyers in a recent six-month period with non-anglicised Chinese names – that is, names without a “western” first or middle name, a method he and other experts defended as an imperfect but academically sound way of gauging tenure in Canada. Yan found that they accounted for two-thirds of all house purchases.

    Several prominent figures in the real estate industry publicly questioned whether the study was racist. So did Vancouver’s mayor, Gregor Robertson. “This can’t be about race, it can’t be about dividing people,” he told the CBC. Some in the Chinese community expressed discomfort with the study as well.

    Others, including Yan, were taken aback. “My great-granddad paid the head tax,” he told a local newspaper. “So to somehow use [concerns about] ‘racism’ to protect your privilege? That’s just absurd. This is an almost uniquely Vancouver reaction.”

    Indeed, there is profit to be had by capitalising on people’s discomfort around race. [Ian] Young [a blogger] sees a willingness on the part of politicians and the real estate industry, faced with the prospect of unpalatable policy decisions, to maintain the status quo. “There are a lot of vested interests here,” he says. “To red-flag the entire conversation as racist, I find that disturbing. This is the most profound social justice issue in Vancouver today.”

    And more from Ian Young:

    Ian Young, author of the South China Morning Post’s enormously popular Hongcouver blog, the must-read chronicle of Vancouver’s affordability woes, is more sanguine. “When you have thousands of super-rich settling in a new city in very short time, that’s discomfiting … people don’t know what to think,” he says. “But the issue here is [the buyers’] millionaire-ness, not their Chinese-ness. And I think most people get that.”

    I can't afford to buy a house in this market in Auckland. I'm Chinese. It is a combination of record migration and lack of housing supply that pushed the market so high. Race isn't an issue here. So Labour should just come out and say it, in no uncertain terms.

    And here is another parallel from Vancouver:

    And yet, hiding behind an absence of good data, government officials have mostly refused even to admit that foreign capital is making it impossible to buy a house in Vancouver – let alone act to level the playing field, for instance via a progressive property tax.

    Hey, haven't we seen that somewhere before? National said there was no housing crisis in Auckland until, what, last year?

    Auckland • Since Dec 2016 • 38 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Lynn Yum,

    I can’t afford to buy a house in this market in Auckland. I’m Chinese. It is a combination of record migration and lack of housing supply that pushed the market so high. Race isn’t an issue here. So Labour should just come out and say it, in no uncertain terms.

    Completely! Auckland isn't the only western city where housing inflation is excluding its own residents. San Francisco has the same problems, and it's not Chinese migrants doing the outbidding. Part of there problem; for the people being pushed out, is more caused by the city becoming a speculative magnet than simply migration from specific places. It's a popular place to be, there are more people there now with more wealth, which is terrible for people with less. And there are a lot of them.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4163 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    Not to defend Labour’s low point, their Orewa moment but the Chinese sounding name debacle was substantively about overseas ownership of housing stock as investment. A practice that should be outlawed.

    Since Mar 2010 • 377 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to william blake,

    substantively about overseas ownership

    Yeah but there were much better ways of demonstrating that the money had to be from overseas investors than using last names of registered buyers. It was stupid.

    More importantly it allowed the government to ignore the actual problem of ridiculous levels of foreign investment in the residential market. That suited the government because their constituents and donors were the ones profiting from that investment at the expense of those unable to buy a first home.

    In general we need overseas investment because we lack a large internal pool of money to invest in large ventures (kiwisaver is solving some of that). But very few countries allow overseas investment in residential property and that certainly is of very little benefit to NZ.

    For Labour to utterly drop the ball on addressing that issue was an awful screw up. That they alienated a chunk of the community compounded that screw up. It left Labour unable to address either excessive immigration rates or the housing market and demonstrated an alarming level of incompetence.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4449 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    That suited the government because their constituents and donors were the ones profiting from that investment at the expense of those unable to buy a first home

    As an aside, language like “first home” gives the impression that aspiring to multiple home ownership isn’t greedy. Or that climbing the property ladder isn’t just the same as climbing the greasy pole to high paying job. But then that could all mean different things to culturally different people.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4163 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to steven crawford,

    , language like “first home” gives the impression that aspiring to multiple home ownership isn’t greedy

    "first home"? I don't understand how someone can live in more than one home at a time. There's home, and there's "all my other houses" (which number is probably zero). The "first home" thing is designed to be completely misleading from the ground up. It's designed to separate young (under 40) people trying to move out of rentals into owning a home from people selling their current home and buying another.

    The question should really be put as "landlords vs homeowners". Should we favour people leveraging multiple houses to buy another over people who want a stable place to live? But that would make it clear that the law deliberately favours the rich, and would also make the link to tenancy laws uncomfortably obvious.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

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