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No Right Turn: The Winston Veto

The Winston Veto

By No Right Turn

As much as I love to see the Department of Immigration squirm in the glare the public spotlight, I can't help but be more than a little uncomfortable at Winston Peters' latest scandalmongering over visitors from Iraq. Firstly, there's the racism angle; Winston asked in Parliament how the PM could have confidence in her Minister of Immigration

...when he does not have the remotest idea of which Arab - Osama bin Laden or anybody else - may be in this country, where he might be, or what he is doing here?

- a question I simply cannot imagine him asking if "Briton" were substituted in the place of "Arab". And secondly, there's the whole issue of seeing people deported because Winston has named them in Parliament and this is embarassing to the government. I wasn't aware that the Immigration Act granted Winston a veto over who got to come here - but a craven government desperate to avoid bad publicity and unwilling to stand up for the rule of law and natural justice may very well have granted him one de facto.

Unfortunately, there's not really much question that deporting someone because their presence (however innocent) has generated flack is entirely legal. The dirty secret of our immigration system is that everything is subject to Ministerial discretion. The Minister of Immigration may revoke any visa or permit at any time, with virtually no notice and only limited grounds for appeal. In this area, we are a country of men, not laws - a legal structure more suited to the sixteenth century than the twenty-first.

This doesn't mean that I'm necessarily defending the two men now subject to deportation. But I can't help but feel that in the rush to avoid bad publicity, a few things have been missed. Like, say, any investigation of the facts. Is there any evidence that either of these men were actually complicit in crimes against humanity? Or do we just not care about such things anymore?

There's also a question of consistency. If serving an oppressive regime which engages in torture and murder or genocide (depending on when exactly these people finished working for Saddam) is grounds for instant deportation, I can think of a few people who we should be kicking out as well. The US Ambassador, for a start. Or the Indonesian one. Then there's all those delegations of visiting officials from China, and anyone here from Burma to lobby about that free trade agreement. But again, it's clear this is about politics, not consistency.

Anyone complicit in crimes against humanity should be extradited to the relevant jurisdiction to stand trial. And anyone who worked for and actively supported a regime which engages in torture and murder probably isn't a suitable person to visit or live in New Zealand. But any refusal or removal of such people must be done in a manner consistent with the rule of law and our principles of fairness and natural justice. What is being done here simply does not meet that standard.


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