State Of It: Fear And Loathing… In Orewa - NZ First Style
Subtitle: The Dark Underbelly Of New Zealand Politics
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Media Co-Editor
During the 1981 Springbok tour it was observed that New Zealand had a scab, and once picked it lifted, releasing the pus of racism to flow. The metaphor was again put to test at New Zealand First’s immigration policy launch at Orewa on Friday. The scene there was best described by another more famous cliché: fear and loathing… in Orewa.
New Zealand First’s leader Winston Peters demonstrated his tried and true style of delivering sensationalist, segregationist rhetoric to a totally white, aged, and agreeable audience of around 200 Grey Power members. Again he singled out clearly identifiable immigrant groups (as expected none among the crowd could assert to being Asian or Arab or anything other than white) as the focus of his intolerance, and used the word diversity as if it was repugnant.
Orewa - once the turf of former Prime Minister the late Sir Robert Muldoon’s state of the nation speeches - has now been relegated to an iconic abode for those jostling for political supremacy when playing the racial card.
On launching New Zealand First’s immigration policy 2005, Winston Peters claimed leadership of the dark underbelly of New Zealand politics. And at Orewa on Friday May 27 2005 he trumped National leader Don Brash’s ‘Orewa Speech’ rendering it meek by comparison.
Peters scanned the room, grinned, flashed his charismatic charm upon the aged, he followed with a joke. He did not mention his late mentor Muldoon once (which considering the location was odd), but appeared assured the blue-rinse brigade once known as Rob’s mob was now his. He was right.
He mentioned having been a farmer. Nods of approval followed from his captives. It was reminiscent of 1996 when Peters told an audience of working class unionists at a hall in Otahuhu of how he had been a former freezing worker. One wonders if he would reminisce about his days as a lawyer should he address a Law Society breakfast, or even how he studied Hebrew if an invitation was ever offered for him to speak at the Hong Kong Correspondent’s Club!
Friday’s performance had other structural similarities to that 1996 speech: like his identifying media in the hall, pointing, even offering the audience a name or two, singling political commentators out to be ridiculed by him and by those among the audience that had left their sense of values at the door.
Others were mentioned as if they were infectious: like Algerian lecturer Ahmed Zaoui whose name was repeatedly highlighted utilising an accusatory parasitic style - the facts of Mr Zaoui’s circumstance had no room for debate – this was Peters’ platform. He even reminded one rather forgetful Grey Power president who shared the stage (and who couldn’t for the life of him remember local New Zealand First MP young Craig McNair’s name) “these are my rules…”
On this point, it was disappointing that an opportunity was not allowed for media to ask Peters whether he would accept an invitation to meet Ahmed Zaoui, whether it would be welcomed, put into action. After all, it certainly is the New Zealand way to front up to those whom one accuses. It is a statement of mana for a leader, especially one with Maori ancestry, to have the courage to look in the eye the focus of one’s accusations, and to restate the accusations that one has said from afar. Surely it would be a demonstration of high personal standing to allow the focus of one’s accusations to offer, again face to face, an explanation. Surely this would be a demonstration of justice, courage, values and an ideal worth striving for. Leadership? Wouldn’t it? After all, Nation Party leader Don Brash met Zaoui – so why wouldn’t Peters?
But there was no opportunity for media to place such a question to Peters while his captive audience was in tow. At Orewa the ohhhs and arrrrs flowed once the sharp-tongued Peters got into fist-clenching mode. Waves of approval echoed around the hall after Peters offered a point-making key policy position that under a New Zealand First coalition a hard-hitting operational inspectorate would be created that would employ only ‘New Zealanders’, that would ban anyone currently employed by the New Zealand Immigration Service, and would be staffed by those possessing “intelligence, investigative skills, determination and, yes, patriotism!”.
This inspectorate would operate as a “flying squad” making random checks of immigration applications and decisions, scan all visa applications both retrospective and current, and would investigate “corruption” and incompetence among immigration officials and staff.
If New Zealand’s Immigration officers displayed shades of Germany’s Wehrmacht during New Zealand’s dawn-raids in the late 1970s (and many possess the opinion that they did), then this flying squad could understandably be deemed a neo-contemporary-styled Waffen SS, or should the squad be politically responsible, perhaps Allgemeine-SS is more appropriate, especially considering Peters’ insistence that they be patriotic and one could be forgiven for believing overly nationalistic in its expression.
For example; one wonders how the patriotic criteria would be determined, by what set of value-benchmarks, by whose values would officers be appraised? It is Peters’ policy. Peters’ values perhaps?
Considering geo-politics, it is fair to assert the world has a condition that risks the rise of institutionalized intolerance. Politically, fear of the unknown motives of others from alien cultures and even religions is again now easily massaged by populist politicians determined to display a reactive and decisive operational wing that will protect, preserve, the majority’s cultural way of life.
New Zealand First is brokering for third party votes. And the centre-ground of New Zealand’s party list electorate is fertile ground for decision, action, protection, and conservatism.
Recent polls would suggest that New Zealanders, while concerned by a raft of Labour government weaknesses previously unexposed, have not fled to the hard-edged policies of the New Zealand First party. Support however for its leader has increased.
On Saturday May 28 the New Zealand Herald reported that National is up three points to 36.2%, Labour down 1.6 points to 47.7%. But significantly, Winston Peters’ support as preferred prime minister has jumped six points to 17.1%. Don Brash has slipped slightly to 22.2%, and Helen Clark fell four points to 52.1%.
Even Peters, always instinctually attuned to polls, admitted to the Orewa audience that New Zealand voters may force his party post-election to “keep them (the government) honest” from outside a coalition.
The position would still offer Peters a powerful location. New Zealand First has in recent months pressured the Labour-led government against a figurative wall over immigration. Peters has drip-fed in scandalous-style detail of so called “undesirables” who have slipped through the border net and entered New Zealand - including those who have fled Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime had collapsed.
In this respect, Immigration Minister Paul Swain had appeared impotent on the issue, politically falling in behind Peters’ step at every juncture, displaying an inability to firstly discover exactly how many so called “undesirables” had entered the country, or by what means, and secondly to convince the voting public that confidence in his governing performance ought to be given or even warranted.
The issue has created a political opportunity for Peters again to wave a nationalistic flag engineered to spike fear into white New Zealand and Maori alike (a defining difference between his platform and Don Brash’s), to segregate or identify ethnicities by stereotype, to hold aloft the consequential impact of immigration of alien cultures against a retrospective view of how New Zealand once was, and by degrees, once a condition of intolerance is achieved amongst party list voting blocks, Peters siphons their support so as to maximize his Party’s vote in this year’s General Election.
It is a simple and populist strategy that has worked wonders for Peters in the past.
But this year there is an added difference: even from his stool on Parliament’s opposition benches Peters is shaping the government’s immigration policy. This appears due to the governing Labour Party having found itself reeling from the Ahmed Zaoui case, suffering the embarrassment of repeated claims that “undesirables” have arrived in numbers, and an Immigration Service that the Minister clearly has lost confidence in.
The consequence is a platform of legislative reform fueled by political pressure (namely from Peters, arguably a dangerous condition from which to create law), case-law pressure (largely due to the Zaoui case having demonstrated the frailties of the current Immigration Act and amendments), and ad hoc Labour Party policy adjustments (that give every appearance of being in catch-up-mode).
Should one accept this premise, it is a political condition that will influence and alter the course of New Zealand’s commitment to embrace diversity and social acceptance, an understanding of this nation’s place within a global village, and ultimately will, if it hasn’t already, threaten the New Zealand way.
Paul Swain said Friday the government is not following Peters’ call: "In contrast, the government's policies are a balance between attracting the migrants, tourists and students we need with the importance of protecting our borders from people we do not want.
"The Skilled Migrant Category targets migrants who can add to the economy at a time when we need more skilled people. Mr Peters' policies would guarantee that skills shortages would continue. "At the same time we have invested more than $30 million over the last two years to strengthen the Immigration Service's fraud detection and investigation capabilities."
Swain accused Peters of displaying a lack of understanding of what the government had already done to strengthen New Zealand's borders and migration systems.
But Peters insists the government must get tough on immigrants and be seen to be tough.
Peters said: “Whenever New Zealand First raises this issue (immigration), or when my colleagues talk about it, the first words that come to their minds is racism and xenophobic. We raise it for one simple reason, we raise it because you actually have a choice about these demographic projections.”
It was interesting and relevant that Peters did not deny nor dissolve the claims that his position is racist. He added later that he makes no apology should some “have their noses put out of joint”.
He heralded his belief to question whether the New Zealand Asian community has a right to settle here in numbers observed over the past ten years. Peters asked whether it was acceptable for New Zealanders to witness an increase in Asian percentages, reaching, he said, 700,000 or 15% of the general population, by 2020.
“We have now
reached the point where you can wander down Queen Street in
Auckland, and wonder if you are still in New Zealand or some
other country,” Peters told his Orewa audience.
Peters detailed New Zealand First's five point plan to address the immigration crisis.
1. Comprehensive Population Policy: Stop the knee jerk annual immigration planning and start working on ten year and 25 year plans. Establish long-term labour market demands and import skills needed if sufficient New Zealanders cannot be trained. Target people with skills needed and ensure that migrants have jobs to go to. Consult New Zealanders about the make up of those coming here. Introduce a targeted programme aimed at retaining skilled New Zealanders and encouraging others offshore to return.
2. Reform Immigration Service: Increase staffing and end the practice of foreign nationals processing visa applications or carrying out any duties that involve making decisions on who comes to New Zealand. Only New Zealand citizens will be involved in this sort of work.
New Zealand First will also : Create an entirely new organisation to protect the integrity of New Zealand citizenship known as the Immigration Inspectorate. It will be a specialised forensic unit to act as an immigration "Flying Squad". The team will scan visa applications for the past six years, searching for inconsistencies, anomalies and potential risks. It will make random double checks of past and present immigration decisions to confirm that every care and precaution has been taken. The team will also investigate immigration crime and fraud and weed out corrupt or incompetent staff. Staff for the unit will be recruited from outside the Immigration Service. All staff will hold New Zealand citizenship.
3. Change Immigration Laws: 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. Anybody held as a suspected terrorist under the Immigration Act cannot receive bail - unless it is to be taken to the nearest airport. Change the nature of the appeals process, to ensure it cannot ever again become an endless process of taxpayer funded litigation. Make the Refugee Status Appeals Authority more directly responsible to Parliament. The RSAA will have the capacity to review cases to ensure due process was followed, but its ability for discretionary decisions and interpretation will be curbed. Make DNA testing compulsory when any doubt exists over immigrant/refugee family relationships. Introduce fingerprinting and eye scanning. (Biometric technology available abroad)
4. Review Humanitarian Role: New Zealand First will meet UN refugee obligation but believes humanitarian benevolence has been abused by family reunification policy. Refugee family reunification will be limited to spouses and immediate dependent siblings. For all others, the requirements for family reunification will be aligned more closely to the general category, with higher standards of English, a job or proof of income and a commitment to New Zealand culture. Become more creative in humanitarian efforts by increasing overseas aid budget as a more efficient means of meeting humanitarian obligations. Effectively targeted aid places less strain on our domestic infrastructure.
5. Industry Clean-up: New Zealand First will clean up the immigration consultants industry and related fields. Police and the Immigration Inspectorate will mount a major campaign to fight organised crime dealing in false documentation, fake drivers licences and university degrees, insurance fraud, illegal gambling, prostitution and all manner of crime such as murder, kidnapping and protection rackets. Police will receive extra resources related specifically to immigrant communities. Immigration consultants will be regulated and licensed. The Immigration Service will have the authority to remove those involved in such activities.
In summary: did we get what we expected from Winston Peters at Orewa? Yes, and more.
Was his message
excessive and contrary to the New Zealand way of life, that
we have all collectively helped create?
Depending on your value judgments, yes and no (gauging by New Zealand First’s current position in the polls one could suggest the yes has the majority).
Were there disappointing aspects of the
Yes, values aside, Peters and his policy analysis team failed dismally to offer costings of his flying squad, of where this operational wing would be resourced from, how New Zealand First would deal with complex Immigration Act reform where, due to United Nations commitments, New Zealand will have to observe rightful justice for those seeking refuge from brutal totalitarian and oppressive regimes, offer a judicial framework that provides the nation’s security interests to be addressed while offering recourse and absolute due process to occur for those who are deemed a risk, explain whether New Zealand First supports the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security’s recent precedent of having allowed a special advocate to analyse material previously held in secret, non-discoverable, within the walls of the Security Intelligence Service (material that ultimately led to Ahmed Zaoui being held in New Zealand prisons for two years without charge, abused, affected, and in some aspects untreated).
The Labour-led government’s position is that “a fundamental review” of the 18-year-old Immigration Act has already begun that will make it more relevant to New Zealand’s needs and the international environment. Paul Swain points out, had both changed since the Act was introduced in 1987.
Swain stated Friday that the Immigration Service is now deciding applications from “the highest-risk countries onshore”. This is part of a longer-term goal of bringing most decision-making about visas and migrants onshore. A new category of "undesirability" has also been developed to allow staff to better judge the suitability of applicants.
He added: a special team has been set up to review all applications from the highest-risk countries for the last two years.
ultimately, the biggest question resulting and left
unanswered by New Zealand First’s immigration policy launch
(and by the government) is:
Should the population abiding within New Zealand’s borders commit to trusting its politicians not to politicise, interfere, in the processes of justice irrespective of whether it is regarding immigration or otherwise, and irrespective of where one originates from in this globalised world?
You be the judge.