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Launch of Labour’s Immigration Policy

Launch of Labour’s Immigration Policy

Holiday Inn

Oxford Terrace, Christchurch


Hon Lianne Dalziel

Minister of Immigration

MP for Christchurch East

13 July 2002

Making Sure New Zealand is the “Right Choice’

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak this afternoon. I also thank Ronald Fung for organising today’s forum.

I have chosen this opportunity to launch Labour’s Immigration Policy, which is designed to build on the significant progress we have made in this important area. In Auckland today, the Prime Minister & George Hawkins are launching our Ethnic Affairs Policy as well, and although they are distinct policies, the two of them are very much linked through the settlement continuum.

Immigration has made its way into the election campaign, but it is not the issue that some make it out to be. The key issues in this campaign are leadership, economic growth, health, education, superannuation and law & order. As someone remarked recently, they are issues of security and confidence, and I believe the Labour-led government has earned the right to seek a mandate for a further term in office.

As Minister of Immigration I have always been, and remain, willing to debate all aspects of immigration policy.

All of the policy changes introduced by this government have been designed to improve settlement outcomes and to ensure that NZ experiences a net benefit from immigration.

I welcome debate on immigration, because I believe this government can stand proudly on a record of achievement, whereby we have developed new policies to meet the needs of industries that have experienced skill shortages, we have adjusted existing policies to focus on settlement outcomes, and we have confirmed New Zealand’s commitment to its international obligations to refugees.

There are those who are only willing to enter the debate in election year. There is little that I can do about that, however, there is one prerequisite, and that is to “stick to the facts’. I am happy to debate immigration, any time, any day, anywhere, but I insist that the debate is conducted with integrity.

New Zealand is experiencing its first levels of net migration gain for several years. This is occurring for three reasons. More Kiwis are coming home, fewer Kiwis are leaving and immigration numbers are up - both in terms of permanent residents, but also those who come on temporary permits to work or study (who feature in the permanent long term arrival statistics).

There are those who have attacked immigration on several fronts, but they do not bear close scrutiny.

The NZ Immigration programme introduced by this government on 1 October last year, provides for a sensible balance between skilled/business migration (60%), family sponsored migration (30%) and International/Humanitarian migration (10%).

The top four immigration source countries (excluding Australia which is still one of the top countries, but doesn’t feature in immigration statistics because no permit is required due to the Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement) are China, India, Great Britain and South Africa. These have been the top four countries for at least the past 5 years, with Great Britain usually topping the poll.

This government has placed the emphasis on the skilled/business stream, by ensuring that 60% of the programme is allocated to that stream.

We have introduced other policies to support that emphasis, by providing for open work permits for the spouses and partners of work permit holders (including Long Term Business Permit holders; we have identified occupational shortages and removed the labour market test for these to ease access for industry to the global labour market; we have established settlement programmes designed to assist orientation and linking skilled migrants with skilled jobs; we have designed a Work-to-Residence Programme to assist employers recruiting talent off-shore; established two pilots to test the Regional Immigration Initiative to ensure that the benefits of immigration are shared across New Zealand; we have limited premium points for job offers to jobs that are relevant to a migrant’s qualifications or experience; and we have adjusted the points for a relevant job offer to reflect changes in the points system.

I noted one party promising to reduce immigration to 10,000 a year. It is interesting to note that the marriage category sees about 5,000 to 6,000 residence approvals each year, so that policy, either means Kiwis won’t be able to bring their overseas born husbands or wives to New Zealand to live or the real immigration approvals in the business/skilled category will be slashed from 27,000 to 4,000. This would have a major impact on the NZ economy. Business and industry have asserted the importance of utilising the global labour market if we are going to grow our economy. Far from taking jobs, skilled migration helps grow business and industry, which increases jobs.

Refugees and asylum seekers have been a particular target of misinformation this year. The facts are these. Refugees make up around 2.5% of the NZ Immigration Programme.

We accept 750 refugees under the UNHCR Resettlement Programme (we refer to these as quota refugees). This government has asked UNHCR to consider resettlement outcomes, with particular emphasis on family reunification, when selecting UN mandated refugees for resettlement in NZ. This relates to 300 of the 750 accepted each year.

In addition we provide for a family quota for refugees, which provides for 300 family members a year. The family sponsor in New Zealand has to be resident in New Zealand for three years before they can apply to have a family member join them in New Zealand.

As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, we receive and determine claims for refugee status. However, the acceptance rate is less than 20%. That does not mean the other 80% are totally unfounded, because there are several elements to a refugee claim that must be met before it is accepted. That being said, New Zealand has been targeted for patently false or manifestly unfounded claims over many years. This abuse of process, recently commented on by the Refugee Status Appeal Authority, arose from the previous government’s inaction over the backlog of claims, which made it easy for unscrupulous individuals to guarantee a three year work permit. This government has resolved this problem by addressing the backlog (down from over 3000 when we took office to 570 today).

The government has also been criticised because the High Court ruled against us on our detention policy, which provides for detention for those who seek refugee status at the border and who have no papers to prove who they are. Most are accommodated at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, with only a few detained at the Auckland Remand Centre. The Crown has lodged an appeal, which is all we can do. I stand by my firm belief that the UN Convention does not prevent me from ensuring that we know who is in our country, where they are from and why they are here.

Since September 11, the world has tightened up on security matters, and NZ is no exception. We have funding in this year’s Budget to introduce the Advance Passenger Processing System, which enables us to do the necessary checks before people board the plane. We will be fingerprinting all on-shore asylum seekers (as we do with border claimants) to prevent multiple, abusive claims.

And we have passed amendments to the Immigration Act to increase penalties for those involved in people-smuggling or irregular migration scams, as well introduced three-tier penalties for employers from employing people without lawful authority to work through to exploitation of such workers.

New Zealand has responded to world events in a positive, well-balanced way, taking into account our need to offer assurance that security concerns have been addressed.

There are politicians who say that the government’s response to the Tampa crisis raises concerns. I make only this point. The New Zealand government was asked by the Australian government and by the UNHCR to help. We were asked to take some of the asylum seekers from the Tampa, and determine their claims in New Zealand. It is interesting to note that National, ACT and NZ First all say that they would not have intervened in this stand-off, without reference to the fact that this means they would have said no to a request from Australia to help. This government is working very closely with Australia to address the regional impact of people-smuggling, and I am proud of Helen Clark’s willingness to provide the circuit-breaker Australia needed, as well as provide a humanitarian response to a crisis.

This government has done more to address immigration policy in one term, than the previous government did in three terms. We have focused on settlement outcomes. We have placed stronger emphasis on meeting New Zealand’s labour market needs. We have removed anomalies, which allowed recent migrants backdoor access to benefits.

We have strengthened our capacity to resolve refugee claims quickly so that NZ is not open to the abuse that flourished under the previous government. We have provided overseas trained doctors admitted by the previous government with training to enable them to register to practise medicine in New Zealand. We have implemented the NZ Immigration Programme, which ensures that at least 60% of all migrants are skilled or business migrants.

As I said at the outset, I am willing to debate this issue in any forum. The NZ Immigration Programme is a well-managed, well-balanced programme, which strengthens New Zealand’s economic and social development, and meets our international obligations. However, I will stick to the facts, not the political rhetoric that has damaged New Zealand’s international reputation in the past, and could do so again.

Labour’s Immigration policy for the 2002 election builds on these gains.

We will:

- Further develop NZ’s capacity to actively recruit talented and skilled migrants to NZ;

- Review Business migration categories, including an evaluation of how to improve opportunities for making investor funds available to local economic development initiatives;

- Review the Immigration Act 1991, to ensure that it is modernised in the light of changes to policy, and the location of and criteria applied by the immigration appeal authorities;

- Develop an Adult ESOL strategy to complement the Adult Literacy Strategy;

- Review immigration policy relating to students to ensure that international students are able to continue to access quality education and appropriate pastoral care (e.g guardians’ visas, extended working visas for students);

- Review the effectiveness of Limited Purpose Permits and Bonds in managing risks of non-compliance with temporary entry policies;

- Broaden consideration of ways the proposed register of Immigration Consultants could be managed;

- Establish an appointments database in the Office of Ethnic Affairs;

- Develop NZ-wide telephone interpreter services;

- Maintain close relationships with the Pacific Region in terms of immigration & settlement policy.

I entitled my address today “Making Sure New Zealand is the Right Choice”, and is a reference to the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) slogan, “New Zealand - the Right Choice”.

Naturally, as Minister of Immigration, I firmly believe that New Zealand is “the Right Choice’. However, it is not “the Right Choice’ for everyone. That is why we have produced a pamphlet to encourage anyone considering migrating to New Zealand to research all of the issues, before the final decision is made. The worst thing that can happen from an immigration perspective, is that a migrant arrives with high expectations, that are not met once he or she settles in New Zealand. I have met too many people who have ended up working outside their professional field or well below their skills and experience. This does not make for successful settlement for the migrant, nor is it good for New Zealand when talent and skills are wasted in this way.

Successful settlement is a two-way street, and New Zealanders need to know that the “new Kiwis’ are willing to integrate into their communities and contribute to New Zealand’s social and economic well-being. The allegory I have used is that the migrant who is willing to engage and integrate is the key, and a welcoming community is what locks in successful settlement.

New Zealand is a small country with big opportunities. It has been built on waves of migration over the decades, and all of us have a migrant story in our history.

I welcome the opportunity to reflect on what I believe has been a very successful first term in office, and I hope that the programme I have laid out today is one that gives you confidence that a further term for a Labour-led government is the right choice on July 27.

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