Speech in the House on Winston Peters - Robson
Hon Matt Robson
Progressive List MP
Speech in the House on Winston Peters
11 September 2002
I want to begin by again adding my sympathy for the victims of September 11.
In regard to our relationships with the world community, whether it be the Tall Blacks, the America's Cup, or the way that we respond to international issues, all will influence the way we are seen and regarded around the world.
Comments by prominent New Zealanders such as Sam Neill, Nobel Prize Winner Professor Alan McDiarmid, or musician Tim Finn can all influence our reputation.
People judge us and our country on the views expressed by prominent New Zealanders.
We are all ambassadors for this country.
This unfortunately includes the comments of Winston Peters on Immigration.
There have been many remarks in this house on the divisive effects of comments attacking ethnic communities within New Zealand. However, little attention has been paid to the international harm such comments create.
Prior to the 1996 General Election Winston Peters made headlines here and overseas demanding that permanent residency approvals should capped at 10,000 a year; he also said there needed to be a four-year probation period for immigrants and a crackdown on over stayers.
These and other comments were reported widely.
Between 1993 and 1995, 74% of migrants were in the skilled or business categories.
By late 1997 after Winston Peter's outbursts this had fallen to 50%.
In 1995-96, business migrants invested $765 million in New Zealand.
But in 96-97 ?following Winston Peter's most extravagant ravaging attacks on immigration ? this amount plummeted to $198 million.
At the time a well known immigration lawyer noted our reputation in southern Asia had been badly damaged; "There's very little interest in immigration to New Zealand now and it has almost dried up." (The Evening Standard, 28 Sep 1996 , p.2)
Time Magazine reported in May 96 that the undertone of racism by New Zealand First alarmed Asian immigrant groups. The damage was done.
After this Winston Peter's staunch anti immigration views were put to bed for a few years until the most recent election.
We are all aware of the negative local publicity Winston has generated in the last three months.
"We do not need Shish kebab makers!" the Bay of Plenty Times reported Mr Peters saying on the 4th of September this year. The paper then quotes a Turkish kebab maker in Tauranga who seemed perplexed by Winston's comments as he sees him in the Street regularly and Winston waves to him.
We had the bizarre attack on the Prime Minister when Winston is quoted in the Christchurch press (29 August) as saying " I don't know if you saw Helen Clark's campaign headquarters on election night but it looked like the United Nations. You couldn't find a New Zealander there." (Well you can at the UN)
Winston was joined by the disgraceful comments from ACTs Stephen Franks quoted in the NZ Herald: "I do not respect Islam", apparently implying that all Muslims are woman hating terrorists.
Ninety per cent of the population did not vote for Winston Peters.
My guess is that the vast majority in this country regard him as an embarrassing political opportunist who has used racial attacks to lift his political profile.
I think his comments disturb the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders
While we might find his comments ludicrous and we realise he represents a small percentage of New Zealand's population, people overseas do not understand this.
As recently as last Saturday on BBCs Radio 4 where Winston told people in England and Europe that "New Zealanders are denied facts and information" and that New Zealanders should not have immigrants as we have "traditions and values that we have built up and are building up to make a new exciting culture and nation".
The Sydney Morning Herald, servicing a city with the population of New Zealand, reports in July that Winston Peters has 'race, and racism on his side'. It also reports that Mr Peters has strong support in the polls. The article goes on to compare him to Pauline Hanson.
What are the people of Sydney to deduce about New Zealand from this?
The same story appears in the Melbourne Age. That's an audience of another three million potential investors and trade partners.
Versions of the same story appeared around the world, notably a San Francisco 'anti-racism' news alert.
In a BBC news story the coverage of New Zealand and the Tampa refugees focuses on "the leader of the anti-immigration New Zealand First party, Winston Peters".
The same piece reports that in contrast to Europe, or even New Zealand's near neighbour Australia, the asylum seeker issue is just not that controversial.
On Australian Broadcasting radio Winston told Australia in July that he wanted to stop the flood of immigration, that he said "knows no parallel in any part of the Western World."
The Asian Times (Online) reported on 31 July that Winston Peters says it is the right of ordinary Kiwis [New Zealanders]" "to stop being swamped by a flood of immigrants".
He is described as leading an anti-immigration, anti-Asian party called New Zealand First.
This Labour Progressive Government has made a lot of effort to create jobs by encouraging the Asian companies who own our forests to invest here rather than taking the jobs off shore.
Recently we have had two announcements by companies owned by Asian companies wanting to create jobs here through wood processing plants. The first in Gisborne with over $100 million investment and hundreds of jobs and the most recent in Coromandel with $25 million being invested and creating at least 40 skilled jobs.
The danger we face with the kind of comments Winston Peter's makes is that as in 1996 and 97 Asian owners of assets in New Zealand will invest elsewhere.
The jobs, the investment and the opportunities that this investment creates will go overseas.
Winston Peter's comments could jeopardise needed investment.
I call on Mr Peters to desist in his attacks which are not only harming our immigrant population but harming all of us.