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Richard Prebble Speech Auckland (South) Conference

Extract from Speech by Hon Richard Prebble, Leader ACT New Zealand to Auckland (South) Regional Conference,

Friday 22 Nov 2002 Richard Prebble Press Releases -- Immigration

It is ACT's belief in our liberal principles that has caused the party to stand up to Mr Peters demagoguery.

As liberals we opposed his attacks on his fellow New Zealanders. In 1996 when Mr Peters first attacked Asian migration the two old parties were silent. It was ACT who spoke out.

After the 1996 election both Labour and National negotiated coalition agreements with New Zealand First. Both old parties lost any moral authority they can claim. Even the Alliance, which in 1996 included the Greens, were prepared to compromise their principles for power and enter a coalition with Mr Peters. ACT alone refused.

It was not just Mr Peters' reckless statements on immigration ACT opposed, we recognised that New Zealand First's big spending economic policies put that party on the left in politics.

In the last election campaign it was ACT that challenged New Zealand First's anti-immigration statements. Winston Peters was expecting to be in coalition with Labour and but for TVNZ's worm, Mr Peters would be deputy Prime Minister today.

National is no better. Just days before the election a desperate Bill English proposed a grand coalition of National/ACT and New Zealand First. A coalition I stated ACT would not join.

Labour's total lack of principle was displayed again this week.

This week's sudden U-turn on immigration is a complete betrayal of the immigrant communities whose votes Labour sought only three months ago in the election. The new test is so harsh very few immigrants from non-English speaking countries will be able to migrate. It's not just Asian immigrants but immigrants from countries like Dalmatia which has a long history of successful migration to this country who are now effectively banned.

The sort of immigrant who has now no chance of migrating is a skilled tradesman from a non-English speaking country. ACT is the party of business, and in New Zealand that means small business. I have received many messages from business saying that the effect on their business of not being able to employ skilled tradesmen will be devastating.

I note that the Auckland Chamber of Commerce estimates that the effect of these panic immigration changes will be $2 billion a year in lost earnings for the country.

The new English language test is no better than the infamous Jim Crow Laws in Southern States of America to prevent blacks from voting.

Southern states used to have English language tests that all voters were required to pass before being the vote. The whites were given easy tests and the blacks hard tests.

There is the story of the black university professor of English who went to vote. The white policeman gave him a piece of Mandarin Chinese and asked him to read it. The professor said, "I know what this says."

The white policeman was amazed. No one had ever translated it and he had no idea what it said. "You don't say!" said the policeman. "What does it say?"

"This piece of paper says," said the Professor. "Here is one nigger who won't be voting this year."

The changes announced by the Clark government this week are morally no better.

The new English Language test is set at university level English. Half of the New Zealand population would fail the test. The NZPA Reporter, Kevin Norquay, who says he got 70 per cent for School Certificate English sat the test this week and said he found it hard and thought he failed.

The New Zealand First MPs would not pass the immigration English language test. Mind you, I cannot be sure of that because I have never heard two of the New Zealand First caucus speak.

The test is racist because immigrants from the United Kingdom are not required to sit the test. Many would fail.

Lianne Dalziel lifted the points required to migrate to New Zealand to 30 two months ago, and then realised that excluded skilled tradesmen, of which we have a critical shortage.

Now she has lowered the points down, but put a university English standard for non-English migrants. Mr Peters claims correctly that the Labour government is carrying out New Zealand First policy.

Imposing an English test on the long-term business visa also makes no sense. The long-term business visa is an innovative policy. Under this category business investors are given a temporary visa, up to three years, to start a business in New Zealand. They must register as taxpayers in New Zealand.

There is no right to permanent residence. If the business is not successful the permit is not renewed. The risk is with the investor. It is hard to work out why there is any language requirement for a business investor on a temporary visa.

Labour has imposed a tough language test and I am advised by immigration consultants that investments worth multimillions will be lost.

In the global economy there is competition for capital and entrepreneurs. Even countries with tough immigration, like Switzerland, don't put a language test on business migrants. When I was out of parliament I was part of a group of NZ businessmen who made an investment in Vietnam. We were given the Vietnamese equivalent of the long term business visa that enabled us to make multiple visits while we were setting up the joint venture. The Vietnamese did not ask me to prove that I could speak Vietnamese. They realised that if they had such a test it wouldn't help the business venture and they wouldn't get many investments. The English language test on investors who have no right to permanent residence has to be nonsense.

The only matter where ACT agrees with Mr Peters is that immigration is an issue we should debate. The number and quality of immigrants are an issue.

A survey of the media will show that over the last three years, it has been ACT not New Zealand First that has questioned the logic of both old parties' immigration policy. Mr Peters made virtually no statement on immigration from 1999 to the beginning of this year - election year. He asked almost no parliamentary questions. It is ACT who said that the refugee policy, where queue jumping refugees are let in so Helen Clark can make an impression on a visit to Indonesia is indefensible. Letting in Somali refugees to assist New Zealand winning a place on the UN Security Council is also indefensible.

Refugee immigration should be subject to similar tests of all other migrants - can they, within a reasonable time, be economically self sufficient?

English language tests also have a place. But a test that the average Kiwi would fail cannot be right.

It is ACT that points out that the best immigrants are ex-pat New Zealanders. It is ACT that points out, it is New Zealand's relatively poor economic performance that has lead to our best and brightest leaving. Attempting to replace an Otago trained doctor with an immigrant with qualifications from a third world institution not recognised in this country is a policy that is a loser for everyone. Bringing in immigrants with qualifications that will never be recognised is a confidence trick on those immigrants.

Going from no test one day, to an impossible test the next, just demonstrates what we know - the Clark government is driven by public opinion polls not by any moral principle.

It is ACT's liberal principles that lead us to be the intellectual opposition to the government. In the last two weeks, it has been ACT that has questioned the wisdom of a ban on nuclear propulsion that has excluded this country from a Free Trade Agreement with the USA.

The government's own scientists say the risk to the public from a nuclear powered ship is almost nil and Auckland Hospital puts out more radiation a day than the whole US Fleet in a year.

An Australia/US free trade agreement that excludes New Zealand will see New Zealand firms crossing the Tasman to be able to export to the US.

It is ACT that is saying to the two old parties, the ban on nuclear propulsion is a meaningless gesture which caused New Zealand to be excluded from a US Free Trade agreement. Lower economic growth means longer hospital waiting lists, lower quality education for our children, insecurity in retirement and our grandchildren being Australian. That's what being poorer means.

We raise these issues because as liberals we do not fear the future. We tell it as it is. For that reason we are a party of great influence.

This country is crying out for leadership - and that has become

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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