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The Govt's politically correct immigration agenda

Newman Online Weekly commentary by Dr Muriel Newman MP

The Government's politically correct immigration agenda

This Week Newman Online looks at the Labour Government’s softly, softly immigration process and outlines how tighter visa application controls and a national quota system would better protect New Zealanders from the threat of terrorism.

This week, concerns over the Government’s running of the crucial immigration portfolio have hit the headlines again. This time it is over allegations that foreign nationals, who are considered to be security threats, are being allowed into New Zealand.

In particular, at least three visitors from Iraq with links to Saddam Hussein’s genocidal regime have been found to be living here. A number of other Iraqis with permits to visit New Zealand have also been identified. With some 46 countries considered to be of security concern, it is thought that these cases could be just the tip of the iceberg.

As the scandal escalates, doubts about Labour’s ability to keep New Zealanders safe from the threat of international terrorism continue to grow. It adds to the grave concerns highlighted by the Ahmed Zouie debacle. That case, reputed to have cost taxpayers well over $2 million, has resulted in a situation whereby an illegal immigrant, deemed by the SIS to be a risk to national security, is now walking free. In spite of tough talk by the Prime Minister at the time, the glitch in the law that allowed that situation to occur has still not been fixed.

This latest fiasco highlights the fact that our Labour Government has a very lenient approach to immigration. It welcomes people like the Tampa refugees who were considered to be undesirable by Australia. The fact that the original 131 refugees have been able to bring an additional 253 family members into New Zealand under Labour’s family re- unification policy is a cause of further concern.

The point is that it is not unusual for terrorist interests to seek out countries with lax security regimes from which to plot, scheme and recruit, safe in the knowledge that they are unlikely to be detected. Those skeptics, who feel that these concerns are unwarranted, should remind themselves of when they first saw those horrifying images of planes flying into the Twin Towers and thought for a moment that it surely had to be an elaborate hoax.

A lasting concern about the events of the past week is that it has, once again, sent a signal around the world that as far as issues of national security are concerned, New Zealand is a soft touch. This is even more worrying considering that in one of the most foolish decisions of any government in New Zealand’s history, Labour decided to scrap the air-strike capability of the Airforce. Helen Clark justified her move with the limp claim that the world is now such a benign place that we no longer need a proper Airforce to protect ourselves. How wrong she has been proven to be!

These days, enemies to national security come in all shapes and forms and it is a core responsibility of government to make sure that we are not only well prepared for any eventuality, but that we are well protected from any threat.

New Zealanders need to rely on strict immigration criteria in order to ensure that all of those people who are invited into our country – including visitors – are subjected to stringent security checks. Only people who pose no security risk, have no history of criminal offending and have a clean bill of health, should be accepted into New Zealand.

It is particularly important to be careful with visitors: while the majority of people who come here first as visitors and return to settle permanently do so through the proper channels, there are others who, once they have arrived, simply disappear and become one of the estimated 20,000 plus illegal over-stayers, who are living here on a permanent basis.

As an adjunct, any new immigrant should be subjected to a five year period of probation, during which time, if they commit a crime serious enough to warrant imprisonment, then their right to stay in New Zealand should be terminated and they should be sent straight back home.

For a small isolated country like New Zealand, a balanced population policy, which produces stable long-term growth, is essential. That means ensuring, as far as possible, positive net migration whereby the number of people arriving exceeds - by a modest margin - the numbers leaving. Over the last five years this has changed dramatically: in the year to the end of March 2000 there was a net loss of 9,000 people; in 2001 year a net loss of 12,000; in 2002 a net gain of 25,000; in 2003 a gain of 41,000; in 2004 a net gain of 27,000; and in the 2005 year a net gain of 10,000 new migrants.

Clearly the number of people arriving and leaving the country can be greatly affected by a multitude of external events, including disasters and changes of government.

They dramatically affect housing markets, schools, hospitals and all other essential infrastructural planning.

It is important that annual reviews are held to make sure that the balance is right. That means reviewing the trends in all of the immigrant categories including international treaties, refugee quotas and family reunifications.

It is also time that we stopped being politically correct with regard to immigration and introduced a national quota system based on our track record of success. Immigrant groups - irrespective of language tests and other criteria - who have been shown to be able to integrate successfully into New Zealand society, should be prioritised ahead of all other ethnic groups that have proven to be less successful.

In particular, the recent announcement by Labour that they are lowering the barriers for Pacific Island immigrants - which will result in hundreds of new migrants coming into New Zealand and going onto welfare - is a serious concern. We have enough New Zealanders on welfare as it is - including many beneficiaries who are quite capable of working and would do so if work requirements were toughened up - without having the Labour Government wanting to import more!

New Zealanders deserve better management in the immigration portfolio – let’s hope the problems of the last week serve as a wake-up call for better performance in the future.


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