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‘Go back to your country!’

Nobody likes queuing - waiting leads to impatience, grumpiness and at times tears. Yes, even tears! A couple of years ago an article in the New Zealand Herald drew a lot of attention for reporting that a woman burst into tears at a bank in Howick because of all the Asian faces she saw in the queue. My understanding of that incident was that no one had said anything to her and that she simply broke down because she was in the minority and found the situation threatening.

At the time, I realised just how brave new migrants are - especially the ones who visibly belong to minority communities. They don’t burst into tears without being provoked, but sadly they have found that queuing is fast becoming a tearful experience and not just a boring chore.

Most people think that reporting race based attacks is arduous or petty. Many will raise the issue in conversation, satisfied that having an audience MP like myself will relieve their burden and enable them to get on with life. However, there are two exceptions to the rule that deserve to be discussed here.

Mr George Tan, whom I know for many years, is an ex-council member of AUT. This week he copied a complaint letter to me about his experience at a Northcote supermarket.

He says that at the checkout one of the items for purchase had no barcode, which caused a slight delay while the price was being found. I am sure that we have all had the familiar experience of eyes boring into our backs while holding up a queue, however adding to his embarrassment the woman standing behind him started to get agitated and began using ‘abusive’ language. Mr Tan, who speaks fluent English, and not much Chinese, turned round to explain to her that the situation was not his making. She then told him to “go back to his country” when in fact, New Zealand happens to be his country.

It may seem trivial to those who have never experienced this but for many people these kinds of situations happen often. Mr Tan has decided that he will not fall into the ‘silent sufferer’ stereotype and wants a copy of the store’s video to identify the woman to make a complaint to the appropriate authorities.

Furthermore, he is questioning the lack of interest shown by the supermarket, where customers are promised a good deal and a pleasant shopping experience. A timely and appropriate intervention would have saved the tears and frustration.

I hope Mr Tan has better luck than those involved in a similar incident at another supermarket in Howick. An Asian couple was paying for their groceries when the woman behind them became agitated and ended up shoving the Asian woman. Upon finding out that the young Asian woman checkout operator was their daughter she complained about her as well and told them to go back to their country.

The husband contacted me about the incident and it took us a period of eight months to get the Human Right Commission to act on the matter and for the supermarket to produce the tape. Finally the family was able to confront the agitated woman, who was a community leader, who later revealed that she was having family problems. Was it fair for this woman to inflict her misery onto others and why is it so easy for some to tell certain others to “go back to your country”?

I would like to wish Mr Tan good luck and I hope that he doesn’t have to wait 8 months for the matter to be resolved – it’s no wonder many don’t pursue complaints through the official channels.

Often I am asked if these people are making mountains out of molehills, and why can’t they just get over it? It always escapes me as to why some people believe that some others aren’t entitled to be New Zealanders. Asian minorities are not seeking special or additional rights, and as in the above incidents, they simply want to endure the boredom of queuing like everyone else without having to shed any tears.

Holding Labour to account

Export education has been a top earner for New Zealand, worth over $2 billion dollars. However in the last two years there has been a drop in the number of students who choose to study here. In 2003 there were 120,142 people, however that dropped to around 100,000 last year.

All too often the Labour Government has used the catchphrase of wanting quality, not quantity, while quietly hoping that a drop in student numbers will solve the problem of how to hold enforcement agencies, such as NZQA, to account for failing in their role.

National understands the benefits that international students bring to the country beyond the financial aspect. It’s imperative that we work to ensure that it remains one of our top earners and that students receive the best possible experience while studying here. As National’s associate spokeswoman for Education (export education) I am committed to working alongside providers and groups who have worked hard that lead to international education as one of our top earners.

In the year ending September 2005, the country had a net loss of more than 6,400 migrants from Europe, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. I believe that economic conditions and ‘arrogant’ immigration policies are turning people off New Zealand.

The Investor Category has seen the biggest drop, with only 2 applicants being approved since the rules were changed in July – compare this to the 1000 investors accepted in 2001 year and you can see that we have a problem.

Once again, the Labour Government uses the phrase quality over quantity to disguise their failure in attracting investor migrants. The previously announced review of immigration laws before the election, and demand of a review of immigration policies by New Zealand First will ensure more procrastination rather than action.

As National’s associate spokeswoman for Immigration, I will be highlighting the glaring gaps in the Government’s logic when it comes to their policies.

Pansy Wong


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