Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 15 May 2008 - 15 May 2008

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully

MP for East Coast Bays


Day after day over the past week, New Zealanders have been forcibly reminded of the appalling destruction wreaked by Cyclone Nargis at the top of each media bulletin, and on the front pages of most newspapers. And we have also been reminded of the utter inhumanity of a military junta that would rather see tens of thousands of its citizens die than allow entry to international aid workers on a scale that the crisis requires. Except that the coverage in this country has been characterised by one important difference.

Take a brief look at the international coverage:

In Sydney’s Daily Telegraph:
“The official death toll from Burma’s Cyclone Nargis has risen………”

Or the Melbourne Age:
“The first US aid flight has landed in Burma…..”

In the UK’s Telegraph:
“Officials in Burma’s cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta area…..”

And the Guardian:
“Gordon Brown today urged the Burmese Government ……”

And the BBC:
“UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed his “immense frustration” at Burma’s slow response….”

In Europe, the French have been reading about events in “Birmanie”.

The German press refers to it as “Burma”.

Back in NZ, of course, both our Government and our media have been force-feeding us with stories about a place called “Myanmar” – the term adopted by the military junta in 1989, soon after they seized power.

Amongst our normal friends, only the USA is partly out of step. Opinion appears to be divided, with the likes of CNN and the New York Times referring to “Myanmar,” but Fox News calling it “Burma”.

As has previously been reported in this publication, the worldwide headquarters of is firmly of the view that it should be BURMA. As previously quoted, a leading UK Burma campaigner explained the difference thus:

“Often you can tell where someone’s sympathies lie if they use Burma or Myanmar. Myanmar is a kind of indicator of countries that are soft on the regime.”

After witnessing the appalling indifference of Burma’s military leadership to the welfare of its cyclone-ravaged citizens over recent days, the question needs to be asked: just why would New Zealand’s Government leadership and its media go out of their way to honour the wishes of such a regime by referring to the country as Myanmar, when both the political leadership and the media of the UK, Europe and Australia do precisely the opposite?

Australia’s DFAT website makes clear that country’s official preference for “Burma”.

The US State Department asserts the preference for “Burma” “due to consistent, unyielding support for the democratically elected leaders”, and the UK Foreign Office notes that “Burma’s democracy movement prefers the form “Burma” because they do not accept the legitimacy of the unelected military regime to change the official name of the country.”

The very least that our Government and our media should be doing after witnessing the events of the past week is to insist upon calling the place Burma.

Our Immigration Process

Decisions regarding the granting of residence in our country are amongst the most important exercises of the authority of the state. The long-term consequences of poor decision making are serious. And in a country that is exporting over 78,000 New Zealanders a year, the decisions about the manner in which they are replaced have great significance.

This would argue for the Immigration Service being one of the very most significant, professional and talented bureaucracies in the land, attracting the best skills with top remuneration levels. Anyone who has dealt with our Immigration Service will know that none of the above is correct.

That Immigration has no clear stand-alone status, but is perpetually a pimple on the backside of the Department of Labour, as if Immigration Officers were somehow interchangeable with OSH inspectors, serves to emphasise official disregard for this important exercise of the power of the state.

It is also one of life's great bureaucratic mysteries as to why the three governmental functions by which new migrants are selected for residence, then subsequently granted citizenship, and by which their re-settlement and integration needs are superintended, are undertaken in a completely uncoordinated manner, by three different government agencies: Immigration (part of the Department of Labour), Internal Affairs, and Ethnic Affairs.

Mystery surrounds the reasons for the departure of Mary Anne Thompson from the role of chief of the Immigration Service (officially Deputy Secretary Workforce of the Department of Labour). But it appears that irregularities over her cv prompted her exit, and that the Government had been prepared to overlook (and cover-up) her role in securing residence for relatives clearly outside the established policy. Which is extraordinary. Because the effect on the culture and chemistry (not to mention the integrity) of the place of seeing favours dispensed for the boss’ family would have been devastating.

So now the search will begin for a new head for the Immigration Service. But the facts suggest that much much bigger changes are required than that.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On DHB Deficits And Free Trade

Currently the world is looking on aghast at the Trump administration’s plans to slash Obamacare, mainly in order to finance massive tax changes that will deliver most of their gains to the wealthy. Lives will be lost in the trade-off. Millions of Americans stand to lose access to the healthcare they need.

Spot the difference with New Zealand, where DHBs are under intense pressure to reduce deficits within a climate of chronic underfunding. More>>


Greens' Response: Slum-Like Rentals Exposed In Renting Review

“...The grim findings of the review are a wakeup call about the true state of rentals in this country. Too many renters are festering in slum-like conditions under the thumb of landlords who have largely unchecked powers and ignore tenants’ complaints when it suits them.” More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Life And Times Of Peter Dunne

The unkind might talk of sinking ships, others could be more reminded of a loaded revolver left on the desk by his Cabinet colleagues as they closed the door behind them, now that the polls in Ohariu had confirmed he was no longer of much use to National. More>>


Gordon Campbell: On Labour’s Campaign Launch

One of the key motifs of Ardern’s speech was her repeated use of the phrase – “Now, what?” Cleverly, that looks like being Labour’s response to National’s ‘steady as it goes’ warning against not putting the economic ‘gains’ at risk. More>>


Lyndon Hood: Social Welfare, Explained

Speaking as someone who has seen better times and nowadays mostly operates by being really annoying and humiliating to deal with, I have some fellow feeling with the current system, so I’ll take this chance to set a few things straight.. More>>


Deregistered: Independent Board Decision On Family First

The Board considers that Family First has a purpose to promote its own particular views about marriage and the traditional family that cannot be determined to be for the public benefit in a way previously accepted as charitable... More>>


Transport Policies: Nats' New $10.5bn Roads Of National Significance

National is committing to the next generation of Roads of National Significance, National Party Transport Spokesperson Simon Bridges says. More>>





Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election