Making Sure New Zealand is the ‘Right Choice’
9 August 2002 Hon Lianne Dalziel
Making Sure New Zealand is the “Right Choice”
11.30am, Friday 9th August
Address to NZAMI Conference
Good morning and thank you for the opportunity to again speak to the NZAMI Conference. I do so as Minister of Immigration, however, I am currently in a caretaking role, with Cabinet positions yet to be determined. That being said, and despite the rigours of an election campaign where immigration was targeted yet again by the predictable election year interest of Winston Peters, I am very keen to continue in the role, in order to complete the reshaping of the NZ Immigration Programme, established in our first term in office.
Before addressing the policy focus of the second Labour-led coalition government, I do wish to debunk some of the myths surrounding the nonsense of election slogans on immigration. If anyone has any doubts about Mr Peters’ claim that he doesn’t just talk about immigration in election year, let the facts speak for themselves. During the last term in Parliament, NZ First lodged 152 oral questions. These are the primary questions asked in Question Time, and exclude supplementary questions. Of those 152 oral questions, Mr Peters asked 78. Of those 78 only one was directed to me as Minister of Immigration, and it was focused on an individual case.
On the written questions front, NZ First lodged 1193 written questions, 74 of which were immigration related. 55 of those 74 questions were lodged after
1 March this year.
Traversing his speeches, only passing reference is made to immigration in three speeches in 2000 and one in 2001. In the whole term, he only made two five-minute speeches on specific immigration cases, outside three debates on immigration issues (two snap debates and the Transnational Organised Crime Bill), and then he made two more speeches that focused on his three “fix-it’ campaign messages, on the last sitting day of Parliament.
So why did Mr Peters use immigration again for electoral purposes, and what does the result mean? 11% voted for Mr Peters, but it would be fair to say that not all of those were attracted to the anti-immigration message.
I believe New Zealand has changed in the past six years since Mr Peters tried a similar tack. The bottom line is that people who have travelled overseas return to New Zealand with a much greater awareness of different cultures, and therefore the message is not so well received today. I recall when National went into partnership with NZ First after the 1996 election, they held a Population Conference to placate the concerns of their supporters about Mr Peters’ attitudes. NZ First was given associate ministerial responsibility for immigration, however, they still did not deliver on the core findings of the Conference.
It was the Labour-led government that established a Ministerial Advisory Group on Immigration, that turned the focus of policy away from numbers entering the country to settlement outcomes, that piloted settlement and resettlement programmes, that directed priority be accorded to skilled and business migration, that developed Work-to-Residence policies, that worked on identifying and removing barriers to skilled migration (in both temporary and permanent visa categories), that has commenced work on regional migration strategies, the list goes on.
The truth is that because a Labour-led government was able to identify the strategic place of immigration in its growth and innovation framework, we put the work in to developing the NZ Immigration Programme, which is both balanced and well-managed.
It is also the case that as Minister of Immigration I have always been, and remain, willing to debate all aspects of immigration policy. All of the policy changes introduced by this government have been designed to improve settlement outcomes and to ensure that New Zealand experiences a net benefit from immigration. I welcome debate on immigration, because I believe this government can stand proudly on a record of achievement.
New Zealand is experiencing its first levels of net migration gain for several years. This is occurring for three reasons. More Kiwis are coming home, fewer Kiwis are leaving and immigration numbers are up - both in terms of permanent residents, but also those who come on temporary permits to work or study (who feature in the permanent long term arrival statistics).
The NZ Immigration programme introduced by this government on 1 October last year, and adjusted on 1 July this year, provides for a sensible balance between skilled/business migration (60%), family sponsored migration (30%) and International/Humanitarian migration (10%).
This government has placed the emphasis on the skilled/business stream, by ensuring that 60% of the programme is allocated to that stream, which is where the 27,000 figure comes from.
Mr Peters promised to reduce immigration to 10,000 a year. Apart from me (of course unreported), no-one asked him how he was going to do this. It is interesting to note that the marriage category sees about 5000 to 6000 residence approvals each year, so that policy either means Kiwis wouldn’t be able to bring their overseas born husbands or wives to New Zealand to live or the real immigration approvals in the business/skilled category would be slashed from 27,000 to 4,000. This would have a major impact on the NZ economy. Business and industry have asserted the importance of utilising the global labour market if we are going to grow our economy. Far from taking jobs, skilled migration helps grow business and industry, which increases jobs.
Refugees and asylum seekers have been a particular target of misinformation this year. The facts are these. Refugees make up around 2.5% of the NZ Immigration Programme.
We accept 750 refugees under the UNHCR Resettlement Programme (we refer to these as quota refugees). This government has asked UNHCR to consider resettlement outcomes, with particular emphasis on family reunification, when selecting UN mandated refugees for resettlement in NZ. This relates to 300 of the 750 accepted each year.
In addition we provide for a family quota for refugees, which provides for 300 family members a year. The family sponsor in New Zealand has to be resident in New Zealand for three years before they can apply to have a family member join them in New Zealand.
As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, we receive and determine claims for refugee status. However, the acceptance rate is less than 20%. That does not mean the other 80% are totally unfounded, because there are several elements to a refugee claim that must be met before it is accepted. That being said, New Zealand has been targeted for patently false or manifestly unfounded claims over many years. This abuse of process, recently commented on by the Refugee Status Appeal Authority, arose from the previous government’s inaction over the backlog of claims, which made it easy for unscrupulous individuals to guarantee a three year work permit. This government has resolved this problem by addressing the backlog (down from over 3000 when we took office in 1999 to 542 this week).
The government has also been criticised because the High Court ruled against us on our detention policy, which provides for detention of those who seek refugee status at the border and who have no papers to prove who they are. Most are accommodated at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, with only a few detained at the Auckland Remand Centre.
The Crown has lodged an appeal, which is all we can do. I stand by my firm belief that the UN Convention does not prevent me from ensuring that we know who is in our country, where they are from and why they are here.
Since September 11, the world has tightened up on security matters, and New Zealand is no exception. We have funding in this year’s Budget to introduce the Advanced Passenger Processing System, which enables us to do the necessary checks before people arrive here. As an aside APP would have alerted us to the arrival of Archie McCafferty, in time to either prevent him boarding the plane or to turn him around at the airport, as he had been deported from Australia, and under APP we would have full access to this information.
We will be fingerprinting all on-shore asylum seekers (as we do with border claimants) to prevent multiple, abusive claims.
And we have passed amendments to the Immigration Act to increase penalties for those involved in people-smuggling or irregular migration scams, as well as introduced three-tier penalties for employers, ranging from employing people without lawful authority to work through to exploitation of such workers. We will be working with employers over the next 12 months in order to develop information about how to ensure that all their employees are legally entitled to work in New Zealand. Employers have been part of the problem of overstaying, and now they are expressing a willingness to be part of the solution, and I welcome that.
New Zealand has responded to world events in a positive, well-balanced way, taking into account our need to offer assurance that security concerns have been addressed. There are politicians who say that the government’s response to the Tampa crisis raises concerns. I make only this point. The New Zealand government was asked by the Australian government and by the UNHCR to help. We were asked to take some of the asylum seekers from the Tampa, and determine their claims in New Zealand.
It is interesting to note that National, ACT and NZ First all say that they would not have intervened in this stand-off, without reference to the fact that this means they would have said no to a request from Australia to help. This government is working very closely with Australia to address the regional impact of people-smuggling, and I am proud of Helen Clark’s willingness to provide the circuit-breaker Australia needed, as well as provide a humanitarian response to a crisis.
This government has done more to address immigration policy in one term, than the previous government did in three terms. In addition to the implementation of the NZ Immigration Programme, which ensures that at least 60% of all migrants are skilled or business migrants, we have focused on settlement outcomes. We have placed stronger emphasis on meeting New Zealand’s labour market needs. We have removed anomalies, which allowed recent migrants backdoor access to benefits. We have linked job offer points to the relevance of the job offer, which reduces the risk of “buying/selling’ job offers. We have limited the number of spouse visas people can apply for to minimise the risk of abuse in that area. We have strengthened our capacity to resolve refugee claims quickly so that NZ is not open to the abuse that flourished under the previous government. We have provided overseas trained doctors admitted by the previous government with training to enable them to register to practise medicine in New Zealand.
Labour’s Immigration policy for the 2002 election builds on these gains. We will:
- Further develop NZ’s capacity to actively recruit talented and skilled migrants to NZ;
- Review Business migration categories, including an evaluation of how to improve opportunities for making investor funds available to local economic development initiatives;
- Review the Immigration Act 1991, to ensure that it is modernised in the light of changes to policy, and the location of and criteria applied by the immigration appeal authorities;
- Develop an Adult ESOL strategy to complement the Adult Literacy Strategy;
- Review immigration policy relating to students to ensure that international students are able to continue to access quality education and appropriate pastoral care (e.g guardians’ visas, extended working visas for students);
- Review the effectiveness of Limited Purpose Permits and Bonds in managing risks of non-compliance with temporary entry policies;
- Broaden consideration of ways the proposed register of Immigration Consultants could be managed;
- Establish an appointments database in the Office of Ethnic Affairs;
- Develop NZ-wide telephone interpreter services;
- Maintain close relationships with the Pacific Region in terms of immigration and settlement policy.
I entitled my address today “Making Sure New Zealand is the Right Choice”, and is a reference to the New Zealand Immigration Service (NZIS) slogan, “New Zealand - the Right Choice”. Naturally, as Minister of Immigration, I firmly believe that New Zealand is “the Right Choice’. However, it is not “the Right Choice’ for everyone. That is why we have produced a pamphlet to encourage anyone considering migrating to New Zealand to research all of the issues, before the final decision is made.
The worst thing that can happen from an immigration perspective, is that a migrant arrives with high expectations, that are not met once he or she settles in New Zealand. I have met too many people who have ended up working outside their professional field or well below their skills and experience. This does not make for successful settlement for the migrant, nor is it good for New Zealand when talent and skills are wasted in this way.
Successful settlement is a two-way street, and New Zealanders need to know that “new Kiwis’ are willing to integrate into their communities and contribute to New Zealand’s social and economic well-being. The allegory I have used is that the migrant who is willing to engage and integrate is the key, and a welcoming community is the lock. It takes both elements to ensure successful settlement.
New Zealand is a small country with big opportunities. It has been built on waves of migration over the decades, and all of us have a migrant story in our history.
As I said before, I am willing to debate this issue in any forum. The NZ Immigration Programme is a well-managed, well-balanced programme, which strengthens New Zealand’s economic and social development, and meets our international obligations. However, I will stick to the facts, not the political rhetoric that has damaged New Zealand’s international reputation in the past, and could do so again. Now that the election is over, and assuming that the political rhetoric takes a back seat for another three years, I look forward to the opportunity to continue to work on the implementation of our policy, which will ensure that the benefits of our immigration policy are shared by all.
Finally I would like to thank the NZAMI executive and Bill Milnes, in particular, for a constructive working relationship, and I look forward to that relationship continuing regardless of who undertakes the role as Minister of Immigration.