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Speech to Tauranga Bangladeshi Community

Hon. David Cunliffe
Speech to Tauranga Bangladeshi Community

Speech notes from meeting with the Tauranga Bangladeshi Community, Tauranga Yacht Club, 7pm, 30 October 2007

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Nomoskaar! And greetings to you all.

It is a pleasure to be here this evening among new friends, to quote the famous Bangladeshi poet, Rabindranath Tagore: "Depth of friendship does not depend on length of acquaintance".

This is true of the relationship between Bangladesh and New Zealand. We have a good relationship with Bangladesh which dates back to the founding of the country just a short time ago in 1971.

New Zealand was one of the first countries to welcome Bangladesh into the international community 36 years ago, and while interaction is limited, relations between New Zealand and Bangladesh are good. Perhaps helped along by the common interest we share - cricket! The Bangladeshi team provides the New Zealand cricket team with some good competition!

New Zealand is a nation shaped by migration. The Bangladeshi community in New Zealand is small but like all migrants you play an important role by contributing your knowledge and skills to our communities and our economy. New Zealand's identity is evolving as progress through the 21st Century - we are a modern multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Pacific nation.

Immigration plays a vital role in the government's goal of transforming New Zealand's economy to a dynamic, knowledge-based economy and society, underpinned by the values of fairness, opportunity and security.

Immigration also brings with it other resources for transformation: capital, technology and skills transfer, and access to international networks.

With a population base of around 150 million, and a relatively small Bangladeshi community here in New Zealand it would seem that there are opportunities to expand that community through our immigration policies which I will speak about shortly.

Labour migration from Bangladesh to New Zealand has been small but stable. I hope we can encourage more skilled labour to New Zealand through our new immigration policies.

To sustain the economy and the growth we want, we need the skills, investment and the international connections that migrants can bring.

And to maintain a society and an economy that will continue to allow a decent lifestyle for people of every age group, we need to maintain and grow our working-age population. This can be achieved, in part, through immigration.

Immigration is not a panacea from the problem of an aging population, on the drive to a high-skill economy. However, in our view it is a necessary component of solutions to both challenges.

Unfortunately, immigration's contribution is not automatic. It requires an immigration policy that is not passive but active; that goes out and recruits the people we need most.

Like many other nations, we are short of the workers and skills we need. Immigration is one way of addressing the critical skills shortages we are currently seeing in many professions from IT professionals to trades people. In fact, one third of small businesses tell us that labour shortages are their biggest barrier to growth.

The Immigration Change Programme will assist us to get the skilled workers we need to contribute to achieving our goal of economic transformation.

Immigration Change Programme
The Immigration Change Programme will deliver three S's - skills, security, and settlement.

We also need to ensure that those people who do come to New Zealand integrate well into society. These competing priorities form the backbone of the Immigration Change Programme.

There are three pillars to this programme - the Immigration Act, Immigration Policy Framework and Immigration Business Transformation. These three pillars form a cohesive, integrated Change Programme. This programme has three components:

. developing a strong legislative foundation
. repositioning the policy framework, and
. implementing a new model of service delivery.

We are confident that this programme will deliver New Zealand the skills, security, and settlement we need now and in the future. In fact, we are already seeing some positive results.

We have had good feedback from employers of skilled migrants which shows that 81 per cent of employers were impressed with the performance of their skilled migrant staff. Our research also tells us that 90 per cent of skilled migrants were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their lives in New Zealand.

The other part of the programme many of you will be interested in is settlement. Attracting and retaining skilled migrants is crucial to the Labour-led Government's vision for this country. But sometimes we forget that migrants need support through the settlement process. I'll come back to our settlement programme later.

Immigration Bill
The Immigration Bill will replace an Act that dates back to 1987. The main aspects of the Bill are:

. Simpler visa system - instead of having visa, permit and exemption, the word visa covers people's permission to travel to, and stay in New Zealand
. Single protection system - includes immigration-related international obligations under the Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture and International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights
. Single appeals tribunal - the four appeal authorities will be amalgamated into a single Immigration and Protection Tribunal
. Biometrics - provision to require biometric information from citizens and non-citizens
. Simpler deportation system - 'removal', 'deportation' and 'revocation' will be rolled into one system
. Updated compliance powers - provision for specially trained and warranted Immigration Officers (who may also be Customs Officers) to exercise the functions necessary to do their job
. Monitoring and detention - a tiered response to manage risk and to reduce the need for court intervention and secure detention. There will also be a four hour detention power for specially trained and warranted Immigration Officers
. Third party incentives - obligations on third parties will not change under the new legislation but the incentives to comply with those obligations will, and
. Classified information - enables classified information to be used in immigration and refugee and protection decision-making, with clear and appropriate safeguards for the information and for the non-citizen.

Policy Framework
In addition to the Immigration Bill, we are implementing an aggressive policy reform programme. This year I have made announcements about changes to number of aspects of immigration policy, including a new Immigration Policy Framework. It is important that our immigration legislation continues to provide flexibility, so the framework legislation will be fleshed out by the relevant policies.

This includes reviews of seasonal work policy, work to residence, the Skilled Migrant Category, the Investor policy, Family policy, and student policy.

Active Investor Migration
Earlier I mentioned the government's goal of transforming New Zealand's economy. In doing this we must also consider the competitive international market we are operating in.

Active Investor Migration is an area we have focused on to assist with this. We have made some very substantial reforms to previous policy in this area.

We have substantially shifted the investor migrant policy toward active investment in real businesses and employment. This should expand productivity and economic capacity, more than demand, while being appropriate for current economic conditions

The new Active Investor Migrant policy is firmly focused on investment in New Zealand's economy, to the benefit of all New Zealanders.

International education
New Zealand needs to be competitive while maintaining the integrity of the immigration system.

I have just announced changes to our student immigration policy which will further promote this competition and contribute to economic growth.

The changes are aimed to encourage students to stay on in New Zealand after they have completed their studies allowing them to contribute to our skills and knowledge base.

Family policy
I have also announced changes to our immigration family policy. These changes will make it easier for family members to visit their children and grandchildren in New Zealand.

From November a new multiple visitor's visa will allow parents or grandparents to make multiple visits over a three-year period without having to apply for a visa each time.

Changes have also been made to sponsorship of parents, adult children and siblings in the family residence categories. This includes establishing quota places for the sponsorship of parents, adult children, and adult siblings to come to New Zealand as permanent residents

These changes recognise the important role that we believe families play in New Zealand life and supporting those families is important to the New Zealand government.

Revised Settlement Strategy
We are supporting migrant families in other ways too. As I mentioned earlier, settlement is one part of the Immigration Change Programme.

Earlier this year I launched the Revised New Zealand Settlement Strategy. This Strategy provides over-arching framework for more specific national and regional initiatives. It is key to both attracting and maintaining skilled migrants.

The Government's settlement work continues to focus on working collaboratively with central and local government agencies, non-government agencies and community groups.

We are implementing a range of initiatives in the short and long-term future. For example, we will be developing resources for teaching and learning in literacy, numeracy, and language to support people in their chosen careers and day-to-day life. We will also be supporting existing and future migrant and refugee communities by providing advice on effective capacity building within communities and promoting mechanisms for sharing good practice.

Conclusion
Immigration is essential to both economic transformation and to our national identity.

Immigration assists us to build a nation which has explicit values. It contributes to the type of nation we are. With immigration, as in any other policy area, there are challenges to be addressed which we are doing through many of the initiatives and policies I have mentioned today.

New Zealand is a strong and vibrant multi-cultural nation. Without immigration our uniqueness would be lost. We are, after all, building a country that our children and grandchildren can be proud of.

ENDS

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