A Listener editorial explores Labour’s predicament after resorting to the race card:
It’s always disturbing when a racial minority is identified as the cause of a social or economic problem. The extreme example is Nazi Germany, where mass extermination was justified on the premise that Jews were subversive, disloyal and a threat to “true” Germans. The elderly Auschwitz survivor in Diana Wichtel’s powerful and moving interview this week talks of the “vicious, lurking stereotypes about Jews. ‘You know, the international connections, the richness, Shylock … We’re human beings.’” And although it’s a huge leap from Nuremberg in 1935 to Auckland in 2015, Labour MP Phil Twyford’s suggestion that Chinese speculators are to blame for Auckland’s overheated housing market struck a jarring note in a country with a generally proud record of racial tolerance.
Two factors made it especially disheartening. One is that the suggestion came from a senior MP in a party that has historically aligned itself with vulnerable elements in society, of whom ethnic minorities are one. Immigrants to New Zealand have tended to support Labour precisely because they sensed it was the party most likely to champion their interests. Under former leader Helen Clark, Labour made a point of embracing ethnic minorities. This is entirely in line with the liberal belief in multiculturalism, both as a way of providing new opportunities for people seeking a better future and as a means of enriching and diversifying our society.
Helen Clark even apologised to Chinese migrants for our legacy of oppressive laws and rules against Chinese in New Zealand, in particular the hated poll tax.
In recent years, National and Labour have welcomed immigrants from a wide range of countries, far wider than the narrow band from which they were once recruited. In a remarkably short time, New Zealand has become one of the most diverse societies in the English-speaking world. The 2013 Census found that 25% of New Zealanders were born overseas and 12% of the population identified as Asian – almost double the figure of 2001. Three hundred ethnic groups are represented here, from Afrikaners to Zimbabweans. Read more »