Gower interview assists Little in fine-tuning Immigration policy

Andrew Little made the mistake of not sticking to his talking points again.  As a result he got minced

Patrick Gower: Andrew Little, thank you so much for joining us. Now, I want to start with immigration. You’ve said you want to cut immigration by up to 50,000. Now, everybody is wondering how you’re going to do that.

Andrew Little: So what I’ve said is we do need to reduce immigration. We’re a country built on immigration. We’re always going to need talents and skills from other parts of the world, so that’s the starting point. But right now we’ve got numbers coming into New Zealand that is putting real pressure on our cities, particularly our biggest city, Auckland. And we see it with the lack of housing, we see it with the pressure on transport and traffic, we see it with overcrowded schools and hospitals, so we have to cut immigration. I’ve said we have to cut in the order of tens of thousands, and, well, that’s a policy in a few weeks’ time—

Yes, but what I asked is you have said you want to cut it by up to 50,000. How are you going to do that?

So, what I’ve said is we need to cut in the order of tens of thousands, and we will be working out the work visas and the student visas.

Let’s get back to that pool of up to 50,000, where you said—and I’ll use your words, you said you wanted to get to a target of 20,000 to 25,000 net immigration. It’s 71,000 at the moment; that means by up to 50,000. Do you stand by that target of 20,000 to 25,000?

What I stand by is we have to reduce it in the order of the tens of thousands. Look, we can quibble—

So you’re backing off that target, aren’t you?

No. No, I’m not.

You’re backing off the target of 50,000.

I’ve been very clear about we have to reduce in the order of tens of thousands, because the problem with what is happening at the moment is the numbers are putting pressure on our biggest cities.

Let’s take ‘tens of thousands’. That means reduce it by 20,000.


How? Who? How? How are you going to do it?

So, when we announce of policy in a few weeks’ time, you will see we have a target. It is in the area of work visas. We’re issuing 42,000 work visas a year. Some of those are for roles and occupations that I know we can actually staff from inside New Zealand.

Okay, which one? Name one. Name one role or occupation in those 43,000 work visas, actually, that you will cut.

So, we’ve seen work visas issued, for example, for labouring work, and we have, you know, 6000, I think, categorised as labouring work.

That’s 6000. You need to get to 20,000.

And we have 15,000 unemployed labourers in New Zealand. So there’s the work visas. There’s also the student visas. So we know that some of the visas being issued to students to study here are for what I would describe as low-quality courses. They’re less about education and more about the right to work that goes with it. So—

So how many would you look to cut out of the student visas? Thousands, obviously.

Yeah, and I think when we announce our policy, you’ll see the numbers are in the—

You’ll cut thousands of student visas?

When we announce the policy, you’ll see where the numbers are coming out of. But we can achieve that requirement that I think we do have right now if we’re going to do a good job – not just for New Zealanders who are here already but for those who are coming here – in the order of tens of thousands.

So over 20,000 – you will confirm that in this policy and that will include thousands of students?

Yes on both counts, yeah.

Yeah. Thousands of student visas will be cut? Because that’s a $4 billion industry, Mr Little.

Very important. Very important to a lot of tertiary institutions, but we know that some of the courses that students are getting student visas for and the right to work that goes with it are pretty poor quality, to be honest. And that’s what NZQA and TEC are now finding is that some of the courses that students are now studying are actually not that good courses, so we think there is scope to make a change there.

Sure. But getting back to the work visas, and even if we’re looking at this number of 20,000, being generous, employers, be it a truck operator in Northland, a hotel operator in Queenstown, a farmer in Southland, they all say you can’t do this – that they need the people. What’s your message to these guys? Are they making it up?

No. Of course they are concerned. They’ve got their businesses to run; they want people there to work for them. We will work with business and business organisations as we work through our particular plan on cutting those immigration numbers.

The service industry’s saying it needs 200,000 workers by 2020, and you’re talking about cutting tens of thousands out of the work visas. Where are they going to come from, Mr Little? Who’s going to do the jobs?

So, and in addition to cutting those immigration numbers, we’ve got to look at the 90,000 young people who are not in work, education or employment in New Zealand. So there’s real scope there. I’m not prepared to write them off and think that they haven’t got a future and we haven’t got a future for them in New Zealand.

And nobody’s writing off the NEETs. Nobody’s writing off the NEETs, but you know you can’t turn a NEET into a nurse overnight, or you can’t take someone from Northland and slap them in Queenstown overnight. You know that.

That’s right. So, that’s right. So managing immigration—This is all about managing immigration better. It’s about accepting that the numbers that are coming in at the moment, regardless of where they come from, just the sheer numbers are putting huge pressure particularly on Auckland, and Auckland cannot cope any more. So we need a breather. We’ve just got to take a bit of stock, and we have to phase that down, and we’ve got to work on those who don’t have work here at the moment or skills – a bit of time to ramp all that up. But I’m confident, if we look closely at the numbers—

These employers are just—

…if we look closely at the numbers, we can do a better job at managing what we’ve got at the moment.

These employers are just going to say, ‘We don’t have the time. We’re running a business here. We don’t have time to convert a NEET into whatever is needed. We’ve got to get going.’ So if you’re going to do this cut, do they have to accept there’s going to be some pain?

We’ve got to reduce the numbers because the pressure, particularly on Auckland, is just too bad.

So the employers have to accept that they’re going to have a bit of pain while they find workers here. Is that what you’re saying?

And so we manage it. It’s not about day one, you shut the doors and that’s it; nobody else comes in. It is about managing it sensibly and carefully and properly, and we’ll work with business and business organisations and put the rules together so that we can manage immigration better, take the pressure off, take a bit of a breather, build the houses, fix the traffic congestion—

It’s delightful to see Labour policy come into being on television.  As the interviewer probes, Little has to define areas he’s not previously considered.   He does face contradictions because of this.  But, no problem, he fine tunes the policy some more.

It’s like a live version of a policy discussion meeting.

This man wants to lead this country to better and brighter things.

If only he knew how.


– Patrick Gower, TV3

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