Election, immigration, Winston and Trump

via 3 News

Noelle McCarthy reports as part of the RNZ Slice of Heaven series:

The Ipsos polling shows that conservative voters are likely to see immigration as one of their two top issues facing New Zealand; left-wing voters rank it much lower.

New Zealand First appeals to these anxieties – which is perhaps why other parties are also echoing the line “New Zealand for New Zealanders” and wanting to dial back the numbers arriving.

They are anxieties.  And we see world-wide concern about immigration not reflected in our political system.

This reflects a mix of legitimate concerns – the additional pressure immigration places on infrastructure and housing affordability – with perceptions that might not be so accurate. When a Massey University study asked people about the number of immigrants arriving, they routinely overestimated the number.

In this kind of environment, Mr Peters’ message that “unfocused wholesale immigration” is taking jobs away from New Zealanders will reach a receptive audience.

If the message becomes one of fear – that you will not get a job, or you will get paid less for the job, that you will not be able to afford a house, or your national identity is at risk – then the story is the important element, not the facts. And claims that the media are peddling “alternative facts” or “fake news” are useful cover.

It’s a tactic that might look ridiculous to some but it will find an audience, and by delegitimising the media a candidate can avoid being held to account.

There are a number of effects as the rhetoric scales up. One is that accusations of racism often have the effect of generating sympathy – it justifies claims of “political correctness” and that debate is being stifled.

The other is that key sources of information – the media, some commentators – are often derided as being politically motivated if they seek to explain the complexities of immigration, and its benefits.

We can stick to the basics.   We have between 50,000 and 70,000 people turn up that need a place to live, eat, travel, get medical help, education, and so on, every year.  We have run out of spare capacity in a lot of resource areas.  Housing, Waikato health, Auckland transport, and so on.   There is no need for this to be turned into racism at all.  The races of these people are arbitrary.

Take New Zealand First’s target of 10,000 net immigrants. Given that New Zealand (and Australian) citizens, as they return, depart or simply stay in New Zealand, are critical to the current high rates of net immigration, then a figure of 10,000 does not make much sense – unless we’re thinking of legislating the movement of our own citizens.

But in the context of a story that appeals to emotions, making sense is not really the point.

As a recent New York Times editorial said of Canada (it applies equally to New Zealand), immigration policy is based on hard-headed economic reasons, not “race” or ethnicity. And over the long term, immigrants to Canada outperform the locally born in education and business creation. But surveys in the US and elsewhere also reflect the common fear of cultural displacement and racial resentment.

An election campaign is when those concerns are most on display.

There are legitimate concerns about immigration that deserve discussion, but whether they will get considered debate over the next few months is an open question. Will we return to a moral panic like that we saw around immigration in the 1996 election?

Perhaps, had the voters had more reassuring signs that they were being taken seriously, the fertile ground of the fringe elements in the immigration debate would not have been created.   There is a genuine frustration in the electorate that politicians, world-wide, are not listening to the voters when it comes to immigration.   Our news programs that flood in from overseas have been showing us the dreadful outcomes almost nightly.

Jim Bolger, who appointed Mr Peters as deputy prime minister in a coalition government after the 1996 election, told Slice of Heaven that Mr Peters is operating in the same space as Donald Trump and other politicians by practicing “xenophobic populism”.

Mr Bolger says this is “based on identifying some definable group by religion, by ethnicity, by colour, by nationality… and you blame them… and that to my mind is an appalling indictment on those who do it and on any society that would accept that as a reason to change policies”.

When we asked Mr Peters whether he was happy to be lining up alongside people like Mr Trump, he described it as “an indolent, stupid question”.

Interesting that Ipsos polling has identified immigration as the 2nd most important thing after the economy for centre right voters.  It is what Whaleoil has been banging on about for quite a few years.  Instead of people taking the information on board, they have simply labelled it all racist and moved on.

Voters are not moving on.  Politicians, apart from Peters, are out of step.   National and ACT were informed of this numerous times, and I believe National’s own internal polling has given them the news that unless they do something substantial, they’re going to be losing some votes.

Immigration is a broad topic.  And as the above article suggests, all too easily turned into a xenophobic shit slinging argument that serves neither side.  The left and the media, in general, respond in no other fashion.

As for Winston, he’s trying to win an election by exploiting this issue.   And for that, even National people can only call him names.

Voters want answers on immigration.  Not to be told that Peters is a populist attention seeker.  They already know that.


Slice of Heaven, RNZ

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.