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Nats relying on ignorance

Written By: - Date published: 12:43 pm, September 22nd, 2008 - 43 comments
Categories: im/migration, national, slippery, spin - Tags:

It’s really easy to present misleading statistics. David Farrar shows how it’s done with a post on migration today.

Note how his figures only go back to 2003. Why is that? Well, it just so happens that 2003 was the last low point in the migration cycle. So, if you show just the last five years, you get a nice appearance of net emigration by NZ citizens growing very rapidly. But it’s only due to lack of context. Another trick Farrar uses is to show just the number of people leaving, not adjusting it for population growth by presenting the figures as a % of the population. 40,000 looks like a lot but not when you know it’s 1% of the population. And because the population is growing it’s to be expected that the number of people leaving each year will also grow. But that doesn’t fit the myth National is trying to create. So, they remove context again and rely on their audience’s ignorance. I don’t think that’s a great way to conduct politics. So, in the graph below, I’ve gone back as far as the figures do, to 1979,  and adjusted for inflation. We see a cycle of migration, not the unprecedented acceleration Farrar and National want us to see.

sources (migration, population, 2008 mig/pop)

43 comments on “Nats relying on ignorance”

  1. Matthew Pilott 1

    Gee, I don’t know SP. I saw that nice Mr Key standing inside the cake tin and it looked awfully empty. I think it means migration is killing rugby. At least that’s what I think he was saying. There was some groovy music in the background (sounded like Clocks, but wasn’t, but was) which distracted me. Bacically I just want what Labour gives me, plus a little more.

  2. Spam 2

    And you guys would NEVER post a misleading graph….

  3. randal 3

    thats right spam…we are the forces of good.not evil!

  4. Quoth the Raven 4

    The archives are right there Spam. Why don’t you point one out for us?

  5. just to check Spam.. you think it’s OK for National to make misleading arguments if someone else does it too?

  6. He has really stepped up his lying another notch recently. Hes always been less than honest (accidentally of course) with the truth, as many righties are. But I guess he must be taking on board the points made especially like the ones in yesterdays post about the proper phone survey and stuff. He obviously sees what thin ice National are on.

    Whats the bet if Labour win next election he will say its been rigged?

  7. Crank 7

    Hang on a minute. There is no dishonesty in Farrar’s stats they show quite clearly that in the last five years migration of New Zealanders has been rocketing. This fact is true.

    All well and good to rebutt this with historical perspective but who knows where this current cycle will peak or if in fact we have broken the cycle with an unstoppable exodus.

  8. Scribe 8

    We see a cycle of migration, not the unprecedented acceleration Farrar and National want us to see.

    Sounds a bit like the climate change argument.

    “We see a cycle of warming and cooling, not the unprecedented heating Gore and the Greens want us to see.”

  9. KK 9

    just Gore and the Greens aye? I assume you’re referring to Al Gore, rather than the town

  10. Scribe 10


    I was using Steve’s sentence construction. Just as there are more than (Al) Gore and the Greens on the climate change (electric) train, more people than Farrar and National have seen their relatives leaving in unprecedented numbers.

    [scribe. don’t be thick. you can’t say the numbers are unprecendented when there’s a graph showing precedents on the same page. Come on, you’re smarter than this. SP]

  11. Scribe. Except that’s not what the greenhouse stats show. They really do show an unprecented change when you compare what’s happening now to previous natural cycles.

    crank. Farrar purposely tried to trick people into seeing something that isn’t true – that’s dishonesty. Who knows if we are now at the beginning of an unstoppable exodus? Not me and not you, and certianly not Farrar and National… but given that we have seen cycles of migration before it would be stupid to assume we’re seeing something different.

  12. He would not be able to say the same thing if his numbers started at 1994, with no change to the current situation. By using less information than is easily available, which results in a different conclusion, is fundamentally dishonest. You could even say hes intentionally trying to mislead people, but that would be a bit mean.

  13. lprent 13

    crank: Personally I’d rely on Occam’s razor. Have you got any evidence that indicates this round of migrationi any different to the previous rounds of migration. Otherwise I’d just class you as yet another chicken little – as clueless as Key.

    It happens pretty much every time that the aussies get a resource boom. They pull employees from NZ both for the resource area, and for the areas of the economy who are losing people to the resource area.

    I think that this is 4th one that I’ve seen. Based on past experience this one will start reversing shortly because I suspect that the mineral commodity prices are going to hit a shuddering reduction shortly.

  14. Crank 14


    What is wrong with highlighting this current trend in the migration of New Zealanders and saying lets look at what is fueling it and come up with some ways to address the problem.

    Putting your hands in your pockets and stating that it is maybe part of a cycle and advocating inaction because it will probably, at some stage start to go the other way is irresponsible.

    The housing market is cyclical as well but that didn’t stop the Government exploring methods to control housing affordability when things were on the upslope.

  15. Daveski 15

    Regardless of trends and patterns, it is interesting that everyone has overlooked that SP has deliberately chosen to compare apples with oranges.

    According to SP, the figures don’t go back far enough.

    So why not show the figures as total numbers rather than %?

    Shock horror – is it because the % figures support SP’s view point ie he’s guilty of doing what DPF is been accused of doing?

    Partisan – yes. Balanced and objective – no.

    Captcha – avery bolsheviki 🙂

  16. Matthew Pilott 16

    Daveski, is it not more representative of migration to show the figures as a percentage of opopulation? After all, the debate is in the context of whether we’re losing too many people overseas. ‘Too many’ is clearly a proportion.

    To claim SP is being subjective and unblanaced, you actually need to show that the measure used is as such. Merely saying that he used different figures does not do this.

    For example, I’d say that the absolute figure was probably lower in 1979 (at -1.30%) than now, but given our population was significantly lower at the time, it is more relevant to show figures as a percentage. I take it you would dispute this, but to do so you need to give a reason why.

    Otherwise I’ll accuse you of being partisan, unbalanced and subjective!

  17. daveski. read the post. i report % because the population has changed. If I were to tell you 40,000 NZ citizens left Nz last year and, say, 150,000 Australian citizens left Aussie last year would it be sensible to say that Aussie has bigger emigration? No, because their population is also much larger.. you have to adjust for population growth.. the same goes for comparing aspects of the population of a country over time

  18. lprent 18

    crank: Various writers on the site have pointed out the obvious solutiuon in a number of posts. Figure out how to increase average wages and therefore the disposable income in NZ.

    Of course John Key doesn’t have policy for that, he just has policy for how to drive wages down, thereby increasing the prpoemsity for emmigration. Those policies look kind of familar – dejavu from the 90’s when the relative gap between NZ and aussie was pushed openly widely – by many of Nationals front-bench.

    Have you seen a solution that isn’t simply bullshit and waffle from the Nay’s?

    Daveski: The reason it was done in percentages is in the post. Our population has increased… You did read the post didn’t you? Oh well I’ll repeat the realevant bit.

    Another trick Farrar uses is to show just the number of people leaving, not adjusting it for population growth by presenting the figures as a % of the population. 40,000 looks like a lot but not when you know it’s 1% of the population. And because the population is growing it’s to be expected that the number of people leaving each year will also grow.

    DPF is being very selective in what figures he uses, and that is one bit. How about actually reading the post before commenting next time.

    Update: Damn I’m going to have to gte faster with the fingers. I’m not in their class.

  19. Vanilla Eis 19

    Daveski: SP states exactly why he uses %. Read the post again.

  20. Vanilla Eis 20

    … and I’m incredibly late.

  21. lprent 21

    … snap…

    And captha is “and LATEST”
    Now that is rubbing it in…

  22. crank. as recently as yesterday I wrote about how National’s ‘solutions’ to emigration are no such thing.

    Take tax cuts. Say National somehow gave everyone a $20 a week tax cut. How many people do you think that would stop emigrating? How many people doyou think are emigrating over $1020 a year?

    Or work rights. National wants us to weaken work rights becuase this will supposedly lift productivity (the productivity argument is itself based on a lie) and wages will rise with higher productivity meaning fewer people will emigrate.. but we know rising productivity does not automatically lead to wage increases. And, moreover, Australia has stronger work rights – why would further weakening our work rigths help us close the wage gap with a country with stronger work rights?

  23. Daveski 23

    The issue SP raises is the selectivity of the data used by DPF.

    Note how his figures only go back to 2003. Why is that? Well, it just so happens that 2003 was the last low point in the migration cycle. So, if you show just the last five years, you get a nice appearance of net emigration by NZ citizens growing very rapidly.

    So surely it’s a simple matter of showing the data from earlier?

  24. Pete 24

    Have you got any evidence that indicates this round of migrationi any different to the previous rounds of migration.

    Yes as supplied in Steve’s graph above which clearly shows that net migration of NZ citizens as a % of the population was signficantly further away from 0 in the last peak than in the preceding two peaks. No one knows where the trough will bottom out but what we can say is net migration of NZ citizen’s as a % of the population appears to be more sustained than in previous cycles. The numbers supplied in Migration Trends 2006 clearly support this argument.

    Simple really.

    Nice own goal Steve.

  25. Matthew Pilott 25

    No one knows where the trough will bottom out but what we can say is net migration of NZ citizen’s as a % of the population appears to be more sustained than in previous cycles.

    “More sustained” Pete? In what sense? The last cycle went for far longer than the current one has to date, so that doesn’t support your comment, and I can’t think of another way in which your comment can be interpreted.


  26. “Daveski

    So why not show the figures as total numbers rather than %?

    Partisan – yes. Balanced and objective – no”

    Are you seriously suggesting that he shouldn’t be population adjusting the figures? or are you just here to shit in the sand pit?

  27. Crank 27

    But wouldn’t you focus your solutions on the demographic that are leaving?

    I think you would agree that lifting minimum wage and income redistribution are not effective tools in dealing with this problem.

  28. Pete. I’m not sure I understand your point. Are you arguing that turning point in 2003 was a bit different from the previous two? So what? That doesn’t make a trend. And if there is a trend I would suggest it is this – the global population is becoming more mobile.. so the net % of nz citizens leaving will tend to remain larger even at low points in the cycle, just as number of arrivals of new immigrants will tend to remain higher even at low points.

    Daveski. I pointed out Farrar’s figures were deceptive on two fronts and corrected for both of them.

  29. Pete 29

    “More sustained’ Pete?

    Yes sustained is probably the wrong phrase. However, more NZ citizen’s have been leaving for longer than previously if you consider that in the previous two cycles net migration of NZ citizen’s as a% of population nearly reached equiblirium. During the current cycle it did not even get close. The trough this time round may be even greater than in the previous two cycles.

    Hardly a good thing to bring attention.

  30. Scribe 30

    Just a thought. It’s obvious that our population is growing, but this graph looks at NZ citizens as a percentage of population. Have the percentages of NZ citizens relative to population changed in recent decades?

    My hunch is that, for argument’s sake, 90% of our population 20 years ago was made up of citizens. Now it might be more like 80%. Is that a factor in these statistics?

    And regarding cyclical warming and cooling, we certainly don’t have adequate data from previous centuries to assess how the recent trends compare with other periods.

    Is consumerism damaging the environment? You bet it is. But can we say the recent trends are the worst we’ve ever seen? Not a chance.

  31. Pete 31

    i.e. if you are interested in keeping NZ citizen’s here then the figures suggest the problem of them leaving is only getting worse not better.

  32. crank. what demographic do you think is leaving?

  33. pete. if the country were emptying out, that would be a problem, a more mobile global population is not,

    Scribe. anything to back up your guesses on population and citizenship?

  34. Matthew Pilott 34

    Pete, the 2003 ‘peak’ returned to a level further from 0% than the two previous ‘peaks’, I can see that. I don’t think ‘equilibrium’ is the correct term either – it’s not a balance between two opposing forces, simply a measure of one as a proportion of a ‘parent’ or ‘pool’.

    The graph would not show length of people’s depatrures either – I assume that it shows, for various datasets, the percentage of people that left NZ as a proportion of NZ population at the same time. The reality behind the reduced 2003 ‘peak’ is that as part of the cycle it did not return to levels of the previous two cycles.

    Steve made a point above about an increasingly mobile population, which rings true. This could be considered positive in a couple of ways – we have more money and more inclination to travel. Equally it could be negative – we have less money and a greater requirement to travel for it! In of itself, I don’t think the graph does what you claim.

    Alone, the graph merely shows that what is happing now is not without precedent, and that there are those who would have you believe otherwise.

    I’ve always thought that people think what is happening now is as bad as it has ever been – crime, youth, wages, migration, house prices – they’re all as bad as they’ve been. Probably the worst. Ever. Thanks in no small part to a commercial media that is focussed on revenue and headlines, not informing. I hope that the internet as a widely available resource mine will be able to dispel many of these myths and hype.

  35. Scribe 35


    Scribe. anything to back up your guesses on population and citizenship?

    Well, I haven’t have time to check. Will try later.

    Walking down Lambton Quay or Queen Street isn’t scientific, but…

  36. Daveski 36


    I made a valid point that the initial criticism was about the time period and you haven’t compared like against like with respect to this.

    However, I did miss the fact that you had noted the % issue in the second part of your paragraph – I assumed it was a discussion of the original statement.

    It would certainly have been interesting to see TWO graphs – one showing the raw data, the other as a %.

    As noted above, the current levels are at historical highs which indicates that we should be concerned with no evidence that the trend has yet reversed.

  37. randal 37

    New Zealand is a nation that exports things including poeple and has done so since its beginning. Its what economists call the residual. Trust the nats to try and eceptionalise the migration figures. They (the nats) could be a modern version of chicken little only they keep running round after their heads have been cut off.

  38. Has any one else been unable to view kiwiblog if you dont allow it to install something to your computer?

  39. Spam 39

    just to check Spam.. you think it’s OK for National to make misleading arguments if someone else does it too?
    You obviously think that it is, or you wouldn’t post them yourselves.

    And then you post about how others are misleading with theirs’. Hypocrisy?

  40. Scribe 40


    I couldn’t find the information on citizens, but the proportion of people in the census who were born overseas has gone from 17.5% in ’96 to 19.5 in ’01 to 22.9 in ’06. I suspect many of them aren’t citizens.

    As I said above, not sure if that would skew these numbers at all. I just wondered in light of your choice of percentages as citizens relative to population.

    Hmmmm, the more I think about it….

  41. the sprout 41

    the title reminds me of that infamous line by Theresa Gattunng just before her leaving Telecom. she also said Telecom was relying on the IT ignorance of its customers to make large profits.

  42. Hauraki 42

    woo this is such a joke.. deleting my post doesn’t prove u right


    Aussie exodus highest level for 30 years
    4:00PM Wednesday Oct 22, 2008

    Figures published today by Statistics New Zealand (SNZ) showed about 47,200 people left New Zealand for Australia on a permanent or long term (PLT) basis during the year to September. About 13,200 came the other way.

    The resulting net PLT outflow to Australia of around 33,900 was the highest for any 12-month period since monthly figures started to be compiled in April 1978, SNZ said.

  43. randal 43

    so what. why do people wnat to hang around with the likes of you?

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