Last night on 3 News, Paddy Gower ran an astounding story accusing David Cunliffe of engaging in “dog whistle” politics on immigration.
The cuts Gower used showed Cunliffe saying two things. Firstly that it would take 80 percent of our new housing supply just to accommodate this year’s migrants and National is doing nothing, and secondly that Labour reckons immigration should be at a steady moderate level (rather than erratically jumping from zero to 40,000 within a year) so that the country’s housing, schools and hospitals can cope.
The statements are unremarkable. The first is a statement of fact, basically mathematics, and highlights the Government’s failure to align immigration levels and an increase to the housing stock. As for the second it’s hard to understand who could be upset. It sounds like something that Peter Dunne on steroids would say.
The issue is obvious. In Auckland and Christchurch we have a housing crisis. The symptoms are clear but the solution is politically really difficult. Immigration flows are just one factor in this crisis, and proposed Immigration policy changes are a minor factor in Labour’s response.
Yet Paddy Gower has claimed that “Labour leader David Cunliffe has taken his hardest line yet against immigrants, blaming them for rising house prices.”
Well he hasn’t. There is no way you can reconcile this claim with the many statements David has made on housing policy and on immigration policy.
Labour’s policies in the area are clear. Local speculators will face a comprehensive capital gains tax, offshore speculators will be stopped and there is a significant building programme planned involving 100,000 new affordable homes over ten years.
So what’s driving this story? Why, it’s Patrick Gower of course.
The story first emerged just after the Budget when Gower asked David Cunliffe on The Nation whether Labour thought immigration was having an impact on the housing market. This was Gower’s angle, not Labour’s. Cunliffe responded that Labour would manage the immigration system to ensure immigration flows are counter-cyclical, that is when numbers are declining restrictions are loosened and when numbers are increasing the brakes are applied so that a “sweet spot” level is achieved.
Interestingly, Gower used the phrase “dog whistle” a few times during that interview but never in relation to Labour’s immigration policy. David Cunliffe said then basically the same things about immigration that he said yesterday but the dog whistle allegation was not made. I wonder why not?
Cut to yesterday, when Gower posted a blog on the 3 News website calling on Labour to go hard on immigration:
Labour still has a chance. Cunliffe is performing better. National is weak on one of the big issues – housing.
But it is still time for Labour to hit the panic button.
It may need to look at going harder on the immigration issue – there is no time to be nuanced when you are on 29.5 percent.
Surprise, surprise, Gower approaches David Cunliffe for comment on immigration with a story pre-written in his mind and turns innocuous answers into an outrageous example of dog whistle politics.
Gower has a pattern of writing his stories before his interviews then cutting to fit his narrative. It’s an obvious attempt to influence the political discourse and it’s good for ratings.
He should stick to reporting the facts. And my fellow lefties who were excitedly calling Cunliffe a xenophobe last night after watching his piece should perhaps try to be a little less naïve.