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Winston and the refugee issue

Written By: - Date published: 12:49 pm, September 4th, 2018 - 30 comments
Categories: greens, labour, nz first, winston peters - Tags: ,

Winston has caused something of a splash by suggesting that Labour’s proposal to double the number of refugees accepted each year may not proceed.

This raises interesting issues concerning the coalition agreement and what New Zealand First is bound to cooperate with.

The agreement says this about immigration:

Immigration

• As per Labour’s policy, pursue Labour and New Zealand First’s shared priorities to:

  • Ensure work visas issued reflect genuine skills shortages and cut down on low quality international education courses.
  • Take serious action on migrant exploitation, particularly of international students.

NZ First’s immigration policy last election was as follows (via the wayback machine):

BETTER IMMIGRATION

  • Make sure that Kiwi workers are at the front of the job queue.

  • Attract highly skilled migrants by reducing numbers to around 10,000 per annum.

  • Ensure that immigration policy is based on New Zealand’s interests and the main focus is on meeting critical skills gaps.

  • Ensure immigration under ‘family reunion’ is strictly controlled.

  • Increase the residency rules around NZ Superannuation from the current 10 years to 25 years.

  • Increase, the Permanent Residency qualification period from the current two-years.

  • Make sure effective measures are put in place to stop the exploitation of migrant workers with respect to wages, safety and work conditions. In Christchurch and elsewhere there is evidence of exploitation of migrant workers.

  • Develop strategies to encourage the regional dispersion of immigration to places other than Auckland and the main centres.

  • Substantially increase the minimum English requirement.

On the other hand Labour’s policy is pretty clear:

Labour will increase the refugee quota to 1,500. 

This will continue Labour’s proud tradition of welcoming victims of war and disaster to our shores, which extends back to taking in refugees during World War II and is just as needed today, with conflicts such as in Syria creating the largest number of displaced persons since 1945.

And what about the all important process provisions to resolve these matters?

Again from the coalition agreement:

The Labour and New Zealand First Parties will work together in coalition government in good faith and with no surprises, reflecting appropriate notice and consultation in important matters, including the ongoing development of policy. The parties will cooperate with each other in respect of executive and parliamentary activities, consult closely, and operate with mutual respect to achieve agreed outcomes.

This includes a commitment to agreed policies and programmes, and consensus decision-making. Protocols will be established for coalition management, policy consultation, select committee management and non-routine procedural motions.

The Labour Green confidence and supply agreement with the Greens has this relatively oblique line:

Review, and adequately fund and support, the family re-unification scheme for refugees.

The Green policy is to gradually increase the number of refugees accepted to 4,000 per year.

So what happened yesterday?

Chris Bramwell at Radio New Zealand has the details:

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has thrown a major spanner in the works of Labour’s plan to double the refugee quota, saying his party never agreed to that.

Labour campaigned on raising the refugee quota to 1500 per year and has consistently said it would do this within its first term.

It had already started boosting capacity at the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre in anticipation of an increased intake of refugees.

In the May budget it put aside $6.2 million over four years of new operating funding, along with $7.7 million over four years to build and operate two new accommodation blocks at the centre.

But yesterday as he touched down on Nauru for the Pacific Islands Forum, Winston Peters, threw the government a curve ball.

“We never made a commitment to double the refugee quota.”

This appeared to be news to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“I would want to check the context of all of those questions [to Mr Peters], but as I’ve said that commitment still remains.”

Ms Ardern said the policy to double the quota was still on the table.

“We haven’t finalised all the details of that commitment, but that remains part of our policy.

“It hasn’t come through cabinet, that’s an accurate representation, but that is still a commitment that we have.”

Supporting a budget that included millions of dollars to build infrastructure necessary for the increase but then questioning the increase is rather odd.  What else did they think the facilities would be used for?

Clearly the matter needs to go to Cabinet for sign off.  But I cannot see how New Zealand First can back away from the policy.

After all the proposal is for a paltry increase to 1,500 refugees a year.  By comparison Australia with all of its issues last year took over 24,000 refugees.

New Zealand can and should do better.  And Winston should not get in the way.

30 comments on “Winston and the refugee issue ”

  1. Chris T 1

    Unless there is something they have agreed to outside the coalition agreement, I severely doubt Winston will allow it to happen.

    To flammable with his core constituency.

    • Enough is Enough 1.1

      This is bread and butter policy for Winston.

      He represents those who want to close the borders (especially to those coming from the third world or Asia).

      Winston will stand in the way. I think Labour would be best to approach National over this rather than wasting their time with Winston.

  2. SPC 2

    A Labour Minister said they could/would not increase the quota (to 1500) until they had the capacity to do so. So they have allocated some money to improve capacity so they can indicate their committment to their manifesto policy.

    And NZF has said an increase in numbers was not in the coalition agreement.

    Which would mean an actual increase in numbers could be a matter delayed until after the next election, or a point conceded in return for something (also not in the coalition agreement) NZ First wants.

  3. Bill 3

    So, what was NZ First’s stated policy on refugees? And what (if anything) did the coalition agreement have to say on refugees?

    If NZ First had (for want of a better term) an anti-refugee policy, and the coalition agreement is silent on the refugee front, then…

    • SPC 3.1

      Refugees are not mentioned in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement.

      • Bill 3.1.1

        And NZ First’s policy on refugees? Can you shed any light on that?

        edit

        New Zealand should take only women and children refugees from Syria and tell the men to return home and fight, NZ First leader Winston Peters says.

        Asked about the Government’s decision to bring in an emergency intake of 600 Syrian refugees over three years, Mr Peters reiterated his position that more refugees should be settled – but only if immigration levels were significantly reduced.

        So, knowing this was Peter’s position, is it fair enough to surmise that refugees weren’t that high on NZ Labour’s list of priorities? I mean, they’d have made damned sure to clear that kind of shit up if it was, no?

        Hmm. Maybe the thought was to run with ‘feel good’ sound bites and cross that bridge when they came to it? Well. Thon’s a bridge.

        • SPC 3.1.1.1

          The NZ First page is linked to by media but it is no longer there, the only option is finding a 2017 news media report that says what it was.

  4. Tuppence Shrewsbury 4

    So, you’re saying Labours policy will still happen despite winstons veto?

  5. roy cartland 5

    Let him bluster. He says he didn’t agree to raise the quote, but it doesn’t mean he can’t. Give him his plausible deniability, that’s all he needs.

    • greywarshark 5.1

      Don’t diss the coalition process Roy. The idea is that they work together for the country’s good. It will mean some compromise but each party will want to see some improvement in the factors that bother them.

      • roy cartland 5.1.1

        Fair enough. I think we’re pretty much saying the same thing, but I think Winston has to (and should be) framing the issue in the way that makes sense to his voters. In some ways I think NZF is actually a good brake on LAB. It actually makes a lot of sense, and is functioning how an upper house might in other parliaments.

        • D'Esterre 5.1.1.1

          Roy Cartland: ” I think Winston has to (and should be) framing the issue in the way that makes sense to his voters.”

          Quite so. I also wondered whether his location influenced his comments; whether he judged it inappropriate to sound too generous regarding refugees, given that they’re all in Nauru at present.

  6. greywarshark 6

    It would be quite good if we could get a better policy on immigration, limiting numbers within a minimum and maximum (to allow some flexibility and considering extended families), to balance a rise in the number of refugees and still remain noticeably lower than recent annual levels. Also reorganised policies about work visas etc.for students, and controlling house buying by any new NZs or non-residents.

    It is refugees who need urgent attention and acceptance after screening. (This may involve taking on some piteous cases who will need extensive support and medical help. We might set an absolute number of families with one or two such problems in any year.)

    The thing about refugees, they are motivated and survivors. Most of them will be able to achieve and assimilate. We could also work in with other countries who might take some of the Manos? or Nauru? group, and supply them with the medical personnel, training and supplies to deal with them.

    The problem is that refugees have been in limbo* so long outside Australia, that it has affected them negatively to a probable lifetime extent. (Recent reports have come of withdrawn, zombie-like children which probably reflects their parents’ state of being.) Similar might have been seen at the opening of concentration camps after wars. Better in future to find a way to get them out of Australia’s hands before they can do them so much harm. That country will never get more civilised than they are now, and on 1-10 scale I don’t rate them highly.
    (*limbo : an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.)

  7. dukeofurl 7

    The ” rebuild” at Mangere was authorised some years back

    “The Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre (the Centre) has been rebuilt following approval of the New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Strategy and Government financial commitments in Budgets 2013 and 2014.”
    https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/what-we-do/our-strategies-and-projects/refugee-resettlement-strategy/rebuilding-the-mangere-refugee-resettlement-centre
    Doest mean the money was spent for that as recent stories have INZ not even having the money in budget for deporting those who have been here illegally for many many years.

    Same goes for the new money- its ‘over 4 years’
    “May budget it put aside $6.2 million over four years of new operating funding, along with $7.7 million over four years to build and operate two new accommodation blocks at the centre.”

    I would think $7.7 mill would only build 1 block in current construction environment.

    As well there seems to be an assumption , money in 2018 budget is spent immediately- doesnt happen, especially for capital works.

    Lees Galloway looks like he hasnt done the paperwork to get Cabinet approval for ‘the quota’ to increase. Not that they could do anything for another 2 years at least.

    Its a bit like the Kermadec Sanctuary , Key announced it at the UN but didnt get the OK from the Maori party here , so it went on the back shelf as MP were more than a little bit opposed.

  8. Grantoc 8

    I’d say this is a real test of Ardern’s leadership.

    There is already a perception that Peter’s is the real power in this coalition. If he wins this argument then the perception will have become reality.

    If Ardern stands up to him and Labour is able to implement it’s policy, it will be a significant win for her and will restore a more appropriate balance of power between Labour and NZ First. She has to do it for her own credibility and for Labours.

  9. Timeforacupoftea 9

    Ardern Said : Supporting a budget that included millions of dollars to build infrastructure necessary for the increase but then questioning the increase is rather odd. What else did they think the facilities would be used for ?

    Well the Street and Vehicle Dwellers appear to be growing faster in Auckland since the coalition was formed so the nice new Refugee Resettlement Centres will be put to better use here than importing another drag on society.
    Lets fix this first.

    • Janet 9.1

      10O% agree. Rehabilitate our own. The help that we give to a handful of refugees is but a drop in an ocean of refugees from over-populated, dysfunctional countries.

  10. Antoine 10

    I agree with WP. We should only increase the refugee quota if it is necessary to retain our good international standing. And then, only by the minimum necessary.

    A.

  11. Cynical Jester 11

    It’s days like this we are reminded that it’s not a labour government but a full Labour/NZF coalition govt. Both parties promised many things that they cant possibly deliver under this arrangement. Nzf is anti immigration conservative nationalist party it can’t be seen to be letting more people in the country especially after it and labours empty promises on lowering immigration. Winston won’t budge on this

    Going through National to up the refugee quota will piss Winston off and he may vote with them on something out of revenge and that’ll make the govt look weak in the publics eyes.

    Winstons been pretty bloody loyal to labour in coalition and has defended labour policy. I don’t think we should risk the government looking like a shambles over this and should focus on common ground like the disgusting levels of poverty homelessness and suicide in nz.

    I wanna tripple the quota btw and will keep advocating for it but it and many desperately needed things ain’t happening till after 2020…

  12. Winston is positioning and his followers will love it. Nothing has changed just more bigotry and self serving predijuice.

    • Delia 12.1

      .. or people wanting the best for New Zealanders who actually are born here and currently live in insecure accommodation on low wages. Yes we could lift the refugee quota, but what to do about those here who live perilous lives, which is many of us do actually. Any answer to that?

      • marty mars 12.1.1

        It is a distribution issue. I’d not let people have more than 2 houses. I wouldn’t let people be landlords. I’d make employers increase wages to at least the living wage but even more when possible. What I wouldn’t do is blame innocent people.

  13. Brutus Iscariot 13

    The clue is in the name of his party.

    So, fair enough.

  14. Jimmy 14

    I think Winston is flexing his muscles

  15. Ffloyd 15

    So Winston wants Labour to look after it’s own weak, homeless and starving citizens before it looks at increasing refugee quota by 500. So how does he justify ten million dollars on an all weather indoor racing track. Does he turn it into a pop up village for displaced and disenfranchised citizens in the off season. Or don’t they have one? Do we need the opportunity to gamble all year round? And i really did not like his timing for giving the old one,two to Jacinda. Couldnt have lowered himself any lower in my opinion. Sad to see.

  16. Jamie Karl 16

    We have no responsibility to take any refugees or immigrants.

    • McFlock 16.1

      Except basic human decency.
      And the responsibility of living up to international treaties we’ve signed in order to do exactly that.

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