Saturday, April 29, 2017

Immigrant bashing - it must be election year.

New Zealand has a population of 4596 million (2015, a few thousand more now), less than one suburb of Shanghai, Karachi, Beijing, Dhaka, about the population of Sydney, slightly more than that of Melbourne. Yet our senior geriatric politician who is way past retirement age trots out his xenophobic concern about the large number of immigrants, particularly those coming from Asia. They push up house prices, overcrowd hospitals and schools, clutter up roads. The other main political parties, instead of ridiculing his concerns, which should be the right response, try to finesse their immigration policies to make them look like they are doing something about keeping immigrants out. The reality is that much of the increase in the number of arrivals in New Zealand are New Zealanders returning home because the grass is greener here than in Australia, England or wherever they went in search of greener pastures. Others come here because New Zealand is a good and peaceful place to live in. That is not a bad thing and politicians should be proud of it. What's more, industries that underpin New Zealand's prosperity are dependent on immigrant labour. The vast farming conglomerates would come to a standstill without Philippine labourers, orchards, kiwifruit farmers depend on Pacific Islanders for seasonal workers, our hospital would not be able to cope without Philippine nurses and Indian doctors. All this is out there for everybody to see, yet politicians think that there is something to be gained from immigrant bashing. True, immigrants need housing and there are not enough houses built. There is tax free money to be made from the housing shortage. The housing shortage could easily be alleviated, as the Labour government did in the late 1940s and early 50s, by building more houses, but this goes against entrenched interests of property speculation on which New Zealand fortunes were built right from the beginning of Europeans settlement in the 1840s. Investors in the New Zealand Company in 1840 expected huge profits from the enhanced value of their land due to controlled settlement. Auckland was built on land expropriation, exploitation of native greed, and monopoly of land. The last thing speculators want is a mass housing project on land ripe for development. This is not new, but the housing shortage has little to do with immigration. Talking about immigration is a distraction from real issues that face New Zealand. What happens if the Chinese cut back on their consumption of milk powder or get these from other sources? This would bankrupt the New Zealand economy. What would happen if poverty and inequality reaches a point where there is large scale of dissatisfaction tat leads to social unrest? How long can the country subsidise the wages workers whose values has been undermined by cheap labour in other parts of the world. Our education is undermined by emphasis on trade or technical skills for the present while downplaying the liberal arts, which are at the heart of future creative thinking. Instead of debating such issues that really matter for the future of the country, politicians on all side jump on the immigration bandwagon, whihc is a distraction.