This week we saw an bizarre call from Don Brash, a man who has been a “centre-right”‘ politician (leader of New Zealand’s National Party while in opposition, and the ACT party) and also Governor of New Zealand’s Reserve Bank.
According to media reports Mr Brash said
“I want local and central government to show more urgency on the rebuild of Christchurch and if that means taking a lenient attitude toward people whose immigration status might not be up to scratch, in the peculiar situation which Christchurch faces, I would be all in favour of that,”
Looking at Mr Brash’s comments I am struck by two questions:
- What does Mr Brash know of the rebuild from his vantage point 1,000 kilometres away?
- What does Mr Brash know about New Zealand’s immigration system and the potential effects of his idea?
The answer to both questions is clearly “not much”.
The rebuild speed
The amount of work to be done in Canterbury and Christchurch is certainly immense. After nearly 1,000 buildings large and small have been demolished there is still quite a way to go. I look out at this every day as Christchurch is my home and I work in the CBD, but what I see are people working incredible hours – New Zealanders and people coming from around the world to do amazing things.
Hiring illegal immigrants is hardly likely to speed up Gerry Brownlee or improve anything at all.
Yes it would be nice if it could all be finished tomorrow, but those of us who live on planet earth know we are here for the long-haul. Personally I prefer quality work which will last (and perhaps one or two buildings which aren’t tilt-slab construction) over ‘get it over quickly’.
New Zealand’s immigration system
New Zealand has a highly robust immigration system which has served this country well, ensuring that migrants coming to New Zealand add more to this country than they take from it. The last census for example in 2006 confirmed that migrants added $3.3 billion profit to the New Zealand economy after all costs.
Our immigration system ensures people coming to work here are healthy, can speak English, are of good character and have skills New Zealand really needs.
What does this say about illegal immigrants?
Some skilled migrants can unexpectedly and unfortunately become unlawful in New Zealand (and a good part of my work is in restoring skilled workers to lawful status) but in my experience these migrants play by the rules. If they can provide a good reason why they should be allowed to stay they are allowed to regain legal status by trained immigration officials who weigh all aspects of the case before making a decision.
Mr Brash’s idea would remove this protection for New Zealand, hamstringing officials and forcing them to turn a blind eye to people likely to cause loss.
Pros and Cons
I guess in fairness we should weigh the pros and cons of Mr Brash’s “idea”:
Cons – this would
- completely undermine New Zealand’s immigration system, put in place to protect this nation;
- encourage many more people to come to New Zealand illegally;
- discourage highly skilled migrants from coming here to help with the rebuild;
- reduce the number of jobs available to New Zealanders;
- reduce training options for New Zealand workers;
- reduce the quality of work being carried out;
- increase health and safety risks as well as ACC costs to the New Zealand taxpayer;
- undermine employment laws and protection for employees;
- reduce the amount of tax being paid to the New Zealand government;
- reduce wages in the region for semi and skilled workers;
- increase the cost to the New Zealand taxpayer who would pick up the tab for health, police and other costs;
- create breeding grounds for the exploitation of foreign workers;
- welcome an underclass of people into Christchurch who put nothing into the system but take from it.
Pros – this would
- increase profits for a small number of companies, CEOs and shareholders.
Christchurch needs highly skilled and experienced workers to train locals and work in jobs there are no locals available to fill. The rebuild is going well and things are coming together. Yes we could do with better planning and drive at the top, but hiring illegal migrants is hardly like to affect this.
Our current immigration system is providing a huge economic boost to not only the rebuild but the country as a whole and will continue to do so if left alone.
There may have been whispers of illegal workers in Christchurch, but as a licensed immigration adviser based right in the heart of the Garden City I have seen no sign of this.
What I have seen is a majority of employers doing a great job shadowed by a tiny minority of employers trying to manipulate the system to increase profits.
Taking this into consideration I believe the only way to read Brash’s call is that either he is a fool with no idea of what he is saying, or this is a ‘dog-whistle’ for his private agenda, raising fears about immigration. As Mr Brash has shown in the past that ‘dog-whistle’ politics is a specialty I question the motives behind this call which clearly are not in New Zealand’s best interests.