Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Immigration’ Category

Deal with the real issues please John

Posted by on April 12th, 2013

This week, I’ve had several more groups and individual migrant workers tell me about how their rights are being abused by exploitative employers. Sub-minimum wages, long hours, substandard accommodation. They’re caught in a trap. Report the employer, and their work visa or residence is invalid and they are punished by being sent home : don’t report the employer and they continue to put up with the unacceptable.

The outcome?  Labour and immigration laws are flouted with impunity, Kiwi jobs, wages and conditions are undermined, good employers doing the right thing get annoyed and our reputation for fairness takes another hit.

So, what’s our government doing?


Instead, it’s returned to its let’s copy Australia bill, the Immigration Amendment Bill, which now has the votes to get through and is likely to be debated next week.

According to John Key, we face the imminent threat of a mass arrival of asylum seekers.  He wants us to be fearful that a handful of people might, (but probably won’t) arrive in a leaky boat any day now.

John Key said he was vindicated this week when a boat from Sri Lanka arrived in Western Australia, flying a New Zealand flag and holding a sign saying they wanted to come to New Zealand.

Apart from the sheer impossibility of reaching New Zealand in a treacherous journey, John Key doesn’t appear to even understand the basics.

The rules are strict under the UNHCR convention. A person must request asylum at the earliest opportunity. It is impossible to arrive in Australia, as the Sri Lankans did this week and seek asylum in New Zealand.

Anyone claiming they want to come to New Zealand via the Australian coast by boat cannot apply for asylum here and if they did, they would become ineligible.

It’s gotten desperate when the reasonable voices in Australia include Malcolm Fraser, former Conservative Prime Minister, who says the claims of successive Australian governments are designed to justify a policy of brutality.

Former National Party Immigration Minister, Aussie Malcolm, says John Key’s actions in agreeing to take 150 Australian refugee as part of our quota is a tragedy.

This is a stupid bill. Parliament will waste time on it. It will pass by one vote and our reputation as a good international citizen will take a hit because the John Key government thinks it’s okay to copy the Aussies and put asylum seekers in detention centers.

The boat people will likely never arrive.

But the migrants who are already here will see the exploitation go on and on.

The government is turning a blind eye.

Which is the greater threat to New Zealand?

Update : This in today’s SST 

Hands-off Government let export education drift

Posted by on March 19th, 2013

Lincoln Tan of the New Zealand Herald reports

A Ministry of Education report to be released this week is expected to show a 6 per cent drop in overall fee-paying student enrolment. The annual Migration Trends and Outlook, released last Friday, reported a 7 per cent drop in international student approvals to 68,980 – the lowest since 2008.

Of course it does not look good because the Government has been hands-off. It just let the sector grow when time is right or deteriorate when it is not, like the situations we are in now. No coordinated marketing, no leadership, no policy to give quality providers a boost and bad apples a boo.

The Labour list MP has a private member’s bill in the ballot that is seeking to tighten rules about small private schools having international or national titles in their business names.

The Bill has already generated some attention. For those who have not seen much of the Bill, here is the Q&A, which is self-explanatory.

 Education (Naming of Private Training Establishments) Amendment Bill Q & A

 1. Q: What is the purpose of this Bill?

 A: This Bill will stop misleading naming of PTEs and provide a boost to the image of the Export Education industry by ensuring that private training establishments (PTEs) are profiled correctly and accurately. The Bill will be one of the measures that are designed to promote NZ education providers collectively in the international market.

Currently there is minimal (and patched-up) regulation for the naming rights of PTEs which is causing great harm to our Export Education market in Asia and around the world. Many countries (particularly in Asia) have strict guidelines which reserve international, national or regional titles to reputable education providers whose names match their international, national or regional status. Therefore PTEs which boast regional or national titles in their names are attractive to Asian students and their families. However, a number of PTEs (although it is a relatively small number) in NZ have abused their naming rights and have created a credibility issue for the NZ Export Education system with the term ‘ghetto education’ being used in China and other countries to describe the state of the educational facilities in NZ, which is detrimental and unfair to the majority of the education providers in NZ.

This Bill will ensure that PTEs are profiled accurately and correctly and that New Zealand remains a top quality international education provider.

2. Q: Who is likely to benefit from this Bill?

A: The majority of New Zealand’s PTEs. This Bill is designed to protect them.

3. Q: Who is likely to be offended by this Bill?

A: A very small number of poor providers in the export education sector who are providing poor outcomes for students, flaunting the rules and damaging NZ’s overall reputation. The “ghetto education” – as so termed in overseas media – referred specifically to them.

4. Q: Will the Bill impose more regulation?

 A: No. This Bill seeks to help manage performance rather than impose more regulation.

 5. Q: Why this is a scaled-down version?

 A: The original Bill was drafted over a year ago and we have since undertaken consultation with the export education sector. We listened to them and have taken their advice. Generally speaking, under the current economic environment, the New Zealand export education sector needs help to compete with the UK, US, Canada and Australia who are seen as top quality international education providers.

The Bill in the current form deals with only one issue, which is the naming rights of PTEs.

The accurate and correct profiling of PTE’s will help promote the image and profile of NZ export education as a whole.

6. Q: Why does the Bill not cover border control in respect of the exemption for offshore education advisers providing advice on student visas and permits?

A: Two reasons: the loophole can easily be closed by removing the exemption by an Order in Council – this is the Government’s call and we urge the Government to seriously consider this.

Secondly, evidence shows that these issues were caused by a small number of poor providers. One of the reasons why these poor providers existed in the first place is that under the current legal regime they were allowed to profile themselves in an inaccurate (or passing off) manner and attract more international students to them than other providers who pay more attention to quality and sustainability of their establishment. Many of these poor providers are also aided by a “larger than usual” amount of commission paid to agents.

7. Q: Will this Bill impose any fiscal burden to the government?

A: No. This Bill will not cost a lot, if at all, to implement. With reliably profiled PTEs, we will attract more top-quality students to study in New Zealand. The flow-on effect will be felt throughout the country. So this Bill is good for NZ’s economy.

8. Q: Will this bill help prevent New Zealand from attracting the ‘bad’ students who tend to fall into trouble in NZ?

A: Yes. This bill will improve the level of export education in New Zealand which will have an instant flow on effect and lift the quality of international students attracted to study in New Zealand.

9. Q: What motivates you to write this Bill?

A: As Labour’s spokesperson for Export Education, my dream is to see New Zealand become a world leader in top-quality export education. As many international students do stay and become our residents after graduation it also goes deeper than just export education.

Because some of these students are our future New Zealanders – we must get it right from scratch and attract the best quality students to New Zealand.

10. Q: Isn’t it the case that no matter how good the Bill is it may not be drawn from the ballot and even if it does, it will likely be voted down?

A: True, but the Government will be forced to address the issue with more urgency.


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Stop New Zealand From Parading A Convicted Rapist Around – Legend!

Posted by on October 5th, 2012

This week, school teacher Juliana Venning showed how powerful one determined woman can be.
When she heard convicted rapist, Mike Tyson was being given a visa to come to New Zealand even though he should be barred under our immigration criteria for being sentenced to more than 5 years imprisionment, she acted.
She wrote to Immigration NZ and complained about Mr Tyson gaining entry to NZ and they wrote back explaining that he had been given a “special direction” by the Minister and his application had been supported by the Life Education Trust.
Many would have stopped there – not Juliana.
She did what the Minister should have done. She went to the Life Education Trust and asked them to explain their support.
They told her they had been approached to support Mike Tyson’s application and would receive around $60,000 from the event he was coming for, but DECLINED to be involved.
The rest is history, but the point is that Juliana’s persistence in standing up for victims of sexual assault resulted in Mike Tyson’s visa being revoked.
Round one goes to the school teacher, against the boxing champ.
Round two is now gearing up, as the Minister strangely opened the door up for another visa application from Mr Tyson.
Some argue he is a great role model for young NZrs because he has turned his life around.
But where’s the proof of that?
Mr Tyson was clearly annoyed when a TV interviewer in NZ asked about his conviction and replied: “I didnt do that f****** crime.”
Hardly the reaction of a remorseful man who has turned his life around and not the performance I would expect of a role model.
In fact Tyson has been convicted on two further charges of violence since his 1992 conviction for raping an 18 year old woman.
The most recent charges laid against him were in 2007.
The purpose of Mike Tyson’s proposed visit to NZ isnt to turn lives around in South Auckland. He wants to come here to make a buck by entertaining those who can pay up to $395 a ticket to see his show.

This week, Police released crime stats showing sexual assaults had risen by 15% in the last two years. The last thing we need, is a convicted rapist getting special treatment and being paraded around as a celebrity.

Well done Juliana.  You are the real role model in this match.

Utterly hopeless, Minister

Posted by on October 3rd, 2012

I’ve laid off Minister Kate Wilkinson recently. I’ve even said nice things about her, because the less she gets done on her government’s employment law changes, the better.

But the flip flop around the Mike Tyson visa can’t go unmentioned. The issue has been in the media for weeks. Immigration NZ had made it clear that he would need an special direction from the Minister to be able to apply for a visa.

The Minister duly granted Mike Tyson an exemption, despite his conviction for rape and other violent incidents because he supposedly had the support of the Life Education Trust.  Turns out that she didn’t check the validity of that support, which had come from a volunteer, not the agency’s board.

What’s even worse, the Prime Minister and the Minister didn’t talk to each other about it, so were contradicting each other in public.

It didn’t take long for a member of the public to check out whether the Life Education Trust was really supporting Mike Tyson’s application and find they weren’t.  Why the Minister couldn’t do that, I have no idea.

This is shoddy politicial management.  It demonstrates a government that has taken its eye off the ball and the fiascos just keep rolling on.

We are better than that

Posted by on September 6th, 2012




Tracey Barnett has put together this video and will be talking about the Immigration Amendment Bill (aka Mass Detentions Bill) tonight at the Devonport Library from 7.30pm.

I’m really pleased other people are talking about what this bill means. I have previously posted about my concerns and we do need to talk more about it. The bill has been reported back to parliament and you can read the Select Committee report, including Labour’s minority view here.

Crimestoppers – a new minimum wage enforcer?

Posted by on August 27th, 2012

One of the issues highlighted by the recent stories on migrant worker exploitation was a reluctance to complain about breaches of employment law because of fear around visa issues.

Examples are international students working in excess of their allowed hours of 20 hours a week and those here on work visas that are tied to the business, so they are effectively bonded to that employer – even if they are being paid less than the legal minimum wage.

How does Immigration NZ deal with migrant workers who want to complain about breaches of NZ employment law and minimum wage, but are fearful about the consequences.

They refer you to Crimestoppers and there seems to be no other way to complain. Immigration NZ advertises Crimestoppers up front under  “Report Immigration Fraud“.  You can either fill out an online complaint form which apparently goes to the on line site in the UK or ring their call centre, which is also in the UK.

Crimestoppers is also used by the Police, and probably very effectively, but is this the best alternative for migrant workers, who want to complain about breaches of minimum wage, but who are worried about being stung over their visa?

I’m not sure. Would be interested in your views.

The migrant worker exploitation morass

Posted by on August 19th, 2012

The exploitation of migrant workers has been in the news over the past week and TV1 has done a good job exposing what I believe is just the tip of the iceberg.

This is a problem not just confined a few migrant owned restaurants.  In the last week, I’ve had contacts from people in the home-care industry, the agricultural industry, the construction industry, the tourism industry and people in trades. While some have been migrants, I’ve heard a lot from other workers and businesses who are saying they simply can’t compete where this kind of blatant law breaking is happening.

It’s not only about paying below minimum wage either.  Burger King, the multinational owned business is being taken to the Employment Authority by Unite Union for alleged union busting and discrimination against migrant workers. There’s a litany of stories like this in the migrant community.

The Minister of Labour has ordered a crackdown. That’s good, but it will take an army of Labour Inspectors that our Department of Labour resources won’t run to, especially as they are currently embroiled in the creation of Steven Joyce’s mega ministry monster, MoBIE.  Someone today told me that they have waited seven months to hear back about a case of clear minimum wage breach for a group of migrant workers who were brave enough to seek help.

No-one knows how deep this morass is. I think stamping this out is going to take some effort from of all of us.  We have to expose the poor treatment of migrants and we have to demand action.

I will be.

New Zealand is better than this

Posted by on August 6th, 2012

The Immigration Amendment Bill is nearing its final stages in the Select Committee and will be reported back by September.  This was the bill that appeared from nowhere a couple of months back, right in the middle of the John Banks scandal.  It was a dog whistle John Howard would have been proud of  – designed by the government to divert attention and create a problem in people’s minds that doesn’t exist.  The language in introducing the bill was of “queue jumpers” and “illegal migrants” and  was about creating fear and prejudice.

The bill purports to prepare New Zealand for the unlikely event of a mass arrival (defined in the bill as more than 10 asylum seekers) and enables mass detention for up to six months. The explanatory note in the bill says that  it will “enhance New Zealand’s ability to deter people-smuggling to New Zealand by making it as unattractive as possible to people-smugglers and the people to whom they sell their services”.

But the Bill has no provisions for  sanctions against the activity of people-smuggling, but instead focuses on imposing sanctions on asylum seekers who arrive in New Zealand as part of a deemed “mass arrival”, by contrast with those who do not.

Meanwhile, the government has carried out  “Exercise Barrier” at a cost of $200,000, which apparently tested New Zealand’s systems in the event of a mass arrival.  The very name, “Barrier” and the photos of Customs and other officials pretending this was an SAS like military exercise say a lot.

Submitters on the bill have been overwhelmingly opposed to this bill and will probably be overwhelmingly ignored.

We have been warned that the provisions in this bill could be a political football in the way they have become in Australia. We have also been warned that New Zealand’s international reputation and compliance with the Refugee Convention will come under intense scrutiny.

Canada recently enacted a similar kind of bill.  It was extremely divisive and controversial and it’s probably no coincidence that the Canadian Act’s author, Jason Kenny, visited New Zealand last year and spent time with our Immigration and other Ministers.

New Zealand is better than this.

Something amiss

Posted by on July 27th, 2012

2000 workers have applied for 200 jobs in a Christchurch supermarket, most of them being paid minimum wage, or a dollar or two above if the supermarket is unionised.  200 workers will get a job and that’s a good thing.

But no New Zealanders will get a shot at 110 “Facade Installers” jobs paying a minimum of $18.33 an hour because Immigration New Zealand has granted an “approval in principle” for a company to bring the workers from China, on the basis that there are no New Zealanders easily able to do or be trained to do the work.

From the documents I’ve seen, the company appears to have inflated the pre requisites for the job, saying they require 3 years proven minimum experience in “commercial facade installation”, their advertising has been limited (a few ads on Trademe and Seek) and they’ve made no commitment to training Kiwi workers.  Insiders in the industry tell me that these are jobs that labourers can do, workers are easily trained and the work is pretty basic construction work.  The company has successfully tendered for a range of construction projects without having or training the workforce to perform the work, and they have now turned to the government to rescue them.

I believe Immigration NZ has been shoddy in going along with this.  I asked the Minister of Immigration yesterday in the House whether he was satisfied with the labour market testing requirements and he said he was.

He shouldn’t be.  From time to time we will need migrants to work in New Zealand – especially in areas of skills shortages and in times of high employment.

But this situation doesn’t cut it. It’s not the first I’ve seen, and it won’t be the last unless the government makes a real commitment to Kiwi jobs and training.

And that means the Minister of Immigration paying more attention.

Filed under: Immigration, jobs

Money talks

Posted by on April 27th, 2012

Today we learn that the government caved into another demand from Sir Peter Jackson and Warner Bros which involved bending immigration rules in their favour.

In 2010, Peter Jackson told Government Ministers that Warners were worried about our employment law, because the distinction between “contractors” and “employees” established five years earlier in the Bryson case required employers to treat him as an employee.

Bryson was not an actor, yet we changed the law because Warners said so and in doing so, removed rights for a whole category of workers.

Turns out, it was just one of their demands.

Official Information finally released, shows that the government was only too happy to fall into line with other concerns, such as the alleged visa “blockages” for overseas performers.

And hey presto : changes have been made. And they don’t only apply to actors – they apply to everyone working in the industry.

I seem to recall John Key saying this was about New Zealand jobs.

But secret deals in immigration processes like this completely undermine our immigration systems and are unfair to Kiwi workers.

The integrity of our immigration system stands or falls on transparency, but this latest revelation adds to a trend of giving privileges to the better off and a willingness to bend the rules when money is involved.

Update: You can view the OIA request here.

Shhhh – that wasn’t the real BIM

Posted by on March 5th, 2012

National is planning a raft of changes around immigration that somehow seem to have been ‘left out’ of last month’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Immigration (BIM).

There’s a post-BIM BIM – a secret Briefing titled Issues and decisions for the first 100 days, which was prepared for new Immigration Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Minister Kate Wilkinson.

It reveals, among other things, Government plans to tighten up requirements for family members seeking residency in New Zealand, with preference to be given to the better off. Parents seeking residency in New Zealand to be with their children will face tougher tests according to the income levels of both themselves and their children. Parents whose families have higher incomes will go straight to the front of the queue in a  ‘Tier One’ category and face less stringent eligibility tests, while those less well off will be ranked ‘Tier Two’ and will face tougher conditions and longer waiting times.

There are already tough measures around the parent category.  They have to be sponsored and supported for at least five years. There’s a waiting list and defined numbers.  National made it even harder last year with its new “Parent Retirement Categories” which allows rich people to retire in New Zealand and be given preference over others.

The Adult Child and Sibling Category will be abolished altogether. These changes were signed off by Cabinet in May 2011, yet there was no mention of them in the publicly released Briefing to the Incoming Minister.

It  seems that only those with pot loads of money are welcome in our country.  We roll out the red carpet for people for them, to the extent we are prepared to change our laws and sell off our land.

There’s much more required for family reunification and good settlement outcomes than money, but that’s becoming the only criteria that matters.

But shhhh, it’s a secret, and you will only be told when the Minister decides you should be.

Paying attention

Posted by on January 29th, 2012

The government has been asked to explain the inconsistency between the decision in Kim Dotcom’s residency application (which was granted) and his application to buy more than five hectares of New Zealand land (which was denied). Some might say that Jonathan Coleman should have paid more attention when  he was advised by Immigration NZ of their decision to waive the good character requirements for Mr Dotcom’s Investor Plus residency application. Others might say that alarm bells should have rung when Ministers Maurice Williamson and Simon Power overturned the decision by the OIO to enable Mr Dotcom to purchase properties in New Zealand because he didn’t meet the good character test.

John Key says it’s an “anomaly” and he’s looking into that.  Okay.

But here we see Key telling us in this video that the first time he’d heard of Kim Dotcom (who lives in John Key’s electorate) was when the Solicitor General advised him of the pending raid the night before.

However, some of his constituents, who live on the same road as Kim Dotcom say they contacted John Key’s Huapai office several times to complain about the dangerous driving of  Kim’s mates on their road and to express concerns about his residency and the OIO approval. Another neighbour of Mr Dotcom’s requested a meeting with John Key to discuss his concerns, but got absolutely nowhere. They’re a bit confused about John Key’s response.  Either their concerns weren’t passed on, or they were ignored.

I know our Prime Minister’s a busy and important man, but he also has responsibilities to his constituents and they were entitled to expect his interest.

Sometimes paying attention matters, even when you are the Prime Minister.

New portfolio – tell me what you think

Posted by on January 2nd, 2012

As you will have seen from Labour leader David Shearer’s recent reshuffle, all MPs, ranked or not, have been given significant portfolios.

I’ve got two portfolios – one I’ve had for the past year (labour) and a new one (immigration), both of which I am pleased to have been given.

Immigration is closely associated with labour market issues, so there are many questions.  For example  :

  1. Have we got the balance right between the need for skilled workers, and the growing skills gap among New Zealanders?
  2. When we bring skilled migrants to New Zealand, do we treat them fairly? (Lianne wrote an excellent piece on this last year)
  3. Are we taking the easy option in cases when it seems too hard to get Kiwis to work in low wage jobs – ie aged care and other caregiving work?
  4. Are our schemes, such as the RSE scheme working well, or are there things we could do better?
  5. Have the government’s schemes such as Immigration Plus or the Immigration Retirement Package for wealthy immigrants delivered?
  6. And the biggie : why does Australia continue to attract skilled migrants from New Zealand and what should be done about it?

Let me make it clear.  I’m not into attacking immigrant communities, or doing a Winston Peters. Immigration has been an essential part of New Zealand history and the building of our nation. We all came from somewhere else, whether it was in the last two centuries, or hundreds of years ago.  We all have family stories, some recent and some from times past.  They all contributed to who we are as Kiwis today, and will continue to do so.

But I am interested in how we do things better, more openly, more fairly and more transparently.

So your views are very welcome.

Are you a lazy and unmotivated NZ worker?

Posted by on August 8th, 2011

Because this farmer says you are.

According to Mr Bloem, who is a long term pig farmer, productivity has soared since he employed Filipino workers at its Highcliff piggery and his operation is producing an extra 1500 pigs a year from the same number of sows.

He had become frustrated with New Zealand workers who were “lazy, unmotivated and didn’t want to go the extra mile to learn anything”.

“In the end, I had nothing to lose,” he said.

This farmer was given a contact in the Phillipines through his pig-breeding company, and the contact’s uncle, brother-in-law and nephew came to work on the property about 2007.

Two of the Filipino workers remain on the property, while a third has moved on but has been replaced. Mr Bloem says they were all quick learners and very motivated to get excellence performance.

Mr Bloem says that in all his years as a pig farmer, there were probably only four or five staff that he would previously have considered worthwhile to send for further training. He encouraged training and one of his Filipino workers, Jimmy Malit, recently achieved a herd manager qualification through industry training organisation AgITO.

I don’t doubt Mr Bloem’s claim that the  Pork Industry is tough going. And I have no doubt that Filipino workers are motivated to work hard and do well so they can stay in New Zealand.

But additional questions for Mr Bloem I have include :

  • How much do you pay your workers?
  • How do you treat your workers?
  • How do you help ensure they have a future in the industry they can be part of, and proud of?

I’m not prejudging the answers.  I’m just saying that in my experience, NZ (and all) workers are only “lazy and unmotivated” where they are paid poorly and treated badly.

Or have I got that wrong?  Should they just be grateful to have a job?

I have no problem with skilled overseas workers coming to work in New Zealand.  But we need to ask questions where workers from other countries are doing the work no New Zealander will do because of low wages and poor treatment.

Immigration for innovation, lessons from NY

Posted by on July 5th, 2011

Here’s some smart thinking by the Mayor Bloomberg of New York City. Something I think we should copy.

…”The Mayor proposed green cards for graduates with advanced degrees in essential fields; a new visa for entrepreneurs with investors ready to invest capital in their job-creating idea; more temporary and permanent visas for highly skilled workers…The Mayor also announced the results of a study conducted by the Partnership for a New American Economy – a bipartisan group of business leaders and mayors from across the country – that found more than 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants or the children of immigrants and those companies employ more than 10 million people worldwide and have combined revenues of $4.2 trillion.”

A resident permit for every foreign graduate with qualifications that we value and need, especially those who complete studies here. Not only smart, educated immigrants with skills we want who have also gotten to know NZ while here, but those with valuable links back to their home countries. A no brainer?

It’s a cracker

Posted by on June 25th, 2011

Come home John Clarke. If I say it often enough will he hear me?

Big Australia

Posted by on April 30th, 2011

You may have heard of the Big Australia policy – a push for Australia’s population to stretch from 22m to 35m by 2050. One of its key advocates is demographer Bernard Salt who yesterday addressed ACPAC, the conference of Australasian public accounts committees, meeting in Perth, which as an FEC member I am attending with chair Craig Foss.

Salt peppered his address with plenty of NZ references. How we parallel Australia in farm aggregation pushing us to increasingly live on or near the coast, how we face a ‘man drought’ – from about age 22 there are more females than males, peaking at age 35 with a 12% disparity. ( A key part of that being more young Kiwi men than women heading to Australia, in particular, for higher paid work. Salt noted that we have around 550,000 NZers living in Australia and if you tote up the rest, the thick end of one million Kiwis living overseas.

Meanwhile, 2011 sees the first baby boomers turning 65 and able to retire with a pension.  For Australia that means while last year it had a net gain of 250.000 people coming into the workforce, this year it’s only at best 150,000. Maintaining any net gain of workers vs retirees each year can only be maintained if Australia keeps up its acceptance of migrants.

Salt notes that when Japan’s demographic fault line occured in 1994 – more retiring than starting work – the Japanese economy stalled and has never recovered. Baby boomer Australians can now expect to live till 85 on average; 40 years ago it was 72. NZ figures will be similar. My dad died last year at 91; he had been retired 30 years.

Salt argues that Australia needs to actively boost its acceptance of migration to meet increasing life expectancy, to prop up the tax base, fill gaps in the skills base,  meet some humanitarian obligations – and bluntly, because taking 20-somethings that some other country has educated means getting 40 years of work for no earlier costs. (And yes, while this can be seen as “robbing’ third world countries, he maintains that the world is going to get more brutal in competition for resources, and many who chose to live in Australia will repatriate funds home.)

Some big issues here for us to consider. Immigration has long been a key driver of maintaining NZ’s economic growth. I’ve long thought one of the problems is that too many migrants head for Auckland and put infrastructure, the environment and housing costs under further pressure. If there were a mechanism to encourage more migrants into the areas where NZ is depopulating – rural communities, some provincial cities – we would get a win/win; population growth where it’s more needed and better use of public assets at some risk, such as schools and hospitals. I put this to Salt after his address. Turns out he has written recently on the issue and believes there is a case for encouraging migrants who agree to live for a few years in rural/provincial areas. Sure, once they gained permanent residence or citizenship they would be free to live anywhere – but some are likely to have put down roots. Personally there are few parts of NZ which I couldn’t see myself living, if for example, family connections drew me to it.  

I’m not convinced we need a ‘Big New Zealand’ policy. I’d prefer to see us drawing back some of those near 1 million expatriate Kiwis. We did get a boost when the global recession happened but frankly, it’s a big ask with wage rate differentials of 30% across the Tasman. Migration tailed off as a result of the recession but will undoubtedly pick up at some point.  

Steering more new arrivals into areas other than Auckland, especially some of our rural towns and cities, would seem to make sense.

How is closing the gap with Aussie going John

Posted by on February 20th, 2011

Bernard Hickey has good piece pointing to serious problems if we can’t reverse the drain of our best qualified most highly productive people offshore.

A hole has quietly opened up in our population and economy. That hole should make home builders, shopkeepers, economists, politicians and elderly voters very nervous.

If it remains New Zealand’s economy faces some ugly choices within the next 10 to 20 years.

Demography expert Professor Natalie Jackson from Waikato University identified this population gap at a symposium for chief financial officers this week in Auckland.

She showed how a significant proportion of those aged 15 to 19 in 2006 had left the country in the past four years.

Jackson displayed a bar chart showing how a chunk of the age group that should have flowed through unchanged from one era to the next has simply upped and left.

The signs are many more are leaving than is usual and they are returning at a much reduced rate than in the past.

Here’s an Idea Minister – sort the muddle

Posted by on December 22nd, 2010

Thousands of carers employed by Idea Services will have to wait until February for the Court of Appeal’s decision on the sleepover case, where the Attorney General and IHC are appealing an Employment Court decision that ruled that sleeping over on an employer’s premises and being on call was “work” and should be paid the hourly minimum wage of $12.75 per hour.

But while the appeal drags on, there’s confusion between government departments about how to apply the Employment Court ruling.

On the one hand, existing workers continue to perform sleepovers at the fixed allowance of $34 a night, while the Department of Labour keeps its head down.

On the other hand, Immigration NZ is refusing to allow overseas workers  to work for Idea Services because they are “not complying with New Zealand employment laws” – specifically the Minimum Wage Act. They are applying this to both work permits and residency applications.

One young woman who has been in New Zealand for ten years studying and working as a Mental Health and Disability Support worker  had her application for residence turned down for this very reason.  She had a job offer from Idea Services, but her residency application based on her qualifications and job offer from Idea Services was rejected because “Idea Services is not complying with employment laws and therefore her employment creates unacceptable risks to the integrity of New Zealand’s laws and policies.”

Technically, Immigration NZ are correct.  Under policy SM7.20 : requirements for employers, all employers wishing to employ non-New Zealand citizens or residents must pay employees no less than the appropriate adult minimum wage or other contracted industry standard.”  I support this policy strongly, but how bizarre that one arm of government (Immigration NZ) says it’s not okay for Idea Services to employ workers in breach of the law, yet the other (Department of Labour) appears to think it is.

I’ve written to the Minister about the young woman’s case because either Idea Services is breaking the law, or it isn’t and there needs to be consistent application by government departments. She needs to sort this muddle out.

As for the government –  it’s joined the appeal and is poised to amend the Minimum Wage Act should the appeal fail, to avoid having to cough up the millions that will be needed for the backpay owed to New Zealand workers who continue to work for less than minimum wage.

Not much Xmas cheer for Idea Services workers.

Silly idea number 10 – what do you think?

Posted by on August 26th, 2010

Come up with the idea that lots of rich people would like to retire to Godzone and bring their money with them. Ignore strong official advice to the contrary.

Announce with due fanfare. Wait 3 months. Discover that only 12 have applied (of whom 7 were coming anyway), and that none have yet been granted.


I think this idea is –

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