New Zealand’s migrant boom is good news for Māori. It empowers us

In many ways, the Maori have played a similar role to French Canada forcing recognition that there is not one monolithic identity and the need for compromise, however imperfect, between different groups.

While in general there does not appear to be much tension in Canada between Indigenous peoples and newcomers, there is a need for greater understanding among newcomers (and indeed among all Canadians) regarding Indigenous peoples and the issues.

I would expect, should the newly re-elected Liberal government get around to it, the replacement to the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, will be far richer in its account of Indigenous peoples:

In April 2003, the year New Zealand’s population hit 4 million, statisticians were predicting the country would hit at 4.8 million people in 2046. As in Europe and North America the country’s birth rate was falling, and no one quite knew whether mass immigration would – or even could – continue at pace. Instead, the pressing concern at the time was how to reverse the brain drain.

In the mid-2000s almost 40,000 New Zealanders were upping sticks each year. Miners and truck drivers were packing their bags for Queensland’s mining boom. Bankers and lawyers were taking up plum jobs in London. Teachers, nurses, and other public servants were comparing what they made in Wellington with what they might make in Washington or Ottawa.

And in that very brief moment it felt as if New Zealandwas topping out. In 2008, the aspiring prime minister John Key took a camera crew to the capital city’s 35,000-seat stadium to illustrate just how big mass emigration was. The implication? We were, to repurpose a dangerous phrase, sending our best – to the US and beyond.

But the consensus among the commentariat was that Key’s stadium stunt was just that – a stunt – and even if he and his party came to power there was precious little they could do to reverse what was the natural order of things: a stronger Australian economy, its gravitational pull drawing in more and more New Zealanders.

Of course the commentators were right. The Australian economy remains stronger on most measures, and mass emigration was still a problem in the Key government’s early years. But one thing no one was anticipating was just how quickly the government would compensate for the brain drain with mass immigration.

In 2017, the Key government’s final year in power, net migration (the difference between those coming in or immigrating, including returning New Zealanders, and those going out or emigrating) was at a record 72,300. In 2015, net migration was at 58,000 and in 2013 it was a little shy of 50,000.

These are small numbers for countries such as Australia or the UK, sure, but for this country it was momentous. In the 20 years to 2014, average net migration to New Zealand was only 13,300.

And this year the country will reach another population landmark: 5 million people. It took more than 20 years to grow from 2 million to 3 million. It took 30 years for it to grow from 3 to 4 million. It took only 16 years to reach 5 million. And we are, because of that growth, a country transformed.

Population growth and the capital that comes with it aretransforming the Auckland skyline. Tradespeople from Asia, the Philippines especially, are in good part responsible for rebuilding Christchurch after the devastating earthquake in 2011. Tourism and dairy, New Zealand’s leading export industries, are thriving off the back of migrant labour.

You can spot the transformation in schools, workplaces and universities, and the streets as well. Māori make up 16.5% of the population, up from 15% in 2013. We’re present in every part of the country’s private and public life, and in a way that was unthinkable half a century ago.

Māori make up 23% of MPs – a disproportionate share – and Māori lead or co-lead every sitting parliamentary party, bar Jacinda Ardern’s Labour. It’s fashionable to imagine New Zealand as a 1950s Britain – the temperate climate, a buttoned-down national character, and the things that were best about Britain like a cradle-to-grave welfare system – but in reality this is a Māori country.

For a very brief moment in the 80s that fact was at the heart of New Zealand’s constitution. The government understood the country as “bicultural”. Two peoples were in partnership, Māori and the European settlers who came after, and we’d run the show as equals. Sure, there was a gap – sometimes even a chasm – between promise and practice, but the aspiration was there.

The problem, though, is mass immigration from the 90s onwards quickly made biculturalism unworkable. In 2019, Asian peoples make up 15% of the population and Pacific peoples another 8%. In this new country only one kind of culturalism works: multi.

For people who oppose Māori reasserting their claim on political powerthis is great news. Māori are just one minority among many, the opponents insist, claiming they’re not even indigenous. But for the small number of Māori who tie their political claims to their demographic power it’s quite terrible. On current trends Asian peoples will overtake Māori as the second-largest ethnic group in New Zealand. This is an “ethnic-cultural tension point”, as the country’s leading demographer put it, confirming that in every settler colony, population politics is toxic.

Except when it isn’t. The truth is immigration isn’t diminishing Māori claims on political power. It’s strengthening those claims, pushing each one forward. At Ihumātaohundreds of land protectors are occupying the historic site and reclaiming it for the local tribes. Among the occupiers are groups such as “Asians for Tino Rangatiratanga” meaning Asians for Māori political power. Visitors to the land and supporters of the occupation include west African Islamic scholars, Cook Islands royalty, and indigenous Taiwanese people.

This is what sets New Zealand apart – and maybe above – other countries in the Anglosphere. Māori rights aren’t contingent on their status as a (growing) minority. Population power doesn’t secure our rights. The Treaty of Waitangi does. The country’s founding document reaffirms Māori political power (in the treaty’s own words it reaffirms our “tino rangatiratanga”). And equally so the treaty protects migrants, guaranteeing that New Zealand is their place to stand as well. The only thing the treaty expects of them is to recognise and respect Māori political power. The bargain is that simple and, if Ihumātao is any guide, it’s one that migrants are more than willing to make. This is the reason I’m so happy about New Zealand at 5 million.

Source: New Zealand’s migrant boom is good news for Māori. It empowers us

Australian citizenship law change affecting New Zealanders, high commissioner says

Tens of thousands of long-term residents could fail the new test, triggering the deportation process, a parliamentary inquiry heard on Monday.

The new migration rules will give the minister or his or her delegate a new discretionary power to cancel a visa if a person is convicted of certain offences, punishable by a maximum of two years in jail.

Offences include assault, using or possessing weapons, sex crimes or breaching an apprehended violence order.

A person will fail the character test if convicted of one of these offences, regardless of the actual length of the sentence imposed.

The test will also apply retrospectively, meaning the offence to trigger the reconsideration could have occurred decades ago.

New Zealand high commissioner Dame Annette King told the Senate’s legal affairs committee 2014 changes to visa rules which lowered the threshold for cancellations on character grounds had incurred a “disproportionate” impact on Kiwis living in Australia.

New Zealanders made up 10 per cent of the foreign born population but 50 per cent of deportations.

By comparison, only 1 per cent of New Zealand’s deportations were Australians.

“We don’t believe our community is less safe than Australia’s,” Dame Annette said.

She said Australia’s tightening migration rules had “become a rub and corrosive to our relationship”.

She urged the government to revert to the pre-2014 rules.

“If that is not possible we would like special consideration of New Zealanders living in Australia, because of the relationship, it is not like any other relationship,” Dame Annette said.

The Law Council of Australia also raised concerns that previous expansions of the power had not only led to more deportations, but greater ministerial intervention.

The number of via cancellations on character grounds rose by 1400 per cent between 2013 and 2017, the council said,

“The character test expansions have led not only to more cancellations but also a greater use of the minister’s personal powers, not only through section 501 but also through section 195A, which enables the minister to grant visas to detainees even where a section 501 cancellation has taken place,” its submission said.

“This is an inefficient use of ministerial time. Detainees must remain in prolonged detention while the department and the minister consider such matters.”

But Department of Home Affairs officials said the new rules were required to set an “objective, transparent” threshold for visas to be cancelled.

“I’d like to be clear that the consequences of not meeting this subjective threshold is that there would be further consideration of a discretionary power to refuse or cancel a visa where a non-citizen is convicted of a designated offence,” acting first assistant secretary of the immigration policy division, Michael Willard said.

“It’s important to note the conviction itself does not result in the automatic cancellation of the visa or a refusal of the visa and there’s a separate process for consideration of using this discretion that delegates or the minister would undertake.”

Head of the community protection division, Sachi Wimmer, said while it was impossible to say how many of Australia’s 1.9 million permanent visaholders would be captured by the changes, the department was bracing for an increase in referrals.

Source: Australian citizenship law change affecting New Zealanders, high commissioner says

Australia: ‘You don’t belong here’: A Muslim MP on racism in politics

Of note:

It’s true what they say. Some Australians would rather have our prime minister than theirs. They looked across the Tasman after the March 15 terror attack in Christchurch and saw what Australian politician Mehreen Faruqi​ calls “authentic, compassionate leadership”.

Faruqi is a Green Party senator for New South Wales. In 2013, she became the first Muslim woman ever elected to an Australian parliament. When March 15 happened, shock and devastation were followed by mourning, because it all seemed very close to home. It could so easily have happened there. Faruqi remembers her first speech in the senate was about the normalisation and legitimisation of hate, and the people it was hurting.

“I felt it very close to my heart when Jacinda Ardern said, ‘You belong here’,” Faruqi says. “That’s what we were waiting to hear from many people. What we’ve always heard is, ‘You don’t belong here, get out of my country’.”

Born in Pakistan, Faruqi moved to Australia 27 years ago. It is home for her, she stresses. It is where she studied, where her children grew up. But she has seen the mood worsen since the early 1990s. Muslims became an obvious target after 2001, and Muslim women seem to bear a disproportionate amount of the abuse. It is a “toxic mix of sexism and racism” that manifests for Faruqi as online bullying and harassment, hate mail and abusive phone calls.

“I’ve had my face photoshopped onto Isis flags,” she wrote in the Guardian in February. “I’m now used to the tabloid media amplifying lies about me and other Muslims for clickbait.”

“It doesn’t matter what I say or do,” she says. “It could be something I’ve said in support of public education, women’s rights or animal welfare, but it always ends up being about my race or where I come from or what I look like. It seems that for some I’ll never be Australian enough.”

​Faruqi came to Christchurch to pay respects and show solidarity with those affected by the mosque attacks before heading to Auckland for a conference on racism on Friday, organised by Shakti Community Council. Other participants include Green MP Golriz Ghahraman​, whose experience of being targeted by online trolls “is very similar to mine and other women of colour in public life”.

Faruqi is looking forward to comparing notes with Ghahraman. As far as overcoming racism goes, she agrees that there is more Australia can learn from New Zealand than the reverse. A lack of diversity is a major problem in Australian politics.

“Our parliaments don’t actually look like our streets or suburbs. Politicians often highlight that we are one of the most multicultural countries in the world but our representation should be reflective of that multiculturalism.”

Another problem she notices is a lack of understanding of the diversity of Muslim communities. There is a lazy assumption that Islam is not compatible with the freedoms of liberal democracy. It is the clash of civilisations theory – see all the Right-wing agitators warning about Sharia law.

“As a Muslim, I grew up with strong values of social justice, kindness, compassion and equality for all,” she says. “Those values brought me into politics and a party like the Greens. I’ve never been shy as a Muslim of talking about rights for LGBTQI people. I brought the first bill in the history of New South Wales to decriminalise abortion.

“There is a very negative stereotype of what Muslims are and what they look like. Often we are presented as ‘the Muslim community’, like a monolith. We are as wild and wonderful as any other community.”

Source: ‘You don’t belong here’: A Muslim MP on racism in politics

Our Brother, Our Executioner

Good commentary by Aziz:

Whenever someone used to ask me if I was Muslim, I often gave an evasive answer, something like, “I was born Muslim” or “My parents are Muslim.”

It was a strange way to phrase it. I told myself that the purpose of this hairsplitting was intellectual clarity, despite the fact that I had attended a mosque my entire childhood, that I had read the Quran in both Arabic and English, and that I felt personally connected to the history of Islam. Perhaps this was the natural recourse for someone who came of age after 9/11 and was taught to retreat into invisibility because of the dangers of being Muslim. I knew, in my heart, that I was drawing the distinction only to appear safer to white people, to show that I was one of the good ones, worthy of belonging.

This was not just respectability politics: It was an act of self-erasure.

On Friday, nearly 50 of my fellow Muslims were massacred in cold blood in New Zealand. Not murdered but lynched, their deaths live-streamed to the sound of laughter. I long ago ceased to feel shocked at the violence directed against my community. But the heartbreak still comes.

The killer knew which day to pick. Friday is the Islamic Sabbath, when Muslims gather in the mosque to bow their heads in devotion to the divine. As they prayed, they might have been thinking about their children at school or what to make for dinner, unaware that soon their loved ones would be washing their bodies in accordance with Islamic tradition, preparing for the funeral prayer, the only one in Islam that has no Athan, or call to prayer, because the Athan was recited into their ears when they were born. When these Muslims saw the white stranger enter the mosque, they would have had the Islamic greeting on their tongues: “Assalamu alaikum.” Peace be upon you.

We know from the terrorist’s recording that one of his first victims welcomed him with the words “Hello, brother.” Muslims have long been depicted as an uncivilized, warlike people, but the opposite is true. We want to belong, to be good neighbors, to call the white man who enters our place of worship our brother. Instead he turned out to be our executioner.

The Muslims at the two New Zealand mosques were liquidated not just by a man filled with hatred, but by the ideas that he clung to, ideas about racial superiority and who his country belonged to. This was true in Quebec, when Muslims were gunned down in their mosque in 2017. It was true in Pittsburgh, when Jews who had been helping Muslim refugees were murdered in their synagogue in 2018. It was true in Norway, when 77 people were killed by a white bigot. It was true in Charleston, when black churchgoers were mowed down by another radicalized white man. A pathology of hatred has spread around the world, and it has put all our lives at risk.

Islamophobia is not a fringe problem: It is embedded in much of Western society. For over two decades now — the span of an entire generation — the whole Muslim community has been forced to accept collective guilt and punishment for every act of terror or violence committed by one of its members. Never would, or should, this standard be applied to white people, who seem to have kept the privilege of individual differentiation for themselves.

This is what those who are suspicious of Muslims cannot grasp: that the definition of racism is an inability to discriminate between the old man with the skullcap and beard before you and the suicide-bomber you saw on TV.

And yet people with millions of online followers have been incessantly preaching that Islamophobia is not the problem; Islam is. The Canadian intellectual Jordan Peterson has said that Islamophobia is a “word created by fascists.” The neuroscientist Sam Harris called it an “intellectual blood libel” that serves only to shield Islam from criticism. After I wrote a series of articles critical of Mr. Harris, a young white man from California emailed me to tell me he carried a gun — what kind did I carry? he asked.

If Islam is the problem, perhaps we should keep an eye on these Muslims. Send patrols into their neighborhoods. Make them prove that they are not terrorists. Ban them, as President Trump wanted. Ideas are not harmless: They are taken seriously by thousands of people. If only one person applies these deranged ideas about the other to the real world, we get a mass-murder like the one we just witnessed.

I greet a neighbor; he smiles and wishes me a good day. How do I know that once he turns on his computer, he isn’t pumping himself full of hatred of me and my people, raging in the dark cesspools of the web, venting his frustration that we even exist, and how dare we try and belong? Racism begins with ideas. It ends with violence.

When I saw the news from New Zealand, and thought of the number of times I have erased my Muslim identity, I shook with anger. When I thought of the number of times I have let casual racism toward Muslims slide, so not to come off as threatening, I shuddered in anguish. There was a time when I was ashamed of my religion, ashamed of my heritage. Now I am ashamed only of having once felt this way.

“If one is attacked as a Jew,” Hannah Arendt wrote, “one must defend oneself as a Jew.” When you are attacked as a Muslim, you must respond as a Muslim. And today, we are all Muslims — all of us who are committed to the light of our civilization, to peace, to saving our society from the primitive barbarism of such poisoned, inadequate minds.

Omer Aziz is the author of the forthcoming “Brown Boy: A Story of Race, Religion, and Inheritance.”

Germany, New Zealand approaches to citizenship revocation for strip IS fighters – Statelessness

Both countries provide an exception for those who would be left stateless and appear to be applying that consistently unlike recent cases in the UK (Begum) and Australia (Prakash).

Starting with Germany:

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have agreed a plan to strip some Germans who fight for the Islamic State militant group of their citizenship, a German newspaper reported on Sunday.

More than 1,000 Germans have left their country for war zones in the Middle East since 2013 and the government has been debating how to deal with them as U.S.-backed forces are poised to take the last patch of territory from Islamic State in Syria.

About a third have returned to Germany, another third are believed to have died, and the rest are believed to be still in Iraq and Syria, including some detained by Iraqi forces and U.S.-backed fighters in Syria. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, citing unnamed government sources, said three criteria must be met to allow the government to denaturalise Germans who take up arms for the Islamist group.

Such individuals must have a second citizenship, be adults and they would be stripped of their citizenship should they fight for Islamic State after the new rules go into effect.

The compromise ends a dispute over the issue between conservative Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and SPD Justice Minister Katarina Barley.

Spokesmen for both ministers were not available to comment on the report.

U.S. President Donald Trump last month urged Britain, France and Germany to take back more than 800 captured Islamic State fighters and put them on trial.

Germany said it would take back fighters only if the suspects have consular access.

Last month Britain revoked the citizenship of a teenager who had left London when she was aged 15 to join Islamic State in Syria.

The case of Shamima Begum highlighted the security, legal and ethical dilemmas facing European governments dealing with citizens who had sworn allegiance to a group determined to destroy the West.

Source: Germany to strip IS fighters of citizenship under certain criteria – report

New Zealand:

A New Zealand man detained in Syria after joining the Islamic State militant group will not be stripped of citizenship but could face criminal charges if he returns, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

New Zealand is the latest of a number of countries, from Australia and Britain to the United States, forced to grapple with legal and security challenges in dealing with former members of a hardline group that had sworn to destroy the West.

Mark Taylor, who traveled to Syria in 2014, told Australian broadcaster ABC from a prison in the Kurdish-run north that he expected to face time in prison if he returned to New Zealand.

Taylor’s joining the group was illegal and could have legal ramifications, Ardern said, but added that her government would provide him with a travel document to return, if possible.

“We have long had plans in place in the event that a New Zealand citizen supporting ISIS in Syria were to return,” Ardern told reporters, using an alternative name for the group.

“Mr Taylor only holds New Zealand citizenship and the government has an obligation not to make people stateless.”

Ardern said officials had identified that a small number of New Zealanders had joined IS, but declined to give an exact number.

New Zealand law allows revocation of citizenship only in limited situations, Ardern said, adding that the government could not render stateless anyone who did not have dual citizenship.Officials had told Taylor he would need to travel to a country where New Zealand has a diplomatic presence, such as Turkey, to receive an emergency travel document to return, said Ardern, adding that would be difficult as he is in detention.

In an interview aired on Monday, Taylor told the ABC that he had worked as a guard for the group for five years and had been detained in its prisons a number of times, such as after he accidentally leaked location details in a tweet in 2015.

He also appeared in an IS promotional video that year, calling for attacks on ANZAC Day celebrations in Australia and New Zealand.

Taylor told ABC he had witnessed executions while with the group and was sorry.

“I don’t know if I can go back to New Zealand, but at the end of the day it’s really something I have to live with for the rest of my life,” he said.

In February, Britain said it was revoking the citizenship of 19-year-old Shamima Begum, who had left London with two school friends to join up when she was 15, but now sought to return with her newborn son.

Source: New Zealand Islamic State recruit will not be stripped of citizenship


Racism, citizenship and schooling: why we still have some way to go

Interesting article on the Australian and New Zealand experience with education approaches for Indigenous peoples. Spoiler alert, the better model is New Zealand with the Maori (I was always impressed when my New Zealand diplomatic counterparts would be both in English and Maori):

At a Senate Estimates hearing in May, LNP Senator Ian MacDonald saidhe found it difficult to find any but “very rare” cases of racism in Australia. Though, he did concede perhaps this view had developed “living in a bubble”. Bubbles are dangerous places from which to make public policy.

MacDonald may not have had personal experiences of racism, but 20% of Australians have experienced racism in the past 12 months due to the colour of their skin, ethnic origin or religion.

Racism means people experience citizenship differently. It means opportunities and capacities are not equally available to every citizen and egalitarian justice, the idea of a “fair go” for everyone, doesn’t work as it’s intended.

Racism divides societies and fractures the idea of common nationhood. It helps explain why some people don’t get a fair go at school, for example.

Racism and school policy

Schools operate outside MacDonald’s bubble. But they aren’t ideologically neutral.

Historically, education policy was explicit. Schools were not meant to work for Indigenous people. In the 1890s, inferior curriculums were officially circulated for Indigenous people.

By 1937, the idea of inherent Indigenous intellectual inferiority remained. A parliamentary committee heard and ignored arguments for better schooling:

I say that a full-blood can be educated just as well as a half-caste or non-Aboriginal…I say they must have qualified teachers…At present they are not qualified…

Indigenous people could be excluded from New South Wales public schools until 1972.

Separate schools for Indigenous peoples were established to meet the requirement for education set out by the Aboriginal Protection Acts. But education was usually for domestic service or labouring, and often marked by physical and sexual abuse.

Exclusion is the lived experience of some of the parents of Indigenous people who are in school now. As well as being a denial of equal human worth, the experience of racism at school directly predicts lower test scores.

Racism also occurs at other levels of the education system. For example, in 2017, an Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association member survey found 60% of Indigenous doctors and medical students had experienced racism and/or bullying during training.

Education and culture are universal human rights. But when some people can bring their knowledge, experiences and worldviews to school and others can’t, it produces systemic discrimination. It means different people get different levels of access to education.

Who decides what knowledge counts

Canadian multicultural political theorist Will Kymlicka argues:

the state unavoidably promotes certain cultural identities and thereby disadvantages others. This may be true, but the state can also intentionally promote some cultural identities at the exclusion of others.

In 2008, Julia Gillard insisted bilingual schooling discontinue in the Northern Territory. It was an ideological position that undervalued the relationships between language, cultural identity and intellectual development. Nor did it consider that there are broader and more important contributors to school effectiveness such as teacher quality.

The question of who decides what knowledge counts for Indigenous people is also important. Can Indigenous people really be equal citizens if they can’t contribute to these decisions?

Again in 2008, a Northern Territory government submission to an inquiry into the Northern Territory Intervention made it clear even the citizen’s right to go to school was conditioned by systematic racism.

According to a government submission, policy measures to combat truancy were problematic because if they worked, the system would not be able to cope with the anticipated increase in school attendance. The failure of this policy was expected and accepted for Indigenous citizens.

Where are we now?

In Australia and elsewhere in 2018, policy rhetoric allows Indigenous peoples to pursue higher aspirations. It insists on fundamental human equality and aims to shift MacDonald’s observation from the naive to the prophetic. Eliminating racism from public policy means positive difference is a reasonable expectation of citizenship.

Everybody should enjoy the same political capacities to influence what happens at school, why and for whose benefit. The claim for influence, as a capacity of citizenship, inspires the contemporary call for a guaranteed Indigenous voice to parliament.

But diminishing racism and the policy failure that it causes requires Indigenous voice at all levels of public policy-making and implementation. Culture counts not just in classroom practices, but also in policy evaluation.

There are, for example, important arguments of equal citizenship for Indigenous policy makers to examine the apparent contradiction between low Indigenous achievement in NAPLAN and the only Closing the Gap target on track to be met – halving the gap in year 12 attainment by 2020. Policy failure can be reduced by replicating examples of success.

What does work?

In 2016, a National Health and Medical Research Council forum proposed establishing an Aboriginal community-controlled education sector. This would parallel the 143 existing community-controlled health organisations and contribute to a citizenship of influence.

The Indigenous Stronger Smarter Institute’s educational principlesreflect an expectation that schools must work equally well for everybody; that education should occur on principles of equal citizenship. This includes acknowledging and embracing a positive sense of identity, Indigenous leadership in schools and school communities, and having high expectations for Indigenous staff and students.

The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership provides examples of these principles working in practice to improve Indigenous achievement. But the institute’s listed instances of “what works” are not generally measures that have been trialled, evaluated and replicated across whole school systems.

All New Zealand schools are evaluated explicitly and publicly on Maori achievement and their efforts to improve it. Many have raised Maori achievement with reference to an Effective Teaching Profile developed by the Maori led Te Kotahitanga research and teacher professional development project. Its six presumptions are that:

  • teachers care for their students as culturally located human beings above all else
  • teachers care for the performance of their students
  • teachers are able to create a secure, well-managed learning environment
  • teachers are able to engage in effective teaching interactions with Māori students as Māori
  • teachers can use strategies that promote effective teaching interactions and relationships with their learners
  • teachers promote, monitor and reflect on outcomes that in turn lead to improvements in educational achievement for Māori students.

Te Kotahitanga and its successor professional development programmes are widely implemented and the Coalition Government Agreementbetween the Labour and New Zealand First parties commits to further investment in the project.

The contrast between Australia and New Zealand is ultimately one of expectations about what it means to be an Indigenous citizen entitled to a “fair go” as racism’s opposite.

Source: Racism, citizenship and schooling: why we still have some way to go

DIA suggested tightening of the rules after Peter Thiel citizenship |

More background on the advice involved and the way the government was played:

The Department of Internal Affairs suggested a tightening of the rules around ministerial grants of citizenship after the case of tech billionaire Peter Thiel came to light.

Then-minister Peter Dunne was interested in the proposed reforms, which included an open citizenship register, but did not manage to enact them before leaving Government.

It emerged in early 2017 that Thiel, a controversial backer of US President Donald Trump, had gained New Zealand citizenship despite spending only 12 days in the country as a resident. Potential citizens usually have to spend at least 1350 days in the country over a period of five years.

In 2011 then-Internal Affairs Minister Nathan Guy had granted him the citizenship using a special clause in the law giving ministers discretion to waive the rules in “exceptional circumstances” that were in the public interest.

Guy was advised to grant the citizenship under the clause as Thiel was a skilled and philanthropic investor.

Peter Dunne was receptive to the advice, saying ministers should be comfortable with their citizenship decisions making it to the front page of a newspaper.

Thiel had offered to assist with the establishment of an Auckland-based technology company and a “landing pad” in San Francisco to help New Zealand technology companies break into the US market. His lawyers pointed to his large investments in New Zealand technology companies and donation to the Canterbury earthquake recovery.

Guy said it had been in New Zealand’s economic interest to provide the citizenship and that Thiel had been a “great ambassador” for the country – despite Thiel keeping his citizenship secret for six years.

Soon after the citizenship came to light the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) briefed then-minister Dunne on steps he could take to tighten up the process and make it more transparent.

“There is an opportunity to make changes that will help address possible perceptions of undue influence, and better ensure public confidence in the citizenship process,” officials wrote to Dunne.

Suggested changes included an “open citizenship register,” a writing into law of which factors could be used when considering “exceptional circumstances,” and even setting out specific exception for activities such as vast financial investment.

Another option would be a periodic independent assessment of all of these decisions, which are relatively rare, by the Auditor General.

Speaking on Thursday, Dunne said he was interested in some of the changes but decided to wait until a planned review of citizenship laws after the election.

“The chances of getting any legislation prepared and passed before the election were practically zero,” Dunne said.

Asked if said changes would have gotten assent from the National Party, who led the Government, Dunne said he hadn’t gotten to the stage of asking them yet.

“I was certainly not opposed to it…the circumstances of the case do give us a wake up call be absolutely transparent and as upfront as we can be,” Dunne said.

“In the wake of the Thiel debacle a lot of stuff arose not so much about the exercise of ministerial discretion, but frankly how his case got so far advanced. This is someone who spent 12 days in the country.”

Dunne thought independent assessment of the decisions was a good idea but suggested the Ombudsman vet the decisions rather than the Auditor General. He also had concerns about the implications of an open citizenship register for those fleeing persecution.

He said any minister should be able to give reasons for their decision and should be comfortable with it possibly ending up on the front page of a newspaper.

New Internal Affairs minister Tracey Martin said she too was keen on tightening up the process and making sure it was transparent.

“I think there is a conversation that needs to be had around transparency. Particularly when the rules are so clearly altered by the minister or ignored by the minister,” Martin said.

She said public confidence in the system had been “rocked” by the Thiel case but she hoped the public would have confidence in her as a new minister.​

via DIA suggested tightening of the rules after Peter Thiel citizenship |

New Zealand may tighten law that allows mega wealthy to buy citizenship | The Guardian

Need review following the Thiel case:

New Zealand’s new Labour government will reconsider legislation that allows wealthy foreigners to effectively buy citizenship, the housing minister has said.

In an interview with the Guardian about the housing shortage in New Zealand, Phil Twyford said the law that allowed Trump donor and Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel to become a citizen and buy a bolt hole in the South Island would come under scrutiny.

Since coming into power last week, Labour has said it will ban foreigners from buying existing homes, along with a slew of policies aimed at addressing the housing crisis, which has seen homelessness grow to more than 40,000 people.

However, the ban will not apply to foreigners who gain citizenship in New Zealand – a loophole that billionaire Thiel used, after spending a total of 12 days in the country.

Thiel’s fast-tracked citizenship allowed him to buy multiple properties in New Zealand, even though he told the government he had no intention of living in the country, but would be an “ambassador” for New Zealand overseas instead, and provide contacts for New Zealand entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley.

“That was a discretionary decision that was made at the time [Thiel’s citizenship], and we were very critical. Our policy, banning people would apply to everybody, regardless of how much money they have or what country they come from,” Twyford said.

“We haven’t announced policy on that [tightening the investment immigration criteria] but I think it is probably something that we are likely to look at.”

Twyford said New Zealand’s ban on foreign buyers was modelled on similar legislation in Australia, and was designed to ensure New Zealanders can once again achieve the Kiwi dream of owning their own home.

“We’ve seen house prices in our biggest city Auckland double in the last nine years, we’ve got the lowest rate of home-ownership since 1951, and we have what the Salvation Army describes as the worst homelessness in living memory,” said Twyford, who has only officially been in office one day.

“Housing has come to be seen as an investment asset primarily, rather than a place for people to live and bring up a family. Off-shore money coming into the market has been a significant contributor to that.”

The ban – to be introduced within 100 days – will apply to every nationality and every income bracket worldwide, including Australians, and will apply equally to business, trusts, companies and individuals.

For foreigners to be able to purchase property they’ll need to become a permanent resident or citizen of New Zealand – which will become increasingly difficult with Labour pledging to slash high-rates of immigration – a record 70,000 last year.

The ban on buying foreign homes will only apply to existing dwellings, with Twyford saying New Zealand would continue to “welcome” overseas buyers who wanted to build new homes, or invest in apartment blocks.

According to Twyford, Auckland had built up a shortage of 40,000 homes, with the deficit increasing by 7,000 every year at the current build rate. Among Labour’s new policies is a plan to build 100,000 affordable homes in New Zealand within the next decade, stop the sell-off of state housing and build new state housing.

“Uncontrolled foreign investement for the purposes of speculation is actually destructive and it is a feature of a housing market that has utterly failed…We expect it [the ban] will be permanent, ” said Twyford, who added the government would increase the length of tenancies for renters and introduce legislation ensuring rental properties were insulated, warm and dry within 100 days.

“We don’t see any benefit to people who are not citizens or permanent residents of this country being able to speculate in housing and make a profit at the expense of generation rent.”

Source: New Zealand may tighten law that allows mega wealthy to buy citizenship | World news | The Guardian

New Zealand gave Peter Thiel citizenship after he spent just 12 days there | The Guardian

Pretty scandalous on many accounts. Revocation on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation?

Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of Paypal, was granted New Zealandcitizenship despite spending only 12 days in the country, new documents have revealed.

The government ombudsmen has forced New Zealand authorities to release further details of Thiel’s highly unusual citizenship process because it was deemed in the public interest.

On Thursday, Nathan Guy – who oversaw Thiel’s citizenship application as minister of internal affairs in 2011 – said Theil had been “a great ambassador for New Zealand, a great salesperson”. “He is a fine individual, good character, he has invested a lot in New Zealand, he’s got great reach into the US and I am very comfortable with the decision that I made.”

The billionaire entrepreneur who is a close adviser to Donald Trump, was granted New Zealand citizenship in June 2011, after taking four brief trips to the country. He made it clear he had no immediate plans to settle in the country.

The usual route to citizenship requires applicants to be in New Zealand as a permanent resident for at least 1,350 days in the five years preceding an application.

The New Zealand government granted Thiel citizenship due to his “exceptional circumstances”, and because it was understood he would promote New Zealand on the global stage, and provide introductions and contacts for New Zealand start-ups in Silicon Valley.

Official information documents stated Thiel’s “exceptional circumstances” related to “his skills as an entrepreneur and his philanthropy”, which were deemed to be of potential benefit to New Zealanders and the country. The formal citizenship process took place in a private ceremony in Santa Monica in 2011.

In his application for citizenship Thiel stated that although he had no plans to reside in New Zealand, and did not work for a New Zealand business overseas, he intended to “represent the country on the international stage”. He also donated NZ$1m to the Christchurch earthquake relief fund, and bought prime land and luxury homes in New Zealand.

Despite this intention Thiel never appeared to mention his New Zealand citizenship in any public capacity – it was revealed by New Zealand media this year.

Labour’s immigration spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway told Radio NZ that Thiel was not promoting New Zealand internationally as he’d stated in his application, as no one knew about his citizenship or ties to New Zealand for six years.

“If Peter Thiel was an amazing ambassador and salesperson for New Zealand we would have found out he was a citizen of New Zealand because he would have told the world that he was a citizen of New Zealand,” Lees-Galloway said. “He kept it under wraps. He hasn’t gone around telling the world that he’s a citizen of New Zealand and that he’s proud of New Zealand.”

Source: New Zealand gave Peter Thiel citizenship after he spent just 12 days there | World news | The Guardian

Have your say on Multicultural New Zealand –

New Zealand gets relatively less coverage on multiculturalism-related issues yet it is an interesting society given its demographic mix: Maori, white settlers and more recent visible minorities:

When Eric Chuah left his job as Head of Migrant Banking at ANZ Bank to establish ‘Cultural Connections’ (Indian Newslink, March 1, 2017), his commitment was distinct and determined: intrinsic engagement with migrant communities, conduct research and enhance the social value and standards of all New Zealanders.

A tall order it seemed, but less than three months later, having established his ‘connections’ well, Mr Chuah is ready for bigger things.

Cultural Connections Research

He has just launched his Social Research Programme jointly with Multicultural New Zealand (also called New Zealand Multicultural Council) to prepare a detailed study that will articulate the role of the government, public and private sector companies, community organisations, media and individuals. Such an interaction, he believes, will lead towards an inclusive Multicultural New Zealand, “regardless of whether a person is a migrant or a born in the country.” What matters is that ‘New Zealander’ would embrace every person resident here as a part of a wholesome society.

“The objective is to deliver a positive tone and forward thinking about multiculturalism,” he said.

The starting point of Mr Chuah’s research was a document published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) in 2015, which said that 1 out of 3 Kiwis felt that migrants were not properly integrated into the socio-economic fabric.

“While the Report captures a snapshot of migration interaction from a friendship and cultural festival perspective, it did not expand further to understand how integration gap can be addressed,” he said.

The Challenge and Effect

In that sense, the ‘Cultural Connections Social Research 2’ would address the challenge of finding ways of achieving a more meaningful integration if the benefits of immigration and the resultant multiculturalism are to be optimised.

“My Research aims to understand Migrants’ working life – current employment and satisfaction with their job; their sense of belonging to New Zealand; their overall satisfaction with living in New Zealand; and their sense of being treated fairly by employers and by the country in general,” Mr Chuah said.

The Social Research Programme of Cultural Connections will also attempt to measure the attitudes of ‘New Zealanders’ to migrants.

Measuring Matrix

It would present the findings from a Migrant survey designed to measure migrants’ settlement experiences. In particular, the research aims to understand awareness, knowledge and community perceptions of migrants, including (a) Overall attitudes towards migrants and migration (b) Specific differences in attitudes towards migrants from different countries (c) Attitudes surrounding migrant numbers (d) The contribution of migrants to New Zealand’s productivity, culture and society.

Sensational Racism

“In recent times, particularly leading up to election, certain politicians are sensationalising racial cards to gain relevance, attention, and ultimately win votes.  Whilst there are other research papers dating from 2005 on social cohesion, they tend to centre around high level public policies, snapshot at that point in time, and do not outline actionable insights. They are also quite broad and cover other diversity groups such as LGBTI and disability groups,” Mr Chuah said.

Mr Chuah has asked us to outline the role of the media in the process of integration of people for multiculturalism to succeed.

He said that the media follows several means to build a multicultural New Zealand. These include (1) regular cultural segment such as food, music, travel and events (2) educating readers on cultural learning (3) organising cultural events (4) Online forum discussions and (5) Cultural research and surveys.

Source: Have your say on Multicultural New Zealand –