Since the Election campaign started, I have been frequently asked by clients how Election 2014 will affect immigration to New Zealand.
Immigration is not a major election issue since all political parties appear to be focusing primarily on Economy, Housing and Tax.
However, if voters intend to consider immigration when choosing who to support, then some consideration should be given to not only the immigration policies of political parties about also how potential coalitions are likely to affect these policies.
Assuming therefore that a voter believes that continued or increased immigration levels to New Zealand is a positive thing, then the analysis of policies and potential coalitions becomes quite interesting.
It is also interesting that many ethnic communities tend to vote for particular political parties based on loyalty. Labour seems to have always had a monopoly on the Pacific Island vote, including Fijians of Indian origin.
Asian migrants on the other hand, including many people from India, tend to support the National.
In this year’s election however, the tables may well turn with National actively courting the Pacific Island vote and Labour, for the first time, talking about reducing immigration numbers to New Zealand.
Labour has recently blamed the housing crisis on immigration numbers.
The correlation between the two seems quite tenuous with very little, if any, evidence connecting the two.
However, Labour Leader David Cunliffe announced that his Party intends to control immigration numbers primarily as a means of alleviating the housing shortage.
This is unlikely to have any practical effect and it would appear more likely to be a strategy to capture some of the traditional anti-immigrant vote popular with New Zealand First voters.
Another possible explanation could be that Mr Cunliffe was elected Party Leader through strong trade union support. The unions are traditionally protectionist in terms of international labour market and are vocally opposed to the use of migrant labour to fill labour market shortages.
It may well be that being the man placed into the position of Leader of the Labour Party by the trade unions Mr Cunliffe must now repay that favour by taking a hardline on migrant labour filling labour market shortages.
The situation for immigration numbers to New Zealand is therefore likely to be worse under a Labour-led government. This could be made worse by the fact that Labour can only govern in a coalition with the Greens, Internet Mana and probably even New Zealand First.
Any such coalition is likely to be the worst-case scenario for immigration policies.
National’s position on immigration over the last six years has been relatively open to the introduction of migrant labour into New Zealand to fill labour market shortages.
The National-led government however has continued and developed the ongoing scam of luring foreign students into New Zealand with implied promises of a pathway to permanent residency, taking their money and then seeking to push them out of the country as soon as possible. The present National government has presided over an immigration policy, which denies the opportunity of residence for skilled migrants working in large, organised New Zealand business and are willfully blind to an Immigration Service lacking any direction or coherence.
NZ First partnership
It would be disastrous if National fails to obtain less than 47% of the Party vote. In such an event, the Party would require United Future, ACT and Maori Party coalition partners to rely on New Zealand First to obtain a majority.
New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters makes no secret of the fact that he is anti-immigration. On May 23, 2014, he wrote on the New Zealand First website that his Party will “cut immigration to the bone.”
He seems to be of the opinion that migrant workers are stealing jobs from New Zealanders.
He does not explain as to how this happens.
Considering that there is Minimum Wage Act in force and that migrant workers are competing against New Zealand workers for the same wages, then the only variable for an employer in selecting staff is a person’s actual willingness to work.
The New Zealand First policy seems to deprive New Zealand employers of the ability to hire people who are actually willing to work but instead create policies requiring employers to recruit only those not quite so willing.
If National is compelled to form a coalition with New Zealand First, it would spell disaster to New Zealand’s immigration policies.
The same would hold good for a coalition with Labour and other left-leaning parties.
The only reasonable conclusion is that in order to maintain positive immigration policies and encourage hard working and entrepreneurial migrants to come to New Zealand, then National must be able to form a government without having to rely on New Zealand First.
A vote for anyone but the National would simply increase the likelihood of Mr Peters becoming the Kingmaker and inflicting his immigration policies on this country.
Alastair McClymont is Principal of McClymont & Associates (Barrister & Solicitors) located at (Level 1), 2 Owens Road, Epsom. Phone (09) 6233344; Email: email@example.com