Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration)
: I move,
That the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill be now read a third time. A careful and robust process has brought us to this point today: the passing of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill. It was back in May 2004 that Cabinet agreed in principle to the statutory regulation of immigration agents in New Zealand. The then Minister of Immigration, the Hon Paul Swain, announced that the days of shonky immigration advisers were numbered, and today we see that come to pass.
The call for the regulation of immigration advisers came first from migrants themselves—migrants who had been ripped off, who had been told lies, who had been misled, who had had money and documents stolen, and who had put their trust in an agent and had then been let down, often when their application or appeal was not lodged, or when important information from the Immigration Service was not passed on to them. Some shonky agents were providing false and fraudulent documentation to the Immigration Service, often knowingly. Like many MPs in this House, I have constituents who have had such experiences with immigration advisers. The financial and emotional cost to them is huge. Many families have lost significant amounts of money, and, more important, they have been caused a great deal of stress.
Worst of all, though, is that until now there has been little redress for those migrants. Something had to be done to ensure ongoing confidence in this industry. The liars, the crooks, and the thieves had to be weeded out and face the consequences of preying on innocent migrants. A large majority of immigration advisers are, of course, ethical and competent. A handful of crooks have been pulling down the entire reputation of the industry, putting it at risk, and undermining our immigration programme. Immigration advisers are valuable because they facilitate the entry of skilled migrants and others to New Zealand. Many of them supported the passing of this bill because they, too, want to ensure the integrity of this growing and vital industry.
The passing of this bill means that anyone who provides immigration advice—with some exceptions, both onshore and offshore—will have to hold a licence, and that those who do so without holding a licence will be prosecuted. Immigration officials will not accept applications from unlicensed people; it is as simple as that. The legislation will establish the Immigration Advisers Authority within the Department of Labour. A registrar, who will create a robust licensing system for immigration advisers, will head the authority. He or she will be charged with developing strict competency standards and a robust code of conduct that sets out the ethical standards required of immigration
advisers. The legislation will also establish the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal, independent of the authority and administratively supported by the Ministry of Justice. The tribunal will consider all complaints about immigration advisers filed with it by the registrar and will have the disciplinary power to impose sanctions on immigration advisers. It has been estimated that some 1,000 people will need to be licensed under the new regulatory regime. That estimate is based on surveys of people who currently provide advice, excluding lawyers and other exempt persons, and on examining the number of adviser interactions with my department.
The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee took a thorough and determined look at this bill and suggested a number of changes, which the Government supported. Those have led, I believe, to a stronger and broader bill being agreed to by the House today.
Several additional issues arose from the Committee of the whole House stage—the first being one regarding fees and levies. In general, Government regulation-making powers require that fees can be collected only for a service that is directly supplied. Funding for all other indirect services must be collected through a levy. When the bill was introduced, there was going to be an authority only. The nature of a tribunal, in terms of its functions and technical funding arrangements, had not been fully considered before the select committee proposed the split. My officials brought the fee/levy distinction to my attention after the select committee had considered the functions of the authority and the tribunal and reported back on the bill.
The bill clarifies that fees will apply to the application-processing service and to the services of being licensed, such as consideration of an application or renewal of an application to be licensed, and to the licensing functions of the authority. A levy is required for the authority to be able to provide other previously agreed functions, such as continuing professional development, and to cover the complaints and disciplinary processes, which are now to be handled by a separate, independent tribunal. The introduction of a levy as well as fees does not foresee any increase in the total amount to be paid by people seeking to be licensed; it merely better distinguishes between funding the cost of the services that they will receive directly, that is, by fees, and those that they may not receive directly but will benefit from, that is, by levies.
The importance of the Treaty of Waitangi was also discussed during the Committee stage. A member proposed the establishment of a
Māori Immigration Education Council to advise on matters of cultural education and to make recommendations binding on the Crown on all immigration education matters. Of course, the Government is sympathetic to the need for migrants to be informed and advised about Treaty of Waitangi issues, and we consult closely with the Government’s
Māori caucus on those matters. We recognise it is important that migrants to New Zealand are aware of the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand. It is equally important that people advising and assisting new and potential migrants are conversant with the Treaty and aspects of tikanga. Indeed, the Department of Labour already provides migrants and its staff with information on the Treaty, for example. The bill will ensure that immigration advisers are as well informed as departmental staff on the Treaty and tikanga, through the knowledge element of the competency standards. As Minister, I will ensure that Treaty and tikanga matters are explicitly covered in those standards.
In conclusion, I take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge some of the key people and groups who have assisted in the passage of this legislation. Firstly, I acknowledge the two previous Ministers of Immigration: the Hon Lianne Dalziel, whose work pioneered the bill, and the Hon Paul Swain, who brought it through the Cabinet process. Secondly, I acknowledge the very hard work of the select committee.
The committee conducted a robust and careful process of considering the submissions. It made a number of recommendations, which the Government supported. I want to give due recognition to the chair, the Hon Mark Gosche, who led that fine process. The process has meant there is support for the bill from all sides of the House, and that support is welcomed. Finally, I thank all those who took the time to make submissions on the bill, particularly the submitters from the immigration advisers industry. It was very important for us to design the legislation with the input and support of the industry, and we have appreciated the opportunity to do so.
I commend this bill to the House.
PANSY WONG (National)
: National supports the passage of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill but with reservations. I will highlight some of those outstanding issues that will need to be addressed in the future. First of all, I acknowledge the chairmanship of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee by the Hon Mark Gosche, who took the line of allowing a free flow of exchanges and was receptive to opposing views, which, I believe, has led to major improvements to this bill. The bill is now much better than when it was introduced to the House. I also acknowledge the work and support of the advisers and committee clerks who helped to improve on the original bill. The select committee members have contributed across the party line, which once again has made possible the improvements to the bill. That is the satisfying part of the select committee process.
There remain some concerns that I would like to raise. First of all, after the bill was reported back to the House, a late Supplementary Order Paper was introduced by the Minister to introduce the term “levy” to the bill, on top of the fees that are contained in the original bill. The anxiety of the New Zealand Association for Migration and Investment—which, by the way, fully supports the regulation of immigration advisers—is understandable. The immigration officials have always insisted that around 1,000 immigration advisers are practising in New Zealand. The way the officials look at it is that the annual operating costs are around $1 million for 1,000 immigration advisers, so the registration fee will be around $1,000. But the association has always been adamant that the number of full-time advisers out there, at best, is half that. Lawyers are also exempt from this bill, so, as you can imagine, the association is quite concerned about the registration fee that has to be paid towards the running costs of the scheme.
This late introduction of the term “levy” has rung alarm bells. I introduced an amendment during the Committee stage because the Minister was adamant that the total fees or levy—whatever we call it—would not exceed $1,000 to $2,000. He rejected that amendment but instead, in the Committee stage, made the declaration that the levy and fees will be drastically less than the indication of the maximum level of $2,000. National will hold him to his word. After all, the Labour Government promised this bill in the year 2000. It is now some 7 years after that initial promise was made. In response to some of the gung-ho statements made by the Minister about cleaning up the industry, one could say that some of the horses have already bolted.
The other issue that I want to raise is that of the scope of the bill. By and large, the select committee members have all expressed some reservations that immigration advisers who handle only student visas and permits are to be exempted from this bill. Recent research was conducted by Waikato University researcher Dr Elsie Ho. She came to the same conclusion as the Ministry of Education in 2004, which suggested that Chinese students face a large gap between their expectations of New Zealand and the reality. The ministry also indicated that, currently, one-third of international students come from China. Dr Ho pointed out that those students are the ones who are more likely to want to stay permanently. Therefore, one-third of our international students who come here are probably likely to progress to become a permanent resident in New
Zealand at some time in the future. But they tend to be more unhappy because they came with unrealistic expectations. Dr Elsie Ho has urged immigration advisers in China to give better advice and perhaps better prepare those prospective students before they arrive in New Zealand.
That is exactly why some select committee members expressed concern. Consultants who deal only with student visas and permits might fall through the gaps. We will continue to face this problem of students not being adequately supported by advisers or consultants who are not familiar with, and fully informed of, New Zealand qualifications and other requirements.
There are two other issues I want to raise. One is enforcement. I hear the Minister continue to say that there will be a robust complaint procedure and enforcement. But the experience we all have in this Parliament is that it is all too easy to pass legislation and that the enforcement of legislation is yet to be tested. Once again, I hope that the Immigration Service will take on board the fact that Parliament will continue to monitor its enforcement commitment. In my office alone, I have dealt with a lot of complainants who have raised issues with the Immigration Service, which tends to say that its hands are tied and it needs to refer them to the police, which, in turn, would advise them that there is nothing much they can do because it is a commercial transaction. We can understand the anxiety of people who seek advice from immigration advisers and consultants who are, in general, not that familiar with the legislation requirements, etc. So we will continue to monitor to make sure that Immigration New Zealand, under this new legislation, will tackle those enforcement issues.
The last issue I want to raise is that I think it is a tragedy that a trade restraint clause was introduced into this legislation. The Minister has shown no confidence in existing Immigration Service staff, because, in future, people handling visa applications, etc., will not be allowed to practise as immigration advisers for 12 months after they leave the Immigration Service. I think that is an insult to the existing employees of the department. It suggests either that their technical competence may not be up to scratch or that somehow the Minister is casting doubts on their integrity in that they may use their relationships with their ex-departmental staff for their own benefit. I think Ministers need to show more confidence in their staff. Of course, the restraint of trade clause is also targeted at the former Minister of Immigration, but I hasten to point out that John
Delamere, who is a former immigration Minister, had an immigration practice for 2 years after he left Parliament. So what gaps is this legislation trying to plug? I remain puzzled by that. Although National supports this bill, we still have some reservations.
Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie)
: It is a pleasure to be finally debating the third reading of this bill, as it has had a long gestation period. It is very much needed by many in our community as a protection against the things the Minister mentioned in his speech, which have happened to many migrants to New Zealand and have led to much discussion with the industry over a period of time by previous Ministers as to whether this should be dealt with by a voluntary regime or through legislation. It is clear—it has the total support of Parliament, as I understand it—that everybody in this place agrees that a law is required. That follows a similar pattern in other countries, such as Australia and Britain. It brings us largely into line with the regimes in other countries, although there are some differences around issues like how lawyers are treated. But I think it is important that we do look to other jurisdictions as we make our own legislation, and that has been helpful.
I thank Pansy Wong and other members of the Transport and Industrial Relation Committee. I thank Pansy for her kind comments. I think the work that was undertaken by the committee was very productive. Most of us deal with immigration matters as
electorate or list MPs on a fairly regular basis, and, sadly, we and our staff spend far too much of our time in our electorate offices dealing with the bad outcomes of shonky operators. That is not to say that all the people out there are like that, but there are too many to leave it to chance.
Certainly, a great many people have missed out on being able to stay in New Zealand legitimately because of poor advice from both lawyers and immigration consultants, and many have gone to great expense and through great personal agony trying to get their immigration status established, largely because of the unregulated nature of the business. In fact, virtually anybody could and did set up as an immigration consultant up and down the country, so the ethical and competent services were brought down by those less ethical and less competent services. Thus the need for this legislation.
I think that the good thing about the bill we are now voting on is that it has been improved, and that, again, is down to the officials who serviced the committee, the people who sat on the committee, and the members of the public, with their various interests, who came before the committee and made submissions. I want to make a comment about some of the changes that were made. Certainly we all agreed that the time frame was too long, and we have brought that down. That is useful because it coincides with the actions going on under the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act, which will regulate lawyers who provide immigration advice. Again, in this speech before the House I want to send a signal to the legal profession that we are looking to it to pick up the challenge and to do that job properly. It is important that we can rely on the legal profession having proper standards, competencies, and disciplinary procedures, because it is not just the immigration consultants who are not lawyers who were causing strife out there. Many who were lawyers came to my attention. I suppose a future Parliament will look at this law in several years’ time and look at what the lawyers have done to deserve their exemption from the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill, and it may have to look at it again if that challenge is not met properly.
The law obviously describes who can be an immigration adviser, and it does that by, I suppose, saying who cannot be, because there are certain criteria that one has to meet. I think that is important, because we do not want to make it too tight but we do not want people with serious convictions and other things in their lives doing this work. As I said, we have exempted practising lawyers. We have also looked at the not-for-profit sector, which made considerable submissions on this bill. Again, I want to pay tribute to the people from the citizens advice bureaus, who made a very good case as to why they should be exempted. They are unique in that they do train all their volunteers and they usually have legal people to seek advice from. If in fact we had not exempted them, I think that a great service provided to the community by citizens advice bureaus could have gone missing altogether, and that could have created significant difficulties for other people, particularly MPs and their electorate offices.
It was also important to exempt MPs and their staff, because we do a great deal of work of this nature. It is expected of us by our constituents, and in some parts of the country it probably accounts for 60 to 70 percent of electorate work. It is a service that the public should be able to expect from their MPs and their offices without fear or favour. So all of us on the select committee agreed that MPs’ offices, citizens advice bureaus, and community law centres should be exempt. Obviously, we have made that provision for lawyers, as well, with a watching brief on that one for the future.
We toyed with the idea of the student visas. I think we all felt some discomfort with that, but we do have a very competitive world out there in terms of offshore education and it probably would have severely affected that industry if we had moved on this. Again, I think it is one of those things that future Parliaments will have to keep an eye on as this law gets put into place and settles down, and we are able to look at whether
that exemption is wrongly used—in a way that we hope it will not be—by having people who are exempt then moving into territory they should not be in.
The select committee looked at the Government administration, if you like, of this and made sensible changes so that there is definitely a clear distinction about where the various roles are played out. That took care of the fears that the part of the Department of Labour that deals with immigration would be, I suppose, the watchdog over the industry. I think all of us on the select committee felt that that change about the location of the Government part of it was very necessary.
I think the standards, the code, and the behaviour—all of those things yet to be worked out—are things that we all look forward to in the future. We all look forward to a greater standard of behaviour, competency, and honesty in an industry that has had a chequered history to date—that has, I suppose, had such a chequered history that this Parliament feels unanimously that it needs to pass a law of this nature.
I am very pleased, as chair of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee and as somebody who has a great deal to do with immigration at a local electorate level, that we are finally moving to put into place proper standards. I think all members of Parliament would support that sentiment because of their own personal experiences. We all have tales to tell about the bad cases, but I suppose it is like everything: we forget to also focus on some of the positives that happen out there. There are a great many people who work in the field of immigration whom we place faith in, in terms of heading those organisations. They will make sure that the standards are kept. Some of them wanted us to be even harder, if you like, than we perhaps have been in this law. Certainly those lawyers who do not operate as lawyers but as immigration consultants and who also have law degrees did want the coverage—as the Australians have—of lawyers under this regime. It is the one question mark that still hangs over it from my perspective. But it is a question that will be answered over time, and it is an opportunity for the legal profession to actually do its own housekeeping and put its own standards in place. We look forward to that happening.
There are a number of things in the bill around enforcement and the ability to look at records, and all of those things will have to be tested over the next few years to see that we have got it right, but I am pretty sure that we have this bill in very good shape. I reiterate the thanks of those of us who sat on the select committee to the officials who advised us, my thanks to the other members of the committee, and thanks to the members of the public who made very good and sound submissions.
Finally, to answer Pansy Wong’s point about the restraint of trade, I say that this was something that the ethnic community representatives particularly noted. They were worried about former immigration staff advertising the fact that they were former immigration staff in order to give the impression that they had an advantage. That is one of the main reasons why we listened to that public submission and put that restraint of trade in. Again, it is up to a future Parliament to see whether that is a law that stays there forever or whether there might be a minor amendment at some time. I commend this bill to the House. It is long overdue for many people, but we got there in the end and that is a good thing.
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National—Rodney)
: In moving the third reading motion of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill, the Minister the Hon David Cunliffe argued that the bill was needed because there are a whole lot of crooks and cheats out there who will do people for their dollar if they are not regulated. To be fair about this, I must ask where the greatest scam has been in the last couple of years in the immigration area. Where has the greatest abuse of vulnerable potential migrants been in the last couple of years? Has it been from an immigration adviser out there in the public? If members of this Parliament reflect back on the last couple of years, I think
most would have to acknowledge that the greatest scam and the greatest abuse of vulnerable potential migrants has been carried out by a member of this very Parliament—someone whom this bill is exempting from any regulation. Of course, I refer to none other than the former Labour Minister, the honourable Taito Phillip Field.
It is fascinating—it is a paradox—that in moving this third reading motion the Minister David Cunliffe, with such an innocent voice, spoke of crooks and cheats out there, not seeming to realise the paradox in relation to one of his own former ministerial colleagues—I do not want to be unfair; it has not been proven that he was crooked, but certainly there is no question he abused vulnerable potential migrants. There is no question about that. One only has to read the Ingram report to see that. When we look at that particular case, it is interesting to see the way the honourable Taito Phillip Field exploited potential migrants.
A complainant claimed to me that in order to get the assistance of Taito Phillip Field as a Labour member of Parliament they had to pay serious cash. When I say “serious cash”, I mean that this particular person claimed to have paid $2,000 in order to get the assistance of Taito Phillip Field. What is interesting about that is also what, on balance, I think, makes us accept that there probably is a need for this legislation.
I talked to the person who complained to me, who had paid the cash—and there is no question that the cash was paid. The complainant told me of having to front up with $2,000 in cash in order to have Taito Phillip Field’s help with an immigration matter concerning a Thai overstayer—and it was not the Thai tiler; it was another one. What is interesting about that is that the cash was not paid to Taito Phillip Field directly. The complainant, when asked to whom it was paid, claimed it was a family friend. I said: “Well, hang on, could this person have been a crooked immigration adviser?”. I have to say that the person complaining laughed and said: “No, no, it’s common knowledge this person is not an immigration adviser. They are a go-between.”. Now, I do not know—the police will sort that matter out, I trust. But it is possible that the person to whom the cash was paid was in fact a shonky operator abusing potential migrants, collecting a couple of thousand dollars in cash along the way simply to pass people on to a member of Parliament who maybe, if we put the most generous complexion on it, was a bit naïve about certain things going on around him.
It is that—the risk that that person was simply a shonky immigration adviser—that, on balance, makes us accept the need for this legislation. It means more regulation, and right at the moment there is no question that in the last 7 years under this Labour-led Government there has been significant regulatory creep. Right now there is no question that productivity in our economy is declining significantly. The latest figures show productivity down to 0.4 percent growth a year, which is disastrous for New Zealand’s future, and analysts—
Hon David Cunliffe: Positive or negative?
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH: Well, it is still positive slightly, but it is down from 2 percent through the decade of the 1990s when Labour claimed that failed policies were in place. Productivity was growing very well in those days. Since Labour has been in office the average productivity growth has gone down by two-thirds to 0.7 on average, and it is now down to almost zero. Analysts are suggesting that one of the reasons for this, among a range of reasons, is excessive regulation. In fact, there was a lecture on this very issue at Treasury this very day—which this Government’s own department, Treasury, sponsored. I did not see any Labour members of Parliament there but they would have learnt a bit if they had been there.
Analysts are starting to say that regulatory creep is a major problem, and this legislation is more regulation. What we did not see was a decent cost-benefit analysis. As the Government moves to regulate this sector of the economy, where was the cost-benefit analysis? I think we should insist in the future that greater focus goes on cost-benefit analysis as we bring in greater regulation through this Parliament. The amount of legislation and regulation has grown exponentially in recent years.
So National has reservations about this bill. We have supported it because, as I say, on balance National believes that it makes sense to have some framework to register immigration advisers, and certainly the industry itself was supportive, although, notably, the industry, when making submissions on the bill, did not know that this Labour Government intended, by Order in Council, to impose a levy, which is just another name for a tax, on the industry. That is typical of this Labour Government. It puts legislation in front of the select committee, and then, at the last minute, when people no longer have a chance to make submissions, it changes it. Undoubtedly there would have been further submissions had the industry known that the Government retained to itself the power to impose a levy the Government sees fit. I am sure that will make the industry fairly concerned.
Finally, I want to make this point. My good colleague Pansy Wong has already raised the issue of the constraint on trade on those who worked in the ministry or had been Ministers in the past. What to us is crazy about that is if a person has worked in the ministry he or she clearly has a knowledge, and to prevent people from being able to use their expertise, skills, and training because they might be more effective as immigration advisers than someone else, is just plain dopey. People should be able to use their skills and knowledge, and there is nothing wrong with that.
I think it is most unfortunate that the Labour Government did not listen to my good colleagues on the select committee, Pansy Wong and David Bennett, and remove from the legislation that constraint on trade. It is an unnecessary regulation that, again, will limit productivity. People with greater skills and knowledge can be more productive, and that is an example of regulation that reduces productivity. I hear the Minister interjecting. Let me in my last moment say this to the Minister. OK, he wants more transparency with immigration consultants. Let us get some transparency out of his department. How many scams were there in the last 12 months in his department?
Last year there were 116 investigations of people in his department. How many of them found crooked operators? Let us have that Minister tell Parliament. He should take another call. He should advise one of his colleagues who is taking a call to tell us how come a whole bunch of Chinese immigrants had their applications approved within 1 day when the average time for Chinese business applicants was 10 months. How come the investigation has been going on for 7 months and this Minister claims he has had no report yet? For 7 months there has been an investigation going on into that. How come? Why does that Minister not apply the same transparency to the internal workings of the Immigration Service that he expects from external immigration advisers?
I think it is time for greater transparency within the department instead of this Minister trying to hide everything that is going on in his department. He tries to block official information requests. He is very evasive of questions in this Parliament. We want to see a bit more transparency out of his department.
HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau)
: Kia ora
tātou te Whare. It is a rare occurrence when one can look through a Government website and find policy that reflects and honours our nation’s constitutional document, the Treaty of Waitangi. It is hard to believe, but in preparing for the third reading debate on the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill I happened upon the Immigration New Zealand website where I found the following information: “The Treaty is recognised as the first immigration agreement between
Pākehā (European settlers). … The Treaty was important, firstly, to control the thousands of future emigrants to Aotearoa New Zealand, and secondly, to protect the rights of
Māori people. The benefits to both parties
were clear—settlement rights for
Pākehā and the natural right of the
tāngata whenua (the people of the land) would be respected and affirmed. … Immigration New Zealand recognises that the Treaty of Waitangi is the `founding document of our nation’. This means that Immigration New Zealand will consult with
Māori on immigration matters.”—not the
Māori inside Government but real
I doubt that members of the
Māori Party could have said it better themselves. I recap. The Treaty is recognised as the first immigration agreement. The Treaty is the founding document of our nation. The Treaty is important to control the thousands of future immigrants to Aotearoa and to protect the rights of
Māori, and Immigration New Zealand will consult with
Māori on immigration matters. I put it to the House that if we are truly to enhance this country’s reputation as a migrant destination, then it is the Treaty of Waitangi that will help to get us there.
During the first reading debate on this bill in December 2005, Dr Sharples called the Treaty the first charter for migrants emigrating to Aotearoa. He described the Treaty as a way to unite people, a concept that
Māori fully endorsed in 1840 but which has since been overlooked, neglected, downgraded, and marginalised by successive Governments, including this current Labour Government. I need to point out here, without any malice whatsoever, that even Labour’s own
Māori MPs, Parekura Horomia, Nanaia
Mahuta, Mita Ririnui, Mahara Okeroa, Dover Samuels, Shane Jones, Jill Pettis, and Moana Mackey have supported the deletion of the Treaty principles from legislation, the removal of the Treaty from the school curriculum, the cancellation of manaaki tauira, and the instructions to the district health boards to tread softly as far as the Treaty clauses go.
During the second reading debate last year my colleague Te Ururoa Flavell quoted Dr Ranginui Walker, who described the preamble to the Treaty as the original charter for immigration—a charter that allowed immigration to Aotearoa from Australia and the UK, but requires consultation with
Māori as Treaty partner for any variation. Dr Walker said the Government had ignored the notion of partnership by unilaterally deciding who can enter Aotearoa without consultation with
Māori. On the Immigration New Zealand website there is specific guidance to help all visitors to our shores, and I quote: “to realise the significance of the Treaty within every aspect of life in Aotearoa New Zealand.” Such fine words.
Māori Party endorsed those statements from Immigration New Zealand and introduced Supplementary Order Papers to give weight to those statements. We proposed a way for
Māori to be involved in formulating policy in order, in fact, to fulfil the agency’s own intentions to “consult with
Māori on immigration matters.” We even proposed a cultural education programme, which included Te Tiriti o Waitangi, tikanga, and te reo
Māori for immigration advisers. This bill is supposed to determine what constitutes immigration advice, the licensing process, and who can and cannot be licensed. It was our considered view that the cultural education programme we were proposing would have helped immigration advisers ensure that migrants and visitors could indeed realise the significance of the Treaty within every aspect of life here in Aotearoa New Zealand.
At another level, it occurs to me that if we are to honour the spirit of partnership in the Treaty, then the Government must also recognise the need to involve
Māori in immigration policy and practice—and not just through meaningless words on a website. For a relationship to work, both parties must be heard, yet since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi
Māori have had no input into developing immigration policy.
We also suggested setting up a
Māori immigration education council to help guide the Crown in immigration matters, as a way of acknowledging
Māori as partners in the Treaty—our nation’s original immigration document. The council would enable
Māorito work with the Crown in setting immigration policy and advice, and strategic directions through membership on the Immigration Advisers Authority and the Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal, as proposed under this bill. The council would also examine all issues related to the impact of immigration on
Māori and report back on these to iwi, the Minister of
Māori Affairs, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Immigration.
Those are all good ideas, one would think, but—hello; what was the Government’s response? Rational debate? Thoughtful consideration? Reasoned argument? Hell, no! The Government pulled the old Standing Order 319 trick, putting a financial veto on our proposals. It said: “No money, honey! No debate, no argument, no consideration. Just no way,
Māori boy! We may have an $11 billion surplus and you might have a good idea, but we ain’t going to spend any of our money on it.” I hear the Hon David Cunliffe talking about a
Māori immigration council, and that would be a good idea. It is something the
Māori Party proposed quite early on, even though the Government chose not to support the Supplementary Order Paper. If the intention is to go through with that, we would be supportive of that notion.
The key part to the changes introduced through this bill is setting quality standards for all immigration advisers, which raises the question, of course, about what exactly defines quality and how one measures it, because, of course, the
Māori Party’s proposals were designed specifically to increase the quality of immigration advisers’ knowledge and understanding of the Treaty, tikanga
Māori, and te reo
Māori—qualities that should be paramount in those who would guide and advise migrants, refugees, and visitors to our fair shores.
We were not surprised that submitters also held very strong views about quality standards. The National Council of Women said that competency standards were crucial to improving the quality of advice and that a robust external consultation process was important to help develop such standards. We also agreed with the submission from
TuarikiDelamere calling for a system to determine lawyers’ competency to act as immigration advisers. In fact, this whole area of guidance on standards and cultural competency was something we felt that a Treaty commissioner could provide guidance on, helping to define and measure the capability of immigration advisers to carry out their duties consistent with the guidelines on their website.
We agree with the need for quality standards, but we call for that quality to be determined by Treaty principles in partnership and not just by affordability. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to raise the debate around the Treaty of Waitangi and immigration in the 21st century. The Treaty of Waitangi is indeed the founding document of our nation, and, for the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill to have any meaning, it must recognise in every aspect the significance of the Treaty and all facets of its development and implementation. Kia ora
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East)
: It is with pleasure that I speak on the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill. I would like to congratulate members of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, especially our chair, Mark Gosche, on the leadership he provided on the bill. I thank the officials who helped us with this legislation, and also all those who submitted on it. This legislation has arisen from a genuine need in the community. Anybody who made a submission on the bill was in favour of something happening. Everyone saw that there are some major holes in the way we deal with immigration in New Zealand, and especially in the way we deal with the advisory aspects of the regulation of those who are involved in promoting immigration to New Zealand.
It is unfortunate that the industry could not regulate itself. This is a case where self-regulation was not possible. In many other areas, such as in the legal and accounting
professions, or even in the motor vehicle dealers industry, we have seen instances of self-regulation. We see formulae of industry regulation that are much more pronounced in the sense that they are being done by industries in their own vein. But in this case the Government had to stand up and take the lead. It needed to do that in the sense that there was no other body that could engage in the necessary regulation to provide the comfort that people need as they come to New Zealand as migrants.
Looking at this legislation, we see some deficiencies that have come about, especially during the Committee stage. The biggest of those deficiencies was the introduction of a levy by this Government at the last minute—a levy that was never discussed at the select committee; a levy that this Government introduced only because it knew that the structure being promoted might not work in the final form it was looking for. We discussed the idea of fees, based on a maximum fee of about $2,000, which was considered to be at the high end of what the market could afford to regulate the advice in the industry. That fee maximum was something that Pansy Wong, one of our members on the select committee, tried to seek during the debate in the Committee of the whole House. This Government denied that amendment to the bill, and therefore showed its true intention of having the fee, plus a levy, exceed the $2,000 that the officials had indicated was the maximum the industry could handle.
Why else would one include a levy when there was a fee in the system that had been promoted by the officials? There can be only one reason: the Government decided it wanted to raise more money. It is another tax. It is another way the Government can bring money into its coffers. It is another way it can store up money for an election that it knows it will lose. The only way it knows it can go into the election is by spending people’s money that it does not actually have. That is what this Labour Government is about. It is just another tax. It is just another opportunity to put the hard boot into those New Zealanders who have their own businesses and who go out there to try to provide advice.
No, this Government would not let small businesses carry on. It thought it would put another levy on them, and that is what we are seeing in this legislation. [Interruption] Now we hear the hollers from the Labour Party members as they react to the possibility of another levy being put on. Why are they so defensive? They know they were wrong in doing this. If they were right, then they should have done it all the way through the select committee process, letting people submit on it and understand what the Government is trying to do. But, no, the Government brought it in at the last minute, trying to put it under the cover of the Committee of the whole House. That is typical of a Labour Government—
Darren Hughes: The cover of a democracy.
DAVID BENNETT: It is the failure of democracy that we have seen from this Parliament and this Government—from this Labour Party. I think our spokesperson on immigration, Lockwood Smith, summed it up pretty well when he said that there has been only one case in the public eye where this bill would have applied. That case is the case of a Labour member of Parliament, a case that has been debated in this House day after day. It is the case of one individual who has been let down by his own party, as well, so he has gone out to form his own party—a party that will take South Auckland and that will consign the Labour Party to being the third biggest party in this House after the next election. That is the reality of what is happening, and those members opposite do not have anything they can do about it, apart from putting on another levy. A levy is all they can do. Another levy is their way of dealing with issues such as this one.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
DAVID BENNETT: Just before the break we were talking about the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill and one of the big things there was the introduction of a levy that had not been anticipated at any stage during the select committee deliberation. The Government put it in at the last minute during the Committee stage of the discussion of this bill.
We also talked about how there is no situation in which self-regulation is available in this case, as the industry is not organised to the extent that we could have self-regulation as an option. So the Government has had to come forward with the regulatory body it has provided in this case. A few exemptions have been given, notably to lawyers, citizens advice bureaus, and community law centres, but we believe that another couple of groups should also have been given exemptions. One of them would have been, for example, the migrant resource centres. In Hamilton we have a large migrant resource centre that does a lot of work on immigration inquiries. Those centres are not exempt; they have to go through that process of seeking an exemption. That was something we brought up with the Labour members of the select committee, because we felt that the process was unfair for organisations like that. They generally carry out the role of citizens advice bureaus, yet they were given a different regime to operate under. We felt that it was unfair to put organisations like that through a more formal process. They could easily have been made exempt.
We also see that some specific community groups are not exempt. We had a submission from the Indian community in Auckland. It was from a group that gives a lot of immigration advice to members of its community who want to settle in New Zealand. That group too could have been given an exemption in this legislation. The legislation does have a few problems, in the sense that it could have covered a lot more situations where people do provide immigration advice and a genuine level of service that does not require any profit or income-generating motive—the advice is given simply on the basis of its community involvement and as a community organisation. In those cases, there could have been the ability to have far greater exemptions.
Overall, though, this legislation was well received by members of the committee. We were very disappointed in the way that this Government has brought about a levy at the last minute when it did not need to do so, and it also is part of the indication of this Government’s failure to debate the immigration issue as a total issue. We hear there is talk of immigration reforms, and they seem to be quite procedural. I think that members will see them coming up in further reforms of immigration legislation when we get to the real heart of what we need to sort out—that is why and how, and how many people we let into New Zealand.
Those questions have not been addressed by this Government. It has stayed away from the hard questions. It has not had a vision of New Zealand being open and inclusive and letting in as many people as is physically possible—which would actually contribute to New Zealand through skills, energy, and the passion to build a stronger country. The Government has not taken up a vision of New Zealand in the future; it has looked just at procedural matters. That is something where New Zealand has missed the boat in comparison with our competitors in the Western World. It has been a great disappointment to see that this Government has concentrated only on procedural matters in immigration and not on the wider picture when it had the opportunity to canvass fully through this bill and other legislation that will be coming up this year in relation to immigration. Overall, this bill is necessary, but it is also disappointing to see the way in which this Government has approached the issue and its failure to really grasp the bigger issues that need to be addressed in the immigration field.
METIRIA TUREI (Green)
: I want to make a reasonably short call on this legislation. The Green Party is supporting this Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill, and
we have done so from the very beginning when my colleague Keith Locke gave a first reading speech about it. We have followed the bill reasonably closely through the select committee process. We have always been very keen to see greater transparency for, and control over, those who provide advice to immigrants. We get a lot of those kinds of cases coming to the Green Party—to me, when I was the immigration spokesperson in my first term of Parliament, and to Keith Locke now, and during his first term of Parliament, as well.
People come to the Green Party because they see us as being the only people interested in the human rights aspect of their issues. We are seen as being the only people who will take seriously the fact that they have been treated so badly—largely by the Immigration Service itself, but increasingly by those who are providing them with advice and charging them considerable amounts of money to do so. Some of the cases are very well-known cases to do with refugees and asylum seekers, but heaps of people who come to us have enormous difficulty in dealing with the Immigration Service and with understanding the process.
Part of the reason that we need immigration advisers is that they can give immigrants the kind of advice, and process advice, that they simply do not get from the Immigration Service, because it tends to be very closed about the information it gives out and the kinds of criteria it makes assessments on. Because in some ways the Immigration Service acts as the enforcement agency for immigration issues as well, people are frightened to get information from it. So it is really important that people have an independent person they can go to for advice.
But when those advisers are then making a profit out of those immigrants’ real needs and very insecure situations, they need also to be severely controlled in order to make sure that good advice is given and that they do not misuse the process. There have been cases where people have made serious claims against immigration advisers, because those advisers have seriously misused the process and have ripped people off.
We are talking about people who come to this country because they want to be part of the New Zealand community. They have looked at going to other countries, but they have decided that New Zealand is the place for them. They love it here, their children are here, and their schooling is here. They feel that there are huge opportunities for them here. They have made enormous sacrifices to come all the way around the globe to New Zealand. They deserve respectful treatment by New Zealanders.
Sometimes migrants do not get that respectful treatment; that is really obvious. They do not get it either socially—with the level of abuse that is often directed at immigrants, and with the inability of New Zealanders sometimes to deal with language barriers and to be respectful of the fact that not everyone speaks English as perfectly as some New Zealanders might like to think they do—or from State agencies and private companies that are involved in giving them advice, as well. These people deserve respect from us for their commitment to our country and, for just being human beings, they deserve to be treated justly and with human rights. So we are very pleased to see at least some attempt is being made in this legislation to protect new immigrants who are looking for that advice.
Some really sad stories have come to me. I had one case where a family was here that had had some issues with its visas and family members had overstayed. The main applicant was the husband of the family, and there were two children at high school, doing very well. Instead of the Immigration Service and enforcement agencies dealing with the husband, who was the main applicant, they went to the house just before school finished one day and arrested the wife. They held her in custody. She was held in the women’s prison here in Wellington.
The purpose for holding the wife, even though she was not the applicant, was that the Immigration Service and enforcement agencies believed that if they held the wife, then the rest of the family would not go underground, but rather they would try to get her out because she was so vulnerable. Her language skills were OK, but only just. She had religious issues around the food she ate that were not respected by the prison service. She was stripped and treated very badly while she was in prison, and she was in prison for a week before the authorities finally decided and arranged to deport her and her family.
The treatment of this family at the hands of the State and some of the people who were giving them advice was extremely poor. The family had to rely on a very good lawyer, who worked very, very hard with us and with others to try to remedy their situation. It was extremely difficult for the family, and they were deported. Thankfully, in the end they were given an opportunity to return to New Zealand after they had paid their deportation fees and their air tickets, and they have been here ever since. The children are again at school. One has gone to Otago University and is doing very well there.
This family are committed to this country, and their treatment at the hands of the State agencies and some others involved in their case has been terrible. It is only due to the lawyer who worked for them and the community that supported them that they have been able to make some gains.
That is just one example of how vulnerable immigrants are when they come to this country and how difficult it is for them to get good advice and to manage the bureaucracy. When they are then subject to immigration advisers who are setting out to be exploitative and to reap the profits without providing the service, really we have a whole sector of the New Zealand community—and I believe it is the New Zealand community—that is being abused and exploited. That abuse should stop; it needs to stop.
So I am pleased about the bill. The Greens will be voting for it. No doubt there are some issues and some things will be missed in it—not all legislation is perfect—but none the less, it provides some level of protection to what is becoming one of the most vulnerable sectors of the New Zealand community, and we are pleased to see that. Thank you.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: It is a real honour to be able to rise to speak in support of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill for its third reading. I would also like to thank the member who has just resumed her seat,
MetiriaTurei, for giving such a clear indication of the Green Party’s support for this bill, as well, by giving real-life examples of some of the issues that she has dealt with in her role as a member of Parliament and by really informing the debate in this third reading on this particular issue. In contrast, I have to say to the National Party speakers on this bill that it has been really quite difficult to work out from the contents of their debate here at this third reading, whether they support the bill or whether they are, in fact, opposing the bill.
In his speech before the dinner break, Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith talked about regulatory creep. Now, he may well be a regulatory creep, but I am not. I think his speech displayed just how uncomfortable the National Party is in dealing with introducing standards into our legislation. What this bill does is introduce standards for those people who are among some of the most vulnerable in our society—those people immigrating from their own countries and who wish to have appropriate, professional advice. Dr the Hon Lockwood Smith is feeling uncomfortable about licensing immigration advisers because he sees that as being regulatory creep. I think that tells us all that the National Party still believes that the market fixes everything. That,
fundamentally, remains its belief. Its members demonstrated that in their debate on this bill.
In the select committee process, they had to come face to face with the fact that the market does not fix issues such as this. They should have learnt that during the 1990s. All of the failed “let’s just be a lazy Government, sit on our hands, and leave it to the market” approaches absolutely failed. If members talk to any employer in this country they will find out about the skills shortage that they now face because of that “sit on the hands” approach of the National Government in the 1990s. No, the market does not fix these issues. This bill is another clear example of exactly why there must be a hands-on Government approach taken to these issues.
We are dealing with very vulnerable people. I want to remind the House here at this third reading that the people who rely on immigration advisers for their advice come from countries where they cannot possibly understand how we do things here in this country when it comes to our immigration laws. They are absolutely at the mercy of those from whom they seek their immigration advice. That fact is absolutely important as they make that life-changing decision to immigrate to New Zealand. It is a life-changing decision, because they are uprooting family, they are leaving family behind, and they are going from a situation or a country where they understand the systems well and coming to join our society here in New Zealand which they may not understand so well. They are very vulnerable when they are making this life-changing decision. Often the advice they get from immigration advisers is the first contact for new immigrants to New Zealand. This bill ensures that there will be some professionalism taken with regard to that advice. It is important for the reputation of this country because, as I said, often the first contact that these new citizens—these immigrants—will have is through the immigration adviser. They should expect a professional service and competency, and they should expect that it will reflect the type of country that they are choosing to immigrate to.
I think this bill is very significant, because it is about enhancing New Zealand’s reputation overseas and it is about—yes—creating standards. I know that some in this House find the idea that it is government’s role to create standards a little daunting. This Labour Government does not find that at all daunting. We take up that challenge because we know just how important it is.
Because some debates in the third reading of this legislation have been less than clear about what the bill is about, I want to remind those who are listening what this bill is seeking to do and what it will deliver. The bill creates a new regulatory framework. Yes, it is regulation—the regulation of individuals providing immigration advice both onshore and offshore. It was important that we covered both of those aspects because people, pending their decision to immigrate to New Zealand, seek advice both from onshore and from offshore consultants in this area.
This bill is critical to managing the growing immigration advisers industry. While many immigration advisers do provide good services, there have been insufficient regulatory constraints or market incentives to prevent some advisers from providing unethical or incompetent services. This legislation will bring New Zealand into line with countries such as Australia and Britain. So we are actually upholding our international obligations in this regard as well by introducing the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill.
Further, by raising the standard of immigration advice, this bill will promote and protect the interests of migrants and potential migrants who receive immigration advice, and it will enhance the reputation of New Zealand as a migration destination, because we want to keep that reputation up as high as possible. People who are fortunate enough to travel overseas will know that New Zealand’s reputation is extremely high on the
world stage. That is because of the very principled approach it has taken on many foreign affairs issues. Continuing to improve our professionalism on immigration advice will enhance it even further.
This Labour-led Government understands that a sustainable, well-managed, balanced immigration programme is one of the keys to New Zealand’s economic transformation, and this bill is part of that understanding. We know that for the people whom we, as members of Parliament, see in our electorate offices and in our constituency offices, this bill is coming not a moment too soon. I have certainly had contact personally myself, as a member of Parliament, with people who have had the wrong advice on their chances of gaining residency and citizenship in this country. They have come to this country in good faith. They have found out many thousands of dollars later and many months—or many years, in fact—later that the advice they were originally given was incorrect advice, and that they did not have the qualifications or meet the criteria that would enable them to spend a long period of time in New Zealand. They have therefore made some very critical decisions in their lives about coming away from their country of origin and investing here in New Zealand—perhaps buying property, becoming owners of businesses, or starting up new companies—only to find that the original advice was not, in fact, correct, and they now need to make some different decisions and return to their country of origin.
I remind the House how important the sorts of decisions are that people are making and why, therefore, we need a professional system in place to ensure the competency of the advice that people are given. Certainly, I can recall about 2 months ago a woman from the Cambridge area who told me exactly that story of having been given the wrong advice from an immigration adviser who assured her that if she did certain things, she would absolutely become resident in New Zealand, when that was quite incorrect information. She came here in good faith. She put her money into setting up her own catering business, only to find that the advice she was given was incorrect. She now has to fold up that business opportunity that she started up. When I informed her of this bill’s passage, she said to me: “I wish this had been in place when I first made my inquiries about New Zealand. I have spent $10,000 trying to make my New Zealand dream come true. I hope this won’t happen to others in the future. Good on you.”
Good on the Labour-led Government for bringing this bill into place. That woman knows that other people are coming along in the same situation, and that they will be much better placed.
DIANNE YATES (Labour)
: It is with pleasure that I rise to speak on the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill. The previous speaker has just pointed out that this bill is in response to a perceived and a very real need for people who are going to be immigration advisers to have some standards, and this bill sets the standards.
It is very important for people who are coming to this country that they are not ripped off or disillusioned by their experience of dealing with immigration advisers, as they have been in the past. We have just heard the story of one person who was giving wrong advice. Many of us as MPs have heard from many people who have been given bad advice and who have had very, very bad experiences. I know of a case where someone was getting advice and the adviser was holding the person’s passport. I ended up by saying to the person that the adviser was not allowed to do that and the person should go back and demand the passport. I am sure many MPs in the past have come across many instances where people have been dealt with badly.
It used to be that an immigration adviser was a failed MP, or a failed lawyer, or a deregistered lawyer. All sorts of people decided that anyone could be an immigration adviser—it was a good thing to do, one just gave advice, and one did not need any standards or need to know about the law, and so on. This bill is very, very important. It
means that immigration advisers must be licensed, they must know what they are talking about, they must be able to give advice, and they must work within the law. This bill is really, really overdue. We do feel very, very sorry for those people who have come to this country and had bad experiences. As the previous speaker said, many still have a nasty taste in their mouth about what happened to them through the process of getting here.
We note there are exemptions from the licensing. Members of Parliament and members of their staff are exempt, and that is necessary because as members of Parliament we get a great number of people coming to our offices asking about their immigration status and what they should do, where they should go, and what action they should follow. We note that foreign diplomats and consular staff are exempt. We note that employees of the public service who provide immigration advice are exempt, obviously. Lawyers who are registered are exempt. Persons employed by, or working as volunteers for, community law centres are exempt. They give advice to people who come to them and really want to know where to go. People who provide immigration advice offshore for student permits are exempt.
So there are exemptions for people who are able to give advice, but generally we do not want any Tom, Dick, or Harry, or Jane or Joan, or whoever setting themselves up as immigration advisers and, as we have seen in the past, giving wrong advice, or, to put it crudely, ripping off people who want to come to this country by demanding large amounts of money, delivering wrong advice or no advice at all, and holding on to people’s documents and making them wait and wait without receiving any satisfaction. I see the Minister nodding in agreement that this legislation is in response to corrupt practices that were going on. We thank the Minister for coming up with this legislation. We thank the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, and we thank those who made submissions, because they informed the process and have been extremely important in this whole area.
We note that the bill deals with codes of conduct as to what is expected of an immigration adviser, such as what they are expected to know, how they are expected to behave, how they are expected to deal with their clients, what documentation they deal with, their fees being reasonable, and so on. The job of the registrar will be to develop a code of conduct that advisers will have to comply with. It is very, very good that there is a complaints process and a disciplinary tribunal so people will have a form of redress, will be able to take complaints, and will be able to have some form of redress should they be dealt with erroneously or not get the proper information, advice, and treatment they should expect.
We note that those who are licensed should have a certificate and that people who are seeking advice will be able to check that they are going to a legitimate adviser and not to someone who has set him or herself up. As I said, as constituent MPs many of us know people who have been to advisers, been given wrong advice, and ended up in tears in our offices, wondering what to do next and where to go. We have felt extremely sorry for those people, and are very grateful for this bill, because it will ensure that there will be some standards, that those standards will be carried out, and that those people will have an ability to make complaints and to deal with the process.
Once again, I thank everyone who has been involved, and I express an apology to those people who, in the past, were dealt with by people who were not up to scratch and did not give the advice they should have given. We express a big apology to those New Zealand immigrants who, as Sue
Moroney said, still have a nasty taste in their mouths from their first experiences of this country—from people who did not treat them in the way we would think was typical of good New Zealanders, or in a way that we ourselves or our families have experienced.
Just last weekend I heard someone say that when they came to New Zealand they were not dealt with properly, and that feeling does not go away. People still hold that grudge for a long time when they have been, as we have said, ripped off by people who have not had the integrity that will be demanded with this licensing process. So once again, I say thank you to all those who have been involved, and we look forward to the implementation of this law and greater justice and fairness for those who exercise it.
STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua)
: I am pleased to take a call on this bill. I think it is extremely important for the fabric of New Zealand society. As a Government we have always stressed, since we came into office, that we need a very well-managed and balanced immigration programme and that that sort of programme was one of the keys to New Zealand’s economic transformation. We are very aware that the Opposition has carped on somewhat about net migration loss, and we knew that this net migration loss had to be offset by attracting to New Zealand the right sorts of people who are given the right advice from the very beginning of the process. That is core to the fabric of the New Zealand identity.
We have always trusted people in New Zealand. We have gone on good faith, goodwill, and trust. It is amazing how haphazard the immigration advice industry—and it is an industry—has become. It takes a constituent MP in a very busy office to see the number of cases that come to us as a default process after a person has tried to use the Immigration Service out of need and has to talk to someone he or she trusts about the process that has belittled what we want in an open and transparent Immigration Service. That is why I am very pleased to see in this bill the complaints and disciplinary tribunal. I think it puts this profession on a parallel and makes it relative to other professions. We are saying that immigration advisers must be professional in the way they go about their business. Along with that goes accountability, as it does for any other professionals, about the sort of advice given and also about the costing and the transparency of the process for these more vulnerable people when they want to come to New Zealand.
What a ghastly thing it is for any people from offshore who decide that New Zealand is the country of their choice—not the country of default—to meet an immigration adviser who gives them the wrong steer from the start. Members all know how we have to then make appeals to the Minister of Immigration, and we all know about the huge amount of resources that go into any appeal process because the wrong advice has been given in the first instance. So these people were put crook to begin with, either about what category they should be using or about what sort of visa they should be applying under, and from then on it is very difficult to unpick and undo a process that was faulty from the initial application.
I am also pleased that this tribunal is independent of the ministry. I think that is very, very important. In many cases I have had nowhere to go to other than the Minister’s office, and I do not see that as being the right place, because then yet another official is asked to go and review the file and make sure that the right advice was given. Migrants ask to see members often—but not in the members’ offices, because they feel they are hiding under the threat of being sent back to their country of origin. As a constituent MP, I have been to some very peculiar places to meet some thoroughly decent people who have applied with the best intent of coming into New Zealand and contributing to our economic fabric, and who are in hiding and have nowhere to go. They have been led by some very good people through their ethnic association or their particular migrant community who have bothered to make the effort to put together a case to bring to a constituent MP.
I have been appalled at what I have seen in terms of costs along the transaction pathway for applications. I have seen cases where costs have run to thousands and thousands of dollars and the associates of the migrant community have put in together
to fund it in terms of getting the record straight. So I am really pleased that there is an independent tribunal for complaints. I think that tribunal will have to be thoroughly well resourced, because as soon as we have a complaints tribunal along the lines of any other tribunal that we are aware of, we will need to resource it. We have had the recent case of the Police Complaints Authority saying that if the Government is to set up the authority to answer the issues that come before it, we should resource it well. So I am pleased to see that complaints tribunal in the bill.
Really good immigration advisers in my community have absolutely no problem at all about being licensed, about being subject to rigorous scrutiny over their professionalism, and about their need for ongoing professional development, because, goodness knows, we change the Immigration Act very frequently. Often the wrong advice is given unsuspectingly because immigration advisers are not even aware of the amendments that have happened to either the regulations or the Immigration Act. Immigration advisers are saying that they need to keep up with the play, and that they need to go and attend some seminars to know what is going on so that they do give the right advice.
I think that this is a thoroughly good bill. It even goes back to before Paul Swain’s time, when members had to give names to the Hon Lianne Dalziel. She asked for members to come forward with specific names in order to cite immigration advisers, either onshore or offshore, who had been absolutely unscrupulous in their dealings. That information was hard enough to get out of constituents because they did not want to dob in the person who put them wrong and took their money under false pretences. So members gave a huge list to the Minister. Then she, to her credit, then Paul Swain, and now David Cunliffe and Clayton Cosgrove put their minds to creating a thoroughly professional bill.
I think it is a great thing that we are having this reading today, and I congratulate those on the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee who took this bill so seriously. I do believe that this bill will bring us into line with other countries. It will show that we are a thoroughly decent country, and that we do not just go on trust and a bit of a wink and a nod. The professionalism around immigration now has raised the bar. This bill shows the standard we expect to see in our country, and we expect to abide by it, so we know we are getting the people here, welcoming them, and making them feel that they are part of our society. We are proud to have them here, and we are dissociating ourselves with the illegal and shonky practices of the past.
I think that this is a fantastic bill. I know that the migrant community out there is very pleased about it. I went to the Indian association AGM. That association has been going in this country for 83 years. The Minister for Ethnic Affairs came, and those people were delighted with the steps this Government has undertaken, from when we got into office in 1999, in order to purge our processes and to put in place very, very strong and sustainable frameworks for immigration that cannot be unpicked by future Governments. I believe that we have met that commitment. The community that we discussed this bill with was delighted, and I am sure that we will go forward in a very positive manner with this bill behind us.
TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central)
: I rise with, I guess, three hats on to welcome the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill. Firstly, I am myself an immigrant to New Zealand. Secondly, I am an electorate member of Parliament in a central city area that is often the first port of call for refugees and migrants coming to live in the beautiful city of Christchurch. Often the local MP’s office is the place they head off to
to get advice and help. Thirdly, I am a Labour member of Parliament who believes in fair and balanced law.
I would like to just briefly talk from those three perspectives. I was fortunate enough to come to New Zealand right back in 1991, when, probably, the pressure on immigration was somewhat less.
Dr Jonathan Coleman: You wouldn’t get in now, Tim.
TIM BARNETT: The member has started to heckle already.
The points system had just come in, I speak English as a first language—after a fashion, as the Minister of Immigration has just commented—and I was in a position where I did not have to seek paid work immediately. So I was one of the fortunate people. I did not need to go to a member of Parliament in my local area to get help. I conflicted against other parts of the immigration system, particularly living in a same-sex relationship, but that is another story for my autobiography one day. But anyway, I was the fortunate one in that respect.
Secondly, I now find myself in the position, as an electorate member of Parliament, where my office is heavily burdened by immigration casework. We reckon, out of the 75 hours of paid staff time in my electorate office, that about 30 of those hours is spent doing immigration casework. Fortunately, we are one block away from the local immigration office, and we also have very strong links with the ethnic and refugee communities, from which a lot of the issues are generated.
I often wonder why people come to a member of Parliament rather than always going to a lawyer. Obviously, there is an issue of money, and together with money comes the issue of
specialism of lawyers, because back in the early 1990s very few lawyers had a real expertise in this area. Now a whole group of immigration advisers has grown up, and that is why we need this legislation today. Their expertise is variable and until this legislation goes through, the consumer guarantees really are not as great as they should be. So one reason people tend to come to members of Parliament for help in this area is entirely because they do not have a great trust in the advisers and the wider legal profession in this particular area.
The second issue is that a good member of Parliament—from whatever party—will create strong links with the various ethnic communities and, through that, those communities will often be host to people who are coming to New Zealand who have immigration problems and who want to go to a friendly face for help.
Then the third issue is that the availability of free, independent advice agencies is limited. My electorate office is fortunate enough to be a couple of blocks from a community law centre. I used to be its coordinator, so I know the place well. It also has resources that are quite strained by the amount of immigration casework that it has had to take on, and it is unable to deal with the caseload that every one of the electorate offices in the city—four Labour, one Progressive, and one National—take on, in terms of immigration.
The work we do is not to replace the role of an adviser or a lawyer. The role of a member of Parliament in this area is to be a translator of the system, and an advocate back into the Immigration Service. I have to give great credit to the local immigration office, because I think nowadays it has developed a real expertise in dealing with members of Parliament to pick up these issues, without the issues having to go any further. Just because one is a member of Parliament in an area generating lots of immigration cases does not necessarily mean to say that there will be lots and lots of letters through to Ministers to ask them to use their discretion. There is a whole range of issues that cause people to come to members of Parliament, as a friendly face, in order to get advocacy for their immigration issues.
One thing I have noticed when reviewing those cases is that it is not one size fits all. Often, we get cases coming to us as politicians that really resist any easy description. The matters are quite complex, and any law and any rule is going to struggle to be
relevant and to be applied to that particular situation. For all those reasons I think it is really important that we recognise the role of members of Parliament in this area. I am glad to see the protection for MPs in this legislation, so we can continue to do our work, which is to give a bit of advice and a bit of information.
The third point, just briefly, is that this law is necessary. This law is about protecting people in New Zealand, including New Zealand residents, to ensure that they get a fair service. We have heard from my Labour colleagues examples of shonky operators in this area. I will be pleased to report back tomorrow to those groups in my electorate and my city that we now have protections in place and we now have fair law in this area.
I commend our new immigration advisers licensing regime to the House, and I am very pleased to be the last speaker in this debate. Thank you, Mr Speaker.