Hansard and Journals
Immigration Amendment Bill — First Reading
[Sitting date: 03 May 2012. Volume:679;Page:1950. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Immigration Amendment Bill
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Immigration) : I move, That the Immigration Amendment Bill be now read a first time. I nominate that the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee consider the bill. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the committee report back finally to the House on or before 10 September 2012.
People-smuggling is a transnational crime that grossly undermines a country’s sovereign right to determine who crosses into its territory. It circumvents border security and threatens the integrity of the immigration system. It also puts the lives of those who are smuggled in extreme danger. New Zealand has not yet experienced a mass arrival but attempts have been made, as has been evidenced by recent events, which I will address shortly. The bill is one component of a wider package of policy measures aimed at deterring people-smuggling. It will assist in deterring people-smuggling by making New Zealand a less desirable target. It will also enable the effective and efficient management of a mass arrival of illegal immigrants should this occur.
In introducing this legislation I would like to focus the House’s attention on three points regarding a mass arrival of people being smuggled to New Zealand. A mass arrival is possible but less likely under these changes. A mass arrival is not in the best interests of New Zealand or those being smuggled, given the safety risks. A mass arrival should be deterred, and, indeed, if it does happen, it should be managed effectively and efficiently.
We know that New Zealand has been in the sights of people-smugglers in recent years. Ten Chinese asylum seekers were trying to sail to New Zealand from Malaysia just last month. As well, we had the 90 Sri Lankan asylum seekers who were intercepted in Indonesia last year and shown on television holding up signs saying they wanted to come to New Zealand. That, indeed, illustrates the risk. Ten illegal migrants may seem like a small number, but once such an arrival has been achieved, New Zealand could be seen as a more attractive option for like-minded people.
It is not only small boats that may be involved, as Canada found out a couple of years ago when a steel-hulled freighter sailing from Thailand was intercepted off the coast of British Columbia with around 500 people on board, all of whom claimed asylum. If people-smugglers can reach Canada, they can certainly reach New Zealand. Our distance and perceived remoteness does not make us immune to such risks. We need to make sure that we properly address and mitigate those risks.
New Zealand has a sovereign right to determine who enters our country, whether as visitors, students, skilled or business migrants, or refugees under our annual refugee quota. We welcome genuine immigrants. We facilitate the entry and stay of legitimate workers, students, and visitors. We grant residence to those who have the skills, investment, and abilities to contribute positively to our New Zealand economy and our society as a whole. But although the vast majority of people who wish to enter New Zealand do so for genuine reasons, others have ulterior motives. We need border protection measures to prevent these people from entering and we need tough measures to deter groups of illegal immigrants from travelling to New Zealand.
People-smugglers do not care for a country’s sovereignty or laws, because they can make big money from other people’s desperation. They do not care about those they smuggle. Boat people tragedies in various parts of the Pacific over the last few years highlight the need for a robust regional response to people movements, refugee resettlement, and illegal migration. Ongoing illegal movements of people en masse in Asia-Pacific are not in the region’s best interests. New Zealand cannot be seen as a soft touch in the region. The Government, of course, is committed to upholding New Zealand’s obligations under international law and New Zealand’s reputation as a good international citizen. We will continue to accept 750 refugees per year through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees process. This is the appropriate way to come to New Zealand as a refugee and we expect proper immigration processes to be followed.
The bill I am introducing today balances protecting our borders and upholding our international obligations. It contains a range of measures to deter people-smuggling, making it unattractive for people-smugglers to target New Zealand, but it does not jeopardise the process for those who make a genuine claim for refugee or protection status. The Ministry of Justice has also advised that the Immigration Amendment Bill is consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The Immigration Amendment Bill will also enable officials to better manage the immediate risks posed by a mass arrival of illegal immigrants, and will streamline the complex administration of such a situation.
The bill proposes several key changes to the Immigration Act. Firstly, it identifies that illegal immigrants will be subject to the changes if they are a group of 11 or more people arriving together, all with the intention of arriving together by an unscheduled service.
Secondly, the bill allows for mandatory detention under a group warrant issued by a District Court judge for an initial period of up to 6 months, with the possibility of further detention for periods of up to 28 days or release into the community on binding conditions. Detention will enable the relevant agencies to inquire, as necessary, into the background of illegal immigrants pending decisions on refugee or protection claims. This will help to confirm identity or assess whether illegal immigrants pose a risk to national security or public safety. Although mandatory detention may seem like a strong stance to take, it will not be used for arbitrary purposes, and will be used only for as long as necessary, as decided by the District Court judge. Detention could be at the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland, or a defence or correctional facility. The bill also allows for exceptions to mandatory detention where this is warranted.
Thirdly, the bill will allow the processing of asylum claims to be suspended for a group of people where, for example, information for determining a refugee or protection claim is not immediately available due to the conditions within their country, which could be, as an example, in a state of flux. These measures do not apply to unaccompanied minors, who will be dealt with under the existing processes.
The bill also streamlines various aspects of existing legislation in terms of refugee and protection claims, and appeals generally, to increase efficiency.
In addition to these changes set out in the bill, there are also going to be some policy changes. Those granted refugee or protection status as part of mass arrival will initially be granted a 3-year temporary visa rather than residence. Their status will be reassessed after 3 years, and, if their reassessment is successful, only then may they apply for residence. Those granted residence after reassessment will be able to sponsor only immediate family, which is a partner or dependent children, for entry to New Zealand rather than the wider family, such as siblings or parents, as those granted residence under refugee categories are otherwise able to do.
In conclusion, this bill sends a strong message to people-smugglers that New Zealand is indeed not a soft touch and that illegal immigrants are not welcome. The bill’s provisions make it unattractive for people-smugglers to target New Zealand, but if illegal immigrants do make it here the provisions also uphold our international obligations in terms of considering refugee and protection claims. I commend the Immigration Amendment Bill to the House.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : Labour will oppose the Immigration Amendment Bill because it is just one big overreaction to a non-existent problem. It is a waste of parliamentary time when there are so many other important things that we should be dealing with, like the fact that unemployment has gone up again today and so many of our young people cannot find a job. This bill is being rushed through. I do not understand why it is being rushed through its first reading. It was deliberately introduced on Tuesday in an attempt to divert attention from the tawdry scandals surrounding this Government. Those tawdry scandals extend to immigration and any other piece of legislation that this Government thinks it can put up for sale to the highest bidder.
The Government is determined to divert our attention from the real issues by talking up what it believes is a populist move while, at the same time, it will not front up on the real immigration issues. Firstly, there is the secret deal done with Warner Bros, which we learnt about on Friday. We have watered down immigration rules for our film and video production industry. Despite special deals and favours to Warner Bros, this Government has done nothing to ensure that the growth of our film industry can result in New Zealand jobs. The New Zealand public have a right to know why it is necessary for Weta Digital to be seeking 369 foreign workers to come in and work for it in the next year. Goodness knows how many other foreign workers it has. The Government has bent over backwards to do special deals and special favours, and New Zealanders are not benefiting from them.
Government members also need to explain to us why there are increasing numbers of applications from employers in low-paying industries to bring in workers from overseas and pay the minimum wage. Why is that happening? Why is that acceptable in New Zealand? Does the Government think it is acceptable for Filipino nurses to be tricked into bondage as caregivers in the aged-care industry? That is people-trafficking and nothing is being done about that. I also want to know whether the Government thinks it is OK for secret deals, for secrets to be kept by Immigration New Zealand under section 61. It keeps them secret from the public so that no one can find out the reasons for the decision. The Government still has not told us why only 10 applicants have succeeded under its migrant Investor Plus scheme, and, of course, the poster boy for that scheme is none other than John Banks’ former very good friend Kim Dotcom.
This bill is a cover-up for a whole range of dodgy arrangements, including the Government’s willingness to make special rules for those with lots of money and ignore the rights of everyone else. This bill will not work as a deterrent to desperate asylum seekers, who could take the extremely unlikely decision to risk the treacherous sea journey to New Zealand. It will not stop people-smugglers in other countries who encourage them, and it puts at risk New Zealand’s reputation as a good international citizen.
The bill copies the former Australian Conservative Howard Government, which successfully divided that country over a hysterical response to so-called boat people and did that by arresting them and putting them in detention centres. I do not want to see that happen here.
The Minister of Immigration mentioned the 10 asylum seekers who had fetched up in Darwin, who, by the way, would not be covered by this bill, because it is for only 11 or more. They said they were considering making the long journey to New Zealand, the very hazardous trip to New Zealand. We worked with negotiation and diplomacy. Our officials worked with the Australian Government to dissuade those people from attempting the journey, on the grounds that it was dangerous and they would likely not succeed. That is good diplomacy and negotiation. It kept New Zealand’s dignity and it kept our reputation. But in a short space we have gone from worrying about the potential for 10 asylum seekers from Darwin coming to New Zealand, to legislating for the possible arrival of 500. How did that happen?
New Zealand is one of the most geographically isolated countries in the world, and we are never going to be swamped by mass arrivals. The regulatory impact statement from the Department of Labour actually admits that “It is not possible to quantify exactly what the likelihood is of a mass arrival occurring in the future, or when this might occur. It is also not possible to be sure about the characteristics of the people involved in any such event.” So the Government bases this bill on the assumption that 500 people would be involved in a mass arrival, when there has never been a real threat to New Zealand’s borders of 500 people turning up on a boat, seeking asylum.
Labour is not saying that we should not have a plan for the very unlikely event of a mass arrival at our borders, but it should be based on reality and the decent practices for which New Zealand has earned an international reputation. Locking up asylum seekers who are desperate to find a place of safety simply does not work as a deterrent, and Australia’s experience should tell us that. I never want to see asylum seekers in New Zealand locked up behind fences, holding up signs, going on hunger strikes, committing suicide, and becoming a political football in the way that they have in Australia.
The bill proposes a mandatory detention for 6 months, which is horrific, with the possibility of ongoing detention. That will also come at a cost to our reputation, but it will cost the New Zealand taxpayer as well. The Minister said: “Oh well, we can lock them up in Māngere.” Actually, there has been discussion about closing that centre. So the other alternative is to put them on some part of our Devonport naval base. I wonder how the member for North Shore will explain to the nice people of Devonport that they will have mass arrivals arriving at the naval base and being locked up. The regulatory impact statement says that actually more detention facilities will be needed for longer, and additional facilities would need to be commissioned and operated. So in the extremely unlikely event that 500 people wash up on our shores, we will spend money and build more detention centres, and this is from a Government that claims it is practising austerity.
Another amendment in this bill would mean that a claimant’s refugee status would be reassessed after 3 years—the Minister talked about that—with permanent residence not granted unless that reassessment is approved. The Australian Government is saying that this is similar to what Prime Minister Howard did under the Conservatives. It is similar to the temporary protection visas introduced by his Liberal-led Government. Those visas did not work there, and they will not work here. This is what the Australians are saying. The overwhelming number of people who get temporary protection visas actually have ended up as permanent residents in Australia. It is hardly a deterrent. These changes are not only an overreaction but they are probably in breach of our international humanitarian laws and our convention obligations.
New Zealand is highly regarded for its refugee policies internationally, which include taking up to 750 refugees every year through the United Nations system, and offering asylum to a smaller number of people who reach our borders in other ways and meet refugee criteria. We have all celebrated over the years Helen Clark’s decision to allow the Tampa refugees to come to New Zealand and settle here. Most people in this House will have met them at some stage. Their children are well settled and they are now working. They have been through study, and they are now working and contributing to New Zealand society in ways that we could never have imagined.
The thing about anybody who fetches up here is not to have the sort of mass process that this bill proposes. Everyone who seeks asylum in New Zealand or seeks refugee status should be considered on a case by case basis and they should not have to languish for indeterminate periods in custody because, as this bill proposes, they arrived as a group. New Zealand already has measures for dealing with people-smuggling under the Immigration Act or the Crimes Act. We have had 15 successful convictions in the last 6 years. We are part of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, and the Government is always boasting about that. There are other solutions to this problem than this ridiculous, unnecessary, diversionary bill. The Government should be spending its time thinking about the real issues that are facing New Zealand. It should be cleaning up the immigration issues and favouritism that is going on at the moment in New Zealand, instead of wasting our time.
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) : Today we discuss the Immigration Amendment Bill, which the last party to speak, the Labour Party, said it will oppose. It is very disappointing because members of this House would have expected most parties to agree on this, especially parties that have New Zealand’s best interests in their heart. When we look at the context of immigration, it is a very vocal and emotive subject and people have a lot of opinions on it. But essentially New Zealand survives on immigration. It is a big part of the history of our country. It is also a big part of the future of our country, as we have many migrants in our country and we have many migrants in this House, who have made New Zealand their home and have found that it has been very successful for them as a place to live.
Migration is one of those things that will be important for our region. As part of the Asia-Pacific region we will see that there will be increasing trends of migration within this region. We will see a very successful Asian regional economy on our doorstep, which will enable people to have money and then choices. With money and choices, people will look for lifestyle. New Zealand has the opportunity, I guess, to pick the best migrants from that region, but also that has some risks, because people will see New Zealand as an opportunity, as a country that has a low population, has a clean, green environment, and has a very strong social system. Our education and health systems would not be comparable to many other Asian countries. Australia has found that to be a reality. From the areas of the subcontinent and through South-east Asia many people see Australia as very attractive, because what does Australia offer? It offers a low population, a large land mass, and social services such as education and health care that are very difficult to obtain in those people’s country of origin.
Naturally there is a desire to come to New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand and Australia will be the focal points for that growing population of people who will have the ability to make that transition out of their country of origin. The question, then, for New Zealand is whether we enable people to come to New Zealand, and I do not think anybody in this House would say no, that we do not want people to come to New Zealand, because we need to have a growing population, and new people bring in new values, new histories, and new diversity to our country that add to and build this country. But we have a choice of whom we bring into New Zealand. We need to make sure that we use and exercise that choice properly. We need to be able to bring in people who will add value to New Zealand, in the sense that they have skills and are willing to make New Zealand their home and their future.
Although we have a bit of choice as a Government as to whom we allow into New Zealand and how, the individuals coming to New Zealand also have some choices. They have some choices about meeting the criteria to move to countries like New Zealand and Australia. The criteria are very simple. New Zealand and Australia will be looking for skilled migrants going forward. The policies that you see around migration are primarily based on having skills. Do you have the ability to speak English? Do you have the ability to—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order!
DAVID BENNETT: Does the individual have the ability to provide skills to the country and also to develop New Zealand into a stronger place? When you look at that policy decision we have in migration, this bill becomes very important. It sends a signal about what New Zealand seeks, and it also sends a signal—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That we are a soft touch.
DAVID BENNETT: The member over there says that New Zealand is a soft touch, so I look forward to him supporting this bill. This bill shows that we are not a soft touch, but I do not know whether he is going to support it. He is talking about—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It’s a dog-whistle bill.
DAVID BENNETT: Oh, now it is about democracy. A minute ago it was that we are not allowed to be seen as a soft touch. This bill tightens the rules around that issue, yet the member over there will not support it. Now, tell me how that works. Tell me whether there is the degree of strength of conviction that we should see from the New Zealand First Party, a party whose name is based around issues such as this, when that member does not want to see a tightening of these rules.
The other side of this bill is that we have to take into account the many migrants who have come to New Zealand and make a lot of sacrifices to come here. The thousands of people who learn the English language, who make sure they have the skills to come to New Zealand—those people need to be treated with respect for the sacrifice they have made to make New Zealand their home. If we do not give them that reward, in the sense of their becoming New Zealand residents and citizens—for learning the English language, and bringing those skills to New Zealand—we send them the wrong signal as well. I think it is important for those migrants who have come to New Zealand to see fairness and equity within the New Zealand system, and not to see some people bypass them in the system, just because they got on a boat and came through a process like that.
When we look at this legislation we must look at the signals it will send to the migrants who are here and the migrants who intend to come here. When we look at the legislation, we look at other countries that are in a similar boat, like Australia. They have looked at this issue as something they have had to deal with. The Australians have had to deal with it as an issue right on their doorstep now. In New Zealand we do not have to deal with it right on our doorstep, as we are not as close to those regions as Australia is. But it will come. At some point it will come. If we are not prepared, then we will be in trouble, and part of being in this Government and being in Parliament is to be prepared.
Andrew Williams: You’ll blame the Christchurch earthquake for that as well.
DAVID BENNETT: And we will be prepared, and it is in the best interests of New Zealand that we be prepared for this going forward.
Andrew Williams: For the earthquake?
DAVID BENNETT: Opposition members are talking about being prepared for an earthquake. Well, if they have a crystal ball, then that would be great to see. We look forward to their supporting this legislation, rather than being contrary to it as we normally expect. This legislation is good for New Zealand because it prepares our country for any future situations that may arise. We need to have some rules and regulations in place. This bill is good for New Zealand in that it sends the right signals to those people who see New Zealand as their future. It shows that we are an open country but we are open only if you fulfil the rules and regulations—that is, if you have the skills and you fulfil the immigration rules, and you do not try to use the process in a way that is not fair to those who have made those sacrifices and those who are willing to make those sacrifices in the future. It also shows that we are a country open to migration, because that is part of our future and our history. It is very important—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What’s that got to do with the bill?
DAVID BENNETT: —it is important—because New Zealand was built on migration, and it is going to be a big part of our future, and we cannot discount that. We need to recognise the importance of migration in our future and we need to recognise the importance of that in regard to people who make the right choices and do the right things, and not on the basis of some kind of perception of what may be the case.
The Immigration Amendment Bill is a good bill. It sends the right signals, it protects New Zealand for the future, and we look forward to other parties voting in favour of this legislation, as they should.
CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) : Labour opposes the Immigration Amendment Bill for the reasons that were very ably set out by my colleague Darien Fenton in her speech earlier. I will summarise the key reasons for that opposition. This bill addresses an issue that simply is not before New Zealand as a threat at the moment. It is a waste of the time of Parliament, and that is why people have legitimately asked during this debate already why we are dealing with this issue in this Parliament now. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that it is because of the scandals that National is facing and having to manage at the moment. “What shall we do if we are faced with scandal? We know,” say the managers of Government business, “we will come up with targeting an unpopular group, we will come up with some imaginary enemy, and we will come up with legislation that makes us look tough in dealing with them.” Well, I think we can do better than that. New Zealand is a better country than that. I thought we might have a better Government than one that was simply going to channel John Howard at his worst. But at least when John Howard was dealing with this issue, he was dealing with a real issue.
New Zealand simply does not face the threat that this bill would contend with. If anybody needs proof of that, they just need to look at the regulatory impact statement that is advanced supposedly in justification for the legislation. First of all, it contains a number of very questionable assumptions. The assumption that officials were working with, either because they were instructed to by Ministers or otherwise, is that there would be 500 people involved in a mass arrival. Let us just remember the geography here. The Minister himself in his introductory speech conceded that the recent cases involved some 10 people in Darwin who, by all learned accounts from people who have navigated from Australia to New Zealand, just had no chance of getting here given the size of their craft and the time of the year that they were planning to sail. Everybody agreed that it would be a suicide mission if they tried it, which is why they did not, and which is why we do not get arrivals of boat people in New Zealand. It is because we have a series of natural defences that just make it very difficult, if not impossible, for that sort of exercise to be contemplated, in a way that the Australians have to face a threat in reality that we simply do not.
If we want to think about further questionable assumptions, there are all sorts of strange figures in the regulatory impact statement. There is an assumed 62 percent decline rate for those who would come, and the assumption that the appeal and review process that would be invoked by all unsuccessful asylum seekers would be completed in around 18 months, but by then they would have been granted refugee or protected person status, or become eligible for deportation. But what is even more disturbing about this regulatory impact statement is the appearance throughout of the sinister words in square brackets and bold “information withheld”. Anywhere that the reader tries to get an idea of what the actual threat is: “information withheld”. Anywhere that the reader tries to gain some understanding of the real justification for this bill, “information withheld” appears in square brackets and bold.
The other problem with this legislation is that the leader of the National Party himself recently admitted that it is not necessary. In July 2011 he said that New Zealand was “ready to deal with a boatload of asylum seekers should one make it to our waters,”. That was in the New Zealand Herald on 12 July 2011. Apart from the scandals that beset National at the moment, we have to ask what has changed. He said: “We’ve upgraded our operating manual … in the way that we’d deal with a mass migration issue if it came to New Zealand and we’re confident that we understand our legal position. I don’t want to go into detail but all I will say is we’ve got the capability and we’ve modelled that we understand what we need to do.” He also said: “We haven’t proposed major changes at this point because we don’t think that’s necessary although we’d be in a position to do that if required.”
What also demonstrates the political opportunism at play here is the minutes of the Cabinet committee on domestic and external security. On 16 August 2010 the committee first looked at this issue, and then it got a report back from officials on 30 September 2010. Presumably, the Prime Minister in July 2011 was reporting back the fruits of that exercise—that is, no major change required, and everything is OK as it is—and yet 18 months after that committee meeting we see this legislation. This is the worst sort of legislation before the House, a waste of the Parliament’s time, and opportunism, trying to stoke up fears amongst the public that simply do not exist.
Why are we not looking at a Government doing something that would really make a difference to the people-smuggling problem? Why not do what the Prime Minister said should be done when he was in Indonesia recently? Why is it that we have a leader who is a lion overseas and a lamb at home on these issues? He said we should work with our friends in the region to target the people-smugglers themselves—the people who make enormous amounts of money offering and peddling false hope to people in desperate situations by cramming them into boats and then shipping them to Australia, which is where most of them end up. Those are the people who need to be targeted, and the way to target them is to negotiate with the Indonesians and with the Malaysians and with other Governments in South-east Asia, which is the transit route for most of the people who end up in Australia and who are targeted by a similar regime there to the one that this legislation would set up. That would not require a showy piece of legislation at an opportune time for the Government. It would not require Nathan Guy to go on Checkpoint and sound tough on a problem that does not exist. It would not allow for the sort of scaremongering against this group of people that we are seeing now, but it might actually make a real difference to the reality of the threat.
Deal with the people-smugglers. Look to those who profit—cui bono—and deal with them. Deal with them properly. Ensure that there are reciprocal agreements in place, as between New Zealand and Indonesia and Malaysia, so that there is an undertaking by the police forces of those countries and by the immigration agencies that those people-smugglers, those who really stand to gain from the traffic in human misery, are targeted, are subject to proper punitive regimes, and are hit in the pocket when they try to make massive profits from that traffic in human misery. But instead, what we see is a bill before the House that is offensive in many ways.
David Bennett: Rubbish!
CHARLES CHAUVEL: First of all—oh, “Rubbish!” said David Bennett. Well, it has Draconian penalties, including provision, simply on the warrant of one District Court judge, for mass detention of human beings. It suspends the right—the ancient right that everybody has—to go to the High Court and ask the question: “Did the lower court get this issue right?”. You have to get—
Moana Mackey: David Bennett said it’s not an ancient right.
CHARLES CHAUVEL: Oh, it is not an ancient right, according to that jurist on the other side, who knows these things back to front. Well, I am sorry, but it is. It is a fundamental right for anybody. It is one of the things that makes our democracy great. The ability to go to the court at any time and ask whether or not the Government or any agency of the Government has got it right is suspended and is available only by leave under this legislation.
I am ashamed of this bill. The Minister of Immigration spoke of how good New Zealand’s reputation is concerning bona fide refugees and migrants. Once I would have agreed with him, until I recently had some personal contact with the system and saw how precarious its funding arrangements are in order to deal with people who come properly and lawfully to New Zealand, and when I saw the refugee study grant cut by the National Government, making it much harder for bona fide refugees in New Zealand to complete a tertiary qualification and properly integrate into this country.
One of the finest moments that I can recall—one of the proudest moments I can recall—about being a New Zealander was when we stood up to xenophobia and we took those Tampa boys out of the Australian system, and we saw those people become fine, upstanding members of the New Zealand community. That is New Zealand at its best, not taking this shabby leaf out of the Crosby/Textor manual. We can do better, and the Government should be ashamed.
JAN LOGIE (Green) : The stated purpose of this bill, the Immigration Amendment Bill, is to amend the Immigration Act to enhance New Zealand’s ability to deter people-smuggling to New Zealand. The Green Party will be opposing this bill, as its purpose is opaque and it seems to contravene international and domestic human rights obligations. I would like to initially look at what we know about people-smuggling in New Zealand and at some of the principles that seem to be behind the thinking of this bill before getting into the details of the proposal.
From 2004 to 2010, 15 people were convicted of people-smuggling within New Zealand, and none of those cases, to my knowledge, involved mass arrivals. The people convicted of people-smuggling under section 98 of the Crimes Act have been treated pretty leniently by our courts, actually, with the harshest penalty in recent years being 8 months’ home detention. So that is a sign of how seriously our country takes people-smuggling—8 months’ home detention is the strongest response. Surely, if people-smuggling was an issue in this country, or even if we thought it might become one, then the most appropriate response would be to look at our identification of smugglers and our response to them, not to penalise the victims of that smuggling. It seems the bizarrest response imaginable to me. The way this is framed, to me, is a little bit like trying to deter burglars by promising to punish the people whose houses get burgled. It does not make sense. It seems to me we cannot really consider this as an intervention or a deterrent against people-smuggling, because it has got nothing to do with the smugglers.
So let us then consider some of the Minister of Immigration’s comments when he announced the legislation to see whether there are other clues to the purpose. When announcing it, he said: “The recent events in Darwin show that New Zealand is a target for dangerous and illegal mass arrivals by boat. We need to be prepared.” He has also made mention of a freighter with 500 people that made it to Canada a few years ago. Yet the Government itself stated there was no intelligence at the moment that would suggest a group of boat people is on its way. There has never been a landing of illegal immigrants in New Zealand by boat, with the journey being considered too dangerous for people-smuggling operations to attempt. Also, I would like to draw attention too to the cost of fuel. If we are talking about this dystopian future where things are going to get worse and more people are going to be coming to New Zealand, we also need to factor in the increasing price of oil, which is going to make that option of getting this far that much more difficult. Within that cost the refugees have to factor in the cost of the boat, which would be confiscated on arrival. So it would require a big freighter, like in the Canadian case, to get this far, and they would have to be able to afford that. It is not likely. Immigration figures a decade ago showed that about 2,500 asylum seekers were arriving in New Zealand every year, mostly by plane. Almost all of them were refused residency, and the numbers have plummeted, and have since flat-lined at around 250 per annum. These have been further reduced by advanced processing. The Government is not just exaggerating the risk of mass invasion by boat people; this Government is creating the idea of a risk.
I would like now to talk just a little bit more about the reality of refugees in the world, because they are ultimately the ones whom we are talking about. The world’s largest sources of refugees include countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sierra Leone, and some of the countries hosting the most refugees include countries like Pakistan, Syria, Jordan, Iran, and Guinea. Approximately 70 percent of the world refugee population is in Africa and the Middle East, and these people are escaping war, persecution, torture, and things that most of us cannot even imagine, and here we are drumming up a sense of them being a threat to us. It is a joke, and it is an offensive joke. Imagine yourself alone or with your family, fleeing for your life, and then being treated as a threat and a danger to the citizens of the country you had made it to. To make it to New Zealand by a boat would be an epic feat, and in fact I would go so far as to say that a few years ago, in earlier times, someone capable of such a feat would have been the subject of great books and poems. Their bravery would have given us all inspiration because of the lesson in the tenacity of the human spirit, and our ability to cope through extreme hardship. Yet this Government is choosing to demonise these people and treat them as a threat? Worldwide there are about 11 million to 12 million recognised refugees, but less than 1 percent are offered resettlement to a third country. Desperation is a natural response to that reality.
I would also just like to address the issue of the term “illegal migrants”, which has been used by the Government. This term is problematic, for several reasons. Firstly, it criminalises the person rather than the act of entering a country illegally, but also it just shows a complete misunderstanding around the reality of refugees, because international law recognises that refugees may need to enter a country without official documents or authorisation. That is part of the reality of being a refugee. Similarly, a person without status may have been coerced by traffickers, and should be recognised as a victim of crime, not treated as a wrongdoer, which is what this legislation is seeking to do. Refugees and asylum seekers and people wanting to come to New Zealand are not queue-jumpers, and they are not illegal migrants. If the Government truly wanted to address the issue of refugee desperation, then surely the most compassionate, and definitely most sensible, approach would be to improve processing of refugees, to seek to get more places for refugees to be resettled in, and to reduce the levels of war that we have in the world, so that there is less need for people to escape their countries.
Now to talk quickly about some of the specific changes in this bill, where it seeks mass detention and processing of arrivals. According to the Minister, this will enable Immigration New Zealand to be able to focus on managing the immediate risks, rather than being tied up in paperwork and clogging up the courts. You know, efficiency is good, but group detention is contrary to the fundamental concepts of law and fairness, and already Joris de Bres from the Human Rights Commission has noted that “Mandatory detention on the basis of group warrants raises issues of reasonableness and ultimately could amount to an arbitrary detention breaching section 22 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.” According to Professor Max Abbott, the director of Auckland University of Technology Centre for Migrant and Refugee Research, this is also probably a breach in international humanitarian laws and conventions.
So this is what this Government is about. It is about solutions for problems that do not exist, and a complete denial of the importance and the validity of fundamental human rights. Shame. Shame on this Government.
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) : I take absolutely no shame in standing up and supporting this bill, the Immigration Amendment Bill, this afternoon. I take absolutely no shame in supporting this bill, because this is about New Zealand getting ahead of a potential problem in the future. Many of the criticisms that we have heard this afternoon, many of the concerns that have been levelled at us this afternoon, are the same types of arguments that were made in Australia in years gone past. And do you know what? If the Australian Government of the past had listened to that type of criticism and those types of concerns and done nothing, then it would have an even bigger problem than what it has got today.
The fact of the matter is that we are a nation that is desirable for people to come to. We have a beautiful country. We have natural fauna and flora, we have great seaside areas to live in, we have great environmental areas that people want to live in, we have good education systems, and we have good health systems. Naturally, people want to come and live in New Zealand, and I completely understand that. I have an electorate where half of the population was not born in New Zealand. There are a lot of migrants in my electorate, a lot of people in my electorate who have worked hard, done the right thing, and gone through the right processes to come to this country, and it is absolutely unfair on the people who work hard, do the right thing, and come to New Zealand through the right channels to see people having the opportunity to come here illegally, and getting fast tracked and jumping through the queue. Sure, we may not have a huge number of them coming just yet, but should we sit back and do nothing? Should we just say: “It’ll be OK. We won’t deal with it and we won’t get ahead of the issue, because this may never happen.”? The fact of the matter is that people will want to come here. This happened in Australia. We are very close to Australia. Our nearest neighbour is Australia, and they do have this problem. If we sit back and do nothing, then we will have exactly the same problem.
It is quite interesting to see. I disagree with a lot of what the Green Party stands for and what it believes in, but you have to say that at least it opposes things on principle. The other guys over the other side actually do not know why they are opposing it. They just oppose things for the sake of it. They are just opposing it because they are the Opposition, and they think the only thing they can do to get some attention is to oppose things. They seem to think that we have a case here where we are trying to avoid distractions. Well, their leader needs some distraction, because he is just not getting anywhere at all. If they are wanting to accuse us of trying to avoid distractions, well, they are looking for some relevance for their leader. Where has he been? What has he had to do in the last few weeks? Who is David Shearer? Most people around the country do not know who he is. So I do not accept the criticism they have made, because they have got a far bigger problem on the other side.
It is depressing to hear the Opposition’s comments today. It is depressing to hear Opposition members say that we should not have this legislation before the House, because there is no problem. We need to show that New Zealand is not going to be a soft touch. We need to show that good people who work hard to come here through the proper channels, who do follow the law, and who do recognise New Zealand’s law should be rewarded. They should not be in a position where people who can queue-jump do so.
I perfectly accept that there are a lot of people in the world who have had a lot of bad things done to them. We cannot get away from that; it is a fact. But we are not a country that can take everybody. We are not a country that can sit back and accept every person who has had something bad happen in their life. Sure, the people who come here on boats, the people who try to get through the system without going through proper processes, and the people who seek asylum by coming here on boats do have a lot of genuine problems that they have had to face in their lives. But should they be fast tracked over and above the good people who go through the proper process?
Moana Mackey: We haven’t had any.
JAMI-LEE ROSS: Well, look at the heckling from the other side. She has got nothing interesting to say. The Opposition has had no real reasons to be opposing this bill. It is just opposing it for the sake of opposing it. That is all it does. It wants to know why it is so low in the polls. It is because all it does is just oppose things for the sake of it.
Darien Fenton: Shame.
JAMI-LEE ROSS: I take no shame in standing in support of this bill, Darien Fenton. You know, people often ask me what Darien Fenton is like. I say: “She is a unionist, but she is actually a nice person.” I am starting to change my mind after this, Darien.
This is legislation that we need to get ahead of the game, to make sure we are prepared, and to make sure New Zealand is not seen as a soft touch. We will in the future have problems if we do nothing. The Opposition wants to see nothing done. It does not want to tackle the problems that New Zealand has and potentially will have in the future. This is a Government that wants to get ahead of the game. I congratulate Nathan Guy and thank him for bringing this legislation to the House. I am looking forward to the select committee process.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As a former Minister of Immigration I take offence at several of the references in that speech. The first is to queue-jumping, which does not apply—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) : Sometimes you hear a new member rise in the House who is capable of assembling an argument that is soundly based and who is aware of the facts, and, frankly, the political system is advantaged by it. Sad to say, that last speech, by Jami-Lee Ross, was not one of those occasions.
New Zealand First’s immigration policy is one that is planned, that is focused, that is in New Zealand’s economic and social interests, and that is aware that we already have here significant numbers of unemployed, homeless, and sick people, whom we at the last election were required to have regard to. The second thing about New Zealand First’s immigration policy is that every political party in Asia—no matter where you go; all the way to Turkey—supports the principles behind it. Just in case anybody is going to shout words of xenophobia and racism, you cannot find one political party in any part of Asia, all the way to Turkey, that is not in line with New Zealand First’s thinking on this matter.
The Immigration Amendment Bill was pulled out of National’s sleeve as a decoy for the scandal that is going on in respect of Epsom and John Banks. That is why National did it out of left field, in the same way as it announced at about the same time a change of access to student loans. You can see there is no research behind this bill. There is no hard-core work behind it, and National wants us to come out and support it in what is purely a dog whistle.
Let me tell that last member who was on his feet that on any given day right now—go and check with the Minister of Immigration—there are 20,000 overstayers in New Zealand. There are 20,000 overstayers in an age of computerisation where, not manually but in terms of technology, you can instantly know who has not left. So what National is running is a total circus in immigration at the moment. It has no idea who is here, what they are doing, and why they are here. So do not get up and tell us you have got a bill preparing for the future when the face of the future is with you now. You have got massive numbers of overstayers in this country—most of whom, I might add, are white, not Asian, not Polynesian, and not Melanesian—and you do not know who is here.
And then you have got a man called Kim Dotcom, who paid $10 million in respect of Government bonds.
Andrew Williams: How much?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: $10 million. He bought his way into the country, with a criminal conviction. How on earth he has survived the—to put it in ordinary terms—fat index factor, which is required to pass the health certificate, is beyond me. But there he is, 26 stone of him, in this country because, for the National Party, assets and placement in this country are for sale. It is a disgraceful policy without one shred of principle at all. Now it has pulled this out of its sleeve because the ACT Party is in trouble. Take this legislation back to where it came from and do it properly.
New Zealand will be under international scrutiny if and when refugees start landing on our shores, and if they can make Canada they can certainly make New Zealand. It is a shorter reach, from Australia, for them to get here than to go to Canada.
Jami-Lee Ross: Then support our bill. Support it.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no. We are not going to support a shibboleth. We are not going to support an exercise in deception. We are not for dog-whistle legislation. We are for real policy. If you cannot tell me why 20,000 overstayers are here—if you cannot tell us why 20,000 overstayers are here—then you have no plan at all in respect of this legislation.
Let me ask you this very simple question. Where is your detention facility? You have not got one, have you?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Gerry’s place.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Gerry’s place. You might have one, Mr Assistant Speaker, but—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Don’t bring me into the debate.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I know; I appreciate that, Mr Assistant Speaker. That is the last thing I wanted to do. Where is National’s detention centre, to go with its much-lauded bill in the House today? What is the answer to that question? Not a syllable, not a sound, not a mutter, not a murmur, because there is no detention centre to back this legislation up. But National wants to look tough just in case a boat arrives and it can say that all the rest of the parties did not support it. One more time: where is the detention centre that goes with the detention policy?
Hon Member: Devonport.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, Devonport. That is not a detention centre. You can just walk out the door when you feel like it. That is not what a detention centre looks like in any part of Asia, or in any part of the world. Does New Zealand really want a Christmas Island type of detention centre run by Serco, which is currently dealing with mass hunger strikes in Australian detention centres? Remember who Serco is? The National members should, because it also is the private prison contractor for the Mt Eden prison. In case you just did not know, Serco is not covering itself in glory running a private prison, either. It is having some real problems, and these will be coming out over the next few weeks. But that is the point. Where are the policy and the structure to back up this statement in the House? No doubt National will go around and bore the chambers of commerce and the Rotary clubs witless, saying “We have got strong policies to meet any contingency.” No, it has not. It has just got a statement that it is doing something, and it is hoping that nobody will notice.
We say that if you are going to have legislation, then you need to have full impoundment facilities, both in respect of trained officers and also in respect of facilities themselves. But let me ask you this question. How can you even claim to have an immigration policy or control policy when your customs borders are understaffed massively? Sometimes when there are two boats in at the Auckland harbour and planes are coming in, they have a shortage of dogs—one dog to three handlers. There are the handlers, but no dog.
Jami-Lee Ross: Send his caucus.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Pardon?
Jami-Lee Ross: Send your caucus.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What did he say? Actually, the Labour member whom he was admiring really has to be—
Jami-Lee Ross: No, I wasn’t admiring.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Labour member whom he was admiring must be seriously concerned now. Because if a guy like that admired me, I would be in trouble. So would my caucus.
My point is we all know that our customs facilities are massively understaffed. We have not got trained animals. All sorts of things are going on. Now we have got a threat—and it is a real threat—that a boat will make this place, will make New Zealand one day, and here National has got a piece of legislation that is not backed up by the impact statement document. This impact document says: “A ‘mass arrival’ for this purpose means an arrival by a substantial group of people (by sea or air); not on a craft that is providing a scheduled international service;”—I do not know why that is of importance—and “not as a crew or passengers on a vessel that is travelling to New Zealand in the ordinary course of business.” Frankly, that is the kind of business these people-traffickers are engaged in. That is their ordinary course of business. That is what they specialise in.
So, in short, you have got here a piece of legislation that is without any rhyme or reason, without any structure, and is probably compellingly best imaged by the people National has put up to speak on it.
Jami-Lee Ross: You’re up. I’m so hurt. I’m hurt.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I am speaking against it. National put the man from Waikato up, and he gives us a story about the whole world wanting to come to New Zealand.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: “Cue Ball”.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That is right. He is for mass immigration. He is. This is despite the fact that this country used to be No. 2 in the world when we had a seriously focused immigration policy, and brought people here whom we needed, not those who need us. That is our difference. That is the difference between our policy and that Government’s policy. Happy to have people who cannot make it to hospital, cannot get treatment, cannot get jobs, cannot get homes, and here National is, putting up a policy that it says will prepare us for any contingency.
You might call it the Maginot Line policy—the Maginot Line policy that it has got. So in come the Germans, straight around the Maginot Line, and history is repeating itself. Here they are. National has got a bill for detention of 10 or more people, excepting that it has got no place to put them. And if 500 arrived, it would have no idea what to do with them.
This is a party that once let over 234 people out of detention when they had TB, because it said they needed to be reunited with their families for Christmas. Does everybody forget this? That is the National Party’s record, time and time again—20,000 overstayers, and it has got no idea who is here. Frankly, this bill is a total waste of time and New Zealand First will not support it.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) : What an opportunity, one would think, to follow in the speaking order two political luminaries, Charles Chauvel for Labour and the Rt Hon Winston Peters for New Zealand First. What an opportunity to listen as they match themselves, blow for blow, riposte and counter-riposte, the sharp exchange of finely honed arguments against policy perception, but no! No! All we had from Charles, sadly, was a party political diatribe against National taking sensible and prudent legislative steps towards a likelihood of mass arrivals of illegal immigrants.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is no one in this House called Charles. Perhaps Sir Charles or the honourable Charles and his full name, but not just Charles. We cannot lower our standards here any more.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Order! [Interruption] No, I am dealing with the point of order. The member is correct. I know that the member in future will abide by the rulings. Members are called by their full names.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: I am very happy to do that, Mr Assistant Speaker. Charles Chauvel is a person who does not—I do not think—lose any standing through simply being known as Charles, but, as the Rt Hon Mr Winston Peters would prefer, I will refer to him as Charles Chauvel. But all we heard from Charles Chauvel were the groans about taking legislative steps towards the likelihood of mass arrivals of illegal immigrants. I have no doubt that Mr Chauvel would also be one of the first to say that we are unprepared, once the arrivals do occur, if we have not got this type of legislation under way.
Then we heard from the Rt Hon Winston Peters—a person who is, I trust, immensely proud of his Scottish ancestry, as we should all be proud of the genetic mix that our human bodies glory in. But what did we hear from Mr Peters? We heard about Epsom, John Banks, and student loans, and we heard a moan over overstayers. He said: “You don’t even know who they are. Mind you, they are not Asian, they are not Pacific, and they are not Māori.” So—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, they could hardly be Māori, could they?
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: I do not know about that, but let us talk about Māori migration. There is a bigger Māori migration now to Australia, which is larger than the first one that occurred during the period of the Labour Government—
Hon Members: Oh!
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: —that occurred during the period of the Labour Government—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I seek leave to table the latest immigration figures from Immigration New Zealand, showing 1,000 people a week are leaving this country—it may reinforce the member’s point that he has just made—under his Government.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): That is an interruption of a member’s speech. It is proper that you can ask for leave, but I just would have thought that at the end of a speech, you might want to seek leave then. But you have sought leave and it is proper that you can do that. Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It will certainly lead to disorder if a member of this House can get up and accuse the Māori people of being both boat people and overstayers when they have been here 1,000 years.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): These are debatable points—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh no, it’s not. What?
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): I am on my feet. In the course of this debate there will be, I am sure, some robust debate.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: I do not actually expect too much in the way—and I do no think any other member of the House will expect too much in the way—of general courtesy from some of the speakers who raise points of order. We are not going to be particularly upset by them. Mr Cosgrove, we love you anyway—we love you anyway.
But back to the speech from Mr Winston Peters. In fact, the whole speech was a shibboleth, because it came through with no substance. It was only towards the end that he started to cite what he thinks should be included in this type of legislation. I would suggest to him that a modicum of thought will show that, in fact, the points he has raised are there and he would do well to support the bill, the Immigration Amendment Bill, in its entirety, because this bill has a number of key messages. It takes a firm stance on illegal immigration ventures. We continue to work with our international partners on combating people-smuggling, which must be one of the filthiest trades that occurs in the world today. They have no regard for the people whom they allege they are trying to help, and they take large amounts of money from them.
Exception was taken to the term “queue-jumpers” by one of the members opposite, who wished to remind us that he had once been a Minister, but that is, in fact, a proper term to use when people are pushed in front of genuinely needy refugees. The Government’s overall package of changes is firm but fair and it sends a strong message that New Zealand is not a soft touch. The changes are compliant with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 and New Zealand’s international obligations.
The reality is that mass arrivals of illegal immigrants are occurring. We heard the Rt Hon Winston Peters say that Canada is a target. New Zealand is closer. It will occur. We owe it to the country and we owe it to genuine migrants to be prepared. This bill will do that, and that is why I am very proud to support it. Thank you.
Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) : The Immigration Amendment Bill is not about immigration. This bill is a distraction. It is a badly thought-through piece of legislation that has been thrown on to the Order Paper at this moment in order to deflect attention from some of the Government’s current headaches. That is why we have seen today the withdrawal from the Order Paper of the pieces of legislation in the name of John Banks, and we now have this inadequate and ill-thought-through piece of legislation, which is designed to address a problem that we clearly do not have.
Labour opposes this bill for a number of reasons. We recognise at the outset that human trafficking is one of the most despicable activities that human beings can engage in. We recognise that human trafficking requires coordinated intelligence from around the globe in order that it be defeated, and that it be defeated in the places where it starts, not in the places where the poor victims finally fetch up.
We need to ensure that New Zealand is not a soft touch, but we need also to balance our reputation for compassion and neutrality in these matters, and this legislation is inadequate on every count. The United States, for example, has a special visa category, which is called the victims of human trafficking visa. The United States has a process for addressing the problem. Our Minister of Immigration, who has brought this bill in—New Zealand’s Minister, not the Labour Party’s, clearly, by any stretch of the imagination—just this week had dinner with the Secretary of Homeland Security for the United States, Janet Napolitano. I would have thought he would find that out. In the course of conversation he might have discovered that there is a visa category for victims of human trafficking. Surely that is a place to start, not an asinine piece of legislation that says that more than 10 people is a crowd, and that we will prevent any mass invasion on our shores of more than 10 people—which is a crowd—coming from the most oppressed, the most impoverished, and the most needy parts of our neighbourhood.
So simply on humanitarian grounds this legislation is inadequate. If the Government wants to deal with human trafficking then say so, and do not get an inadequate Minister of Immigration to put up an inadequate piece of legislation. This does not deal with human trafficking; this is a knee-jerk, scaremongering piece of law that in no way enhances New Zealand’s reputation, and in no way addresses the need for international cooperation in order to lessen, reduce, mitigate, and get rid of human trafficking.
The truth of the matter is that we do not have a problem at this point. And even if we were to safeguard against this happening in the future due to all of those people who are the victims of human traffickers getting highly sophisticated pieces of naval equipment that enable them to navigate their way from the Middle East and Asia to Auckland, then we need to make sure that we are starting in the right place, and this law is not the right place. The people we see on our television screens who are the victims of human trafficking come in boats that can hardly make it from Indonesia to the tip of Australia. They cannot even make it across that narrow strait. They sink, lives are lost, and they sell everything they have in order to pay exorbitant amounts to human traffickers who have no interest in whether these people live or die. So they are sent out on rust buckets—or perhaps Mr Banks’ cabbage boats; I do not know, but that is about the size of it. They are sent out on these vessels and they perish. To say that we are at imminent risk—so imminent that this piece of legislation has to be introduced today—of an invasion of boat people is a complete nonsense.
What we have in the regulatory impact statement is the following statement in the section about status quo and problem definition: “Recent experience in Canada confirms that a mass boat arrival in New Zealand of up to 500 people is now a real possibility.” That captures my attention. And then what do we have? “[Information withheld].” I am sorry, but if we are to debate this bill intelligently, information should not be withheld from this House. If people have been able to make it in rust buckets from somewhere in Asia to Canada, and on that basis we know that they are also setting sail for New Zealand, then let us have the information. But, quite frankly, if they fetched up in Canada, they took the wrong turn. If they fetched up in Canada, where is the link that says we are imminently at risk? There is no evidence. The Minister has failed to produce it, and what we have got is a piece of legislation that damages our reputation.
Let me go on and quote another bit from the regulatory impact statement: “500 people arriving and claiming asylum would be costly and challenging to manage.”—yes, I agree with that—“Currently only about 350 claims for refugee status are received annually, and about 85 percent of these claims are made by people who entered New Zealand lawfully.” We are not even taking the people we should be taking. We have an allocation, a quota, of 750 refugees per annum. We are doing about 350. There is capacity for us to take more of the right people—the people whom we, with all the privileges and advantages that we have in this country, ought to be taking to assist, to rehabilitate, and to become functioning human beings again.
This legislation, with its inadequate, un-thought-through, ridiculous provisions, quite frankly, is an affront to any intelligent immigration policy. But worse than that, it will do damage to our international reputation. We took those boys from the Tampa—that Norwegian vessel that picked them up—and years on they are contributing members of our society. We take Burmese refugees; they become contributing members of our society. We are a long way off the non-existent problem that this stupid piece of legislation purports to address. There is no more profound waste of Parliament’s time than a piece of legislation that addresses a problem that does not exist. This should be turfed out on its ear, and the National members who have spoken in favour of it to date should go back, look over their Hansard, and be ashamed of the position they have adopted. Thank you.
SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) : I am looking forward to looking back on my Hansard entry and reflecting on the importance of this necessary piece of work, the Immigration Amendment Bill. It is always very easy to sit and moralise and talk about compassion and so on. I think that if one was to actually look at the etymology of the word, one would see that “compassion” means to suffer with, and I think I have suffered with my colleagues, so far, from the speeches from the Opposition members as they have tried to deride this simple but necessary piece of legislation.
We live in a changing world. We live in a changing global environment. This piece of legislation is a prudent and timely response. It is a statement that is ultimately about reducing harm. If there has been one part of commonality, it is the concern across the House at the harm that is done by people-smugglers, individuals, or whatever who are trying to make their way outside of the normal process into this country.
But, you see, it is wrong and it is reckless to encourage people to risk their lives to come to New Zealand. It is reckless, and those who oppose this legislation are in some ways tacitly supporting that recklessness. For New Zealand, we, through this piece of legislation, do not want to give the impression to any person that they can enter this country without any consequence or with success.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at the reference—and that, again, as a former immigration Minister. The suggestion that members on this side of the House and I personally would be supporting that kind of practice is ridiculous, as is the rest of the member’s speech.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): These are debatable points, and each party has the opportunity to rebut what is being said. This is a point of view of a National member and it is totally in order, and I will ask Simon O’Connor to continue.
Hon Member: Touchy today.
SIMON O’CONNOR: Very much so. Many, many adjectives have been thrown across the House. I think “asinine” was one that I heard earlier, as we move further up the alphabet towards the letter “R”, but, you know, we just sort of move on. So we are back here about this whole industry of allowing people to jump the queues, to sort of move illegally into New Zealand. I come back to what I said at the start. This bill is about minimising harm. That is a principle that is incredibly important, I am sure, across the entire House. And so this bill is an important and useful tool for managing this potential issue.
We have heard that there is no problem, though. We have heard from different parts of the House that there is no problem and that this is not going to happen. Well, this is not a solution without a problem. This bill, they say, is an overreaction, and it is ineffective. They do not call it dangerous. They do not say that we are going down the wrong path. No, they even call it a waste of time. Yet, of course, they have wasted much time debating from the other side of the House against this.
You see, this is very short-sighted—very short-sighted. There is nothing like not reacting to a problem until after it has occurred. Labour wants us and other parties to put up a fence on the cliff after someone has fallen off it. It is very Labour—let the problem develop, tinker with it, and then claim to fix things. You see, this party is about anticipating issues and making a very clear statement of what is appropriate and what is not. It is not appropriate for people to jump the queue to enter into this country.
We have a range of avenues for people to enter into this country already. We have a whole panoply, if you like, of options. We also have, as has been noted on the other side of the House, the refugee quota, and there is space there. There is space there for people to come into this country, continuing through the refugee quota. We have that opportunity. If people wish to pursue that though the avenues they have, from the countries that have been mentioned, there are processes for that. But what members opposite are encouraging here is “first in, first served”. They are saying: “Don’t follow the process. Don’t follow the rules. If you make your way here, we’ll just allow you to jump the queue.” That is just not appropriate.
This is a developing and potential problem for the future. I am not saying that there are piles of people coming in here right now, but this Government is about anticipating where the future goes. We are not looking at this 50 years ago. This is a developing issue for this country and for the world. I was reading The Economist a bit earlier, and it was saying that there are more than a million people who have been crossing the boundaries, be it into America or into the European Union.
This is not a small problem. New Zealand exists within that global community and needs to put up and make a very clear statement that there are processes by which to enter this country. We put through a manner of law in this bill to manage that, which is entirely and completely appropriate. As I said before, we have these avenues, and I think this bill makes it very clear that that is the appropriate way for people to enter this country. On that point, I will end.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I find it a bit rich that Simon O’Connor finished his speech by talking about the rule of law in New Zealand when we all know that this bill, the Immigration Amendment Bill, has been brought in this week as a dog-whistle diversion in an attempt—in the way that the Australians do on a regular basis—to divert the attention of the public away from the goings-on of the ACT member, John Banks.
Jami-Lee Ross: Go back to TradeMe.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Here he goes again. The poor man’s Paul Quinn is interjecting. What is his name? Lee-Jami Ross. Lee-Jami Ross, the poor man’s Paul Quinn, is interjecting. We have lost Paul Quinn—
Dr Cam Calder: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the honourable member is well aware of the correct name of our honourable colleague here.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am actually not.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Lindsay Tisch): Just hang on. We had this before. We actually like to hear the names of who the speakers are, so I just ask members to respect the courtesy extended and call members by their full names.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Can you remind me?
Hon Member: Jami-Lee, not Lee-Jami.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Sorry, Jami-Lee Ross, not Lee-Jami Ross. I apologise to the member. The point that I was making is that Paul Quinn made better interjections than that member, and he ended up so far down the list that he got dropped.
This is a dog-whistle bill. I spent some time as a Minister on the committee that looked at these matters. We saw very carefully what the threats are, and the threats are pretty well summarised: “We’ve upgraded our operating manual … in the way that we’d deal with a mass migration issue if it came to New Zealand, and we’re confident we understand our legal position. I don’t want to go into detail but all I will say is that we’ve got the capability and we’ve modelled that we understand what we need to do. We haven’t proposed major changes, because we don’t think that’s necessary …”. I agree with that. Do you know who said that? John Key. John Key said that not 1 year ago. He was telling the truth then, and is it not a pity that some of the people opposite did not listen to him before they got their dog whistles out and started blowing them?
We know what the story is. People do not come here on cabbage boats, the way that John Key—John Banks, sorry. I am mixing them up now. They are so far into each other’s pockets it is hard to tell what the story is. The way John Banks describes migrants to New Zealand is as people who come in cabbage boats. Well, that is insulting. That is absolutely insulting, but we know that those boats hardly make it from Indonesia to Australia. We know that people drown all the time from those boats. We know that people are rescued from those boats all the time between Australia and Indonesia. There is not a snowball’s chance in Hades of those boats making it to New Zealand.
The Prime Minister has had those briefings. The Prime Minister knows what the truth is, and we here also understand what politics is all about. It is the Australian Liberal approach to politics: if you are in trouble, throw a bit of muck. Pick on the brown people—pick on the brown people. And that is the approach that National is taking with this legislation, because that is its normal approach when there is trouble. It does not matter whether it is the days of Muldoon, when it started the dawn raids. National was in trouble in those days, so what did it do? It went and raided Polynesian homes. Well, it is not quite as politically acceptable to do that now. National is slightly more politically correct. But what it is doing here is trying to raise a non-existent brown-Asian threat in New Zealand, and it is raising it in an attempt to avoid the resident of the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong—at whatever price he paid, and whoever arranged it. I will make it clear: it was not a cabbage boat; it was a plane that he went on. But what is also clear is that he got a discount. He said yesterday he did not. Today he admits getting a discount. Therefore, what is happening is a diversion from the activities of John Banks.
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) : As a great-grandson of boat people, I rise to address the Immigration Amendment Bill 2012. This bill is yet more sleight of hand from a Government that is increasingly desperate to distract the New Zealand public. The Minister of Immigration, on introducing the bill today, said that its purpose is to streamline the existing legislation. In fact, the bill is a tough new immigration measure to prepare for boat people who do not exist in our waters. This is not the first time the Government has put political expediency ahead of principle, but it is one of the more egregious examples—an affront, to cite Maryan Street.
Consider first off the international legal dimension. The bill applies to “a mass arrival group”, defined as a group of more than 10 people who arrive in New Zealand essentially on the same craft. The Race Relations Commissioner says the changes in the bill “threaten New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and potentially lack compliance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.” How is that? He says: “Our international obligations under the convention are clear. New Zealand must protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in New Zealand, regardless of how or where they arrive, and whether they arrive with or without a visa.” The reference to group warrants contravenes the principle that asylum cases ought to be treated individually. The Refugee Council of New Zealand says: “Each case is an individual matter, and entire groups of people cannot be illegally placed in detention on the basis of being a member of a group. This would be a fundamental breach of human rights.”
We just heard about asylum seekers being described by Government leaders here as having arrived on cabbage boats. As a New Zealander, as a New Zealand diplomat in Thailand during the 1980s, I had a bit to do with Cambodian boat people on Thai beaches, and I find that offensive.
Look at the definition of “risk” that has been entered into the bill. The bill’s stated motivation is that New Zealand faces “an ongoing risk of a mass arrival of illegal immigrants.” Defining such arrivals as “risk” is a problem. It securitises vulnerable people in the form of refugees. Defining asylum seekers as illegal immigrants is also problematic. Neither seeking asylum nor being a refugee is an illegal activity. The bill defines people as illegal before they are so.
Making New Zealand a “less desirable target”, as the Government has said in explanation, is wrong, too. New Zealand should be desirable to refugees and asylum seekers as a place that upholds human rights. Even the very use of the word “target” securitises the relationship between New Zealand and asylum seekers.
What, then, should the Government be doing? If the Government is worried about refugees arriving on boats, it should do more to address the reasons that people want to. Last year the UN Security Council defined climate change as a potential threat to international peace and security. If this Government is worried about a mass arrival of refugees, it could do more to combat climate change. The Government says “We need to deter them before they take to the sea.” If we are to take action, it should be by working to ensure that the appropriate channels for refugees to take are workable, usable, effective, and in line with international law. New Zealand’s strong reputation as a global citizen could be put in question by the Government’s immigration crackdown.
John Key appears to be taking tips straight from John Howard in demonising asylum seekers, yet some of us in this House had mothers who were children during the European Holocaust, and who ended up in New Zealand as refugees. Their mothers may have had aunts who fled to Britain and purchased a marriage of convenience. They may have paid for the vows taken, then walked out of the registry, parted company, and never seen each other again. Such acts became the basis for family reunification. Now, in the context of such a dramatic and compassionate history, what is this Government doing a century later? It is demonising the 21st century refugee. I ask the Prime Minister what the difference is between a marriage of convenience for refugeehood and family reunification, and a boat trip. Have some compassion. Show some statesmanship just this once. Do not be dragged down by Australia. Have your Government act as a responsible global citizen. And shame on you, if you do not.
SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) : As we draw to an end this first reading debate on the Immigration Amendment Bill, it is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House today to support the bill and to support it with vigour.
We are a very desirable part of the world. We are one of the world’s most favoured nations, and we live in a global environment where there is no shortage of desperate people living in desperate circumstances. They are living lives that they want to remove themselves from because of those desperate circumstances. There is no shortage of despicable people—despicable people—who would seek to trade in human misery. They are happy to smuggle people around the world in the most offensive and miserable circumstances. We must stand, as a responsible international citizen, to ensure that they cannot and do not prosper.
So this piece of legislation, this very good and wise piece of legislation, is designed to ensure that we are prepared for the onslaught that may yet come. I hear voices on the Opposition benches and we have heard them during this debate so far today. We have heard from people who would be the first to criticise if this legislation were not in place and we were to find ourselves being swamped by people-smugglers who were bringing in the desperate, the poor, and the impoverished, who have very few choices. Because we live in this desperate world, the responsible thing we must do is be prepared, because this country is such an attractive destination.
As I have listened to this debate this afternoon, I have heard members from the Opposition and the Green Party talk in very high-handed and mighty tones about all sorts of things, except the protection of what this country values most of all, which is its border. We value our border because it is such a wide border. It is a border that has until recent times been protected, largely due to our position on the globe. Distance has, for our trade environment, been a great burden, but, in terms of protecting our border, distance has actually been our greatest protection. But these days, with modern science, innovation, and engineering, there is the capacity for very, very sophisticated vessels to arrive on our shores laden with the desperate and the poor, who are the customers and the victims of people-smuggling. It is this legislation that we must support in order to ensure that that cannot and does not happen. This is the sort of legislation that Australia should have been considering many years ago. The arguments we have heard today are the sorts of arguments we probably heard from people who opposed that sort of thing back then, and who now have lived to rue the day.
We find that people-smugglers today are well resourced, well funded, and well organised. They will leave no stone unturned in terms of plying their evil trade. They have access to sophisticated technology. They have access to sophisticated steel-hulled vessels. They can, and will, make the journey to our shores. We must use this piece of legislation as a deterrent to people-smuggling to ensure that their filthy, evil trade cannot succeed in our part of the world. This piece of legislation will enhance our ability to do exactly that—to deter people-smuggling. We need to make that option as unattractive as possible so that those people will not seek us out as a soft touch.
New Zealand takes a firm stance on illegal immigration ventures, and we will continue to do so. Queue-jumpers should not be able to push in front of people who are genuine refugees and asylum seekers. We adhere to, and respect, the process that we have signed up to as a responsible member of the international community. We have an obligation—an absolute obligation—to ensure that that is true. As we conclude this debate, I am speaking today very much in support of the legislation, and I endorse and commend it to the House.
|Ayes 63||New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 57||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Mana 1.|
|Bill read a first time.|
|Ayes 63||New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 57||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Mana 1.|
|Question agreed to.|
|Ayes 63||New Zealand National 59; Māori Party 2; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.|
|Noes 57||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Mana 1.|
|Motion agreed to.|