Human Rights

Book Release – The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand

BWB7760_Text_Cover_The Interregum_HighRes_0

Kia ora e te kaupapa whānau,

It’s been a while. Aroha mai for that. I can’t say that I’m back writing here on a regular basis, but maybe. It all depends on time. However, I want to pānui out the release of Morgan Godfery (ed.) The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand (2016, BWB Books:Wellington).

From the BWB website, here is a teaser:

Is New Zealand’s political settlement beginning to fray? And does this mean we’re entering the interregnum, that ambiguous moment between society-wide discontent and political change? In BWB’s latest book of essays, edited by Morgan Godfery, ten of New Zealand’s sharpest emerging thinkers gather to debate the ‘morbid symptoms’ of the current moment, from precarious work to climate change, and to discuss what shape change might take, from ‘the politics of love’ to postcapitalism.

The Interregnum interrogates the future from the perspective of the generation who will shape it.

I have contributed a chapter on Kaupapa Māori Politics. I’m totally open to discussing (debating!) it, so if you do buy the book, and then want to have a mutually respectful kōrero with me about my chapter, please do comment here.

 

Ngā mihi nui ki a koe.

WHĀNAU ORA: It was the way our people lived

Whānau Ora has always been in the hissing pit when it comes to NZ politics. Another example of Māori “Special Privilege”. Every jibe simply an attempt by the sneerer to reinforce their assimilationist predisposition and/or self importance. Much of the criticism is misplaced or exaggerated. And it can be quite distressing seeing Māori internalise that lack of faith in Māori systems. It’s implementation is by no means perfect, and sure there are certainly areas requiring vast improvement, but there is no denying that it has helped thousands of family in the four years it has been in operation as a matter of government policy. 

Two days ago, the Auditor General released a report on Whānau Ora. While it has been depicted in the media as a damning indictment, the Report simply sought to clarify what whānau ora is, where the funding has gone, and what Whānau Ora has achieved after four years. The Auditor General appraises Whānau Ora as “an example of innovation and new thinking in service delivery”. She also states that it provides “an opportunity for providers of health and social services in the community to operate differently and to support families in deciding their best way forward”.

Many people have commented that they are not quite sure what Whānau Ora is or does. I’m not convinced that’s due to a lack of information. Arguably,(in many cases at least) it is misunderstood as a result of passive ignorance.

What is Whānau Ora?

Whānau Ora is not a new concept. Like many concepts in Te Ao Māori, no group or individual can determine for others what it means. What can be generally agreed is that from a policy perspective it is an “inclusive and culturally anchored approach based on a Māori view of health that assumes changes in an individual’s wellbeing can be brought about by focusing on the family collective” rather than “focusing separately on individual family members and their problems”. In practice then it requires “multiple government agencies to work together with families rather than separately with individual relatives”.

Three key principles 

Professor Mason Durie emphasises that Whānau Ora is built on three key principles:

Integrated solutions

  • The idea is that “no single sector or discipline has all the answers” to meeting the holistic needs of whānau. This means that a Whānau Ora approach is “cross sectoral, inter-disciplinary, Whānau centred”.

Durie writes:

An integrated approach recognises that economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions are inter-related and one cannot be adequately progressed without the others.

Distinctive pathways

  • Whānau Ora recognises that “cultural worldviews are important to health”. As well as building on “Māori world views, language [and] culture, networks, [and] leadership”, Whānau Ora reaches out to cultures in all their diversity. The objective is to provide a framework within which all whānau can define their own distinctive pathways in accordance with their cultural practices and values to improve whānau outcomes.

Goals that empower

  • Whānau Ora values “human dignity, positive relationships, self-management and self-determination”.
  • It is about “addressing the impacts of whānau disadvantage as well as assisting families to be strong, capable, resilient and self-managing”. The goal then is not only providing services that address existing disparities, but to unlock potential to help whānau access opportunities and navigate their own futures with the tools they need to improve their whānau outcomes.

In a nutshell, Dame Tariana Turia explains that Whānau Ora is about:

…restoring to ourselves, our confidence in our own capacity to provide for our own – to take collective responsibility to support those who need it most.

See also Te Puni Kōkiri Fact Sheet.

Criticism

Following the Report, Whānau Ora and in particular, Te Puni Kōkiri has come under attack from opposition MP’s. The Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) have criticised the way that some politicians have bought into the “beat-up by politically motivated tirades which do nothing but bring this kaupapa into disrepute”. The ILG argue that as Māori we need to have faith in our own answers and be proud of the progress that has been made to enable whānau to date.  The group asks:

Why would we turn the spotlight on ourselves, and expect an initiative which is still evolving to rectify generations of neglect or indifference from the state?

Critique is to be welcomed. Evaluations ensure transparency and accountability. The Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell appreciated the report claiming it affirms “the value of taking an innovative public policy approach to supporting families in need.” He considers that the Report provides valuable lessons for “Ministers, government departments, commissioning agencies and providers”. Flavell highlights that:

Since Whānau Ora began in 2010, around 9,400 families have benefitted from whānau-centred service delivery which includes almost 50,000 people.

The problem with exaggerating the shortcomings identified in the report, as the ILG point out, is that it risks hurting whānau who have or could benefit from Whānau Ora services. The reason being that if the public perceive the services to be performing poorly or at least buy into the misplaced criticism by opposition MP’s, then it provides grounds for the government to withdraw funding despite the gains made to date and the future potential of the approach.

The main criticism refers to the amount of funding spent by Te Puni Kōkiri on Administration based on the Auditor General’s observation that:

…delays in spending the available budgets meant that some of the funds intended for whānau and providers did not reach them as originally planned. In our view, better planning and financial management were needed.

Te Puni Kōkiri

Te Puni Kōkiri is the government organisation tasked with “carrying out the Initiatives, for giving the Government policy advice about the Initiatives, and for assessing and reporting on the Initiatives’ effectiveness”.

The funding made available for their use was administrative “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora service delivery approach” in the 2010/2011 period and “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora commissioning approach” in the 2013/2014 period.

The total amount spent was $137.6 million, which was made up of:

$20.8 million (15% of the total) spent through the WIIE fund which “made funds available to whānau through some form of legal entity to enable them to prepare plans to improve their lives”

$67.9 million (49% of the total) spent through the Service Delivery Capability fund which “made funds available to providers, who used it to build their capability to deliver whānau-centred services”

$6.6 million (5% of the total) spent through the funds for commissioning agencies; and

$42.3 million (31% of the total) spent on administration (including research and evaluation).

In response to this criticism, Te Puni Kōkiri’s CEO, Michelle Hippolite, has responded that she can account for where all the funds clustered for administration are currently allocated and asserts that no funds have been misspent. While Minister Flavell acknowledges that there were issues “of design, development, and implementation” and money was allocated to “research, evaluation, and leadership programmes” to assist to that end without which “the administration spending would have been at a normal level for a Government programme”.

Conclusion

There is certainly good reason for being concerned that funding appears to have centralised in administration and bureaucracy. This is especially so when providers are always in need of additional funding to meet the needs of whānau. Former Minister Tariana Turia criticised this last October when she questioned why there was an underspend on Whānau Ora and sought answers to where the money had been allocated as she believed that more funding should have been directed to frontline services.

The Report most likely answers her question: much was tied up in Administration. The challenge going forward will be finding more efficient administration systems to ensure more funding finds its way to service providers and navigators.

The benefit of the Report is that it provides clear observations and recommendations that highlight for Te Puni Kōkiri in particular, where it needs to improve its effectiveness. After all, Whānau Ora is about being whānau centric, so any costing’s and financial planning must always be mindful of how whānau are centred in those plans.

However, Whānau Ora cannot resolve the effects of almost 200 years of colonisation in 4 years. This seems to be the crux of much of the criticism in an attempt to disband Whānau Ora and force a return to the shabby state services that have been in place for decades and have not been able to change outcomes for a large proportion of Māori. It is an undeniably unrealistic expectation to suggest that Whānau Ora would magically solve inter-generational disparity in under half a decade.

In saying that, Whānau Ora has helped numerous families to date. And that success should be celebrated. Although, it is currently geared toward Māori and Pasifika whānau to address the history of disparity in Aotearoa, the approach itself is applicable to all whānau and has the capacity to provide a new way of delivering health and social services to all whānau to improve outcomes and finds solutions for whānau self-determination.

See also Turia’s comments on the long term goals of Whānau Ora.

 

 

The Aboriginal Peoples’ Call for Global Action: #SOSBLAKAUSTRALIA

 

 

Whose land are you standing on?

 

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia have subsidised the lifestyle choices of white Australia since the colonisers arrived and stole their land, stole their resources, stole their children, forced communities into slavery, and denied their human, economic and cultural rights at every step. Benjamin Warlngundu Ellis Bayliss itemises out the costs of colonisation:

…frontier wars; loss of land; loss of culture; loss of wages; loss of languages; loss of songs; loss of identity; genocide; massacres; rape; destruction of sacred sites & land; stolen generations; Maralinga nuclear testing; stolen artefacts and the collection of ancestors remains; oppression; fear & intimidation; no treaties; influenza; poor health; life expectancy; no self-determination; no consultation; disease; exploitation; creating a culture of dependency; famine; introduction of foreign flora & fauna; culture of divide & conquer; discrimination; racism; meddling with the theory of eugenics; attempts to breed our mob out; so called dying softly in the pillow; deaths in custody; incarceration rates; denigration; invisibility & lack of positive representations; attempts of assimilation; policies of control & management, including driving people from their lands; intellectual property theft; meddling with the Racial Discrimination Act; NT Intervention; lateral violence; and trivialising our interests, concerns; upon many, many others I am sure I have missed.

The Abbott government’s recent announcement that around 150 Aboriginal communities would be forcibly closed in Western Australia, prompted a global call to action for our indigenous whanaunga. This decision was made without consultation and without the consent of Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples.

Pause.

We would not accept this in Aotearoa New Zealand. So why on earth are we so silent when it comes to the tyranny of the Australian government?

 

SOS Blak OZ

 

On Blackfulla Revolution’s Facebook is a call to those who have ignored and continue to ignore the oppression and injustice suffered by Australia’s First Nations Peoples.

 [7min 35s]

But this isn’t constrained to Australia. Abroad, descendant’s of settler generations ignore the impact colonisation has had on Indigenous Peoples within the lands they colonised. It is why Indigenous Peoples everywhere are reaching out to their whanaunga across borders  to achieve kotahitanga and bring our Peoples together in solidarity. This is not separatism. This is not an attempt to turn the tepu and oppress non-indigenous people. It is an effort to get the sleepy masses to recognise that: Indigenous Lives Matter.

This policy being pursued by Tony Abbot & his government is the continuance of that dark history of colonisation in Australia. This system imposed on Australia’s First Peoples is designed to disadvantage their communities at every social, cultural and economic opportunity. This policy is nothing less than forced urbanisation and assimilation. It is an explicit attempt to strip these communities of their connection to their traditional lands.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, many Māori have taken up the plight to stand with our First Nations whanaunga in Australia. MP Marama Fox, Māori Party, sought to table a motion that the House of Representatives condemn the the forced closure of these Aboriginal Communities and to call on the Australian government to honour its commitments to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Although tabling the motion was blocked by government Minister Gerry Brownlee, National Party, it has since been tabled and will be voted on in 3 weeks when Parliament resumes.

The kumara vine indicates that the Māori Party, Greens, Labour, United Future and ACT will all support the motion. However, NZ First and National have signaled that they are against it.

As most will know, recently the National Party lost a seat in Northland, to NZ First’s Winston Peters. The compositon of the house has changed slightly such that National now only have 59 seats. In order for the motion to pass, NZ First support is required.

Winston Peter’s spent much of his campaign talking about how successive governments have ignored the issues that matter to the Northland electorate – jobs, poverty, health and so on. In opposing Marama Fox’s motion, Peter’s words would  ring incredibly hollow given the broader context of his concerns – that governments ought not neglect small communities, and instead ought to manaaki their aspirations. If he stands by his commitment to Northland, then I see no reason why he and his party would not support the call to recognise the rights of Aboriginal Peoples in their communities that have been neglected by the Australian government,  who now deem it appropriate to forcibly close those communities without consultation or consent of the peoples. So I urge people to lobby NZ First to offer their support to add international weight to the plight of the Aboriginal Peoples.

So far three events in Aotearoa New Zealand have been organised around the country to coincide with the global action to support our Aboriginal whanaunga.

For further details see:

Tamaki-Makaurau (Auckland), 1 May 2015, 18:00, QE II Square (next to Britomart)

Hamilton, 1 May 2015, 13:00, The Pulse (27b Whatawhata Road, Dinsdale).

Wellington, 1 May 2015, 18:00, Location tbc.

So it’d be cool if everyone could, you know, be present and support the campaign to STOP! The Forced Closure of Aboriginal Communities. Our silence is complicity. Make their voices heard and show your solidarity with all First Nations Peoples of Australia.

Food Security apparently optional for the Children of Aotearoa

Last night the government (National and ACT) voted down two bills that sought to provide food to children particularly in low decile schools. That is, children who live in the most economically deprived areas of the country. The bills essentially dealt with the issue of food security, or alternatively stated, food insecurity.[1]

Food security is considered as existing ‘when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life’.[2] It involves four essential elements: availability, access, stability and utilisation.[3] According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, availability is measured in terms of the quantity, quality and diversity of food available to consumers, while access is measured by both physical and economic access to food.[4] Access and availability are largely guaranteed through national level policy although there is no requirement for a country to ‘achieve food production self-sufficiency’.[5] Importantly, measuring the extent of food security at the national level (that is, that a country has sufficient levels of food to distribute to meet domestic demand) does not necessarily reflect the extent of security at the household or individual levels. A nation can be food secure at the national level while still food insecure at the individual level due to ‘unequal distribution of food within the country’ which may result from food prices and the issue of affordability.[6] Stability is measured through exposure to food security risk, as well as incidences of shocks such as price spikes, fluctuations in domestic food supply and political instability,[7] while utilisation measures the ‘variables that determine the ability to utilise food’ together with ‘outcomes of poor food utilisation’.[8]

Food insecurity has often been considered an issue of  inadequate food supply at the national level. But this is not the case in New Zealand, nor in most developed countries. Instead, it is often the lack of purchasing power on behalf of households.[9] In his entitlements theory, Amartya Sen emphasised similar issues of consumption, demand and access to food by vulnerable people.[10] Sen argued that a person will starve if their entitlement set is absent ‘any commodity bundle with enough food’.[11] Also, that starvation was imminent if there were a change in their factor endowment, such as, loss of land or labour power, or their exchange entitlement mapping, such as food price spikes or loss of employment.[12] He maintained that these changes would restrict a persons ability to acquire any commodity bundle with enough food.[13]

A problem that arises in respect of the Feed the Kids bill, is that critics imply the problem of food insecurity in New Zealand is not one of a chronic nature (as is often found in developing or least developed regions). Therefore, studies that suggest marginal improvements (and perhaps arguments such as Sen’s) which were largely responding to food insecurity in developing countries should not be used to defend policies that attempt to address transitory food insecurity in children in New Zealand through school lunch or breakfast programmes. The reason being that there is little evidence to show that outcomes will provide any significant benefit for the cost of such policies.  For instance, Dr Eric Crampton writes:[15]

[I]t’s hard to make a case for that we’d get any great benefit from the [school breakfast] programmes. Rather, we often find that they don’t even increase the odds that kids eat breakfast at all.

And:

To the extent that they improve outcomes in some studies, we really can’t tell:

whether the effect is from changing the timing of breakfast, in which case we should instead have a morning tea break;

whether the effect is any better than just giving those families an equivalent cash transfer.

However, the cash transfer option doesn’t ensure that children will become food secure. By that I mean it doesn’t ensure that there will be food available or that they will have access to food.  I appreciate that a cash transfer gives the parent more freedom to choose the kinds of food that the child has available to them. However, a cash transfer may also incentivise food producers to increase the price of their foods to exact a benefit for themselves through the increased purchasing power made available at the household level. This could in effect neutralise any benefit that might have otherwise accrued to food insecure households due to affordability issues. Arguably, this problem could be overcome by adjusting for any inflationary effects. But that pattern is hardly desirable and contributes to the cost of government administration. Additionally, a cash transfer may not increase what the parent spends on food at all. Parents who find themselves without work, paying rent and utilities, school costs, and servicing other debts incurred while employed or those parents that simply don’t have enough money to cover the basic bills each month may not be able to increase their food spend, it may mean they’re able to cover costs that they had been unable to cover – car licensing, dentist, school costs, sports fees etc.

However, there are also issues for advocates of the Feed the Kids bill, such as, who supplies the food to the school? Can a government get value for money if entering into a supply agreement with a corporate (who would likely create terms more favourable to itself), or is contracting with a charity necessarily the best option since they may for example, source food products from corporations? There just seems to be a contradiction in fighting capitalism from the left – who are the main advocates of this bill, to partnering with corporations either directly or indirectly.

In principle, I support the Feed the Kids bill. But like many others have suggested, it needs some work. That would have been the benefit of getting it to the Select Committee where the public could make submissions and where robust research was carried out to attempt to construct an effective policy.

An area where I’d like to see research directed, is where food is targeted at the source. That is, where the government invest in local food production. It might be that there is room to incentivise food producers to produce surpluses that are supplied to their local schools. Sure, this is an un-worked idea but we shouldn’t just limit our imagination to cash transfers or supply by food corporations. There is a human right to food and in my mind that means it is a resource first. If the government can improve local food production by investing more in the sector to deal with issues of household and individual food insecurity then perhaps we can tackle a number of issues (such as employment, health, education) while also ensuring children are not subjected to food insecurity whether it be chronic or transitory.

The right to adequate food is recognised and protected in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).[16] The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food defines this right as:[17]

…the right to have regular, permanent and unrestricted access, either directly or by means of financial purchases, to quantitatively and qualitatively adequate and sufficient food corresponding to the cultural traditions of the people to which the consumer belongs, and which ensure a physical and mental, individual and collective, fulfilling and dignified life free of fear…

The government also has obligations to meet food security goals as set out in the Millennium Development Declaration[18] and the Rome Declaration on World Food Security. [19] I haven’t even touched on issues of undernourishment, nutrition, food sovereignty, the role of agribusiness, deforestation, land grabs, climate issues, infrastructure issues, armed conflict, GMO’s. The topic of food security is vast, and is a priority at the international level. Pity the New Zealand government see it as optional. Perhaps, the next development in the feed the kids campaign, then might be to focus on the wider issue of food security at the household and individual level and find ways to address it that aren’t merely palliative, but involve addressing the network of challenges that cause food insecurity.

 

[1]  Some of the content of this post comprises parts of a dissertation I wrote for my LLM.

[2]  Rome Declaration on World Food Security.

[3]  FAO State of Food Insecurity in the World (2014), at 13.

[4]  Ibid

[5]  Christopher Stevens, Romilly Greenhill, Jane Kennan and Stephen Devereux “The WTO Agreement on Agriculture and Food Security” (paper prepared for the Commonwealth Secretariat, Economic Series No. 42, London, 2000), at 3.

[6]  At 2-3.

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  World Bank Poverty and Hunger (1986)

[10]  FAO “Chapter 2. Food security: concepts and measurement” in Trade Reforms and Food Security: Conceptualising the Linkages (FAO, Rome, 2003), at 28.

[11]  Amartya Sen Food, Economics and Entitlements (World Institute for Developmental Economics Research, United Nations University, 1986) at 8-9. For Sen, an entitlement is ‘the set of different alternative commodity bundles that the person can acquire through the use of the various legal channels of acquirement open to someone in [their] position’.

[12]  Ibid.

[13]  Ibid.

[14]  Stevens et al, at 5.

[15]   Eric Crampton “Breakfast” Offsetting Behaviour (15 May 2013)

[16]  Universal Declaration of Human Rights GA Res 217 A, III (1948); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights GA Res2200A XXI 993 UNTS 3 (1966).

[17]  “The Human Right to Food” UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

[18] Millennium Development Declaration

[19]  Rome Declaration on World Food Security

Transmisogyny Lurking in Supposedly Liberal Spaces

It is a difficult thing to have to outlay your own prejudices – past or present knowing that you have actively participated in the harm that befalls trans people on a persistent and unrelenting basis. As someone who grew up in a small provincial town, trans people were not present in my insulated world. Well, actually, they probably were but given the social conservatism that gripped the town, I imagine trans people were forced into hiding their gender identities to keep themselves safe from the violent identity-denying vultures.

This is by no means an attempt to justify the prejudices I held. But I cannot write this post pretending that I have always treated trans people in a dignified way. I have denied trans people their right to define their identity under the illusion that my vagina gave me superior rights to define who was and was not a woman, or indeed a man. It is certainly not a position I hold now, but it would be remiss and dishonest of me to ignore my own destructive role in transphobia of which I am deeply regretful and to which I offer my sincere apology to trans people everywhere.

On Saturday 21 February 2015, the annual Pride Parade took place in Auckland. The event included a float by both the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections. A small group gathered to protest their inclusion.  For those unaware, when trans women are arrested, they are placed in men’s prisons in which they often become subjects of violent sexual and physical assaults. These institutions do not recognise the identities of trans people and are unsympathetic to the risks they impose on trans women in the process. The protest was derided by many as unnecessary with calls to the group that they were ‘ruining the parade’. The protest was in fact a necessary act of resistance to highlight the impropriety of including these institutions as part of the pride event given the routine mistreatment of trans people who come into their custody. A trans woman was removed with such force that it broke her arm, and as she was pinned to the ground crying in agony, a Police Officer stood atop of her. That the majority of people are quibbling over the minutiae of facts rather than being upset and incensed that a woman’s arm was broken during a forcible removal for participating in a legitimate form of protest, stuns me. This is an explicit act of violence against a woman.

From the responses I’ve seen circulating social media, I suspect if she were a cis woman, those same people would be banging on their keyboards in support of her. That just speaks to the harrowing extent of transphobia and transmisogyny lurking in supposedly liberal circles. After all, only a few weeks back cis people were bemoaning the mistreatment of a cis white woman who was called a hua on national radio. This is not intended to minimise Eleanor Catton’s experience, but is invoked here to highlight the blatant hypocrisy regarding the reactions to both situations. Catton, an author, was criticised for expressing a political opinion at a book/author event. Cis people everywhere (rightly) backed her rights to speak freely and validated her voice. A Māori trans woman dared to express a political view to challenge institutional transphobia at a Pride event. Cis people everywhere blame her for injury (“she was being aggressive”), attempt to silence her voice (“she was ruining the parade”), and invalidate her experience (“she was lying”).

This physical and emotional violence carried out by cis people against trans people must stop. If you can’t see your own hypocrisy or refuse to acknowledge your prejudice and work to overcome it, then you are not just part of the problem, you are the problem. Rather than dismantling structural inequality, you are reinforcing it.

 

Māori Party should have opposed the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill outright

The Māori Party have said they are only supporting the first reading of the Countering Terrorist Fighters Bill, and note their strong reservations to the current text and processes for consultation on the Bill.  I’m not sure about other party members, but I personally would have preferred to see the Party opposing the Bill outright. Like the NZ Greens.

However, I am a little confused over the speech given by Marama Fox. On the one hand, it details some heavily weighted opposition to the Bill. For instance, Fox expresses deep concern about discrimination and making a person stateless by confiscating their passport, warrantless surveillance. In particular she refers to a:

…well-known and public linkage that has been made in our own jurisdiction about a supposed association between Māori activism and terrorist activity. We do not want a repeat of Operation Eight.

On the other hand, Fox concludes her speech stating:

We have strong and heartfelt concerns about the possible implications of this bill, but we also believe it is irresponsible to take a stand without hearing from those New Zealanders who take up the call on human rights on our behalf. We support the first reading to enable that kōrero to happen.

I don’t quite understand what this actually means.  It appears to suggest that the Party support the Bill so that it can be debated despite not supporting much – if any, of what is contained in the Bill.

The issue I have is not only with the Bill but also with the more strategic ramifications. The government did not require the Māori Party to support this Bill through first reading. It had the numbers through its other coalition partners and the Labour Party.

The party could have opposed it and stood with the Greens on this issue in calling for broader public consultation. Thing is, it would have gone to select committee stage anyway because Māori Party support was not needed to get it there.

On the manner in which the legislation was introduced (leaked) to the public, Dr Kennedy Graham (SIS spokesperson, NZ Greens) maintains:

It is not a positive sign of a government seeking broad public support

Graham goes on to say that:

John Key has not made a case for rushing through counter-terrorism laws…[and] there has been no compelling evidence put forward… for why these changes need to be rushed through without proper public consultation.

He also emphasised that:

the Bill proposes wide ranging changes that compromise the privacy and civil liberties of New Zealanders

And like Fox, alludes to Operation 8, noting:

…we have seen poor intelligence legislation result in illegal activities in the past, we don’t want a repeat of that

This was an opportunity for the Māori Party to show that they were prepared to stand against the ramming through of legislation that empowers what appears to be an evolving Police State. Interestingly and relevant here, Fox also draws a link between violence away and violence at home. In my view, a natural extension of this would be to contextualise current affairs, i.e. the events in Ferguson in the US which illustrate the reprehensible consequences of empowering a Police State with the racism and injustice that come with it. Especially when we consider how, as Fox addresses, Māori and other marginalised communities are profiled. We need to be particularly mindful of our Muslim communities with respect to this particular legislation who are likely to be unfairly targeted by it.

As it stands, the Party will probably have to deal with the fallout of having supported the Bill at first reading, even if they don’t go on to support it at subsequent stages. If the Bill does become law (and it will) and its provisions are abused then there will be public outcry, and every party that supported the Bill will be punished for their support. Of course, others may argue that the Bill might actually do what the government is saying it is intended to do, which I suppose could make a hero of the government. But past experience should warn us, of how easily and slyly those empowered use those powers. In my view, supporting the Bill even if only superficially at a first reading, sends the wrong message and may create perception issues that follow the Party into the next election.  The only party cleared here are the Greens who stood strongly against it.

Addendum:

(26/11/2014)

FYI: I was just advised that the Māori Party voted with the Labour Party to try to get the consultation period extended and to have the Bill taken out of urgency. Although this still doesn’t change my view as set out above.

Not a very feminist party

The NZ Herald reports that Dr Pani Farvid, Internet Party candidate for Palmerston North, told a women’s group that  the Internet Party is a feminist party. When probed about the party founder’s own propensity for sexism, Dr Farvid remarked:

“He is not perfect. He is not the party, he’s the founder, but we are a feminist party. He has apologised himself, I’m not excusing him, that sort of thing is not OK, absolutely. He just doesn’t know any better and he should.”

I have no doubt in my mind that Dr Farvid and many of her peers absolutely support the feminist movement. I do however, consider it a bold claim to promote the Internet Party as a feminist party in light of its founder, Kim Dotcom’s repulsive sexist record.

Dr Farvid could have said either ‘I am a feminist’ or ‘that she promotes feminism within the party’ and that probably would not have brought her own feminism into disrepute. Instead what she has done is invalidated the experiences of all women, by on the one hand claiming she is not excusing him, and on the other hand impliedly excusing him because ‘he just doesn’t know any better’. A party claiming to be feminist, surely would not minimise or invalidate the experiences of women because the perpetrator of harm didnt know better. As a woman on twitter pointed out:

 @mairesmith

@Ellipsister A woman apologising for a man’s manners isn’t really what I think of as ‘feminist’, no.

When I consider a ‘feminist party’ I consider precisely the basis on which the party was formed i.e  who founded it, who funds it, what messages does it share as a party, who are its members, how do they promote feminism and so on. The Internet Party was founded, is funded and is promoted by a man who has a tendency to tweet about ‘rape jokes’ and to objectify women. His behaviour is then downplayed by a woman in the party because ‘he is the product of a sexist culture which we need to remedy’.

But Dotcom does know better. In 2012, the NZ Herald reports:

“A sexual violence prevention agency has told Kim Dotcom rape jokes are “never okay” after he posted a series of comments about the crime on Twitter”

One of those tweets was the following:

KDC2Rape jokes that work!???

In the same NZH article, Rape Prevention Education director Kim McGregor told the Herald that rape jokes are hurtful to survivors of sexual violence and that:

“Rape jokes aren’t funny. It’s never okay to make a joke about rape. People who have experienced rape are often traumatised for years. They’re violated, they’re humiliated and it’s nothing to joke about.”

Then about a month or so ago, Dotcom attempts to make a joke about murdering sex workers:

KDC

The joke is offensive because it devalues the existence of sex workers as human beings. His attempt at apology was this:

KDC 3This is not an apology. It is a concession to his then newly appointed leader of the Internet Party, Laila Harre. As others in the comments that followed point out, its not Batman that was the problem, it was the comment about murdering sex workers.

But it’s not only Dotcom who has offended women. Chris Yong,  reportedly ‘joked’ to  the Herald when asked about the three women contending the Auckland Central seat that:

“we’ve got the best babe”

What Yong is doing here is commenting on Miriam Pierard’s appearance, using the term ‘babe’. In employing it the way he has, he also simultaneously criticises or demeans Jacinda Ardern and Nicky Kaye by suggesting Miriam’s appearance is superior to theirs and reducing the contest down to one of appearance. This is insulting to all women running political campaigns, if he deems appearance as the determinant of their chances at success. He also exhibits a sense of entitlement over Pierard claiming some kind of ownership that “Miriam belongs to us”. Yes, he may have just been referring to her role in the Internet Party team, in a team camaraderie kind of way, but  Miriam Pierard is a person. She is not property and he should be more careful with how he speaks about his peers and the messages he sends to other women.  Some people may argue that the term ‘babe’ is not offensive but when it is used in the context Yong employed it above, it is sexist and it is not ok.

Name it Change it have developed an egregiousness pyramid to assist the avoidance of sexist reporting in the media.  It also serves as a good guide when interacting on social media. For a commentary, see Bidisha on Sluts and sweethearts: Sexist language is on the rise, but now there is a new way to fight back.

In my view, a feminist party wouldn’t stand for those remarks and in fact they wouldn’t even feature in a feminist repertoire that is built on and promotes gender equality.

Recently, Internet Party Leader, Laila Harre poked fun at the weight of current women MP’s, also engaged in the anti-feminist action of ‘fat shaming’ and mocking the size of womens breasts as something women should feel stigmatised about.  Her words as reported:

“Obviously wanting to be fit and relatively less portly than most members of Parliament become, ‘she said diplomatically’.”

Will she name names? “I think their breasts speak for themselves.”

While the Internet Party’s top 10 candidates are equal ratio’s women and men, above that number the ratio changes. Only 6 of the 15 candidates are women. I personally would expect a feminist party to be predominantly if not all women given men saturate the political landscape. And while there may be an even spread of women in the top 10 candidate list, it would be interesting to see the ratio in prominent roles of the executive branch of the party if the claim is that the Internet Party is a feminist party. Moreover, the Internet Party don’t even appear to have developed any policy (yet) that focuses specifically on gender issues.

Exacerbating the sexism link to the Internet Party, is the alliance with Hone Harawira’s MANA movement. Recalling Harawira was recently called on to apologise for his minimising and harmful remarks  on Backbenchers regarding his view toward Tania Billingsley who was attacked in her home by Malaysian Diplomat, Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail.

Harawira stated:

“I think all of the media, their heads should roll, for making a big fuss about bugger all. There are kids starving in this country, there are a whole lot of issues we need to be dealing with right here, right now … it’s something we can do without.”

A week after this aired, Harawira did put out an apology, although I was unable to locate an official press releases on the Party website. Instead there is a status update on the MANA Movement page, which states:

I want to sincerely apologise if my comments on Backbenches may seem to have minimised the gravity of the situation regarding the young woman who asked police to investigate the complaint of sexual assault against the Malaysian diplomat.

I have reviewed the tape and I accept that my comments were not helpful at all. Sexual assault IS a big deal, and I applaud Tania Rose Billingsley for her brave and courageous appearance on television last night.

Hone Harawira

Like Dotcom above, this is hardly an apology. It is a concession to appease the women’s rights activists in the MANA movement, including Annette Sykes who has long advocated against violence against women.

One commenter was unimpressed with his attempt to deflect criticism and replied:

…Apologies are nothing but lip service it is something a husband does after he beats his wife up and says I am sorry it will never happen again. It is male dominance at its best…. It is whether you learn and don’t do it again that matters. It is a journey of learning and understanding and for you to stand up amongst your people and put yourself forward as having changed your mindset and exampling this. Only then will your apology actually mean anything.

Given that Dr Pani Farvid is a Senior Lecturer, I would have expected more critique of her party and the sexist behaviour associated with it, rather than the apologism she offered for Dotcom’s insidious tendencies to demean women and roles occupied predominantly by women.   I wholly commend Dr Farvid for starting the process to educate her party on the harm caused by sexism and misogyny but it’s a slap in the face to the many feminist movements to parade the Internet Party as a feminist party when it clearly is not.

Everyday microaggressions

Before relocating to Christchurch many people told me that it had a nationwide reputation for being quite racist. I didn’t really take notice because in my experience racism is not unique to any particular locality, it is pervasive.

My experience here is that there are not thousands of Kyle Chapman’s parading the streets with swastika’s nor is there even an obvious presence of Right Wing Resistance, well, not that I’ve encountered yet anyhow. What I have come across, far too often though is the subtle coded language of racism, what has been described as microaggressions by psychological research. I do not intend here to make a generalisation of all the people who live in Christchurch. I have experienced both subtle and overt racism in most places. But it seems particularly pronounced in the year I’ve lived here. But maybe that is coloured by the suggestions of those before I relocated.

This isn’t a post about the academic literature, it’s a little more personal. Sadly, it’s about the memory that I will take with me when I leave Christchurch. Of the time I spoke against racism and was silenced by my peers. I will remember the words of MLK Jr [see image] because I will remember that when I spoke out for people of colour (PoC), as a PoC myself,  I was alone.

MLKFor some context: UCNZ have a system whereby students can create Facebook groups using their UCNZ emails as a space to discuss coursework and foster camaraderie I suppose among students. One of those groups is for post-graduate politics and diplomacy students, and at this level, I’d have expected greater awareness of racially coded language and for the discourse to be more mature or developed.

The first incident involved  a person posting a video to the group preceded by a statement similar to the following:

“Slightly racist but does X remind anyone of Y” [both X and Y are the same ethnicity]

This immediately upset me. I responded that ‘saying something is slightly racist doesn’t justify actually being racist’. The person apologised and deleted the item. They acknowledged it was racist and that they were wrong to think it was okay to post it. Admittedly, they should have known if they had to precede the post with ‘slightly racist but..’. It does concern me that it probably wouldn’t have been removed had I stayed silent.

The following morning, I was scrolling through the group page and came across a link posted to the group to a Facebook page called Kanye West Explains NZ Politics.

Some of the meme’s created in on the page are incredibly offensive, firstly because some of Kanye’s lyrics are hideously misogynistic, and secondly, because other meme’s incorporate Kanye’s use of the ‘n word’ and trivialise the harm associated with using it in an inappropriate context, i.e. NZ Political Satire. My complaint was that I felt a page containing racist content was not particularly appropriate in the forum in which it was posted. My reasons were not that Kanye uses the term, but that it was taken out of it’s original context for the entertainment of those who have no experience of the hurt this word causes PoC’s.  As a PoC, if you have ever been called the ‘n word’, you will appreciate why I took exception to the way it was being used.

In response to one of the comments about the ‘n word’, I included the following excerpt from a Henry Giroux book Fugitive Cultures: Race, Violence, and Youth (Routledge: Great Britain, 1996) in an attempt to show why it’s use in the context was unacceptable and racist:

HGiroux

What emerged from my speaking out, was a shock.  Yes, I expected some resistance because I did expect that some people might not actually be aware of why, for instance, Kanye can use the ‘n word’ but a White person cannot. What I didn’t expect was to be rebuffed with the extent of invalidation that followed. I grew very distressed that those who contributed to the discussion felt entitled to shut down my experience, that I was derided for not appeasing those perpetuating the harm, and that I was undeniably invalidated by an entire group. These are microagressions. I maintain that the satire page uses the word inappropriately and it is racist. You dont have to agree with me. But you don’t get to shut down my experience and engage in microaggressions that deny my reality. You don’t get to complain that you have hurt feelings, when what you are denying complicity in hurts PoC everyday.

Microaggressions are about power imbalance and the privilege afforded to the dominant culture…they are manifestations of oppression

They manifest in three ways:

  1. Microinvalidations are verbal or non-verbal communications that subtly exclude negate or nullify the thoughts, feelings or experiential reality of a person of colour.
  2. Microinsults are verbal, nonverbal, and environmental communications that subtly convey rudeness and insensitivity that demean a person’s racial heritage or identity.
  3. Microassaults are intentional messages of discrimination toward a minority group.

As  Derek Sue writes microinsults and microinvalidations are particularly harmful because they are coded or invisible and that:

“They remain invisible because of a cultural conditioning process that allows perpetrators to discriminate without knowledge of their complicity in the inequities visited upon people of colour”

I have chosen to reproduce the thread (omitting the names of those involved for privacy reasons), to allow you to draw your own conclusions, and to illustrate what invalidation looks like and to say in unity with all PoC and marginalised groups IT’S NOT OK.

 [Person A]*

August 16 at 2:15pm

My intellectual contribution to the page.

Kanye West Lyrics Explain NZ Politics

Community · 7,118 Likes

 

Seen by 31

3 people like this.

 [Person B] Person C bet you to it lol

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like · 2

[Person B] Somewhere? Wherever he posted it. Nevermind lol.

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like · 1

[Person A] Damn!!! Hahah

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like

{Person C] I posted it on the nz pols page so [Person A] just trying to act all original over here

August 16 at 2:16pm · Like

[Person C] It’s an exclusive community, the riff raff always catch on to trends later

August 16 at 2:18pm · Like · 2

Carrie Stoddart-Smith I only just clicked on the link to find that this Kanye West page is incredibly offensive. I appreciate that some people think trivialising the word ‘nigger’ is all just a bit of fun, but I reiterate it is offensive. Hang on Kanye uses it? Yes, he does but Kanye is a person of colour (PoC) who has a particular experience related to its usage. This particular page trivialises that experience not just for Kanye but for every PoC because its usage is intended as entertainment for people who do not share the history and experiences of PoC who were demoralised and denigrated by the term. It is derogatory, and I am surprised it is shared it in politics and diplomacy group. Aside from the sexism and fat shaming present, the page is racist. Perhaps people might want to check their privilege before supporting or endorsing content that may not intend to, but that does demoralise PoC for your entertainment. Yes, I did complain about another post that I also thought was racist and I will continue to complain whenever I see racist content without apology.

Yesterday at 8:59am · Like

[Person C] It’s Kanye quotes over pictures of New Zealand politicians. It doesn’t claim to be anything but that, the only thing it trivialises is the state of the media and politics in New Zealand.

Yesterday at 9:38am · Like · 1

Carrie Stoddart-Smith “It’s Kanye quotes over pictures of New Zealand politicians” is a complete de-contextualisation. The purpose of the page is clearly intended to elicit a laugh at the expense, intended or not, of PoC. It may be intended to trivialise “the state of the media and politics in New Zealand” but it goes much further than that. The Admin has through their own effort selected the images and the quotes to get the response they intend – e.g. Gerry Brownlee has lyrics that poke fun at his weight – ‘fat shaming’, a number of white politicians have ‘nigger’ in the word selection of their images – this trivialises the offensiveness of the word and the experiences of PoC. It’s what PoC call #everdayracism.

Yesterday at 10:19am · Like

[Person D] http://www.sciencedirect.com/…/pii/S037821660600172X

Yesterday at 10:29am · Like

[Person E] Im pretty sure this page is intended as entertainment for anyone who may find it entertaining and not specifically for people who are not ‘of colour’. Just like Kanye’s music and lyrics are not intended only for people who have experiences related to the usage of the word nigger. I don’t think this page is racist. If it is, it’s because of Kanye’s lyrics which, I would probably agree, do seem to trivialise the word nigger. This page is just political satire, which is damaging to political discourse in NZ, but not racist. And as far as political satire goes, its not very damaging as Kanye’s lyrics don’t carry a lot of political clout. It is a bold claim to make that this page demoralises all PoC for ‘our’ entertainment, and it comes across as a little irresponsible and overly provocative in my opinion. I think it is a silly page using a silly man’s lyrics to make silly comments about NZ politics; not an attempt to demoralise PoC.

Yesterday at 10:44am · Like · 4

Carrie Stoddart-Smith I disagree Person E and I certainly dispute being the provocateur here, the page itself is provocative. I know people don’t like being called racist or being seen to endorse racism, but the page doesn’t have to intend to offend, the point is that it is offensive. Intention doesn’t determine if something is or isn’t racist. Moreover, political satire doesn’t exempt content from being racist and satire itself isn’t damaging to political discourse, racism is – especially when it goes unchecked or is passed off as something it’s not. I’ve attached the screen grab below from a Henry Giroux book, that might help spread some light on why it is offensive. As I said in my first comment above, Kanye can use the term because he understands the history and context within which he is using it. He is part of that history and context. The person in charge of the page in question is misusing Kanye’s lyrics in manner that is offensive and racist.

Yesterday at 11:30am · Like

[Person F] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXnM1uHhsOI

Yesterday at 11:47am · Like

[Person D] The claim that white people are not allowed to use nigger while black people can use it is its self racist. The use of nigger as a term of endearment is part of gangster culture and culture does not necessary equal race.

Yesterday at 11:52am · Like

[Person C] The page is about New Zealand politics not race, it ridicules New Zealand politicians. That it uses Kanye West lyrics is purely incidental, it could use Macklemore or Metallica lyrics and the message of the page would be the same. If you want to take offense you’re welcome to do so, and if that is the case then you should contact the site administrator, not post here. PERSON A is not a racist and neither are the members of this group, if you want to talk to racists you should talk to www.stormfront.org or http://www.ukip.org.

Yesterday at 12:10pm · Like

[Person G] No Person D it is not racism. Some white people already used the word nigger for a specific purpose and now some coloured people are using it for a totally different one. The two terms cannot be considered as one.

Yesterday at 12:17pm · Unlike · 1

[Person D] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3PJF0YE-x4

Yesterday at 12:26pm · Like

[Person D] I feel this demonstrates the distinction between culture and race.

Yesterday at 12:28pm · Like

[Person D] also very funny

Yesterday at 12:28pm · Like

[Person H] http://blip.tv/…/rap-critic-reviews-black-skin-head-by…

Yesterday at 12:42pm · Like

[Person B] Build rapport, then build discussion. I’m not a fan of Kanye or his lyrics but I did like the page, perhaps in ignorance, because I shared some mild amusement with others in this group concerning how a rapper’s music could relate to dirty politics. Making a stand against this is fine, but calling out “casual racism” among members of this diverse group seems to be counterproductive as it has alienated a few people – which is not what you want when tackling a big issue such as racism. For the record, I personally think this page is a very small fish in a big sea of issues (Ferguson being the big whale), and that getting to that point of the debate probably needed a different, healthier approach.

Yesterday at 1:05pm · Unlike · 3

Carrie Stoddart-Smith That’s a good point Person B and you are right I could have approached it differently. Aroha mai.

Yesterday at 1:10pm · Like · 1

[Person E] I have definitely done a lot of thinking about racism this morning because of this discussion. Too bad it won’t help me in Tan’s test tomorrow! lol

23 hrs · Like · 4

[Person A] I usually enjoy discussing political issues such as racism amongst my peers as it is a good way to share opinions and learn from one another, however, as Person B has indicated I feel this conversation has an accusatory ring to it and I am genuinely quite hurt by the implication of racism against me. Person E’s comment above illustrates my opinion beautifully so I will not repeat it here. So if it’s okay with everyone, I think its best that we leave the discussion here and engage the issue another day in a more neutral manner.

23 hrs · Like · 7

 

Note: I will be heavily moderating comments as I am not going to subject myself to further invalidations.

Revealing our biases in our responses to “Dirty Politics”

On his Radio Live segment, Duncan Garner intimated that some people are excited about Nicky Hager’s Dirty Politics book, particularly those who don’t like the right because it reveals everything they want to hear.

Confirmation and selection bias are both prevalent during election years. No one is immune. Many will attempt to present as impartial, while others will acknowledge their partisanship proposing to hold any wrongdoing to account. However, that’s a fine line to walk for most, if not all of us. We do seek out information that conforms to our preferences or value judgements and we are selective in not only the kind of information that accords to our preferences, but also how we frame that information to strengthen our own convictions.  This has been very apparent in the responses to Hager’s book.

From the left, there are three common themes:

  • The ‘Corruption’ argument: the details of the particular claims made and the seriousness of those allegations warrant an inquiry and police involvement.
  • The ‘Pot-Kettle-Black’ argument: that Cameron Slater has a ruthless history of publishing private information about people so he cannot now complain because of a retaliatory act.
  • The ‘Public Interest’ argument: that we the public have a right to know about the information extracted as a result of the hacking operation.

From the right:

  • The Conspiracy Theory argument: that the details provided in the book do little more than raise suspicion and lack any conclusive evidential backing and of course, John Key’s own proclamation that that Hager is a ‘screaming left wing conspiracy theorist’. [FWIW, I look forward to Matthew Dentith, NZ’s leading expert on Conspiracy Theories analysing Dirty Politics in light of this argument]
  • The ‘Everyone Does It’ argument: that all parties engage in attack politics in some form or another, it’s been happening for years, and it’s not new nor is it news.

In my view, both sides make valid arguments.

The issues raised by Hager are serious and do warrant further inquiry because we must never dismiss any allegations of corruption and abuse of political power. It is an affront to democracy and to our civil and political liberties, no matter who is involved. In saying that, the right have a point about whether or not we are dealing with a conspiracy theory, arguably then it is in the interests of the right to support an inquiry to prove or disprove the corruption allegations that will subsequently determine whether or not an actual conspiracy exists.

However, Lamia at Corner Politics makes a very good point, she writes:

“…I don’t see how the investigation could happen while John Key is still PM. I would not have confidence in any such investigation! This alone means that he can no longer stay”

I agree with her, that we cannot have confidence in an inquiry carried out by the particular government who would be the subject of the inquiry. I’m not convinced though that we could be confident in any inquiry led by the opposition either given their own vested interests. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I don’t trust that the political elite in our country are capable of carrying out a fully independent inquiry.

In regard to the Pot Kettle Black argument, which has some teeth to it since Slater has a reputation for carrying out the same actions he is complaining about. But the information doesn’t just target Slater, it implicates a raft of people. Although here, one might argue those people are the same who are responsible for leaking the information Slater publishes. Gordon Campbell writes that some might think it karma since:

“Slater began his jihad against Labour by being complicit with how the hacking of the Labour Party website was exploited. He has now been exposed by much the same means”

I’m not entirely comfortable with the ‘its karma’ framing either. It seems rather hypocritical when it runs a retributive justice line, that many of those using the argument have previously detested, and is a form of justice not conducive to what left wing values would typically entail.

Equally problematic is the rights ‘everyone does it’ argument. This argument operates as an admission that the allegations of collusion are true and worryingly that such people think it justifiable, i.e. legitimacy obtained through customary practice, or something. However, it does acknowledge that the attack politics practice might be widespread, which further supports the need for an independent inquiry.

The last one is the public interest argument and this entails a number of concerns [which I think requires extensive research to unpack the various issues between private individuals and public officials and private information and public information].

One issue that concerns me is that yes, Hager’s actions were that of a whistleblower but what about the actions of the person or persons who gained unauthorised access to the private accounts of Slater and extracted information?

Should we tolerate the actions of a private person hacking into the private accounts of another private person? Well, we know the law says we ought not to tolerate it because it is a crime in NZ.

However, some are arguing that in this particular case, it is justifiable to access information and steal it because the information obtained was of such public importance. My concern is at what point then, might we say that it was at least morally justifiable, if not legally so? What is the threshold we are applying when we are accepting that in some instances these practices might be legitimate? Remembering we are not talking about hacking into government systems or stealing information from the government as in the Edward Snowden case. We are talking about private individual vs private individual? Do we say mere suspicion is enough, or do we need something firmer? Can we justify it at all?

My view, is that no we cannot justify hacking into the accounts of private individuals. Period. And if we truly oppose the implementation of the GCSB Act then how can we argue that the government cannot spy on us in what they determine is in the public interest but we should be allowed to spy on each other if we suspect each other of harbouring information of vital public interest? Where does that even leave us as a society? And what does it mean for the value we place on internet freedom, if that freedom entails the right of others to gain unauthorised access to our accounts if they are suspicious of our activities, whether or not such suspicions are grounded in a reasonable belief or mere speculation? Where do we draw the line? There are far more questions than there are answers.

[Note: I appreciate that the digital community have diverse views on the role of hacking, and I’m not saying that ‘all hacking is bad’, rather that all private individuals should have a reasonable expectation that their private online accounts are not intruded upon]

Immigration and the tendency to favour exclusion

I read an interesting tweet this morning, which stated:

“Excessive” immigration creates debt people pay for in multiple ways. Right person, right job, right place, right time?

It’s not news that immigration has become the scourge of the election year. Surprisingly, it is many (but not all) of those who subscribe to ‘inclusive’ ideologies that argue against increases in immigration or alternatively stated, to cap or reduce immigration, which is achieved through tougher exclusive measures. This exclusionary attitude appears to derive from the idea that immigrants equate to a ‘financial or economic cost’ to the resident population, which still seems entirely inconsistent with inclusiveness. Conceiving of other human beings as a ‘financial or economic costs’ is language one might expect of corporations rather than those who might otherwise consider themselves humanitarians. If we think all human beings have an equal right to be free, whether or not that freedom has some justifiable limitations, then it is difficult to justify excluding immigrants because they bear a financial or economic costs to residents. After all, immigrants become ‘financial or economic’ contributors the moment they start purchasing goods and services, paying rent or paying taxes on their income. Additionally, many of the goods and services we purchase are produced outside NZ by the foreign nationals we purportedly want to ramp up excluding.

As Aaron Schiff points out in his post About That Migration Boom:

We should celebrate because on the incoming side, skilled immigrants provide New Zealand with a significant free gift. Some other country has paid the cost of their birth, childcare, childhood medical care, education, etc. They turn up in New Zealand effectively bringing all that investment with them and this benefits the country. 

Remembering also that immigrants must meet a criteria as set out in the Immigration Act 2009 before being granted entry to NZ.  I’m unclear whether those talking about our apparent ‘immigration problem’ are including refugees, of which we have an appalling record by the way because we take in far less than we ought to due to a very restrictive criteria denying some entry because the rules are not responsive to changing global circumstances.

I guess what I am trying to say, is that rather than pursuing the populist position that  ‘immigration is a problem’, perhaps politicians, could focus on how better to collaborate with those states whose citizens are migrating to NZ, and look at removing this segregative attitude that is unbecoming of a geography largely comprised of migrants.

But say we accept the claim that there are financial burdens with ‘excessive’ immigration [whatever that means], might this not suggest that we have ineffective policy makers?

Perhaps we might reduce these ‘costs’ of infrastructure, or the ‘debts that people pay for in multiple ways’ if we were more collaborative rather than restricting ourselves to antiquated notions of exclusion. For example, we could consider creating a framework whereby states pool resources and distribute them on a proportionate basis. There are obvious practical implications and potentially ethical considerations in implementing such a framework e.g. would states start restricting who could leave their territory to reduce what they put into such a pooling of resources, or would states coerce people to migrate as part of an expansionary process? (both of these issues could be managed in a properly thought out legal instrument). But the philosophising aside,  my point is, perhaps the idea isn’t to presume we must ‘borrow’ to pay for infrastructure to accommodate those coming to NZ (noting that we benefit from these infrastructure improvements as well), but look at working with those other states so that free movement has broader benefits for all.  Because frankly, I am not comfortable with the idea that ‘human beings attract costs and should therefore be excluded from a society’.

Just a brief thought.